Great Britain as Mid East problem solver? Unlikely

Recently, Great Britain’s leadership has stated that it will announce a new political initiative for Middle East peace in the next number of months – this news should worry the entire world, due to Britain’s tarred legacy in the Middle East. Following the Treaty of Versailles and the Sykes–Picot Agreement, two crumbling empires, France and Great Britain, divided up the Middle East in an illogical and haphazard manner in order to serve their economic and geopolitical interests. This “dividing of the spoils” resulted in illogical borders and groupings of minorities, while leaders were chosen not for their talents but due to their connections with the colonial power, and their ability to secure their interests.

None of the treaties and political decisions from this period have held water. Most of the political leaders appointed were deposed or murdered. The states that were carved up according to illogical borders have suffered from internal unrest and revolutions that have torn apart their societies in “all or nothing” wars among the various minorities and tribes.

The Kurdish people, who did not have the requisite lobby power, never succeeded in bringing to fruition their quest for political independence. Syria, which contains seven tribal groups, which France, at a certain stage considered dividing into seven distinct political entities, has suffered decades of internal violence and conflict that has come to a cusp over the last two years. Iraq has not achieved peace and security due to the illogical social fabric of the country. Lebanon includes 18 different tribes and sects, and has been bleeding for over 60 years. In Libya, the various tribes are engaged in inter-tribal conflict, and in Yemen, the various tribes are engaged in civil strife, as though nothing has changed in the last 100 years. Even Egypt, which has a rich national history irrespective of the whims of colonial powers, is suffering from an internal war between factions, and cannot find its way.

In the midst of these chaotic events, which in the past have taken the form of “the Free Officers Revolution”, or more recently “the Arab Spring”, Western powers have involved themselves in a patronizing manner, although they are ultimately responsible for the original establishment of continued regional chaos.

In the modern world, there is no balance between the ability of a superpower to err, and the ability of a small state to live in welfare. Therefore, many states are developing non-conventional weapons to increase their deterrent ability in the face of various challenges. The illogical, post-colonialist division between India and Pakistan, which brought about ongoing conflict, resulted in the development of a nuclear arsenal in this tense part of the world. North Korea reached the conclusion that no superpower would defend it the way that a nuclear bomb would protect it. Qadafi, who was in the midst of developing a nuclear program, thought that if he “improved his behavior”, he would be accepted by the West, and thus, gave up his nuclear ambitions. In the end, he was murdered in a violent lynch, which was applauded by his supposed new friends in the West.

Therefore, any political initiative sponsored by a former colonial power ought to be taken with a grain of salt. States such as Great Britain attempt to leave their mark on the regional chessboard, despite the fact that in every place that they left their mark, they have left scorched earth. Great Britain has never facilitated a better future for the places that they left in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia. In fact, these countries are generally left with a lack of hope that haunts our region today.

Thus, when Great Britain tries to re-design our region, the entire region should prepare their bomb shelters, as no good can come from an empire that, along with France, owes our region and the entire world an explanation for the chaos that ensues today across our region.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center