SyrianRefugeesA grotesque humanitarian disaster looms large as crisis and conflagration ravage the Middle East. The number of people fleeing the civil war in Syria alone has now surpassed four million. “This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation. It is a population that needs the support of the world but is instead living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into poverty,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.

The Middle East and North Africa gave birth to some of the most ancient civilizations, around the Bosporus straits, the Nile, and the Euphrates. This region saw the rise and fall of the Egyptian, Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Umayyad, Abbasid, the Ottoman, and other historical empires. The Middle East today is in the throes of violence, bloodshed, forced migration, occupation, repression, poverty, and misery. Despite the huge mineral, hydrocarbon, and human resource wealth, the masses are suffering as never before. In a tragic paradox, this is due to these very resources and the region’s strategic location. There is not a single state in this part of the world that is not plagued by instability, social turbulence, state repression, economic turmoil, and terrorism. Despotic democracies, vicious monarchies, reactionary sheikdoms, and brutal military regimes have inflicted repression and destitution. Imperialist occupations and fundamentalist terror have exacerbated the catastrophe.

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, the whole of the Middle East was at the mercy of Western imperialism. The strategists of capitalism rushed to carve up the vast territory of the Ottoman Caliphate by drawing straight lines in the sand and creating a series of artificial states. The Sykes-Picot treaty, the Balfour Declaration, and the treaty of Versailles were some of the cynical diplomatic maneuvers that led to the Balkanization of the region and imperialist control of its resources.

This colonization was based on the age-old policy of the ancient Roman emperors—divide and rule. The Western powers fueled nationalism, ethnic, religious, and communal divisions, while propping up local stooges, monarchs, dictators, and religious sectarian dynasties. The current onslaught of Islamic fundamentalism is not a brand new phenomenon. Between 1917 and 1926, Abdul-Aziz Bin Abdul-Rehman (known as Ibn-Saud) and his armed Wahhabi desert hordes, with the active help of the British military, took control of what was known as Najd and Hejaz and fabricated the reactionary kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For 90 years, the vicious and hedonistic Saudi monarchs have been in power with US imperialist support. They fomented the vicious Wahhabi sectarian fundamentalist terror to sustain imperialist hegemony far beyond the territories they ruled directly.

The media’s portrayal of the ISIS and al-Qaeda “threat” to Western liberal, secular, and democratic values is cynically manipulated. The truth is that these poisonous outfits were the creation of Western imperialism, and are still used and funded by them when it suits their interests. As a result, Syria is suffering the bloodiest conflagration in its history. Egypt is under a ferocious military dictatorship. Iraq and Libya are in the throes of a violent and catastrophic disintegration. The Saudi monarchy is inflicting bestial premedieval repression with public beheadings and remorseless exploitation and coercion of the workers, 80% of whom are Asian immigrants. Iran is also suffering reactionary despotism and is plunged into deprivation, poverty, and gender discrimination. The mullahs have accumulated obscene wealth by exploiting the Iranian workers and resources. This reactionary clergy has used the external threats to perpetuate its vicious rule since 1979.

But it has not always been this way and will not always be this way. The analysts and historians of the status quo conveniently ignore the rich history of revolutionary struggles in this region. In the post-World War II period, the Middle East was swept across by revolutionary insurrections. From Syria to Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq there were mighty movements against capitalism and imperialism. In Egypt the rise of radical Arab nationalism in the 1950s led by Nasser not only defeated the Israeli, French, and British imperialists in the Suez War, but was rapidly moving towards the overthrow of capitalism. Ironically, he was stopped by Brezhnev’s Stalinist regime in Moscow. The overt and covert support of US imperialism for the Muslim Brotherhood under the Eisenhower administration resulted in what eventually became modern Islamic fundamentalism. This was used as a tool of imperialism against the revolutionary movements and left-wing regimes, and to crush the youth and mass upheavals threatening capitalism. Now the proverbial chickens have come home to roost. Frankenstein monsters such as ISIS are out of the direct control of imperialism and their puppet regimes.

The forces of barbarism are threatening the region. But the masses in the Middle East have proved more than once in recent history their capability and strength to fight. With a Marxist leadership, these mass upheavals will overcome the prejudices of sectarianism, religion, narrow nationalism, ethnicity, and race. The socialist revolution will demolish every element of barbarism, religious reaction, and corporate plunder. A socialist federation of the Middle East will cleanse it of all violence, poverty, and the stranglehold of imperialist hegemony. Instead of being a hub of humanitarian disaster it will be transformed into a beacon of hope for the peoples of the planet.

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