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Afghanistan and the Middle East

There are two major conflicts that have been brewing in the Middle East, one for decades, the other for much longer. Those two conflicts are interrelated; they feed upon each other. The Israel/Palestine conflict has been front and centre for a long time and we do have a sense, more or less, of how it affects our policies here. It is less so with the second conflict, the one opposing Shiite Iran (& its allies) and Sunni Saudi Arabia (& its allies).

Afghanistan is where the struggle between those two powers is being waged, with the support of the US and the West, those two having sided with Sunni Saudi Arabia, which this strategist thinks is rather unwise:

[A] U.S.-Iranian grand bargain has become essential to avoiding something close to strategic failure in Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic will [...] continue supporting its longstanding Afghan allies in resisting a Taliban onslaught backed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But, in the absence of a broader strategic understanding, those efforts will be seen, in Washington, and elsewhere, as undermining whatever political arrangements the Karzai government has reached with the Taliban. And that will fuel a regional proxy conflict with Afghanistan as the main battlefield, and with the United States drawn increasingly into supporting Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. – LINK

All that may be moot though. The dice seems to have been cast. The U.S. (and the West) do not appear to have any intention of leaving the region at all. Even more ominously, a storm is gathering involving those other pesky Shiites in Lebanon. Neutralizing them will deprive Iran of an essential flank in its struggle with Saudi Arabia, leaving the region, especially Lebanon itself, opened to aggression mainly from the Saudis and, of course, from Israel.

In the latter case, it will be more spaces to colonize and water galore, the Palestinians deprived of a useful ally, what’s not to like? And that, when all the noise has been silenced, may ultimately be the main reason why the US and the Western powers are sending their sons & daughters to die or to get maimed in Afghanistan.

Updates:

  • Lebanon, the endgame
  • The Real Middle East Lobby

  • A post-sectarian Iraq?

    Posted in Al Qaeda, Iran, Iraq, Shi'a, Sunna, USA by ed~ on March 5, 2009

    A most interesting report by a group of Iraqis put out through a Norwegian think tank seems to suggest just that.

    The key to stability in Iraq is to recognize the longevity and endurance of non-sectarian Iraqi patriotism as a fundamental value among most Iraqis. Despite the clichés that prevail in Western mainstream media, historical studies clearly demonstrate that Iraqi national sentiment is more than Baathism, and that over time, it has proven to be a far stronger force than sectarianism. It should suffice to mention the monarchy period, when Iraq for many years had a functioning parliamentary democracy, as well as most of the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries, when Basra, Baghdad and Mosul were often ruled as a single charge from Baghdad (and were habitually referred to as “Iraq” by contemporary writers). The claim that Iraq is an “artificial” creation concocted by the British after World War I overlooks the fact that the separation between the three Ottoman provinces that was in place in 1914 dated back only thirty years, to 1884.

    History is not an eternal force that can determine the future – but it is a factor that can be useful to keep in mind for those who want to build sustainable institutions that resonate with the local population. This is also where the history of Iraq differs so strikingly from that of other multi-ethnic countries which have experienced secessionist movements and even full partition (as in the Balkans). For in an age when it is fashionable to dismiss national sentiments as constructed, malleable forces, the case of Iraq actually demonstrates remarkable attachment to a common political framework by a population that includes members of many different sects and ethnicities. Above all, this is evident when it comes to the persistence of “Iraq” as the preferred territorial frame of reference for more than 80% of the country’s population. Even as some Iraqi politicians exploited sectarian categories to create widespread and violent tension between Shiites and Sunnis in 2006 and 2007, the population at large continued to show no interest in the imagined “Shiistan” and “Sunnistan” recommended by Western experts. – Link [via Tapped]

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    BTW there’s a petition circulating setting out details of charges brought against Tony Blair in relation to the illegal war against Iraq. It can be found here [via Neil Clark's blog]

    What I learned about Yemen today

    One of the purposes of this blog is to shine light on stuff happening on our planet that the powers that be would rather keep in the dark. The part of the world that it covers is mainly “Mandate Palestine”. Other countries are included inasmuch as there are interactions between them and Palestine.

    One of those countries is Yemen about which I read the following today:

  • Yemeni blogger appeals to prevent possible assassination
  • Yemeni blogger posts appeal to prevent assassination
  • In Yemen, a mostly concealed sectarian fight endures
  • Saleh’s jihad in Yemen
  • Armies of Liberation
  • On Armies of Liberation

    On the Great Game front, there is this.

    So why Yemen? Well, in this article entitled “Gaza war pushes Arabs to the brink”, one of the reasons given as to why the US sort of took a step back from unconditional support of Israel lately is that it feared attacks on its embassies around the world, and blah blah blah …

    Not one time was Yemen mentioned. It should have been since the unrests there are fast becoming a threat to the Saudi regime, which might explain why Turki al-Faisal went into a fit over the massacre happening in Gaza.

  • Iran is not the problem

    Posted in Antiwar, Dissent, Iran, Israel, Middle-East, Neocons, Shi'a, Sunna, USA, War, Zionism by ed~ on June 29, 2007

    “Making Iran the Arabs’ number one enemy diverts the Arab masses away from the real danger of Zionism and American imperialism.” – Hisham Bustani

    Echoed here:

    Where will it all end? The goal of the neocons is a U.S.-Israeli-dominated region, patrolled by U.S. troops and divided into a large number of much smaller statelets. With both Iraq and Iran broken down into their constituent ethno-religious parts, the Middle East becomes Lebanon writ large: weak, vulnerable to attack, and easy to control.

    A central premise of the “realist” critique of the neoconservative agenda is that it promotes a dangerous instability, which shows that the realists just don’t get what neoconservatism in the foreign policy realm – and particularly when it comes to the Middle East – is all about. The idea is to create – and preside over – a condition of permanent instability.* There is no better way to justify the permanent presence of U.S. troops and plenty of aid to U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes.- Nihilism and Neoconservatism

    * [Hit the 'Refresh' button if link opens an error page.]

    Behind the lynching of Saddam Hussein

    Posted in Iraq, Media, Shi'a, Sunna, USA by ed~ on January 31, 2007

    On Saddam Hussein’s last words, on what the media has deliberately concealed and on how, as many already knew, the lynching was meticulously choreographed to incite sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shi’ites. – Link

    More Mideast news

    Cross-blogged @ The Cylinder

    Images of Iran

    Posted in Antidote, Iran, Shi'a, Sunna, USA by ed~ on January 31, 2007

    This is a funny kind of diary. Not an opinion piece. Not an advocacy one either. Readers must make up their own mind.

    I just thought that it might be a good idea, given that we are fed all sorts of information by our mainstream media about how evil Iran is, that perhaps we could go beyond that hype by ourselves and make our own judgment.

    What I propose to do is to offer in this diary links pertaining to a few aspects that I have found of import over the past month or so, with a short comment or quote where appropriate. I have deliberately restricted myself to fairly short news columns and opinion pieces that I felt contained potent images and description from a different perspective than the one we usually get.

    I’ll start with the cartoon controversy. Here is a blog that I discovered only yesterday. The comments are very interesting also.

    Then, of course, there is that very controversial Holocaust confab:

    Tehran’s Holocaust Conference

    Tehran’s Holocaust Seminar

    Dissenting Iranians

    On some of the complexities of Iranian politics, I have found the following two articles to be of interest:

    Iran: Rift Emerging Between President And Clerics. It seems Ahmadinejad’s “populist manner has not proved entirely palatable to clerics concerned with public morals and political stability. [...] One was his decision in April 2006 to allow women into sports stadiums to watch soccer games in mixed crowds, which senior clerics deplored as encouraging indecency. [...] Clerics were then puzzled by the president’s letter, or letters, to Pope Benedict XVI, presumably because this was a religious matter not directly related to presidential prerogatives and because some of Benedict’s comments on Islam last year made him controversial to many Muslims.” So much for “crazy Ahmadinejad”!

    On the Shia-Sunni sectarian strife in Iraq

    And finally, my favourite: Images of Iran, some of which simply took my breath away!

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    Related material: Iran’s Economy

    About the *real origins* of sectarianism

    Posted in Antidote, Shi'a, Sunna by ed~ on January 26, 2007

    Political scientist Hassan Nafaa of Cairo University on “the real origins of sectarianism”: “The region is dancing to the tune of destructive ideas whose prime beneficiaries are the United States and Israel.”

    Many in the Arab world believe that sectarianism is an integral part of the Arab mindset or culture. I disagree. The Arab mindset and culture, I would argue, are among the most tolerant in the world and the most accepting of others. Sectarianism must be blamed on despotism. It must be blamed on politics, not culture. Politics is what motivates the Palestinians or the Kurds to fight each other. Politics is what turns a Shia against a Sunni, or a Muslim against a Christian. Because our countries are ruled by regimes that are just as despotic as they are susceptible to foreign influence, that are as backward as they are ignorant, various political elites are tempted to use sectarianism for personal gain.

    Let’s not forget that the US relied on sectarianism to invade and then rule Iraq. The US did so because it wanted not just to bring down the regime, but also to wreck the country’s political system. The US and its local friends have encouraged sectarianism from day one. And the more the Americans got bogged down in Iraq, the more they fomented sectarianism to hide their failures. When the US discovered belatedly that Iran was the biggest beneficiary of the sectarian game, it went ahead and told Arab “moderates” that Iran was to blame.

    Because we lack democratic regimes that respect citizenry, and because the US and Israel are dictating things around the region, sectarianism is becoming rife and more dangerous than ever. Unless Iran and the Arab world understand this fact, they will be torn to pieces. And Israel would climb high on their tattered remains, cheered by the world’s sole superpower. – Full text

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    More Mideast news

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