Friday 1 April 2011

A new Sykes-Picot Agreement (PO)

M D Nalapat

Ninety-five years ago, Britain and France got together to divide the Arab world. The 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement formalised the division of the region into spheres of influence controlled by London and Paris. Gone were the promises of freedom that had been given to the Arab peoples at the start of the campaign against Turkey.

Watching the London Conference on the future of Libya, it becomes clear that very little has changed in the Arab world. Most of the countries of the region are under the tutelage of either Britain or France, with of course the US as the senior partner of both these powers. Any visitor to the Gulf Cooperation Council region will be struck by the influence of US and European “advisors”. Apart from minor decisions, such as whether to have pasta or hummus for dinner, all decisions get taken only after they have been vetted and approved by the ubiquitous “advisors”. Small wonder that even after losing more than $1 trillion in the 2008 financial collapse caused by the greed of financial institutions in London, Zurich, Chicago and New York, Arab investors still place more than 95% of their financial assets in the very same entities that have fleeced them.

The two best options are China and India, but in the case of the latter, so strong is the grip of the same set of “advisors” on policymakers in India as in the Arab world that no effort has been made to ensure that investment flow from the GCC to India. Indeed, even today, efforts at setting up institutions based on Sharia banking principles are prevented by the Government of India from being set up in the country, even though - at a conservative estimate - these could attract about $400 billion of capital over the next ten years.

London, New York, Frankfurt and Zurich do not want to see their monopoly over Islamic banking get upset by India, and have made sure that policymakers in Mumbai and Delhi reject such funds on specious grounds. Not surprisingly, several of those in government agencies who are against allowing Islamic banking in India have children working in financial companies based in the US and Europe.

To those who had some faith in the ability and willingness of China and Russia to stand up to the pressure of the US and the EU, the fact that Moscow and Beijing allowed UNSC 1973 to get passed two weeks ago was a shock. It showed that both countries were afraid of annoying Washington and Brussels, even if such a posture meant the overturning of their own core principles. UNSC 1973 permits “all possible means” to establish a “no fly zone” over Libya. However, rather than aircraft, NATO missiles have been destroying trucks, tanks and other land vehicles of the Libyan armed forces. Has the UN Secretariat not realised that tanks, trucks and jeeps cannot fly, and that their destruction goes way beyond the ambit of UNSC 1973? Those who have regard for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon are hoping that he will act to ensure that the United Nations does not become known as helpless at the violation of its principles by a clutch of countries, each of whom has a history of colonising vast territories in Asia, Africa and South America.

It has been a pathetic spectacle to watch Arab diplomats scurry to London to stand in silence (nodding their heads) while the NATO powers discuss the best way of destroying the military of an independent Arab nation, and daily bomb and strafe people in the region. Clearly, some Arab diplomats still live in the world of Sykes-Picot, unable to free

themselves of subservience to outside powers. They are making a mistake. By in effect facilitating the crucifixion of Libyam, they are opening the door to groups of disaffected citizens in each of their countries, all of whom have now got an Arab League-sanctioned mandate to call in outside powers to assist them in creating an insurgency.

Soon, NATO will begin to arm the insurgents who are battling against the Libyan state, even while using UNSC 1973 to prevent other countries from helping Colonel Gaddafy. Just as in the case of Iraq, the NATO powers have been misled by expatriates who have given them a distorted picture of the situation. In the case of Libya, the primary opposition to the secular Colonel Gaddafy comes from religious extremists who seek to ensure that Libya becomes a Wahabbi state, where women are forced to wear the veil, avoid work, and the legal system gets changed so as to resemble that in Saudi Arabia.

Say this for Bill and Hillary Clinton, they stand by their friends and supporters. Were it ever to be made public, it would be seen that several millions of dollars flow to the Clinton Foundation from Wahabbi interests. So it is small wonder that Hillary Clinton is adopting the Wahabbi line in Libya, by ensuring that the US takes out the secular Gaddafy regime, even though from 2003, the colonel has adopted a policy that is in deference to the wishes of the NATO powers. He has destroyed his WMD stocks, cut back to insignificance his backing for anti-NATO groups in the region, and has ensured that 70% of Libya’s oil industry has come under the control of US and European countries. However, clearly this has not been enough for France, which under Sarkozy wants all of Libyan oil for itself and its NATO partners. Hence the effort at creating a Kosovo in Libya out of the eastern provinces, that would contain 80% of Libya’s oil reserves.

Sudan has already been divided, and other Arab states are certain to follow Libya into this 21st century version of Sykes-Picot, where the military power of NATO will be used to ensure monopolies for its companies over the mineral resources of the region. Because of the fact that the Wahabbis have been generous in funneling money to the NATO powers, the concentration of attention of these powers is directed at the secular states of the Arab world that are republican. Iraq was first, followed by Libya. The next to come under attack will be Syria.

Hillary Clinton considers herself a supporter of the rights of women. Yet she backs forces in the region that deny women even the right to hold certain jobs, or even to travel without permission. She opposes countries where women are free to dress and work as they please. Seeing the drift of NATO policy in the region, it is clear that the alliance would prefer to have retrograde regimes in office, so that they can be more easily controlled. It will be interesting to see their reaction to the September elections in Egypt, for - if there is a free poll - it is certain that groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood will dominate the legislature, just as similar groups do in Lebanon or Gaza. What then? Will the “verdict of the people” get accepted, even if this means the end of the Egyptian military’s uncritical support for Israel? It needs to be remembered that Hosni Mubarak and the army he commanded for so long enforced a siege of Gaza, thereby blocking efforts at sending supplies into that territory from Egypt. But for the assistance given by Cairo, it would not have been possible for Israel to bottle up Gaza the way it has. The territory has been blocked of access to the outside world,except through Israel. It is this columnist’s view that such a policy would be among the first casualties of the elections in Egypt, were these to be fair.

Although television channels presenting a US-EU view of the conflict ( or a Wahabbi one, for let us not forget that the Wahabbis are standing with NATO in the attempted dismembering of Libya) claim that the population in the Arab states backs the intervention in Libya, this is not correct. Those on the ground know what BBC and CNN refuse to cover, which is the cruelty shown by the “democracy fighters” to those who oppose them. Hundreds have had their throats slit or have been bludgeoned to death. Of course, by definition, those that are murdered by the opponents of the Gaddafy regime are “military targets”, even if they be women and children. Already low, the credibility of these news channels has fallen even further by their motivated reportage and their censoring of any news that shows the opponents of Colonel Gaddafy to be as savage as any of their opponents. It is a sad reality that the media in so-called “free” countries is often even less reliable than that in dictatorships, especially when they are reporting on events that affect the economic interests of big corporations in their countries.

France and the UK will be hoping that Total and BP will get huge benefits from the NATO attack on Libya. They are going to be disappointed. Events in Libya are generating a hatred for outside intervention that will soon result in public pressure against the commercial entities that use military force to get a business advantage. The governments of the Arab world may be supine. Their populations will not be. It needs to be remembered that the Arab peoples have one of the noblest civilisations in history, and that once they begin to assert themselves, outside powers will find themselves running out of options. In the meantime, the sorry spectacle of local complicity in the balkanisation of yet another country goes on. Why are India, Pakistan and so many Asian powers weak? Because they fight each other, rather than unite to defend their common interests.

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