As Americans, we hear a lot about conflicts in the Middle East. A lot of names and places are thrown around in the news media and it gets confusing pretty quickly. Even worse, the confusion makes it easy to become apathetic. But it is important to ask why their struggles matter. How involved is our country really? What is going on with our fellow humans?
I’m going to break it down as concisely as I can understand it. Feel free to correct me if I got anything wrong.
The Jewish person follows the religion of Judaism.
The Muslim person follows the religion of Islam.
Israel is a country in the Middle East and it is the world’s only Jewish-majority state. Its capitol is Jerusalem.
Palestine in 2014 is a set of two physically separate territories – West Bank and the Gaza Strip – these two territories are not recognized by Israel or the United States as independent, and it’s occupancy has largely remained in a state of flux due to the wars between extremists across the region over the ages. Palestine primarily consists of a Muslim population within these two territories, which are located alongside and within Israel.
Israelites and Palestinians have been in conflict for centuries because the Holy City of Jerusalem is a nexus for both peoples. Over the last 522 years, Jewish people have migrated to Israel/Palestine and the four Holy Cities of Tiberias, Hebron, Safed, and Jerusalem.
Judaism and Islam both claim to be the one true religion. Both Islam and Judaism have ancient texts dating their origins (and their end days) in the city of Jerusalem, and the conflict becomes ever more complex with political contexts such British imperialism, and great migrations caused by displacement from wars. For example, the threat of the Nazi Germany regime (1933-1945) caused 300,000 Jewish people to migrate to their Holy Land, causing strife for the Muslim Palestinians who were living there. Five such migrations have been allowed to occur, but are certainly not tolerated by the Muslims who now feel displaced.
In 2014, there is an estimated 2.08-billion+ Muslim people living on Earth. Compare this to the estimated 2.01-billion+ Christian people and 14-million+ Jewish people across the world.
There are approximately 8,206,400 Israelites and 3,760,000 Palestinians today. And Jerusalem is supposed to be a Holy City shared by Christians, Jewish, and Muslims.
As of 2011, Jerusalem is populated with 497,000 Jewish people, 281,000 Muslim people, and 14,000 Christians.
Within Islam, there are different sects or branches of belief, as is the case within Christianity. Two major branches have historically not gotten along. But they are peaceful people. Most of the fighting we hear about in the media is the result of extremists.
The two largest sects are the Sunni and Shi’a.
Sunni (87-90% of Muslims) = 1,872,000,000 to 1,809,600,000 Sunni people living on Earth in 2014.
Shia (10-13% of Muslims) = 270,700,000 to 208,000,000 Shia people living on Earth in 2014.
Sunni Islam is the largest population of Islam. Historically, the Sunni do not get along with Shi’a. Still, they are a peaceful people.
The Kurdish is population of ~30-million people living in the geo-cultural land of Kurdistan, which is partly located in Northern Iraq. Kurdistan is not an independent state or country. The majority of Kurdish are Sunni, but they are also a unique ethnic group of people who live in the region of Kurdistan. They do not feel kinship with Sunnis of Arab descent, or the Shi’a. Still, they are a peaceful people.
Shi’a Islam is the second largest population of Islam. Historically, the Shi’a does not get along with the Sunni. Still, they are a peaceful people.
ISIS / ISIL – These Sunni extremists are called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (formerly called ISIS, aka Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and they claim authority over all Muslims of the world. They are the successors to al-Qaeda and they are not peaceful.
al-Qaeda – These Sunni extremists formed as a result of the covert CIA operation called ‘Operation Cyclone’ (1979-1989). This happened as a military response to Soviet Russian-led Afghan forces taking over the Middle East. After World War II (1939-1945) the USA was still enemies with Soviet Russia (aka USSR, 1922–1991) and still felt threatened. So the USA funded and trained various multi-national militant groups called ‘mujahideen’ prior to and during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the end of the Cold War (1945-1991). This is called the Soviet war in Afghanistan and it lasted for nine years (December 1979 to February 1989). The USA considered the mujahideen “freedom fighters.” In reality, it was guerrilla warfare between Russia and the United Kingdom, United States, and Saudi Arabia.
After the Soviet Union pulled out and dissolved in 1989 and the USA pulled it’s own support of the mujahideen in the early 90’s, these Sunni militant mujahideen extremist groups were allowed to fight the Shi’a and spread Islam through violence and tyranny. The war in Afghanistan has continued since.
Over $3-billion was spent by the CIA during Operation Cyclone and had given rise to over 100 different mujahideen groups – the same groups we label today as terrorists. Government spending has been secretive and substantial, and was made possible by routing funds through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (CIA equivalent) from 1980 to 1989.
The CIA not only funded the war in this manner, but they also took part in drug trafficking by providing transport, funding, and support for such operations in exchange for intelligence. For example, the CIA funded at least $600-million to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom founded the Hezbi Islami mujahideen in 1975. The CIA then granted immunity for Hekmatyar’s opium trade, which financed and sustained his mujahideen, which was succeeded by three more factions. One of these factions is called Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (1977 – present) and acts as a major political party in Afghanistan today.
Another mujahideen was a global intelligence network founded by Abdullah Azzam and Osama bin Laden called MAK (aka Maktab al-Khidamat, or the Afghan Services Bureau) in 1984, which used its CIA funds to recruit foreign mujahideen to fight in the Soviet-Afghanistan war while allocating its own funds and other foreign donations to its own global intelligence network – some intelligence cells of which were based in the United States. MAK evolved to give rise to al-Qaeda, which evolved to give rise to ISIL — and so the “war on terror” continues to this day.
Shias and Sunnis have historically been at odds, and extremists on both sides were used as pawns by Russia, and the United States / United Kingdom / Saudi Arabia respectively during the Cold War (1945–1991) and this manipulation continues today.
The CIA’s ‘Operation Cyclone’ had given rise to over 250,000 Afghan mujahideen soldiers, yet fewer than 35,000 mujahideen soldiers ever participated during that war, anywhere between 850,000 to 1.5-million civilians were killed as a result, and another 5-million people were displaced between December 1979 and February 1989.
Approximately 18,000 civilian deaths during the war in Afghanistan since then (2001 – present).
Approximately 125,000 civilian deaths during the Iraq war between 2003 and 2011, and still continues today.
There is no such thing as ‘Iraq.’ The Iraq flag is an invention of the British Empire. The Iraq flag is not acknowledged by Shias, Kurds, or Sunni, which are the three ethnic groups now caught in the middle of all this fighting, in the territory *we* call Iraq. Amongst this ancient war, we have ISIL – just one of many extremist groups who make it very hard to tell who is whom. So much so, that the peaceful Shias, Kurds, and Sunni are starting to fight one another, unknowing who is an extremist or not.
“American power can make a decisive difference, but we can not do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves. Nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region. That’s why I’ve insisted that additional US action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days. So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and congress at home, I can announce America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.” – President Obama, September 10, 2014
On Sept 10, President Obama informed the world that Iraq has formed a new “inclusive government” and declared war on ISIL. The USA now has an alliance with the “Iraqis” to fight ISIL. What will the collateral damage be this time? When or if ISIL is defeated, the Sunnis, Kurds, and Shi’a will still be left to decipher friend and foe, with or without US involvement.
– Controlled by Iraqi government
– Controlled by ISIS / ISIL
– Controlled by Iraqi Kurds
– Controlled by Syrian government
– Controlled by Syrian Opposition forces