Connect with us

Latest

News

Staff Picks

The USSR and the Arabs: A chance for Arab Unity thrown away

Today’s crisis in the Middle East is the result of the failure of secular Arab leaders like Nasser and Saddam Hussein during the period of the Cold War to make use of the opportunity provided by the support of the USSR to forge Arab Unity.

Published

on

1,088 Views

The notion of a unified Arab state has been one of the defining political questions of the 20th century. It first arose during the First World War when T. E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia)’ famous assisted The Arab Revolt against their Ottoman Turk overlords on the basis that Britain would aid the Arabs to create a unified Arab state upon victory.

This promise was broken before it had the opportunity to be kept, as the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 between France and Britain split the Arab lands into incongruous new states whose borders continue to cause problems to this day.

Shortly after the October Revolution, Russia’s new Bolshevik government became the first country to expose this secret deal to the world. This would not be the first time that the Soviets would expose Western betrayals in the Middle East.

After 1945, when young Arab states begun to assert their independence, the second great attempt at Arab unity came about in the form of Egyptian President Gamal Nasser programme of Arab nationalism.

Nasser had a cohesive, modern, secular and socialist model for reforming his native Egypt and for uniting the Arab world. Curiously Nasser was also responsible for the single biggest example of US/Soviet cooperation in the history of the Cold War as both superpowers instructed Britain, France and Israel to halt their invasion of Egypt in 1956.

This was in many ways an odd moment in Cold War history. Because of his diplomatic manoeuvring Nasser was able to bring the US and USSR together in a kind of bidding war for influence over Egypt. Nasser was no doubted aided by the fact that the US’s then Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, was perhaps the most anti-British figure in any modern American government.

Yet this brief moment of US/Soviet cooperation in the Middle East did not last, and soon it became clear that the Middle East would be divided between monarchies loyal to the capitalist powers and secular Presidential republics which tended to ally themselves to the USSR.

From the 1960s until the end of the Cold War the story of Pan-Arab unity on a broadly Nasserist model is the story of Soviet loyalty to the Arabs, in spite of no Arab government ever adopting a Marxist-Leninist constitution, and in spite of Syrian chauvinism several times thwarting attempts to create Arab unity. 

It is also the story of the Arabs sabotaging themselves through petty infighting. It is a tale of a lost opportunity to create secular stability in a region now swamped by religious civil wars, mass murder, eroding women’s rights, and terrorism.    

Nasser’s move was to create the United Arab Republic uniting Egypt with Syria. After Iraq became a left-leaning republic in 1958, Iraq might well have jointed too. Yet Nasser’s vision was quashed first by Iraqi worries of submitting to Egypt and, more importantly, by the arrogance of Syrian officials who in spite of multiple concessions by Nasser believed that the union was too Cairo-centric.

During the Brezhnev years Syria remained a highly important Arab ally for the USSR.  The other key Arab allies of the USSR during this period were the socialist regime in South Yemen, which came to power there after driving out the British, and Iraq, arguably a more important ally than South Yemen because of its much greater size and its abundant resources.   

By the 1970s both Syria and Iraq had governments that followed what was nominally the same ideology: Ba’athism. Both Syria and Iraq were supported by the USSR.  However in 1966 there was a rancorous split between the Iraqi and Syrian branches of the Ba’ath party, causing the two countries to remain disunited and become increasingly hostile to each other.

In spite of this a plan took shape in 1978 to form a union between Iraq and Syria, which was agreed between the then Iraqi leader Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. However, the emergence of Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq thwarted this plan. 

Saddam Hussein was a megalomaniac to be sure, and his volatile relationship with the Iraqi Communist Party may well have been enough to frighten off Soviet support. Yet as was the case with Egypt under Nasser and with Syria under Assad the USSR was nonetheless willing to work with non-communist, secular Arab governments such as Saddam Hussein’s.

Saddam Hussein, like Nasser before him and Gaddafi simultaneously with him, sought Arab unity.  However he lacked Nasser’s diplomatic genius.  He first proposed to create a distinct Iraqi identity, something arguably necessary to overcome the sectarian divisions of his arbitrarily created state.  Saddam Hussein’s idea was that after a properly united Iraqi state had been created it would form the basis for a united Arab state. 

Nasser and Gaddafi ruled over states with fewer sectarian problems, making Saddam Hussein’s attempt to draw on ancient Mesopotamian history to unite Iraq a difficult task. Saddam Hussein – like most idealists – in the end proved a failed idealist. That said, Saddam Hussein’s idealism was based on an understanding of his people in contrast to post-Gulf War Western ideals for Iraq, which were based on a total misunderstanding of the population of Iraq.

Whilst Nasser began his political life courting both Soviet and America support, Saddam followed something of an inverse pattern. Throughout the Iran-Iraq war Saddam received steadfast Soviet support against Iran, a fact which complicated Soviet attempts at normalisation with Iran despite the USSR’s early recognition of the Islamic Republic. 

Yet Saddam also began to turn increasingly to the West, receiving support from the US, Britain and especially France. This of course led in the end to conflict and the eventual destruction of Iraq, the execution of Saddam Hussein, and a civil war out of which the ugly beast ISIS has emerged.

What are the lessons of this tragic story?

First of all, it demonstrates that the Western powers are unreliable allies for secular, independent Arab leaders. Whilst the Soviets never forced a Marxist-Leninist government on these leaders, the US and its allies have sought to impose their ideologies on them. Many Arab leaders who sought rapprochement with the West (Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali) have fallen, and chaos has emerged whether in Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Without Russian assistance Bashar Al-Assad in Syria might have fallen too, spreading chaos there as well.

The other consequence is that the quest for secularism and Arab unity is succumbing throughout the Arab world to theocracy and Islamism. This has less to do with the creation of the Islamic Republic in Iran than it has to do with the absence of a strong Soviet state to assist secular Arab leaders in the 1990s.

The fall of the USSR allowed the West freedom to weaken secular Arab leaders, allowing violent Islamism to fill this gap. Ironically Iran’s power has increased as a result. The silver lining to that is that the Iran of today is a vastly more moderate country than it was in 1979, so that it has remained one of secular Syria’s few allies in the region.

That being said, even if Syria defeats her Islamist enemies, the Middle East has become far less stable since the collapse of the USSR. It is tempting to blame exclusively NATO interventions in the region for this.  However the sad truth is that Arabs themselves must share the blame. By refusing to unite when they could have easily done so – under the assistance and with the protection of Soviet power – they let petty chauvinistic squabbling and personal egotism get in the way of their regional prosperity.

Ultimately Arab leaders forgot that one rarely gets to choose the timing of the occasion to which one must rise. In betraying their Soviet friends and the opportunities they presented, secular/socialist Arab leaders betrayed themselves, betrayed the Arabs, and – given the importance of the Middle East for world peace – betrayed the world.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

Ukraine Wants Nuclear Weapons: Will the West Bow to the Regime in Kiev?

Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are one of the few issues on which the great powers agree, intending to continue to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent new entrants into the exclusive nuclear club.

Published

on

Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Major General Petro Garashchuk, recently stated in an interview with Obozrevatel TV:

“I’ll say it once more. We have the ability to develop and produce our own nuclear weapons, currently available in the world, such as the one that was built in the former USSR and which is now in independent Ukraine, located in the city of Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) that can produce these kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China have produced a missile named Satan … At the same time, Ukraine does not have to worry about international sanctions when creating these nuclear weapons.”

The issue of nuclear weapons has always united the great powers, especially following the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons towards the end of the Cold War went hand in hand with the need to prevent the spread of such weapons of mass destruction to other countries in the best interests of humanity. During the final stages of the Cold War, the scientific community expended great effort on impressing upon the American and Soviet leadership how a limited nuclear exchange would wipe out humanity. Moscow and Washington thus began START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations to reduce the risk of a nuclear winter. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances persuaded Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT in exchange for security assurances from its signatories.

Ukraine has in recent years begun entertaining the possibility of returning to the nuclear fold, especially in light of North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un’s lesson seems to be that a nuclear deterrent remains the only way of guaranteeing complete protection against a regional hegemon. The situation in Ukraine, however, differs from that of North Korea, including in terms of alliances and power relations. Kiev’s government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat carried out by extremist nationalist elements who seek their inspiration from Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The long arm of NATO has always been deeply involved in the dark machinations that led to Poroshenko’s ascendency to the Ukrainian presidency. From a geopolitical point of view, NATO’s operation in Ukraine (instigating a civil war in the wake of a coup) follows in the footsteps of what happened in Georgia. NATO tends to organize countries with existing anti-Russia sentiments to channel their Russophobia into concrete actions that aim to undermine Moscow. The war in the Donbass is a prime example.

However, Ukraine has been unable to subdue the rebels in the Donbass region, the conflict freezing into a stalemate and the popularity of the Kiev government falling as the population’s quality of life experiences a precipitous decline. The United States and the European Union have not kept their promises, leaving Poroshenko desperate and tempted to resort to provocations like the recent Kerch strait incident or such as those that are apparently already in the works, as recently reported by the DPR authorities.

The idea of Ukraine resuming its production of nuclear weapons is currently being floated by minor figures, but it could take hold in the coming months, especially if the conflict continues in its frozen state and Kiev becomes frustrated and desperate. The neoconservative wing of the American ruling elite, absolutely committed to the destruction of the Russian Federation, could encourage Kiev along this path, in spite of the incalculable risks involved. The EU, on the other hand, would likely be terrified at the prospect, which would also place it between a rock and a hard place. Kiev, on one side, would be able to extract from the EU much needed economic assistance in exchange for not going nuclear, while on the other side the neocons would be irresponsibly egging the Ukrainians on.

Moscow, if faced with such a possibility, would not just stand there. In spite of Russia having good relations with North Korea, it did not seem too excited at the prospect of having a nuclear-armed neighbor. With Ukraine, the response would be much more severe. A nuclear-armed Ukraine would be a red line for Moscow, just as Crimea and Sevastopol were. It is worth remembering the Russian president’s words when referring to the possibility of a NATO invasion of Crimea during the 2014 coup:

“We were ready to do it [putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert]. Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. It was not us who committed to coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs. I do not think this is actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a global conflict.”

As Kiev stands on the precipice, it will be good for the neocons, the neoliberals and their European lackeys to consider the consequences of advising Kiev to jump or not. Giving the nuclear go-ahead to a Ukrainian leadership so unstable and detached from reality may just be the spark that sets off Armageddon.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Mike Pompeo lays out his vision for American exceptionalism (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 158.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda take a look at Mike Pompeo’s shocking Brussels speech, where the U.S. Secretary of State took aim at the European Union and United Nations, citing such institutions as outdated and poorly managed, in need of a new dogma that places America at its epicenter.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Speaking in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unwittingly underscored why nobody takes the United States seriously on the international stage. Via The Council on Foreign Relations


In a disingenuous speech at the German Marshall Fund, Pompeo depicted the transactional and hypernationalist Trump administration as “rallying the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order.” He did so while launching gratuitous attacks on the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—pillars of the existing postwar order the United States did so much to create. He remained silent, naturally, on the body blows that the current administration has delivered to its erstwhile allies and partners, and to the institutions that once upon a time permitted the United States to legitimate rather than squander its international leadership.

In Pompeo’s telling, Donald J. Trump is simply seeking a return to the world that former Secretary of State George Marshall helped to create. In the decades after 1945, the United States “underwrote new institutions” and “entered into treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.” So doing, the United States “won the Cold War” and—thanks to the late President George H. W. Bush, “we won the peace” that followed. “This is the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting.”

That leadership is needed because the United States “allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode” once the bipolar conflict ended. “Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” Pompeo explained. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” What is needed is a multilateralism that once again places the nation-state front and center.

Leave aside for the moment that nobody actually believes what Pompeo alleges: that multilateralism should be an end in itself; that paper commitments are credible absent implementation, verification, and enforcement; or that the yardstick of success is how many bureaucrats get hired. What sensible people do believe is that multilateral cooperation is often (though not always) the best way for nations to advance their interests in an interconnected world of complicated problems. Working with others is typically superior to unilateralism, since going it alone leaves the United States with the choice of trying to do everything itself (with uncertain results) or doing nothing. Multilateralism also provides far more bang for the buck than President Trump’s favored approach to diplomacy, bilateralism.

Much of Pompeo’s address was a selective and tendentious critique of international institutions that depicts them as invariably antithetical to national sovereignty. Sure, he conceded, the European Union has “delivered a great deal of prosperity to the continent.” But it has since gone badly off track, as the “political wake-up call” of Brexit showed. All this raised a question in his mind: “Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels?”

The answer, as one listener shouted out, is “Yes!” The secretary, like many U.S. conservative critics of European integration, is unaware that EU member states continue to hold the lion’s share of power in the bloc, which remains more intergovernmental than supranational. Pompeo seems equally unaware of how disastrously Brexit is playing out. With each passing day, the costs of this catastrophic, self-inflicted wound are clearer. In its quest for complete policy autonomy—on ostensible “sovereignty” grounds—the United Kingdom will likely have to accept, as the price for EU market access, an entire body of law and regulations that it will have no say in shaping. So much for advancing British sovereignty.

Pompeo similarly mischaracterizes the World Bank and IMF as having gone badly off track. “Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.” This is an odd, hybrid critique. It combines a shopworn, leftist criticism from the 1990s—that the international financial institutions (IFIs) punish poor countries with structural adjustment programs—with the conservative accusation that the IFIs are socialist, big-government behemoths. Both are ridiculous caricatures. They ignore how much soul-searching the IFIs have done since the 1990s, as well as how focused they are on nurturing an enabling institutional environment for the private sector in partner countries.

Pompeo also aims his blunderbuss at the United Nations. He complains that the United Nations’ “peacekeeping missions drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities, as well as a recent Government Accountability Office report documenting how cost-effective such operations are compared to U.S. troops. Similarly, Pompeo claims, “The UN’s climate-related treaties are viewed by some nations simply as a vehicle to redistribute wealth”—an accusation that is both unsubstantiated and ignores the urgent need to mobilize global climate financing to save the planet.

Bizarrely, Pompeo also turns his sights on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU), for alleged shortcomings. Has the OAS, he asks, done enough “to promote its four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and economic development?” Um, no. Could that have something to do with the lack of U.S. leadership in the Americas on democracy and human rights? Yes. Might it have helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15 of this year? Probably.

Equally puzzling is Pompeo’s single line riff on the AU. “In Africa, does the African Union advance the mutual interest of its nation-state members?” Presumably the answer is yes, or its members would be headed for the door. The AU continues to struggle in financing its budget, but it has made great strides since its founding in 2002 to better advance security, stability, and good governance on the continent.

“International bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated,” Pompeo declared. Sounds reasonable. But where is this “free world” of which the secretary speaks, and what standing does the United States today have to defend, much less reform it? In the two years since he took office, Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in defending the international order, much less “returning [the United States] to its traditional, central leadership role in the world,” as Pompeo claims. Indeed, the phrase “U.S. leadership” has rarely escaped Trump’s lips, and he has gone out of his way to alienate longstanding Western allies and partners in venues from NATO to the G7.

When he looks at the world, the president cares only about what’s in it for the United States (and, naturally, for him). That cynicism explains the president’s deafening silence on human rights violations and indeed his readiness to cozy up to strongmen and killers from Vladimir Putin to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed bin Salman to too many more to list. Given Trump’s authoritarian sympathies and instincts, Pompeo’s warnings about “Orwellian human rights violations” in China and “suppressed opposition voices” in Russia ring hollow.

“The central question that we face,” Pompeo asked in Brussels, “is the question of whether the system as currently configured, as it exists today—does it work? Does it work for all the people of the world?” The answer, of course, is not as well as it should, and not for nearly enough of them. But if the secretary is seeking to identify impediments to a better functioning multilateral system, he can look to his left in his next Cabinet meeting.

“Principled realism” is the label Pompeo has given Trump’s foreign policy. Alas, it betrays few principles and its connection to reality is tenuous. The president has abandoned any pursuit of universal values, and his single-minded obsession to “reassert our sovereignty” (as Pompeo characterizes it) is actually depriving the United States of joining with others to build the prosperous, secure, and sustainable world that Americans want.

“Bad actors have exploited our lack of leadership for their own gain,” the secretary of state declared in Belgium. “This is the poisoned fruit of American retreat.” How true. Pompeo’s next sentence—“President Trump is determined to reverse that”—was less persuasive.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

Published

on

Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending