The whole world is a tinderbox full of explosives. Fuses are burning and growing shorter by the day. As always, America finds itself in the middle of it all. To understand why a bunch of our Allies are threatening to kill each other, let’s take a swift birds-eye-view of the past 4 decades’ worth of alliances which got us where we are today.
In the 1980’s, the USSR was busy destroying itself with a futile war in Afghanistan. Washington had the bright idea to back the Mujahideen freedom fighters against the Soviets. This also included backing an outside Arab militant group led by Osama Bin Laden. The Mujahideen became the Taliban while Bin Laden became leader of Al-Qaeda.
Also in the 80’s, Washington allied with Saddam Hussein in the Iraqi/Iranian war, even after they knew Iraq was using Chemical weapons. However, Washington also sold missiles to Iran to fund a militant group in Nicaragua and hoping to free hostages in Lebanon. Dizzy yet?
After the Brutal Iraq/Iran war finally ended, Saddam was angry that the Sunni kings of the Arab world expected their war loans repaid. According to Iraq, Kuwait started slant drilling into their territory. Iraq invaded Kuwait, so Washington launched the Gulf War against its former ally. After the war, Washington placed brutal sanctions on Iraq, devastating the civilian population. Although the numbers were later determined to be overestimated by the UN, they at the time estimated that half a million Iraqi children had been killed by the sanctions. When asked if the price “was worth it”, Madeline Albright gave a firm answer, “we think the price is worth it.”
Between the brutal Iraqi sanctions, encircling Muslim holy lands with military bases, and support for Israel against the Palestinians, Washington’s old friend Osama Bin Laden was motivated to attack the United States. After 9/11 came a new host of wars, starting with Afghanistan. Although the Al-Qaeda attack in NYC was launched by a bunch of well-educated Arabs, Bush Jr. Invaded Afghanistan, waging war against the largely Pashtu-speaking Taliban, which 20 years later would fail to meet its goals.
He then invaded Iraq. Many books have been written on this disaster which left over 1,000,000 people dead, but we must keep moving in our overview. Democracy for Iraq wasn’t Bush’s original plan, but democracy they received. This allowed the Shia majority in Iraq (around 60% Shia) to gain power for the first time. This is critical to understand because Iran is more than 90% Shia, while the rest of the Muslim world is overwhelmingly Sunni. Democracy in Iraq made the country an instant ally with Iran while the largely secular, Sunni dominated Hussein regime had always had a contentious relationship with its eastern neighbor. Along with the US military presence, this led to massive Sunni-militant insurgencies inside Iraq, including Al-Qaeda being able to recruit exponentially. The violence spilled all over the Middle East, but no alliances would get more disorienting than the violence brewing in Syria.
Since Syria was friends with Iran, Obama considered it the next-best target. He and Hillary allied with a wide swath of Sunni militant groups which loosely became the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Since Al-Qaeda types are Sunni militant groups, it’s no wonder that US weapons regularly found their way into the hands of the very people who knocked our towers down in NY City. (That’s why I personally find the US war in Syria literally treasonous). Hillary herself said, and this is a direct quote, “Where do you go? And to whom are you delivering [weapons]? We know that al-Qaeda, Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al-Qaeda in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?”
Not only did they support the “moderate rebels” of the FSA, but they also supported Kurdish militant groups inside Syria. The Kurds had been on-and-off fighting with many of their neighbors for a long time, including ISIS, Arab groups, as well as Turkey. Reports abound of US backed Kurds fighting US backed Arab groups in Syria – all with US weapons, military vehicles, and support.
Thomas Jefferson would be flipping tables in DC.
The most extreme of the Kurds are known as the PKK. This is why Turkey’s president Erdogan held up Sweden’s NATO bid during Washington’s proxy war in Ukraine against Russia, because Turkey accused Sweden of harboring certain PKK exiles from the Syrian war since Sweden wouldn’t extradite.
Where’s the Tylenol?
Just a few more alliances of note before we get to the current situation:
In Yemen, Obama backed the Houthis (a Zaydi Shia group) because they were fighting Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). At least we were fighting Al-Qaeda. However, that didn’t last because MBS in Saudi Arabia wanted to fight the Houthis, so Washington switched sides and started backing the Saudis in Yemen instead. The Houthis recently launched missiles towards Israel (which got intercepted). But it seems the Situation in Gaza could help the Houthis and Saudis find common ground.
And although we should probably talk about Libya, where the US took Al-Qaeda’s side to oust Washington’s old ally Gaddafi, we simply don’t have time.
So that brings us to today: some reports are if Israel launches a major ground offensive into Gaza, the rest of the Muslim world would intervene – not just Iran. Turkey has condemned Israel’s bombings of the Palestinians in Gaza, hinting that they could intervene. Turkey is a NATO ally. Our long-time ally Saudi Arabia is also furious and condemning the bombing of Gaza, also hinting at intervening. The same is true of much of the rest of the Sunni world. Leave it to America to drive the Shia and Sunni states together against our other ally.
If the Saudis intervene against Israel, will they sit idly by and let the US operate out of their country against their side in the region? Furthermore, If Turkey intervenes and Israel strikes Turkey, does that invoke article 5 of NATO and mean that we have to go to war allied with Turkey against Israel? For the past year I kept hearing that NATO is a sacred vow because of support for the proxy war in Ukraine!
Surely this whole situation is a giant knot of entangling alliances, leaving the observer dizzy, confused, and in need of Dramamine. The only sane move is to stop – just stop. Although “It’s not our problem” actually is a sufficient argument, the more precise argument is that our interventions have only made things worse – much worse. Decades of pouring bombs, guns, armored vehicles, and boatloads of cash and intelligence into the region has not only failed to make peace, but has done nothing but perpetuate violence, destroy entire countries, and leave the entire region unstable. Most important for the reader, our government’s actions are nurturing the resentment the region harbors towards America, making us less safe – just like in 2001 – just as Ron Paul warned.
So, just stop! Stop before the entangling alliances strangle our treasury and provoke a major regional war which would sap us and the world of more blood.
Jonathan Grotefendt was a 1st Class Petty Officer, Nuclear-Trained Electrician’s Mate on the USS Nevada, an Ohio-Class Submarine. After his 6 years in the Navy, he moved his family to Central Texas where they built a house and homeschool their 4 beautiful children.