Libya, torn apart by tribal clashes, is no longer a full-fledged state. Rather, it is a conglomeration of rival tribes, clans and gangs. If you recall the events of 2011, at least two facts now cause a grin. The pretext for the aggression of NATO countries against a sovereign Libyan state was the shooting of a peaceful demonstration in Benghazi (the number of victims in the West was clearly exaggerated). In the summer of 2013, the Islamic Battalion of Misurata also fired on demonstrators in Benghazi, but this blatant violation of human rights did not cause any reaction in the West. In 2011, some conspiracy theorists noted that NATO’s armed intervention in the Libyan events was caused by the US intention to provide Europe with a new source of high-quality and cheap oil that could replace Iran, which is in an economic blockade. But after the tribes of Cyrenaica recently blocked the Libyan oil pipelines leading to the coast, it became obvious that the country was not able to saturate even its refineries and was experiencing gas interruptions. What to say about the export.
Syria, once a flourishing country, is half destroyed. The situation here is a dead end. Neither the government nor the armed opposition can win a military victory, but none of the country's political forces is ready for a compromise. The Syrian conflict, like the civil war in Lebanon, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 a year, threatens to become chronic and protracted. Most likely, it will spread to neighboring countries: Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. But the worst thing is that the events of the “Arab Spring” sharply deepened the contradictions between the secular forces and the Islamists, as well as between the Sunnis and Shiites.
Revolutionary events in the Arab world began as a movement of protest of the masses against the "privatization" of power and property by a few elite circles closely associated with the ruling families. The crowd was especially annoyed with the intention to establish in a number of Arab countries “monarchist-type republics” in which power would be handed down from father to son. So it was, for example, in Syria, where Bashar Asad ascended the throne after his father Hafez. The protest sentiments here were fueled by the neo-liberal reforms of the Ba'athists, who actually abandoned socialism and put a significant part of the peasantry and state-owned enterprises on the brink of ruin. Thanks to external sponsors, peaceful protests turned into jihad. And since the leadership of the Syrian secret services and the army was dominated by the Alawites, Qatar and Saudi Arabia managed to shake the pendulum of hatred (although the rank and file representatives of the Alawi sect lived no better than their Sunni brethren)
Syria, which was once the most tolerant country in the Middle East, now lives in fear of religious persecution. Massive terror against the Syrian Christians by jihadists forced a fifth of them to leave the country. The atmosphere of mutual distrust reigns in some quarters of Damascus, where Alawites are wary of Sunnis and vice versa. So it can come to the new apartheid.
The region has a powerful anti-Shiite ideological and religious campaign funded by the Gulf states. It is conducted with the help of large satellite TV channels and social networks: Twitter and Facebook. Radical Salafi preachers call Shiites heretics, rafidites (apostates), and even "minions of Shaitan." What is worth only one attack of Sheikh Adnan al-Arura, who issued a fatwa that allowed the rape of Alawite women in Syria. Another Salafi cleric, originally from Kuwait, Nabil al-Awadi, in his blog on Twitter, talks about a conspiracy of Shiites who want to "destroy and smash the holy Kaaba stone." “Iraq is captured by the enemies,” he writes, “and we declare holy jihad to the“ henchmen of the Safavids ”(Safavids are the dynasty of the Shahs of Persia, during whose rule Shiism became the official religion of Iran). Let them know that the fear originated in their hearts will not leave them, no matter where they take refuge: in London, Washington or Moscow. ” In Egypt, where Shiites make up a small minority that does not affect the political situation, Wahhabi preacher Mohammed Zuegbi threatens to “cut off their fingers and tear out their tongues.”
The propaganda of hatred is already paying off. Take at least the disturbing events in Lebanon and Iraq. In Lebanon, since August of last year, there has been a real terrorist wave of such magnitude that many began to talk about the resumption of civil war in this state. 15 August 2013 exploded in the Behrut neighborhood of Dahie, the stronghold of Hezbollah, which killed 25 people. Responsibility assumed Salafi group, dissatisfied with the participation of Hezbollah in the civil war in Syria. On August 23, Salafi mosques were blown up in Tripoli in the north of the country. And it is possible that Lebanese Shiites were behind the bombings, who were thus trying to avenge their fellow believers. Finally, on November 19, a terrorist attack was committed against the Iranian embassy in Beirut. 24 people died and more than a hundred were injured. In general, more than 100 people died as a result of the terrorist attacks in a country that was not officially conducting hostilities in six months.
A difficult situation has also developed in Iraq, where the enmity of the Shiite and Sunni communities has led to armed conflict in the province of Anbar. The situation is exacerbated by short-sighted government policies, in which Shiite religious parties play a key role. Instead of seeking to consolidate Iraqi society, the authorities persistently pursue a policy of isolating Sunnis, subjecting the most active members of the community to repression. As a result, the Sunni provinces of Iraq have become a real al Qaeda bastion. The terrorist attacks only last December destroyed the 756 people, primarily representatives of Shiite Islam. And now in one of the largest cities in the country - Fallujah - a war is being waged with Sunni rebels.
"Great Middle East" or a pirate paradise?
So, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, religious wars broke out in the Middle East, comparable in intensity to the conflict between Catholics and Huguenots that swept Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Among other things, this means that the region is rapidly becoming archaic. In all countries of the Middle East without exception (except Morocco and Algeria), state structures are becoming less effective. In some places, like in Libya and Yemen, they no longer exist at all. Under these conditions, not national but community, religious or clan identity comes to the fore. What can this lead to?
In November last year, an article by the famous American journalist and political scientist Robin Wright was published in the New York Times newspaper, which predicted that the map of the region would soon be changed beyond recognition. And it's hard to disagree. The system that emerged in the Middle East arose as a result of the Sykes-Pico Agreement 1916 of the year when Great Britain and France divided the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, having drawn artificial borders in the region. The desire to overcome them was expressed in a rush to pan-Arab unity after World War II. It was then that the Baath party began its activities, and at the same time Gamal Abdel Nasser’s integration projects appeared. However, great intentions were not realized. Selfishness and localism of secular elites hindered. In addition, supporters of the union faced a systematic opposition from the United States and the conservative monarchies of the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia. New nations failed to create within the borders of individual Arab states.
How will the fate of the Middle East region? There are optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. Pessimists are convinced that we will witness further chaos and disintegration. Libya falls into two or three quasi-states: Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan. Cyrenaica, in which the main oil reserves are concentrated, sooner or later falls into the sphere of influence of the European Union.
Of course, the best option for Libya at this stage would be to join Egypt. This option, on the one hand, would allow breathing new life into the Egyptian economy (thanks to oil investments), and on the other, would provide the wise leadership of Cairo to the rebellious Libyan tribes. However, in the context of political instability in Egypt itself, this scenario seems unlikely. By the way, further chaos in Libya is fraught for the EU with a revival of threats that the Europeans have not heard for more than two hundred years. In the 16th – 17th centuries, the Western Mediterranean was kept at bay by Berberian pirates who captured ships and plundered coastal villages. The threat of piracy in the region disappeared only after the French colonial conquest of Algeria, but now it can again become a reality.
The possibility of disintegration of Syria is also very large. If the civil war in the country continues, the Sunni fundamentalist enclave is likely to arise in the north. The extremist organization Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) calls for its unification with the provinces of Anbar and Mosul in Iraq, which, of course, will lead to the final disintegration of this country. The Shiite provinces in the south form a separate state, imbued with Iran.
However, this is unlikely to mean the end of the Iranian-Saudi confrontation. The “cold war” between Riyadh and Tehran is being waged in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and even in Yemen, where Shiite Zeidites enjoy increasing support from Iran. By the way, Yemen, probably, also expects decay. The southern provinces of the country, which once built socialism in the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen, are extremely unhappy with the discrimination of the northern tribes. An independence movement is gaining more and more scope in the south of the country.
If Iraq collapses, further radicalization of the Kurdish issue is inevitable. In the case of the separation of Sunni provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan, which is already de facto independent of Baghdad, will declare its independence de jure and will become an assembly point for other Kurdish lands. The Kurds, who live in the Syrian northeastern provinces, have already gained wide autonomy from Damascus, agreeing to wage an armed struggle against jihadists. If Syria ceases to exist as a single state, they will in any case turn their eyes towards Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, it is worth noting that Kurdistan is the most stable and economically developed region of modern Iraq. Then come the turn and the Kurdish regions of Turkey. The Turkish government should not be under the illusion that Ankara resolved the Kurdish issue by becoming the largest economic partner of Iraqi Kurdistan and establishing allied relations with President Massoud Barzani. Barzani is not eternal, and the process of national awakening, as is known, is not subject to rational considerations. Erdogan and his advisers are deeply mistaken that they managed to relieve the tension, giving the rights to the Kurdish language in Turkey. As we know, the process of secession of the Baltic republics from the USSR also began with the struggle for equal rights of local languages. An independent Kurdistan is likely to become a strategic partner of the United States and Israel in the Middle East.
It remains to add a few words about the position of external players. The United States bears a considerable share of responsibility for what is happening now in the region. It was Washington that supported the authoritarian dictatorships (for example, the same Mubarak). It was the Americans in 2003 who, under a false pretext, destroyed Iraq by waking up demons of religious intolerance. However, in the next ten to fifteen years, the Middle East seems to be sidelined on the American agenda. The reason is that the strategic confrontation between the United States and China has recently become more acute, and the center of gravity in Washington’s policy has been shifted to the Pacific region. Therefore, having concluded a “big deal” with Iran, the Americans, according to the chairman of the Islamic Committee in Russia, Geidar Jemal, leave this state alone with the hatred of a Sunni street. The Sunni-Shiite conflict, according to American strategists, should divert radical Islamists from attacks against the West and for a long time prevent the formation of an independent center of power in the Arab world.
Of course, a positive change is possible. The reason for optimism is the fact that Al-Qaida and similar organizations have no future. They have neither an ideology, nor an intelligible political program, and the will to die will not be able to inspire their supporters for a long time. In the Arab world, of course, there are passionate young people, who have long sought to get out of the influence of religious extremists. The new doctrine, which will be able to unite young passionaries, will, in the opinion of optimists, combine the features of humanistic Islam and renewed Arab socialism. Another condition for the revival of the Arab world is the formation of the Cairo – Damascus – Baghdad axis, which must return the original meaning to the three traditional centers of power in the region. If this happens, then over the next ten to fifteen years we will witness the rebirth of the "great Middle East."