Kissinger's Touches in the Middle East
12 March 2016
By Eyad Abu Shakra
Henry Kissinger, the doyen of American diplomacy and global strategies, does
not like retirement. He believes he has never been out of touch with world
affairs and still has a lot to offer in terms of finding solutions and
eliminating any threats to the interests he defends. Actually, I believe wise
Russians still remember his leading role behind Richard Nixon's ‘opening up'
policy toward Communist China, which was an integral part of the calculations
of the then US – Soviet ‘bi-polar rivalry'.
Dr Kissinger's strategy was to weaken the Communist threat through widening
and exploiting the rift between the two Communist giants, the USSR and China,
while skillfully managing the tricky ‘co-existence' with the Soviets. His
success was spectacular as the Chinese giant was brought out of the cold and
neutralized, and later Washington managed to turn the Afghani quagmire into
the USSR's Vietnam'.
Kissinger's destructive strategic planning did not stop at isolating the USSR,
embroiling it in trouble, and then exhausting and partitioning it, this was
equally experienced by the Arab world. Many Arabs recollect the ‘ventures' of
''Dear Henry'' – as the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat used to call him –
perhaps the most significant of which was the October 1973 (Yom Kippur) War,
which was ‘tactically' fought by Egypt and Syria after the then leaders of the
two countries overthrew Moscow's friends in two Washington-friendly
''corrective movements'' in Damascus (autumn of 1970) and Cairo (1971).
Hafez Al-Assad's and Anwar Sadat's regimes were in reality fruits of ‘Kissingerism',
not only in terms of regional realignment, but also – and more significantly –
in terms of unearthing the anathema of sectarianism in the two counties
The true sectarian nature of the Syrian regime is now clear to all to see,
while exploiting religion in Sadat's political battles (namely against
‘Arabists' and Leftists) in Egypt was instigated by the ''Believer ( i.e.
Muslim) President''. Incidentally, as the once ‘secular' regime in Damascus
turned Syria into a base for Iran's Revolutionary Guards and protectorate of
Hezbollah, the ''Believer President'' became the first Arab head of state to
shake hands with Menachem Begin and establish full diplomatic relations with
Today, Dr Kissinger is preaching cordial relations and cooperation between
Moscow and Washington against the background of negative rhetoric regarding
the Ukraine and Syria. The other day I read a piece written by Dr Kissinger in
which he told the story of his collaboration with the late former Russian
statesman, journalist and ‘Orientalist' Yevgeny Primakov, in creating and
co-chairing a group of retired American and Russian politicians and military
figures known as Track 2 between 2007 and 2009. The objective of this group
was to improve relations and dissipate all tensions, old and new, that may
afflict these relations.
The former American Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor wrote in
detail about the efforts of the group and its contacts with the Kremlin and
the White House; particularly, with regards to the Ukraine and Syria.
As far as the latter is concerned he wrote: ''Regarding Syria, it is clear that
the local and regional factions cannot find a solution on their own.
Compatible U.S. – Russian efforts coordinated with other major powers could
create a pattern for peaceful solutions in the Middle East and perhaps
elsewhere''. He concluded by saying that such solutions can only come about
through ''a willingness in both Washington and Moscow, in the White House and
the Kremlin, to move beyond the grievances and sense of victimization to
confront the larger challenges that face both of our countries in the years
Indeed, Kissinger's words about the Middle East in general, and Syria in
particular, fully complement the policies of the Barack Obama administration.
Moreover, what has been said about Washington being less inclined now to be
involved in the Middle East in order to concentrate on the potential threat
posed by China seems to be related somehow to Kissinger's efforts to bring
Washington and Moscow ever closer. In the past he unleashed the Chinese giant
order to weaken the USSR, and now he is cooperating with the Russians as a
means to keep China at bay.
On the other hand, Washington has another obsession that has engendered a
dangerous impression in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. This
impression, widely shared by American politicians and the military, is that
the West can never co-exist with a multi-leadership ‘Sunni Political Islam'
but it definitely can with a single-leadership ‘Shi'i Political Islam'. Iran,
the only country officially ruled by ‘Shi'i Political Islam', represents the
best example of efficient control and discipline insured by a single
authority. This ‘Shi'ite Iran' is now a very valuable and important Asian and
Arabian Gulf player in Washington's calculations.
Hence, trying to win over Iran as an ally makes sense for Washington, more so,
since the Tehran leaders – like the Kremlin leadership – regard themselves
fighting on the same front in the open-ended war against ‘Sunni Political
Add to the above the fact that the present tension between Russia and Turkey –
which has been brought back by Recep Tayyip Erdogan under the banners of
‘Sunni Political Islam' – represents a vital element in the process of
redrawing the geo-political map of the whole Middle East, not only the ‘near
east' of the Fertile Crescent.
Based on this, the unfolding tragic events in Syria give the impression that
there is an implicit agreement between Washington, Moscow and Tehran, with
Israel's approval, on the following:
1. To destroy
‘Sunni Political Islam' throughout the region at any cost.
2. To take the Kurds out of the equation as a prelude to creating a ‘Greater
Kurdistan' which may not leave Turkey unscathed.
3. After eradicating any ‘Arab option', first by Washington and later by
Tehran, to move forward with the plans to establish new sectarian entities
replacing the old and dilapidated ‘Sykes-Picot Agreement' entities now
approaching 100 years old.
4. To benefit from China's – the future adversary – mutual interest in
fighting the two common enemies: ‘Sunni Political Islam' and Turkic
nationalism, both currently fuelling the separatist struggle in Xinjiang
Uyghur Autonomous Region (or East Turkestan).
How would or should the Arabs react? I think they have no choice but to
realise the interest-based ingredients of the wide international alliance
before them, and comprehend that fighting the whole world is not the answer;
especially since ‘Political Islam, both Sunni and Shi'i, has caused the region
In fact, some of the worst
atrocities attributed to extremist ‘Sunni Political Islam' were hatched in the
intelligence agencies in countries ruled by ‘Shi'i Political Islam'. In
addition to dubious ISIS, the links of some Al-Qaeda figures with Iran are
well-known and documented, and so are the diligent efforts of the Syrian
regime's intelligences apparatus in creating and orchestrating the activities
of ‘Fatah Al-Islam' in Lebanon and the Abu Al-Qa'qa' phenomenon and his Al-Qaeda
''gifts'' to Iraq.
Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with
the newspaper since 1978.