New plans in the Middle East 100 years after World War I - ZEKERIYA KURŞUN

New plans in the Middle East 100 years after World War I

Although there is no consensus on its definition, there have been numerous projects regarding the geography of the Middle East in the past century. Almost all developed, developing or underdeveloped countries, war barons, and finally diplomats have their own Middle East project. Global, political, economic and military alliances as well as regional formations are almost entirely shaped through the Middle East.

Only a few examples would be sufficient to prove this claim. The Paris Peace Conference was also about the Middle East, which was claimed to have ended the First World War 100 years ago. The League of Nations, or the United Nations as it was called after the Second World War, has always chosen to work on issues from this region.

The newly established League of Nations’ biased decision regarding the Mosul issue was repeated again in the Palestinian issue. The unfair decision of the League of Nations regarding Palestine and the UN’s Partition Plan in 1947 following this determined the agenda of the Middle East, which is still valid today.

The old and new blocs in the Middle East

During the Cold War era, this geography was chosen as the area of influence and division between the Western and Eastern bloc, and new projects were put to work. The only two states in the region that survived with their own internal dynamics outside the mandate of the colonial mind, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, were included in the world order but always kept within the margins. Post Second World War Turkey was retained as a country which is “well-behaved but should always be under a heavy burden”; through its special relationship with the U.S., Saudi Arabia was also tried to be held within the same system.

Just as in the last instance, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were forced to confront each other on different occasions, at different times. But these two countries, thanks to being within the same system and their policies to avoid stepping on each other’s toes, were able to develop positive relations, and also avoided conflict. After the 1990s, the position Turkey assumed in the international arena and the diversification of its foreign policy gave it great prestige in the region. Similarly, after King Salman’s accession to the throne, his search to establish direct strategic relationships with Asian countries and his visit to Russia, the first visit made by a Saudi King to Russia, shook up a century’s balances and scared the old bosses.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s confrontation regarding the Syrian issue, while they have been allies for a long time, bore the traces of a new project in the Middle East. The Qatar issue spiced things up. The so-called Sunni bloc, which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Egypt, took a stand against Turkey. Israel has become both the mentor and logistics supplier of this bloc. Similarly, the so-called Shiite alliance consisting of Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon was placed against this bloc but surrounded Turkey in reality. They wanted to keep Turkey busy with the Syrian issue, and Saudi Arabia with the Yemen issue.

They couldn’t get what they wanted, and while Turkey entered a new alliance with particularly the Astana process and turned the Syrian issue to its own advantage, Saudi Arabia started to question itself in the Yemen issue, in which they made a great mistake.

As a result, the Jamal Khashoggi murder, which brought the two countries face to face as they have never been before, was carried out in parallel with these developments. Neither Mohamed bin Salman nor the 17 people the U.S. sanctioned, nor the five people Saudi chose to clear itself up were solely responsible for this murder. Of course, this doesn’t make them innocent. However, there is nothing to keep us from thinking in different terms.

After 1990, hadn’t the U.S. encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait and have him err, so that they could re-design their policies in the region and invade Iraq. If you say, “Can we draw this kind of a conclusion out of the Khashoggi murder?” you would get the answer: “The world was expecting a similar result with the Austrian archduke’s assassination in 1914.”

All in all, there are still projects being designed in the Middle East. That is why we need to interpret and understand the region better.

Twenty theories

Within the last week, I received the book of researcher and author Taha Kılınç, who knows the region well, follows literature and, more importantly, has built his life upon trying to understand the Middle East. The book published by KTB publications with the title, “Twenty theories about the Middle East” (Istanbul 2018), gives insight about the analysis which I also mentioned above. Taha Kılınç concludes his twenty theories, which are quite successfully listed, starting from the meaning and importance of the Middle East, with a possible partition plan for Saudi Arabia, which was a Pentagon project in the past. In 1913, the Ottoman governor in Jerusalem, in a report he writes to Istanbul, stresses the importance of the geography and reminds that this place is where “Moses wandered, Jesus was born and the Miraj took place” and that is why it attracts the attention of the entire world. Taha Kılınç, almost following the example of these words, says in one his theories in the book:

“Even though oil, natural gas, and other natural resources will deplete one day, the strategic importance of the Middle East will not change.”

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