The September monthly meeting of the Lake San Marcos Democratic Club featured guest speaker Dr. Farouk Al-Nasser who received his BA from Baghdad University. Migrating to the United States in 1962, he earned his doctorate from the University of Denver. Al-Nasser is a riveting speaker who gave a two thousand year history of the Middle East in an amazing 20 minutes. He then continued with more current events and blamed the problems in the region today on how the area was carved up after World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Before the creation of the state of Israel, there was Iraq and the Levant. Everyone got along so the myth that hatred between peoples there has been going on for thousands of years is inaccurate. When European nations took over the area in 1920, their focus was on strategic–financial interests. They had no understanding of the various groups of people or their cultures which resulted in carving up the area in a manner that didn’t account for actual cultural differences. Sunnah means custom, tradition. Shia’a means follower, Party. The differences between these two Muslim groups began as a purely political difference.
After the formation of Israel in 1917 by the Balfour Declaration, the English captured Baghdad the same year, even though they, along with the French, had given the areas they were in charge of, “independence.” The conquering General stated, “our armies do not come as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.” These words were spoken almost identically by former President Bush when he invaded Baghdad. People of the region have long memories and their distrust runs deep. Admiral Michael Mullen, when brought before Congress to be confirmed, commented that the Chiefs of Staff said the troop surge had helped security, but without political progress “no amount of troops and no amount of time will make a difference.”
Admiral Mullen towed the administration line at his confirmation hearing, saying he’d withhold judgment on the surge until after the mid-September progress report even though it was clear he didn’t think the strategy would work long term.
Iraq, once formed as an independent state, was doomed to fail. Saddam was an FBI agent until he invaded Kuwait in 1991. As the war heated up, it was clear that there were not enough troops to maintain order after the invasion. Looting was rampant. The U.S. was mostly concerned about protecting the Ministry of Oil. Iraq today is inseparable from Iran. Malaki did not step down until Iran told him to.
Those present were fascinated by his presentation of history and facts and it was so much to take in. We agreed Dr. Al-Nasser needs to return for a repeat performance! We were thankful for his knowledge and hope for a review course. Finally, to answer one of the most pressing questions from us all, here is the definition of ISI(S)L:Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham Levant