Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sykes Picot Centenary: 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

14 comments:

Ali said...

So why don't these neighboring Arab countries sign a treaty between themselves to adjust (or erase) the colonial borders as an expression of their brotherly love and affection, as they see fit, to erase such an atrocious and historic injustice inflicted upon them?

Riaz Haq said...

Ali: "So why don't these neighboring Arab countries sign a treaty between themselves to adjust (or erase) the colonial borders as an expression of their brotherly love and affection, as they see fit, to erase such an atrocious and historic injustice inflicted upon them?"

Their leaders can't, or they won't for their own se;fish reasons.

So ISIS is doing it for them using its own brutal tactics. And the Kurds share the goal of dismantling these borders.

Liberal said...

Blaming West is the easiest thing we can do

Why Belgium and Switzerland are peaceful ? Why Germans and French are not fighting in these states ?


What If the West has given a state to Alwites in Syria or a State to Maronite Christians in Lebanon or a State to Coptic Christians in Egypt or a State to Assyrian Christians in Syria ?

Was giving a state to Jews a right decision ?

What if the West had divided Iraq into Shia and Sunni states ?

What if Saudi Arabia was divided into Wahabi , Shia and Ismaeli states ?

What if Yemen was divided into Zaydis and Sunnis ?


You would still be blaming West for creating all these states on Ethnic and Sectarian lines

Riaz Haq said...

Liberal: "Why Belgium and Switzerland are peaceful ? Why Germans and French are not fighting in these states ?"

Europe has had more wars along ethnic and sectarian lines than any other continent in the history of the world. They are tired of war now. They have seen the futility of war.

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpts of an NPR Fresh Air interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winning author of "The Sympathizer":


one of the first movies that I remember watching was "Apocalypse Now." I was probably about 10. And I think that was the first indication, also, that I had that there was something called this war and that this was how Americans saw this war as one that had divided them. And that was my first glimmering that there was something like a civil war happening in the American soul and that we as Vietnamese people were caught up in that because I watched that movie as a good, American boy who had already seen some American war movies - John Wayne in World War II.

And I was cheering for the American soldiers until the moment in "Apocalypse Now" where they started killing Vietnamese people. And that was an impossible moment for me because I didn't know who I was supposed to identify with, the Americans who were doing the killing or the Vietnamese who were dying and not being able to speak?

And that moment has never left me as the symbolic moment of my understanding that this was our place in an American war, that the Vietnam War was an American war from the American perspective and that, eventually, I would have to do something about that.


-------

Their function is to literally just be stage props for an American drama. And my narrator understands this. And he understands it very intellectually and viscerally that what is happening here is that Hollywood is the unofficial ministry of propaganda for the Pentagon, that its role is to basically prepare Americans to go fight wars by making them focus only on the American understanding of things and to understand others as alien and different and marginal, even to their own histories, right?

And so his belief is that he can somehow try to subvert this ministry of propaganda, this vast war epic that is going to continue to kill Vietnamese people in a cinematic fashion, which is simply the prelude to actually killing Vietnamese people in real life. So he believes that he can try to make a difference. And, of course, the humor and the tragedy is that he can't.


------

you know, that the United States lost the war, in fact, in 1975. But for the very same reason that the United States was able to wage a war in which it lost 58,000 American soldiers, which is a human tragedy, but was able to create the conditions by which 3 million Vietnamese people died of all sides and 3 million Laotians and Cambodians died during those years and in the years afterwards.

For the very same reasons that the industrial power of the United States is able to produce this vast inequity of death, that's the same reason that the United States, in the years afterward, through its incredibly powerful cultural industry, is able to win the war in memory because wherever you go outside of Vietnam, you have to deal with American memories of the Vietnam War. Inside Vietnam, you have to confront Vietnamese memories. But outside, wherever I've gone and talked about the Vietnam War and memory, one of the first questions that I get is what do you think of "Apocalypse Now?" So...

---------

Americans are preoccupied with their own experiences. That's an exact replication of the mindset that got us into Vietnam and that has now allowed Americans to remember the Vietnam War in a certain way that makes it an America war.


http://www.npr.org/2016/05/17/478384200/author-viet-thanh-nguyen-discusses-the-sympathizer-and-his-escape-from-vietnam

Steve G. said...

I agree totally with your analysis, but I am wondering whether there is another factor that the world powers are overlooking.



The Euphrates/Tigris river system ranks among the most well-known on the planet. However, with an average annual flow of about 900 m3/seconds, it is relatively small when compared to other “famous” rivers such as the Amazon (209,000 m3/s), Orinoco (33,000 m3/s), Congo (41,000 m3/s), Danube (6,500 m3/s), Ganges (12,015 m3/s), Indus (6,600 m3/s), Mekong (16,000 m3/s), and Mississippi (12,743 m3/s).



The combined population of Turkey (78,000,000), Syria (23,000,000), and Iraq (32,000,000) is 133,000,000. Thus we have a situation where three countries with a combined population about two thirds (66%) that of Pakistan are wholly or partially dependent on a river system with a flow that is only 14% that of the Indus. The population competes for a resource that supplies energy (hydroelectricity), food (irrigation), and industrial and domestic water supply.



Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) is a reality. Large storage projects upstream from Syria and Iraq are of magnitudes that are almost inconceivable. The volumes of water currently intercepted and stored upstream in Turkey have a total volume of at least 109 km3 (Turkey/Euphrates, 92 km3 and Turkey/Tigris, 17 km3). This volume is equivalent to about three and a half years’ average annual flow for the Euphrates/Tigris river system. Theoretically, stored water for hydropower can be beneficial and provide downstream benefits when released during the dry season. However, the reality is that water is being diverted (in Turkey) to irrigate crops such as cotton. Flow rates into Syria and Iraq have already dropped.



The Euphrates/Tigris headwaters have been going through – and no doubt always will go through – a block of very dry years since 2008. Given that 90% of Syria’s and Iraq’s water requirements are for irrigation, this series of dry years has severely impacted their food supply.



Is this environmental disaster another factor in the current state of affairs?

Riaz Haq said...

Steve: "Is this environmental disaster another factor in the current state of affairs?"

I agree that there are many more issues in the region, including resource sharing issues.

But I think the issues of identity and the fact that the borders were imposed by colonial powers, unlike those in Europe that were mutually agreed, are major causes of strife.

Riaz Haq said...

Steve G:
BTW, India is currently suffering from severe drought in eastern and southern parts of the country. It's embarking on major diversion of water from the northern rivers of Brahmaputa and Ganges to address it. The biggest victim of this project will be Bangladesh which does not have any treaty with India along the lines of the internationally-brokered and monitored Indus Basin Water Treaty with Pakistan.

Here's an excerpt of a Guardian story on the subject:

The river-linking project could lead to further disputes not just between states, but with the neighbouring government of Bangladesh. India’s plans will affect 100 million people in Bangladesh, who live downstream of the Ganges and Brahmaputra and rely on the rivers for their livelihoods. On Monday, Bangladesh’s minister of water, Nazrul Islam, urged the Indian government to take Bangladesh’s water needs into consideration noting that 54 of 56 Indian rivers flowed through the country.

“India is giving a lot of importance to its own people hit by drought,” he said, “but it must not ignore our rights.”

The Indian water resources ministry spokesperson said: “The Indian government is addressing Bangladesh’s water problems too,” adding that ministers from the two countries had discussed the water issue in the past. “We don’t have the details, but we will ensure Bangladesh gets its share of water too.”

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/18/india-set-to-start-massive-project-to-divert-ganges-and-brahmaputra-rivers

Anonymous said...

India itself is screwed by China as it holds the upstream river of Brahamputra. The 3 gorges dam will divert lot of water from downstream countries.

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/great-chinese-diversion/

As usual Pak and BD will not say anything.

India should also divert all rivers in kashmir.

Riaz Haq said...

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-modern-middle-east-is-actually-only-100-years-old/?postshare=2111463691826289&tid=ss_tw

Riaz Haq said...

Story of #Israel's West Bank’s Settlements ‘Wildest, Most Violent’ Young Radical #Jews Preying on #Palestininans

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/24/world/middleeast/a-window-into-west-banks-wildest-most-violent-areas.html

YISHUV HADAAT, West Bank — With shoulder-length hair tumbling from beneath his knit skullcap, Hanamel Dorfman, a radical young Israeli settler, explains matter-of-factly on camera how hilltop settlement outposts like his own will continue to proliferate across the West Bank. From there, he says bluntly, Israelis will cross the Jordan River and start building on the other side.

Reminded that beyond the river there is another sovereign nation, Jordan, Mr. Dorfman says with an unwavering gaze, “Everything is temporary.”

The stunning statement comes in one of the final scenes of “The Settlers,” a documentary by an Israeli-American filmmaker, Shimon Dotan, that opens a rare window into the reclusive and politically explosive “hilltop youth” movement.

The film, which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was shown for the first time in Israel on Monday evening, suggests that the fringe group of religious hippies is underestimated in its ability to influence Israeli politics and thwart any possibility of peace with the Palestinians.

---
Mr. Dorfman, now 21, told me that Israel’s government was illegitimate because it did not rule based on the laws of the Torah. “It stays in its place in a pathetic attempt at survival,” he said.

Mr. Dorfman said he had been arrested numerous times, but not for any major attacks on Palestinians. Still, his ideology echoes a manifesto of a new group of extremist Jewish settler youth that Israeli security officials revealed last year.

Mr. Dotan’s film chronicles the germination of the early settler movement after Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, including the ideas and religious zeal that fueled it, and explores its latest extreme element: the hilltop youth.

They are but a tiny fraction of the more than 400,000 Israeli Jews living in the occupied West Bank, but the object of mounting concern as they are blamed for extreme violence there, like the arson last summer that killed a toddler and his parents in the village of Duma.

“The Settlers” is one of the first close-up views of the motives and personalities in a group that rarely opens up to outsiders. Though mainstream settler leaders denounce violence and try to distance themselves from the radical youth in the hills, Mr. Dotan sees the hilltop dwellers as a natural outgrowth of the original movement.


“Those who push it forward today are the hilltop youth,” he said. “And it seems to me a very dangerous direction.”

Often depicted as uneducated hooligans, the youth in the film come off as raw but canny — an American like me might call them street smart — using acts of defiance and violence to achieve their aims. There is also an aura of romance: Mr. Dorfman, with his long sidelocks, wispy beard and rimless glasses, seems more like a hard-eyed John Lennon than a backwoods militant.

At one point in the film, a settler with a guitar sings Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” in a mixture of English and Hebrew while sitting at a fire. But there are also expressions of virulent racism, a glorification of violence and a desire to replace the modern state of Israel with a full-scale biblical kingdom that would extend as far as Iraq.

In one scene at Esh Kodesh, Pinhasi Bar-On, 25, speaks playfully with several young children about his legal troubles, asking them if they will come along on his escapades when they get older.

“What will you do with me?” Mr. Bar-On asks, as if teaching a preschool class.

“Beat up Arabs,” one child says.

“Yes,” Mr. Bar-On says approvingly.

Riaz Haq said...

Two centuries of oppression in #Kashmir. #India misrepresents protests as #Pakistan sponsored #terrorism @AJENews http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/07/centuries-oppression-kashmir-protests-india-pakistan-160719122312549.html

The furious protests that erupted in Indian-administered Kashmir on July 8 are a poignant reminder that popular sentiment cannot be ignored merely because it does not fit in with the nationalist narrative of an unrepresentative government.

That is especially true where popular sentiment is grounded in the cause of a unique identity.

In the absence of legitimate political forums, such sentiment foments unrest which builds until circumstances provide a martyr such as Burhan Wani, the young rebel whose killing by Indian security forces has ignited the protests in Kashmir.

Often, such protest movements are acts of desperation without a chance of success, so they ebb and flow in cycles linked with angry violence and inconclusive attempts at political engagement.

The outcome is more violence between armed occupiers and young activists who become increasingly militant over time.

Unsurprisingly, the emergent generation of stone-pelting young Kashmiris identify with their Palestinian counterparts and are calling the new wave of protests an "Intifada".

Another similarity is that the situation in Kashmir is a mess created by departing Western colonialists.

In drawing up the map for the division of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947, the British viewed Kashmir entirely through the spectacles of recent history.

Riaz Haq said...

#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.




Riaz Haq said...

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


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.”