On 17th December 2010 a young Tunisian street vendor called Mohamed Bouazizi had his wares confiscated by a corrupt municipal official. It was the latest in a long line of run-ins that Bouazizi had with the authorities. One hour after having his wares confiscated, the impoverished Bouazizi doused himself in petrol outside the regional governor’s office and struck a match, shouting: “how do you expect me to make a living?” Bouazizi barely survived and suffered severe burns to over 90% of his body. He died 18 days later in hospital. The circumstances around Bouazizi’s death sparked a series of protests which soon spread across Tunisia. The protests became so massive and violent that 10 days after Bouazizi’s death President Ben Ali fled Tunisia with his family.
These protests against corrupt, autocratic regimes and poor living standards quickly spread across the Arab world, and within the space of a year rulers were also forced from power in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while civil uprisings had erupted in Bahrain and Syria, and major protests had broken out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Sudan. These popular uprisings became widely known as the ‘Arab Spring’.
The Arab Spring caught everyone completely by surprise. Governments in both the Arab world and the West were a bit like rabbits caught in car headlights. The reaction of the US Government was highly amusing, because of course many of these vile Arab regimes were close allies of the United States. As events unfolded during 2011, in public the US spouted the usual ‘freedom and democracy’ rollocks, whilst behind the scenes doing everything possible to assist some of the vile regimes in quashing popular uprisings. The reason for this is simple: the vast majority of Arabs dislike the USA (here) and democratically elected governments which reflected the will of the people would mean an end of US power and presence in the region.
After the Arab uprisings in 2011 the region spiralled into widespread chaos and violence, most notably with civil wars in Libya, Syria and Iraq, and it continues to this day (and it’s caused the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, with most of the refugees heading for Europe). Revolution is seldom a quick and clean process. The French Revolution lasted 10 years, and the revolutions in Russia spanned a period of some 18 years. However, there was one dynamic missing from the French and Russian revolutions, and that dynamic is the modern-day United States of America, which now has the most powerful military machine ever seen on this planet. Fifty eight cents of every American tax payer’s dollar feeds this monster (the US military budget is almost three times that of Russia and China combined – here). The key point here is that real democracy in the Arab world will mean an end of US hegemony in the region. Thus, outside interference in the Arab uprisings (in the form of the US) is at a level never seen before in a major revolution. The antithesis of this is the bunch of nutters known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). ISIS came out of the al-Qaeda brigades during the chaos that followed the American and British invasion of Iraq in 2003. Like al-Qaeda, ISIS are Salafist, an ultra-conservative movement within Sunni Islam, and are funded by elements in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. ISIS have also been funded and supported by Britain and the United States. Last month a terror trial collapsed at the Old Bailey. The defendant, Swedish national Bherlin Gildo, was accused of possessing terrorist information, attending a terrorist training camp and receiving weapons training. Gildo was defended by Henry Blaxland QC, who stated that:
If it is the case that HM government was actively involved in supporting armed resistance to the Assad regime at a time when the defendant was present in Syria and himself participating in such resistance, it would be unconscionable to allow the prosecution to continue.
If government agencies, of which the prosecution is a part, are themselves involved in the use of force, in whatever way, it is our submission that would be an affront to justice to allow the prosecution to continue.
And here’s how the Guardian covered the case:
And also just recently:
A declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.
The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these “supporting powers” desired the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in Syria to “isolate the Syrian regime.”
It’s no secret that the US and UK governments want to topple Assad’s vile regime in Syria (and note that Assad is Alawite, a branch of Shia Islam). However, in August 2013 the UK Parliament voted against military intervention in Syria (here). Shortly after this, Obama failed to get Congress to vote for military action. Ever since then there’s been a constant ramping up of the ISIS threat, with ‘Jihad Johnny’ and beheading videos and all that. In last week’s terrible massacre in Tunisia the ISIS nutters appear to have deliberately targeted British tourists. This week we’ve had Michael Fallon, the UK defence secretary, calling for military action against ISIS in Syria (here).
It’s not in the interests of America and the UK to have real democracy in the Arab world, because if that happens the US and UK will be shown the door. The game plan has been to keep in place autocratic regimes, which is why we are close allies with countries like Saudi Arabia, which has a disgusting human rights record. However, the Arab Spring completely upset the apple cart, and now Plan B appears to be to create as much turmoil and mayhem as possible in the Arab world. Cue ISIS and sectarian strife. But let me get back to Syria, which is ruled by Shia Muslims, and why the US and UK want a compliant regime in this country. Shias are a minority in the Middle East but by an accident of history most of the region’s oil lays within Shiite areas, these being eastern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and southwestern Iran (incidentally, the Shia government in Iran came about because of more American and British meddling in the 1950s – here). If these Shiite regions became independent and formed some kind of alliance (an alliance that would be very hostile to the US and UK) they would control most of the world’s oil.
The actions of the US and UK in the Middle East are not to protect the interests of their own people, it’s not to ‘keep the petrol flowing’. It’s all about large corporations making bucketloads of money out of other people’s natural resources; and the US and UK governments don’t give a jot about how many innocents get slaughtered in the process.