As Washington’s multiple wars for a ‘New Middle East’ (NME) fail, the global order is shifting against the North American giant. Not only is China displacing the USA as the productive and economic centre of the world, new global organisations are competing with those created by the Anglo-Americans. This book argues that it is in that global context that we must understand the trajectory of the Arabic and Islamic countries of the ‘Middle East’, now often called ‘West Asia’.
Sustained resistance to the NME interventions forced a partial retreat by Washington. In 2019 the Trump administration withdrew part of the U.S. occupation of North Syria, while its failing war on Yemen led to a search for peace talks. Despite moves by Trump to cement Israeli dominance over the Palestinian territories, multiple reports emerged branding the Israeli regime as an apartheid state which had to be dismantled. That in turn incited conflict between the liberal Zionists and the openly fascist faction which now runs Tel Aviv. Frustrated at apparent gains by the Iran-led bloc, in January 2020 Trump murdered the top Iranian and Iraqi national heroes, Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, imagining he could thus decapitate the regional resistance. Instead, what emerged were widespread calls for the removal of the US military presence from the entire region. Iraqi factions came together for the first time, to demand the withdrawal of US occupation, while Palestinian resistance factions openly acknowledged their debt to both Soleimani and Iran. In 2021 the Biden administration carried out a chaotic and humiliating withdrawal from the 20 year occupation of Afghanistan, sending shock waves through all other US collaborators in the region, from Kurdish separatists to the Israelis.
At the same time, global disillusion with US-led western institutions had been growing, leading to the creation of eastern and southern counterparts. In Latin America the ALBA, UNASUR and the CELAC filled a regional gap left by popular rejection of Washington’s Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) project. China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 but, dissatisfied with the governance of both the WTO and the IMF, went on to form the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and to join with Russia and others in the increasingly popular BRICS group (Devonshire-Ellis 2022). The expansion of US proxy wars and unilateral coercive measures (“sanctions”) finally reached Russia and China. The USA, in economic decline, imagined it could act against its perceived rivals with impunity—which only added impetus to the counter-weight in global restructuring and to the search for alternatives to the dollar. All this, of course, has important implications for the independent states and peoples of West Asia.
However in western circles the world is more often not seen this way. Much writing on international relations, and on the ‘Middle East’ in particular, adopts elements of North American ‘exceptionalism’. This approach implies that the principles of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘non-intervention’ in the U.N. Charter are subordinate to the need for a great hegemonic power to ‘stabilise’ and, they suggest, bring a necessary order to the world. That great power, either represented or led by the United States of America, cannot be subject to the same rules as others. Such ideas are reinforced by centuries of Anglo-American privilege.
This book takes a distinct approach, using as a starting point the self determination of peoples and the consequent need for post-colonial states to build strong and independent social systems, in the face of relentless hegemonic power. Strong independent states are necessary to build and then defend distinct policies, such as national resource control and public services. History has shown that weak independent states are easily destabilised and destroyed. The ones that survive are branded ‘dictatorships’, for standing up to imperial dictates. To study such resistance a counter-hegemonic approach is necessary, where the voices, experiences and alliances of independent peoples matter.