War in WANA : a Threat to Humanity

Chandra Muzaffar
An article written by Chandra Muzaffar, President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Professor of Global Studies in Universiti Sains Malaysia, and published at http://www.just-international.org/ on January 27, 2012

Any conflict in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) is a threat to world peace. For WANA is of tremendous strategic, economic, political and religious significance to the whole of humanity. This is why it is the responsibility of the entire human family to ensure that war does not break out in that region.

Why is WANA of such great importance?

One, it is the only region in the world where three continents - Asia, Africa and Europe - meet. WANA is home to some of the world’s most critical sea routes and most strategic waterways, including the Mediterranean, the Suez, the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz.

Two, WANA is the world’s major oil exporting region. And oil is the life-blood of contemporary civilisation. The majority of OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) members are in WANA.

Three, most of the wars that have shaken the world since World War II have occurred in WANA.  The Israel-Arab conflicts,  Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, Israel’s invasions of Lebanon, the Suez War, the Iraq- Iran War, the Kuwait War, the Anglo-American  invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the NATO-led assault upon Libya would be the outstanding examples. Needless to say, millions of lives have been lost in these wars.

Four, at the epicentre of many of these wars, it is so obvious, is Israel - a state created by a Western dominated United Nations in 1948, in violation of the UN’s own Charter. The manner in which Israel has perpetuated its presence and its power through occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, has been a huge source of instability and perpetual conflict in WANA. The current escalation of tensions over Syria and Iran, engineered to a considerable degree by the US and certain other Western states, aided and abetted by their regional allies and proxies,  is also directly linked to Israel’s geopolitical agenda.

Five, there have been other conflicts in the region from Suez in 1956 to Libya in 2011, in which Western imperial powers have sought to impose their will upon WANA through massive military operations. The conquest of Iraq in 2003, motivated by oil and Israel, was the most blatant and brazen of these. Imperial hubris aside, the tussle among states within WANA aspiring for regional supremacy sometimes in cahoots with Western powers, has also been a cause of conflict.  The Iraq-Iran War from 1980 to 1988 would be a classic case in point. The Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979 was perceived by a number of other states in WANA as a challenge to their power and led to an unprecedented galvanisation of both absolute monarchies and autocratic republics under the leadership of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein aimed at thwarting the nascent revolution. There are shades of that episode in the unfolding mobilisation of various Arab states and Turkey against Iran and Syria today. Saudi Arabia is once again playing a crucial role just as tiny but fabulously rich Qatar is flexing its muscles. Turkey, vying for dominance, is clearly targeting Iran.

Six, intertwined in these conflicts are religious dichotomies which have occasionally intensified the antagonism between the political actors.  The Sunni-Shia dichotomy is one such fault-line which has been exploited by various forces in a number of countries in WANA from Lebanon and Iraq to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In the targeting of the Syrian leadership and Iran, this issue is also being manipulated. In fact, the whole spectrum of theological-cum-ideological positions in Islam, ranging from ultra- conservative Wahabi thinking to universal, inclusive approaches associated with progressive elements in the religion have come to the fore through various conflicts in the region. Today, through the electoral process, political parties that have evolved from the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood ( Ikhwan-ul- Muslimin) have emerged as front-runners in  Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, setting the stage perhaps for a re-definition of the role of Islam in public life and its relationship with the centres of power in the West which may have repercussions for politics in  WANA.

Seven, WANA conflicts have also impacted upon the ethnic and religious minorities in the region. The position of the Kurdish minority remains vexatious especially in Turkey and to a lesser extent, in Iraq, Syria and Iran. It colours inter-state politics.  Equally important is the situation facing the Christian minority in the region. It is a dwindling minority. In Palestine, Israeli occupation is the main cause. In Iraq, it is alleged that about 400,000--- almost half the entire Christian population--- have left the country since the Anglo-American invasion partly because of the pressures arising from the resulting chaos, and partly because of the aggressive proselytization of some Christian evangelists which has rendered the ancient Christian community in Iraq vulnerable to the bigoted hostility of Muslim extremists. In Egypt, Christians are also being subjected to physical attacks allegedly by an extremist fringe within the Muslim majority.

It is only too apparent that WANA is a region fraught with great dangers. Each and every one of these dangers can fuel horrendous upheavals capable of enflaming the entire region. Hence, the significance of the JUST campaign to persuade people everywhere to oppose foreign military intervention in Syria or military strikes against Iran. Please click here to support the campaign.


15 December 2011