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5 ways the Middle East has been radically changed since 1990

What was once unthinkable has become reality.

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The geo-political structure of the Middle East has changed almost diametrically since 1990. It is no coincidence that it was in 1990 when the Gulf War inaugurated decades of direct western Meddling in the region that had been mostly limited to indirect meddling and broad, often thwarted ambitions between 1957 and 1989.

Here are some of the key points of these changes:

1. The Historical Background

A worldly young person of today would find news bulletins about western meddling in the Middle East from the first half of the 20th century, far more familiar than those from the 1960s, 70s or 80s.

During much of the first half of the 20th century, the Middle East became a playground for western countries during the final decades of traditional late-modern Imperialism.

During the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule, a theatre of  the First World War, Britain and France secretly divided the Levant and historic Mesopotamia in the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement.

This agreement solidified what more or less corresponds to the modern borders of Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, Iraq, Jordan (first called Trans-Jordan) and Syria.

A year later, Britain authored the Balfour Declaration which set the stage for Zionist immigration to British Mandate Palestine.

In the 1920s, Britain turned its back on the Hashemites  of the Hejaz and instead started to back the House of Saud which  conquered the Hejaz in 1925. Ibn Saud eventually united his conquered lands in 1932, forming the Kingdom Saudi Arabia.

Britain and France dug in during the 1930s and the onset of the Second World War delayed any and all decolonisation measures.

By the late 1940s and 1950s, many former mandates, puppet states and colonies in all but name, began to break free of French and British rule.

Most notably, in 1952 Gamal Abdel Nasser led a revolution in Egypt against British domination and he won a resounding victory.

The following year however, Britain asked the United States to remove the democratically elected left wing nationalist Mohammad Mosaddegh from power in Iran. The CIA obliged.

This would be the last hurrah for the western Imperial powers in respect of Middle East meddling, at least in an overt sense.

In 1956, Britain, France and Israel declared war on Egypt over Nasser’s nationalisation of the Anglo-French owned Suez Canal. In a rare moment of unity, both the US and USSR forced the imperialist forces to withdraw. Thus ending decades of direct western meddling in Middle East affairs.

2. The Settled Realities Between 1957 and 1989

By the late 1980s, the most power states in the Middle East were as follows

–Iraq: Led by a powerful President Saddam Hussein, Iraq was a rich oil producing country with a formidable armed forces. Although Iraq engaged Iran in a long war with no meaningful settlement throughout the 1980s, even so, the idea that Iraq would be anything but a force to be reckoned with in the 1990s, was unthinkable.

–Egypt: Although Egypt’s harrowing foreign policies died with Nasser, Egypt remained stable and firmly in the hands of broadly Nasserist leaders. The idea that anything else would be the case in Egypt was of course, summarily unfathomable in the late 1980s.

–Libya: The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya set up by Muammar Gaddafi in 1977, was a firm break with the past. The new state was a country based on Gaddafi’s Third International Theory. Libya’s ferocious independence was not just manifested in the country’s philosophical creed but also its economic might, infrastructural achievements and prowess in foreign affairs.

–Syria: Under President Hafez al-Assad (1970-1990), Syria achieved a level of foreign policy and economic  independence that irked both Israel and the United States. In spite of this, Syria remained untouchable, even throughout the neighbouring Lebanese war. Syria’s total defeat of the Muslims Brotherhood in the early 1980s, was a further sign of Syria’s strength and independence.

–Israel: From its inception as a state in 1948 up to 2006, Israel never technically lost a war. Israel’s military might remained for many, beyond question. We’ll see in the next sections how this too changed.

In spite of three Arab-Israeli wars during this period (1967, 1970 and 1973) as well as the Lebanese Civil War(1975-1990) and Civil War in North Yemen (1962-1970), the leadership of the Arab world remained remarkably stable. Furthermore, the Arab world’s ability to resist western attempts at covert meddling, remained remarkably successful, especially in hindsight.

3. The Awkward 1990s

With the exception of the two Yemeni states which united in 1990, there where no great changes of regime in the Middle East in the 1990s.

What happened was a prelude to the regime change hysteria of the 2000s. Iraq was the testing ground.

In 1990s, the western powers along with a foolish Egypt, devious Saudi Arabia and a Syria who still hadn’t come to terms with the Ba’athist split of 1966, invaded Iraq.

In the aftermath of this, the US led the UN to forces economically crippling sanctions on the once rich Republic.

In 1998 Bill Clinton bombed Iraq in what was a war in all but name.

By the end of the 1990s, many still felt that regime change was something which belonged in a bygone era.

All of this of course happened simultaneous to a Civil War in Algeria which begun in 1991. The war ended in 2002  when government forces emerged victorious against an Islamist insurgency.

4. Imperialism Strikes Back 2003-today

The results of the western wars on Iraq (2003), Libya (2011), Egyptian political interference in 2011 and today’s interference in Syria and Yemen, have all resulted in the unthinkable happening; a total inversion of the power structure in the Middle East.

–Iraq: Since 2003 Iraq has been a broken country both physically and due to sectarian political divides which often end in bloodshed. The Ba’athist monolith has been reduced to a sectarian playground for terrorists.

–Libya: The once unshakeable Gaddafi was overthrown by a smiling Hillary Clinton duing a NATO led war and the result has been the emergence of a failed state that cannot even agree on a single legitimate government.

–Egypt: After Barack Obama threw long-time US ally Hosni Mubarak to the dogs, which paved the way for rule by the Muslim Brotherhood between 2012 and 2013, under President Sisi, Egypt is returning to normalcy.

–Iran: After being isolated from much of the Arab world during most of the 20th century, Iran has become not only a regional power to be reckoned with, but a force for peace and stability. Iran’s opposition to Salifist terrorism as demonstrated by its aid of Syria, has put Iran in a position as an important regional power-broker. Iran’s position in the Astana Peace Talks for Syria is one of the manifestations of this.

Iran also now represents a monumental counter-weight to Saudi/Wahhabi ambitions in the wider Sunni Arab world.

–Israel and Hezbollah: In spite of still having a formidable air force and nuclear weapons, in 2006, Israel suffered its first battle-field loss in its war against Hezbollah. The once invincible Israel is invincible no more.

This has had the effect of elevating Hezbollah’s prestige not just in Lebanon but throughout the Arab world and not just the Shi’a Arab world at that.

5. As Things Stand 

The US, UK, France and others have done a remarkably good job of destroying strong, united, independent Arab states that once towered over regional geo-politics. But in spite of this, a new force of anti-imperialist actors has emerged.

Iran and Hezbollah are of course the rising powers in this respect and Syria remains in a position of strength in this alliance. Syria after all is the only Middle Eastern country which has thus far been able to resist western imposed regime change. The others have all fallen, even though as recently as 1989, this would have been difficult for many to imagine.

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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