Whatever happened to progress? One hundred years ago we had Britain Sir Mark Sykes and France's Georges Picot, smack bang in the middle of World War I, drawing lines on a map of the Middle East and coming up with the Sykes-Picot Agreement: You take those bits and we'll have these, old chap.
Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end.
Well, they haven't, because now we've got Australia's Tom Switzer and America's John Bolton having another go at drawing lines on a map of the Middle East. Here's Switzer (research associate at the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre and host of Radio National's Between the Lines):
"The problem boils down to this: Iraq and Syria as we know them are gone. Iraq is not one people, but rather three peoples: Kurds, (minority) Sunnis, and (majority) Shiites. Syria is also three peoples: Kurds, (majority) Sunnis, and (minority) Alawites/Shiites, who protect the Christians and other religious minorities. None of this should surprise a student of modern history. Both Iraq and Syria are artificial states and ethnically divided societies created out of the ruins of the the Ottoman Empire a century ago. What the US-led invasion in 2003 and the so-called Arab Spring in 2011 did was unleash age-old sectarian animosities that are eroding political structures and borders that have more or less prevailed since the end of World War I. What to do? John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN and senior fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, has a good idea: create independent states for the Kurds and Sunnis after the defeat of IS. A 'Sunni-stan', he argues, could be a bulwark against the Iran-backed regimes in Damascus and Baghdad." (Redrawing the map is the best solution, Sydney Morning Herald, 5/1/16)
No, the problem really boils down to this - the Switzers and Boltons of this world.
Just a reminder: John Bolton is an American neoconservative, one of the rum crew, including Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith & Abrams, that formed PNAC (Project for a New American Century) back in the 1990s. At the time the PNAC neocons/Ziocons urged Clinton to blitz Iraq - to no avail. Unfortunately for them, they had to wait for Bush Jr, 9/11 and a few plum posts in the Bush administration before they could realise their dream - today's Iraq (and Libya and Syria).
Bolton became US Undersecretary of State and duly went off to confer with USraeli leader Ariel Sharon in February 2003. Needless to say, there was - LOL - a meeting of minds:
Sharon said "that Iran, Libya and Syria should be stripped of weapons of mass destruction after Iraq. 'These are irresponsible states which must be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, and a successful American move in Iraq as a model will make that easier to achieve'."
And Bolton replied "that he had no doubt America would attack Iraq, and that it would be necessary thereafter to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea."*
Good old John. As the late Republican Senator (and friend of Jesus) Jesse Helms said in endorsement: "John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armaggedon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world."
Actually, it's not Sir Mark Sykes that Tom Switzer and John Bolton are channeling here. It's Israel's Oded Yinon and his 1982 Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties:
"Iraq... is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel's targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria... Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us... and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines... is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi'ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north."
But hang on, wasn't Oded Switzer telling us only a matter of weeks ago that "The smartest strategy is for the West to slowly but steadily disengage militarily from the Middle East and allow the people in that region to settle their own differences"?**
Now here he is, hanging with John (Regime Change) Bolton, who wants to create Kurdistan, Sunnistan, Shiastan (and, for all we know, Yazidistan as well). (Hey, maybe they could be called Cheneystan, Rumsfeldistan, Perlestan and so on.)
What ever happened to consistency? Oh, wait, I can guarantee that Oded Switzer will never, ever, want to play around with Israel's borders - wherever they happen to be.
And just remember: Oded Switzer doesn't peddle his dubious wares in the Murdoch press, but in Fairfax and on ABC radio.
Have a nice day!
[*Sharon says US should also disarm Iran, Libya & Syria, Aluf Benn, Haaretz, 18/2/03; **The West should let the Middle East settle its own differences, Sydney Morning Herald, 16/11/15]