The Middle East is being dragged into anarchy by a belt of state-backed militias and armed groups. Wealthy Arab states have to take responsibility for creating the problem
The idea that “the world will be a better place” after the death of Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a far-fetched one. Sure, Isis was dealt a major blow, but that hardly makes the Middle East a better-looking place. It makes it look like a pig wearing makeup.
Isis effectively took a wrecking ball to the Arab world. The group’s main aim was to blur existing national borders in favour of its “caliphate”. But its historic and dramatic rise left us struggling to recognise the wider Middle East’s descent into anarchy.
Both in its structure and in its lust for power, Isis was a reflection of what’s happened to the region – now nothing more than a decadent corpse, devastated not by Isis alone but by an unprecedented hike in the number of militias and armed groups.
Whether you call them militias, armies, rapid forces or whatever you’d prefer depends on where you stand. This belt of militias extends across Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. It is a complicated pattern of armed groups created to fight each other as part of an endless multi-layered cold war shaping the region’s future.
They are wreaking havoc within and beyond the borders of the post-independence Arab state as we know it, and threatening its very existence. Although they have conflicting ideological, ethnical, geographical and tribal agendas, they all share one motive: serving the interests of big regional players, many of whom helped create them in the first place.
Iran was the first to devise the idea of a militia more powerful than the state, a force to control the state from within as part of a regional sectarian project. In Lebanon, the creation of Hezbollah – which has increased its power and survived for decades – was a great success. It sent a wave of admiration throughout the whole region, especially (and ironically) among Iran’s rivals in the Gulf.
Categories: The Muslim Times