US Mideast Policy: A Case of Alignment, Realignment, Misalignment and Refugees

An interesting equation has developed in the Middle East.  There is ISIS, and then there is everyone else … or almost.  Everyone is against ISIS:  the US, the UK and EU countries, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, the Kurds; and Saudi Arabia remains silent.  Yet, by all accounts, ISIS is organized, well-trained and well-armed, possessing sophisticated weapons.  The Iraqi army and the vaunted Kurdish fighters were no match in its lightning advance until US airpower blunted their offensive.

It leads to the obvious question of who armed and trained the ISIS fighters if everyone is opposed to them.  Perhaps the answer lies in the curiously silent Saudis, the arming and training of Syrian rebels, and the schizophrenic US policy within the region.  In Iraq, the US is bombing ISIS and has inserted Special Forces to advise, train, and assist the locals;  in Syria, where the US wants the Assad regime deposed, ISIS is not touched, although ISIS does not respect borders and its arms and fighters move freely across.  But here is the worst:  ISIS weaponry is US, and consequently there is a strong likelihood of US Special forces opposing US equipment and possibly training.  Such are the alignments, realignments and misalignments of US policy.  It is also not new.  Think of the Afghan fighters paraded at the White House and likened to the US founding fathers by President Reagan.

So Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a right wing Bush holdover, opposes the Libyan intervention, but Hillary Clinton, the original hippie, anti-war activist becomes the pro-war hawk.  The results are transparent as the Islamist extremists spread their virus south.  Libya itself is a wreck, the infrastructure destroyed by bombing, including a precious water delivery system.  How that protected civilians (the UN mandate) is not clear; it certainly cannot have improved their health or welfare or chances of survival, remembering that most casualties of war are indirect.  Libyans are fleeing the chaos, and Europe, particularly Italy, is the destination of thousands of these new refugees — many have died trying.  In comparison during the Gaddafi regime, few Libyans, if any, sought shelter abroad.  They did not need to, for Libya boasted the highest Human Development Index in Africa.

Millions of refugees from Iraq; millions from Syria, millions from Afghanistan — into Pakistan which still harbors the highest number of refugees of any one country according to UNHCR figures; and tiny Lebanon is overwhelmed.  Yet, the story does not end.  We now have thousands of refugees pouring out of eastern Ukraine.

Were all these displaced and victimized humans to voice complaint about their misery, almost all would be writing to the same address …

Arshad M. Khan is a retired professor. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Arshad M..