KARACHI: Ambassador Karamatullah Khan Ghori delivered a lecture on ‘Endgame in the Middle East’ at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on January 22, 2019.
Some of the key points of this lecture is as follow:
- The Syrian crisis is not going to finish in the near future and when it does it end; it will not be the fondness of the West.
- It was in 1908 when oil was discovered in the Middle East for the first time at a place called Masjid-i-Suleiman in Iran. Five years later, it was discovered in Iraq, a year later in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia was the last country where oil was explored. The discovery of oil preceded the First World War. It also coincided with the Western infatuation with Israel.
- The groundwork for a Jewish homeland had started in the last decade of the 19th century when the Zionist International was founded in Switzerland. The two developments almost happened simultaneously. For the last one hundred years, this has been the prime goal and two-edged weapon of the West against the Arab world: one, oil continues to be supplied to Western economies; two, Israel is not threatened.
- The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed its first oil restriction against the West, and its architect was Saudi Arabia’s, King Faisal. Those restrictions gave birth to what is now known as the Kissinger doctrine. Henry Kissinger was the secretary of state in 1973. He said, “We cannot allow this blackmail of our economies to go unchallenged. If it is allowed to go unchallenged, it will choke our economies. Therefore, we should be prepared to land our troops on the oil-producing fields of Arabia.”
- Colonialism relied upon creating local surrogates, and in the global context, regional surrogates. The US, after WWII, created regional surrogates in the Arab world and the Persian side of the Gulf. The Shah of Iran was their main policeman in that part of the globe. The other side was Saudi Arabia with which the US entered into a compact in the closing days of WWII.
- A meeting took place between President Roosevelt and the king of Saudi Arabia where they entered into a compact saying that Saudi Arabia would ensure that oil supply lines won’t be threatened and the US would ensure that Aal-i-Saud would continue to rule over the Arabian Peninsula. So the embargo placed by Opec in 1973 had threatened the entire plan of the West.
- Kissinger, in order to carry on with the plan, hit upon a formula, the doctrine that those who were against American interests must be “picked up”. The first target was the most powerful country, Egypt. Anwar Sadat was persuaded to enter into a peace deal with Israel. That left two other countries which could pose a threat to Israel –– Iraq and Syria.
- It was to the fortune of the West that both Iraq and Syria were ruled by dictators, though both were sworn enemies of each other. Then something happened that Kissinger had never visualised: the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was persuaded to invade Iran. But he got entangled in Iran for eight long years. In the meantime, the Americans continued to choose their friends in the Arab world. Egypt had been neutralised. The Sheikhs of the Gulf were always friendly. Iraq got involved in a war, and then its occupation of Kuwait, which led the Americans to come to the rescue of Kuwait. As a result, in 1990 American troops landed in Saudi Arabia. Saddam Hussain was defeated in the first Gulf War.
- All of it left only one country in the Arab world which could cause problems to Israel, and that was Syria. The Syrian crisis started in the footsteps of the Arab Spring. It triggered a series of crises and provided opportunities to those who had a bone to pick with Syria for one reason or another. There are a few factions involved. One, the Syrian people who opposed the autocratic regime of Bashar al Assad. The second faction was created by those Arab sheikhs who didn’t like Syria’s alliance with Iran.
- The sheikhs saw in the Syrian crisis the chance to see the back of the ruling Assad family. They supplied arms to religious brigades to rise against the regime. Then the nonreligious secular faction of Sunnis known as the Defence Forces of Syrian People against Assad also got together. And the fourth and last faction was that of ISIS. These four started fighting among themselves. Later, the Russians and Iranians got the upper hand in the fighting. Today, except for a small area close to the Turkish border, much of the country has been wrested back by the Assad regime from the rebels.
- The US wanted the Syrian Kurds to rise against Assad, but activation of the Kurds invited Turkish backlash. When Americans started supporting the Kurds, it went against the Turks. The Turks told their Nato allies that their effort to topple Assad would go against Turkey’s interest.
- Mr Ghori concluded that currently, we are at a stage where no one can predict which way the wind will blow in Syria. It looks like the outcome will not be to the liking of the US. Israel wants to see Assad in power because he never posed a threat to Israel. In this situation, Americans are also happy and it seems that the Syrian crisis is not going to solve in the near future.