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Opinion: Conspiracy theories that will not die | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraqi security forces members enter a compound during clashes with al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the city of Ramadi, 100 km (62 miles) west of Baghdad, February 16, 2014. Sunni militancy has been on the rise over the past year, especially in the western province of Anbar, where the army is besieging the city of Falluja, overrun by insurgents on Jan. 1. Picture taken February 16, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ – Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS CONFLICT MILITARY)

According to some people, Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein only invaded Iran during Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini’s rule because he was entangled with foreign parties and only invaded Kuwait after receiving his cue from the US envoy in Baghdad.

Some argue that Libya’s revolution against Muammar Gaddafi was a foreign act and the toppling of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak was also a conspiracy. Some think the Muslim Brotherhood made it to power because of US planning. The Brotherhood thinks Egypt’s General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi turned against them because of Western interference.

And for three years now, the Syrian regime has been saying that the West is behind the revolution against it, while the rebels insist there’s a conspiracy to besiege their revolution for the sake of keeping Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in power.

A few days ago, my colleague Eyad Abu Shakra wrote an article saying it’s time to acknowledge there are conspiracies being planned outside our region. My colleague, Eyad, is not the only one who sees a conspirator behind every crisis. For decades now, this has been the common belief among intellectuals. This belief was strengthened by books that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s such The Game of Nations by Miles Copeland.

I don’t want to completely deny conspiracy theories because secret apparatuses from each country are involved in activities that are meant to influence situations in a direction that best benefits their country. But there is a proliferation of conspiracy theories in modern history books.

There’s a lot of confusion between exploiting events to alter their path and outcome and between actually triggering the events themselves. For example, the fall of Iran’s Shah in 1979 was almost inevitably as a result of the unrest in Tehran. The West preferred to support Ayatollah Khomeini and favored him from among all competitors.

Sending Khomeini to Tehran via an Air France jet from Paris strengthened his chances against other competitors from the leftist and nationalists parties. But Khomeini was already a prominent figure, not an invention of the West.

When Saddam decided to invade Iran a year after Khomeini seized authority, the decision was his alone and it reflected his mentality and his naϊve understanding of the world around him. He thought that the fall of his enemy the Shah and the chaos in Iran represented a chance to regain what he considered to be occupied Iraqi lands.

There’s no doubt that the US exploited Saddam’s stupidity—especially considering he was a character whose stupid actions were easy to predict. The possible conspiracy in this is not that the West pushed Saddam towards crossing the border, but has to do with the re-establishment of relations with him after he got involved in the war and after arms warehouses were opened to him. In the meantime, Israel was selling arms to Iran. This exploiting of the situation was aimed at pushing rivals into a long war because Khomeini and Saddam were rivals of the west.

So it is not a conspiracy as much as an exploitation of the stupidity of two leaders who hated one another and who wanted each other’s land. The same thing happened in Kuwait. Saddam made several indications about his intention to occupy Kuwait. These indications represented his greed and ignorance of the principles of the superpowers’ higher interests.

The fact that the US envoy did not prohibit him from invading Kuwait is of no significance. Back then, the Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, said the US conspired against Saddam and claimed that was why the latter invaded Kuwait.

They also claimed that the US were conspiring to occupy Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, so Saddam had to be supported. All this turned out to be false. The same is being said about Syria’s revolution. But the reason behind this revolution is that the Assad government is truly a regime which expired following the death of Hafez Al-Assad.

The decadent sectarian security regime eroded, making a coup or revolution inevitable. It’s a natural result. The inability of the revolutionaries to see the revolution through is a result of Iran and Russia’s interference. Hurting the cause further, US President Barack Obama is not enthusiastic about engaging in another war. In the end, the regime will fall—but unfortunately the price will be very high.

We Arabs hold onto conspiracy theories whenever there’s something we cannot settle or understand. This is because conspiracy theories are a comfortable pillow on which those who want to justify their failure or incompetence can sleep. Those who use conspiracy theories the most are people who failed to carry through the empty promises they made—such as Gamal Abdel Nasser, Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad.

I am not saying there is no merit to some conspiracy theories, but most of them are an exploitation of emerging circumstances. Each party is conspiring to gain from these circumstances but we must blame no one but ourselves. There are countries which rose from the ashes throughout history such as Japan, Germany and Turkey, and no one prevented them from being successful.