Muslims – Self Destruct Mode = ON
Since their defeat against Israeli/US military combine during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Muslims in general and Arabs in particular, have undergone a massive implosion. All their energies including their military might has been engaged in killing either each other or their own citizens by branding them as traitors, terrorists or both.
This post is intended to study reasons behind conflicts that had or are taking place amongst Muslims, their overt causes and covert ‘behind the scene’ manipulations. You wouldn’t find mention of Palestine, Chechnya, Bosnia, Myanmar, Kashmir etc. for one of the warring parties in them isn’t Muslim.
Moreover, we have tried to look only at major conflicts of the past 40 years (post 1973 era) that have impacted the Muslim psyche and have kept them hostage from realising their minimal potential on world stage.
Underdog ( common term): a participant in a fight, conflict, or game who is not expected to win and suffers major loss of life. Largely unarmed when compared to the adversary.
Sect (common term): subgroup of a religious, political or philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger religious group, in the case of this blog, it means ‘Muslims’.
Vigilantes ( specific to this blog): Contracted outsiders, usually descend in lawless situations, heavily armed and kills unarmed civilians on both sides of the divide. Stokes fear, enmity and flare up sectarian element into an otherwise initial non-sectarian conflict. Media often calls it a new of f shoot of ‘ Al Qaida’ .
Year: 1980 – 1988 | Conflict location: Iran – Iraq | Sects: Sunnis and Shias
Subsects / parties – Iraq Army, three-quarters of the lower ranks of the then Iraqi army were Arab Shias( supported by Saudia, US, Israel and UK) & Iranian Army comprising of mainly persian shia armymen.
Muslims dead: 1,000,000 +
Cause: We call this the mother of all intra-Muslim conflicts of 20th and the since elapsed 21st century. The costs incurred off this conflict, are still being paid.
Three geo-political factors played key role in this conflict. Muslims or their sects, wasn’t any of them.
First, in 1975, a Brazilian company ‘Braspetro’ since renamed as ‘Petrobras’, discovered a super giant oil field in Basra city of southern Iraq. It was estimated to be the richest oil fields in the world. The field was named as ‘Majnoon’ (which translates to ‘crazy’ in Arabic) in reference to excessive amount of oil in an onshore dense area. Braspetro had already initiated drilling oil off 14 rigs when Saddam Hussain, the then President of Iraq started his war with Iran in 1980.
Now in 2013, 40 years past, the Majnoon field is on the verge of being made re-operational by Britain’s Royal Dutch Shell who got the multi-billion dollar contract to develop it in post Saddam era. According to the deal signed by current Iraqi government with Britain’s ‘Shell’ in Jan 2010, the company is slated to increase production from this field to a peak of 12 million barrels of oil per day by Year 2017.
Second, ‘Shatt Al Arab’ or the ‘Stream of the Arabs’ is Iraq’s only outlet to Persian Sea for at it’s southern border is Kuwait, blocking it’s direct access to the sea. Shatt al arab is a confluence of two rivers, Euphrates and Tigris before they discharge their waters into the Persian Gulf and has been a shared border between Iraq and Iran. The Iranian cities of Abadan and Khorramshahr and the Iraqi city of Basra are situated near around this confluence zone. In March 1975, Iraq signed the Algiers accord with Iran where they both recognized a series of straight lines closely approximating the deepest channel of the waterway, as their official borders but in 1980, before embarking upon war with Iran, Iraq unilaterally abrogated it.
Since 2012, much of the early production system for Shell operated Majnoon fields development is being transported up the Shatt al-Arab by barges, drastically reducing the cost of building the Majnoon fields and eventually provide cheaper and effective route for transporting crude laden ships, across the globe. The strategic importance of this waterway is immense when it comes to oil trade routes.
Third: 270 km south of ‘Majnoon’ but on the Iranian side of Shatt al Arab, exists the port city of Abadan with another one of the proven world’s largest oil reserves. Abadan refinery’s capacity is now ( 2013) listed as 429,000 barrels per day of crude oil. Just the way ‘Majnoon’ profits depends upon access to Shatt Al Arab, so does Abadan’s.
Post Iranian revolution of 1979 which saw Khomeini taking over from Shah of Iran and while it was in a relative turmoil, Saddam Hussain of Iraq during September 1980 abrogated the 1975 Algiers accord and proclaimed the whole of Shatt al Arab as his ” national river”, hoping to attain it’s complete control. A few weeks later, in hope of take advantage of Iran’s revolutionary chaos, Saddam attacked Iranian coastal cities of Abadan and Khorramshehr without formal warning.
Iraqi army had made only limited progress into Iran before they were repelled. Iran regained virtually all lost territory by June 1982. For the next six years, Iranians would be the one on the offensive. Saddam would seek ceasefires but Khomeini wouldn’t entertain.
Unholy partnerships and unnatural allies during the conflict:
On Iran’s side, those nations who supported it militarily or financially were: Israel, Syria, Libya, China and North Korea. On the rationale behind Israel’s then support of Iran, it might be the aspect of considering “the enemy of your enemy as a friend,” and Iraq was then viewed as a more immediate danger for Israeli interests than Iran.
On Iraq’s side, its supporters were Saudi, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, UAE, Jordan, US, France, ex-USSR.
During March 1982, Iran launched its own offensive, attacking the Iraqi port of Basra. The Iranians were then on the verge of defeating Iraq conclusively when US suddenly lifted sanctions on Iraq that were in place since 1979 ( these sanctions will reappear in 1990) and started giving it direct military support. The major concern of many of those supporting both parties from the fence seems to have been to deny any of the warring parties, a convincing victory lest it emerges as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. This strategy of US, Israel and others was proven when ‘Iran Contra Affair’ surfaced and details emerged of how Israel supplied US weapons with active involvement of Ronald Reagan ( then US president) to Iranian Army during 1985 despite US official stance of supporting Saddam of Iraq.
Interesting were also the revelations that funding for these purchases undertaken on Iran’s behalf came from Saudi billionaire arms trader Adnan Khashoggi implying that even Saudi’s, along with US were funding or subsidising arms purchases for both the warring parties.
US, Saudia, Israel et al. had interests in seeing the two countries engage in a protracted, inconclusive war that left both parties worse off than when they started and then hope that both Iran / Iraq weakened each other to the point where neither would emerge from the war as a regional threat to their own interests.
Later, Richard Murphy, then Assistant Secretary of State during the war, would testify to Congress that the Reagan administration believed a victory for either Iran or Iraq was ” not strategically desirable.”
By August 1988, Iran finally agreed to a U.N.-mediated cease-fire, Saddam Hussain of Iraq agreed to withdraw all his troops from Iranian territory, share control of the Shatt al-Arab (he had previously insisted on Iraqi control), and exchange prisoners. The two countries then resumed diplomatic relations. Casualty estimates during the Iran-Iraq war, range from 500,000 to 1 million dead, 1-2 million wounded, and more than 80,000 prisoners. There were approximately 2.5 million refugees, and whole cities were destroyed. The financial cost is estimated at a minimum of $200 billion. It remains an enigma still, as to why didn’t Iran chose to have complete control of the Shatt waterway?
Nevertheless, Muslims vertical down slide on the world stage would start with more unprecedented humiliations and torture tales at the hands of enemies, the likes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo to follow.
Next: First Gulf War, Kurdish Conflict, Second Gulf War