New World Order to Avoid a New World War
By: Hassan Khalil
Published Sunday, July 15, 2012
The world between the two World Wars was multi-polar, and nations with no ideological connection between them aligned together in rival camps. That ceased to be the case during the Cold War. But today’s world is clearly recovering that multi-polarity, and two different camps are emerging : one led by the United States that seeks to extend its hegemony worldwide, and the other headed by Russia and China which wants its slice of the global pie.
This camp consists of a combination of states that want to recover former glories (Russia) , others seeking to translate the power they have been accumulating for decades into a say in international decision-making (China), and countries that seek recognition as world players (Brazil, India, South Africa) or regional superpowers (Iran). This amid a global financial crisis that threatens the power of the United States and the very existence of the European Union, and a tendency toward nationalist retrenchment, particularly in Europe which has been on a steady drift towards the right for years.
If the points of friction that divided the world into two camps a century ago focused largely on Europe, the Middle East is a frontline in the current struggle. Indeed, reading between the lines of the past few months’ developments, it appears that Syria has become the principal arena for the conflict between the two sides.
The chances of it leading them into a major confrontation appear far higher than would have been the case in the past. With electronic warfare being brought into play, nowhere is secure. So everyone is right to be worried, from the people of Tripoli in North Lebanon, to the residents of Washington and Beijing. All questions have become valid, and deserving of serious efforts towards providing answers, though these may only unfold with developments.
They start with the local concerns of Lebanon and Syria and lead on:
1. How can the Lebanese resistance safeguard itself and its weapons, in light of the partial security breakdown in its milieu, and the total breakdown on the borders with Syria?
2. To what extent could Lebanon be affected by events and developments in Syria? Is it the case that, the conditions no longer being ripe for civil war, the fallout will take the form of the creation of enclaves here and there that renounce the state?
3. Will the skeletal vestiges of the Lebanese state survive, or witness a drift into Libyan-style armed anarchy and rebellion against what remains of it, despite the warlords waking up to such dangers and uniting to avoid them?
4. Will the constant friction between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh be contained, or grow to extend to the entire Muslim North and Akkar, and what fate awaits the area’s Christians if matters escalate?
5. What kinds of clashes can we expect if attempts to incite Shia-Sunni strife succeed, and the fools in Lebanon, Syria and the Arab world complicit in this conspiracy become captive to it?
6. What are Russia, China and Iran’s chances of success in keeping Syria in its geopolitical location under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad for the present, and ensuring that it remains there after his departure?
7. Conversely, what would the new Syria look like in the event of the Islamists managing to take power? Will Syria survive intact, or will we see the birth of mini-states?
8. What would that mean for Lebanon, geographically and politically? Could that in turn set the stage for a regional war with the potential to extend to other parts of the world?
9. Would Syria’s Kurds copy Iraq’s, and what would Turkey’s reaction be?
10. Could Turkey, after its European about-turn, achieve its ambitions in the region if chaos prevails there? Will the new Islamist regimes work together under Turkish leadership and American shelter?
11. What would the position of Turkey’s Allawis be if there were massacres and ethnic cleansing in Syria? Would Turkey remain united if a process of racial and confessional disintegration starts in the region? Can Erdogan and Davutoglu achieve their dream of turning Turkey over from a secular Ataturk to a religious Ataturk aligned with NATO and the Arab monarchies?
12. What price will Turkey demand if it agrees to be NATO’s proxy army, and what if military entanglement undoes the economic gains it has made over the past 15 years?
13. What fate would be in store for the region’s minorities, especially the Christians? Is it true that part of the reason for Russia’s newfound engagement is emotional, related to Orthodox Russia’s links with the Orthodox Christians of Syria and Lebanon, and that it will not allow harm to befall them come what may, but protect them as it did in Serbia?
14. What can be expected for Egypt? Is it heading down the Algerian road to open conflict between the military and the Islamists following the victory of Mohammed Mursi? And how can Egypt meet its people’s needs for wheat, rice and sugar with its foreign exchange reserves reduced from $36 billion to 14 billion?
15. Does the Muslim Brotherhood have the same agenda in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt alike? What is the truth about their relationship with the US and the West? Why have they been so vague in their attitude to Arab issues?
16. What attitude will the Brotherhood take on the siege of Gaza and the Camp David agreement? And, incidentally, where is the Palestinian Spring? Or is it permanently winter for the Palestinians, until they are provided with cover from somewhere (or a storm breaks)?
17. How will the Jordanian regime preserve its stability in light of the growing influence of the Islamists in the region, and will Jordan be treated as part of a bigger deal?
18. How can the Iraqi authorities prevent more sectarian violence? Will Iraq also break up into sectarian and ethnic mini-states in the event of Syria collapsing and disintegrating? Should we speak here of cascades of blood, from the Gulf to Syria and Lebanon, as a result of backwardness hiding behind confessionalism?
19. What role would Iraq’s Kurds play in such eventualities? Are they awaiting such an opportunity in order to achieve their historic dream of independent statehood?
20. Where do the Gulf states stand in all of this? What is their role, and what have they contrived? Will they be unaffected by all these scenarios? Are they really in an existential struggle, or did they imagine that, and thus create conditions they would be better off without? Isn’t it true that the Gulf states lose whichever way the conflict is resolved: whether by means of an American-Iranian understanding that would be at their expense, or a confrontation for which they would be the venue? Why have they put themselves in such a position? Is there a single Gulf state that could withstand being in the middle of the blaze?
21. Haven’t the Gulf states learned from the Americans’ experience with the “mujahideen” and their own experience with the Islamists? Prior to his about-turn, Azmi Bishara once remarked on al-Jazeera that while those who bankroll terrorists think they can control them, the terrorists know better but allow the funders to delude themselves until they have secured all the support they need. Does he still hold that view?
22. What are Iran’s real intentions toward the Gulf and the region? Are they really hostile, contrary to its public statements? Has it really become so much of an enemy of the “oil Arabs” that their territory should be used for a possible attack on Iran?
23. Can Iran hold fast against the siege to which the West is subjecting it? How will it react if the pain inflicted starts becoming unbearable? Could it, in the course of its own existential struggle, bring the temple down on everyone, and threaten the security of the Gulf and the oil by closing the Strait of Hormuz through which 40 percent of the world’s crude passes?
24. If Iran is subjected to a suffocating blockade or a military attack, what will happen on the Lebanese-Israeli front? The same can be asked about the Syria and Gaza fronts.
25. To what extend can Iranian banks continue to function by relying on newfound Asian channels with the support of the “new axis,” and what are Iran’s options in the event of Russia’s position changing as a result of changing circumstances or some deal?
26. What are the reasons for the Russian-Chinese awakening, which prompted the two countries for the first time to jointly use their UN Security Council vetoes, twice, in relation to Syria? What is the thinking behind their statements that transformation in Syria threatens global security?
27. How much does Russia fear the Islamist resurgence reaching Chechnya, and China fear a revival of Islamic secessionist movements (while also worrying about US naval moves in Chinese seas)? Or is the real story that the two powers have embarked on a struggle with the West to share influence over the sources of oil and gas? Just as the West controls the Gulf states and is prepared to wage a world war to keep it that way, is it that Russia and China will not forfeit gas-rich Iran, oil-rich Iraq, nor their Syrian conduit to the Mediterranean, and are prepared to take on all comers to keep these countries as allies?
28. What are the ramifications of Uzbekistan pulling out of the collective security pact between the former Soviet republics, amid rumors that Tashkent might host a US military base? What would Russia’s reaction to that be?
29. Does the US have the capacity to wage an open-ended confrontation on its own, knowing that Europe is paralysed by the financial bankruptcy that has placed its unity on the line? Alternatively, could the West’s financial troubles encourage it to enter into a confrontation as a means of distraction, as previous experiences have taught us?
30. Is it true that the US has begun negotiations with India aimed at drawing it into an alliance and away from its new partnership with the BRICS, which developed to the extent of considering the creation of a new currency to compete with the dollar, euro, pound sterling and yen? If the US succeeds in forging such an alliance with India, what will be the reaction of Russia and China on the one hand, and on the other of Pakistan, India’s enemy and historically the strategic ally of the US and the Gulf states?
These and hundreds of other questions feed into another: to where is this world heading at such breakneck speed? It is clearly becoming a more dangerous place than at any time since World War II, and one of the principal sources of the danger is early big-power rivalry to secure supplies of oil and gas and raw materials. The Arab world meanwhile remains ruled by the darkness that stems from ignorance, illiteracy and arrogation of the nation’s resources.
Thus the Arab world becomes an arena for international conflict, while its peoples become tools devoted to the pursuit of hatred and folly.
The danger in the confrontation between the two camps lies in the fact that one, the Western camp, has been in constant decline since the 1980s, due to its productive laxity and reliance on services and paper economies, but refuses to admit that and continues to act as superior. The members of the other camp – led by Russia and China and including India, Brazil, South Africa and other Asian and Latin American states – have weathered financial crises, and learned and recovered from them. They refuse to defer to historic Western conceit any longer, especially those countries that have become the dynamo of global production and the main funders of the West’s debts. In other words, there is a weak side behaving as if it were strong, and a strong side which from now on insists on being treated as such.
In light of the questions, the only way out of this situation is through a new world order that addresses the fears of the big powers while reassuring the small (smallest of all the Arab world). It needs to tackle the issues of energy, water, debt, and other potential sources of threat to world peace. But if the West continues to behave with its 19th and 20th century arrogance, and the new Russian- and Chinese-led axis resists, all the questions are pertinent, including the last one, to where?
Einstein once said that he did not know what weapons the next Word War would be fought with, but that he knew the war after that would be fought with sticks and stones.
Hassan Khalil is publisher of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
A Message of Appreciation
The above article is the last that Hassan Khalil will contribute to Al-Akhbar in his capacity as publisher.
Regrettably, he has decided to resign the post because his many other commitments oblige him to spend most of his time outside Lebanon. He decided that the time had come to leave, after having contributed as publisher, financier, friend and brother to Al-Akhbar’s development and its acquisition of an effective place in the Lebanese and Arab media scenes.
We spent years discussing with Khalil our country and region’s need for a renewed and modern press, capable of helping overcome the obstacles to building a free, sovereign and independent homeland that provides its citizens with security and justice. We also spent years building this institution and confronting the varied challenges and difficulties.
Khalil bore all the consequences for his role and position which an unjust world imposed. He played a pivotal role in the establishment and launch of Al-Akhbar , and in strengthening its overall presence and relationships. He contributed greatly to enabling it to be a newspaper committed to the homeland’s and peoples’ causes, not subject to the traditional calculations that affect its freedom and professionalism.
While leaving his long-held position at Al-Akhbar, Khalil is abandoning none of the convictions that prompt him to remain active in promoting the rights of the homeland and its citizens.
The Al-Akhbar family thanks Khalil for all he has provided, and all he has done to enhance Al-Akhbar’s independence, presence and professionalism. It wishes him success in all he goes on to do, and in his private business, and hopes his decision will not prevent him from continuing to enrich the paper with ideas and articles on all matters.