First of Two Parts
Middle East as a region was formed following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after the World War I.
The anguish of the Muslims on the collapse of their hegemonic empire was similar to that of the Germans.
Germany militarised itself under Hitler and was within a whisker of winning the Second World War. The Muslims remained docile and the ‘Balfour Declaration of 1917’ promising ‘a national home for the Palestinian People’ remained a pipe dream.
Middle East was further rejigged after Second World War II. In 1948, the victors of the War, now under the thumb of the US, engineered a spectacular masterstroke in creating the State of Israel from parcels of land belonging to the Palestinians.
This may have appeased the Jews and fulfilled the design of the victors to plant a Christian-Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim Middle East. But it became the epicentre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians, expelled from their Israeli-occupied land, relocated as refugees in Gaza (then a part of Egypt), West Bank (then a part of Jordan), Lebanon and other littoral states.
‘Liberation of Palestine’ became the swansong of the Arabs. The West fully supported their clientele state, Israel with arms and monetary aid that led it to become a powerful military machine with a stockpile of an estimated 80 nuclear warheads.
Middle East was no longer a level playing field.
Israel grabs land
Israel’s military might was evident in the 1967 War when Egypt capitulated and Israel annexed further parcels of Arab land, including the strategic Golan Heights.
History tells us that you can be a victor but you cannot be victorious if you are not benign and just. The collective Arab psyche is that of being hurt and dispossessed.
The West has created a ‘Jini’ that cannot be bottled.
The 9/11 catastrophe, the 2003 unilateral invasion of Iraq, the Spring uprising against the West planted dictators, failure to support the people’s movements and designating Muslim militant groups as terrorists are all symptoms of Arab anger and alienation.
It remains a source of uncertainty and stress for the people in the West.
A Pie in the Sky
A lasting solution to the Middle East crisis is a pie in the sky. It will not happen in the near future. Why? It is because the Middle East is the battle ground for the powers to test their muscle and mojo by proxy. The proxy wars are contrived on two levels; one by global powers and the other by the regional powers.
This has evolved into various contradictions within the intra-denominational divide.
For instance, Saudi Arabia, a Sunni royal dictatorship has the support of the US, but reportedly funds several Sunni ‘terrorist’ organisations including the ISIS that is a target of the US. Its arch enemy, the Shia dominant Iran actively supports the Alawi backed Bashar Al Assad in Syria.
The battle is now poised between old adversaries: the US against Russia, Saudi Arabia vis-a-vis Iran.
The recent nuclear deal with six major powers and the entry of Russians in Syria has brought Iran from its isolation. Both Iran and Russia have propped the Assad regime.
It signifies that no settlement can be reached on Syria without involving Russia and Iran.
US action paralyses
The Russian bear has taken a giant step to counter the US dominance in the Middle East and recover its geopolitical status in the Eurasian sector.
It is no wonder that Forbes has placed Vladimir Putin in the number one spot as the world’s most powerful powerbroker in 2015. In the face of this new chapter of Russian polemics and ISIS grooving with extensive territorial control in Iraq and Syria, the US President Barack Obama has reversed a number of his earlier electoral promises.
In particular, his intention to place striking ground forces in Iraq and Syria, in spite of polls showing 70% of the Americans are against such move.
Other allied countries have baulked at the prospect of putting the boots on the ground.
Last week, the UK House of Commons refused to support Cameron’s proposal for airstrikes against Syria, a repeat of the August 2013 defeat. The new political regimes in Canada and Australia are less likely to openly support the US initiative.
Mahendra Sukhdeo is a writer, researcher, columnist and an author. An Elphinstonian from Bombay University, he lectured at the University of the South Pacific before being elected as the Deputy Lord Mayor of Suva City. He now lives in Australia. He has dedicated this article to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose 20th death anniversary was on October 31, 2015.
Rabin was neither a leftist nor a diehard socialist but he had reached an accord with Palestine (Oslo Accord) under the eyes of US President Bill Clinton. That was the window of opportunity that the Middle East missed.