Frankenstein monsters of humanity’s own creation stalk the blood-soaked Middle East. In the midst of heated emotions and bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians, we often loose sight of the origins of such conflicts and end up taking sides. Instead of taking sides the world should unite and go in as a massive planetary police action to stamp out wars, arrest the perpetrators on both sides, and try them in a world court of law that recognizes war itself as a crime. We don’t have such firm institutions yet, unfortunately, and the ones we do have are not necessarily democratic or transparent.
The bloodshed in Gaza, Congo, Iraq, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere drives urgency for us to create a democratic planetary republic. We witnessed political fragmentation, ethnic strife, and economic manipulation in the name of “democracy” and “independence” during the breakup of the Soviet Empire and the shattering of Yugoslavia. We see it again in the bloody turmoil all across Africa and many other places as well from Nepal to Indonesia to the Amazon. But let us regress to the horrors nationalism and superpower plays have created in the cauldrons of the Middle East.
This is the most complex superpower mess. We will consider the hypocrisy and consequences of the Global War on Terror and how it grew out of the Byzantine power plays and insidious manipulations of the Cold War. The most damaging, complex, confusing, and dangerous area for which the whole world continues to pay a bloody price is the Middle East, that historic crossroads of humanity that stretches from North and East Africa into South and Central Asia and intrudes into the European Balkans and Caucasus. The greatest concentration of the world’s oldest civilizations lay in this region as well as the origins of many of the planet’s dominant religions. So let us look at the labyrinthine Middle East from the perspective of the Soviet-American Cold War and its consequences.
As a reminder, it must be noted that during the following series of local and global conflicts spinning out of the Middle East, at the same time the Rockefeller family and others of the financial elite were strangling the U.S. and global economies. Their primary intent was two-fold. First, to keep the U.S. dollar solvent and thus the dominant currency worldwide at great cost to Americans. Secondly, to dismantle under both Democrat and Republican presidents (Carter and Reagan followed by the Bush-Clinton-Bush administrations) the earlier anti-monopoly trust-busting reforms of Republican Teddy Roosevelt and the New Deal revolution of his cousin Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The Rockefellers forced Democrat President Jimmy Carter to appoint their protégé Paul Volker Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, who was eventually followed by Republican Ronald Reagan appointing Alan Greenspan before Ben Bernanke took over under Republican President George W. Bush. The Volker-Greenspan “dynasties” engineered significant financial perturbations in the marketplace that enriched the superwealthy and fostered the illusion of wealth and prosperity while creating havoc and destruction in the economy locally and globally. This occurred during significant proxy wars between the Soviet and American empires in Latin America, Africa, and Asia with the most severe erupting in East Asia and the Middle East and Central Asia.
In Afghanistan, the Soviet Union was provoked to invade and occupy that country by the United States. The American-Soviet superpower rivalry in Central and South Asia was in many ways an extension of the Nineteenth Century Anglo-Russian “Great Game” of imperial brinkmanship. The period of European imperialism and colonialism left a legacy of artificial nation-states with unstable regimes and warring ethnic groups across the planet. One of the most volatile regions on Earth, especially in the wake of both World Wars proved to be the Middle East and neighboring South Asia.
The United States and the Soviet Union moved to fill the Great Power void after the end of the Second World War left Europe, including much of the western U.S.S.R. itself, devastated. And Afghanistan is the bridge between the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. It has been ever since Ancient times when the Persians under Cyrus II the Great, his son Cambyses II, and Darius II the Great and then the Macedonians and Greeks under Alexander the Great carved vast empires from Egypt, Greece and the Balkans across Mesopotamia and Iran into India and Afghanistan.
Even in the latter half of the Twentieth Century Afghanistan proved a bridge. It remains a bridge between regions, although now terms such as “highway” and “pipeline” are now in vogue. And Afghanistan remains a barren if beautiful battleground that continues to suck in outside powers. Revolts, coups, tribal uprisings, and insurrections broke out against Soviet-backed regimes first in 1975 and again in 1978, leading to an Afghan civil war that in turn led to a massive Soviet invasion in December 1979.
According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, “secret operations” including actions by the CIA drew the Soviet Union to fall into “the Afghan trap” by design and thus give the Soviets their own “Vietnam War,” a reference to the recent and long-drawn out US loss in Indochina. The Vietnam War bled the American economy, undermined many domestic reforms, and catalyzed public turmoil and rebellion back inside the United States. The Americans hoped the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan would trigger similar economic and socio-political upheaval back in the U.S.S.R.
Brzezinski was and remains a member of the U.S. Democratic Party as well as two influential secret societies, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderberger Group. At first many progressives were relieved as they saw him as a cheerful and brilliant alternative to the equally brilliant but notoriously gloomy Henry Kissinger, but he turned out to be a different model of the same general realpolitik mindset. Brzezinski referred to latter-day versions of the “Great Game” as the “Grand Chessboard” and to many American allies as “satrapies.”
In spite of President Carter’s public shock and dismay at the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, Carter’s own CIA had been conducting covert operations against the Communists there starting in 1978. Even back in 1977 U.S. National Security Advisor Brzezinski formed the Nationalities Working Group dedicated to inflaming ethnic strife inside the U.S.S.R. and especially stirring up non-Russian Muslims against the Soviet Russians.
This eventually led to U.S.-backed raids by the Afghan Resistance into the USSR during the 1980s; a model in turn emulated by Chechens in their nationalist and Islamic revolts against the Russians. And if Islamic militants could strike deep into Russia, why not also, at a later date, strike deep into Europe or America? Which eventually happened in what even the CIA terms “blowback,” a violent version of the old saying beware of what you do in case it comes back to haunt you.
The U.S. played a power game that was blatantly hypocritical. Yet the Kissinger-Brzezinski school of Neo-Conservative/Neo-Liberal “Realists” dubbed this game “realistic”. While on the edge of war with Revolutionary Iran under its Fundamentalist Islamic theocracy and taking Jewish Israeli sides in on-going conflicts against Muslim Arabs, the U.S. in turn supported Fundamentalist Muslims in their war against Afghan and Soviet Communists in Afghanistan.
Then the Soviet satellite state of Baathist Iraq, a fierce enemy of U.S.-backed Israel, asserted its independence from the Soviet Empire and invaded Iran in September 1980, only nine months after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and twenty months after Fundamentalist Muslims overthrew the Shah of Iran. This in turn set the stage for conflict between Islamic extremists on both side of the Sunni and Shia divide, with the Shia primarily concentrated in Persian Iran and southern Iraq.
Iraq is the hub of the Middle East, and who controls Iraq exerts enormous influence in the region including the Persian Gulf. European nations allied with the U.S.A. such as France and Germany sold Iraq weapons including aircraft to quickly fill the Soviet void and to blunt the Ayatollahs of Iran. The U.S. stepped in to help prop up the Baathist military dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, to keep the Soviets off-balance. Europeans funneled large sums of money to Iraq. Among EU groups was the Italian Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, reported to have funneled up to $5 billion worth of unreported loans.
The United States exported chemical and biological warfare agents to Iraq and Americans assisted Iraqi forces in using poison gas on both Iranian forces and on Iraqi rebels in violation of the 1925 Geneva Accords. This progressed to the point where CIA assisted the Iraqi Army in calibrating mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops in 1984 and in 1988 the US Defense Intelligence Agency was heavily involved in Iraqi cyanide, mustard, and nerve gas attacks that killed many tens of thousands of Iranians. The Americans even attacked outright Iranian installations in the Persian Gulf in the so-called Tanker War Campaign.
Even though it was Iraq that attacked and severely damaged the American Navy ship U.S.S. Stark with French-made Exocet missiles fired from a French-built Mirage jet in May 1987 for reasons still not clearly understood (was it a tragic error of misidentification, or a capricious warning by Saddam that no one is his boss?), the U.S. under Republican Ronald Reagan stood by Saddam as it viewed Iran and the Soviets as greater threats. In a similar, almost reverse and still controversial incident, the Americans shot down an Iranian civilian passenger airliner in July 1988 with great loss of life.
In another event evocative of regional political complexities, Israel, a fierce foe of Saddam’s Iraq even though both countries at that time were supported by the U.S.A. and Western Europe, attacked Iraq in June 1981 and destroyed Saddam’s nuclear reactor at Osirik. Iraq was deprived of developing nuclear weapons to bomb Iran and Israel with and thus resorted to chemical warfare including the use of poison gas.
Israel had been allies with Persian Iran against the Arabs before Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah, but at that time still viewed Iraq at the greater enemy. That viewpoint shifted after the Islamic Revolution with Israel and Iran considering each other implacable foes as the Iran-Iraq War ground to a halt with a cease-fire in August 1988. It was acceptable from the global imperial point of view for Israel to have nuclear weapons but not Iraq or Iran.
It was also acceptable for Iraq to actually use chemical weapons backed by the U.S. on Iranians and Iraqi rebels in the 1980s but not in the 1990-1991 Gulf War on American and Coalition forces. The U.S. threatened the use of nuclear weapons on Iraq should Saddam use poison gas on American troops. The Superpowers continued to play local and regional powers off against the other across the Middle East and South Asia in their Machiavellian Cold War maneuvers.
As such the U.S.A., especially through the use of the CIA and eventually with training by U.S. Special Forces, organized, armed, and bankrolled the anti-Communist Afghan Resistance, which came to call themselves the Mujahideen. The Mujahideen in turn declared an Islamic Jihad against Soviet and Afghan Communists. Many Muslims from other nations, including Arabs from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and Egypt and Pashtuns from Pakistan arrived in Afghanistan to battle the Soviet invasion. These Arabs and Pashtuns usually found support from the Americans and their wealthy allies among the Saudis.
One of these wealthy Saudis supported by the American CIA in Afghanistan is Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden later dismisses the role of the United States in the Afghan defeat of the Soviet Empire, preferring to credit the victory to Allah. The CIA even disclaims responsibility for developing Osama bin Laden’s power base in their defeat of the U.S.S.R. The House of bin Laden also denies responsibility for Osama’s actions, claiming instead that he was a rogue black sheep who left the family fold.
This Mujahideen victory, however, in turn led to a vicious and tyrannical civil war after the Soviets were forced out of Afghanistan, as if this was also Osama’s interpretation and abuse of “God’s Will.” The Saudis funneled billions of dollars into both the Iraq war against Iran and the Mujahideen jihad against the Communists. There were close ties, too, between the Bush Family, the House of Saud, and the Bin Laden Family.
The U.S. backed Muslim Pakistan, an enemy of India, the world’s largest democracy, as it was anti-Soviet and the Indians pro-Soviet. This demonstrates the Cold War divide between monolithic Communism and monolithic Democracy is a myth, as the Communists backed anti-American democracies and the pro-American democracies backed anti-Communist dictatorships. Pakistan itself wavered between corrupt civilians democratically elected and coup-happy military dictators. Both backed the Mujahideen including financing and training them, even joining them in battle.
The Pakistanis also backed Islamic Kashmiri separatists in their terrorist rebellion against predominantly Hindu India. The United States, first under Democrat Jimmy Carter and then under Republican Ronald Reagan, saw the Afghan War as a Cold War battle between Communism and Democracy and the Iran-Iraq War as a way to blunt Soviet expansion into the Middle East and also strengthen Israel’s position as Israel itself was bogged down in Lebanon’s multifaceted Civil War while simultaneously battling Palestinian insurrections. In the end these positions fueled a global Islamic Fundamentalist militancy. And Afghanistan was the battlefield “for freedom and democracy” versus “Communism and socialism.”
In truth, too, the majority of the Afghan Resistance was not in favor of democracy at all. They were a mix of corrupt warlords, opium farmers, ultraconservative tribal traditionalists, and radical Muslim Fundamentalists. The only freedoms many of the Mujahideen fought for was the freedom of Afghan Muslim men to fight each other, suppress women and keep women in conditions of virtual slavery, dominate children, farm opium, and drive out not only Communists and atheists but Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists as well as secularists. Afghans that desired true freedom, equality, and democracy were either mostly killed off or fled into exile to seek those dreams in the West.
The Soviets were eventually driven out of their Afghan “Vietnam” by February 1989. Their Communist puppet state held until finally deposed in April 1992 by the Mujahideen, who then took to warring amongst themselves. Driving out first the Soviet Union and then their Afghan puppet regime was hailed as an American and Afghan victory for freedom and democracy. The Soviet Union itself dissolved by the end of 1991, and its defeat in Afghanistan was deemed instrumental in its collapse.
The Mujahideen resistance mutated into a patchwork of corrupt, feudal warlords whose quarrels then degenerated into full-scale civil war. From this bloody chaos emerged the strict and austere Taliban, who seduced many Afghans with the illusion of law, order, and stability.
The Taliban conquered many of the warlords, rooted out corruption, and imposed an austere but oppressive Fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship over much of Afghanistan. Their desire to establish a Muslim Caliphate did not invoke the tolerant high civilization of the Medieval Muslim empires of the Arabs, Berbers, Persians, and Turks that contributed much to humanity, but a backward, rigid, barbaric tyranny.
Many of the Arabs and Pashtuns who infiltrated Afghanistan to fight the Communists were also Fundamentalist Muslims and in turn supported the Taliban against the other Afghan warlords. These foreign fighters came to be called “Afghan Arabs.” The secret security and intelligence services of Pakistan, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, many whom were in opposition to the secular Pakistan Army, were riddled with Fundamentalist Islamic radicals. They gave enormous support to the Taliban and by extension the Taliban’s Afghan Arab allies. The Pakistanis gave so much support to the Taliban that some analysts consider the Taliban to be more of a Pakistani creation than an Afghan one.
With echoes of the Anglo-Russo Great Game, the Pakistanis sought to make Afghanistan a buffer against Soviet Russia. The Pakistanis also sought to outflank India through Afghanistan as well as connect with China. India was supportive of the Soviet Union, engaged in intermittent wars with Pakistan, thumbed its nose at both Great Britain and the United States, gave Tibetans including the Tibetan Dalai Lama refuge from the Chinese, and were later defeated in an embarrassing border war by the Chinese.
The United States also sought to control both Afghanistan and Pakistan to create buffers against any Asian nation-state potentially a major U.S. enemy such as the U.S.S.R. or Red China. The Americans sought indirect control via financial clout, the sale of weaponry, and economic pressure. Thus the U.S.A. funneled millions and millions of dollars into Pakistan, which in turn funneled it through the ISI into the Afghan Taliban.
The roll of the Afghan Arabs and the Pakistani Pashtuns in the defeat of the Communists and the rise of the Taliban cannot be underestimated. For reasons of national and ethnic pride, the Afghan Mujahideen and their replacement the Taliban maintain the fiction their victory over first the Communists and then the warlords was primarily an Afghan victory. True, the majority of Mujahideen fighters were Afghans and they fought with ferocious valor.
Even so, their victory clearly would not have been possible without American support, both directly through the NSA, CIA, & Special Forces and indirectly through equally enormous U.S. support of Pakistan and the Pakistani ISI. The Afghan Arabs also played a significant role in the defeat of the Soviets and the Afghan Communists. While relatively small in number, they still represented a major force. They brought in large infusions of cash, especially from Saudi Arabia, enrolled many Arabs and other Muslims to their jihad, and due to their fanatic fierceness and training in tactics and strategies as well as their family connections throughout the Middle East rose into prominent positions in military, political, and religious structures.
Clearly, the native Afghan Mujahideen played a significant role in their defeat of the Communists prior to turning upon each other, but their Muslim jihadist allies from other countries eventually numbered from 20,000 to 60,000 warriors recruited by Osama bin Laden’s mentor Sheikh Abdullah Azzam alone. Later over 100,000 jihadists came to Afghanistan and Pakistan with thousands more undergoing training in Pakistani madrassas or radical Islamic Fundamentalist schools. Those numbers from the perspective of both guerrilla warfare and the Afghan landscape and population represents an enormous quantity of non-Afghan fighters.
The Afghan Arabs, initially as they were enemies of the Soviets and allies of Pakistan as well as allied with the Mujahideen, also received funding and military support from the United States. They were also close with the Pashtuns of the Afghan-Pakistani border regions as the Pashtuns shared fierce traditions of warrior tribalism and were also, like many in the Taliban, relatively uneducated and prey to religious indoctrination by Fundamentalist Islamic radicals.
The Afghan Arab leadership also sought to create a Muslim Caliphate, but as many of them came from different countries they envisioned the Caliphate as not merely an Afghan emirate but a restored Islamic Empire that would eventually span the globe. Interpretations of what this caliphate was envisioned to resemble varied considerably, yet it was an overarching goal.
The Afghan Arabs and the Taliban went on to greatly influence the Chechen revolts against the Russians and transformed a nationalistic war for Chechen independence into a Fundamentalist Islamic Jihad that spilled out into other regions and included Chechens fighting in Islamic conflicts in other lands. They also supported the Bosnians in the Yugoslav Civil Wars, the Palestinians against Israel, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Kashmiri separatists against Hindu India as well as Muslim revolts in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Jihadists were involved in radical revolts and terror campaigns in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia and then after 2003 flocked into Iraq to fight the American and British occupation. It was blowback, indeed.
When the United States and its allies turned on Saddam’s Iraq and set up Western military bases in Saudi Arabia, viewed by Islamists as Muslim Holy Land off limits to “infidels,” and with the Taliban’s emergence as a brutal theocracy, both the Taliban and their Afghan Arab allies turned on the Global Empire of the West. They singled out the Americans as Arch-Enemy Number One as Americans were at the head of this secular Global Empire. American allies from Israel to Europe to Canada to Australia and India were issued dire warnings.
From this Alice-in-Wonderland craziness grew the Frankensteinian monster known today as al-Qaeda and its primary leader Osama bin Laden. Even Benazir Bhutto, when she was Prime Minister of Pakistan and years prior her assassination in early 2008, told newly-elected American President George H. W. Bush Sr. back in 1989 that “You are creating a veritable Frankenstein.” Bush had been Ronald Reagan’s Vice-President and before that Director of the CIA. Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, Richard Murphy, later admitted, “We did spawn a monster in Afghanistan.”
Pakistani ISI agents wanted a royal Saudi prince in Afghanistan, especially as the House of Saud bankrolled much of the Afghan Resistance. The American CIA and Special Forces had begun covert training of Afghan Mujahideen soon after the Soviet Russian intervention. While the ISI did not get a true prince, they did get Osama bin Laden. The House of bin Laden is intricately linked to the House of Saud, and thus Saudi Arabia extended primary and massive financial aid to the Mujahideen. Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan early on, possibly as early as 1980, although the ISI did not actively began recruiting Arabs and Pashtuns until 1982.
At one point Osama bin Laden was established in Peshawar, on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border. There in 1984 he helped run and finance a Mujahideen front group known as MAK, or Maktab al-Khidamat, also known as Al-Kifah. MAK was heavily nurtured and supported not just by the House of Saud with the House of bin Laden but also directly by the Pakistani ISI and indirectly by the American CIA.
Through MAK Osama bin Laden also built close relations with corrupt warlords and opium smugglers such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a feudal warlord operating near the Afghan border with Iran. Hekmatyar was directly supported also by the ISI and the CIA in his guerrilla campaign against the U.S.S.R., became allies with the Taliban in the civil war that broke out after the Soviet defeat, and then in the wake of 9/11 turned on the United States after it invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. Hekmatyar today maintains links with both the Taliban and al-Qaeda as well as with Iran.
Sheikh Abdullah Azzam and Azzam’s son-in-law Abdullah Anas initially founded MAK. Sheikh Azzam was one of Osama bin Laden’s primary mentors and strongly advocated a Muslim jihad to conquer the world. Supported by both the ISI and the CIA and bankrolled by Americans and Saudis, Azzam with bin Laden recruited tens of thousands of Arabs to fight in Afghanistan against the Communists. Azzam traveled around the world, including in the United States. In fact MAK set up about 30 branches or centers inside the USA. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, while not as widely known as Osama bin Laden, was an incendiary speaker and very successful recruiter and organizer. He was a Palestinian and lived in Jordan and Saudi Arabia before moving to Pakistan to join the Afghan Mujahideen. He indoctrinated Osama bin Laden in many radical causes, including the concepts of global jihad and the creation of a worldwide Muslim empire.
Toward the end, however, Azzam fell out with many of his allies and followers even though the CIA supported him in trying to unify the Afghan warlords and end the civil war. After the Soviets had been driven out and the Mujahideen fell into civil war Sheikh Azzam was assassinated by car bomb in November 1989. Osama bin Laden moved to take over MAK/Al-Kifah and merged it with al-Qaeda, which he had formed the year before in 1988.
The branch in New York City, named the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, became involved as the headquarters for the first terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center in 1993. The CIA helped provide visas for not only for Azzam to travel to the USA prior to his assassination, but also for Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” to travel to New York City. The Blind Sheikh was the apparent leader behind the 1993 bombings of the World Trade Center.
We thus see how the United States and its allies from the United Kingdom to the House of Saud created a number of Frankensteinian monsters, from Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden, from the Israelis to the Pakistanis, from Sheikh Azzam to the Blind Sheikh, from the Mujahideen to Maktab al-Khidamat to al-Qaeda itself. We see amid the tangle of warring nation-state regimes and financial manipulation for control of resources such as oil the origins of blowback, continued imperialism and military adventurism, and terrorism.
None of it had anything to do with “freedom,” “capitalist entrepreneurship,” or “democracy.” It was all about empire, money, religion, and control. Nor does it appear that the US Federal Government including the CIA deliberately aided these jihadists to attack New York City in 1993. Cultural ignorance, superpower greed, bureaucratic negligence, and interagency rivalries played far greater roles in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Fundamentalist Islamic terrorist war against the United States did not begin with the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11 but with the Iranian seizure of American embassy personnel as hostages in 1979. Hezbollah’s successful suicide bombings of the US Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1988 were another early hammer blow, driving the US out of the Lebanon Civil War.
There were a proliferation of Fundamentalist Muslim terrorist groups across the Middle East, many of them Palestinian and Lebanese but also including many from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and other countries. Many of them such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria were suppressed by Arab and Persian dictatorships, some were bankrolled by Arab and Persian governments or wealthy families such as the Saudis, and the survivors coalesced under the leadership of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Armed Islamic Group or al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah al-Musallaha in Algeria, and al-Qaeda across the Middle East and Central Asia.
The most famous al-Qaeda-related including pre- or embryonic al-Qaeda terrorist attacks launched were in New York City against the World Trade Center in 1993, a US military base in Saudi Arabia in 1996, US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, the U.S.S. Cole off Yemen in 2000, culminating in the controversial and spectacularly horrifying events of 11 September 2001.
There were other scattered terrorist attacks and al-Qaeda instigated tribal warfare such as in Yemen and in Pakistan as well. Perhaps the most spectacular pre-9/11 US counterattacks were the bloody and failed 1992-1995 intervention in Somalia including the First Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, followed by the 1998 cruise missile attacks on alleged al-Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan. During these decades there were also violent repression and bloody terrorism in Egypt and especially Algeria between moderate Sunni quasi-secular governments and Fundamentalist Islamic jihadists.
These events unfolded under the U.S. Democratic regime of President Bill Clinton. One could say they actually began under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. There is a direct link through the past, however, to the historic meeting between President Franklin Roosevelt and King Adb al-Aziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia in February 1945 toward the end of the Second World War.
This event proved more significant than it first appeared at the time, as it brought the US deeper into the quagmire of Mideast politics where it became entangled in paradoxical alliances. It was this meeting in Egypt between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud that not only was a strategic yet non-democratic alliance forged but America began its addiction to Middle Eastern oil. King Ibn Saud had allowed American oil companies into Saudi Arabia as early as the 1930s, and that relationship quickly grew into one of great strategic importance as the Axis empires went down into defeat leaving the Soviet Empire in control of most European oil fields as World War II morphed into the Cold War.
Zigzagging back across time and place, we see how the British and French, supported by their American allies, carved up the Middle East after the end of the First World War and the defeat of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The Tsarist Russian defeat by the Germans in the First World War, made more ironic as the Germans lost to Russia’s allies even as it defeated Imperial Russia, and the subsequent Russian Revolution and Civil War also led to regional instability in that region.
The current crop of anti-Western anti-colonial pro-Arab revolts and wars for independence broke out. We see the emergence of seemingly neverending Jewish and then Israeli and Palestinian conflicts and Arab-Israeli Wars, Kurdish nationalist conflicts, Arab-Arab conflicts such as between the Hashemite royal families and the House of Saud, Arab-Turk conflicts, Turk-Armenian conflicts, Armenian-Azerbaijani and Caucasian wars, Arab-Persian conflicts, Sunni-Shia battles, and in South Asia Hindu-Muslim and Indo-Pak riots, communal massacres, and wars.
Among the other Frankenstein monsters is the current mess in Iran. During the Second World War, Iran, along with Syria, Lebanon and Iraq sided with the Axis Powers of Nazi Germany and Vichy France. The Allies, primarily British Imperial units assisted by the Free French, occupied Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. Next, the British and the Soviets invaded and occupied Iran in 1941, overthrew its monarch, Reza Shah Pahlavi, and had Iran declare war on Germany in 1943 so Iran could join the United Nations. Ironically, the pro-German Shah appealed to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt for help against Britain and Russia, but Roosevelt deferred, citing “Hitler’s ambition of world conquest.”
The primary reasons for the Allied conquest of Iran were to control the flow of oil and the Persian Gulf sealanes, as the Allies were concerned both would fall into Nazi hands. Axis military advances had only recently been pushed back from both Egypt and the Soviet Caucasus in what looked to Allied global strategists like a giant Nazi pincer on the Middle East and perhaps India, which was already threatened by the Japanese attacking out of Burma. So Iran was overrun with the Soviets occupying the north and the British the south. Countries proclaiming liberation end up conquering others is yet another mark of the hypocrisy, instability, and damage caused by the Westphalian system of nation-states.
The Shah himself had seized power in an army coup in 1921 in the post-World War I chaos. His young son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was declared Shah under Allied protection. The Soviets eventually withdrew, leaving the British with their American Allies with the greater influence. The Allies encouraged a parliamentary democracy to check the royal power of the Shah. To their chagrin, however, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh rose to power as a popular nationalist. He was elected Prime Minister in 1951 and nationalized Western, especially British oil industries.
The British Empire responded with an oil embargo. Convinced the Soviets with Iranian communists were behind Mossadegh, as all-out war had broken out with Communists on the Korean peninsula and war with the Communists had only recently ended in Greece, British and American intelligence services including the CIA plotted a pro-Shah coup. In 1953, rioting broke out in the streets between different Iranian factions and the Shah launched a military coup that overthrew the elected Prime Minister. With Mossadegh out of power, the Shah moved to create a secular, anti-communist but authoritarian regime.
Iran modernized considerably, but much of its population had been alienated against the West. Fundamentalist Shia Muslims who organized the revolution against the Shah of Iran leveraged this sentiment. Fighting broke out in January 1978, ending with the seizure of power in February 1979 by radical Islamic clerics. Under the fiery and stern control of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the theocracy established what they called an Islamic Republic of Iran but was in fact an absolute dictatorship more tyrannical than the Shah and his secret police. Secular, communist, and military factions that had joined the ayatollahs to oppose the Shah now revolted against Khomeini but were crushed in city after city by Khomeini’s Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
In November of that same year radical Islamic students took over the United States embassy in Tehran and accused the U.S.A. of plotting a CIA coup to overthrow Ayatollah Khomeini in a repeat of what happened to Mossadegh. The hostage crisis dragged on until early 1981, included bungled military rescue attempts by the U.S.A., and brought Iran and the U.S. extremely close to war. It also encouraged Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq, to take advantage of the turmoil and invade Iran, resulting in another disastrous and bloody war.
Saddam was supported by the United States in his failed war against Iran. As described earlier, that war ended in 1988. In a devious abuse of politics, Saddam was covertly encouraged by the Americans to invade Kuwait in 1990, which triggered the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. The United States, under President George H. W. Bush, turned on Saddam, organized a global coalition against Iraq, trumpeted the New World Order, pushed the Iraqis out of Kuwait, prevented Israel from retaliating against Iraqi attacks, and amassed enormous military forces in the Muslim holy lands of Saudi Arabia.
This inflamed the Mujahideen, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. Nationalist insurrections by nominally Muslim peoples mutated into Fundamentalist Islamic terror campaigns in places as separate as Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine, Indonesia, Thailand, Somalia, and the Philippines. In the midst of this Saudi Arabia remained an absolute monarchy that dominates and oppresses women and all non-Muslims. Even Christians in the US Military sent to ostensibly protect Saudi Arabia had to keep their religion a low profile and not display symbols of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Kurdish and Shia uprisings in Iraq were instigated by the US but not supported. The West stood by once again as Saddam slaughtered and gassed his fellow Iraqis in 1991 just as he did in 1988 after the war with Iran ended. The Kurds had been riled up time and again by Americans and Europeans in various rebellions against Arab, Persian, and Turkish regimes, only to be betrayed at the end.
The ancient Fertile Crescent has become a crescent of madness. Today’s Global Long War on Terror burns across the Middle East and Central Asia with flaming fingers extending down into South Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, even the cities of Europe and North America. The Euro-American Global Empire is on the march in its hunger for oil and other natural resources and a desire to establish more military bases around the planet than any other power. Its ignorance of culture, religion, and ethnicity combined with the obsession for oil leads to both the intentional and unintentional creation of multiple Frankensteinian monsters.
The great irony is the majority of Europeans and North Americans actually favor the spread of liberty, democracy, and entrepreneurial capitalism and have been misled by both government and media to believe those good qualities drive economic expansion and military intervention. In return, however, we see the rise of a militant and radicalized Islamic Fundamentalism devoted to terror and slaughter to destroy the secular and Judeo-Christian West and create its own worldwide Muslim Caliphate. The rest of us human beings, the majority of us including people from all the world’s religions, not wanting to support and empower either form of world empire, are caught up in the middle.
Together, We the People of Earth must take power away from this unofficial yet real Global Empire as well as radical Islamic terrorists to establish a transparent, democratic world government and an equitable, fair, and wealth-generating economic system. Together we can do this, in fact we must do this or the extremists on all sides will drown us all in our own blood.
One of the mechanisms We the People of Earth must oppose is the proliferation of nation-states, especially as they are done so in front of the covert banner of world empire. It is not enough to choose one side over the other, for both in their own way spread murder, mayhem, and exploitation. Both sides must be stopped. War is a crime and has to be seen as such with its perpetuators brought to justice.
Under a democratic world government with an equitable and prosperous fair market economic system of natural, dynamic capitalism there will be no so-called independent nation-states engaged in wars seemingly without end, no more oppressed ethnic states in rebellion, no more civil wars for power, but the opportunity to work together in peace to create wealth, health, and education. With the demise of poverty and ignorance there will be fewer opportunities for terrorism, despair, and violence.
Countries and other groups must learn to work together to achieve a democratic world government with peace for all people. War will become a thing of the past with any criminal flare-ups addressed immediately. The underlying causes of wars, most of them based in economics, nationalism, active racism, and religious discrimination are removed under a united, integrated planetary democracy.
Note: Excerpted from the copyrighted manuscript of book in progress by the author advocating for Democratic World Government and against the growing and incipient neo-fascist, neo-feudal world empire of the Global Financial Elite and their Allies.
Postscript: Since this was written, the Arab Spring revolts began in December 2010 and swept across North Africa and the Middle East. Currently a ferocious civil war grinds on inside Syria, another in Yemen, as well as in Somalia and elsewhere. Osama bin Laden was allegedly killed deep inside Pakistan by U.S. Special Forces and his body supposedly dumped at sea. Relations have deteriorated significantly between Pakistan and America. Col. Gaddafi of Libya was overthrown, captured, and killed.
The U.S. also withdrew much of its forces from Iraq only to redeploy and mass forces around Iran and Syria for an anticipated new round of military campaigns. Violence continues across Afghanistan, Palestine-Israel, Kashmir, and Sudan. Anti-austerity revolts broke out in Europe and Occupy Wall Street revolts swept across America and the world before being dispersed by militarized police. Empire seems ascendant. Human civilization truly hangs in the brink upon this planet Earth.
William Dudley Bass
14 January 2009
Revised and reposted here 9 January 2012.
NOTE: This essay was originally published as “Frankensteins and Blowback in the Middle East and South Asia,” on my older current affairs blog, At the Brink with William Dudley Bass on 14 January 2009 at, http://atthebrinkwithwilliamdudleybass.blogspot.com/2009/01/frankensteins-and-blowback-in-middle.html. It was revised, rewritten, and republished here this January 2012.
Copyright © 2009, 2012, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.