I have been reading about what appears to have been the appalling and unusually cruel murder of a dissident Saudi journalist, supposedly cut up while still alive by some kind of Saudi Arabian “security” team in the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul.
This news item made me once again muse on the unsatisfactory position in the “Levant”, the Middle East and also what was once called the Near East.
The region is not one that I know well personally. I have been to Qatar twice on short visits, once in 2001 (when Doha was a rather pleasant and rather sleepy place) and again in 2008 (by which time it had become a horrible, dystopian and skyscraping sprawl). I spent less than a week in the Luxor Hilton in 1994, and another three months in Egypt in 1998 (Aswan, the Red Sea, Alexandria and the oasis of Siwa). I have also spent about 4 months in Turkey and Turkish North Cyprus.
What many younger people fail to realize is just how recent (in present form) are the phenomena we know as Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar etc. Take Abu Dhabi: when I was at school in England, aged 14, in 1970, there were a couple of rather unpleasant boys whose father was chief of police in Abu Dhabi, which was at the time a dusty desert enclave just beginning to profit from its huge hydrocarbon wealth. The British still supplied the senior military, police and other officials in Abu Dhabi at that time. Abu Dhabi, which had been known (right up to the Second World War) only for its pearls and for the slave trade, first struck oil in 1958 (or rather BP, as concession-holder, did). That first strike was followed by others, in 1959, 1962 and 1965.
The growth of Abu Dhabi in terms of population can be judged by the following progression: in 1960, the entire resident population of the city itself was 25,000. That grew to 50,000 by 1965 (though falling back to 46,400 by 1969). By 1995, the population was 398,695, and by 2014 was apparently 1,205,963, an increase of 31% even on the previous year! The latest estimate for the (entire) Abu Dhabi population (2018) is nearly 3 million! Abu Dhabi city (which contains about two-thirds of the entire population) was planned in 1967 for 40,000 inhabitants, which was changed in the 1970s (i.e. less than a decade later!) to a projection of 600,000. The present (2018) population of the city is said to number about 2 million. About 90% of the population of the emirate is foreign.
Qatar, likewise, is a very recent phenomenon in its recent form. Oil was discovered only in 1940, after which successive oil and gas finds in later decades transformed the small enclave once populated by a few thousand fishermen and pearl divers. The population of the entire sultanate in 1970 was 108,000, whereas in 2018 it is between 2.5 million and 3 million. As with Abu Dhabi and other Gulf Arab “states”, something like 90% of the population is foreign and that 90% does almost all of the work (from banking to street-sweeping), and has few rights.
I was once told, around 1977, by a construction person who spent his time in the Gulf, that he was engaged on constructing a new airport (I forget exactly where) there. He told me that the growth in the region (even then) had been phenomenal. I asked him where he thought that the Gulf Arabs would be by some date in the future (probably 2000, but I have in fact forgotten which year I specified) and he answered, cynically, “back riding their camels”! Well, he was wrong (if 2000 was the year), but I wonder whether he will be so wrong when looked back at from, say, 2050 or even 2030.
The Gulf “states” or statelets have no resilience: 90% of their population consists of expats, many of whom are from poor parts of Asia. The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait showed that, for all their expensive Western military toys, the Gulf rulers and their forces are men of straw.
Some Gulf states are running out of hydrocarbons, others have understood that the demand for oil may have peaked with the development of other energy sources, and so have begun to diversify economically. However, in the end, the future for these socially-backward societies with their “ready-to-wear” (bought) Western toys and expertise may be not so good.
The Main Part of the Middle East
We have seen that, from the time of open proclamation of the New World Order [NWO] immediately after 1989, the NWO has destabilized the Middle East and North Africa. Israel is of course pivotal. The destabilization has, overall, helped Israel. Its major opponents militarily (Syria, Iraq) have been cast into chaos, Iran has been embroiled in conflict in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, Egypt has been further suborned and placed under NWO-controlled dictatorship, while even Libya (peripheral, but wealthy and always anti-Israel) has been broken up internally. There are now no regional armies able to pose an immediate threat to Israel, the “Zionist entity”.
Turkey was, for much of the past century, a relatively static and relatively neutral player on the geopolitical stage. That was the genius of Ataturk, to make Turkey militarily-strong without (usually, much) using that power externally. Now, Turkey risks being drawn into the sphere of destabilization.
The Big Picture
The combined region of the Middle East and Near East has always been the stage for empires, among them the Alexandrine Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantine Romans, the Ottomans, the British; the French too (from Napoleon’s day until 1945). There were attempts by others to exercise imperial power: the Russians under both Tsarism and Sovietism; also, briefly, Iran under the Shah in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, beyond the strictly regional squabbling players, there are attempts at larger-scale control: Russia, the USA (i.e. the NWO), as well as, on a more limited level of power than the first two (and also than under the Shah), Iran again.
It is clear that the only solution to the problems of the regions, particularly of the core Middle East, likely to last long, will be the imposition of a supervening imperium which can subordinate all existing states to its control. That means that the Arab states and Israel would be ruled by this quasi-imperial power. It is equally clear that such an imperium does not exist. The Americans have huge destructive resources, but lack the imperial will and desire which would enable them to succeed the British, the Ottomans, Byzantium, Rome etc. That is also true of the Russians, who also can be described as largely “defensive” (wishing to defend their Southern flank as much as anything). The Iranians have not the power to make a substantial difference in this arena.
The conclusion is, to me, obvious: the future of the region is not another imperial or quasi-imperial chapter, but large-scale destruction only.