The Mess in Middle East- Who is Responsible?

Written by: Pathikrit Payne
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Middle East
Even as India continues to be in a celebratory mood over the installation of a new government with a decisive mandate and with the hope of more prompt decision making and better governance, situation in several parts of Asia continue to be much less than rosy. Be it the standoff in the South China Sea region or the crisis in Ukraine or be it the devastating situation in the Af-Pak region, each event does have massive ramification for India in a globalised integrated environment where events are no more isolated but have chain reactions.

The Rise of ISIS ... dangerous and portentous

Yet what should be the most worrisome factor for India is the worsening situation in Middle East. The recent incident of the Iraqi town of Mosul falling in the hands of an Al Qaida offshoot named Islamic State of Iraq and Levant or ISIS as it is commonly called, is a dangerous trend of how Sunni Salafist/ Wahhabi terror groups are gradually gaining ground in Middle East. The surprising thing about ISIS is that even by Al Qaida standard, they consider ISIS an ultra extremist group which takes immense pleasure in video recording amputation and crucification videos and then uploading it on social media sites.

Reports state that the retreating Iraqi soldiers in the fallen town of Mosul were so scared of the ISIS terrorists that they took off their uniforms lest they had to go through worst kind of torture. Interestingly it is the same ISIS which is among many other radical Islamic Wahhabi or Salafi following groups who have created the worst kind of mayhem in Syria.

The Syria War and how it further emboldened Radical Islamic Terror Groups....

In 2011 when the unrest in Syria started followed by some violent retribution by the Syrian Army, it was still an internal affair of a nation seeking more democratic rights. Yet what started as rebellion or insurgency by Free Syrian Army, a motley group of Syrians, against the Assad regime in Syria was eventually hijacked by Wahhabi/ Salafist groups and thousands of foreign elements poured in to fight the Assad regime in a war which took a violent turn towards Shia-Sunni fight. Assad being from the Alawite sect is a Shia and thus is a sworn enemy of the Sunni Saudis who started a vigorous campaign for a similar Allied invasion of Syria, to be led by US, as had happened in case of Iraq.

The American policymakers true to their style of pumping money and weapons wherever they find a ‘noble' cause of bringing democracy initially did not even rule out invasion of Syria only to realise that the ones who were waging the battle against Syrian Army were mostly Al Qaida affiliates with violent radical and extremist ideologies. It also took some strong words of warning from Russia and threats to supply Syria with deadly S-300 anti-aircraft missiles that eventually deterred US from creating another Iraq type of a situation. But Obama's financial aid and supply of weapons to Syrian rebels continued.

The Dangerous Game that Saudi Arab is Playing by Funding Radical Extremism

An enraged Saudi Arab, anger by USA's refusal to either bomb or send soldiers to Syria, went ahead on its own and has over the last two years pumped in billions of dollars to fund the foreign Jihadi elements in Syria that also saw in reciprocation, both Iran, the most powerful Shia dominated country of Middle East as well as Hezbollah, a militant organisation with considerable clout in Southern Lebanon, getting involved in the Syria quagmire.

What happened in Iraq with its second largest city Mosul and which is also home to Iraq's largest refinery namely Baiji refinery falling in the hands of radical extremist terror group ISIS is a spill over effect of their Syrian campaign emboldened further, both qualitatively, quantitatively and psychologically by the enormous amount of unabated funding coming from Saudi Arab, which has consistently used Wahhabism and petro dollar to fuel radical extremism across the length and breadth of not just Middle East or Asia but also as far as Chechnya.

With the march of ISIS continuing towards Baghdad and with the Iraqi Army considerably demoralised, there are severe ramifications of whichever way things turn towards. If ISIS succeeds in taking over Baghdad, it would have severe impact on the price of oil which in any case is expected to go sky high because of the fall of Mosul.

If Baghdad falls in the hands of ISIS...what next?

The success of ISIS would inspire several other Al Qaida affiliates as well as the core organisation of Al Qaida to go in for similar such orchestrated attacks in other major countries of Middle East and Asia as well as in various parts of the world including Africa where things are already worsening because of a series of violent terror attacks by other Al Qaida affiliates like Al Shabaab in Kenya, Al-Mua'qi'oon Biddam Brigade in Algeria or Boko Haram in Kenya.

There is also a very strong possibility of Pakistan based terror groups using this opportunity to showcase their prowess by orchestrating devastating terror attacks in Afghanistan or India.

What if USA Retaliates?

On the other hand, if the Obama Administration resorts to aerial bombing, which it has already hinted at doing, would be the beginning of another prolonged war in Iraq which invariably would polarise all the radical Sunni Extremist groups but the bigger question is whether US has the appetite to get into another full blown war especially when it is more than happy to exit from Afghanistan, after Iraq, even before convincingly winning either of the wars.

Who is Responsible for this Mess in Middle East?

Fact of the matter is that both Saudis and Americans have created a mess of a situation in Middle East and elsewhere. The Americans have always been more than happy to keep the Saudis in good humour and have always turned a blind eye towards the blatant use of petro dollar for funding the preaching of radical Wahhabi extremism that is considered at the core of Sunni extremism and jihad the way it is interpreted by Islamic terror groups. It is no more a secret as to how much the Saudis, much like the Israelis, have always wanted US to do on Iran what has been done to Iraq. At the core of this is a complicated Shia-Sunni rivalry or battle of dominance of Middle East.

The Saudis have always looked at the rise of Iran with scepticism as much as it always felt threatened by the rise of Saddam Hussein. Surprisingly it was the same Saddam Hussein who was bankrolled by both the Saudis and the Americans during the 10 year long Iran -Iraq war in the 1980's during which Saddam was considered as the flag bearer and savior of Sunni Islam in Middle East.

It was the same Saddam who became a sore point for the Saudis when he became too strong and invaded Kuwait. Saudis were scared that they might be the next in the loop. Thus came the Americans to save Saudis and the ‘WORLD' from the same brutal Saddam which it had financed for long.

Gaddafi and Saddam Tackled Islamic Extremism Better....and Yet They Had To Go

The West created a disaster by destroying Gaddafi and Libya is now in a mess and almost in the hands of Radical extremist groups. Gaddafi kept on telling the ‘know all' West that those so called rebels in Libya were actually Al Qaida supporters. The West did not pay heed and aided the rebels to have Gaddafi killed. Within a month the US Ambassador to Libya was killed by those who fought against Gaddafi..

The same is the case with Iraq from where Saddam Hussein would have perhaps stopped the Al Qaida and its affiliates much better than what a completely demoralised Iraqi Army is doing. And the situation is no better in Syria where the nation has now been literally invaded by thousands of Sunni radical Jihadist groups financed by Saudis.

The Hypocrisy around the ‘War on Terror'

The Americans know well what is happening in Middle East and where the money for radical extremism is coming from. And yet their stony silence and complete aversion to raising the fingers towards the Saudis and other Arab states is nothing but selfish and self serving. It goes without saying that some of the biggest customers of the American defence and aerospace industry continue to be the Sunni Arab states of Middle East and therefore, core business interest prevents US from taking a strong stand against them perhaps.

As things stand today, the American War on Terror can at best be called a failure or at worse a hoax given the worsening situation in both Middle East and Af-Pak region and what the Americans are leaving behind in Asia through their half-finished wars is portentous.

The surprising thing is that the biggest opponent of Sunni extremism in Middle East is Iran, the country which US loves to hate whereas the biggest source of financing of militant extremism inspired by Wahhabism is Saudi Arab, the country which is one of the biggest allies of US in the Islamic world as well as Middle East. That is the irony of ‘War on Terror'.

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