Sunday, April 22, 2012

Insatiable instability

Insatiable instability

Yoram Ettinger

To comprehend the real Middle East – including the root causes of regional turbulence, the key obstacle to peace and Western peace advocates' oversimplification of reality – one should examine the Iraq-Syria labyrinth, an arena of chronic instability and volatility.

In April 2012, the Iraqi regime – led by Shiites – is supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the battle against Syria’s Sunni majority and the Muslim Brotherhood. They are perceived as a worse threat – than Assad - to the current regime in Baghdad.

However, from 2003 until the current bloodshed in Syria erupted a year ago, Iraq was haunted by pro-Saddam Sunni terrorists, who were armed and trained by Assad, terrorizing Iraq and undermining the stability of the current Iraqi regime.

Moreover, from 1966 - when a rift divided the Damascus and the Baghdad wings of their ruling Ba'ath party - until the demise of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Syria supported all ideological, ethnic, tribal and religious elements that opposed the Iraqi dictator. In fact, from 1979 until 2003, Damascus and Tehran provided asylum to Iraq’s current prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who was then in the opposition to Saddam Hussein.

The rivalry between Syria and Iraq has raged – on and off - since the eighth century, when the Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphate lost the military battle for intra-Muslim leadership to the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate.

Welcome to the real Middle East, the role model for violent volatility, where the most predictable factor is unpredictability.

The unpredictability that is inherent to the region has resulted in a multitude of intra-Muslim accords that were signed, but routinely abrogated. The most recent example of intra-Muslim cease-fire agreements that have been summarily and mercilessly violated can be seen in Syria.

The higher the unpredictability, the lower the prospect of compliance with such agreements. The lower the compliance, the greater the need for security, especially in the unstable, fragmented, violent and unpredictable Middle East.

The failure of Muslim regimes in the region to adhere to intra-Muslim agreements attests to the provisional and fragile nature of agreements signed with “infidel” entities, such as the Jewish state. The critical issue is when and how – not whether – such agreements will be called off. For example, in 1994, Jordan’s chairman of the joint chiefs of staff told his Israeli colleague that “agreements signed with the Palestinians in the morning are violated by the end of the day.”

However, U.S. President Barack Obama, Western European nations and the U.N. – just like the Israeli supporters of the Oslo Accords and supporters of a "New Middle East" - are obsessed with the formalities of concluding Israeli-Arab agreements. However, they fail to appreciate the deeply rooted fragility of all agreements reached in the Middle East. They pressure the Jewish state to make irreversible “painful tangible concessions” in return for reversible intangible Arab declarations. They lean on Israel to retreat to the defenseless nine to 15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean from before 1967. They prod Israel to transfer – to unpredictable and violent neighbors – the cradle of its history, which also happens to be a strategic mountain ridge dominating the Mediterranean sliver that is indispensable protection for Israel’s survival in the most conflict-ridden region in the world.

Currently, the real Middle East is being further traumatized by the tectonic implosion that has rattled the Arab street, the meltdown of traditional regimes, and the surge of radical Islamic elements – all of which have happened irrespective of the Palestinian issue or the Arab-Israeli conflict, which only had a secondary impact on the region.

Islamists have clinched the leadership of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and are challenging every Arab regime.

Emad el-Din Adeeb, a columnist of the London-based Arab daily, A-Sharq al-Awsat, wrote on Feb. 4, 2012: “I sorrowfully say, God bless the days of Saddam Hussein, compared to today’s Iraq! ... Iraq has been dismantled, and is now practically divided into three minor states: the Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions ... The number of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iraq amounts to 200,000 armed troops. This is in addition to the fact that some government correspondence in Baghdad is now written in both Persian and Kurdish ... The state has shifted into a major power center for extremist Islamic currents that threaten national and regional security, most prominently al-Qaida … The Iraqi authorities want to relocate the late President Saddam Hussein's corpse from his grave - because of the numerous visits and crowds gathering nearby – to an unknown or remote place … Judging by what happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, no one believes change in Syria will be democratic in the long term. It will bring to power a sectarian Islamic fundamentalist party. Instability will continue to be the order of the day.”

In contrast, President Obama, Europe and the U.N. continue to ignore the realities of the Middle East. They pressure Israel to be the only country negotiating away its cradle of history, while lowering its security threshold, as if the region were at all predictable or compliant.