By Aijaz Zaka Syed
A great deal of time in my adolescent years was spent with my father’s books. I was introduced to some of the finest names in Urdu and Western literature in my dad’s library. Many of them have stayed with me, enlivening many a dull moment and showing the way when one was lost in the face of life’s complexities.
One of them was Inayatulla Altamash, the author of Dastan Iman Faroshon Ki (The merchants of faith). Woven around Europe’s Crusades to wrestle the Holy Land from the hands of the “infidels,” the five-part series is a riveting saga of endless bloodshed, bravery, perfidy and spy games. Altamash’s protagonist is Salahuddin Ayubi or Saladin for the West, the Liberator of Palestine. Salahuddin repeatedly faced the combined might of Christendom, eventually succeeding in driving it out by the sheer dint of his courage, self belief and perseverance.
While a great deal has been written about Salahuddin’s magnanimity and courage on and off the battlefield, the focus of Altamash’s books is the classic game of divide-and-rule the invaders played. Having repeatedly failed to beat Salahuddin in the battlefield they used deceit and subterfuge and highly skilled spies to play numerous Muslim rulers against each other.
So even as Salahuddin valiantly fought the endless deluge of Crusader armies for much of his eventful life, he had to constantly duel his own kind too. From using drugs, women and money to forever hatching conspiracies and concocting lies and canards, they pitted Muslim kings and emirs against one another, weakening them internally and eventually decimating them.
These days as the world furiously debates this bizarre Iranian plot targeting Saudi ambassador amid US warnings and threats to Tehran, I am increasingly reminded of those power games and spy thrillers nearly a thousand years ago. And I have this eerie, sinking sense of déjà vu. We have been here before, haven’t we?
Of course, we all know there’s no love lost between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And it’s not just between Riyadh and Tehran. There has always been an invisible, uneasy gulf between the Persians and Arabs and it goes way back–long before the Iranian revolution and even before the dawn of Islam. The 1979 Iranian revolution did not help matters, what with the ayatollahs talking of sowing the winds of change across the region and beyond.
With the recent Iranian preoccupation with nuclear power amid the constant US-Israel chorus raising the specter of “a nuclear armed Iran” threatening the region, the Arabs have been understandably nervous about the Islamic republic. Tehran’s growing clout in Iraq and its support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the only force to have successfully humbled and drove Israel out, is another apparent reason for concern.
Nonetheless, I still don’t get why Iran would be so foolish as to target the envoy of a country, which is not just its big, next door neighbor but is also regarded by the world’s Muslims as the home of Islam and its most revered shrines. That too, by assigning the job to the Mexican drug mafia through a washed out junky and failed car salesman! Come on, you may not care for Ahmadinejad’s grandstanding and his Holocaust theories but give the Iranians some credit. They can’t be that dumb. More important, what would the Islamic republic, or whoever is behind it, gain with this so-called plot? Given the total isolation Tehran already finds itself in, increasingly facing the threat of a US-Israel attack as it does, Iran’s leaders would have to be really stupid and stark, raving mad to attempt something like this.
So what’s the reality of this plot or who’s behind it? I have no idea but we will know the truth sooner or later. What I know for certain though is this: This is a plot against the Muslim world, one that directly helps the enemies of Islam and those of Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Writing in the Guardian this week, Julian Borger argues that the Washington plot would have triggered another devastating war in the Middle East. I couldn’t agree more with Borger. Indeed, I believe it could have set the whole region on fire, perhaps sparking a third World War. The region has already witnessed so much bloodshed and destruction over the past few decades.
The Middle East has been on the edge over the potential US-Israel strike on Iran and possibly a full-fledged war. Against this backdrop, a plot against Saudi Arabia with finger pointing at Iran would have guaranteed a mutually destructive encounter between the two leading Muslim nations and the world’s biggest oil producers, to be followed by the inevitable US involvement sending the Middle East up in blazes.
This nightmare scenario would, however, have been a dream come true for one country. If Saudi Arabia and Iran went to war, splitting the whole of Muslim world down in the middle, who would benefit the most? Yes, you don’t have to be an Einstein to know the answer. The Arabs and Iranians would tear each other apart without Israel having to fire a single shot.
Our colonial masters have repeatedly and successfully used this formula to see their enemies annihilate each other. We saw it used between Iran and Iraq and then Iraq and Kuwait. And when Saddam Hussein was past his sell-by date, he was squashed like an insect. It’s hardly a secret the Zionists played a critical role in plotting the destruction of Iraq. The neighborhood bully, with the blessings of his protectors, isn’t prepared to brook the slightest independence of spirit and tiniest of threat–real or imagined.
No wonder most independent observers, including those in the US, have been skeptical about the Iranian plot. They see the Mossad fingerprints all over it. Indeed, the old fashioned assassination is a stratagem of Israel’s foreign policy and it has repeatedly used it. It didn’t begin and end with Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and commander Mahmoud Al Mabhouh. Indeed, the Mossad hand is seen even in the mysterious illness and death of Yasser Arafat, the most charismatic Palestinian leader ever.
What makes this an Israeli plot is the fact that the same gang of American Zionists and neocons, who built the case against Iraq with their propaganda blitz and lies about Saddam’s nonexistent WMD arsenal and his ties to 9/11, have stepped up their offensive urging Obama to hit Iran. And the ‘change we can’ president, desperate for reelection next year, seems to have recruited himself to the cause. The latest round of US sanctions could break Iran’s financial back as they target its central bank. Meanwhile the chorus for military action gathers momentum.
These are clearly perilous times for not just Iran but the whole of Islamic world. If potential victims do not huddle together and act, the Zionists could very well succeed in their machinations. Iran is a sitting duck because of its audacity to confront Israel and the West. But others aren’t safe either. Every Muslim country with a streak of independence or resources is in Israel’s sights—and those of its friends. Yesterday it was Iraq; today it’s Iran and tomorrow it could be Pakistan—or Saudi Arabia, for that matter. Those who fail to learn from recent history will be condemned to repeat it.
– Aijaz Zaka Syed is a commentator on the Middle East and South Asian affairs. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected]