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World

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Des guerres comme on jette du pétrole sur le feu

by Pierre Barbancey

Wars Like You’d Pour Oil On Fire

Translated Monday 23 November 2015, by Isabelle Métral

Jihadist movements manipulated from 1950 onwards, war after war waged against leaders that proved insufficiently submissive, countries invaded, broken up: the peoples of the Middle East serve the interests of the big powers and have lost hope.
How long is it since they have known peace? Ask Iraqis at random in the streets of Dohuk, the answer is - and it’s about the same in Bagdad - that they can’t remember. It’s not just that the country is sore, but that it has been bled dry. By the wars, the repeated violence. By the plundering of its oil and gas resources. By the restructuring of its former societies, of the basic units that composed them. By the blowing asunder of the various communities and persuasions. It’s now several decades since the beautiful mosaic of the Middle East broke up and the shockwave is now felt right into the streets of Paris.

And no wonder when all those peoples have been submitted for over half a century to the hegemonic rule of the big powers and the yoke imposed by the authority of the family or the clan – itself seen as a relay of the Western rule – that have always nipped in the bud all the peoples’ attempts at change, by imprisoning, torturing, or murdering the liberals and the communists. Added to this the religious tyranny imposed by the Gulf petro-monarchies with the sharp edge of the sabre. With whom Paris, Washington, London or Berlin have always been on the best terms.

John Cooley, an American journalist, in a famous book entitled CIA and Jihad, 1950-2001 (now published in French - Translator’s Note) notes that after WWII communism was the worst enemy for the US and also for Western European leaders under the umbrella of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) set up in 1949. They saw in religion one of the instruments to counter this movement, which they considered as godless. In addition to supporting the European rightist parties, which often considered themselves Christian, like the Christian Democracy in Italy, Washington also supported Islamist movements that were if anything even more fiercely anti-communist than the Catholic church.

Political Islam, long one of the most useful arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, became of paramount importance in the West’s strategy in the Middle East. Religion was exploited to counter the radical Left that struck deeper roots and gathered momentum after the Arab defeat in 1967. After the Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, in order that the USSR also have its “Vietnam war” as Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US president’s former national security adviser was later to confess, thousands of Jihadists were recruited, and often trained in the US. Among them was a certain Osama bin Laden…And all the while Saudi Arabia distributed hundreds of thousands of religious works inspired by its Wahhabi ideology –from a branch of which ISIL issued.

Oil underground, antagonisms and shifting alliances above ground: the Shah’s Iran, an ally of the West and Israel, vanished from the scene, having been toppled in 1979 by a popular revolution which was itself exploited by the religious party to its own profit. The Shiite regime then became the Western powers’ new target. Saddam Hussein, who cracked down on the Iraqi Left and ruled over his county with an iron hand without the “western democracies” feeling really embarrassed about it, was then provided with arms and entrusted with the mission of battling Tehran. The war lasted almost eight years, killed millions, and shook the region apart as it set Sunnis against Shiites more fiercely than ever before in order to serve the interests of the West. For the Iraqis, this was the first Gulf war.

Another followed close upon the first. Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in Halabja with chemical weapons sold to him by Western countries, France among them. But that was not the reason why Saddam Hussein became persona non grata. The reason was that he believed Iraq was such an incontestable regional power that he could break free from his “godfathers”. The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 tolled his end. The US headed a coalition in which most Arab countries enlisted. In addition to the low-uranium bombs that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and affected the following generations, somewhat like the Agent Orange poured on Vietnam, an embargo hit the Iraqi population for years. In the ‘90’s Iraq was the target of thousands of bombings. And in 2003, false evidence being aired about Iraq’s alleged possession of chemical weapons, the US invaded the country. This determining event marked the beginning of a new stage: Iraq was dismembered, its ethnic and religious communities pitted against one another. Al Qaeda set in and in the secret jails opened by the Americans on Iraqi soil turned into ISIL. Meantime, in 2001, after the attacks on the twin towers in New York, Afghanistan became the target of the US.

Islamist groups armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar

Another war broke out, this time in Libya. Under the pretext of rescuing the populations from slaughter, France, whose president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was supported on this matter by François Hollande, intervened in 2011. With catastrophic consequences. The Libyan leader was murdered and Libya broken up in turn, split between tribes and Islamist groups. The cancer spread into the Sahel, the weapons and armed groups spilled over into Niger and Mali.

Then yet another war started, in Syria this time. The Syrian people’s determination to topple the nepotistic regime was exploited by regional and international powers. Islamic groups were armed, notably by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Instead of supporting the most progressive movements, France supported the Syrian National Council which represents tiny fractions and is manipulated by the Muslim Brotherhood that plays the Sunni card. Which the Syrian régime was only too glad to exploit by posing as the defender of Syrian unity and protector of the minorities. Conversely, the Syrian Kurds, who set up a new administration in their region which they called Rojava, were left to shift for themselves: even though they fought against ISIL which besieged Kobane from mid-September 2014, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared that the strategic fight was to be over Aleppo. The French authorities are even blind to the role played by the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda: to them, it is “doing a good job on the battlefield.” The Kurdish defense groups (YPG) were nevertheless the first to win a fight against the Jihadists. Whereas a US-led coalition claimed to fight ISIL with air raids, Russia went into action, officially at Syria’ s request.

The Middle East peoples have been suffering more and more and the wars have only compounded their despair. As for Palestinians, laboring as they are under Israeli occupation and repression, they are slowly dying without the Western powers reacting despite those powers’ proclaimed respect for international law.


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