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Did the West Sow the Seeds of ISIS?

The Middle East continues to threaten global peace a century after British and French representatives, Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges Picot, signed the Sykes-Picot agreement named after them. This accord, concluded on May 19, 1916, divided the region extending from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean between the two colonial powers.

Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the first World War, the British and the French colonial masters created a variety of states whose borders were drawn with little regard for ethnic, tribal, religious or linguistic considerations.

Today, Daish (ISIS) militants are erasing the border between Iraq and Syria and pushing to get rid of all the region's frontiers created by Sykes-Picot. It is ironic that the Kurdish foes of ISIS share the goal of dismantling the borders that divide ethnic Kurds into several nations today.

The West's actions since Sykes-Picot have further exacerbated the wounds inflicted on the peoples of the region during the European Colonial rule of the Middle East. Examples include the CIA-supported restoration of the Shah of Iran to power, the creation and the unconditional support of the State of Israel, the Suez crisis and the US invasions of Iraq.

In an interview with Vice News, President Barack H. Obama acknowledged that the rise of ISIS was directly linked to the 2002 American invasion and occupation of Iraq during President George W. Bush's administration.

 “Two things: One is, ISIL is a direct outgrowth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion,” Obama said in an interview with VICE News. “Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”

In an earlier testimony to the US Congress, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said very candidly that "the terrorists we are fighting today we funded 20 years ago".

I hope the Sykes-Picot centenary causes the West, particularly the United States as its leader, to introspect about the West's actions in the Middle East in the past and the dangerous consequences of such actions we together face today.  I hope the leaders of the West will ponder the unintended consequences before starting more wars in the region.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Unintended Consequences of Charlie Wilson's War

Jihadis Growing After Afghan & Iraq Wars

US Invasion of Iraq

Global Power Shift After Industrial Revolution

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Straight Talk by Gates on Pakistan

What If Musharraf Had Said No to US After 911? 

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Creation of the State of Israel

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Comment by Riaz Haq on May 19, 2016 at 4:31pm

How the Middle East was invented
By Nick Danforth May 19 at 3:00 AM

Much has been made of how European imperial powers reshaped the Middle East after World War I, a transformation often said to have begun 100 years ago this week when France and Britain signed the Sykes-Picot agreement. But fewer people realize that, in addition to creating the map of the modern Middle East, postwar European imperialists actually created the concept. The region we recognize as the Middle East today, a roughly defined but distinct swath of territory stretching from Turkey to Egypt to Iran, only came into being with the end of the Ottoman Empire and the disappearance of the older, now antiquated-sounding “Near East.”

The British used to think of the region that roughly corresponds to today's Middle East as two entities: the Near East (the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean) and the Middle East (the region around Iran and the Persian Gulf). By Nick Danforth, based on A. Keith Johnston's 1852 "Chart of the World Showing the Forms and Directions of the Ocean Currents."
During the 19th century, the British mentally divided what most of the world now considers the Middle East into the Near East (the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean) and the Middle East (the region around Iran and the Persian Gulf). There was a certain geographic and strategic logic to this division. The Near East was, well, nearer than the Middle East, and the Middle East was in the middle of the Near and Far Easts. For British colonial administrators, the Middle East was the region that was crucial to the defense of India, while the Near East was largely under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

This all changed after the Ottoman Empire’s collapse a century ago. The Balkans and then modern Turkey began to seem more Western, while other parts of the Near East came under British control and fell victim to that empire’s bureaucratic reorganization. Winston Churchill, as secretary of state for the colonies, created a “Middle Eastern Department” covering the newly acquired territories of Palestine, Jordan and Iraq. Now this region, too, became part of Britain’s plans for defending its colonial holdings everywhere east of the Suez Canal. In the dramatic words of the historian Roderic Davison, “In this fashion the Middle East burst onto the Mediterranean Coast.”

or several decades, the new usage remained confined to obscure branches of the British government. But, as this chart shows, it spread to the broader English-speaking public during World War II, when people suddenly started reading daily news reports about military developments in the area. Then, when Americans took a newfound interest in the region with the advent of the Cold War, they adopted the then-prevalent British term for it.

Does any of this matter?

Some have suggested that the term “Middle East” is problematic because it is, undeniably, a Western term reflecting a Western perspective. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, once observed that the region should really be called West Asia, and there have been occasional efforts to adopt terms like “Southwest Asia” in academic circles. Yet there are plenty of countries whose names imply a relative geography that we hardly notice — Norway (north) and Austria (east), for example. And Arabic speakers have long referred to North Africa as the Maghreb — from a word meaning west — because it is on the western side of the Arabic-speaking world.

Anti-imperialist critics of the concept might also take comfort from knowing that no less an imperialist than Churchill never much liked the term he helped create. In 1950, he lamented: “I had always felt that the name ‘Middle East’ for Egypt, the Levant, Syria, and Turkey was ill-chosen. This was the Near East.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/05/19/the-mo...

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 15, 2016 at 1:24pm

Shadi Hamid: Will #Muslims follow western trajectory: Reformation, Enlightenment, Secularism, Liberal Democracy?

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/06/the-meanin...

Perhaps his most provocative claim is this: History will not necessarily favor the secular, liberal democracies of the West. Hamid does not believe all countries will inevitably follow a path from revolution to rational Enlightenment and non-theocratic government, nor should they. There are some basic arguments for this: Islam is growing, and in some majority-Muslim nations, huge numbers of citizens believe Islamic law should be upheld by the state. But Hamid also thinks there’s something lacking in Western democracies, that there’s a sense of overarching meaninglessness in political and cultural life in these countries that can help explain why a young Muslim who grew up in the U.K. might feel drawn to martyrdom, for example. This is not a dismissal of democracy, nor does it comprehensively explain the phenomenon of jihadism. Rather, it’s a note of skepticism about the promise of secular democracy—and the wisdom of pushing that model on other cultures and regions. 

------

Green: You open the book by asking about this inscrutable yearning for violence that seems to be felt among a small minority of Muslim extremists. What do you make of this yearning?

Hamid: On a basic level, violence offers meaning. And that’s what makes it scary. In the broader sweep of history, mass violence and mass killing is actually the norm. It’s only in recent centuries that states and institutions have tried to persuade people to avoid such practices.

That also reminds us that when institutions and social norms are weakened, those base sentiments can rise up again quite easily. And that’s what I saw.

-----

Green: You also frame violence as a way of grappling with theodicy, or the problem of evil. How does this play out in the Islamic tradition?

Hamid: That is the question many Muslims have been asking not just recently, but for centuries, ever since the fall of the various caliphates and empires: Why is God doing this? Why is God permitting this fall from grace? The Muslim narrative you hear a lot is that when Muslims were good, God rewarded them with success and territory. When Muslims went astray, then perhaps God decided to send them a message to encourage them to return to the straight path.


A question I get a lot is, “Wait, ok, is Islam violent? Does the Quran endorse violence?” I find this to be a very weird question. Of course there is violence in the Quran. Muhammad was a state builder, and to build a state you need to capture territory. The only way to capture territory is to wrest it from the control of others, and that requires violence. This isn’t about Islam or the Prophet Muhammad; state building has historically always been a violent process.

Green: On that point, you observe that the state-building impulses of the Islamic State actually make it much more terrifying than other groups. Why?

Hamid: ISIS has gone well beyond the al-Qaeda model of terrorism and destruction. Of course, ISIS does that, too, but it attempts to build something in the place of what it has destroyed. It has an unusually pronounced interest in governance. And they are not just making things up as they go along. There does seem to be a method to the madness; they are drawing from certain strains of Islamic history and tradition. They are perverting them, I would argue, and distorting them, but it is not as if they are just making it up out of the air.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 23, 2016 at 11:08am

#Hollywood's Oliver Stone’s #American History: ‘We’re Not under Threat. We Are the Threat’ https://shar.es/1x6sgt via @grtvnews #terrorism


As he launches his new TV series offering a critical view of US overseas exploits, the film director tells MEE he didn’t always see it that way

American controversies are Oliver Stone’s forte.

The Hollywood movie director has turned his cameras on the assassination of John F Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the 9/11 attacks.

But, when researching his television series, The Untold History of the United States, it was American exploits in the Middle East that left him with the most lasting impression, he told Middle East Eye on Wednesday.

“When I studied the untold history, one thing that really hit me hard was the history of our involvement in the Middle East,” Stone said.

“It was a nefarious involvement.”

Stone traces Washington’s hand in the region back to the 1930s, but he says it reached a peak when President George HW Bush sent hundreds of thousands of US troops to liberate Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion of 1990.

The Soviet Union had recently collapsed and the region was wide open to a lone superpower, he said.

“We never got out of there. Once we were in, we’re in forever,” Stone said.

“We’ve destabilised the entire region, created chaos. And then we blame ISIS for the chaos we created,” he added, referring to the Islamic State (IS) group that now rules swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Stone researched and wrote the series and book with Peter Kuznick, a scholar at the American University who specialises in the US nuclear strikes on Japan that ended the Second World War.

“It’s all about the oil. You remember the bumper sticker: What is our oil doing under their sand?” Kuznick told MEE.

Washington’s hunger for fuel underpins its alliance with Saudi Arabia, the CIA-backed coup against Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and its support for anti-Soviet religious militants in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he said.

“We create these messes, then we have a grand military plan to solve them. And the military solutions just don’t work,” he said.

The views of Stone and Kuznick are not likely to raise eyebrows on the streets of Cairo, Moscow or Paris.

But in the US they are not mainstream.

The way Stone tells it, Americans live in a bubble and are spoon-fed information by a school system, politicians and a media that portrays the US as a beacon of stability and a force for good in the world.

In one famous example, former President Ronald Reagan called the US a “shining city on a hill”.

“It’s very comforting to be an American,” Stone said.

You get the sense that you are safe and have prosperity of material goods, and that you have enemies everywhere – Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

You get into this cocoon where you have a big country, two oceans, but that you’re always under threat.

Stone says he understands this well because he lived it himself.

He was raised in New York, the son of a Republican stockbroker, Louis Stone. He was always creative – he often wrote short plays to entertain his family – but never questioned how his history teachers puffed up the US, he said.

“I had only gotten a part of the story, which emphasised American exceptionalism, America as a selfless and beneficial country to the world,” he said.

In 1967, Stone volunteered to fight in the US Army and served in Vietnam. He was wounded twice and was honoured with a Bronze Star for heroism and a Purple Heart for his service.

“I came back from Vietnam puzzled, completely confused about what was going on there,” he said.

“But I did get a heavy dose of the doublespeak, the militarese talk.”

He started asking questions and reading up on “progressive history” at the same time as he studied filmmaking at New York University under Martin Scorsese and other teachers, he said.

These ideas fed his politically orientated filmmaking in the 1980s.

Salvador (1986) was set in a 1980s war in Central America. Platoon (1986), Stone’s directorial breakthrough movie, dramatised a young soldier’s tour of duty in Vietnam, starring Charlie Sheen.

He continued probing that war in Born on the Fourth of July (1989), starring Tom Cruise. JFK (1991) showed his conspiracy theories about the former president’s killing; movies such as Nixon (1995) and W (2008) tackled subsequent commanders-in-chief.

The release of his movie about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been delayed until 2016, he said.

He has also interviewed foreign statesmen who defy Washington – from the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro to the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Untold History of the United States, a 10-part documentary series and a 750-page book, offers Americans an alternate perspective on US history from the Second World War through the Cold War to the present day.

Stone says he wants to counter the “educational crime” of misleading American schoolchildren.

“American exceptionalism has to be driven out of our curriculums,” he said.

“We’re not under threat. We are the threat.”


Comment by Riaz Haq on December 31, 2016 at 5:40pm

#CIA Interrogator Reveals Saddam Hussein Predicted Rise of #ISIS & #America's Failure in #Iraq https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/28/part_2_cia_interrogator_rev... … via @democracynow

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman in conversation with former CIA analyst John Nixon, author of the new book, "Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein."


JOHN NIXON: Yes, I was. Back in 2002, 2003, I believed that if we removed him from power and then made Iraq a better place, that the Iraqis would—you know, that would be better for Iraq and that we could help turn the country into a functioning, hopefully democratic, country that, you know, would be as good as what the Iraqi people deserved.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you change your view?

JOHN NIXON: A hundred percent. When people ask me, you know, "Was it worth taking him out of power?" I say, "You know, look around you. Show me something that is positive that happened." Iraq, right now, is a country that has 2 million displaced people. Parts of its territory are held by ISIS. You have a dysfunctional government that is probably more corrupt than Saddam’s government was. And if ask the average Iraqi—Sunni, Shia or Kurd—you know, "Were things better back then? Were services better? Did the government do more for you?" I think they would say yes. I can’t find one thing. And if you said, "Well, maybe, what about the Kurds? They’re almost independent now," that was happening already. I can’t find one thing positive that came out of his removal from power.

-------

AMY GOODMAN: Did Saddam Hussein predict the rise of ISIS?

JOHN NIXON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: How?

JOHN NIXON: Yes. He had—there’s a passage in my book where he talks about, you know, saying that Sunni jihadism is going to—Iraq is a playing field for this, and it’s—now that he’s out of power, it’s going to be made worse, and that we’re going to have to deal with this issue. He was very concerned. Saddam was not afraid of almost anything, but he was very concerned about the threat that Sunni jihadists had for his regime, largely because they came from within his own community, and it was harder to sort of get—through tribal networks, it was harder to kind of root them out than it would be if they were from the Shia or the Kurds. And also, he understood that this current of Wahhabism that emanated from Saudi Arabia had been infiltrating Iraq for some time, and he was less and less powerful to do something about it. And he also knew that—Saddam was not a jihadist himself, and he didn’t have any alliances with al-Qaeda or—you know, or Sunni fundamentalists. But—

AMY GOODMAN: What did you feel when you continually heard the U.S. media repeat this, making no distinctions and saying he was a haven for terrorists?

JOHN NIXON: It’s ridiculous. You know, it is—and I even asked him about this, and he just—he just kind of laughed. And he said, "You know, these people are my enemies. And, you know, why would you think that I’m allied with"—and then he would use this counterfactual. He’d say, "Well, who was on the plane that flew into the World Trade Center? How many Iraqis were on that plane? But who were they? There were Saudis. There were Egyptians. There was an Emirati. Those are all your friends. Why do you think that they’re doing that?" And then he would also say—one of the things that was most compelling was he would say, "You know something? When I was a young man, everybody admired America. Everybody wanted to go to America." You know, he used to say he would see at the American Embassy in Baghdad people lining up to get visas. And he said, "And now, look at you. Look at—you know, no one likes you. No one trusts you." And that was based on the policies of our government.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 1, 2017 at 7:27pm

Trump's national security advisor Gen Michael Flynn has said the rise of Islamic State was “a willful decision” and defends accuracy of US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) 2012 Memo:


In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.”

-------

While holding up a paper copy of the 2012 DIA report declassified through FOIA, Hasan reads aloud key passages such as, “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
Rather than downplay the importance of the document and these startling passages, as did the State Department soon after its release, Flynn does the opposite: he confirms that while acting DIA chief he “paid very close attention” to this report in particular and later adds that “the intelligence was very clear.”
Lt. Gen. Flynn, speaking safely from retirement, is the highest ranking intelligence official to go on record saying the United States and other state sponsors of rebels in Syria knowingly gave political backing and shipped weapons to Al-Qaeda in order to put pressure on the Syrian regime:

(Aljazeera's Mehdi) Hasan: In 2012 the U.S. was helping coordinate arms transfers to those same groups [Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda in Iraq], why did you not stop that if you’re worried about the rise of quote-unquote Islamic extremists?
Flynn: I hate to say it’s not my job…but that…my job was to…was to to ensure that the accuracy of our intelligence that was being presented was as good as it could be.
The early reporting that treated the DIA memo as newsworthy and hugely revelatory was criticized and even mocked by some experts, as well as outlets like The Daily Beast. Yet the very DIA director at the time the memo was drafted and circulated widely now unambiguously confirms the document to be of high value, and indicates that it served as source material in his own discussions over Syria policy with the White House.
As Michael Flynn also previously served as director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during a time when its prime global mission was dismantling Al-Qaeda, his honest admission that the White House was in fact arming and bolstering Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria is especially shocking given his stature.

https://levantreport.com/2015/08/06/former-dia-chief-michael-flynn-...

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/headtohead/2015/07/blame-isil-1... 


Comment by Riaz Haq on October 3, 2017 at 7:49pm

#Europe's century old mistake: Shifting #Islam's theological-political power from Ottoman #Turkey to #SaudiArabia

https://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2016/07/ottoman-caliphs


"As Mr Laurence sees things, the abolition of the old caliphate created a vacuum that has been filled, over the subsequent century, by much darker substitutes, up to and including the new caliphate proclaimed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State. Even where they stop short of fomenting anti-Western violence, global networks of religious fundamentalism and puritanism, such as those linking preachers from say, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, have replaced the relatively emollient tone set by the Ottoman caliphs, who were connoisseurs of Western art and music, as a colleague has written.
Is this anything more than an intriguing detail of history? Yes, much more, in Mr Laurence's view. It's naive to imagine that today's European Islam can be hermetically sealed from the countries where Islam predominates. One way or another, Muslims in Europe are going to be touched by ideas and styles that emanate from countries where their faith predominates. Today's European governments need to have a sophisticated understanding of how that influence works, and above all to understand the risk of unintended consequences. By staunching one stream of cultural or theological influence, they may be opening the way for much worse ones."

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 13, 2017 at 7:46am

Prince Charles: “I know there are so many complex issues, but how can there ever be an end to terrorism unless the causes are eliminated?” .....“Surely some US president has to have the courage to stand up and take on the Jewish lobby in the US? I must be naive, I suppose!”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/prince-charles-blames-jews-mid...

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