‘Arab elite responsible for Middle East crises’

Published April 2, 2016
Dr Gunter Mulack speaking at the PIIA on Friday. —White Star
Dr Gunter Mulack speaking at the PIIA on Friday. —White Star

KARACHI: The current crises besetting the Middle East are largely due to the failure of the Arab elite and the resultant failure of Arab states, as well as the fact that the West had no problem in dealing with these authoritarian regimes.

These views were expressed here on Friday by German diplomat and scholar Dr Gunter Mulack at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs while speaking on the topic of ‘Crisis in the Middle East — A German Perspective’.

Dr Mulack has served as the German ambassador to Pakistan, as well as his country’s first Commissioner for Dialogue with the Muslim World.

“The failure of the Arab elite led to the crisis characterised by poverty and illiteracy in [these] countries. The population pressure has strained the capacity of most states,” he stated, while adding that “we [the West] have to admit that” dealing with “dictatorships was the easy solution. We never spoke about human rights. We were [more concerned] with exporting our goods.”

Dr Mulack stated that the Middle East was “important for all of us” as it was the birthplace of the three major monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“It’s important to keep in mind the history and why it’s important.”

He said the migrant crisis brought Europe face to face with “tragedy in the Middle East” while lamenting the fact that there was “not a single democracy in the Middle East”, though in his view Israel was partially democratic.

Referring to the current political architecture of the region, the German scholar said that through the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1915-16, “Britain and France were distributing the booty of the war [WWI]” by dismantling the Ottoman Empire. “These borders were artificially created. The colonialists did not have in mind justice [for the people] of these countries.”

Discussing the so-called Arab Spring, Dr Mulack said satellite TV and technology changed the situation as “people lost their fear. Governments didn’t expect this.” He said the Egyptian “deep state” toppled Mohamed Morsi, considered Egypt’s first democratically elected leader. He said that though he disagreed with terming Mr Morsi a terrorist, “he was incapable of ruling Egypt”.

The diplomat described Iraq and Syria as the “worst cases” and came down too hard on the US for its role in the former, terming the 2003 invasion “a criminal act, very stupid.” He added that the militant Islamic State group was formed in US prisons in Iraq around 2006.

He claimed that IS was following in the footsteps of the first Wahhabi state formed in Arabia in the 18th century, particularly where killing all those that disagreed with it was concerned.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf regimes, he said that unless these states changed themselves in the next five years, they might not be around soon after that. As for Iran, Dr Mulack felt the Islamic Republic wanted to form a “Shia crescent” which also included Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

He was also sceptical of ongoing Syrian peace talks in Geneva. “I don’t believe there will be a solution. The battle will continue if [Bashar] Assad stays in power. The best thing is to make sure that he does not stay in power forever,” he said, while adding that the Sunnis of Iraq and Syria would have to be integrated for there to be peace in the region.

Dr Mulack also sounded sceptical of the promises the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor held. “Be aware the Chinese will not bring you paradise on earth”, he said, while claiming that the Indian spy recently arrested in Balochistan was actually caught “by the Taliban and sold” to Pakistani intelligence.

Dr Gunter Mulack rounded off his talk by saying that “young people will determine the future of the Middle East” and that he was “disappointed in France and other countries” for not taking in enough migrants.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2016

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