Middle East: Divided And Ruled By Moneeb Ahmad Barlas

Throughout history, imperial powers mastered the art of ‘Divide and Rule’. The logic was simple, and helped them sustain their imperial ambitions. The British successfully augmented their power in the sub-continent by keeping the Hindus and Muslims divided and hostile to each other. The Ottomans derived maximum advantage from a divided European continent and Arabian Peninsula. Vicious warriors like Amir Timur Barlas also strengthened themselves by pitting off their rivals against each other. Today, the imperial power of our time — the United States — is cleverly playing the same game in the Middle East.
The Middle East is a multicontinental region stretching from the Persian Gulf in the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The area is spread over a vast expanse of over than 7 million square kilometres. The land abounds in oil and gas — the two principal drivers of the modern economy. The region is also home to the three major chokepoints of the world — the Suez Canal in Egypt, Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb near Djibouti.
America’s interest in keeping the Middle East shattered in conflict is reflected in its actions. Washington has never shown any serious interest in the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. On the contrary, Donald Trump is further antagonizing the Palestinians by shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem. The US not only remains Israel’s strongest ally, but also keeps the Middle East in perpetual strife in the guise of Arab-Israel enmity.
The US has also facilitated Riyad’s entry into the Middle Eastern equation on the side of Tel Aviv to add further complications. Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Israel is likely to hurt the sentiments of Arab nationalists, thereby leading to further friction in the region. Moreover, Saudi-Iran relations are growing more hostile due to the situation in Yemen, Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, President Trump has upped the ante by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal — something that was demanded by Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Add to this Qatar’s strained relations with the GCC and one gets a complete pig’s breakfast. In fact, it is this pig’s breakfast that sustains US hegemony in the region and drives its economy.
The US is the biggest arms exporter in the world and around half of these exports are destined for the Middle East. Not surprisingly, the Saudis are the second largest importers of arms in the world
A divided Middle East is of great consequence to the US. Firstly, America’s war economy feeds off the political volatility and turbulence in the region. In March, The US’ Defence Security Cooperation Agency announced the sale of air defence systems to Qatar — a deal which is worth $197 million. It also confirmed $270 million weapons sale to the UAE. Last year, in a deal worth $12 billion America agreed to sell F-15 fighter aircrafts to Qatar — a country that Trump had called “a founder of terrorism at a high level”. Trump and Saudi Arabia have also signed a $110 billion arms deal.
All these developments have occurred since a rupture in Qatar-GCC relations, and increased hostility between Iran and KSA. The GCC, particularly KSA, will continue to purchase arms and ammunition from the United States as long as Iran remains a potent threat. So even though KSA is an ally, the US would need an Iran strong enough to stand up to the Arab world. Experts often cite this as one of the reasons for America not invading Iran.
The US is the largest arms exporter of the world and around half of these exports are destined for the Middle East. Not surprisingly, the Saudis are the second largest importers of arms in the world. Evidently, the Middle East is the perfect place for the US to run its war economy.
The United States invaded Iraq in search of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ but instead discovered proven oil reserves of 148,766 million barrels and natural gas reserves amounting to 3,819.9 billion cubic meters. Syria also possesses immeasurable petroleum wealth. No wonder Trump tweeted back in 2012, ‘We should have gotten more of the oil in Syria, and we should have gotten more of the oil in Iraq. Dumb leaders’. In 2014 he also stated, “I still can’t believe we left Iraq without the oil.”A fragile and fragmented Middle East ensures that its vast energy wealth remains firmly in the hands of America. US military bases are stationed at the three major energy corridors of the world — the Suez Canal, and the Straits of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb. Thereby, the US carefully and jealously guards the global oil trade.
It can be argued beyond a doubt that the greatest threat to American supremacy in the Middle East comes from the region’s unity. Policymakers in Washington have not ceased to remember the worldwide crisis triggered by the Arab Oil Embargo. The memory of the Suez Canal blockade by Egypt is also fresh in their minds. The US will make every effort to ensure the Middle East remains in its current form. A united, strong and peaceful Middle East can deal two serious blows to the US economy by ending its monopoly on oil and shutting down its arms industries. Therefore, America’s interests dictate a disunited, chaotic and conflict-prone Middle East. After all, what use would the world’s so-called ‘policeman’ have if there were no crimes, no conflict and no war?
The writer is an independent researcher with keen interest in public policy and international politics. He can be reached at moneeb.barlas@gmail.com
Published in Daily Times, May 24th 2018.
Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/243741/middle-east-divided-and-ruled/

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