Why a Destabilized Middle East is Not-So-Against Western Interests

Past and present Western policies in the Arab Middle East gave rise to Islamic Salafism and extremist Islamic organizations, such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS and others.

As the Geneva peace talks have taken a pause, Valdaiclub.com asked Elias Samo, Adjunct Professorial Lecturer at the School of International Service (SIS), American University (Washington, DC), to share his perspective of the Syria peace process and the underlying reasons of the conflict, which has turned major portions of the country into ruins and led to an unprecedented exodus of refugees.

Russia has repeatedly warned the US and Europe that destabilization in the Middle East and Northern Africa would launch uncontrollable processes. Why did the western partners ignore Moscow’s opinion?

Concerning Russia’s warning to the West about the consequences of destabilizing the Middle East, there are two responses. First, since the warning came from the Russian leadership, it was not to be taken seriously. Second, the West (Washington in particular) did not mind a destabilized Middle East. To take Syria as an example, I recall the period when the US invaded Iraq and President Bush declared: “mission accomplished”. At the time for President Bush and his cohorts, Syria was next on the line. The talk in Washington then was Syria is a ripe fruit ready to be picked, that is to destabilize , which would accomplish several US and Israeli objectives:

– elimination of Iran’s influence in Syria and the notion of the Shiite Crescent
– the removal of Palestinian resistance organizations from Syria
– weakening if not destroying Hezbollah
– securing Israel’s Northeastern border with Syria

The western intervention in Iraq, Libya and, to certain extent, Syria eventually gave rise to Islamic State. Is a military victory possible? ISIS fighters seem to be moving out of Syria to other countries. Do you think situation will be destabilized there as well?

Past and present Western policies in the Arab Middle East, including the Crusade Wars, old and modern colonialism, creation and continued support of Israel, support of corrupt authoritarian Arab regimes, military interventions and destruction of Arab states all gave rise to Islamic Salafism and extremist Islamic organizations, such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS and others.

Although the “Arab Spring” started with good and reasonable demands by the have-nots, underneath it were the Islamists, the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood waiting for the spark so they could rise, which was provided by the “Arab Spring” uprisings. It is said that ISIS is moving from Syria to Libya and elsewhere, however, there are plenty of Salafis and islamic extremists worldwide to go around. It is a hornets nest which is destabilizing the Middle East and beyond.

What is role of the Gulf States in the Syrian refugee crisis settlement? Why did most of them move to Europe instead of the neighboring countries of the region? Can the migration crisis shake the foundations of the EU?

The Gulf States’ attitude and policies of not welcoming Syrian refugees have been disgraceful. It is understandable that Syrian Christian refugees would head to the Christian West. As to why Syrian Muslim refugees also headed to the Christian West, one can think of several reasons:

– They were welcomed by the Christian West while the doors of the Muslim Gulf states were shut in their faces;

– For these refugees, there will be a future for them and for their descendants in the Christian West. With the passage of time in the West, they and their descendants will acquire citizenship and all the rights and privileges of the European natives, something totally out of the question in the Gulf States;

– In the past, Muslim invasions of Europe, such as the so-called Moors in Southern Spain – Al Andalus – and the Ottomans later on, were military invasions with an Islamic Jihadi mission. At present, this new wave of Muslim immigrants to Europe is unarmed and peaceful. Viewed from a European perspective, the end result is the same; to increase the presence of Muslims in Europe. The Europeans are cognizant of the fact that while Christian European population growth is decreasing, Muslim population growth is on a substantial rise due to higher birthrates and immigration, hence Islamophobia and potential destabilization.

Two weeks ago, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the western coalition could use ground troops in Syria. Can this threaten the region? Can it mean a US-led ground operation in Syria against Syrian president Assad?

Secretary Carter’s threats are simply bravado. The forces he speaks of could not be American – except for adviser and trainers – as President Obama has repeatedly stated that there will be no boots on the ground unless Secretary Carter’s forces land in Syria bootless. It is also unlikely that the forces could be Arab state forces, for none is interested or capable of doing so. As for the Europeans, they already have domestic, European-wide and international problems to deal with; in which Syria by comparison is a small potato.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.