Arab and Middle Eastern destructive chaos

Ahmed El-Sayed Al-Naggar
Thursday 9 Apr 2015

The state of destructive chaos widespread in some Arab countries can only be confronted through respecting freedoms, human rights, dignity and equality, along with economic development and social justice

Blood and fire hysteria is sweeping a number of Arab countries due to the actions of governments or extremist religious or sectarian groups, or regional and international interventions, all of which inflame crises and take a tremendous toll on wretched peoples. 

The fires of war cover Yemen north and south, leaving behind horrific destruction and enormous numbers of victims and displaced peoples in their country in a new humanitarian emergency within an Arab world glutted with tragedies and that cannot stand any more.

Similar fires enveloped years ago Syria and Iraq in the Fertile Crescent, which has become a theatre of sectarian and ethnic conflict and terrorist attacks that are huge in size, funding and arms, destructive to the unity of peoples and states, threatening to blow apart the fragile security of neighbouring countries, particularly Lebanon.

Wars are bleeding Libya as well. However, the forces that believe in a unity based on citizenship and not on religion or tribe are fighting ferociously to regain this unity and vanquish extremism and terrorism forces that became gigantic under the sponsorship of NATO in this Arab country stricken with interventions, international and regional, in its affairs.

Yemen, the pool of internal, regional and international sins

If we start with Yemen, the most flammable spot on the Arab map at present, we find the imbalance among internal powers in this country took hold through the alliance struck between former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh and those loyal to him with the Houthis. This took place in the light of the authorities' inability to reach an internal settlement acceptable to the Houthis based on fair rights, which leads to real security and political stability built on consent. With American and Western approval, the Gulf countries ensured that Saleh had a "safe" exit from power without being held accountable after the people revolted against him because of his corrupt rule.

Being free to move, he and his supporters — and due to the accumulation via corruption of huge sums of money he stashed during his long years in power — was able to finance and arm those loyal to him, especially his tribe members. For a dictator like Saleh, the end justifies the worst means if necessary. He did not have any qualms about striking an alliance with the Houthis, whom he fought when he was in power, with the aim of destroying the new regime and instigating a regional scare in the Arabian Peninsula, so as to appear a saviour, allowing him once again to return to power to which he has become addicted.

He did not care that taking this course of action would demolish the Yemeni state and its bodies. Rebuilding it and renewing its bonds and cohesion may now have become impossible, or at the least extremely difficult. At this stage, the homeland may be lost as a price for the madness of hunger for power.

As for the Houthis, they have reacted towards the weakness of the Yemeni state and its inability to protect its institutions with adolescent testiness and decided with real foolish and ignorance to destroy the institutional nature of the state and seize it in total disregard for internal and regional political balances and the population and its tribal makeup.

The natural outcome of all this was the explosion of disturbances across Yemen that threaten the state with a similar fate to Somalia.

As for regional calculations, they were conflicting between Iranian ambitions to achieve regional domination and its prerequisites in the form of backing the Houthis on the one hand and Saudi Arabia's desire to secure its southern borders and ensure a loyal government in Yemen, or at least a safe authority that does not threaten Riyadh or raise any demands concerning some of the lands in the kingdom's south west, on the other.

However, the background of relations between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and recalling the scenes where one million Yemenis were deported from the kingdom after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and Saleh's support for this at the time, constituted a facilitating factor for the Houthis to strike an alliance with Saleh in order to perceive the war as a confrontation with external ambitions in their country, evoking the historical grudge in this respect.

Being a leading regional force for peace, Egypt wants to safeguard navigation in the Bab Al-Mandeb strait for the sake of international trade, on the one hand, and for Bab Al-Mandeb being the Red Sea's southern entrance, and the gateway to the Egyptian Suez Canal, on the other. Egypt also certainly looks with concern at what's going on in terms of destroying the unity of the Yemeni state and its bodies, with its dire consequences on the Yemeni people in a way that threatens to Somalise Yemen and turn it into a source of regional turbulence and an incubator for terrorism forces.

Egypt's objectives towards Yemen are distinct for it cares for the Yemeni people and state, combating terrorism and ensuring just international and Egyptian interests in securing navigation through Bab Al-Mandeb strait. Definitely this makes Egypt a capable party to initiate a dialogue to handle the political crisis in Yemen, especially after it turned into a terrible humanitarian tragedy during the current war. That tragedy should drives any conscience to lean towards a peaceful treatment of the crisis between brothers.   

As for the United States, it is obsessed with hegemony and domination of the world. Thus, it becomes more rabid and confused whenever it perceives that economic realities will remove it sooner or later from the leading world position. Although it was a party in ensuring a safe exit for the corrupt dictator Saleh, it could not control his internal alliances, which were even extended to the Houthis. The US dealt with the alliance as a fait accompli which it can benefit from by spurring extended financial and military bleeding in the Arabian Peninsula that justifies the continuance and increase of demand for American weapons to feed the US industrial-military complex with its huge influence on US foreign policy.

It seems evident that American and Gulf policy mistakes towards the Yemeni popular revolution against Saleh, by not allowing his total removal and building a new system, are backfiring. As a result, an alliance between him and the Houthis was formed. That alliance is trying to swallow the Yemeni state, even through an alliance with Iran. Those who imagined that the current Yemeni war will end soon or that the military defeat of any party will secure stability iin this country and neighbouring countries are wrong. All hell broke loose and the Somali fate is looming on the horizon and everyone concerned with the future of Yemen has to work to open doors to negotiations to administer internal political differences in Yemen through democratic mechanisms, along with resort to the people via new elections under international supervision, accompanied with accountability for the bloodshed and those who funded it, for being lenient with those who plundered and spilt blood does not lead anywhere but the renewal of their desire to seize power once more.

The Fertile Crescent: Regionally and internationally-supported sectarianism, terrorism

The tragedy in Iraq, in the farthest point in the Arab Orient, did not start today but it rather with the launch of the criminal US invasion of Iraq from American bases in the Gulf, especially from Al-Adid Base in Qatar. The US invasion and foolish ignorance in dealing with Iraqi affairs did not stop at demolishing the regime, but led to demolishing the state based on citizenship as well. A new system based on sectarian and ethnic quotas was established. 

There, too, all hell broke loose in the form of sectarian and ethnic conflicts. The post-US invasion Iraqi regime established a strategic relationship with Iran. Some Gulf countries that contributed indirectly to bringing forth this regime seemed reserved towards it. Then the reservations became declared hostility that sometimes reached the point of Iraqi accusations levelled against some Gulf countries of supporting extremist and terrorist groups. It was easy to predict that a system based on sectarian quotas would lead to a weakening of the Sunnis since they are already divided between Arabs and Kurds. Thus each component is weaker when alone.

This comes in contrast to the geographical and ethnic close-connectedness of the Shia component, even if its percentage was smaller than that of the Arabs and Kurds combined.

In the face of Shia domination of the Iraqi state and close links to Iran while the Kurdish area was practically cut out, the situation in Iraq reflects an extension of Iranian influence and constitutes a threat to Arab Gulf countries. Those who contemplate the Iraqi state's recent recapture of Tikrit and the participation of the Shia Hashd Shaabi ("Popular Mobilisation") militias in the battle and the subversion, destruction, looting, pillaging and slaughter it conducted after the recapture, will realise the depth of the sectarian abyss into which Iraq has fallen.

Some oil countries constituted a governmental or private source for funding Salafist Sunni groups. Some of these groups have transformed into extremist and terrorist organisations aiming at bringing down Shia sectarian control over Iraq, which the Americans laid the foundation for through the sectarian quota system. There is also strong participation in acts of resistance against the ruling Iraqi regime by pan-Arabist forces linked to the Baath Party, whose members, along with the Iraqi military leadership, were horribly persecuted under the US occupation at the hands of Zionist, Iranian and American intelligence agents.

In the face of the Islamic State (IS) becoming a gigantic phenomena and a menace to all parties, Arab oil countries and Turkey, which was not removed from the development of IS, had to take a declared stance against this terrorist organisation. Issues were confused in Iraq where its crisis is connected with its counterpart in Syria. It seems that there is a declared standpoint from some parties that contradicts their actual behaviour. There is real absence of frankness with the Iraqi regime regarding the necessity of terminating the Shia militias it protects which have slaughtered, sabotaged, and looted mountains of public money and resources. Thse militias should not be summoned for subversion in Sunni areas, hence reviving deep bitterness and sensitivities.

There is also an absence of frankness concerning the necessity of rebuilding the Iraqi political system on a national basis, not on the sectarian and ethnic quotas the Americans imposed after the criminal occupation of Iraq.

In all cases, this large Arab country, which formed the eastern wall of the Arab world, seems to be a stage for destruction, killing, interference from enemies, extremism and sectarianism of some of its sons and the terrorists who flocked there from outside Iraq. This country indeed needs a miracle to really reunite society's structure and establish a state based on citizenship and equality for all before law, regardless of religion, denomination or ethnicity.

As for the Syrian crisis, several oil-rich Arab countries participated in providing money, arms and mobilisation for terrorist groups such as Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda and IS, and groups that use armed violence, like the Free Syrian Army. They contributed in militarising the protests in Syria, thus losing their civil rights base and turning them into a plaything in the hands of whoever has funds and arms. This, in turn, contributed in drawing barbarian hordes of thousands of foreign terrorists to sabotage Syria and fragment it.

The outcome was more than 200,000 killed and almost half the population displaced, either inside Syria or in the region's countries, with most living in tragic circumstances. In short, regional and international interventions have turned Syria into a wasteland of destruction. It is strange that the Arab oil countries that say they are attempting to re-establish the legitimate regime in Yemen, and Bahrain before it, are the same countries that exerted every effort to destroy counterpart legitimacy in Syria!

Syria is facing a very critical situation. The unity of the people and the land is on a knife edge. There is no solution except when regional and international evil powers stop intervening in this Arab country, and the regionally and internationally backed forces of terrorism — such as Al-Nusra Front and IS, both of which are Salafist Wahhabi reactionary byproducts — are eradicated. Afterwards, it must be for the Syrian people to express their opinion in fair, democratic and free elections held under fair Arab and international supervision, excluding any party that participated in sabotaging Syria.

If IS became gigantic in Syria before moving to Iraq, international powers, Turkey and some Arab oil countries that claim to confront it are the same parties that were responsible for funding, arming and letting it enter Syria and making it gigantic. It seems similar to a black comedy. If it is the responsibility of those who let the genie out of the bottle to return it, the matter is extremely difficult in light of the complicated web of interests that let the demon of sectarianism out, to instigate strife and demolish nation states in the Arab Orient, and their continued desire in achieving this aim, despite the risks this implies for all parties.

Libya and the battle for a unified state

In North Africa, Libya seems to be a living embodiment of the destructive chaos that afflicted the Arab world due to Western interventions that led to militarising protests against the former regime and the issuance of an international resolution to intervene in Libya against this regime. NATO did not differentiate between regime change and state demolition. Thus it demolished the Libyan state's institutions, which were its base of unity. It has put this Arab country, burdened with tribal heritage, on the edge of fragmentation. If this did not yet come to pass it is because of the existence of the army and some forces that believe in the nation state and that are attempting to save Libya from a Somalian fate, or from it turning into a gathering hub for terrorist forces threatening the stability and peace of neighbouring countries.

Despite the difficulty of the battle, cooperation between Libya and neighbouring countries boosts prospects of victory for forces that are fighting to maintain the state's unity and integrity of its national territory.

In conclusion, we can say that the state of destructive chaos that is widespread in some Arab countriesis a sabotaging chaos for states and societies, and it is the pool of sins of ruling regimes and destructive regional and international interventions. If there is hope in building any social and political structure that is stable, safe and capable of developing in the future, it must rise through returning to the negotiating table and resolving problems peacefully and respecting the will of peoples via the decisive verdict of free democratic elections. Any new structure must rise upon respecting freedoms, human rights, dignity and equality among people, regardless of religion, denomination, gender or ethnicity, and economic development and social justice. These are the only rules that establish social cohesion and stability based on consent, belongingness and readiness for sacrifice for the sake of the homeland, not the civil infighting that sabotages it and permits regional and international forces to intervene in a destructive way.

The writer is chairman of the board of Al-Ahram Establishment.

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