martes, 22 de marzo de 2011

The USA are losing the Middle East

Note from the Editor: This entry was originally published in Spanish - the official language of this blog - on Monday, March 14, 2011, before the U.N. sanctioned military operation taking place now in Libya. Since first published last week, this blog has been receiving visitors from never before recorded places, such as Qatar and Israel. One of my Middle Eastern readers requested that I translate this and my other post on the Iranian strategy, so a wider audience could gain access to it. Your wish is my command. The Iranian strategy article will be translated and posted soon, so keep coming back.

A little under four years ago, in an article written while Israel was fighting a war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, I posited that it was “an extension of the war between Sunnis and Shiites, where the Sunnis remain comfortably quiet while the Israelis do the dirty work that they needed someone to do for them.” What started three months ago in northern Africa as a popular revolt that demanded freedom and democracy in a region of the world better known as a laboratory for all kinds of satrapies, has been taken over in the past few weeks by other forces – which stray far from the reforming spirit that characterized the initial protests that resulted in the downfall of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes – in order to extend the power struggle between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East.

The biggest mistake one may make when analyzing the Middle East is to assume that all Arab countries are equal, and concluding that what happened in Egypt is the same thing that occurred in Libya in the beginning (although the end may be very different), or that what took place in Tunisia may yet happen in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Argelia. That would be tantamount to saying that what happened in Chile with Pinochet had to happen in Colombia, or that Brazil under Lula would become like Venezuela under Chavez, just because we all are Latin.

First, we must understand that Islam is divided into two streams: Sunni and Shiite. The origin of this division dates back to the days after the passing of “The Prophet”. The Sunnis believe that Mohammed’s successor should have been chosen from amongst those better prepared to assume the leadership role (sort of like the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church), while the Shiites believed that his successor should have been a direct descendant of the Prophet or an Imam designated by Allah. This difference, of a political nature in its origin, has resulted throughout more than 1300 years in differences in the way the religion is practiced, and has become the excuse for a long list of fratricidal wars and mass killings between Muslims. It is estimated that at present time 85% of all Muslims are Sunni, while the remaining 15% identify as Shiite. Most Arab countries have a Sunni majority, Lebanon being one of the most visible exceptions, with the population divided roughly in thirds between Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. Bahrain has a Shiite majority, but is ruled by a Sunni monarch. Irak and Iran also have significant Shiite majorities, but the Iranians are Persian, an ethnic group different from the Arab, and speak their own language, Farsi, again different from the Arab tongue.

Getting back to the present, I again refer to my July 2007 article, where I asserted that “ever since the Ayatollahs deposed the Shah, the Iranian regime has been attempting to export its Shiite revolution to its neighbors, a fact that has never quite amused the monarchic and authoritarian rulers of the majority Sunni countries of the Middle East.” Iran has spent many years trying to increase its influence over the Arab world, sparing no effort whatsoever: it funds and provides logistical support to the terrorist organization Hezbollah; it has developed a nuclear weapons program under the veil of a civilian energy program; it attempted (and failed) to remove its then nemesis, the secular dictator of Iraq Saddam Hussein, through a long and bloody war that lasted 9 years in the 1980’s.

The popular uprisings of the Middle East took the whole world by surprise, the USA not being the exception. During the first few days of the revolt in Egypt, Barack Obama found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between supporting his loyal ally of the previous 30 years, or throwing his weight behind an amorphous mass which demanded for its country everything the United States is said to stand for: freedom, democracy, human rights and prosperity. In the end, Mr. Obama chose to trip Mr. Mubarak up, alienating in the process other Arab tyrants traditionally close to the Americans, chief among them the monarch of Saudi Arabia. Mubarak’s downfall was followed by ever more rhetoric arising from Washington, supporting and even promoting the massive demonstrations taking place in other Arab countries, none of which can be described as democraticor even anything resembling it. However, once the revolt began in Libya and Khadafi responded with brutal force, Obama’s arsehole shrunk to the size of an aspirin.

The Iranian regime, which had already taken note of Mr. Obama’s timorous demeanor a couple of years back when it cracked down on the massive protests against the electoral fraud that resulted in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection, was paying close attention. When it realized that Mr. Obama’s coyness had not substantially changed, it rolled forward its plan to destabilize the Middle East, not with the just and fair demands of the pro-democracy Egyptian masses, but by inciting the Shiite minorities that would be more subservient to the Iranian interests.

Over the past few weeks, while people in Washington could not decide whether to have pop corn or M&M’s along with the reports coming from CNN, Iran has advanced its regional domination agenda in several ways, most of which have not been reported by the traditional media:

  1. For the n-th time, Iran called for the destruction of the State of Israel, when it promised a Middle East free of Zionists and Americans in the future.
  2. It brutally but effectively repressed an attempt to protest by Iranian dissidents.
  3. It jailed and later “disappeared” opposition leaders Moussavi and Karroubi.
  4. It encouraged the Shiites of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and other Gulf nations to protest against their respective regimes.
  5. It publicly threatened Saudi Arabia in an attempt to prevent it from cracking down on the eventual protests by its Shiite minority against the al-Saud regime.
  6. It sent armed ships to the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, for the first time in 30 years.
  7. It signed an agreement with Syria by which Iran will establish a permanent naval base on the Mediterranean coast of that country.
  8. It forced Hashemi Rafsanjani to resign from the post of Coordinator of the Assembly of Experts, accusing him of being a reformist. The Assembly is in charge of eventually choosing the successor to the current Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  9. It carried on with its nuclear program without allowing international inspectors to do their job.

The Saudi regime is particularly nervous at the Iranian moves. It being the single largest oil producer and exporter, its fall is a strategic goal of the Iranian leadership in its race for regional domination. Spurred by the American inaction, Saudi Arabia decided to send troops to Bahrain today, in an attempt to shore up the Sunni ruler of that island-nation and prevent the unrest from spreading over to its shores. This, of course, is a slap in the face of Obama’s policy of encouraging the protests without directly intervening in them.

This was not the first time an Arab country intervened in the internal affairs of another in the past few weeks, but it is the first time that troops from an Arab state have been deployed in another since the beginning of the “Jasmine revolution” in Tunisia. Recently Syria, a country which has been persistently courted by the Obama Administration in an effort to pry it from the Iranian claws, signed an alliance with Libya by means of which it will provide Khadaffi’s homicidal army with arms and spare parts. Another slap in the face of the ill conceived American policy towards the Middle East, and the United States government remains silent.

What could have turned into a liberal pro-democracy tide in the Middle East based upon the popular uprisings of Tunisia and Egypt, has now become a nightmare of unforeseen and bleak consequences, as a result of the shortsightedness and indecision of the Obama Administration and the domination desires of the Shiite regime of Iran. The United States are losing control of the situation in the Middle East and with that go the hopes for a positive change in that region.

4 comentarios:

  1. ¿Habré sido yo quien se conectó desde Catar para leer el post?

  2. Jajaja. Si estás en Catar, muy probable!!! Pero nunca antes había ercibido visitas de ese país, pero si tuyas!!!

  3. Y ya me di cuenta de que no eras vos, porque a la hora que me dejaste el mensaje no había nadie conectado desde Qatar!!! A menos de que la semana pasada anduvieras por allá de vacaciones...

  4. Ejem... a lo mejor fui yo... Katar está bonito en esta época... a como está San José, debe ser más fresco por allá...