The Islamic Summit in Lahore was an effort by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to give a new identity and geo strategic importance to the Muslim World. He convinced Muslim oil producing countries to use oil exports as a policy tool. The Egyptian invasion of Israel in 1973 was a continuation. Egypt regained lost territories. The oil embargo hit the international currency markets hard. Arab countries got richer by billions and spent the surplus on luxury and arms acquisitions.The Western policy of divide and weaken created security dependencies and a surge in arms exports. Dollars went back from where they came.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution provided an impetus to widen fault lines within the Arab world. The US and the western countries played on the Shia-Sunni divide and the vulnerabilities of non-democratic kingships and despotic regimes. CIA also got control of Takfiris to employ against the USSR. The scenario was often played in CENTCOM War Games warranting US intervention. Lawrence of Arabia lived a thousand lives in these scripts.
All four leaders of the Islamic renaissance met unusually tragic ends. The last of the revolutionaries, Colonel Qaddafi of Libya died in a sewage hole. Today, there is no Bhutto, King Faisal, Shah Iran, Anwar Sadat or Qaddafi to challenge. Whatever remains of the Muslim world comprises political touts and carpetbaggers. The map of the Middle East has changed forever.
Post 1973 events are a chronology of stark inferences that cannot be missed even by the deaf and blind. Afro-Arab states like Egypt, Jordon and Syria shrunk while Israel expanded. Egypt and Jordon acquiesced while Syria and Iraq defied. Any defiance shown by President Morsi was quickly stamped away. PLO has become inconsequential while Hamas, an offshoot of Brotherhood faces the combined wrath of Israel, Egypt, Jordon, Saudi Arabia and the West. A plan seems to be in place where Israel, in return for security of Jordon, Saudi Arabia and perhaps Lebanon sans Hezbollah would be allowed more space to create strategic depth for its security. Libya, Iraq, and Syria are at civil war waged by ethnic war lords, religious proxies and gangsters with the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordon, Israel, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE supporting them. The mess that is created seems anarchic but there is always order to confusion.
Let us not forget that the US sponsored the Iraqi invasion of Iran, the first Gulf War in which Iraq was hoodwinked by the US ambassador to occupy Kuwait and 9/11. Post 9/11, the US attacked Iraq instead of Afghanistan. Despite peace, surrender and coup overtures by Iraqi generals, the US insisted on the invasion. Imbedded journalists shaped an illusion. The real objective was not Saddam Hussain but the Iraqi Army. Once done, a process of unearthing and bringing to life the hibernating sidewinder began. Jordon became the assembly and training area. Efforts were made to co-opt Pakistan to replicate the Afghan mock Jihad. Suspicious dollars were poured in.
The strategic advantages these conflicts bring to Israel remain subservient to the interests of the West. This interest is security and control of oil supply lines that sustains the western juggernaut. The control of the rich oil fields of Iraq and Mosul Dam to ISIL without a fight, is too facile to be termed a spectacular victory. The word Islamic Caliphate of ISIS and Levant has been accepted far too quickly by the western press. How could the West allow these three events to happen without a whimper if its core interests were threatened? It will be a defining moment when Iran directly intervenes to protect Shia populations and holy sites or Turkey to secure its Kurd annexations. The initiative lies elsewhere.
Oil wars are serious stuff and the embargo of 1973 taught the West lessons they will adhere to. The run up policy to recent events suggests far more western complicity and Arab timidity than appeals to the eye. Dirty rich Arab Kingdoms and Sheikhdoms have sacrificed the entire Middle East for their short term petty interests. They raised, funded and trained blood thirsty hordes hidden in the sands for centuries; with a false notion that their version of religion would ultimately prevail over other Muslim sects and Arab religions like Christians, Bah’ha’, Druz, Yazidi, Mandean, Gnostics, Yarsanist, Shabakistand Zoroastrians. ISIS Levant comprising Takfiri is a temporarily phenomenon. Right from the times of Hazrat Ali, they have been used selectively to create fault lines within the Muslim World. Like always, they will hibernate into the desert once Israel has expanded its security zone. With terrorism becoming a floating threat, these serpents could become difficult to handle. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Gulf States will have to pay a price.
Events in Ukraine and Crimea are at the other end of the triangle that links to Middle East oil politics. According to Michael Hirsh, “the United States and Russia have both crossed a Rubicon in the Ukraine crisis, and Washington must now confront the likelihood that if the standoff continues, it will dramatically alter relations on a much larger map than Eastern Europe, inviting Russian recalcitrance in crisis zones as far afield as East Asia, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan.” A new Cold War has possibly begun and Russia in Alliance with China will move quickly to hedge its interests in Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, India and perhaps even Pakistan. This completes the Devil’s Triangle. The game will become bloodier and dangerous once Iran and Turkey are sucked into the situation. If that happens, Pakistan will have to re-evaluate its options.
In the 80s, Pakistan drifted from the notion of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) to become dependent on the Middle East. Perhaps the Pak-Iran proxy war in Iran had something to do with it. Perhaps it was also the lure of petro dollars; or yet still, RCD was seen as a relic of the Baghdad Pact and CENTO. In the final analysis, this rim shall contain the engulfing flames from reaching Europe, Central and South Asia. Either way, this crescent is of strategic importance. Events could force Pakistan, Iran and Turkey to join hands and challenge these developments if not for the security of hapless Muslims in the Middle East, but for their own security. Russia and China could be crucial.
Pakistan’s first priority should be the cessation of all military support to Middle Eastern States followed by an independent foreign policy. Much cannot be expected from a Saudi pliant government. Pakistan could go down the spiral of a funnel unless there is a structural shift in policy. The time is now before it is too late.
n Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.