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Chatting with my Chinese friend: Why all these wars in the Middle East?

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

08-25-2015 15:04 BJT

By H.Karoui, Analyst, Expert on the MENA region

Some time ago in Beijing, I met some people in a restaurant whose owner is a friend of mine: Wang, a Chinese Muslim. He introduced me as a "writer coming from the Middle East". Immediately, one of the persons to whom I was introduced, asked me : "Sir, can you explain to us, why every time, we watch the news from your region, it is always about war?"

The way the question was put, surprised me. The man was not candid. I could see sincerity and real concern on his face. However, I was surprised, because that kind of questions, related to a subject that has become so banal and (alas!) accepted, that it lost even the interest of the victims, (i.e. the populations), is today completely overlooked.

The Chinese friend was right to ask. War is not (should not be) the norm, but the exception. Nonetheless, in the MENA region, nobody seems to notice it anymore. I tried to explain what my Chinese friend could not grasp.

I said, since the 19th century, the region had been plagued by colonization, which entailed liberation wars. Very few countries have not been colonized. And even the latter had to struggle against the Ottoman rule, in order to emerge as nation-states: Saudi Arabia, for example.
During that struggle, and at the end of the First World War, the Arabs who had fought alongside Great Britain and France against Germany and Turkey, in return for the promise of an independent and unified Arab kingdom, learned about the betrayal of their allies. The Soviet Russia  then unveiled the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided the region arbitrarily between France and Great Britain, creating new frontiers, and new nations, where there were none. Not only, it opened the gates widely to future conflicts, about borders, water, oil, etc…but it also created a situation in the Holy Land where it would become quasi-impossible for Jews and Arabs to live in peace together.

After World War II, the situation got worse, because of the Jewish plight at the hands of the Nazis, which  motivated the Zionist movement for creating a Jewish state in Palestine. That was the beginning of a major conflict between Arabs and Israelis.

Obviously, it was a political conflict, although it took sometimes a religious aspect. But it was not the only one. Several  followed almost the same pattern. Thus, an imperialist plot (Sykes-Picot secret agreement) sowed the seeds of future wars, by dividing the region according to British-French wishes, regardless of historic, economic, cultural and geopolitical local necessities.

Why is there  always war news?

My dear friend, because the people of those countries are suffering, and even if they have come to accept their destiny, there would be still some groups who would reject the social contract and fight against the state.

Today, the region has again reached new heights in the tragedy. Some independent Arab states have failed to satisfy the expectations of their people. Since 2011, revolutions have burst out.That was recent, but other violent events have previously disturbed the social and political order.

Disturbance is expected to continue for a long time. The future is hardly predictable, not only because of political interests, but also because ethnical and religious issues have long been  manipulated.

Egypt is now in trouble, despite the fact that most people (90 percent or so) share the same ethnicity (Arab) and the same religious group (Sunni Islam): but the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) still rejects the secular regime of  General Sissi, as it had rejected those before.

Iran is united by the Farsi language and the Shiism (93 percent of the population), although only 65 percent of Iranians share the Persian ethnicity.For a long time, the country has been opposed to its Arab neighbors…for reasons that go beyond religion and ethnicity. Proxy wars are thus led, by pro-Iranian fighters against pro-Sunnite Arabs. These wars might pertain to another age, but nobody cares.

Iraq, in contrast, is divided by Shi'a majority and Sunni minority. They are still unable to accept each other. They have been bitterly involved in internal fighting, while the terrorist group (ISIS, or Daesh), taking advantage of the situation, have conquered Iraqi villages and cities and gained control of one third of the country's territory Syria, with a majority population of Arabs and  a considerable Kurdish population, is also religiously divided between a predominant number of Sunni, an Alawite -controlled government, and a Christian minority. Here too, the political struggle has taken a false religious-ethnical aspect.

And one can continue with Lebanon, Libya, Yemen…etc.

Finally, I said to my Chinese friend: "Do you think the people of those countries enjoy war?"

He said, " No, of course".

I said, " you understand then that they are victims of some groups, and some individuals, who care only about their own interests…"

He said, " yes, I understand. But when will this finish?"

I said, "I ask myself sometimes the same question."


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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