By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Where is the Arab Middle East heading following the 2010-2017 disintegration of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Sudan; the toppling of several Arab regimes; the estimated toll of 400,000 fatalities and six million refugees, resulting from intra-Arab conflicts; the proliferation of Islamic Sunni terrorism; the unprecedented power-projection surge by Iran's Shiite Ayatollahs; the approaching Sunni and Shiite terrorist machetes to the throat of the House of Saud and all other pro-US Arab regimes; and the intensified squashing of human rights in every Arab country, all ruled by minority-regimes?
The raging Arab Tsunami of the last 6.5 years – referred to by the Western establishment as the Arab Spring – has further destabilized the one-bullet, provisional, Arab regimes, characterized by tenuous policies and uncertain bilateral and multilateral intra-Arab agreements.
This has added much fuel to the fire – raging since the 7th century – of the inherently unpredictable and intensely complex, non-nation-state, non-democratic Middle East, which has been systematically misperceived by the Western establishment.
Where is the Arab Tsunami heading? The chaotic intra-Arab roller-coaster may have shifted, temporarily, to a relatively-lower gear, but it is surging on brutally!
While the US has dealt a severe blow to ISIS terrorists in 2017 – without clipping the wings of Iran's Ayatollahs - it has, therefore, provided a tailwind to Iran's entrenchment in Syria, and increasingly in Lebanon. It has advanced the Ayatollahs' domination of the critical area from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, which is a prelude to their megalomaniacal vision of denying the US "modern-day-Crusader" regional and global preeminence.
This could be a repeat of the US toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, when the US elevated Iraq's Shiites to the helm, dumping Iraq's Sunnis, which reinforced the ranks of Sunni terrorism. This paved the way for the Ayatollahs' dominance in Iraq – which intensified anti-US terrorism – and created a clear and present danger for every pro-US Arab regime in the Persian Gulf and beyond.
In 2011, a US-led coalition, toppled Gaddafi's rogue regime in Libya, in spite of the fact that Gaddafi was involved in a ferocious war on Islamic terrorism in Libya and Africa. Moreover, in 2003, Gaddafi transferred his infrastructure of weapons of mass destruction to the US. The toppling of Gaddafi accelerated the disintegration of Libya, transforming the huge country (680,000sqm, three times larger than Texas) into a major safe haven and breeding ground of Islamic terrorism.
While the US military power-projection and posture of deterrence are prerequisites for the western battle against Islamic terrorism – and keeping Islamic terrorism away from the US mainland – a misguided US policy has tolerated the Ayatollahs' imperialism, subversion and terrorism, allowing them to surge on the coattails of the 2015 non-ratified(!) Iran nuclear deal, further destabilizing the Middle East.
For example, tectonic developments simmer below the seemingly stable surface in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. These developments are generated and bolstered by the 60% Palestinian majority (e.g., the 1951 murder of King Abdullah by a Palestinian, the 1970 civil war, the 1980s Hashemite-Palestinian confrontations); the unpredictable Muslim Brotherhood terrorists; the importation of additional Islamic Sunni terrorist sleeper cells; the historical divisiveness between the Hashemite migrants from the Arabian Peninsula and the indigenous Bedouins; the 1.5MN Syrian refugees; the boiling borders with Iraq and
Syria, which increasingly accommodate the anti-Hashemite Ayatollahs.
A volcanic eruption in Jordan could spillover, swiftly, into neighboring Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Arab countries, which are threatened by the Ayatollahs and home-grown terrorists. This would impact the life expectancy of the Khalifa regime in Bahrain, as well as the level of violent Muslim Brotherhood opposition to the General Sisi regime in Egypt.
Where is the Middle East heading? According to Amir Taheri, the veteran Iranian writer, researcher and expert on Islam, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East: "'modernization' is spreading…. I saw a 'modernized' Middle East with armies marching across scorched plains, soldiers and mercenaries cursing in a dozen different languages, the choir of cannons and the choreography of armored cars and tanks. I saw refugees and displace-person camps, barbed wires, watch-towers, loudspeakers spreading the latest version of truth. There were minefields and grieving mothers, naked children and victims of gas attacks and chemical weapons. The skies were dotted with warplanes dropping more bombs on Syria and Iraq than on Germany during WWII. The landscape of ruins, reminding one of Berlin, Warsaw and Leningrad in 1945…. This looked like Europe in 1918 or 1945, only magnified many times over thanks to the superior power of destruction we now have…."
Acquaintance with Middle East "modernization" is a prerequisite for a realistic national security policy, devoid of wishful-thinking and oversimplification-driven hopes.
Acquaintance with Middle East "modernization" highlights the critical role of the posture of deterrence – while avoiding appeasement and retreats in the face of temptations and pressure, which triggers more pressure and terrorism – in shaping homeland and national security policies.
Acquaintance with Middle East "modernization" underlines the unique role played by Israel - as long as it controls the high-ground, rather than withdrawing to the pre-1967 sliver along the Mediterranean - in extending the strategic hand of the US in the face of mutual threats.
Acquaintance with Middle East "modernization" clarifies the nature of the primary threats to regional stability and the survival of pro-US Arab regimes – posed by the rogue Ayatollahs and Islamic Sunni terrorism - and the limited regional role played by the Palestinian issue.