war that Western powers - primarily US, Israel and Britain - began
against the Islamic world after September 11, 2001, is about to
enter a new more dangerous phase as their early plans for ''changing
the map of the Middle East' have begun to unravel with unintended
'the war against terror,' the imperialist war against the Middle
East was fueled primarily by US and Israeli ambitions. Britain's
participation is mostly a sideshow. US and Israel have convergent
aims in the region. The US seeks to deepen its control over the
region's oil. Israel wants to create regional conditions that
will allow it to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
a first step, both objectives would be served by removing four
regimes - in Iran, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - that still resisted
US and Israeli ambitions in the region. Once these regimes had
been removed, the US and Israel would carry the war into Egypt,
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, to dismember them into smaller, weaker
and Afghanistan were chosen as the first targets - the easy points
of entry into the war. They had been ravaged by years of war,
weakened by internal divisions, and, in the case of Iraq, hollowed
out by sanctions. It was believed that occupation would be easy.
With friendly regimes in power, the US could start working on
regime change in Iran and Syria.
was indeed a cake walk. But little else has been easy. The Sunni-led
insurgency that began within weeks of the fall of Baghdad has
succeeded in derailing US efforts to stabilize Iraq. Indeed, as
Iraq has moved closer to a civil war over the past few months,
pressures within the US are mounting for an American pull out.
In Afghanistan too, after a period of initial stability, a Taliban
resurgence - operating from liberated areas in neighboring Pakistan
- now threatens NATO forces through much of eastern and southern
the meanwhile, the US-led war against the region has changed the
map of the Middle East, but in unsettling ways. Not only has Iran
gained deep influence over Iraq and Afghanistan, it can leverage
this influence to raise steeply the cost of the US occupation
in both countries. In the meanwhile, with help from Russia and
China, Iran has built a military capability that can threaten
US clients on the Arabian peninsula, shut off the Hormuz Straits
to shipping, and launch missiles that can reach Israel.
Iraq Study Group has described
the situation in Iraq "grave and
deteriorating," and recommended
a quick drawdown of US forces.
It is unlikely that the President will
take that advice... The US, Israel and
Britain are now working to incite
a civil war between Sunnis and
Shias across the Middle East.
As Jonathan Cook puts it, taking a
leaf from Israeli experience in the
West Bank and Gaza, they expect to
create "controlled chaos"
in the entire Islamic world.
addition, last summer, Hizbullah demonstrated a new form of guerilla
war - with low-tech rockets, anti-tank weapons, and sophisticated
intelligence gathering - that neutralized a determined Israeli
Iraq Study Group has described the situation in Iraq "grave and
deteriorating," and recommended a quick drawdown of US forces.
It is unlikely that the President will take that advice. Instead,
the US, Israel and Britain have for some time been working on
an alternative plan when it appeared that their initial plans
were being derailed.
The US, Israel and Britain are now working to incite a civil war
between Sunnis and Shias across the Middle East. As Jonathan Cook
puts it, taking a leaf from Israeli experience in the West Bank
and Gaza, they expect to create "controlled chaos" in the entire
battle lines in this civil war have been drawn. The principal
American-Israeli surrogates in this 'Islamic civil war' showed
their colors last July when Israel launched devastating air attacks
against Lebanese civilian targets in response to the capture of
two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah. Almost instantly, Cairo, Riyadh
and Amman condemned the Hizbullah action. On the opposite side
there is the crescent of resurgent Shia power stretching from
Lebanon, through Syria and Iraq, into Iran.
his recent meetings with Israeli leaders and Sunni Arab potentates,
according to a headline in NY Times, British prime minister
Tony Blair was working to lay the groundwork for an "alliance
against extremism." His plan is to erect an 'arc of moderation'
against the Shia Crescent, with Iran as the principal "strategic
threat" to Western imperial ambitions.
determining factor in this war
will be the Sunni populations under
the thumbs of the Arab potentates.
It is doubtful if the anti-Persian
and anti-Shia rhetoric of the
Arab potentates will succeed
in swinging them around to support
governments they have long hated,
especially now as their alliance
with Israel becomes overt.
is already the theater of this 'Islamic civil war.' Last July,
one of the aims of the Israeli destruction of Lebanon's civilian
infrastructure was to spread this sectarian war to Lebanon. That
gambit failed miserably. Now Saudi Arabia is threatening to expand
its support for Sunni insurgents in Iraq and destabililize Iran
by raising its oil production. More ominously, some of its Wahhabi
clerical allies are trying to rouse both Arab fears of Persian
domination and Sunni concerns about the ascendancy of the 'heretical'
determining factor in this war will be the Sunni populations under
the thumbs of the Arab potentates. It is doubtful if the anti-Persian
and anti-Shia rhetoric of the Arab potentates will succeed in
swinging them around to support governments they have long hated,
especially now as their alliance with Israel becomes overt.
There is also the risk that in fuelling the Sunni insurgency in
Iraq, the Saudis will strengthen al-Qaida and their allies who
are sworn to bring down the US-friendly Arab potentates. Moreover,
if there is a real war in the region, the pseudo Arab states in
the Gulf have no fighting ability they can bring to this conflict.
In that event, does the US have the forces to occupy Iraq and
also defend its Arab clients in the Gulf?
prime minister Tony Blair, the NY Times writes, " the fate
of the Middle East, ''for good or ill,'' would be felt around
the world." It is unlikely that adding an 'Islamic civil war'
to the dynamics of the region will work for the 'good' of the
US, Israel or Britain.
here for other articles by M. Shahid Alam:
Pitting The West Against Islam
Not All Terrorists Are Muslim
Israel, The U.S. And The New Orientalism
The Muslims America Loves
Real Men Go To Tehran
Did Thomas Friedman Flunk History
Shahid Alam, professor of economics at a university in Boston,
is also a regular contributor to CounterPunch.org. Some of
his CounterPunch essays are now available
in the book, Is There An Islamic Problem? (Kuala Lumpur: The
Other Press, 2004). He is also the author of Challenging the
New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on America's 'War
Against Islam' (IPI Publications: 2006 forthcoming).He may
be reached at [email protected]
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