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Posts Tagged ‘Cold War

Colonial powers assignment for the “Arab” States leaders? And the people pay the price

Posted on June 3, 2010

During the “Cold War” period, the US administrations would select the main dish to cook and prepare the ingredients; Russia would then set the fire under the pan; Europe would cool off  the plate; Israel would eat the main course.  

The “Arab” States had the role of washing the dishes for the next feast of horrors and defeats.

During US global hegemony after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, all these haphazard “Independent States” sprouted in the continents to become markets for the US-based international conglomerates in transferring/shuffling “financial” paper money, with multiple financial crisis.

Two decades after after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, it is China selecting the strategic regions to exploit; then it is the turn of the US to bring in the matches; the European Union reaps the problems and extends grants to developing States and sends in the Blue Helmets to keep the peace.

India, Brazil, Russia , and Turkey waited to capture the investments of surplus money.  

This time around, Israel is teaming up with “Moderate Arab States” to wash the dishes.  

Iran refuses to wash dishes: it contributes soap and detergents to whom is willing to scrap, wash and clean the mess.

After WW2, the US was master of seas and oceans; it nuked Japan twice to accelerate Japan’s surrender: Stalin of the Soviet Union had already entered Manchuria and was progressing to conquer all of Korea.

The US got hold of Japan and South Korea; Russia got North Korea.  

In 1949, Mao of China conquered Tibet (source of all major rivers in India, China, and South-East Asia); the US failed to obstruct China’s expansion and Stalin got upset of US alignment with China. Stalin decided to capture all of Korea.  The US resisted and paid the tab in soldiers, weapons, and money for many years to save South Korea.  Finally, China is controlling North Korea via figure heads.

After WW2, the US launched many pre-emptive wars around the globe under the pretext of “containing the spread of communism” and grabbed all the European colonies.  

The Soviet Union backed “national resistance” to imperialism with inexpensive weapons.  

The “underdeveloped” third world States got independence and Russia won their hearts and mind, but not their stomachs:  Russia was unable to extend finances to these famished new independent States.

The US made it a policy to destabilize all these new States with military coups and braking any economic and social development.

During the reign of the Soviet Union, there were many “progressist” movements siding with either Russia, China, or other communist systems against the common enemy “emperialist capitalist America”.  

The US and Russia divided the spoil of the world after burning the lands, forests, and people of the third world States.

After the fall of Berlin Wall, China is masterfully juggling with capitalism, socialism, and communism ideologies as tools for economic hegemony.  

The US is impotent in regulating and controlling the havoc resulting from the unruly multinational financial institutions.  

The EU is paying the tabs as usual.  

India, Brazil, Russia, and Turkey are enjoying the roles of mediators, negotiators, and recipients in the G20 group.  All other states are paid minimum wages for cleaning up this global mess.

Note: After US Bush Jr. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the upheaval of a few people in the “Arab” States like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya… world geopolitical conditions changed, but the “Arab” States got worse, politically, economically and socially.

Mind you that major wars are conducted on weaker nation Lands. It is the people that have to endure the calamities.

What are your questions about Egypt? No need to feel embarrassed to ask…

Today’s violence in Egypt is claiming hundreds of lives, worsening the country’s already dire political crisis and putting the United States in a quandary.

It’s also another chapter in a years-long story that can be difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it. You might have found yourself wondering what Egypt’s crisis is all about, why there’s a crisis at all, or even where Egypt is located on the map.

Admit it, and fire up your questions: not everyone has the time or energy to keep up with big, complicated foreign stories.

This story is important and critical.  Here are samples of the most basic answers to your most basic questions.

First, a disclaimer: Egypt and its history are really complicated; this is not an exhaustive account of that entire story, just some background, written so that anyone can understand it.

Max Fisher published this August 14, 2013 in The Washington Post World Views (with slight editing):

9 questions about Egypt you were too embarrassed to ask

(Laris Karklis/Washington Post)

(Laris Karklis/The Washington Post)

1. What is Egypt?

Egypt is a country in the northeastern corner of Africa, but it’s considered part of the Middle East. It’s about the size of Texas and New Mexico combined and has a population of 85 million. Egyptians are mostly Arab and mostly Muslim, although about 10% are Christian Copts. Egyptians are very proud of their history and culture; they are among the world’s first great civilizations.

You might have heard of Egypt from its ancient pyramids and Sphinx, but Egyptians are still changing the world today. In the 20th century, they were in the forefront of the founding of two ideological movements that reshaped – are still reshaping, at this moment – the entire Middle East: Arab nationalism and Islamism.

2. Why are people in Egypt killing each other?

There’s been a lot of political instability since early 2011, when you probably saw the footage of a million-plus protesters gathered in Cairo Tahrir Square (Liberation) to demand that the president of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, step down.

Mubarak did and that opened up a big power struggle that hasn’t been anywhere near resolved. It’s not just people at the top of the government fighting among one another, it’s lots of regular people who have very different visions for where they want their country to go.

Today is the latest round in a two-and-a-half-year fight over what kind of country Egypt will be. Regular people tend to express their political will by protesting (keep in mind that democracy is really new and untested in Egypt), and because Egyptian security forces have a long track record of violence against civilians, the “fight for Egypt’s future” isn’t just a metaphor. Often, it’s an actual physical confrontation that happens on the street.

3. Why are they fighting today specifically?

Egyptian security forces assaulted two sprawling sit-in camps (of the ousted Moslem Brotherhood from reigning) in downtown Cairo this morning and tried to disperse the protesters. The protesters fought back.

So far, the casualties are rising every day.  The assault “to clear” the squares left over 560 killed (officially) and 4,000 injured. A lot of them apparently civilians shot by live ammunition rounds used by security forces.

The protesters were there in support of former president Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed in a military coup in early July (the military is still in charge). Morsi hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group to which a number of the protesters in today’s clashes belong. He was also the country’s first democratically elected leader.

4. If the military staged a coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, then all those Egyptians who protested in 2011 for democracy must be furious, right?

Actually, no. A whole lot of Egyptians, especially the liberal groups that led the 2011 revolution, were happy about the coup. A number of them were even calling on the military-led government to break up the largely peaceful pro-Morsi protest camp, even though there were children present and no one thought it would disperse without bloodshed.

There are two things to understand here.

First is that Morsi did not do a good job as president. He had a difficult task, sure, but he really bungled the economy, which was already in free fall.

(Morsi didn’t receive any financial aid from either the rich Arab States or the IMF or the US and European countries. After the military coup, the new government received $12 bn within a week from the rich monarchic Arab States)

Morsi did precious little to include non-Islamists, and took some very serious steps away from democracy, including arresting journalists and pushing through an alarming constitutional change that granted him sweeping powers. (No political parties accepted to join the Morsi government)

The second thing to understand is that Egypt is starkly divided, and has been for decades, between those two very different ideologies I mentioned. Many Egyptians don’t just dislike Morsi’s abuses of power, they dislike the entire Islamist movement he represents.

What you’re seeing today is a particularly bloody manifestation of that divide, which goes far deeper than liberals distrusting Morsi because he was a bad president. (The army is a class by itself and enjoys vast privileges, facilities and independent enterprises…)

5. This stuff about ideologies sounds complicated. Can you just tell me why Egypt is such a mess right now?

The thing about today’s crisis is that it has to do with basic stuff like the breakdown of public order and some really ham-fisted governance by the military. But it also has to do with a 60-year-old ideological conflict that’s never really been resolved.

ack in the years just after World War II, Egypt was ruled by a king who was widely seen as a British pawn. Egyptians didn’t like that. They also didn’t like losing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and they wanted a way out of their long period of national humiliation.

A lot of them were turning to a movement called the Muslim Brotherhood (founded in the 20’s), which argued, and still argues, that Islamic devotion and unity are the ultimate answer. Their ideas, and their campaign for an Islamic government, are called Islamism.

A group of Egyptian military officers had a different idea. In 1952, they led a coup against the king. A charismatic lieutenant colonel named Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power and promoted, as his answer to Egypt’s problems, an ideology called Arab nationalism. It calls for secularism, progress, Arab unity and resistance against Western imperialism.

Both of those movements swept through the Middle East, transforming it.

Arab Nationalists took power in several countries; the Syrian regime today is one of them, and so was the regime headed by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

Islamism also expanded in many countries, and sprouted some violent offshoots. But the two movements prescribe very different paths to the Middle East’s salvation, see themselves as mutually exclusive and have competed, at times violently, ever since. That is particularly true of Egypt, and has been since Nasser took power in 1952.

And that’s why you’re seeing many Egyptian liberals so happy about a military coup that displaced the democracy they fought to establish: Those liberals are closely linked to secular Arab nationalism, which means that they both revere the military and hate the Muslim Brotherhood, maybe even more than they crave democracy. Old habits die hard.

6. Getting really complicated? Do you need to take a music break?

Egyptian pop culture dominates the Arab world, in part because Egypt is so populous and in part because it’s really good. Their most celebrated singer is Omm Kalthoum (known as Planet of the Orient), whom Egyptians revere in the way that Italian-Americans do Frank Sinatra. Her recordings can sound a bit dated. Here is a cover by the contemporary singer Amal Maher:

7. Lots of people are upset with the U.S. for not doing more to support democracy in Egypt. What’s the deal?

The United States is a close political and military ally of Egypt and has been since 1979, when President Jimmy Carter engineered an historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel (Sadat and Begin) that involved, among other things, enormous U.S. payouts to both countries as long as they promised not to fight any more wars. That also required the U.S. to look the other way on Egypt’s military authoritarianism and its bad human rights record. It was the Cold War, and supporting friendly dictatorships was in style. And we’ve basically been stuck there ever since.

The Obama administration most recently drew withering criticism for refusing to call the military’s July 3 ouster of the president a “coup.” Doing so would likely require the U.S. to cut its billion-plus dollars in annual military aid to Egypt. That is also why you’re seeing the White House appearing very hesitant about responding to today’s violence with actual consequences.

Sure, the U.S. wants democracy in Egypt? And it wants leverage with the Egyptian government even more? That has been true of every administration since Carter.

It was not actually until the Obama administration that the U.S. came to accept the idea that Islamists, who have been a big political force in Egypt for almost a century now, should play a role in governing. But they’re sticking with the status quo; no one wants to be the administration that “lost” Egypt.

8. Are you getting depressed. Surely someone wants Egypt to be a peaceful and inclusive democracy?

Not really. Most Egyptians are way too preoccupied with their ideological divide to imagine a government that might bridge it. Self-described liberals seem to prefer a secular nationalist government, even if it’s the military regime in power today, as long as it keeps Islamists out.

The Islamists, for their part, were more than happy to push out anyone who disagreed with them once they took power in 2012 through a democratic process that their leader appeared very willing to corrupt.

Both movements are so big and popular that neither one of them can rule without at least attempting to include the other. But neither appears willing to do that.

When I asked Steven Cook, an Egypt expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, what he made of the liberals’ embrace of the military coup and why he had started referring to them as “alleged liberal groups,” he wrote as part of his response, “I think Amr Hamzawy and Hossam Bahgat are the only true liberals in Egypt.”

9. And What happens next?

No one has any idea, but it looks bad. There are 3 things that most analysts seem to agree on. Any or all of these could prove wrong, but they’re the most common, short-term predictions:

1• The military-led government will keep cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood and stirring up preexisting public animosity toward the group, both of which they’ve been doing since the 1950s.

2• The U.S. will call for a peaceful and inclusive democratic transition, as Secretary of State John Kerry did this afternoon, but will refrain from punishing the Egyptian military for fear of losing leverage.

3• The real, underlying problems — ideological division and a free-falling economy — are only going to get worse.

In the aggregate, these point to more violence and more instability but probably not a significant escalation of either. Medium-term, with some U.S. pressure, there will probably be a military-dominated political process that might stagger in the direction of a troubled democracy. Longer-term, who knows?

As the highly respected Egypt expert and Century Foundation scholar Michael Hanna told me recently, “Egypt might just be ungovernable.”

Note: Before the latest bloody crackdown, a feasible alternative would have been to bring back Morsi for another year, after a parliamentary election. Unless a drastic deal is reached with the Moslem Brotherhood movement, Egypt might be sinking into a civil war within a very populous State.

Don’t you have this strong impression that the current worldwide cultural climate is shifting inevitably toward extreme religious antagonism? From the Philippines (Moslems and Catholics), Indonesia (Moslems and Christians), China (against Moslem provinces), India (Hindus and Moslems), the Middle East (Sunni Moslems and Christians of all denominations), Egypt (Sunni and Copt Christians), Nigeria (Moslems and Christians), France, Germany, and the USA you witness alliance coalitions based on religious sectarianism.

Reading history, the present climate is very similar to many periods of domination relying on the ignorance of the population based on venomous religious strict allegiances and ignited by arousing misplaced “sense of dignity”.  Dynasties relied frequently on religious conflicts to increasing fictitious support by rallying people around the official monarchy religious sect, particularly in times of transition from one dying monarch to another.

After the formal end of the Cold War (the disintegration of the Soviet Union) a new enemy was to be created for the free flow of financial transactions among the capitalist multinational corporations.  This religious antagonism barely existed during the Cold War, which suggest that the current climate was encouraged and influenced to propagate in order to preventing emerging nations to reaping any advantages within this fictitious economic boom.

The Wahhabi Saudi Arabia theocracy forbid construction of any religious monument not Islamic;  the churches in Iraq are targeted in this unstable political climate and Christians are fleeing by the thousands; the Christian Copts in Egypt are harassed in order to draw Islamic sympathy to a declining support to President Mubarak (unusually, the impoverished Moslems supported the forces of “order” that were hurling stones on the Coptic demonstrators); France is putting the squeeze on the Moslem immigrants and labeling them hooligans, Germany is reducing the number of permits to building Mosques, the US utra-conservative Christians want to burn the Coran…

I will focus my article on the Middle East.  There is direct connection between foreign troops on the ground and fomenting religious internal conflicts.  For example:  First, the shifting of the conflict in Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1991) from a conflict with Palestinian armed groups to conflicts among Lebanese religious sects once Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and withdrew in 2000 (without any negotiation or pre-conditions) due to the steadfastness and sustained Lebanese Resistance in South Lebanon. 

Second, the start of internal religious conflicts in Iraq after the US invaded Iraq in 1993.  Third, the beginning of extremist religious activities in Afghanistan after the invasion of Russia in 1981 and then the presence of US troops in 2002.  How foreign powers with troops on the field manage to incite citizens of various religious denominations in developing States against one another in the Middle East in order to destabilizing these countries?

Let me recount a few historical events that might set the proper background for what we are experiencing today.

In the western medieval period, the Roman Catholic Church instituted its customs and rituals and subjugated the other Christian schismatic sects to abiding by the same understanding of “Christian dignity”.  Consequently, the successive crusading campaigns, although financed by the merchants in order to conquering Egypt and opening up the shorter maritime route for the trade of spices and perfume, were launched by arousing the ignorant population for their “trampled” dignity in the pilgrimage locations such as Jerusalem.

The Prophet Mohammad failed in his lifetime to transforming the meaning of dignity prevalent in the nomadic customs and traditions.  Mohammad had to compromise and revisit prior verses in order not to lose the political and military backing of the tribes.  As in all previous instances, the newer versions in the Coran were related to women status, rights, and inheritance.  Nothing changed in the customs and traditions of the tribes during the lifetime of Muhammad.  

After the death of Muhammad, many people started collecting hadith (stories and hearsay accounts) of what the Prophet said or did in order to emulate proper conducts.   Aisha, the most learned and beloved wife of Muhammad, spent her life confronting and correcting extravagant hadiths that were erroneous and out of context.  Later, every monarch hired faqihs (religious scholars and judges) to inventing or interpreting hadith out of context to suit his interests.  

As the Omayyad dynasty selected Damascus for Capital of the Islamic Arabic Empire the Moslems were confronted with urban customs and a different meaning for dignity.  The elite Arabs from the Arabic Peninsula were merchants and were familiar with the Syrian urban and mostly Christian traditions; thus, the administration relied on the converted Christians for the translation of manuscripts of other civilization and running the administration according to the customs of the land.

In the 11th century, most of the Central Asian and Caucasus people were Moslems:  They favored and enjoyed stories on Muhammad’s sayings and deeds (the hadith) and cared less for the Coran’s message; thus, they declared that the Coran is not to be interpreted or commented.  If there are contradictions in verses then, tough luck; read and move on.  The Coran was no longer the main source for what is dignity and honor to Moslems but the stories told on Muhammad.

Modern western European “democracies” and republicanism established political structures compatible with a revised meaning of dignity (Constitutions for all the citizens) following higher levels of freedom of expression and dissemination of knowledge and education.  State social programs were promulgated and they became acquired rights for the citizens such as retirement, health care, education…

Religious political allegiances in western Europe and the USA are strong and serious, but they are kept under lid because of specific laws forbidding the merging of religion with State matters.  Effectively, the separation of religion from civil laws are barely skin deep and it is hypocritical, but very efficient in safeguarding outright religious conflicts.  This is not due because most of the citizens in the western civilization are not practising people but because they give life more importance than abstract notions to dividing and wasting their energy and focus.

Turkey’s Strategy

In part one, I explained the many problems that Turkey resolved with its neighboring States such as Greece, Armenia, Cyprus, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  The long-term strategy of the Turkish State in the coming two decades is to be at a par  with Italy, France, and Spain in deciding for the Mediterranean Sea peace, security, and development. To be able to be a credible partner and valued mediator Turkey has, in the mean time, to iron out all its historical and current difficulties with its global neighboring regions such as the Balkan States (such as Bulgaria, Romainia, Albania, and Serbia), the Caucasus States (such as Armenia, Azerbajan, Georgia, and Tchechnia), the Central Asian States (such as Tajikistan, and Uzbakistan), the Middle East States (such as Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan), the Near East States (Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine), the major north African States (Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco), and the Arab Gulf States. 

The Balkan States have over four centuries of interactions with the Othoman Empires.  Even in the 15th century, most princes in the Balkan States were vassals to the Turkish Prince who later will be called Sultan and the Caliph of Moslem after defeating the Mamelouk Sultan of Egypt in the 16th century.  Even the Byzantium Emperor was a vassal, paid tribute,  and had to join the Turkish Prince in his expansion wars.  After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, (the Turkish Prince had build a navy and blocked any sea entrance to Constantinople for sea supplies and secour by Genoa and Venice), the Othoman Empire expanded to all Central Europe and the Caucasus region. 

The Othoman Empire set siege twice to Vienne (later the Capital of the Habsburg Empire) and Vienna suffered famine and was saved at the nick of time.  At that time, there was no Russian Empire and the only Kingdom that could come to the rescue was the Catholic Kingdom of Poland that included current Belorussia and Ukraine.  Obviously, Greece was also part of Othoman Empire and the dividing line between Turkey and the rest of Europe was the Danub River (the eastern part of Hungary was under Othoman domination.)

Emperess Catherine of Russia in the 18th century expanded the Russian Empire toward the Caucasus and Central Europe.  The Balkan States were freed from the Othoman occupation but were vassals to various European Nations such as France, England, Russia, and mainly Austria (that was desintegrated after WWI) as the Othoman Empire (allied to Germany) was then defeated.  Communist Russia or the Soviet Union set claim to most of the Caucasus States and a few Central Europe States. 

The Caucasus region and many Central European States share many cultural, customs, linguistic, and culinary traditions (even among the Orthodox Christians) with the Turkish traditions.  It seems that Turkey managed diplomatic and political entente with most of these States and the oil pipelines crossing Turkey from the oil production sources in Azerbajan and the Ural region of Russia are vital economic relief to all these regional States. Turkey managed a peaceful settlement of the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabach within Azerbajan.

During the Cold War, the military regime in Turkey sided with the USA against Communist Russia and Turkey was included in the OTAN.  As West Germany was the main buffer Zone to the remaining Western European States, Turkey was the main buffer zone to the effective expansion of the Soviet Unions in the Middle East.  Israel was but a secondary ally and a typical mercenary State that the Western Powers supplied financially, militarily, economically, and politically so that the Israeli Jewish soldiers pay the price for believing that they were building their ancestral mythical State (that never existed historically but in stories in their Bible).  Fact is, most Arab States had sided with the US who purchased oil and supported the Arab monarchies and dictators.

The Soviet Unions extended defensive arms to the Middle East States because it refused to witness a reverse immigration of the Russian Jews.  Egypt was the main State that received substantial economic and financial aid from Soviet Unions, not because Egypt was viewed as the largest Arab State but mainly because Egypt did not consider itself directly concerned with the Israeli/Palestinian cause until the invasion of Israel, France, and England in 1956 on the Suez canal.

Turkey and Iran have a long history of interactions since antiquity.  Fact is, most of the Persian dynasties were Turkish in origine.  In the 18th century, the Persian Safafid dynasty was indeed a Turkish tribe and then, it turned to Chiaa Islamic sect and expanded its territory all the way to Afganistan and Central Asia.  Then, as it wanted to expand westward, the Othoman Sultan defeated badly the Safafid monarch and the current borders between the two nations were drawn at that period and remain intact since then.  Thus, the Othoman Sultan got control of Iraq and the Arabic Peninsula (current Saudi Arabia).

As the tribe of Seoud in the Hijjaz reverted to a fundamentalist Wahhabit sect and expanded in the Arabic Peninsula then, the Othoman Sultan dispatched one of his generals Muhammad Ali (Albanian of origine) to crush the Wahhabit revolts.  Muhammad Ali was very successful and destroyed the Seoud tribe Capital.  Thus, Muhammad Ali was appointed governor of Egypt and then, turned against his master and established his own dynasty in Egypt.  Consequently, the political relationship between Turkey (OTAN) and Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser (who had no option left but to side with Russia for military hardware and economic development) were mainly cold for over 35 years.  Turkey is attempting to warm up with Egypt, but the current Mubarak political regime in Egypt is viewing the growing power of Turkey with suspicion since it supplanted Egypt as the main power broker in the Middle East with the Western nations.

Modern Turkey is no longer an Othoman Empire but its rapid strategy, in the last two decades, to link up with all its regional States that were part and parcel of its vast Empire for over 4 centuries is giving ammunition to the so-called “moderate” isolationist and defeatist States in the Arab World (such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco) that refuse to reform and plan for the future.

Fact is, Turkey is the cornerstone State for the larger alliance among Iran, Syria, and Iraq for a stronger and much more stable Middle East political climate.


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