Quantum Note

West is in the Middle of the East

By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal

Plain facts can be read with tinted glasses but they can also be read in plain language. When read in their simple, statistically verifiable, plain context, one can only reach one conclusion: all the oil found in the Middle East has become a curse for it; greater the quantity and better the quality, greater the curse. Libya has the “sweet light”, the best oil to refine and hence it has been cursed with a near-mad dictator for decades during which the Western powers did billions of dollars of business with him. He and his family stacked additional billions in the West’s banks; he bought weapons and luxury goods worth billions. Then, he grew too big and had to be cut down to size. A plan was hatched and he was framed for terrorism charges. Pushed to the wall, the near-mad dictator capitulated in October 2008 and paid $1.5 billion to the “families of terrorism victims,” which led to the signing of an Executive order by President Bush, restoring Libyan immunity from terrorism-related lawsuits and dismissing pending cases over compensation as part of a deal reached during that summer.

This did not quench the West’s greed, however, because Libya was doubly cursed with its presence in the form of Americans, Europeans and UK: there were just too many shares in the pie and none of them found their pieces big enough. Thus when the Arab spring arrived in Libya, the near-mad man was caught once more. But this time, he was utterly unprepared because of his intoxication by the apparent hold on power as well as by the false assurances bought with the freshly paid ransom to the Western powers. He did not think much of the Arab spring until the so-called uprising went out of hand and the “rebels “captured” Benghazi.

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This was, however, nothing he could not deal with; he was ready and capable of dealing a crushing blow to the rebels, but then came the combined attack by the French, US and British air power, under a mandate extracted out of West’s mistress, called the United Nations. The air strikes began on March 19, 2011 and within a couple of days, Gaddafi’s forces had to retreat from the rebel strongholds. Yet, against all odds, the old man’s hold on power proved too strong for the combined forces of the Western greed. The result is a stalemate which has brought scores of undercover agents into Libya in search of quick profits.

Benghazi is now the hub of quick deals in arms, oil, security, and diplomacy. The rebels are selling the sweet light at cut-throat prices in order to benefit from the windfall. Private French security companies are reaping their share of the bonanza while the going is good and amidst all the chaos and confusion of a war zone, Libyans continue to die and suffer huge losses to their homes and properties. The country’s infra-structure, communication network, and large civil works, which took decades to build, have been systematically destroyed so that future contracts for rebuilding can be signed in good time.

None of this is new. The same game has been played in other parts of the Middle East. In fact, this has been going on for two centuries now. The great game of the nineteenth century was hardly over when the West found other ways of remaining in the Middle of the East. It established its presence through a series of strategic moves between the two world wars. Thus by the time most countries which now comprise the Muslim world gained their independence, their future had already been sealed.

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The new Middle East was crafted by the Western powers in the closing months of the Second World War. In February 1945, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at Yalta in the Crimea to divide the booty after the war. The summit ended on February 11, 1945. Instead of returning to the United States, Roosevelt sailed to the Great Bitter Lake, a waypoint along the Suez Canal in Egypt. There he met Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman al-Saud, who was brought from Jeddah aboard an American warship.

One must pay the Americans their due: the President of the United States of America found time and courage to make a trip at such a dangerous time to meet three relatively minor men from the Middle East: Abdulaziz, King Farouk of Egypt and the Ethiopian king. The meeting was hurriedly arranged. Just two weeks before he left for the summit at the Great Bitter Lake, he had sent a memo to the Saudi king, saying he would like to talk about oil. That was the trap, however, because when they actually met, they hardly talked about oil. Churchill knew why FDR was keen to meet King Abdulaziz and he was beside himself; he decided to meet Abdulaziz and King Farouk as well. So FDR sailed in and Churchill came in behind.

Oil was relatively a minor issue for Abdulaziz; he was more concerned about the future of Palestine. Yet, the details of this meeting, now available by the pen of the man who arranged it, make it clear that the Middle Eastern leadership was in no way intelligent or wise enough to handle a global challenge. One is struck by the simplicity of King Abdulaziz; his almost child-like honesty, but there is no sign of any statesmanship. In their meeting on USS Quincy in February 1945, Abdulaziz lumbered toward FDR, who was sitting in his wheelchair and one of the first things King Abdulaziz said to him was: “You are lucky to have something like that to move around?” Roosevelt had an extra wheelchair which he gave to Abdulaziz. That became the king’s most prized possessions. A wheelchair sealed the future of US-Saudi relations for generations!

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