Frightful implosion of Ottoman Empire remnants accelerates Comment on this post ↓
June 12th, 2014 by Warren Swil

Impotent Middle East

‘nation states’ pose

threat of conflagration

The map of the Ottoman Empire before World War I. It’s remnants are imploding. Click image to enlarge.

The world spotlight has again this week turned to the slow-motion implosion of what was once the Ottoman Empire.
It has now become apparent that the ‘border’ between Iraq and Syria has been effectively erased.
Emergent instead is a transnational Sunni-inspired Caliphate that aims to stretch from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.
The world is revealed as powerless to intervene in what has become an epochal earthquake with an uncertain but certainly destabilizing outcome.
Anyone calling for outside intervention should realize from the US experience in the region that it would be futile and counterproductive.
All we can do is pray.

With the rapid advance through Iraq of the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and Thursday’s move by the Kurds to seize control of oil-rich Kirkuk, the fragile nation is ripping apart at the seams.
We first noted this trend almost exactly a year ago in Are Ottoman empire remnants imploding?  where we asserted that the artificial nation states created in colonial times are not “countries.”
We further explored the topic in October after a 10-day fact-finding trip to the region in Post-Ottoman map of Middle East must be dumped in the context of the strife in Syria, which even then could no longer be considered a “country.”
The only thing surprising about this week’s events, then, is the speed with which they have unfolded.

The New York Times story on the Kurds’ seizure of oil rich Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Click image to enlarge.

Thursday’s development was reported in The New York Times in the story Iraqi Kurds Take Oil City as Militants Push Forward.
“Iraq’s fracturing deepened on Thursday as Kurdish forces poured into the strategic northern oil city of Kirkuk after government troops fled, while emboldened Sunni militants who seized two other important northern cities this week moved closer to Baghdad and issued threats about advancing into the heavily Shiite south and destroying the shrines there, the holiest in Shiism,” The Times reported.
Note the second word: “fracturing.”
This came after the blindingly fast advance of ISIS,  which has long been involved in the struggle in Syria where it has carved out control over the entire eastern portion of the territory.
In a few days ISIS seized several vital Iraqi cities, and is reportedly aiming at Baghdad. ISIS has controlled Fallujah – site of the worst US moment in its eight years of involvement in Iraq – and most of western Anbar province for almost six months.
But the turbulence could spread rapidly.
Turkey may be unwillingly dragged into it after almost 50 of its diplomats including its consul were abducted in Mosul. It has promised a vigorous if unspecified response.
On the other hand, Turkey’s enmity with the Kurds is long standing and well documented; its treatment of its own Kurdish minority has often been brutal. The Iraqi Kurds on their southern flank are also getting restive.
On Iraq’s eastern edge, Shiite Iran has reportedly offered aid to the beleaguered government in Baghdad, where Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s appeal for emergency powers was stalled by a dysfunctional parliament.

The PBS Newshour featured an alarming analysis of the vital importance of recent developments. Click image to enlarge.

Meanwhile, in a PBS interview on Wednesday, Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War brought home the vital importance of the recent developments:
“This attack that the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, or the Levant, has launched on Muslims is incredibly important, because it is the beginning of a campaign and a push beyond Mosul into the areas toward Baghdad that the Islamic State of Iraq wants to govern,” Kagan said.
“It seeks to establish an emirate or a state and govern terrain inside Iraq, as well as governing the terrain inside of Syria, in Raqqa, where it has announced the beginning of its emirate. I believe Mosul will be its new capital.”
Capital of what?
If ISIS is successful in carving out a Sunni-only “state,” how will it defend its borders? Or the people within them?
Will the Kurds stop at Kirkuk? Or even at the border with Turkey? Will Iran watch idly as its ally in Baghdad becomes a mayor rather than prime minister?
Imponderable questions without coherent answers.
What can only be said with confidence is that the region is poised on the edge of conflagration. Almost one hundred year-old nation-states are coming apart, with dangerous global implications.
There are no easy answers, and those who pose them should be regarded as fools who would plunge us all over the abyss.


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One Response  
  • Pierre Garenne writes:
    June 12th, 2014

    A very excellent article, a natural followup to your previous comments.

    It is also interesting to note that the borders of African states imposed by 19th/20thC imperial states (Great Britain and France (+Germany) and the USA their “heir” as imperial power, are also fracturing. Each intervention in defense of their imperial and economic interests, based on the African rulers’, mostly corrupt links with their equally corrupt imperial masters (a siamese-twin relationship with political parties in the European states, some of whom who have for decades illegally transferred funds from their neocolonial Africa ‘partners’, sometimes through private corporations, to keep themselves in power). This puts additional pressure on their political boundaries which mostly do not reflect the ‘natural’ units and balance of power on the ground (eg France in Ruanda, Congo, Mali…, the US in Somalia (Ethiopia using Kenya, Uganda as local surrogates).

    These military actions are expensive and put additional pressure on the imperial country’s finances (as, for example, France was both militarily and FINANCIALLY obliged to grant Algeria independence but not necessarily along fault lines on the ground.

    Similarly the interests of the clans, religious dynasties, kingdoms in Arabia… in alliance with their co-religionaires elsewhere in the world, do not coincide with the historic interests of the “nation” states at present on the ground. The large Shiite polulation in eastern Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf States is an example. The UK’s attempts to establish durable alliances with existing “nations” in the area are an attempt to maintain its interests in the area and in the wealth accumulated by the rulers of these states.

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