Is the Middle East ‘decomposing’?

Friday 12/06/2015

Reporting back to Paris after a visit to Iraq, French Chief of the Defence Staff General Pierre de Villiers said Iraq was in a state of “decomposition”.

Is Iraq rotting? Or decomposing? Indeed one could ask that same question about the entire Middle East.

Rarely has the region been in so much disarray. From Tripoli to Sana’a, countries are up in arms. The political climate aside, Iraq and Syria were the two safest and most secure countries in the Arab world. Egypt was the friendli­est Arab country to visit. Tunisia was a favourite destination for European tourists. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates were dormant, nary a peep came out of those countries other than the news of a taller tower being built, a fancier hotel or that more luxury cars were available than in any other parts of the world.

Were they living a mirage? Were there undercurrents that were ignored? Was it only a matter of time before all the discontent made it to the surface?

Indeed, there were a number of warning signs but they were never taken to heart or to task. No one predicted the Middle East would wake up in the middle of a nightmare.

And that it is: Here is a quick look at the area today. In North Af­rica: Tunisia, Algeria and of course Libya are in various degrees of instability, Libya being the worst with militias running amok.

The big novelty in the region is the trend adopted by numerous countries to take to the skies, em­ulating the Americans by bombing targets from the air. Despite the criticism that has been directed at the United States for its use of bombs from above to avoid boots on the ground, a number of Arab countries are doing the same.

The targets are threefold: Yem­en, where the Iranian-supported Houthis have overthrown the government, Iraq/Syria (ISIS) and Libya (ISIS).

The Saudis have taken the initiative in Yemen, bombing the Houthis, a Shia group supported by Iran.

Egypt has sent its bombers to Libya to bomb suspected Islamic State (ISIS) strongholds after the Libyan branch of ISIS beheaded a number of Egyptian Copts.

Meanwhile in the Middle East, Australia, Bahrain, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, The Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are all bombing, at various intervals, ISIS in Iraq and in Syria. Saudi Ara­bia had been busy in Yemen.

Is there something rotten here or what? It’s bad enough when American planes bomb Arab targets, but Arab planes bombing Arab targets?

The anti-ISIS coalition controls the countries around their area of operations. In principle there should be a blockade around those areas under ISIS control. Arms and munitions as well as money should not, in principle, be able to enter those regions.

Yet it appears ISIS continues to recruit followers who show up, in photographs at least, in brand-new uniforms, driving new cars and carrying new weapons. This is not by any means a ragtag army fighting a guerrilla war. So the question now is who contin­ues to finance ISIS and why can’t that funding be turned off of the source?

Something here just doesn’t quite make sense. To paraphrase a French diplomat in the region, if you think you understand the complexity of the situation it means it was badly explained to you.