Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Sick Middle East

Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times

The recent fall of Fallujah, Iraq, to an Al-Qaeda-linked group provides an unwelcome reminder of the American resources and lives devoted in 2004 to 2007 to control the city – all that effort expended and nothing to show for it. Similarly, outlays of hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize Afghanistan did not prevent the release of 72 prisoners who have attacked Americans.
Al-Qaeda takes over in Fallujah, Iraq.
These two examples point to a larger conclusion: maladies run so deep in the Middle East (minus remarkable Israel) that outside powers cannot remedy them. Here's a fast summary: Water is running out. A dam going up on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia threatens substantially to cut Egypt's main water supply by devastating amounts for years. Syria and Iraq suffer from water crises because the Euphrates and Tigris rivers are drying up. Growing the narcotic qat plant absorbs so much of Yemen's limited water supplies that Sana'a may be the first modern capital city to be abandoned because of drought. Ill considered wheat-growing schemes in Saudi Arabia depleted aquifers.
On the flip side, the poorly constructed Mosul Dam in Iraq could collapse, drowning half a million immediately and leave many more stranded without electricity or food. Sewage runs rampant in Gaza. Many countries suffer from electricity black-outs, and especially in the oppressive summer heat that routinely reaches 120 degrees.

An artist's rendition of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam now under construction.
People are also running out. After experiencing a huge and disruptive youth bulge, the region's birth rate is collapsing. Iran, for example, has undergone the steepest decline in birth rates of any country ever recorded, going from 6.6 births per woman in 1977 to 1.6 births in 2012. This has created what one analyst calls an "apocalyptic panic" that fuels Tehran's aggression. Poor schools, repressive governments, and archaic social mores assure abysmal rates of economic growth. Starvation haunts Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan.
Vast reserves of oil and gas have distorted nearly every aspect of life. Miniature medieval-like monarchies like Qatar become surreal world powers playing at war in Libya and Syria, indifferent to the lives they break, as a vast underclass of oppressed foreign workers toils away and a princess deploys the largest budget for art purchases in human history. The privileged can indulge their cruel impulses, protected by connections and money. Sex tourism to poor countries like India flourishes.
Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (b. 1983), sister of the emir of Qatar and chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority, reportedly has about US$1 billion a year to spend on art.
Efforts at democracy and political participation either wither, as in Egypt, or elevate fanatics who cleverly disguise their purposes, as in Turkey. Efforts to overthrow greedy tyrants lead to yet-worse ideological tyrants (as in Iran in 1979) or to anarchy (as in Libya and Yemen). One commonly roots for both sides to lose. Rule of law remains a fata morgana. Islamism, currently the most dynamic and threatening political ideology, is summed up by a morbid Hamas declaration to Israelis: "We love death more than you love life." Polygyny, burqas, genital mutilation, and honor killing make Middle Eastern women the world's most oppressed.
Middle Eastern life suffers from acute biases – often official – based on religion, sect, ethnicity, tribe, skin color, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, citizenship, work, and disability. Slavery remains a scourge.
Conspiracy theories, political zealotry, resentment, repression, anarchy, and aggression rule the region's politics. Modern notions of the individual remain weak in societies where primordial bonds of family, tribe, and clan remain dominant.
Alaa Hussein Ali (r) ruled the Republic of Kuwait for 6 days in August 1990 before the country was annexed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein (l).
The Middle East suffers from an urge to snuff out whole countries. Israel is the best known potential victim but Kuwait actually disappeared for a half year while Lebanon, Jordan, and Bahrain could be swallowed up at any time. Middle Eastern states spend outsized amounts of their wealth on intelligences services and the military, creating redundant forces to check each other. They venture abroad to buy tank, ship, and plane baubles. They devote inordinate resources to chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, and the platforms to deliver them. Even terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda plot to acquire WMD. Cutting-edge methods of terrorism develop in the Middle East.
Economic and political failure creates large bodies of refugees; Afghans have made up the world's largest refugee population since the 1980s; Syrians now threaten to overtake them, sowing poverty and chaos in their lands of refuge. Desperate souls attempt to leave the region altogether for Western countries, with more than a few dying along the way. Those who make it bring their region's maladies to such tidy countries as Sweden and Australia.
Nineteenth-century diplomats dubbed the Ottoman Empire "the Sick Man of Europe." Now, I nominate the whole Middle East the Sick Man of the World. The region's hatreds, extremism, violence, and despotism require many decades to remedy.
While this process perhaps takes place, the outside world is best advised not to expend blood and treasure to redeem the Middle East – a hopeless task – but on protecting itself from the region's manifold threats, from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and harems to mega-terrorism and electromagnetic pulse.
Mr. Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Guest Comment:
Few days ago, Israel's channel 2 main news, in a newly released video revealed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein told his generals to launch missiles with WMD warheads at Israel should he be toppled or cut off from his military staff.
‘Saddam gave orders to fire chemical weapons at Tel Aviv if he was toppled in First Gulf War’; Tapes reveal Iraqi dictator told generals to launch missiles with WMD warheads at Jewish state should he be cut off from his military staff:
So President George Bush, Saddam had WMD after all!
Another released tape shows Saddam promising to gleeful Arafat, "Iraq will not hesitate to use WMD against Israel."
Both videotapes were collected from one of Saddam's palaces during the Iraq war and have just been released. It is a pity that our governments do not release such bombshell evidence once they have been found.
We need to remember how the media assaulted president GW Bush for going to war on Iraq without a good reason! Now we know he had a very justified reason: Saddam, who by the way had already used chemical weapons against the Iraqi Kurds, had WMD, which he was prepared to use against Israel, for unknown to us reason, we just did not find them.
What we see now is that the USA failed its mission to make Iraq a democracy. Now Iraq is fast falling into the hands of Al Qaeda and it is in a worse state of affairs than when Saddam was in power. Blood bath in the menu of the day all over the Middle East, except for ….. one little sane country called Israel. And the sad part in all of that is that the USA, under Obama, continues in its foreign policy destructive path putting pressure on Israel to capitulate to the murderous Arabs...
From Benghazi, in Libya, to Iraq and as far away as Afghanistan, the Obama foreign policy is causing havoc, destabilizing the entire world and putting the West in an increasing peril.

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