In 1848, the new Communist movement issued a manifesto. It began with the
opening line: “A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.” For our
purposes today, this might be reworded as: “A specter is haunting the Middle
East–the specter of America.”
For example, about a year ago Dubai’s
police chief addressed a major international Gulf Arab security conference. He
said that there were about three dozen security threats to the Gulf Arab
countries. But this well-respected security expert said the number-one threat
was the United States.
Since that time, this American specter has become
vivid. For instance, The New York Times
ran a recent editorial which stated that
the only protection for Egypt’s democracy – meaning Muslim Brotherhood
participation in the next Egyptian government – was the United States and
Europe. The Egyptian regime, Israel and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states
were bad for wanting to protect their societies from Islamic ideology,
revolution and anti-Western Shari’a states! Might the United States and its
allies rather be expected to battle Turkey, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Tunisia,
Bahrain and Hamas? But what if a crazy notion seizes policymakers, blessed with
the mush of ignorance about the Middle East: that they can take control of the
Perhaps Germany (World War I and II jihads), or the Soviet
control of radical nationalist regimes in the 1950s and 1960, or the French
rescue of the Palestinian leadership in the late 1940s, or Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini in Iran during the 1970s, or America in the 1950s (Arab nationalism),
or the 2010 Muslim Brotherhood would turn nominal extremists into friends?
Imagine, dunderheads in Washington, London, Paris and so on thinking they are
masterfully preserving stability, making peace, and harnessing Shari’a in the
cause of boosting democracy! How smug would be the smiles when those who
perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks were supposedly defeated by those
mentored into power a decade later by the West in Benghazi on September 11,
2012, or in the Arab Spring or the Syrian revolution! Look at it through the
eyes of the Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Kurds and Israelis who think they will try
to impose a new order in the region.
Consider a famous speech by Winston
Churchill at Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946. In contrast to the Communist
Manifesto, 100 years later Churchill began with: “From Stettin in the Baltic to
Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain is descended across the continent.” It
might be strange that to compare these two statements to the current situation
in the Middle East. But such a comparison actually makes sense.
intention of great powers seemed to be to impose one (European) system on the
region. In the first case, it was Communism. In Churchill’s case, it was
anti-Communism he advocated, which in parallel would be
But today, what is the system that Arabs, Iranians, Turks,
and Israelis think they will try to impose on the region? The answer for those
who have been watching in recent years is revolutionary Islamism.
might seem strange that this is the thinking, but it isn’t. The question is
whether there is a system that Western Europeans want to impose on the Middle
East to ensure their hegemony, and the answer that the Arabs, Persians and Turks
usually give today – although this does not mean it has to be true – is yes:
Islamism. (The Islamists themselves view Western policy, however, as a sign of
their own victory and of Western fear and weakness.) Incidentally, Churchill’s
title was “the Sinews of Peace,” and he favored a policy of leading a coalition
of the Free World, which would be welcome today.
To summarize, in the
1930s Churchill favored anti-fascism and advocated a united front against Nazi
Germany. After World War II, he supported an alliance of the Free World against
the Iron Curtain.
Where is the Churchill of today? Well, his bust was
quickly chucked from the White House because he was the symbol for Obama of
Who was the genuine symbol of anti-colonialism for
Obama? The left-wing, anti-Western revolutionary ideological movement
represented by the Muslim Brotherhood or Chavez, and other demagogues.
you favor Islamism – a US-sponsored movement except for the extremists of
al-Qaida – you cannot be accused of Islamophobia. Not liberals or real
pro-democrats or conservative traditionalists or nationalists or communal
nationalists, but Islamists.
That also means that non-Islamists can also
be the enemy in Western eyes. Moderates are actually less desirable friends to
terrorists and extremists.
The West seems to view its three main threats
as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel; its three main friends as Turkey, the Muslim
Brotherhood and the Syrian Islamist rebels.
Consider this: In Egypt,
Tunisia, Syria, Turkey and other countries, Western powers and especially
America were seen to be behind Islamist governments. And in the Gaza Strip,
Lebanon and even Iran they were also portrayed in this way, with perhaps
somewhat less justice. But here is the bottom line: The overwhelming majority of
Arab governments and the Turkish- Iranian democratic opposition had many reasons
to think that the Western countries, and especially the United States, were
actually supporting their Islamist foes. In 2013, that view became even more
It should be understood in the current regional picture that
the Western world, and especially the Obama administration, has taken the
Islamists’ side in the battle between these forces.The author is
director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and
the editor of
The Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) and
Turkish Studies. His forthcoming book is
Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the
Modern Middle East (Yale University Press).
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