A concise description of the problems in the Middle East

Written By: - Date published: 5:18 pm, February 7th, 2015 - 40 comments
Categories: International, war - Tags: , , , ,

From a letter to the editor of a newspaper in the United Kingdom.

“Are you confused by what is going on in the Middle East? Let me explain.

We support the Iraqi government in the fight against Islamic State. We don’t like IS but IS is supported by Saudi Arabia, whom we do like.

We don’t like Iran, but Iran supports the Iraqi government against IS. So, some of our friends support our enemies and some of our enemies support our friends, and some of our enemies are fighting against our other enemies, whom we want to lose, but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.

If the people we want to defeat are defeated, they might be replaced by people we like even less. And all this was started by us invading a country to drive out terrorists who weren’t actually there until we went in to drive them out.

Do you understand now?”

Aubrey Bailey, Fleet, Hants.

40 comments on “A concise description of the problems in the Middle East”

  1. Stuart Munro 1

    Even this is pretty simplistic. Saudi (where I am at present) initially allowed some support of ISIS because it was aware of the deficiencies of the Assad regime, and because it is itself somewhat theocratic. My understanding is that it no longer supports it.

    Saudi is complicated and should be considered on its merits. They are modernising and opening up significantly at present, but trying to protect important cultural values at the same time. I’ve read a lot of NZ progressive condemnation of the late king, but let me tell you he did more for his country in any given week than Key has done for NZ in his entire lifetime.

    • Clemgeopin 1.1

      May be, but why didn’t the King do more real enlightened civilised stuff like stopping killings by stone throwing, stopping child marriage, discontinuing punishment for ‘adultery’, flogging a journalist 1,000 times for expressing his opinion, allowing people of other religions to freely practice their religions, allowing women to drive or move about freely etc? Will these things be ever stopped by that hereditary regime? [If you are making positive comments about Saudi because you now live there and have to be careful, I will understand if you do not reply]

      • tracey 1.1.1

        it takes time apparently… and Saudi Arabia has had decades but we must not rush them… unlike Iran, Iraq, Afganistan…

      • music4menz 1.1.2

        The things you cite such as killing by stone throwing, child marriage, flogging, not allowing people to practise their own religion freely and so on are characteristics of all Muslim countries surely, not just Saudi Arabia. It isn’t possible to use the phrase ‘enlightened civilised stuff’ in the same sentence as any Islamic country, is it?

        • Weepus beard 1.1.2.1

          Little bit racist there mate, but your insistence that all Muslims countries are the same raises the question: why are some Muslim regimes favoured by the west and some not?

          If they are all the same that is, which is what you said.

          • capn insano 1.1.2.1.1

            I hope you’re not linking criticism of muslims to being racist because islam isn’t a race, it’s a religion [one causing serious problems in this day and age] and it is not above criticism.

            • David H 1.1.2.1.1.1

              It’s not the religion thats causing problems, it’s the fanatics that have hijacked and distorted the religion to suit their own purposes.

              • John D

                These are not people who have “distorted the religion”. They’re people who are merely following it very closely, more closely in fact than most other muslims, the so called moderates. That’s why they’re referred to as “fundamentalists”. In fact, it is the moderates that distort Islam, presumably so as to make it possible to practice it around other humans without being called psycopaths.

                Is it wilful ignorance, or straight out dishonesty when someone tries to connect criticism of Islam with racism? I mean, what race is Islam? For that matter what race is Catholic? They’re religions, right? They’re “choices” made by people (or more frequently, they’re choices made for young children, by adults) and can be disguarded by the hapless devotee at any point (notwithstanding the well supported death sentence imposed on anyone leaving Islam of course) which is a completely different catergory to racial matters, which are fundamental to ones nature and cannot be chosen, like being Jewish by birth for instance. There are as many different races represented in Islam as there are races. If you are thinking of a race when you’re thinking about muslims, then you are in fact racial profiling, and that is a form of racism in itself. Ooops.

                • crashcart

                  You are correct it is not racisim. It is bigotry which is no better. Painting any group of people with a broad stroak will not work. Especially when his initial reason for his bigotry is not correct. Not all Muslim countries carry out the practices he listed. Indonesia for instance is a predomanantly Muslim country that is very progressive. By no means is it perfect but where is.

                  It is OK to point out the faults in groups such as Islam however what music did could rightly be considered Bigotry.

        • Murray Rawshark 1.1.2.2

          There were secular states starting up in the Middle East after WW2. The poms and the seppos, along with the Zionists, overthrew them. A civilised and enlightened Middle East was not in their plans. Saudi Arabia is the worst of them, but of course has never had its government overthrown.

      • Stuart Munro 1.1.3

        It’s complicated – but considerable progress was made. Slavery was current in Saudi until comparatively recently, and the abuse of migrant workers has been dramatically curtailed, it’s not so many years ago that the Philippines was demanding changes – that relationship is now much improved.

        Executions are likely to continue because they are specified in the Koran. Women are unlikely to drive in the near future – this may be considered a safety issue locally, (I don’t get to debate it) with road accidents the leading local cause of death. I’m not so happy with the lashes for activists – but although the sentences do amount to thousands of lashes the recent trend is that the numbers applied are relatively small – this indicates a trend toward leniency.

        I’m not trying to be a full-flown apologist for the regime, but they have been making sincere efforts to moderate and modernise, with some good results. The flipside is that, if one of the Saudi kings were to rapidly and unilaterally institute the raft of changes that most progressive westerners would suggest, there would be popular outrage and civil unrest.

        That late king is missed, many of the people liked him and presently mourn him. His successor has just given civil servants a bonus of two months salary, and is likely to follow the example of his predecessor. There is a massive industrial and educational development program underway here, of the kind David Cunliffe might have made given more substantial budget freedom.

        There are some things Saudi is unlikely to change in the short term, nevertheless the regime deserves better than knee-jerk condemnation. The kings are altogether more respectable people than the corrupt, lying, thieving tory scum presently oppressing New Zealand for example.

        • Clemgeopin 1.1.3.1

          Thank you very much for your fascinating reply. I can understand the pragmatic practical problem the administration may have due to the long entrenched religious fundamental mind set of majority of the population.

          Two more questions (which you may or may not answer).
          Do foreigners/non muslims get pork and alcohol?
          Are there any Christian/jewish/Hindu/Buddhist places of worship at all?

          Cheers, Take care.

          • Stuart Munro 1.1.3.1.1

            Pork and alcohol are not available legally in the kingdom – and there is no demand for pork. (Turkey bacon and chicken sausages abound but oddly, I’ve seen no mutton hams) I understand that alcohol is readily available informally, though it’s not an issue for me. Both are available in Bahrain, a 40 minute drive away however.

            Their are certainly Christian chapels in some foreigner compounds, and it may be that some provision is made quietly for some other faiths.

            The whole monarchical system is rather interesting and brings Montesquieu’s and de Tocqueville’s arguments to light in interesting ways. One contention is that a good king consistently outperforms a poor democracy, and the mess Key is making certainly provides support for this. In pols, one of the claims for superiority of democracy lies in its superior handling of transitions. For the present Saudi has escaped the curse of Monarchies, succession conflicts, while in NZ the democratic transition process has been subverted by a corrupt MSM/Gnat cabal. From this perspective the Saudi kings look pretty good – and Key & his echo chamber are more like the creepily flattereded monarch here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXZJF0-d_M8

        • Wayne 1.1.3.2

          Yes, there is no doubt about it. Saudi Arabia is a vastly more liberal and freedom loving country than the hellhole that New Zealand becomes whenever the people are so foolish as to vote in a National government.

          • Morrissey 1.1.3.2.1

            While you’re here, Dr Mapp, would you tell us why the National-led government, like the Labour-led government before it, rhetorically attacks Palestinians for defending themselves, but says nothing about Saudi Arabia’s funding of fanatical terrorists all over the Middle East, and increasingly in Europe and the United States?

          • Stuart Munro 1.1.3.2.2

            Never fear Wayne, in the fullness of time National will get the full treatment that corrupt and unrepresentative governments so thoroughly deserve.

            • Wayne 1.1.3.2.2.1

              Presumably you mean elections; not exactly a surprise for the Nats to know that each election is a contest which you can either win or lose.

              Though I suspect you are also hoping for a series of dramatic show trials of various ex cabinet ministers. Would KDC be the star prosecution witness?

              • Clemgeopin

                What do you think of Key’s handling of the Sabin affair so far? Would be nice to hear your insightful/honest opinion about this.

              • Stuart Munro

                The banality of Gnat MPs hardly deserves show trials. Trials are of less interest than the sentences. The theft of state assets to the tune of billions of dollars merits lengthy prison sentences and the confiscation of those assets.

                The Saudi kings have incrementally improved the lives of their subjects, the Key government, like most kleptocracies, has made life immeasurably worse. Right up there with Marcos and Mugabe Wayne, it must make you proud.

    • Huginn 1.2

      The Saudi state does not support ISIS, but the participation of young Saudis in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts is neither surprising nor an historical accident . . .

      The creation of modern Saudi Arabia is unique in the Arab world as it was a jihadi project from the very beginning. Unlike in other Arab states where the youth are introduced to a mythologized nationalist narrative about history, Saudi youth are indoctrinated into the unique jihadi narrative of the state as one that came into being as a result of the efforts of a pious leader who energised his people, saved them from blasphemy and eradicated un-Islamic beliefs and practices.

      From
      The Shared History of Saudi Arabia and ISIS
      November 28, 2014 | Madawi Al-Rasheed

      http://www.hurstpublishers.com/the-shared-history-of-saudi-arabia-and-isis/

  2. Barbara McKenzie 3

    Brilliant synopsis Aubrey. Only quibble is that you left out Syria. Let me tell you about Syria.

    Syria was a secular country which was at the same time independent of the West. They were more supportive of the Palestinians than any other ME country, giving them almost full rights, including the right to government jobs. The only thing they didn’t give them was citizenship, because that would have weakened their claims in Palestine.

    10% of Syria is Christian. When I was last in Damascus Tony Stephen in the Souq Al Hamidiya asked me, ‘When did you arrive? You should have come a few days earlier, because you would have caught the end of Ramadan. We are Christian, but we all love Ramadan’.

    Someone is bound to point out that Syria was hardly a democracy (unlike Saudi …). However I have always had the strong impression that Syrian’s were very proud of their country, and in general of Al Assad.

    I read a recent ‘Letter from Kurdistan’ (Iraq). What intrigued me was an attempt to justify ISIS attacks on Syria by the claim that jihadists are frustrated by the West’s ‘support for Syria’ (!) I wonder where she / they got that idea?

    The first demonstrations in Syria, during the Arab Spring, were attended by less than a dozen people. Then it escalated, and since then the CIA have been quite open about their support for the uprising. Reminds me a bit of when Monty Woodhouse went to Tehran in 1953 with a suitcase full of sovereigns, in order to rent a mob to overthrow Mossadeq, the only democratically elected leader of Iran.

    • nadis 3.1

      Of course there is also the truth about Syria instead of the kumbayah nonsense invented by Barbara. Syria has always been one of the most repressive police states in the world under both the current Assad and his Father.

      See this from prior to the Arab Spring and the current “issues” in Syria:

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/13/syria-torture-evidence

      • Morrissey 3.1.1

        For the last three years, Syria has suffered a bloody Al Qaeda (ISIS) insurrection funded and armed by Saudi Arabia, the U.S., the U.K., France, Turkey and several other states.

        Any claim that they have been funding these grotesque terrorists—one of them cut a slice out of a dead Syrian soldier’s heart and ate it on camera—for humanitarian reasons is sheer nonsense. If they were serious, the U.S. and U.K. would have invaded and removed the regimes in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Mexico.

        But they’re not serious of course. If they were, their judiciaries would be trying the likes of Blair, Brown, Howard, Bush, and Obama for aggression and mass murder.

        • Huginn 3.1.1.1

          Assad leant vital support to ISIS from the start by letting them out of his jails and allowing them to set themselves up in Raqqa to build the war chest that financed their expansion.

          He did that to put pressure on the FSA and to build the story that he protects us from the jihadis.

        • Barbara McKenzie 3.1.1.2

          Quite a good description of the situation, I think.

          As an aside, it’s always interesting that those who get the most upset about torture and lack of democracy in non-western aligned states are the very people who are full of excuses when they are apparent in western and western-aligned administrations, whether it be the US, UK, or Saudi.

  3. Vaughan 6

    Firstly, I find any talk of our being more enlightened than other groups or nations deeply problematic. Language like that betrays a sacralization of history – the whole idea that we are moving from darkness to light (dark ages vs enLIGHTenment). I mean, who or what are we meant to be enlightened by? A passive-aggressive deist God? The spirit of history? An assortment of 18th century philosophers? Geography is destiny: perhaps the thing that makes us more enlightened than others is our abundant rainfall. Movin right along…

    The House of Saud got to where it is today by uniting a bunch of disparate tribes into a single nation. In the process of consolidating the tribes, it relied heavily on the Wahabbis, who are a religious movement not unlike western liberals inasmuch as they are proselytizing, consider themselves naturally superior to outsiders, use warfare to extend their aims and take a highly selective approach to the history and traditions from which their movement grew (in their case Islam, in the case of the liberals, Christianity). The alliance with the Wahabbis is a blessing and a curse to the House of Saud – as excellent fighters, they go a long way to ensuring the integrity of Saudi Arabia as a nation – you’d think twice before attempting to revolt against them. As extremists, they seriously compromise national security.

    So there is this interesting situation in which the House of Saud is helped internally by the Wahabbi movement and externally by the US, with which it has a strong, deep relationship. This is highly contradictory, but history’s like that. New Zealand does not have a great deal of diplomatic bandwidth, and it’s tempting to over-rely on the US in our approach to the middle east. That would be a probably inevitable mistake. New Zealand is held in high esteem by Saudis, and I very much hope that our government is engaging first hand with them and other nations in the region as it tries to figure out how to position our nation in relation to Daesh.

  4. saveNZ 7

    Sounds like you summed it up perfectly.

  5. Huginn 8

    Glib, shitty and unattractive.

    You could do much better with this 3 minute animated history of the Middle East by Nina Paley.

    It also happens to be very beautiful.

    http://blog.ninapaley.com/2012/10/01/this-land-is-mine/

  6. Chooky 9

    …what caused ISIS?…and doesnt Saudi Arabia support or fund ISIS?
    …and who is friends with Saudi Arabia?
    …and what nations flew their flags at half mast when Saudi Arabian King whats- his- name died recently? …( wasnt John Key Nact supportive of half mast flying flags in NZ?)
    …and what is the effect of ISIS atrocities ?…will it draw unwilling countries into war in the Middle East? ( is it being stage managed?)
    …and whose ends would this serve? ( the enemies of Iran and Assad in Syria?…where does Israel stand in all this?)
    …even Prince Charles does not want to be associated with arms dealing to the Middle East

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/iraq-crisis-how-saudi-arabia-helped-isis-take-over-the-north-of-the-country-9602312.html

    Robert Fisk of ‘The Independent’ asks who is funding ISIS?

    …we need to be getting answers to this question before we send young New Zealanders off to fight this war and risk the sacrifice of their lives

    ‘War with Isis: If Saudis aren’t fuelling the militant inferno, who is?’

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/war-with-isis-if-the-saudis-arent-fuelling-the-militant-inferno-who-is-10024324.html

    http://rt.com/news/192880-biden-isis-us-allies/

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119447/saudi-arabias-role-fighting-isis-and-aiding-syrian-rebels

    http://rt.com/uk/228887-saudi-king-death-flag/

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11392186

    http://rt.com/uk/228867-middle-east-arms-charles/

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/28/iran-saudi-arabia-middle-east-stability-peace

    Kathryn Ryan interview with expert from Beirut on ISIS causes and solutions

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon

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