AP Anal­y­sis: Tur­moil blur­ring Mideast borders

The Covington News - - WORLD -

CAIRO (AP) — Work­ing in se­cret, Euro­pean diplo­mats drew up the borders that have de­fined the Mid­dle East’s na­tions for nearly a century — but now civil war, sec­tar­ian blood­shed and lead­er­ship fail­ures threaten to rip that map apart.

In the decades since in­de­pen­dence, Arab gov­ern­ments have held these con­structs to­gether, in part by im­pos­ing an au­to­cratic hand, de­spite the some­times com­bustible mix of peo­ples within their borders. But re­cent his­tory — par­tic­u­larly the three years of Arab Spring tur­moil, has un­leashed old al­le­giances and ha­treds that run deep and cross borders. The an­i­mos­ity be­tween Shi­ites and Sun­nis, the ri­val branches of Is­lam, may be deep­est of all.

The un­rest is re­defin­ing Syria, Iraq, Le­banon and Libya — na­tions born af­ter the fall of the Ot­toman Em­pire. Al­ready quasi-states are form­ing.

For the al-Qaida break­away group that over­ran parts of Iraq this week, the bor­der be­tween that coun­try and Syria, where it is also fight­ing, may as well not even be there. The group, known as the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant, wants to es­tab­lish a Shariah-ruled mini-state bridg­ing both coun­tries, in ef­fect unit­ing a Sunni heart­land across the cen­ter of the Mideast.

Other po­ten­tial de facto states are easy to see on the hori­zon. A Kur­dish one in north­ern Iraq — and per­haps an­other in north­east Syria. A rump Syr­ian state based around Da­m­as­cus, neigh­bor­ing cities and the Mediter­ranean coast, the heart­land of Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s mi­nor­ity Alaw­ite sect. A Shi­ite-dom­i­nated Iraq trun­cated to Bagh­dad and points south.

Fawaz Gerges, a pro­fes­sor at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics, sees an on­go­ing, vi­o­lent process to re­shape govern­ment sys­tems that have been un­able to ad­dress sec­tar­ian and eth­nic dif­fer­ences and pro­vide for their publics.

AP Photo/Ro­drigo Abd, File

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2012 file photo, People burn por­traits of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad dur­ing a demon­stra­tion against his regime in the out­skirts of Idlib, north­ern Syria. In the decades since in­de­pen­dence, Arab gov­ern­ments have held these con­structs to­gether, in part by im­pos­ing an au­to­cratic hand, de­spite the some­times com­bustible mix of peo­ples within their borders. But re­cent his­tory _ par­tic­u­larly the three years of Arab Spring tur­moil, has un­leashed old al­le­giances and ha­treds that run deep and cross borders. The an­i­mos­ity be­tween Shi­ites and Sun­nis, the ri­val branches of Is­lam, may be deep­est of all.

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