Tag Archives: Caliphate

Replace Westphalian Nationalism with Green Unity: Chris Wood


Marsh Arabs poling a mashoof in the marshes of southern Iraq. Photo by Hassan Janali, United States Army Corps of Engineers

National sovereignty, no matter how zealously protected, cannot achieve natural security, writes Chris Wood in today’s Natural Security column. Critical ecological infrastructure can only be assured if we get past misguided nationalisms, nativism and deep-rooted tribalisms —  past a way of thinking about the world that dates back 366 years and has come to be tagged the “Westphalian” world-view. An excerpt:

My Facts and Opinions colleague Jonathan Manthorpe writes insightfully about the affairs of nations. His great talent is the ability to reveal how their competition, so often ‘analysed’ as though it were the political analog of the FIFA World Cup, is in fact more a case of national logos plastered over vicious backroom feuds among rival local powers vying for control of a lucrative franchise to exploit or, very occasionally, to serve. 

This column has taken the view that those narratives, while still relevant, are increasingly eclipsed by a much bigger one, both overarching and undergirding every other human story. That is the question, put bluntly, of how or whether we will survive the ecological exhaustion of our planet.

This view received an endorsement this past week, from the New York Times’ gadfly of globalization, Thomas Friedman. In a column titled “The Real War of Ideas,2” Friedman brought attention to a diffuse movement that is the other group, beside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, seeking to bring the Middle East under one rule — for quite different ends — from its mountain wall along the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea and south to the Persian Gulf. These are the region’s environmentalists.

Their key insight: their deepening eco-pocalypse can only be avoided by letting nature’s geography trump that of nations. ‘Avoided’ may in fact be too optimistic a term for the region often called the cradle of civilization. Millennia of not-always-wise irrigation, a century of water seizures for national ends, and decades of conflict, have not been kind to the once-lush basin of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. A less unrealistic goal might be “recovery.” And that might be possible, in the unlikely event that Friedman’s environmentalists-without-a-name let alone an army, unify the Levant under a Green  … read more (subscription required*).

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Let Nature’s Geography Trump Westphalian View

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On Iraq and America’s Folly


United States forces captured Saddam Hussein December 13, 2003, at ad-Dawr near Tikrit. Iraqi courts found him guilty of numerous offences. He was executed by hanging December 30, 2006. U.S. Army Photo

From five words flow the events we see today in Iraq, writes International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe in today’s column. As the United States grappled with a response to 9/11 Donald Rumsfield, then Secretary of Defense, said, “What if Iraq is involved?”  What has  been largely overlooked about America’s invasion of Iraq, Manthorpe argues, “is how conclusively the Iraq invasion fouled the west’s moral authority in a world where new centres of cultural, political and military power are rapidly emerging.” An excerpt: 

There has never been a satisfactory explanation why George W. Bush and his Praetorian Guard nursed such a visceral hatred of Saddam Hussein.

But they came to power in 2000 intent on vendetta, and within hours of the September 2001 al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington the closest officials and advisers around Bush were looking for a Saddam connection. Within days, senior officers in the Pentagon realized with alarm the administration had already loosed the unstoppable juggernaut that would lead to the invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam in 2003.

In the intervention months an entirely spurious paper trail was fabricated in Washington and London, creating the fantasy desired by the ideologue dunderheads around Bush. Saddam, they claimed, not only conspired with Osama bin Laden in the attacks on the United States, he had also developed weapons of mass destruction that threatened the entire Middle East and beyond.

Blitzkriegs built on lies never end well. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in over a decade of warfare in Iraq. But now it gets even worse. It is beginning to look as though the Bush coven has created the conditions for bin Laden’s heirs to realize their master’s dream.

Well armed fighters of the fanatical Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaida spin-off group, is marching on the Iraqi capital Baghdad after capturing the central towns of Tikrit and Mosul, the old heartland of Saddam’s regime. The ISIS is, like al-Qaida, a militant group from the Sunni Muslim faction of Islam. The government of Iraq is led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia Muslim, whose intolerance for the Sunnis has given ISIS the foothold to become the voice of the Sunni regions.

Bin Laden’s dream was to recreate the Caliphate of Islam’s early days when all Muslims came under one government … read more (subscription)*

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Bin Laden’s disciples move to realize his dream.

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Analysis: Iran and United States join forces against common foes

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe writes on the sea-change in the Middle East as Tehran and Washington find common cause and turmoil grows in Iraq and Syria. Excerpt:

As al-Qaida-linked groups hijack the anti-government insurgencies in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, Washington is finding itself making common cause with its old enemy, Iran, and exciting the anger of its traditional ally, Saudi Arabia.

This tectonic shift in Middle Eastern alliances stems from two decisions made by the administration of President Barack Obama in the closing months of last year.

Washington is now finding itself in the previously unthinkable position of leaning more towards the Shiite factions of Islam, led by Iran, and turning away from the purist Sunni factions led by Saudi Arabia.

The first of Obama’s decisions that propelled this shift was his response after United Nations investigators claimed the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, an ally of Iran whose followers belong to the Shiite Alawite sect, had used chemical weapons against rebel insurgents and civilians.

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