Atlas Monitor | 8 May 2016
Are The Ottoman Empire’s Borders Relevant Today?
This is the question posed by Stratfor founder George Friedman in one of his recent Geopolitical Futures email newsletters.
Comparing the Ottomans’ organisation of the Empire, into various administrative regions in acknowledgement of deep cultural and religious differences that existed, with the British and French imperialists’ plan (under the secret Sykes-Picot agreement) to carve up borders along geographical lines; Friedman notes:
You can also see how finely it parsed its empire into small provinces. The reason for this was partly a matter of efficiency. It was also the recognition, however imperfect, of the deep divisions that existed within its empire … The Ottomans understood the region and created small, manageable and reasonably harmonious provinces. The British and French fused them together. Because of the underlying divisions within these new nations they could only be held together by an outside force or a domestic dictator, and when those weakened, the old divisions emerged with a vengeance.
The lines ‘… these new nations they could only be held together by an outside force or a domestic dictator, and when those weakened, the old divisions emerged with a vengeance’ conceal as much as they reveal.
Although what Friedman suggests is almost certainly true, he offers few details about what “outside force” and how that “force” might have supported “a domestic dictator”.
The historical record is replete with “outside forces”; particularly America, backing so-called “domestic dictators”; particularly in the Middle-East. The US backed Saddam Hussein, The Shah of Iran and has given unqualified support to diabolical regimes with appalling human rights records such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
This support has not been limited to the Middle-East. The US has supported a catalogue of dictators around the world including in Argentina (Videla), Chile (Pinochet), Cuba (Batista), Indonesia (Suharto), Chiang (Republic of China-Formosa), Rhee (South Korea), Diem (South Vietnam), Ceaușescu (Romania) and Mobutu (Zaire) to name a few.
Indeed the sun could never set on the archipelago of US-backed dictatorships.
A CIA coup overthrew democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh after he attempted to nationalize Iranian oil that had been plundered by multinational oil interests for too long.
Mosaddegh’s removal ensured the restoration of the autocratic rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi. The Shah’s profound hubris would have a significant impact on the cause and trajectory of the Iranian revolution.
The 1973 coup in Chile that saw the overthrow of Salvador Allende and installation of General Augusto Pinochet in his place can be traced back to the Richard Nixon Whitehouse. Nixon infamously ordered the CIA to cause turmoil in the country by making ‘the economy scream’. Pinochet then set about economic reforms that would impose ghoulish austerity measures. Opposition groups and individuals to his “shock doctrine” reforms were rounded up, murdered or disappeared in the thousands by death squads. Pinochet’s rise to power was supported by the Washington establishment and his economic reforms were prescribed by Chicago School economists like Milton Friedman.
Presidents of both Ecuador (Jaime Roldos Aguilera) and Panama (Omar Torrijos) are suspected to have been assassinated by the CIA for their recalcitrant attitudes towards “el norte”.
The US launched a full scale assault on Guatemala after President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman “interfered” with the interests of the United Fruit Company. Even the New York Times considers that ‘one of the most reprehensible acts in US history’.
Going back to the Middle-East; perhaps the US’ pièce de résistance of its policy supporting “domestic dictators” was the CIA’s engineered 1963 coup in Iraq that overthrew the populist leader General Abdel Karim Kassem. This resulted in the takeover of the government by a reactionary faction of the Ba’ath Party led by Saddam Hussein. Saddam’s bloody road to power was staged managed at every point by the CIA. According to Patrick Cockburn:
The CIA also played a central role in preparing the death lists of those who were to be eliminated after the coup by squads from the Ba’ath party … 5,000 were killed … including many doctors, lawyers, teachers and professors who formed the educated elite of Iraq.
During his reign Saddam certainly took a hardline approach to political opponents and would not tolerate sectarian violence. His methods were often brutal but this did not seem to bother the US much at the time. Indeed Saddam launched one of the worst chemical attacks in history against Iran in 1988 – with the full support of the US. The US was quite supportive of Iraq durng its war with Iran.
On the other hand Saddam protected religious minorities such as Christians; women went to university; wore Western attire and occupied positions in government. Under Saddam jihadi extremists were kept under control; he kept the country stable. Naturally groups like Al-Qaeda and Saddam’s secular regime are natural enemies despite the Bush-Cheney regime’s cynical attempts to connect them.
Unfortunately for Saddam his faustian pact with the US would eventually resolve to its logical conclusion with his ultimate downfall. His invasion of Kuwait was a set up engineered by the US. He was given assurances by US ambassador April Glaspie that the US had no position on Iraq’s border dispute with Kuwait and would not intervene in the event of a conflict between the two countries. This was an effective green light for Saddam’s invasion.
More than a decade later Saddam would again find himself on the wrong end of US intrigue and adventure in the Middle-East. It is as clear as it ever was that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 nor Al-Qaeda and that the fabled WMD’s were the pretetext for a neocon cabal inside the Bush administration to carry out its globalist agenda. This was well documented in the PNAC report.
It is interesting that another Ba’athist has also experienced this “from hero to zero” relations with the West. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad was given red carpet treatment during a 2002 visit to Britain where he stayed with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The Tony Blair regime even considered asking the Queen to award him an honourary knighthood.
Syria cooperated with the US during the first Gulf War as well as in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The Arab Republic worked closely with the US in ending the bloody civil war in Lebanon. Syria also served as one of the many “black sites” where the CIA carried out its notorious extraordinary rendition program.
The chilling of Syria-US relations started with Syria’s objections to the war in Iraq and rapidly deteriorated over the US view that Syria was interfering in the affairs of Lebanon. Syria was ultimately accused by the US of being the worst culprit involved in state sponsored terrorism.
The fleeting nature of alliances perhaps? Something like that I suppose …
The current humanitarian crisis in Syria can be attributed to a significant extent to foreign presence; including Western interference and part of a neo-colonial; geopolitical agenda in the region . An elite ruling class that does not acquiesce to the interests of globalization and the Washington consensus can become the target of regime change; as could be argued in the case of Syria.
The timing of the conflict in Syria coincides with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Iran, Iraq and Syria to establish a gas pipeline. This would be in competition with another Western backed pipeline channelling natural gas from Qatar, through the Gulf States to Europe via Syria. The location of the hostilities also correlates with the pipeline.
Russia is the principal reason the Assad government has not fallen. Russia has played the role of an ‘outside force’ preventing the US and its regional allies from realizng its ultimate goal of regime change in Syria.
Both Syria and Iraq have experencied a shift in relations from partner to pariah with the US and its allies. The case of Iraq fits with a detailed analysis of Friedman’s ‘outside force or a domestic dictator’ thesis. The US has been the outside force manipulating the situation in Iraq and Saddam was the domestic dictator. However, theirs was a mutually constitutive relationship until US contrived pretexts to usurped him.
The question of whether or not the Ottoman Empire’s borders are relevant today is an intriguing one worthy of analysis. What is interesting to note is that in 2006 a proposal and plan to redraw the borders in the Middle East was put forward by Ralph Peters, a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel, author, and Fox News commentator.
Below is a map charting his proposal. Compare before and after.
It carves out a Kurdish nation out of northeastern Syria, northern Iraq and eastern Turkey. Iraq would be partitioned into a Sunni state in the northwest and an Arab Shia state in the southeast. Saudi Arabia would lose considerable territory and Iran would see territory transferred from northwest to northeast as well as see loss in he southeast. The state of Free Baluchistan would be carved out of southern Afghanistan, western Pakistan and southeastern Iran. Israel would return to its pre-1967 borders.
The new borders seem to be based around the various concentrations of distinct ethnic and religious groups. It resembles a Balkanisation of the Middle-East creating these new nations where they previously did not exist. It is Sykes-Picot version 2.0 …
History repeats …
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