Robert Fisk of The Independent describes the enormous tangle of fighting that is going on in the Middle East and that given the number of nations bombing the region, it is amazing that they are not crashing into each other.
Let me try to get this right. The Saudis are bombing Yemen because they fear the Shia Houthis are working for the Iranians. The Saudis are also bombing Isis in Iraq and the Isis in Syria. So are the United Arab Emirates. The Syrian government is bombing its enemies in Syria and the Iraqi government is also bombing its enemies in Iraq. America, France, Britain, Denmark, Holland, Australia and – believe it or not – Canada are bombing Isis in Syria and Isis in Iraq, partly on behalf of the Iraqi government (for which read Shia militias) but absolutely not on behalf of the Syrian government.
The Jordanians and Saudis and Bahrainis are also bombing Isis in Syria and Iraq because they don’t like them, but the Jordanians are bombing Isis even more than the Saudis after their pilot-prisoner was burned to death in a cage. The Egyptians are bombing parts of Libya because a group of Christian Egyptians had their heads chopped off by what might – notionally – be the same so-called Islamic State, as Isis refers to itself. The Iranians have acknowledged bombing Isis in Iraq – of which the Americans (but not the Iraqi government) take a rather dim view. And of course the Israelis have several times bombed Syrian government forces in Syria but not Isis (an interesting choice, we’d all agree). Chocks away!
And all that does not include the various ad hoc alliances fighting one another on the ground. The foreign countries that are quite happy to wreak death from the air know that they need ground troops to capture and hold territory and this has resulted in further strange alliances. The Saudis have even gone to the extent of asking Pakistan to send in ground troops to the region but with the outrageous stipulation that they send only Sunni soldiers, although the Pakistani army is around 30% Shia, leading one Pakistani analyst to write that “the Saudis are now trying to not only divide the population, but divide our army as well.”
Fisk concludes with something that we must always bear in mind, that these wars don’t just happen for no reason and that it is not the case that the winners and losers consist of nations and sectarian groups.
And then, of course, there are the really big winners in all this blood, the weapons manufacturers. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin supplied £1.3bn of missiles to the Saudis only last year. But three years ago, Der Spiegel claimed the European Union was Saudi Arabia’s most important arms supplier and last week France announced the sale of 24 Rafale fighter jets to Qatar at a cost of around £5.7bn. Egypt has just bought another 24 Rafales.
The arms manufacturers are always the winners and ordinary people are always the losers.