Radical Islamic States and Political Movements in the Mid-East/Arab World: The Islamic ‘Threat’ Part XII

Published on Zcommnications.org, by Richard Greeman, August 31, 2010.

… What was left of the Ottoman sphere of influence was carved up by the victors at the Versailles Peace Conference, with Britain getting the lion’s share in the form of humanitarian Protectorates on which to impose unpopular neo-colonial puppet governments. When Britain placed a Sunni dynasty on the throne of Shiite Iraq and the local tribes revolted, and Churchill ordered the British Royal Flying Corps under then-Col. ‘Bomber’ Harris (the future architect of the WWII Dresden raids) to bomb and machine-gun their camps and villages from the air. Churchill’s rickety biplanes were less sleek than Obama’s drones but quite effective against horsemen armed with sabers and muskets or women and children in tents.[1] 

Thus the arbitrary borders drawn on maps at Versailles in 1919 became the fault-lines of today’s civil wars. Nearly a century later, the U.S. (with Britain as a junior partner) is still putting down the same insurgencies for the same oil. One reason radical Islamic movements have grown so powerful is that they fill the political vacuum created by the crushing of democratic social movements defending the rights of workers, women, students and national minorities. Looking at the ME/A world today, we find nothing but dreary despotisms of one kind or another — the secular, democratic, socialist option having been ruled out by Western intervention and Western support for local Islamic reactionaries. ‘Its not that the Taliban is very strong,’ an Afghan politician was recently quoted as saying, ‘but that the government is very weak.’[2] This observation could be expanded to comprise many of the corrupt, despotic, ineffectual Western-backed regimes in the ME/A world … //

… So far, the case Iran seemed to follow the established pattern of authoritarian right as spoiler, foiling the social and political aspirations of democratic Left during crises of the established order to the ultimate benefit of Western oil interests. But once the Ayatollahs took power, there was no stopping them. Their Islamic Republic incarnated the national aspirations of a historically rich, powerful nation which had long been manipulated, repressed and humiliated by Western imperialism. Once again, Iran would rise to its ancient status as major West Asian power, like the Persian Empire which had dominated the region for centuries B.C.E. Although repressive, the Islamic Republic was at first popular. From a Western point of view however, it became clear that if the Iranian revolutionaries were allowed to succeed in defying the United States, their example of radical independence would spread. The seething masses among the other corrupt, unpopular, pro-Western Moslem despotisms in the region would rise and the U.S.-armed dictatorships would fall like so many dominos, depriving the West of ‘its’ oil.

Once again, divide-and-rule tactics came to the rescue of the imperialists when neighboring Iraq (instigated, financed and armed by the U.S.) initiated a bloody eight-year war against Iran during which huge battles on the scale of World Wars I and II were fought. While millions were killed, mutilated, or lost their homes, the U.S. profited both politically and financially through arms and equipment sales (Remember the famous photograph of Saddam Hussein shaking hands over a deal with Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney?) Both countries were bled white, but in the end Saddam ended up with a surfeit of modern U.S. arms which tempted him to take a bite out of plump, oil-rich Kuwait next door. Indeed, with Persia out of the way, why shouldn’t Mesopotamia be the regional bully ? Believing he had the green light from the State Department in 1991, Saddam made his incursion into Kuwait. [4] Suddenly the CIA’s fair-haired boy became the new ‘Hitler,’ and the U.S. organized a military coalition to put the mustachioed upstart in his place. However, unlike his idiot son, Bush I was smart enough leave Saddam’s Sunni-based Baathist regime in power as a foil against Shiite Iran. Indeed, Bush I even allowed Saddam to use his elite Republican Guard to crush the restive Shiites and Kurds, who had risen up in response to the Coalition’s promises of liberation. Thus for ninety years, from 1919 to 1999, Anglo-American interests successfully dominated the oil-rich ME/A world, suppressing, subverting or containing democratic and nationalists revolutions while relying on reactionary despots to rule – so long as they remained pliable clients. (full text).

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