Saturday, November 10, 2007

Uncle Sam's New Backyard

How to Turn a Region Into a Graveyard

(editor of Le Monde diplomatique and a specialist on the Middle East)

"When the US decided that its backyard would in future be a greater Middle East --from Pakistan to Morocco --it imagined that it could rearrange the region to suit itself. The results have been disastrous and will be long-lasting.....

The landscape of the Middle East has been redrawn. This was the objective of Pentagon strategists and the neo-conservatives; but it is doubtful whether the results match their dreams of remodelling the region to secure the lasting hold that the French and British established after the first world war.....

As they have multiplied, the conflicts have become interrelated. Weapons, combatants and skills move across porous frontiers, sometimes in the wake of hundreds of thousands of refugees driven into exile by the fighting......

The nationalism that has structured the broader Middle East since 1918 is now under threat from the resurgence of ethnic and religious identity --a process encouraged, consciously or not, by General David Petraeus, the current US commander in Iraq, who led the 101st Airborne Division that captured Mosul in 2003.

One of his first decisions was to create an elected council to represent the city, with separate polls for Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens and Christians. No mention of Iraqis. By reducing the region to a mosaic of minorities, US policy forces everyone to identify with their community, to the detriment of any national or other loyalty. This undermines national cohesion and fosters conflict in Iraq now and possibly in Syria and Iran tomorrow.....

During Bush's first term, the neocons developed the doctrine of "constructive instability" in the Middle East . As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said while Israel was bombing Lebanon in July 2006: "What we're seeing here is, in a sense, the growing --the birth pangs of a new Middle East; and whatever we do, we have to be certain that we're pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old Middle East."

The cynicism of her remarks provoked caustic comments at the time, but she was, in a sense, right: since 9/11 we have witnessed the emergence of a new Middle East that bears no resemblance to anything that US politicians might have envisaged, and which has become a major and lasting destabilising factor in the world."

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