WASHINGTON, Aug 26: The US State Department has rejected suggestions that Washington is planning to redraft the boundaries of the greater Middle East, including Pakistan, along ethnic and religious lines.

The purported plan appeared recently in the US Armed Forces Journal along with two maps showing the new boundaries.

The article, by Ralph Peters, was the work of an individual and did not reflect the views of the US government, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

“We are working very hard for a new Middle East that is a free democratic Middle East where people can realise a better way of life, a more prosperous, better educated way of life … but there’s no question of redrawing the maps,” he said. The call for changes in the Middle East, he said, was not generated by the US. “This is a call that comes from the Middle East itself, from the people of the Middle East. So our vision for the Middle East is a vision that is coming from the Middle East itself and that is for a more free, democratic and prosperous Middle East.”

In the article, titled ‘Blood borders,’ Mr Peters argues that borders in the Middle East and Africa were “the most arbitrary and distorted” in the world and need restructuring. Four countries – Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – are singled out for major re-adjustments. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are also defined as “unnatural states”.

The author argues that such adjustments were necessary to redress the grievances of ethnic and religious minorities living inside large Muslim states.

“The boundaries projected in the maps accompanying this article redress the wrongs suffered by the most significant ‘cheated’ population groups, such as the Kurds, Baloch and Arab Shia, but still fail to account adequately for Middle Eastern Christians, Bahais, Ismailis, Naqshbandis and many another numerically lesser minorities.”

The author also argues that for Israel to have any hope of living in reasonable peace with its neighbours, it will have to return to its pre-1967 borders — with essential local adjustments for legitimate security concerns.

But he admits that the issue of the territories surrounding Jerusalem, a city stained with thousands of years of blood, “may prove intractable beyond our lifetimes.”

According to him, “the most glaring injustice in the notoriously unjust lands between the Balkan Mountains and the Himalayas” is the absence of an independent Kurdish state. There are between 27 million and 36 million Kurds living in contiguous regions in the Middle East, greater than the population of present-day Iraq, which makes the Kurds the world’s largest ethnic group without a state of its own.

While pleading for the creation of an independent Kurdistan, the author says that such a state, stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, “would be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan.”

A just alignment in the region would leave Iraq’s three Sunni-majority provinces as a truncated state that might eventually choose to unify with Syria that loses its littoral to a Mediterranean-oriented Greater Lebanon.

The Shia south of old Iraq would form the basis of an Arab Shia state rimming much of the Gulf. Jordan would retain its current territory, with some southward expansion at Saudi expense. “For its part, the unnatural state of Saudi Arabia would suffer as great a dismantling as Pakistan.”

The author suggests the holy cities of Makkah and Madina be ruled by a rotating council representative of the world’s major Muslim schools and movements in an Islamic Sacred State — a sort of Muslim super-Vatican — ‘where the future of a great faith might be debated rather than merely decreed.’

“True justice — which we might not like — would also give Saudi Arabia’s coastal oil fields to the Shia Arabs who populate that sub-region, while a south-eastern quadrant would go to Yemen.

The Saudi family is to be given a small Saudi Homelands Independent Territory around Riyadh.

Iran would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State and Free Balochistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today’s Afghanistan — a region with a historical and linguistic affinity for Persia. Iran would, in effect, become an ethnic Persian state again, with the most difficult question being whether or not it should keep the port of Bandar Abbas or surrender it to the Arab Shia State.

What Afghanistan would lose to Persia in the west, it would gain in the east, as Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier tribes would be reunited with the Afghans. Pakistan would also lose its Baloch territory to Free Balochistan. The remaining “natural” Pakistan would lie entirely east of the Indus, except for a westward spur near Karachi.

The city-states of the United Arab Emirates would have a mixed fate — as they probably will in reality. Some might be incorporated in the Arab Shia State ringing much of the Persian Gulf (a state more likely to evolve as a counterbalance to, rather than an ally of, Persian Iran). Since all puritanical cultures are hypocritical, “Dubai, of necessity, would be allowed to retain its playground status for rich debauchees. Kuwait would remain within its current borders, as would Oman.”

Updated Aug 27, 2006 12:00am

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