Middle East chaos: Cock-up or conspiracy?

#Refugees

A decades-old Israeli plan to divide the surrounding Arab states into weak sectarian dependencies seems to be coming to pass

Roger Van Zwanenberg's picture
Tuesday 25 August 2015 15:39 UTC
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Can we connect the influx of refugees into Europe, from across the Middle East and North Africa, with Israeli foreign policy? It may seem like a long stretch, but it seems possible.

Even the most conservative analysts wring their hands in dismay when writing about US and EU policy on the Middle East, shake their heads in disbelief when they consider the responsibility of Western countries - from the US invasion of Iraq, to the NATO bombing of Libya, to the military support to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States in Syria.

The overall result of these policies, as is now well known, is the greatest displacement of people in the region both internally and externally since 1948. In that year, the Palestinians were scattered to the four corners of the earth, as Israel took territory by force. Today, Palestinians can be found in almost every country of the world. 

The Palestinian diaspora is equivalent to the Jewish diaspora before 1948. Today, an even larger number of people have been fleeing their homes. There is an ongoing flood of people coming by boat and on foot into Europe. Millions of people are living in United Nations refugee camps in every country that surrounds the turbulence. The political consequences in every nation in Europe have created both a humanitarian disaster for the migrants and a conundrum for the local peoples.

So why do the great powers continue with these policies?

More than mishap

Hugh Roberts, a scholar and historian of the region, set out to answer these questions in a long review headed The Hijackers, in a recent edition of the London Review of Books. Roberts, by no stretch of imagination, might be considered a radical. He was reviewing books which contained a “powerful critique of Western policy in Iraq and Syria” and after a long examination of the ideas put forward he concluded:

“The most charitable theory available, the eternally recurring colossal cock-up theory of history, will do well enough" and he goes on: “US policy being made up by crackpot realists…. American folly and incompetence that is in the dock…. Western policy has been a disgrace, and Britain’s contribution to it should be a matter of national shame….”

Worse still is the fall out of these policies, the growth and growth of ISIS, a militant millenarian movement supported and guided by the people who used to run Iraq under the Saddam regime. ISIS and its branches are spreading across the entire Middle East, through North Africa and down to the West African countries around Nigeria and finally reaching European capitals and cities.

My question is whether the cock-up theory is really sufficient to explain the chaos that we are witnessing and whether our foreign policies really are conducted by idiots? After many conversations I have had with people over many years, discussing what appear to be mistakes in foreign policy, with decent people on the right of the spectrum of politics, they consistently excuse their countries of cock up; mistakes made in good faith. The left, usually without sufficient evidence, return to conspiracy theories.

Intentional chaos

I have also had many conversations with people who have expert knowledge of the Middle East. Many feel in their bones that the chaos is intentional. When confronted with these seemingly contradictory issues, I have asked myself, who benefits? Are there any nation states which benefit from the present chaos? There is only one possibility, and that is Israel.

There was a report in the liberal newspaper Haaretz that Israel with American complicity trained anti-Assad forces in Syria about three years ago and these morphed into ISIS.

Historically, Theodore Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, argued that the area of the Jewish state stretches “from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates”. The Promised Land includes parts of modern-day Syria and Lebanon. These goals were updated and documented in the Yinon plan in 1982. This plan excluded any territory for the Palestinians and argued for the weakening and fracturing of modern-day surrounding Arab states. The Greater Israel plan would create a number of weak and small states dependent on Israel.

Zionist Plan for the Middle East

There is every reason to assume that the Yinon plan has been updated and is now the cornerstone of the current Netanyahu government. My old and sadly dead friend, Israeli author Israel Shahak, published in English, verbatim, an Israeli document entitled, "Greater Israel: The Zionist Plan for the Middle East." The article had appeared in Hebrew in a Journal called Kivunum in February 1982.

It reflected the heart of Israeli foreign policy at the time. And the fact that Israel has always refused to agree to national boundaries with the international community is a strong indication that the policy of the article is still very much alive.

Israel Shahak was an Israeli citizen after fleeing the German concentration camps. Shahak was a deep humanitarian. I knew him well, and received his hospitality when he showed me around Israel 20 years ago. Shahak translated key documents from Hebrew, so the rest of the world would know what was being said in a language few other people could read. The article was originally published by the Association of Arab American University Graduates in Boston Massachusetts.

The article is obviously dated; it is over 35 years old. My question is whether the plan outlined in it is still operational, and to this question, no one in Israel is going to comment. 

The plan had two essential premises: that to survive Israel must become a regional imperial power, and must create a division of the area into smaller mini states by the dissolution of the existing states. Stated in its chilling simplicity, it may sound far-fetched. The plan details the ethnic and religious divisions in all of Israel’s surrounding countries. The plan states clearly that Iraq and Syria needed to be divided into small states based on religious divisions. The goal of the plan was to create states surrounding Israel politically and economically dependent on Israel.

At the time, it was assumed that this process would happen naturally. That part was clearly far-fetched.

Another aspect of the plan, was to disperse the Palestinians away from their homeland on a permanent basis.

Western proxies

The so called Oded Yinon plan, written in 1982, is detailed, unambiguous and is clearly a long-term Zionist strategy for the entire region. Seen in this light the invasion of Iraq by the USA could be understood as the opening gambit. The only way to make the argument stick is to know for sure that the USA, and its allies - the European Union, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States - were acting knowingly as proxy military forces for  this long-term Zionist plan.

However, there is a singular lack of evidence to make this jump, but no one should be surprised about that. What evidence there might be, would be carefully and knowingly hidden. For instance, the discussions that Tony Blair had with President Bush before the invasion of Iraq have been withheld from public gaze despite intense pressure to have these discussions publicised.

There is, though, a remarkable volume of evidence of the depth of the close alliance between Israel and the USA over very many years. Both countries think of themselves as blessed by God. The US provides financial aid annually for Israel, in volumes per capita above any other country in the world. The Prime Minister of Israel has sufficient influence to come and address the politicians of both Houses of Congress, when he considers it sufficiently necessary. Sheldon Adelson, perhaps the richest man in the USA and the primary supporter of the Republican Party, is equally the primary supporter of Netanyahu in Israel.

I could go on and on illustrating just how close Israel is to the USA. There is no equal to these nations’ fraternal relations in the world. There is no doubt that American policy toward the Middle East and Israel’s policy in the region are powerfully coordinated.

Is the Oded Yinon plan still relevant? All the evidence would indicate that it has been updated. The extraordinary invasions by Israel of Gaza are an indication that Israel is willing to create conditions of state terror not dissimilar to the dropping of an atomic bomb on Japan at the end of 1945. Israel remains unwilling, as I mentioned earlier, to delimit her boundaries. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians over nearly 70 years indicates an unwavering determination to expand into their lands. And the secrecy surrounding Israel’s atomic arsenal, all indicate that the plan to expand into the entire Middle East is an ongoing part of the Zionist intentions.

None of this argument proves that the USA is acting as a proxy for Israel or that US tax dollars are financing Zionist expansionist polices, and at the same time creating greater misery for millions of families in the region. 

What I am trying to argue is that this connection is a serious possibility, and that for Hugh Roberts to ignore this argument in favour of American presidential incompetence is too easy an analysis for a serious historian. This connection needs much deeper investigation.

 - Roger Van Zwanenberg founded Zed Press in 1975 and moved to Pluto Books in 1987. He remained the publisher at Pluto until 2011 and during these 35 years published widely on Palestinian affairs.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Fighters from al-Nusra front drive in the northern city of Aleppo 26 May (AFP)