Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The carve-up of the Middle East; the unleashing of ethnic and sectarian tensions; Syria in danger.


David Hirst, at The Guardian, 18 October 2005, predicts that the carve-up of Iraq is likely to 'unleash an ethnic and sectarian crisis across the region.'

Hirst makes the following points:

1. The deals done after World War I led to there being Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

The 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement was the secret Anglo-French deal that shaped the postwar settlement. It prevented the emergence of pan-Arab nationalism.

That nationalism was esentially Sunni.

Sykes-Picot 'drew arbitrary, colonial-style frontiers across pre-existing ethnic, sectarian, tribal or commercial links'.

2. Today, the Neocons favour "creative chaos" and "regime change".

The Arab world will be kept divided and weak.

Acording to Hirst: 'The adoption of a federal formula is seen by the Arab world not as a remedy for Iraq's inherent divisiveness, but, in conditions of rising intercommunal tensions and violence, as a stimulus to it.'

Prince Saud al-Faisal has said that if there is civil war in Iraq, then Iraq will be dismembered.

Hirst writes that Syria is in danger:

'Syrian Kurds now sense... weakness in their own, deeply troubled Ba'athist regime. If it collapses amid generalised chaos, many will push for secession and amalgamation with their brethren in north Iraq...

In Syria, 'a small minority, the Alawites, has in effect run the country for more than 40 years. It is a predominantly Sunni society, which, historically, represents an even greater anomaly than the Sunni minority rule, also in Ba'athist guise, that the majority Shias and Kurds dispensed with in Iraq. A Sunni majority restoration will become unstoppable if, with the eventual break-up of Iraq, its disempowered Sunnis turn to Syria, of which, but for Sykes-Picot, a great many would long have been citizens anyway.

'In the next most vulnerable region, the Gulf, historically persecuted Shia minorities (or majority in Bahrain), inspired by the triumph of their co-religionists in Iraq, will press their claims for equality with new vigour.

'But nervous Sunni regimes will be loath to cede too much, not least in Saudi Arabia where, like their terrorist alter ego in Iraq, the al-Qaida boss Abdul Musab al-Zarqawi, the more hidebound of the Wahhabi religious hierarchy still regard Shia Muslims as no better than heretics.'

David Hirst reported from the Middle East for the Guardian from 1963 to 2001

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