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The Middle East and the beginning of conflict

All countries fight amongst themselves – that is man's nature.  Left to their own devices, man and the disagreement will be settled.  That is IF they are left to their own devices.

The Middle East situation is not the result of one thing, it is the result of many things, many governments outside of the Middle East, the US and Russian cold war, and the US trying to leverage itself as the strong arm in the Middle East.

I cannot write the entire history of the Middle East, but I can provide the reader with a sufficient background that will encourage the reader to learn more.  

To Rashid, who asked me to write about the causes and aggravations of the Middle Eastern issues – I have kept my promise to you.  There are more issues you want me to address and I will do that.

The beginnings:

The end of World War One saw the Middle East carved up like a Sunday afternoon apple pie. 

In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire called for a jihad against France, Russia and Great Britain, as the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany in World War One. 

The Arab leaders Arabs led by Sherif Hussein of Mecca, agree to side with the Allies (Britain, France, and Russia).  The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, authored by the British, promised independence to what is now Syria, Palestine (Israel), Jordan, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula should the Allies win the war. 

Britain, however had also signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement with France which directly contradicts the Hussein-McMahon agreement.  The Sykes-Picot Agreement was a plan to dissect the middle east into fiefdoms controlled by either Britain or France.  Then, one more agreement was made and the Balfour Declaration provides for removing the Ottomans from both Jerusalem and Baghdad, and the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The League of Nations awards Syria and Lebanon to France and for Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq to Britain. 

All of this is being done without any pre-knowledge by the Arab states, and now they have new masters: Great Britain and France.  The end result was rioting in Iraq, and Britain tightens its grip on Iraq through more military intervention.

1920 was a bad year for the Middle East – Britain and France develop an iron grip on the area, and America hears the word: OIL. 

From the Cato Institute, I quote:
“Standard Oil of California and Texaco, won the first concession to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. They discovered oil there in 1938, just after Standard Oil of California found it in Bahrain. The same year Gulf Oil (along with its British partner Anglo-Persian Oil) found oil in Kuwait. During and after World War II, the region became a primary object of U.S. foreign policy. It was then that policymakers realized that the Middle East was "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."(4)
Subsequently, as a result of cooperation between the U.S. government and several American oil companies, the United States replaced Great Britain as the chief Western power in the region.(5) In Iran and Saudi Arabia, American gains were British (and French) losses.(6) Originally, the dominant American oil interests had had limited access to Iraqi oil only (through the Iraq Petroleum Company, under the 1928 Red Line Agreement). In 1946, however, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Mobil Oil Corp., seeing the irresistible opportunities in Saudi Arabia, had the agreement voided.(7) When the awakening countries of the Middle East asserted control over their oil resources, the United States found ways to protect its access to the oil. Nearly everything the United States has done in the Middle East can be understood as contributing to the protection of its long-term access to Middle Eastern oil and, through that control, Washington's claim to world leadership. 
The U.S. build-up of Israel and Iran as powerful gendarmeries beholden to the United States, and U.S. aid given to "moderate," pro-Western Arab regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan, were intended to keep the region in friendly hands. That was always the meaning of the term "regional stability."

Robert W. Tucker, a foreign policy analyst advocated in the 1970s that the United States take over the Middle Eastern oil fields militarily, predicted that the "more likely" threat to U.S. access to the oil would "arise primarily from developments indigenous to the Gulf."(10)   The 1970’s saw the rise of Arab nationalism, or Muslim fundamentalism, that was seen as a threat to the American economic and the US’s worldwide political leadership.

“John Foster Dulles said privately during the Lebanese crisis in 1958, the United States "must regard Arab nationalism as a flood which is running strongly. We cannot successfully oppose it, but we could put sand bags around positions we must protect--the first group being Israel and Lebanon and the second being the oil positions around the Persian Gulf."( John Foster Dulles said privately during the Lebanese crisis in 1958, the United States "must regard Arab nationalism as a flood which is running strongly. We cannot successfully oppose it, but we could put sand bags around positions we must protect--the first group being Israel and Lebanon and the second being the oil positions around the Persian Gulf." Provided by the Cato Institute.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union declared that Iran was vital to the protection of the USSR, but America wanted Iran’s oil. There is a tug of war between the USSR and the US, each offering sweeter and sweeter deals to the Arab nations just for signing up.

Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi was favored by the US, and the US encouraged the Shah to bring the forces to bear and start neutralizing the splitter groups and countries into US line. It was no secret that the US wanted to bring the US influence over the Middle East as its predecessor, Britain, had during the helicon of British rule.

The creation of the state of Israel also caused conflict in the Middle East and in the UN.  The Arab countries had suggested the Jewish survivors be given citizenship in other countries.  The UN had developed the partition plan and that was not widely accepted. The US was big on rhetoric about self-determination, but the Arab countries saw the US as another obstacle to autonomy.

Evan M. Wilson, then ssistant chief of the State Department's Division of Near Eastern Affairs, later summarized matters best when he said that the US solved one refugee problem by creating another.  The present day Palestinian issues are a result of US policies overseas.   The UN partition plan had been approved by an overwhelming majority, but the Arab nations were left out in the cold. 

Nasser of Egypt was a political leader who tried to remain neutral in the US/Russian cold war.  The US found this to be wholly unacceptable as Washington demanded absolute loyalty and subservience. Both Britain and the US then sought to discredit Nasser by the signing of the Baghdad Pact – hoping that outer tier Middle East countries would pressure Nasser to fall in to line.   To the dismay of both Britain and the US, the Baghdad Pact actually bolstered Nasser and brought the USSR and the Arab states closer together – the plan back fired.

Israel too became its own worst enemy, and I quote from the Cato Institute: “Israel was not able to use the canal, but the Jewish state's aims regarding Egypt went beyond that grievance. Since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Palestinian refugees had often crossed into Israel seeking to regain property and possessions expropriated by the government and to reach relatives. Some engaged in violence.

Israel began responding with massive reprisal raids against entire villages in the Arab countries. Most significant was the attack on the town of Gaza in February 1955, when children as well as men were killed. That attack prompted Egypt to end direct peace talks with Israel and to turn to the Soviet Union for arms.

It was only at that point that Egypt sponsored an anti-Israeli guerrilla organization whose members were known as the Fedayeen. In August Israel attacked the Gaza Strip village of Khan Yunis, killing 39 Egyptians. The attacks in the Gaza Strip, masterminded by officials loyal to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, subverted Nasser's efforts to make peace with Israel. Ben-Gurion's successor, Moshe Sharett, responded positively to Nasser's overtures, but Gen. Moshe Dayan and others undermined Sharett.(72) During the winter of 1955, for example, Israeli warplanes flew over Cairo repeatedly to demonstrate Egyptian military impotence.

The Israeli government had earlier tried to prevent a warming of U.S.-Egyptian relations by having saboteurs bomb American offices in Cairo in 1954, an episode that became known as the Lavon Affair.(73) When Egypt uncovered the operation, Israel accused Nasser of fabricating the plot. Two of the 13 men arrested were hanged, and their hangings were used as a pretext for Israel's February 1955 attack on Gaza. Six years later, the Israeli government's complicity was confirmed.”

The hatred for the US is probably well earned because of the US’s determined lebensraum expansionism.  However, we cannot overlook British and French involvement that contributed to the escalations of tensions and hostilities so present now.   Nor can, or should we, forget Turkish actions in Armenia.  Each and all have contributed directly, or indirectly, to the current state of affairs in the Middle East.

If peace is going to prevail several things must happened.  Israel pulls back to the pre-1967 borders and assists the Palestinians in building their own country.  The US has to vacate and commit the using the UN as the vessel to settling disputes. Arafat needs to stand down.  Sharon needs to stand down.

Michael Berglin

Photo: CNN

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