10 Days Remaining

Monday 9th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

As the balance of forces in the Middle East shifts rapidly, a new Morning Star pamphlet on the region is a must-read, says KENNY COYLE

Imperialism and the Middle East: Challenges for the Left by Various (Morning Star pamphlet, £2)

SKILFULLY edited, Imperialism and the Middle East draws on multiple contributions from communist parties in the region and offers a concise background to the major flashpoints that have dominated the headlines over the past few years.

The pamphlet’s great strength is its emphasis on the role of imperialism — the critical factor in the initial Sykes-Picot carve-up of the Middle East following WWI — and the subsequent attempts to both impose imperialist solutions at the expense of the peoples of the region and their resistance to them.

Invariably, Western media accounts of the conflicts employ simple sectarian categories such as Arabs against Jews or Sunni against Shia.

In contrast, what makes the pamphlet valuable is that it not only treats Middle Eastern societies as ideologically complex, it also looks at the material basis of the conflicts.

As such, it provides a helpful guide to imperialist financial interests in the region, a factor utterly ignored in mainstream media accounts.

By its very nature, the pamphlet cannot and does not attempt to provide immediate updates to each and every country. Instead, it provides the valuable historical and political perspectives so often missing or taken for granted.

There are particularly valuable sections on the various ideological currents in the region, from political Islam to Nasserism and Baathism as well as the rich communist tradition. Future editions will certainly be needed to keep pace with what is now a maelstrom of change, with a substantially shifting balance of forces.

Little more than a month ago, the idea that Russia, Turkey and Iran would broker a peace deal in Syria seemed incomprehensible.

The Syrian army and its allies have become the first force to successfully resist Washington’s militarised regime change and in doing so have rewritten the script.

However, we have a US president-elect openly siding with the Israeli far-right against the Palestinians.

Hopefully, the editors will have the time and the space to add other sections to future editions.

There needs to be a greatly expanded analysis of the Kurdish question, now one of self-determination that cannot be postponed much longer. Does this mean a new Kurdish state, genuine autonomy or some kind of confederation?

Whatever the solution, the just demands of the Kurdish people in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran will surely become more pressing.

And there is the question of Turkey, a country that not so long ago insisted that its rightful place was in Europe and not the Middle East.

Yet a multitude of factors — its Ottoman imperial legacy being one crucial element — have seen President Erdogan shift emphasis, first toward the ex-Ottoman territories of Iraq and Syria, then forming an alliance alliance with Gulf states and now there’s an unexpected Black Sea bromance underway with Russia’s President Putin.

Given the unprecedented bias of Western media talking points from Aleppo to Mosul, this pamphlet acts as one small but powerful counterweight.