Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Fertile Crescent

Tidbits and notes posted on FB and Twitter. Part 213

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pa attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory

The best approach to explain the succession of civilizations and Empires in the Fertile Crescent (in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria or Phoenicia, Canaan, Aram) that raided and conquered the Near East civilizations is the analogy of survival among the lions and lionesses empires or warlike empires versus settled and wealthy empires.

Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, stated at the annual Dinner of Francis Boyer Lecture of The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on December 5, 1996:

“Augmenting concerns about the Federal Reserve is the perception that we are a secretive organization, operating behind closed doors, not always in the interests of the nation as a whole. This is regrettable, and we continuously strive to alter this mis-perception.”

Quinoa, drought-resistant crop, contains a toxic compound called saponins, a bitter component that’s used by the plant to ward off predators. It isn’t actually a grain (it’s part of the goosefoot family, related to spinach and beets. Protein content of quinoa is 18% versus 8% in rice

Toxic compound called saponins in Quinoa needs to be removed before consumption, which can be accomplished by polishing or washing the grain, which makes processing it expensive. (The polishing process also reduces the fiber of the grain, lowering its protein, vitamin, and mineral levels).

“The Peter principle” applies to all public institutions when any employee in a hierarchy rises to the level of his or her own incompetence.

Ca ne vaut rien d’insister pour que quelqu’un voit la realite’ en face: l’important est d’avoir un sourire serain aux levres

Si notre imagination est puissante de se souvenir des bons moments, les mauvais ne formeront que de reperes et contrastes

Je passe le plus clair de mon temps a l’obscurcir

Quand on se prend pour quelqu’un, on oublit qu’on fond on est plusieurs.

Keef mouhemmet al majless badha tetghayyar, wa Nabih Berry 3ala ra2ssa? 60 naayeb ra7 ye fel, wa 60 naayeb jaayeen 3ala al akeed, baynaathom wlaad al “zou3ama”.

3am befteker bi yalli ra7ou: kaanou shabab bi waktha

Al khetyaar bi shouf jhannam: fa2ad al amal bil ta3afi

 

40 maps that explain the Middle East

by Max Fisher on May 5, 2014

Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.


Middle East History

    1. The fertile crescent, the cradle of civilization

      The fertile crescent, the cradle of civilization

      If this area wasn’t the birthplace of human civilization, it was at least a birthplace of human civilization. Called “the fertile crescent” because of its lush soil, the “crescent” of land mostly includes modern-day Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Israel-Palestine. (Some definitions also include the Nile River valley in Egypt.)

      People started farming here in 9000 BC, and by around 2500 BC the Sumerians formed the first complex society that resembles what we’d now call a “country,” complete with written laws and a political system. Put differently, there are more years between Sumerians and ancient Romans than there are between ancient Romans and us.

    2. How ancient Phoenicians spread from Lebanon across the Mediterranean

      How ancient Phoenicians spread from Lebanon across the Mediterranean

      The Phoenicians, who lived in present-day Lebanon and coastal Syria, were pretty awesome. (The Levant)

      From about 1500 to 300 BC, they ran some of the Mediterranean’s first big trading networks, shown in red, and dominated the sea along with the Greeks, who are shown in brown. Some sailed as far as the British Isles, and many of them set up colonies in North Africa, Spain, Sicily, and Sardinia. This was one of the first of many close cultural links between the Middle East and North Africa – and why Libya’s capital, Tripoli, still bears the name of the ancient Phoenician colony that established it.

    3. How the Middle East gave Europe religion, three times

      How the Middle East gave Europe religion, three times

      The Middle East actually gave Europe religion four times, including Islam, but this map shows the first three. First was Judaism, which spread through natural immigration and when Romans forcibly dispersed the rebelling Israelites in the first and second century AD.

      In the first through third centuries A.D., a religion called Mithraism — sometimes called a “mystery religion” for its emphasis on secret rites and clandestine worship — spread from present-day Turkey or Armenia throughout the Roman Empire (at the time, most adherents believed it was from Persians in modern-day Iran, but this is probably wrong).

      Mithraism was completely replaced with Christianity, which became the Roman Empire’s official religion, after a few centuries. It’s easy to forget that, for centuries, Christianity was predominantly a religion of Middle Easterners, who in turn converted Europeans.

    4. When Mohammed’s Caliphate conquered the Middle East

      When Mohammed’s Caliphate conquered the Middle East

      In the early 7th century AD in present-day Saudi Arabia, the Prophet Mohammed founded Islam, which his followers considered a community as well as a religion. As they spread across the Arabian peninsula, they became an empire, which expanded just as the neighboring Persian and Byzantine Empires were ready to collapse. In an astonishingly short time — from Mohammed’s death in 632 to 652 AD — they managed to conquer the entire Middle East, North Africa, Persia, and parts of southern Europe.

      They spread Islam, the Arabic language, and the idea of a shared Middle Eastern identity — all of which still define the region today. It would be as if everyone in Europe still spoke Roman Latin and considered themselves ethnically Roman.

    5. A map of the world at the Caliphate’s height

      A map of the world at the Caliphate’s height

      This is a rough political map of the world in 750 AD, at the height of the Omayyad Caliphate (“caliph” means the ruler of the global Islamic community). This is to give you a sense of how vast and powerful the Muslim empire had become, barely one century after the founding of the religion that propelled its expansion. It was a center of wealth, arts, and learning at a time when only China was so rich and powerful. This was the height of Arab power.

    6. The six-century rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire

      The six-century rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire

      The Ottoman Empire is named for Osman, its first ruler, who in the early 1300s expanded it from a tiny part of northwest Turkey to a slightly less tiny part. It continued expanding for about 500 years — longer than the entire history of the Roman Empire — ruling over most of the Middle East, North Africa, and southeastern Europe for centuries.

      The empire, officially an Islamic state, spread the religion in southeast Europe but was generally tolerant of other religious groups. It was probably the last great non-European empire until it began declining in the mid-1800s, collapsed after World War I, and had its former territory in the Middle East divided up by Western Europe.

    7. What the Middle East looked like in 1914

      What the Middle East looked like in 1914

      This is a pivotal year, during the Middle East’s gradual transfer from 500 years of Ottoman rule to 50 to 100 years of European rule. Western Europe was getting richer and more powerful as it carved up Africa, including the Arab states of North Africa, into colonial possessions. Virtually the entire region was ruled outright by Europeans or Ottomans, save some parts of Iran and the Arabian peninsula divided into European “zones of influence.” When World War I ended a few years later, the rest of the defeated Ottoman Empire would be carved up among the Europeans. The lines between French, Italian, Spanish, and British rule are crucial for understanding the region today – not just because they ruled differently and imposed different policies, but because the boundaries between European empires later became the official borders of independence, whether they made sense or not.

    8. The Sykes-Picot treaty that carved up the Middle East

      The Sykes-Picot treaty that carved up the Middle East

      You hear a lot today about this treaty, in which the UK and French (and Russian) Empires secretly agreed to divide up the Ottoman Empire’s last MidEastern regions among themselves.

      Crucially, the borders between the French and British “zones” later became the borders between Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. Because those later-independent states had largely arbitrary borders that forced disparate ethnic and religious groups together, and because those groups are still in terrible conflict with one another, Sykes-Picot is often cited as a cause of warfare and violence and extremism in the Middle East. But scholars are still debating this theory, which may be too simple to be true.

    9. An animated history of great empires in the Middle East

      An animated history of great empires in the Middle East

      You may have noticed a theme of the last eight maps: empires, mostly from outside the Middle East but sometimes of it, conquering the region in ways that dramatically changed it. This animation shows you every major empire in the Middle East over the last 5,000 years.

      To be clear, it is not exhaustive, and in case it wasn’t obvious, the expanding-circle animations do not actually reflect the speed or progression of imperial expansions. But it’s a nice primer.

    10. The complete history of Islamic states

      The complete history of Islamic states

      This time-lapse map by Michael Izady — a wonderful historian and cartographer at Columbia University, whose full collection can be found here — shows the political boundaries of the greater Middle East from 1450 through today. You’ll notice that, for much of the last 500 years, most or all of the region has been under some combination of Turkish, Persian, and European control. For so much of the Arab Middle East to be under self-rule is relatively new. Two big exceptions that you can see on this map are Morocco and Egypt, which have spent more of the last 500 years as self-ruling empires than other Arab states. That’s part of why these two countries have sometimes seen themselves as a degree apart from the rest of the Arab world.

    11. The 2011 Arab Spring

      The 2011 Arab Spring

      It is still amazing, looking back at early and mid-2011, how dramatically and quickly the Arab Spring uprisings challenged and in many cases toppled the brittle old dictatorships of the Middle East. What’s depressing is how little the movements have advanced beyond those first months. Syria’s civil war is still going. Egypt’s fling with democracy appeared to end with a military coup in mid-2013. Yemen is still mired in slow-boil violence and political instability. The war in Libya toppled Moammar Qaddafi, with US and European support, but left the country without basic security or a functioning government. Only Tunisia seems to have come out even tenuously in the direction of democracy.


The Middle East today

    1. The dialects of Arabic today

      The dialects of Arabic today

      This map shows the vast extent of the Arabic-speaking world and the linguistic diversity within it. Both go back to the Caliphates of the sixth and seventh century, which spread Arabic from its birthplace on the Arabian Peninsula across Africa and the Middle East. Over the last 1,300 years the language’s many speakers have diverged into distinct, sometimes very different, dialects.

      Something to look at here: where the dialects do and do not line up with present-day political borders. In places where they don’t line up, you’re seeing national borders that are less likely to line up with actual communities, and in some cases more likely to create problems.

    2. The Sunni-Shia divide

      The Sunni-Shia divide

      The story of Islam’s division between Sunni and Shia started with the Prophet Mohammed’s death in 632. There was a power struggle over who would succeed him in ruling the Islamic Caliphate, with most Muslims wanting to elect the next leader but some arguing that power should go by divine birthright to Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali. That pro-Ali faction was known as the “Partisans of Ali,” or “Shi’atu Ali” in Arabic, hence “Shia.” Ali’s eventual ascension to the throne sparked a civil war, which he and his partisans lost. The Shia held on to the idea that Ali was the rightful successor, and grew into an entirely separate branch of Islam. Today about 10 to 15 percent of Muslims worldwide are Shia — they are the majority group in Iran and Iraq only — while most Muslims are Sunni. “Sunni” roughly means “tradition.” Today, that religious division is again a political one as well: it’s a struggle for regional influence between Shia political powers, led by Iran, versus Sunni political powers, led by Saudi Arabia. This struggle looks an awful lot like a regional cold war, with proxy battles in Syria and elsewhere.

    3. The ethnic groups of the Middle East

      The ethnic groups of the Middle East

      The most important color on this map of Middle Eastern ethnic groups is yellow: Arabs, who are the majority group in almost every MidEast country, including the North African countries not shown here. The exceptions are mostly-Jewish Israel in pink, mostly-Turkish Turkey in green, mostly-Persian Iran in orange, and heavily diverse Afghanistan. (More on the rich diversity of Iran and Afghanistan below.) That splash of red in the middle is really important: ethnic Kurds, who have no country of their own but big communities in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. But the big lesson of this map is that there is a belt of remarkable ethnic diversity from Turkey to Afghanistan, but that much of the rest of the region is dominated by ethnic Arabs.

    4. Weighted Muslim populations around the world

      Weighted Muslim populations around the world

      This map makes a point about what the Middle East is not: it is not synonymous with the Islamic world. This weighted population map shows every country in the world by the size of its Muslim population. Countries with more Muslim citizens are larger; countries with fewer Muslim citizens are smaller. You’ll notice right away that the Middle East makes up just a fraction of the world’s total Muslim population. There are far more Muslims, in fact, in the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The biggest Muslim population by far is Indonesia’s, in southeast Asia. And there are millions in sub-Saharan Africa as well. The Islamic world may have begun in the Middle East, but it’s now much, much larger than that.


Israel-Palestine

    1. Israel’s 1947 founding and the 1948 Israeli-Arab War

      Israel's 1947 founding and the 1948 Israeli-Arab War

      Left map: Passia; center and right maps: Philippe Rekacewicz / Le Monde Diplomatique

      Israel’s 1947 founding and the 1948 Israeli-Arab War

      These three maps show how Israel went from not existing to, in 1947 and 1948, establishing its national borders. It’s hard to identify a single clearest start point to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but the map on the left might be it: these are the borders that the United Nations demarcated in 1947 for a Jewish state and an Arab state, in what had been British-controlled territory. The Palestinians fought the deal, and in 1948 the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria invaded. The middle map shows, in green, how far they pushed back the Jewish armies. The right-hand map shows how the war ended: with an Israeli counterattack that pushed into the orange territory, and with Israel claiming that as its new national borders. The green is what was left for Palestinians.

    2. The 1967 Israeli-Arab War that set today’s borders

      The 1967 Israeli-Arab War that set today's borders

      BBC

      The 1967 Israeli-Arab War that set today’s borders

      These three maps (click the expand icon to see the third) show how those 1948 borders became what they are today. The map on left shows the Palestinian territories of Gaza, which was under Egyptian control, and the West Bank, under Jordanian control. In 1967, Israel fought a war with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The war ended with Israel occupying both of the Palestinian territories, plus the Golan Heights in Syria and Egypt’s Sinai peninsula: that’s shown in the right map. Israel gave Sinai back as part of a 1979 peace deal, but it still occupies those other territories. Gaza is today under Israeli blockade, while the West Bank is increasingly filling with Israeli settlers. The third map shows how the West Bank has been divided into areas of full Palestinian control (green), joint Israeli-Palestinian control (light green), and full Israeli control (dark green).

    3. Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank

      Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank

      Since 1967, Israelis have been moving into settlements in the West Bank. Some go for religious reasons, some because they want to claim Palestinian land for Israel, and some just because they get cheap housing from subsidies. There about 500,000 settlers in 130 communities, which you can see in this map. The settlements make peace harder, which is sometimes the point: for Palestinians to have a state, the settlers will either to have to be removed en masse, or Palestinians would have to give up some of their land. The settlements also make life harder for Palestinians today, dividing communities and imposing onerous Israeli security. This is why the US and the rest of the world opposes Israeli settlements. But Israel is continuing to expand them anyway.

    4. Israeli and Hezbollah strikes in the 2006 Lebanon War

      Israeli and Hezbollah strikes in the 2006 Lebanon War

      BBC

      Israeli and Hezbollah strikes in the 2006 Lebanon War

      This map shows a moment in the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon. It also shows the way that war between Israel and its enemies has changed: Israel now has the dominant military, but the fights are asymmetrical. Israel wasn’t fighting a state, but the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. It launched many air and artillery strikes in Lebanon (shown in blue) to weaken Hezbollah, destroying much of the country’s infrastructure in the process. Israel also blockaded Lebanese waters. Hezbollah fought a guerrilla campaign against the Israeli invasion force and launched many missiles into Israeli communities. The people most hurt were regular Lebanese and Israelis, hundreds of thousands of whom were displaced by the fighting.

    5. Which countries recognize Israel, Palestine, or both

      Which countries recognize Israel, Palestine, or both

      The Israel-Palestine conflict is a global issue, and as this map shows it’s got a global divide. Many countries, shown in green, still do not recognize Israel as a legitimate state. Those countries are typically Muslim-majority (that includes Malaysia and Indonesia, way over in southeast Asia). Meanwhile, the blue countries of the West (plus a few others) do not recognize Palestine as a country. They still have diplomatic relations with Palestine, but in their view it will not achieve the status of a country until the conflict is formally resolved. It is not a coincidence that there has historically been some conflict between the blue and green countries.


Syria

    1. Syria’s religious and ethnic diversity

      Syria’s religious and ethnic diversity

      Each color here shows a different religious group in the part of the eastern Mediterranean called the Levant. It should probably not be surprising that the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity is religiously diverse, but this map drives home just how diverse. Israel stands out for its Jewish majority, of course, but this is also a reminder of its Muslim and other minorities, as well as of the Christian communities in Israel and the West Bank. Lebanon is divided among large communities of Sunnis, Shias, Christians, and a faith known as Druze — they’re at peace now, but the country’s horrific civil war from 1975 to 1990 divided them. There may be a similar effect happening in Syria, which is majority Sunni Muslim but has large minorities of Christians, Druze, Shia, and a Shia sect known as Alawites whose members include Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and much of his government.

    2. Current areas of control in the Syrian Civil War

      Current areas of control in the Syrian Civil War

      This map shows the state of play in Syria’s civil war, which after three years of fighting has divided between government forces, the anti-government rebels who began as pro-democracy protestors, and the Islamist extremist fighters who have been moving in over the last two years. You may notice some overlap between this map and the previous: the areas under government control (in red) tend to overlap with where the minorities live. The minorities tend to be linked to the regime, whereas the rebels are mostly from the Sunni Muslim majority. But the anti-government Syrian rebels (in green) have been taking lots of territory. Syria’s ethnic Kurdish minority also has militias that have taken over territory where the Kurds live. Over the past year, though, there’s been a fourth rising faction: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (sometimes called ISIS, shown in blue), an extremist group based in Iraq that swears allegiance to al-Qaeda. They’re fighting both the rebels and the government. So it’s a three-way war now, as if it weren’t already intractable enough.

    3. Syria’s refugee crisis

      Syria’s refugee crisis

      Syria’s civil war hasn’t just been a national catastrophe for Syria, but for neighboring countries as well. The war has displaced millions of Syrians into the rest of the Middle East and into parts of Europe, where they live in vast refugee camps that are major drains on already-scarce national resources. This map shows the refugees; it does not show the additional 6.5 million Syrians displaced within Syria. Their impact is especially felt in Jordan and Lebanon, which already have large Palestinian refugee populations; as many as one in five people in those countries is a refugee. While the US and other countries have committed some aid for refugees, the United Nations says it’s not nearly enough to provide them with basic essentials.


Iran

    1. How Iran’s borders changed in the early 1900s

      How Iran’s borders changed in the early 1900s

      Iran is the only Middle Eastern country was never conquered by a European power, but it came pretty close in the 1900s. It lost a lot of territory to Russia (the red stripey part). After that, the Russian Empire and British Empire (the British Indian Raj was just next door) divided Iran’s north and south into “zones of influence.” They weren’t under direct control, but the Iranian government was bullied and its economy and resources exploited. This remains a point of major national resentment in Iran today.

    2. Iran’s religious and ethnic diversity

      Iran’s religious and ethnic diversity

      Iran is most associated with the Persians — the largest ethnic group and the progenitors of the ancient Persian empires — but it’s much more diverse than that. This map shows the larger minorities, which includes Arabs in the south, Kurds in the west, and Azeris in the north (Iran used to control all Azeri territory, but much of now belongs to the Azeri-majority country Azerbaijan). The Baloch, in the southeast, are also a large minority group in Pakistan. There is significant unrest and government oppression in the “Baluchistan” region of both countries.

    3. Iran’s nuclear sites and possible Israeli strike plans

      Iran's nuclear sites and possible Israeli strike plans

      BBC

      Iran’s nuclear sites and possible Israeli strike plans

      This is a glimpse at two of the big, overlapping geopolitical issues in which Iran is currently embroiled. The first is Iran’s nuclear program: the country’s leaders say the program is peaceful, but basically no one believes them, and the world is heavily sanctioning Iran’s economy to try to convince them to halt the nuclear development that sure looks like it’s heading for an illegal weapons program. You can see the nuclear development sites on here: some are deep underground, while others were kept secret for years. That gets to the other thing on this map, which was originally built to show how Israel could hypothetically launch strikes against Iran’s nuclear program. Israel-Iran tensions, which have edged near war in recent years, are one of the biggest and most potentially dangerous things happening right now in a part of the world that has plenty of danger already. Israel is worried that Iran could build nukes to use against it; Iran may be worried that it will forever be under threat of Israeli strike until it has a nuclear deterrent. That’s called a security dilemma and it can get bad.


Afghanistan

    1. How the colonial “Durand Line” set up Afghanistan’s conflict

      How the colonial “Durand Line” set up Afghanistan’s conflict

      So, first ignore everything on this map except for the light-orange overlay. That shows the area where an ethnic group called the Pashtun lives. Now pretend it’s the 1800s and you are a British colonial officer named Mortimer Durand, and it’s your job to negotiate the border between the British Indian Raj and the quasi-independent nation of Afghanistan.

      Do you draw the border right smack across the middle of the Pashtun areas, thus guaranteeing decades of conflict by forcing Pashtuns to be minorities in both states? If you answered “yes,” then you would have made a great British colonial officer, because that’s what happened. The “Durand Line,” marked in red, became most of the border between modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many Pashtun now belong to or support a mostly-Pashtun extremist group called the Taliban, which wreaks havoc in both countries and has major operating bases (shown in dark orange) in the Pakistani side of the border. Thanks, Mortimer!

    2. The 1989 war that tore up Afghanistan

      The 1989 war that tore up Afghanistan

      In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to defend the pro-Moscow communist government from growing rebellions. The US (along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) funded and armed the rebels. The CIA deliberately chose to fund extremists, seeing them as better fighters.

      When the Soviets retreated in 1989, those rebel groups turned against one another, fighting a horrific civil war that you can see on this map: the red areas were, as of 1989, under government control. Every other color shows a rebel group’s area of control. Some of these rebels, like the Hezb-i Islami Gulbuddin, are still fighting, though most of them were defeated when the Taliban rose up and conquered the country in the 1990s.

    3. How the Taliban overlaps with ethnicity

      How the Taliban overlaps with ethnicity

      This is to underscore the degree to which Afghanistan’s current war (the war that began when the US and allies invaded in 2001, not the 1979 to 1989 war against the Soviets or the civil wars from 1989 to 2001) is and is not about ethnicity.

      The Taliban does very broadly, but not exclusively, overlap with the Pashtuns in the south and east. That’s especially important since there are so many Pashtuns just across the border in Pakistan, where the Taliban have major bases of operation. But there are rebel groups besides the Taliban, not all of which are Pashtun. Generally, though, the north of the country is stabler and less violent than the south or east.

    4. The most important parts of the Afghan War, in one map

      The most important parts of the Afghan War, in one map

      The Afghanistan War is extremely complicated, but this map does a remarkable job of capturing the most important components:

      1) the Taliban areas, in orange overlay;

      2) the areas controlled by the US and allies, in depressingly tiny spots of green;

      3) the major Western military bases, marked with blue dots;

      4) the areas of opium production, which are a big source of Taliban funding, in brown circles, with larger circles meaning more opium;

      5) the supply lines through Pakistan, in red, which Pakistan has occasionally shut down and come under frequent Taliban attack;

      6) the supply line through Russia, which requires Russian approval. If this map does not depress you about the prospects of the Afghan War, not much will.


Saudi Arabia and Oil

    1. What Saudi Arabia and its neighbors looked like 100 years ago

      What Saudi Arabia and its neighbors looked like 100 years ago

      The Arabian peninsula has a very, very long history, and the Saudi family has controlled much of it since the 1700s. But to understand how the peninsula got to be what it is today, go back about a 100 years to 1905.

      The Saudis at that point controlled very little, having lost their territory in a series of wars. The peninsula was divided into lots of little kingdoms and emirates. The Ottoman Empire controlled most of them, with the British Empire controlling the southernmost third or so of the peninsula — that line across the middle shows how it was divided.

      After World War I collapsed the Ottoman Empire, the Saudis expanded to all of the purple area marked here, as the British had promised for helping to fight the Ottomans. (This deal is dramatized in the film Lawrence of Arabia). By the early 1920s, the British effectively controlled almost all of the peninsula, which was divided into many dependencies, protectorates, and mandates. But the Saudis persisted.

    2. Oil and Gas in the Middle East

      Oil and Gas in the Middle East

      The Middle East produces about a third of the world’s oil and a tenth of its natural gas. (It has a third of all natural gas reserves, but they’re tougher to transport.) Much of that is exported. That makes the entire world economy pretty reliant on the continued flow of that gas and oil, which just happens to go through a region that has seen an awful lot of conflict in the last few decades.

      This map shows where the reserves are and how they’re transported overland; much of it also goes by sea through the Persian Gulf, a body of water that is also home to some of the largest reserves in the region and the world. The energy resources are heavily clustered in three neighboring countries that have historically hated one another: Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

      The tension between those three is something that the United States, as a huge energy importer, has been deeply interested in for years: it sided against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, against Iraq when it invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, again against Iraq with the 2003 invasion, and now is supporting Saudi Arabia in its rapidly worsening proxy war against Iran.

    3. Oil, trade, and militarism in the Strait of Hormuz

      Oil, trade, and militarism in the Strait of Hormuz

      The global economy depends on this narrow waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. Ever since President Jimmy Carter issued the 1980 “Carter Doctrine,” which declared that the US would use military force to defend its access to Persian Gulf oil, the little Strait of Hormuz at the Gulf’s exit has been some of the most heavily militarized water on earth.

      The US installed a large naval force, first to protect oil exports from the brutal Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, then to protect them from Saddam Hussein in the 1990s Gulf Wars, and now to protect them again from Iran, which has gestured toward shutting down oil should war break out against Israel or the US. As long as the world runs on fossil fuels and there is tension in the Middle East, there will be military forces in the Strait of Hormuz.

    4. Why Egypt’s Suez Canal is so important for the world economy

      Why Egypt’s Suez Canal is so important for the world economy

      The Suez Canal changed everything. When Egypt opened it in 1868, after ten years of work, the 100-mile, man-made waterway brought Europe and Asia dramatically and permanently closer.

      The canal’s significance to the global order was so immediately obvious that, shortly after the British conquered Egypt in the 1880s, the major world powers signed a treaty, which is still in force, declaring that the canal would forever be open to trade and warships of every nation, no matter what. Today, about eight percent of all global trade and three percent of global energy supply goes through the canal.


Iraq and Libya

    1. The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad during the Iraq War

      The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad during the Iraq War

      BBC

      The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad during the Iraq War

      There are few grimmer symbols for the devastation of the Iraq War than what it did to Baghdad’s once-diverse neighborhoods. The map on the left shows the city’s religious make-up in 2005. Mixed neighborhoods, then the norm, are in yellow.

      The map on right shows what it looked like by 2007, after two awful years of Sunni-Shia killing: bombings (shown with red dots), death squads, and militias. Coerced evictions and thousands of deaths effectively cleansed neighborhoods, to be mostly Shia (blue) or mostly Sunni (red). Since late 2012, the sectarian civil war has ramped back up, in Baghdad and nationwide.

    2. Where the Kurds are and what Kurdistan might look like

      Where the Kurds are and what Kurdistan might look like

      The ethnic group known as Kurds, who have long lived as a disadvantaged minority in several Middle Eastern countries, have been fighting for a nation of their own for a long time. This map shows where they live in green overlay, and the national borders that they have proposed on three separate occasions, all of them failed.

      The Kurds have fought many armed rebellions, including ongoing campaigns in Syria and Turkey, and suffered many abuses, from attempted genocides to official bans on their language and culture. Their one major victory in the last century has been in Iraq: as a result of the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurds have autonomous self-rule in Iraq’s north.

    3. A hypothetical re-drawing of Syria and Iraq

      A hypothetical re-drawing of Syria and Iraq

      This is an old idea that gets new attention every few years, when violence between Sunnis and Shias reignites: should the arbitrary borders imposed by European powers be replaced with new borders along the region’s ever-fractious religious divide?

      The idea is unworkable in reality and would probably just create new problems. But, in a sense, this is already what the region looks like. The Iraqi government controls the country’s Shia-majority east, but Sunni Islamist extremists have seized much of western Iraq and eastern Syria.

      The Shia-dominated Syrian government, meanwhile, mostly only controls the country’s Shia- and Christian-heavy west. The Kurds, meanwhile, are legally autonomous in Iraq and functionally so in Syria. This map, then, is not so much just idle speculation anymore; it’s something that Iraqis and Syrians are creating themselves.

    4. How Libya’s 2011 War changed Africa

      How Libya’s 2011 War changed Africa

      Noble as the cause was, the destruction of Moammar Qaddafi’s dictatorship by a spontaneous uprising and a Western intervention has just wreaked havoc in Africa’s northern half. This map attempts to show all that came after Qaddafi’s fall; that it is so overwhelmingly complex is precisely the point.

      The place to center your gaze is the patterned orange overlay across Libya, Algeria, Mali, and Niger: this shows where the Tuaregs, a semi-nomadic ethnic minority group, lives. Qaddafi used Libya’s oil wealth to train, arm, and fund large numbers of Tuaregs to fight the armed uprising in 2011. When he fell, the Tuaregs took the guns back out with them to Algeria and Mali, where they took control of territory.

      In Mali, they led a full-fledged rebellion that, for a time, seized the country’s northern half. Al-Qaeda moved into the vacuum they left, conquering entire towns in Mali and seizing fossil fuel facilities in Algeria. Criminal enterprises have flourished in this semi-arid belt of land known as the Sahel. So have vast migration routes, of Africans looking to find work and a better life in Europe.

      At the same time, armed conflict is getting worse in Nigeria and Sudan, both major oil producers. Qaddafi’s fall was far from the sole cause of all of this, but it brought just the right combination of disorder, guns, and militias to make everything a lot worse.


Points of Light

  1. Mapped by Internet connections (top) and by tweets (bottom)

    Mapped by Internet connections (top) and by tweets (bottom)

    Top map: Gregor Aisch; bottom map: Eric Fischer

    Mapped by Internet connections (top) and by tweets (bottom)

    These maps are two ways of looking at a similar thing: the digitalization of the Middle East. The map on top is actually a population map: the dots represent clusters of people, but the dots are colored to show how many IP addresses there are, which basically means how many internet connections.

    The blue areas have lots of people but few connections: these are the poorer areas, such as Yemen, Pakistan, and Syria. White and red show where there are lots of connections: rich countries like Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but also parts of Egypt and Iran and Turkey, the populations of which are increasingly wired, to tremendous political consequence.

    The map on the bottom shows tweets: lots of dots mean lots of tweets from that area. They’re colored by language. Notice where these two maps are different: Iran has lots of internet connections but almost no tweets; like Facebook, Twitter has been banned since the 2009 anti-government protests. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, lights right up: its modestly sized population is remarkably wired.

    The significance of that became clear, for example, with the 2012 and 2013 social media-led campaigns by Saudi women to drive en masse, in protest of the country’s ban on female drivers. The consequences of internet access and lack of access will surely continue to be important, and perhaps hard to predict, for the region.

  2. The Middle East at night from space

    The Middle East at night from space

    I’m concluding with this map to look at the region without political borders, without demographic demarcations of religion or ethnicity, without markers of conflict or oil. Looking at the region at night, from space, lets those distinctions fall away, to see it purely by its geography and illuminated by the people who call it home.

    The lights trace the rivers that have been so important to the Middle East’s history, and the world’s: the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates that run through Iraq and Syria, the Indus in Pakistan.

    They also show the large, and in many cases growing, communities along the shores of the Persian Gulf, the eastern Mediterranean, and the southern end of the Caspian. It’s a beautiful view of a really beautiful part of the world.

Most Britons and Europeans left Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago

 After studying the DNA of more than 2,000 men, researchers say they have compelling evidence that four out of five white Europeans can trace their roots to the Near East.
Najat Rizk shared a link.

Most Britons are direct descendants of farmers who left modern day Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago, a new study has shown.

The discovery is shedding light on one of the most important periods of human history – the time when our ancient ancestors abandoned hunting and began to domesticate animals.

The invention of farming led to the first towns and paved the way for the dawn of civilisation.

The Leicester University study looked at a common genetic mutation on the Y chromosome, the DNA that is passed down from fathers to sons.

They found that 80% of European men shared the same Y chromosone mutation and after analysing how the mutation was distributed across Europe, were able to retrace how Europe was colonised around 8,000BC

Prof Mark Jobling, who led the study: ‘This was at the time of the Neolithic revolution when they developed a new style of tools, symmetrical, beautiful tools.

‘At this stage about 10,000 years ago there was evidence of the first settlements, people stopped being nomadic hunter-gatherers and started building communities. (The famous City-State organization of societies in Near-East region, such as Byblos, Saida, Tyr, Ugharit, Mary…)

‘This also allowed people to specialise in certain areas of trade and make better tools because there was a surplus of food.’

European farming began around 9,000 BC in the Fertile Crescent – a region extending from the eastern Mediterranean coast to the Persian Gulf and which includes modern day Iraq, Syria, Israel and southeast Turkey.

The region was the cradle of civilisation and home to the Babylonia, Sumer and Assyrian empires.

Professor Mark Jobling

Skills: Professor Mark Jobling says the settlers were more attractive to women because they could grow more food

The development of farming allowed people to settle down for the first time – and to produce more food than they needed, leading to trade and the freedom to develop new skills such as metal working, building and writing.

Some archaeologists have argued that some of these early farmers travelled around the world – settling new lands and bringing farming skills with them.

But others have insisted that the skills were passed on by word of mouth, and not by mass migration.

The new study suggests the farmers routinely upped sticks and moved west when their villages became too crowded, eventually reaching Britain and Ireland.

The waves of migrants brought their new skills with them.

Some settled down with local tribes and taught them how to farm, the researchers believe.

‘When the expansion happened these men had a reproductive advantage because they were able to grow more food so they were more attractive to women and had more offspring,’ said Prof Jobling.

‘In total more than 80 per cent of European men have Y chromosomes which descend from incoming farmers.

‘It seems odd to think that the majority of men in Ireland have fore fathers from the near East and that British people have forefathers from the near East.’

The findings are published in the science journal PLoS Biology.

Dr Patricia Balaresque, a co-author of the study, said: ‘This means that more than 80 per cent of European Y chromosomes descend from incoming farmers.’

In contrast, other studies have shown that DNA passed down from mothers to daughters can be traced by to hunter-gatherers in Europe, she said.

‘To us, this suggests a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the switch from hunting and gathering, to farming – maybe, back then, it was just sexier to be a farmer,’ she said.

Europe was first settled by modern humans around 40,000 years ago.

But other types of humans – including Neanderthals – were living in  Europe hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1244654/Study-finds-Britons-descended-farmers-left-Iraq-Syria-10-000-years-ago.html#ixzz3l82oQBHO
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Lions and lionesses along the Fertile Crescent ancient Empires 

Major civilizations built empires and cities along major rivers such as the Nile, Euphrates, Tiger, Indus (Pakistan), Ganges (India), and the Yellow River in China.

At the current rate of modernization and deforestations most of the aborigine tribes would disappear within a few decades.  Many civilizations have vanished but a few have managed to survive precariously so far.

The best approach to explaining the succession of civilizations and Empires in the Fertile Crescent that raided and conquered the Near East civilizations such as in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria (Phoenicia, Canaan, Aram) is the analogy of survival among the lions and lionesses.

As a young lion attains two years, after being chased out of the clan, prowls the region for lionesses to mate and establish clans of their own.  Old lions are attacked and displaced and the cubs are eaten and slaughtered by the new King to quickly attract the lioness in heat and then new progenitors are formed.  The lioness fights valiantly to preserve her cubs but ends up giving up.

Since a lion lives to be 10 years old, on average, while the lioness can outlive him by 7 years and diffuse many progenitors of her owns then the survival of these mammal carnivores is mainly due to the survival of the lionesses.  The lionesses chase and bring meat to the clan and care for the cubs.

Almost all the ancient civilizations in the Middle East, (the Nile River excluded because in Africa), were established along the Fertile Crescent of the main Rivers of Litany, Al Aassi, Euphrates and the Tiger (for example, the people inhabiting Lebanon, Syria, the southern part of Turkey, the Western part of Iran and Iraq).

The warrior Empires were Akkad, Babylon (Iraq), Assyria (Kurdestan of Iraq), Persia, Pharaonic Egypt, Hittite (Inland Turkey), Greece, Selucian, Roman, and later Byzantium, Sassanide, Arab (Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatemid), Seljuk, Crusaders, Mamelouks, and Ottomans.

The young male lions from emerging warrior Empires, during their conquests and expansion, reclaimed the civilized glory and achievements of the Near East people as their own proper.  The Near East people were constantly behaving like the lionesses: they first fight valiantly for their cubs, and when they inevitably fail against the young lions then they mate with the conquerors after the invaders had tried to kill all their progenitors.

The latest archeological discoveries located developed urban centers around the borders of Syria and Turkey that were 10,000 years old; it is these centers that later established the Sumer Kingdom in southern Iraq around 5,000 years ago.

A few citizens of City-States like Byblos, Sidon and Tyr and much later Carthage burned down their cities and then set fire on themselves to avoid servitude and surrender. While these young lions were strutting and showing off in the regions and adapting to the new civilizations, it was the constant duty of the lionesses to chase and bring the meat to the table and care for the household:  They fed and civilized the conquerors.

The Near East people were bringing the food to the tables and caring for the glamour and wants of the invaders whose sole job was to making war and killing on their war paths.

I read chapters from an Arabic book by Georges Masrou3a.  Masrouaa asked an archeologist about the Achmoun Temple in Sidon “Saida”, built around 550 BC and he replied that it was a Persian design from King Kourush I period.

Masrouaa then asked the archeologist why he claimed that it is Persian and the latter said because that is what the archeology archives claim to be.  Persia had no such Temple at Kourush’s time; even if the Persian King paid for it at the expense of the invaded people that should not be a basis to claim achievements of other civilizations.

This is the same story with the temples in Baalbak; the archeologists would claim that it was the work of the Romans since 200 BC but if this monument was of Roman style and glory then why the Romans failed to build something close to it in Rome or in Italy? 

We have the same contentions for the impressive horse track and humongous amphitheater in Tyr (500 by 200 meters) that was built before 500 BC according to Herodotus; if this amphitheater was the work and style of the Romans then why did the Roman wait another three centuries to build their Coliseum? The same goes to the Jerusalem Temple even though the architects, builders and foramens and craftsmen and master workers were from Tyre during King Hiram or “Ahiram”. 

Euclid, Zenon, Plotin, Tales, Homer, Pythagoras and scores of great thinkers were born and lived in our coastal City-States stretching from Palestine to Turkey such as Akka, Tyr, Sidon (called the eldest son of Canaan in the Bible), Beyrouth, Byblos, Ugarit, Antaqia, and so on and yet they were labeled as Greeks.  Is it simply because we were under Greek dominion that our famous thinkers should be Greeks, even if they didn’t enjoy the privileges of Greek Athens  City-State citizens? 

Scores of our famous people were labeled Romans simply because we were under Roman hegemony.  For example, the eminent legal masters, in the third century, Papinian and Olypian lived in Beyrouth (Beryt); Olympian is indeed the martyr of jurists because he adamantly refused to offer a legal opinion in favor of Emperor Caracala for the killing of his brother Jeita.

If this is the case then, why Jesus is to be simply a Jew and not Roman?  St. Paul was actually a Roman citizen that he inherited from his father and great father and yet Paul is said to be simply a Jew.  There is undoubtedly a systematic disinformation concerning the cultural heritage of the Near Eastern civilizations.

The Europeans purposely have chosen to start their civilization from Ancient Greek in 600 BC because they claimed Athens City-State to be democratic and they had to emulate the democratic system in Greek Athens.

Democracy was developed in the City-States of Byblos, Sidon, Tyr, Ugarit and Mary several centuries before Athens existed.  These City-States had democracy within their city limits as Athens and Rome emulated later on because communication and transport were limited and the administration of such a complex democratic system was not feasible at a larger magnitude at the time.   Thus, democracy was not translated to the colonies as Greek Athens also failed to do.

Theaters via their verbal communications in plays were the main medium for spreading democracy and the clashing of ideas of various opposition groups; plays created a citizen consciousness that is different from immediate civic consciousness of oratorical speeches.  The Near Eastern civilizations were ahead of Athens several centuries in theater plays; Athens got the attention because a few of its written literatures were preserved and translated.  For example, Aeschylus wrote over 90 works but only seven of his tragedies remained to prove the dynamics of Athens’ democratic system.

Although the City-States in the Levant developed commercial empires they never built theocratic warrior Empires because their citizens focused on civilized endeavors and opted in armed struggles to just defending their central Cities. Athens managed to defend its civilization outside its City limits and even asked the cooperation of other Greek City-States like Sparta and the famous Thebes that the Phoenicians had built centuries before Athens existed and which Alexander erased completely before launching his Asian campaign.

We can confirm that the Near East region was the bedrock of all the civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea in religion, philosophy, sciences, literature and arts.

Regardless of genetic sources, which are an amalgamation of many nations and which is not that important for the purpose of this article, anyone from current States in the Near East should take pride in their ancient civilizations and their original identity as the forefathers of contemporary modern democratic civilizations in Europe and the Greater Mediterranean Sea regions.

Note:   Currently, we still have the ethnic Saamis (Norway and Finland), Inuits (Siberia, Alaska, and Canada), Ainous (Japan), Indians (USA and Canada), Zapotec (Mexico), Mosquitos (Nicaragua), Quiches (Guatemala), Cunas (Panama), Yanomamis and Guaranis (Brazil), Galibis and Akawaios (Guyana), Paez ans Guambianos (Colombia), Waoranis (Equator), Amueshas (Peru), Chimanes (Bolivia), Araucans (Chili), Touaregs and Bororos (Sahel in Northern Africa), Tigres (Ethiopia and Somalia), Dinkas (Sudan), Masais (Kenya and Tanzania), Pygmees (Zaire), Sans or Bushmen (Namibia and Botswana), Kalingas (Philippines), Kachins and Rohingas (Myanmar or Birmani), Hmongs (Laos), Santals and Gonds (India), Punans (Malaysia), Uzbeks and Tadjiks (Afghanistan), Aborigines (Australia), Maoris (New Zealand), Papous (New Guinea).

Natural borders: what for? (November 21, 2008)

This short essay is sort of a detailed argument of the previous essay titled “A Nation, a State, or a redundant community?

Most thinkers and sociologists would like to consider natural borders as one of the essential main factors for the establishment of a Nation or a national identity.  I used to take this argument as a given until very recently.

My position is that the topology of the interior of a country is far more important to providing stability for the duration and consequently to forming a “homogeneous” society than mere natural borders.

Obviously, natural borders are excellent arguments in litigations in the UN or international borders disputes, but not that essential on their own merit to constituting a Nation without topography that discourages invasions and long term settlement of invading troops.

Before I substantiate my hypothesis it might be necessary to emphasize two more ingredients for the formation of a nation.

First, a nation should manage to enforce a central official language to the majority of its citizens, regardless of the various slang and other different languages spoken or written in various regions in the nation.  For example, at the beginning of the 20th century, France was still unable to enforce the official Parisian language in all its territory and had to resort to intensive investment and incentives in education and appropriate laws and concentrated efforts to achieve the universal acceptance of the official French language.

Second, a nation should manage to incite the majority of its citizens to acknowledge a religion, for example official recognition in the civil registers, regardless of their personal faith or other affiliations.  Saying that there is separation between the State and religion in functions and responsibilities is a State matter but does not relate to the constitution of a nation in the long run.

I will consider a few Nations in the “Greater Middle East” and Northern Africa regions dating back from Antiquity and then from the European Medieval Age.

Of all the multitude of Empires that dominated the Old World at certain periods only Iran (Persia) can be classified without ambiguity as a Nation.  Since the European Medieval Age we experienced the emergence of two other nations, Turkey and Morocco (it ruled Spain for over 5 centuries).

Before I resume my argumentation let me state that I consider Egypt as a recent nation that satisfies most of the criteria, but did not in history.  The fundamental question is: why the Empires of Babylon, Assyria, Akkad, Egypt, Greece, and Rome were unable to maintain the structure and cohesiveness of a nation even after many centuries of dominion?

I will refrain of analyzing the cases of Greece and Rome because that would divert the focus of this short essay.

Why the Empires that originated in present Iraq, Syria and Egypt failed to survive as a nation to our modern time?  These Empires dominated the Old World for many centuries and had centralized power structures and centralized official languages and managed to impose their brand of religion or close variations to their entire Empires.  What was lacking then?

The topology in the interior of Iraq, Syria and Egypt could not offer any substantial hardship to huge invading troops.

Once the invading troops crossed a natural barrier the whole county was opened for easy progress.  For example, “Greater Syria” (composed theoretically and according to natural borders of the current States of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan) had definite natural borders of high mountain chains north and north-east, desert in the south and south-east, and east, and the Mediterranean Sea in the west.  If we extended “Greater Syria” to include Iraq, the Arab/Persian Gulf would be the border in the east.  It seems that natural borders are not of major consequences if the interior is an open country.

The invading war-like Empires just needed to satisfy their curiosity of what is beyond the natural barriers to come in. The Persians, Egyptians, Turks, Greeks, Romans, and Arab/Moslem troops entered and conquered the land from all sides with no major resistance.

It seemed that “Greater Syria” was unable to unite and constitute a national army or a central government even though the population was mostly cohesive in language, religion, and culture.

What this region managed to form were hundreds of City-States, structurally centralized and well organized, but unable to come to a unified “need” for a Nation.  It seems that through history, these people recognized that they would never be able to stop the advance of war-like empires; it was much cheaper to open the City-States gates and then assimilate the commercial demands and wants of the invading Empires.

This policy permitted the civilization of “Greater Syria” to transform and change the cultures of the invading Empires in all domains. (Review my essay “Lions and Lionesses in the Fertile crescent“).  What is striking is, although Syria could never institute a political nation for any substantive duration, the populations in these States are more homogeneous culturally and linguistically than any currently established nation.

What is true to Syria is compatible to Egypt. Egypt had natural borders of deserts and seas but we cannot claim that it constituted a nation until recently due to demographic explosion, vast land, a majority of a religious sect, and common language.

The difference historically between Egypt and Syria is that the invading Empires were not interested in all of Egypt; suffice to secure transit commerce between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and the crops of the Nile River.  Syria was all interesting because of its rich City-States, skilled artisans, education, schools, commerce, and fertile lands;.

Syria was for the keep because of its hard working value-adding population!

That is why it was impossible for Syria to form a political entity because the war-like Empires wanted Syria at any cost.

March 20, 2007

The Sunni Monarchs threatening to rejuvenate the “Hilal Al-Khassib” concept

Prince Talal bin Seoud of Saudi Arabia has suggested recently that the unity of the “Fertile Crescent” States of Syria, the central and northern parts of Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon is ripe to exist as a counter power to Iran’s growing influence in the Gulf and the region.  The Jordanian Monarch has been sending strong signals to the enviable unity of States with Sunni majority, which are the same States mentioned previously.

I have this very plausible interpretation of the strategic plans of the USA.  The US grand plan always seeks, at specific periods, to have one main State in the Middle East to dominate the neighboring smaller States in order to save their interests from total anarchy in the region which could be costly to contain, thus, secure the US economy and businesses.  Egypt was the main power broker during Gamal Abdel Nasser who defended south Yemen from the Saudi Monarchy and succeeded in uniting Syria with Egypt and mounted a coup d’etat in Iraq against the communists of Abdel Karim Kassem. After the defeat of Egypt in 1967 by Israel then, Iran was selected for the role until the Shah was deposed by the Khominists.

Iraq was then the main power for a while until Saddam forgot the rules of the game and became unwanted and a pariah in the regional States.  Iran is taking over the relay temporarily and the USA has no problem with allocating this role to Iran on condition that it refrains from establishing a nuclear arsenal that would give her the image of a regional superpower that would deny it the proper image among the neighboring States to control the Western security and economic profitability.

Turkey is in line at a coming period to play the same role because that is the history of our Middle East since time immemorial.  Egypt would not be allowed to take this role simply because it is bordering Israel but will always play an important secondary role in the background for mediating conditions that might go awry if left unattended.  Saudi Arabia is simply an emergency bank to remedy the local calamities emerging from the small regional infightings because the reduced number of its inhabitants cancels her to be a de facto major power.

Israel cannot play this crucial role but is constantly asked to intervene for surgical operations that the US is not willing to tarnish its image among the regional people and also to be the stick in its policy of taming recalcitrant parties.  It is now dawning on the Saudi Monarchy that this situation is demeaning to its image and constantly disturbing its style of government.  A few Princes in Saudi Arabia are trying to rejuvenate the concept of the “Hilal Al-Khassib” constituted of the current States of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon with Syria playing the dominant State to coordinate the formation of this unity, under the major condition that Saudi Arabia be the sole power broker for this new entity.

The concept of “Greater Syria” has been around for a hundred year as one people living in various States that were created after the superpower wars and given nominal independence.  This natural entity was not allowed to flourish and take roots because of its strategic location and potentials in manpower and natural resources, especially oil. The irony is that they were mainly the Sunni political leaders in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan who were the staunchest adversary for this kind of unity and worked hard with the British and the US to destroy it.

The Saudi Prince Talal bin Seoud and the Jordanian Monarch Abdallah bin Hussein have declared the necessity of recreating a Sunni Crescent of States to balance a Shiaa Crescent extending from Iran to southern Iraq, bypassing Syria to Southern Lebanon. Although this sectarian advocacy might damage the concept of uniting the Greater Syrian States into Federalism or a union it does not mean that once the process in well established that Saudi Arabia is going to remain the godfather and be successful in passing its programs.

With Iraq tattered and on the verge of collapsing into Federalism at best, and with Turkey still attached to the vision of being part of Europe, it appears that Iran would again get the green light from the USA to be the imperialist watch dog in the Middle East.  This choice would secure two goals in one shot; Iran can stabilize the situations in both Iraq and Afghanistan and even aid in the partition of Iraq which is the ultimate purpose of the invasion of Iraq.

Lions and lionesses along the Fertile Crescent ancient Empires, (August 16, 2008)

 Major civilizations built empires and cities along major rivers such as the Nile, Euphrates, Tiger, Indus (Pakistan), Ganges (India), and the Yellow River in China.

The best approach to explaining the succession of civilizations and Empires in the Fertile Crescent that raided and conquered the Near East civilizations such as in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria (Phoenicia, Canaan, Aram) is the analogy of survival among the lions and lionesses.

Young lions that attained two years, after being chased out of the clan, prowl the region for lionesses to mate and establish clans of their own.

Old lions are attacked and displaced and the cubs are eaten and slaughtered by the new King in order to quickly attract the lioness in heat and then new progenitors are formed.  The lioness fights valiantly to preserve her cubs but ends up giving up. Since a lion lives on average to be 10 year-old, while the lioness can outlive him by 7 years and manages to diffuse many progenitors of her owns, then the survival of these mammal carnivores is mainly due to the survival of the lionesses.  The lionesses chase and bring meat to the clan and care for the cubs.

Almost all the ancient civilizations in the Middle East, the Nile River of Egypt excluded, were established along the Fertile Crescent longing the main Rivers of Litany, Al Assi, Euphrates and the Tiger (for example, the people inhabiting Lebanon, Syria, the southern part of Turkey, the Western part of Iran and Iraq). The warrior Empires were Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Pharaonic Egypt, Hittite, Greek, Seleucia, Roman, and later Byzantium, Sassanid, Arab (Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid), Seljuk, Crusaders, Mamelukes, and Ottomans.

The young male lions from emerging warrior Empires, during their conquests and expansion, reclaimed the civilized glory and achievements of the Near East people as their own proper.  The Near East people were constantly behaving like the lionesses: they first fight the good fight for their cubs, and when they inevitably fail against the young lions, then they mate with the conquerors after the invaders had tried to kill all their progenitors.

A few citizens of City-States like Sidon and Tyr, and much later Carthage, burned down their cities and then set fire on themselves to avoid servitude and surrender. While the young occupying lions were strutting and showing off in the regions, and adapting to the new civilizations, it was the constant duty of the lionesses to chase and bring the meat to the table and care for the household.

The Near East people were bringing the food to the tables of the invaders and caring for the glamour and wants of the occupation forces, whose sole job was to making war and killing on their war paths.

I read chapters from an Arabic book by Georges Masrou3a.  Masrou3a asked an archeologist about the Achmoun Temple in Sidon “Saida”, built around 550 BC.  The foreign archeolog replied that it was a Persian design from King Kourush One period. Masrou3a then asked the archeologist why he claimed that it is Persian, and the latter said because that is what the archeology archives claim to be.

Fact is, Persia had no such Temple at Kourush’s time; even if the Persian King paid for the monuments and palaces at the expense of the invaded people, that should not be a basis to claim achievements of other civilizations.

This is the same repeat story with the temples in Baalbek.  The archeologists would claim that it was the work of the Romans since 200 BC, but if this monument was of Roman style and glory, then why the Romans failed to build something close to it in Rome or in Italy?

We have the same contentions for the impressive horse track and humongous amphitheater in Tyr (500 by 200 meters) that was built before 500 BC according to Herodotus. If this amphitheater was the work and style of the Romans, then why did the Roman wait another three centuries to build their Coliseum?

The same goes to the Jerusalem Temple even though the architects, builders and foramen and craftsmen and master workers were from Tyre during King Hiram or “Ahiram”.

Euclid, Zeno, Plotin, Tales, Homer, Pythagoras and scores of great thinkers were born and lived in our coastal City-States stretching from Palestine to Turkey such as Akka, Tyr, Sidon (called the eldest son of Canaan in the Bible), Beirut, Byblos, Ugarit, Antakya, and so on and yet they were labeled as Greeks.

Is it simply because we were under Greek dominion that our famous thinkers should be Greeks, simply because they learned the Greek language, even if they didn’t enjoy the privileges of Greek Athens citizens?  Scores of our famous people were labeled Romans simply because we were under Roman hegemony.

For example, the eminent legal masters during the third century Papinian and Olympian lived in Beyrouth (Beryt); Olympian is indeed the martyr of jurists because he adamantly refused to offer a legal opinion in favor of Emperor Caracalla for killing of his brother Jetta.  If this is the case, then why Jesus is to be simply a Jew and not Roman?  St. Paul was actually a Roman citizen inherited from his father and great father and yet, Paul is said to be simply a Jew.

There is undoubtedly a systematic disinformation concerning the cultural heritage of the Near Eastern civilizations.

The Europeans, even before the Renaissance period, purposely have chosen to start their civilization from Ancient Greek in 600 BC because they claimed to be democratic nations and had to emulate the democratic system in Greek City-State Athens.  Democracy was developed in the City-States of Byblos, Sidon, Tyr, Ugarit and Mary several centuries before Athens existed.  These City-States had democracy within their city limits as Athens and Rome emulated later on. Why within city-State limits?  Because communication and transport were limited and the administration of such a complex democratic system was not feasible at a larger magnitude at the time; thus democracy was not translated to the colonies as Greek Athens also failed to do.

Theaters and plays, via their verbal communications, were the main medium for spreading democracy and the clashing of ideas of various opposition groups; plays created a citizen consciousness that is different from immediate civic consciousness of oratorical speeches.  The Near Eastern civilizations were ahead of Athens several centuries in theater plays; Athens got the attention because a few of its written literatures were preserved and translated.  For example, Aeschylus wrote over 90 works but only seven of his tragedies remained to prove the dynamics of Athens’ democratic system.

Although these City-States developed commercial empires, they never built theocratic warrior Empires because their citizens focused on civilized endeavors and opted in armed struggles to just defending their central Cities. Athens managed to defend its civilization outside its City limits and even asked the cooperation of other Greek City-States like Sparta and the famous Thebes that the Phoenicians had built centuries before Athens existed, and which Alexander erased completely before launching his Asian campaign.

 We can confirm that the Near East region was the bedrock of all civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea in religion, philosophy, sciences, literature and arts. Regardless of genetic sources, which are an amalgamation of many nations and which is not that important for the purpose of this article, anyone from current States in the Near East should take pride in their ancient civilizations and their original identity as the forefathers of contemporary modern democratic civilizations in Europe and the Greater Mediterranean Sea regions.

 Note 1:  Many USA and Western diplomats have described Lebanon during its civil war (1975-1991) as a special quarantine area, sustained by the super powers to retaining the quarantine, in order to prevent the spread of the Middle East social and political diseases of feudalism, sectarianism, tribalism, caste systems, and extremist ideologies in the Arabic and Islamic States to the surrounding and eventually the Western nations.

These diplomats failed to add the disease of apartheid which is the trademark of the State of Israel. This quarantine lasted for more than 17 years and in the meanwhile the USA administrations in the 80’s and 90’s created, financed and trained a potent disease in Afghanistan.

Note 2: Every stated rescue mission to Lebanon was not meant for the stability and security of the Lebanese people, but for the purpose of larger strategic geopolitical interests in the Middle East with the land of Lebanon as a staging base.  It is the Lebanese who encouraged the other nations to look at them, not as a Nation, but anonymous people living on a piece of land that the UN admitted among the “independent” States.

This is so because all the successive Lebanese governments never behaved as administering a Nation, but as fief hoods for sectarian leaders who rule over modern serfs.  Even after an unimaginably lengthy and terrible civil war, which lasted 17 years, every single monster of war-lord was pardoned by a decree from the Parliament and the ferocious sectarian leaders were inducted into the successive governments and Parliaments.

Note 3: Arnold Toynbee said that for certain people, history necessarily repeat itself because they are lazy students. Most probably, it seems that history repeats itself because philosophical concepts or paradigms on life, death, the nature of Gods, free will, predestination keep repeating themselves.

The Lebanese certainly are not very hot on archiving their history and even less on reading and revisiting their past: we have the tendency to say that what is past is past and we don’t care but for the present, and how to live a good life. This saying is true for the public consumption because, on the individual level, family feuds never vanish or are forgotten, or forgiven:  Grandchildren still hate the grandchildren of another family simply because they overheard that their grand-grand parents were in feud.

Lebanon and Palestine have suffered the same calamities of past history again and again. These two States might never had chance for lasting peace and stability. Syria could have fallen in the same trap because it was seriously targeted by the super powers if this dictatorship in Syria didn’t manage to re-read its history and learn from past adversities at the expense of democracy. Syria never managed to bed with theocratic systems, except Damascus.

In ancient history, the City-States in  “inland Syria” barely put a fight to a powerful invader, as if it learned to normally change skins and share in the dominion of the new Empire that displaced the former, as if Syria believed it was actually the new invader.

Note 4:  At the current rate of modernization and deforestation, most of the aborigines tribes would disappear within a few decades. Many civilizations have vanished but a few have managed to survive precariously so far.  Currently we still have the ethnic Saamis (Norway and Finland), Inuits (Siberia, Alaska, and Canada), Ainous (Japan), Indians (USA and Canada), Zapotec (Mexico), Mosquitos (Nicaragua), Quiches (Guatemala), Cunas (Panama), Yanomamis and Guaranis (Brazil), Galibis and Akawaios (Guyana), Paez ans Guambianos (Colombia), Waoranis (Equator), Amueshas (Peru), Chimanes (Bolivia), Araucans (Chili), Touaregs and Bororos (Sahel in Northern Africa), Tigres (Ethiopia and Somalia), Dinkas (Sudan), Masais (Kenya and Tanzania), Pygmees (Zaire), Sans or Bushmen (Namibia and Botswana), Kalingas (Philippines), Kachins and Rohingas (Myanmar or Birmani), Hmongs (Laos), Santals and Gonds (India), Punans (Malaysia), Uzbeks and Tadjiks (Afghanistan), Aborigines (Australia), Maoris (New Zealand), Papous (New Guinea).


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

August 2020
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