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More on the Current Turmoil in the Middle-East:

January 19, 2016

A few months ago, I wrote a series of posts here in which I pointed out that the current turmoil in the Middle-East is, in many ways, a replication of events 1400 years ago when, following the drying up of the grasslands, some Arab pastoralists adopted an ideology (Islam) encouraging them to invade lands of the more productive societies nearby, take over their wealth and overthrow the ideologies and governments that controlled those lands.

According to Scientific American’s article regarding the Defense Department’s 2014 review of the effect of climate change on the area:

“Drying and drought in Syria from 2006 to 2011–the worst on record there–destroyed agriculture, causing many farm families to migrate to cities. The influx added to social stresses already created by refugees pouring in from the war in Iraq, explains Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who co-authored the study. The drought also pushed up food prices, aggravating poverty. “We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” Seager said. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”

Arable land in the area has been drastically reduced over the past 20 years and expected to continue to decrease. Population, on the other hand, has exploded and estimated to double over the next two decades.

It appears more and more apparent that the immediate goals of the modern Arab insurgents (ISIS, Al Qaeda and so on) is, as it was in the Seventh Century, to capture the wealth of the richer societies that control the littoral areas of the Near-East (Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE, Israel, Yemen and the like) and replace the ideologies of those countries with their own.

It is no Arab Spring but it well may be the beginning of an Arab Winter.

Yemen, a country much in the news recently, is a key in the insurgents strategy. It has the second largest population on the Arabian Peninsula, dominates the southern entrance to the Red Sea and if controlled by the insurgents, forces the oil sheikdoms to face threats on two fronts.

The insurgents in Yemen have toppled the government and appear to be on their way to subduing the entire country. The Saudis responded with air strikes but shied away from commitment of troops. Without troops on the ground, they may impede but not halt the insurgency. Unfortunately, heavily militarized societies that spend a lot on military hardware have only too often proven incapable of successfully engaging in armed combat with a highly motivated adversary. American or other Western nations’ involvement with “boots on the ground” may defeat the insurgents but not the insurgency. I suspect some of the oil sheikdoms now are considering payment of “protection” in the form economic support for ISIS activities in Syria/Iraq in return for temporary relief from attack. This is the same strategy used 1400 years ago. It did not work then and it will not work now. Eventual adoption of the ideology, however, did preserve their wealth and power.

Of the three major non-Arab or non-Sunni regimes on the periphery, Turkey, Iran and Israel, none of them sees ISIS yet as a significant threat to its physical integrity. All of them see political and economic gains in the prolongation of the conflict and all three would be pleased if the oil sheikdoms find themselves preoccupied and under stress.

(It should be pointed out, the particular form of Islamic terrorism and ideology practiced by ISIS and others appears to be lacking [or at least, weak] in most non-Arab Muslim countries.)

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