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Opinion: Profuse Apologies to Sykes and Picot | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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FILE – This Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a general view of Maaloula village, northeast of the capital Damascus, Syria. Syrian government troops seized two villages, one of them an ancient Christian hamlet, north of Damascus on Monday, April 14, 2014 as part of the […]

Conflicting field reports emerged earlier this week about the Syrian town of Maaloula falling into the hands of the regime’s army, Hezbollah and other allies of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, as well as leaks about the imminent withdrawal of rebels from the besieged city of Homs.

Amid these rumors, a friend informed me about something that is happening in the Middle Eastern Studies department of a major British university. According to my friend, this department—once supported by an Arab Gulf country—has become one of the eminent academic centers under the aegis of Iran, serving Tehran’s interests and sponsoring its approach and perspective. In fact, I had been aware for some time of an academic in that department who practically considers toppling the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) rulers his major— if not only—role in life, with a number of books and articles about this issue to his name.

This respectable international university whose Middle Eastern Studies Department, once bankrolled by a GCC country, was working against the stability of that region and provoking upheavals and disturbances across it.

This, however, is not an isolated case, and it is high time that we as Arabs realize the dangers of what is going on, lest we face the same fate as that of Muhammad XII of Granada during the Arabs’ last days in Spain. A couple of days ago, I received an interesting e-mail about the issue of Kurdish secession from Iraq I am sad to say it did not surprise me at all. The e-mail was sent by a self-proclaimed “research institution working to highlight developmental issues that concern the international community, in general, and the Arab world in particular, conducting research for some institutions, centers and governments and taking part in global seminars with the aim of achieving global development.”

The center predicts “Kurdistan’s secession from Iraq and the declaration of the independent Kurdish state” in the near future, explicitly stating that “the financial pressures imposed by Baghdad in failing to approve the [region’s] budget and oil exports will prompt the region’s authorities to declare an independent Kurdish state.” The report indicates that oil exported from the region represents the first sign of the establishment of the Kurdish state, particularly in the light of a number of signs from Ankara that it does not oppose this. The report also cites a number of incidents as overt signs of Turkey’s approval of the declaration of a putative Kurdish state in northern Iraq, including increased commercial exchange, statements that Kurdistan represents a “strategic ally,” the presence of approximately 1,600 Turkish companies in the region, and preparations for Kurdish oil to be exported to Turkey and other international countries. The report also indicates that Iran does not oppose the development either, as it is well aware that this Kurdish state would reduce Iraq’s OPEC share, which would serve its interests given that Tehran plans to make a strong return to the global oil market after international sanctions are lifted.

The same report said that Syria is no position to have a say on the Kurdish issue—having seen its ethnic Kurdish nationals becoming part of the bloody conflict that has been taking place in the country over the past three years. For their part, neither the US nor the EU oppose Kurdish independence and the declaration of Kurdish state, given the presence of their oil companies in the Kurdistan region—not to mention the contracts signed with the region’s government and their desire to overcome obstacles created by disputes between Baghdad and Erbil, blocking oil exports from reaching international markets.

If Kurdistan separates, Iraq as we know it today would disappear.

Syria does not appear to be in better shape, especially if we consider the pace at which the fighting is raging in the country, the suspicious silence of the international community about the massacres being committed there, and the way in which the Syrian regime and its backers are acting as if everything is normal. The military movements on the ground over the past months and the international community’s deafening silence betray the fact that the partition of Syria is underway. As part of this partition scheme, Lebanon, with its Shi’ite military, security and political hegemony, would become part of the Shi’ite-dominated western part of Syria. Northern Syria would be left under Turkish and Kurdish influence, while the east of the country would turn into a theatre of genocide planned against the militant Sunni jihadist groups, and particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This group is, actually, operating as if its main objective is to facilitate the partitioning of the Levant and placing the entire region under Iran’s mandate—or shall we say occupation?

The end of the Syria we know will inevitably be followed by the end of Lebanon, a country that has seen the best of its citizens flee, its wealth squandered and its economy destroyed since the 1975–1990 civil war. When the war ended, it witnessed the establishment of the “rule of the resistance”—Hezbollah—on the ruins of the few remaining hallmarks of a proper institutional state.

As for Palestine and Jordan, the fragmented state of affairs imposed on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip did not happen by chance, regardless of which slogans one believes or what sides are plotting against the unity of the Palestinians as a prelude to their extermination, both as a people and a nation. In the case of Jordan, I heard this week that the number of Jordanians emigrating to the West is truly alarming—and half of them are Christians. This does not bode well for the future of a country that will, in the next few years, lose the very best of its intellectuals, experts and investors.

Turning to the Gulf and Yemen, it is no secret that one need not revisit the biography of pre-Islamic Himyarite king and liberator Sayf Ibn Dhi-Yazan to recall Iran’s expansionist plot in the southern Arabian Peninsula. Naturally enough, some of the military and political officials of Iran do not allow us to forget this, using references to the “Persian” Gulf and claims that Bahrain is part of Iran.

Having previously been immune to internal divisions—translated today into the de jure partition of Sudan, existential disputes in Egypt, and regional, religious and ethnic strife and tensions in Libya and Algeria—even the GCC, the only Arab organization based on common interests rather than emotions, has seen its harmony disrupted. What the GCC has experienced, as well as what is now taking place across the Arab world, is another sign that some Arabs do not read history, and even those who do fail to adequately comprehend it. Perhaps this is exactly what US President Barack Obama hinted at in his historic interview with Bloomberg View, in which he said that he is gambling on the Iranians because their thinking is “strategic” and because they were not “suicidal.”

President Obama may be right about the Iranians.

As for the Arabs, it does appear that we are truly suicidal.