The tide of change that swept across North Africa and the Middle East this year makes it look likely that, seven years after its formulation in the epoch of G. Bush's presidency, the seemingly shelved Greater Middle East plan finally began to materialize. The plan has, in fact, been adopted as a foundation of the US Middle Eastern policy 1. The Greater Middle East concept was spelled out in academic terms for the first time in Geoffrey Kemp's and Robert E. Harkavy's Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East in 1997, and the NATO 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq were widely seen as steps towards an overhaul of the eastern part of the geopolitical space of the Greater Middle East, which at the time was supposed to span Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Central Asian and Transcaucasian republics, and the Persian Gulf area. At the initial phase, Washington's efforts met with limited success, and by 2011 the US foreign policy planners evidently concluded that escalation and a series of revolts in the western part of the Greater Middle East would help them achieve their goals in its east 2.
In the majority of cases, the Greater Middle East is used as a term bracketing the area traditionally known as the Middle East with the Arab part of North Africa stretching from Libya to Mauritania, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The version of the Greater Middle East map invented by Kemp and Harkavy further spans Turkey, the Transcaucasian republics, the formerly Soviet Central Asia, and Kazakhstan. The US objective is to impose in its own interests the Western brand of democracy on the aforementioned countries. To this end, the US planned serious financial infusions into the countries open to cooperation with Washington, but, with the exception of Turkey, the reaction to the offer among potential recipients was negative. Until recently, the activity of the Somalian pirates who had mysterious luck seizing freight liners and paralyzing maritime traffic between Asia and Europe appeared to be the only indication that something serious was brewing, and only this year it became clear against the backdrop of serial coups induced by social media that the Greater Middle East design was in the process of being reanimated.
In June 2004, the attempt to exact from the G8 summit a stamp of approval for the plan to slap Western-style democracy on the Greater Middle East suffered a spectacular failure. The views of the plan's opponents were summarized by French president Jacques Chirac who bluntly said it was up to the Middle Eastern countries to decide whether they needed any assistance from democratic missionaries. At the time, Egypt and Saudi Arabia demonstrated their aversion to G. Bush's plan by declining to participate in the G8 summit, and among those Arab leaders who did attend the forum Iraq's freshly elected and totally dependent president was the only one to show enthusiasm.
The world has changed over the past seven years, though, and today's French leader N. Sarkozy is a figure quite different from Chirac. Having taken a key role in orchestrating the aggression against Libya, Sarkozy proved his absolute loyalty to Washington.
E. Primakov 3 sees an array of US objectives behind the Greater Middle East plan. First, its implementation, if backed by a cohort of country leaders, may provide a belated justification for the US Iraqi campaign which then starts to look like a step fitting into the plan's wider framework. Secondly, now Washington gets a chance for a reunion with its former partners alienated by the invasion of Iraq. Thirdly, the realization of the Greater Middle East plan helps Washington reaffirm its stewardship vis-a-vis the Muslim world.
Given the current economic crisis, the US has to shift the emphasis within the Greater Middle East strategy from financial leverage to the export of crises in the form of wars and revolutions.
The Demise of Libya and a New Colonial War
Following a number of breakthroughs – the destabilization of North Africa, the triumph of social media-led revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, the partition of Sudan, and the suppression, with the hands of Saudi Arabia, of opposition protests in Bahrain and Yemen – the US did get bogged down on Libya. Washington's attempt to topple Gadhafi by instigating opposition protests produced no result, mainly due to the fact that the opposition charged with the mission was largely a mythical phenomenon. Relying on various bandit groups, Gadhafi's foreign enemies, and, to an extent, on discontent Libya's tribal leaders also proved an unrewarding pursuit. The war in Libya highlighted the fact that, though NATO has no problem hammering into pieces the critical infrastructures of a militarily defenseless country, the alliance's strategic capabilities leave much to be desired. The killing of Abdul Fatah Younis by rival tribal leaders left the Libyan rebel movement, a conglomerate of militias which, with the NATO support from the air, keep robbing and terrorizing Libya's civilian population for over five months, irreparably divided and its military potential – considerably weakened.
A new life – or, rather, new deaths – await Libya in the wake of the seizure of Tripoli by anti-Gadhafi mercenaries backed by NATO special forces now that Gadhafi has retreated to his hometown of Sirte. The country will obviously be carved up – after the Libyan rebel “government” declared war on Algeria, the natural resources of the entire North Africa are at stake and a new colonial war over them is on the horizon…
Turkey: Washington's Lobbyist or A Rising Regional Player?
The unrest in Syria and the fairly strange circumstances under which protesters are clashing with the government forces in the country are drawing attention worldwide. The reaction of Turkey, Syria's powerful northern neighbor, is particularly alarming in the context: according to early August media reports, Turkey is drafting reservists and amassing troops in the proximity of the border with Syria. Azerbaijani commentator Tofik Abbasov says Turkey is acting in line with a far-reaching plan and stresses that Turkey's premier R. Erdogan is open about taking instructions from Washington. Indeed, it says volumes that the contact group on Libya convened last in Istanbul and that H. Clinton met with Erdogan recently for a talk about Syria. According to Abbasov, there is outrage in the Arab and Muslim world over the synchronism between Turkish and US policies regarding the Middle East. It is hard to believe at the moment that Erdogan used to advocate the Palestinians' rights and expressed support for the solidarity fleet heading for Gaza.
Turkey not only favors the Greater Middle East strategy but actually contributes to its implementation. Bülent Esinoğlu, Turkey's former director general of the ministry of industry and trade who authored Flooded by the West, holds that Erdogan co-chairs the Greater Middle East project and would do whatever it takes to have Syria partitioned as Washington wants it to be. Ankara's position can translate into a war with Syria and even prompt the establishment of an independent Kurdistan. While Syria and Turkey will stay locked in an armed conflict, the Kurds, with Washington's backing, would make an effort to unite within a common statehood the territories they inhabit. At the same time, Turkey is seeking rapprochement with Russia in the hope to secure Moscow's consent to a campaign against Syria. Currently only Russia and, indirectly, China prevent the situation from sliding into armed hostilities.
Sacrificing Israel. Will Palestine be Admitted to the UN? The US Maneuvers
In the spring of 2011, the US betrayed Israel, its key ally in the Middle East. On March 19, B. Obama went public with the proposal for reversing the outcome of the Six-Day War and Israel's return to the 1967 border. The leaders of France, Germany, and Poland along with EU foreign affairs chief C. Ashton voiced support for the idea, while Israeli premier Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu completely rejected the possibility of restoring the 1967 borders.
On August 13, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki broke the news that on September 20, 2011 Palestine would submit a bid for the UN membership
4. Somewhat earlier, on August 9, Palestine's UN envoy Riyad H. Mansour said that if the UN does not recognize the independence of Palestine, it would press for a status akin to that of Vatican. According to Mansour, what Palestine wants is independence recognition plus UN membership, a package like that recently handed out to South Sudan, but if necessary, Palestine is ready to change its status from observer to that of a country which is not a UN member, as recommended by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947.
The US-inspired and UN-approved split of Sudan was an outgrowth of the double standards policy adopted by the US back in the epoch of the aggression against Yugoslavia and the separation of Kosovo from Serbia. It is worth noting that Palestine's admission to the UN would remove all obstacles in the way of granting UN memberships to Transdnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. At a certain moment, Washington backed off and sent to over 70 UN countries a proposal not to recognize Palestine as a full UN member
5. The logic behind the maneuver remains obscure – it might be that the US lacks the resources to maintain a grip on all conflicts across the Middle East, and losing Israel would make containing Islamists a task beyond means for Washington.
Overall, the whole combination of circumstances promises a new war or, rather, an active phase of the war over resources that has been underway for ages. It can also transpire that the brewing conflict is a prologue to World War III. The crisis in industrialized countries is deepening and economic measures fail to become a cure, meaning that a war as capitalism's only existing remedy against crises has to be on the agenda.