Cyprus Mail
Guest Columnist Opinion

West needs to examine its own involvement in the Middle East

File photo

By Gavin Jones

There’s a palpable naivety and expectation that exists in Britain, France, America and a number of other countries in the West that ‘bad things’ should be confined to other countries and especially in the Middle East. Despite daily images of the aftermaths of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombings and general slaughter being regularly displayed on our television screens, it’s of no real consequence as these events haven’t taken place on our ‘patch’.

Putting matters into context, the outrages in Manchester and Paris pale into insignificance with what’s happening in Iraq and Syria, with barrel bombs, executions and bombardments daily occurrences with over 300,000 deaths so far in the latter’s murderous civil war.

We Westerners mouth how awful it all is and the next minute continue our daily lives by going to the supermarket, restaurant or football match without necessarily admitting or questioning that quite possibly the policies and actions of our own governments might have some bearing as to the violence being brought to our own doorsteps.

As a result of the horrific loss of life and outpouring of grief as a result of the recent events in Manchester, it’s perhaps timely to delve deeper into the whys and wherefores of what’s happening in our cruel, unpredictable world and attempt to examine the relationship between all those concerned and the various dynamics which are at play.

The first assassins can be traced back to the Middle Ages and were based initially in what is now north-west Iran. They were trained to be patient, calculating and well versed in the culture of their intended targets. As well as ‘eliminating’ Muslim rivals, they targeted leading Crusaders who they viewed as invading infidels and defilers of their way of life and sacred land. Sound familiar? In the modern era, the assassination squads in the Palestinian/Israeli and IRA/Protestant paramilitary context have dominated scenes of death and destruction for several decades.

The latest manifestation of this is a result of events in the Middle East which kicked off with a vengeance with the West’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, the excuse being the attack on New York’s Twin Towers in September 2001. It’s been downhill ever since. As an aside, it should be noted that the nationalities of the hijackers were Saudi Arabian (15), Egyptian (1), Lebanese (1) and two from the United Arab Emirates. Not an Afghan or Iraqi in sight.

So why indeed are these suicide attacks occurring in Europe and America? I would suggest that two reasons may well be attributed to desperation and frustration as ISIS, Al Qaida and others, like the IRA and Palestinians, are unable to wage war in conventional terms with standing armies, air forces and sophisticated weaponry and instead employ crude terror tactics.

In order to counter them, merely wringing one’s hands, expressing solidarity in the face of their methods and politicians nobly coming on television vowing to defend the West’s way of life aren’t nearly enough. It’s my contention that the West is viewed as the principal source of trouble in the region which stretches back to the imperialist policies of Britain and France after World War I, with America now primarily having filled the void. Therefore, until and unless the West seriously examines its own role and involvement in the Middle East, what happened in Manchester, Paris, New York and elsewhere will continue.


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