The Destabilised Middle East

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The Destabilized Middle East

By Ron Forthofer

Ongoing fighting in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen have devastated these nations and they may not survive as unitary states. The effects have been horrific for the populations of all four countries. There have also been lesser impacts for nations in Africa and Europe. For example, extremist Wahhabi Islamic groups are now operating in several African nations. Huge numbers of refugees fleeing from the incredible violence have sought asylum in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Europe. Extremists have recently attacked civilians in Turkey, Lebanon, France, Tunisia, Mali and other African nations. ISIS has taken credit for bombing a Russian passenger flight returning from Egypt killing all on board.

How did this horrendous situation come about? Was it an unintended consequence of a major war crime, the 2003 US-led attack on Iraq? Did the Arab Spring turn into the Arab Winter?

Did someone plan this or did it just happen? Although not widely known, in 1996 US neo-con supporters of Israel, including a number of people who would hold key positions in the next Bush administration, prepared a report for Binyamin Netanyahu. The report, 'A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm', laid out a major shift for Israel from the idea of trading land for peace. One of its proposals said: "Work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats..." Netanyahu rejected the proposal.

The neo-cons then formed a think tank, the Project for the New American Century. In September 2000, PNAC proposed Rebuilding America's Defenses (RAD). This plan called for an aggressive and unilateral military approach to expand US control and for the prevention of any other nation(s) from being able to challenge the US. RAD also discussed the need for regime change. "American military preeminence will continue to rest in significant part on the ability to maintain sufficient land forces to achieve political goals such as removing a dangerous and hostile regime when necessary."

After the appalling criminal attacks on 9/11, it appears as if the Bush administration adopted some of the ideas in RAD. According to General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon had Iraq in its sights immediately after 9/11. Clark added that a few weeks later that he was told of a plan to take out seven nations (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran) over five years.

After the military attack against Afghanistan, the US led an unwarranted and illegal attack on Iraq in 2003. The attack and fighting devastated Iraq, killed an estimated 700,000 Iraqis, and Iraq became a failed state. The US failure to speedily crush the opposition in Iraq demonstrated that US leaders had grossly overestimated US power. Thus further military attacks were delayed although covert non-military efforts continued.

The Arab Spring raised hopes for democracy. It also created opportunities for the West to use the cover of protecting human rights to oust leaders not sufficiently subservient. For example, Libya was the next nation attacked under this human rights cover. After the killing of Moammar Qaddafi, Libya, despite holding elections in 2012 and 2014, has become a failed state with local militias and different extremist Islamic groups vying for power.

Syria presents a more complicated human rights story. For several years Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel along with the US and other Western nations have wanted the ouster of Bashar Assad, the Syrian leader. In response to Assad's use of lethal force, these countries quickly supported and then changed the opposition. The moderate opposition soon was mostly replaced by extremist Islamic groups. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah supported the Assad government. Both sides, especially Assad forces, have committed terrible war crimes. An estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed and millions displaced. Syria is likely another failed state.

Do these events just happen or are we witnessing the implementation of the neocons' plans, opportunistic interventions, or of a combination of interests? It's hard to say with certainty. Regardless, several of the countries targeted by the neo-cons have been devastated. Israel's fighting with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 weakened another of these targeted nations. In conclusion, the November 13th Paris attacks have generated widespread outrage, but where is the outrage by the 'civilized' nations about Western war crimes? Is blowback to Western violence really a surprise? Can't we finally learn that violence only begets more violence and incredible suffering? It's way past time to try diplomacy. Otherwise ...

Ron Forthofer, Ph.D. is a retired Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, Texas; former Green Party candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado

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