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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/7/19

Timeline 2010-2019: Middle East

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Indendiary balloons from Gaza
Indendiary balloons from Gaza
(Image by (From Wikimedia) מינוזיג - MinoZig, Author: מינוזיג - MinoZig)
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[Note: Links are to my articles for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo, Presstv and other sites

My Timeline 2000-2010: Middle East here.]


*Hamas, elected the governing authority of the Gaza Strip in 2007, remains in power, the Palestinian Authority refusing to hold (and lose) elections. Gaza now an open-air prison, cut off with only Israel allowing legal contact with the outside world. Gazans produce arms from smuggled supplies and build homemade rockets.

*BDS campaign targeting Israel picks up steam as Israel panics, raiding and seizing six ships of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 9 Turkish activists. Turkey breaks relations with Israel.

*A malicious computer worm, courtesy of US-Israel, damages Iran's nuclear program.

*Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev flees Bishkek amid fierce anti-government riots as the opposition seized control. Otunbayeva, the interim leader, called for Russian troops to help the country control the situation. The Russian government declined to interfere but sent humanitarian aid.

*Afghanistan through the decade became longest US war in history with no end in sight. Deadliest helicopter crash killed 9, bringing NATO fatalities in Afghanistan in 2010 to 529 and making it most deadly year of the war.


*Unrest in the Arab world led to the Arab Spring, triggering 'revolutions' in Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, as well as civil war in Libya and Syria, but with little positive long term impact. The only 'success' is where it started -- Tunisia, though even there, the fragile democracy has not improved the economic situation that sparked the uprising.

*The US and Europe con Russia into accepting a 'no-fly zone', which turned into a rout of Gaddafi, his brutal murder in a ditch, captured for the world on video. Armed groups proliferate, and radical Islamism fills the power vacuum. Separate governments continue to rule in Tripoli and Benghazi with no end in sight in 2019.

*US Muslim cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, hiding in Yemen, latest victim of Obama's drone war.

'Freedom Flotilla II Stay Human' planned to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel. Initially, 10 ships, with 1,000 activists were set to sail for Gaza, but it was opposed by the West, two ships discovered sabotaged, and Greece refused to let the ships there sail. Only the French ship Dignite' Al Karama managed to approach Gaza, seized by Israeli commandos.

*Hamas releases Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 prisoners.

*US withdraws all combat brigades from Iraq, leaving 5,000+.

*Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda and mastermind of the September 11 2001 attacks, killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by US Navy SEALs and supposedly dumped at sea.


*Morocco elects Muslim Brotherhood prime minister, Tunisia a secular former dissident.

*Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood takes power in a groundswell of gratitude for standing firm against first British, then Nasser-Mubarak-Sisi nationalist military dictatorship. The elite, the army and police begin to undermine the Islamist government and Egypt descends into chaos.

*Syria descends into chaos as well, as the army stays loyal to Assad. Turkey's Erdogan betrays his 'friend' Assad in a cynical scheme for Turkish control of the 'Arab Spring'. Soon there would be millions of refugees and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Syria would suffer bombing by the West and atrocities by al-Qaida and others throughout the decade.

*Russia and China refuse the West's calls for another Libya scenario in Syria.

*Terrorists attack the US Benghazi consulate on September 11, killing ambassador Christopher Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

*UN voted to upgrade Palestine to the status of non-member observer state, opposed only by the US, Israel, Canada and the Czech Republic, while Britain and Germany abstain.

*A flytilla, Palestinian Land Day and Israel Apartheid Weekactivities around the world.

*In Iraq, October deadliest month since April 2008, with 900 killed. By year-end, death toll of civilians 7,157.

*Afghan President Hamid Karzai's younger American half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, killed in Kandahar during gathering in his house, according to Kandahar's Canadian Governor Tooryali Wesa.

*Crippling sanctions are imposed on Iran.


*Egypt's General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrows Muslim Brotherhood government, tortures, imprisons, kills tens of thousands.

*In the wake of the slaughter in Egypt, Tunisian left-wing opposition figure Mohammed Brahmi murdered, most likely by radical Salafists. Islamist Ennahda agrees to national dialogue with opposition, new constitution, reform of voting laws and fresh elections.

*Largest mass anti-government protest ever in Istanbul spreads to several cities, sparked by plans to develop Taksim Geza, one of Istanbul's few green spaces. 8 protesters killed.

*Pakistan elects Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif as prime minister, continuing Pakistan's return to civilian rule, even as more evidence points to Pakistani involvement in 9/11.

*Hassan Rouhani, lawyer, academic, former diplomat and Islamic cleric, is elected 7th President of Iran.


*Another full-scale Gaza War, this one far deadlier than the previous in 2008-2009, killing 2,205 (71 Israelis).

*The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, renamed ISIS to refer to Syria) drives Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre, seizing a third of the country, and large areas of Syria now under opposition control. Iraq and Assad's Syria work together with Iran to drive ISIS out. The US hurries to keep up to events, even as sanctions against Syria and Iran continue.

*Syrian refugees pour into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Canada's first death of ISIS volunteer.

*Houthi forces seized the Yemen presidential palace, as de jure president Hadi flees to Saudi Arabia, traditionally Yemen's main enemy.

*The 2nd conference "New Horizon: the International Conference of Independent Thinkers" held in Tehran, including over 30 journalists, writers and academics from around the world, outraging Israel et al.

*British and Canadian forces withdraw from Afghanistan and NATO declares its mission finished.

*Johns Hopkins University anthropology professor Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, old friend of Zalmay Kahlilzad and former World Bank official, 'elected' president of Afghanistan on 21 September 2014.


*After King Abdullah dies, his brother Salman takes power at the age of 79, and his son Mohammed bin Salman begins rise to power, as head of Crown Prince's court. Bin Salman immediately started war against Yemen, pushes his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef aside as Crown Prince, and showed himself to be a ruthless but incompetent pseudo-reformer.

*Yemen Civil War begins between Saudi-backed Hadi, and Houthi militia and allies, including Iran. Saudi bombing in support of Hadi and destruction of relief supplies results in tens of thousands of civilian deaths.

*Russia begins bombing ISIS in Syria, supporting Assad. Despite diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions against Russia by US and Europe following the 2014 coup in Ukraine, Obama and later Trump quietly support Russian bombing in Syria (reminiscent of WWII, where Soviet forces defeated Nazis while West watched). US is incapable of controlling events, as Syrian opposition weakens and is taken over by radical Islamists close to ISIS. This undermines US project to overthrow Assad. Stand-off continues throughout the decade, with Israel conducting dozens of bombing raids targeting Iranians helping Assad, clearly supported by US and Europe.

*Turkey shoots down Russian military jet on Syria bombing mission. Russia, Turkey's second-largest trading partner, imposes economic sanctions. Erdogan apologizes and shifts position on Syria in line with Russia and Iran.

*Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria continue their war on the region's cultural heritage, attacking archaeological sites with bulldozers and explosives, including Petra and Palmyra.

*Evidence of Israeli support for ISIS is ignored in West and Israel given free rein to bomb Syria.

*Russia installed its S-300 and S-400 air defence missile system in Syria.

*'Crush and stampede' causes deaths of over 2,000 pilgrims during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, Mecca, including 465 Iranians.

*Elections in Iran reelect reformists, Rouhani as president.


*Failed coup in Turkey by Gulenist opposition. Gulen lives in the US and Erdogan has called for his extradition. Purge of army, teachers, newspapers.

*The battle against ISIS in Iraq raging throughout the year.

*Israel and Turkey reach agreement over 2010 Gaza flotilla raid and normalize relations. US agrees military aid package worth $38bn over next 10 years for Israel, largest in US history, but Obama abstains on UN resolution condemning settlements, infuriating Netanyahu. Lesson: only full surrender good enough.

*By end of year battle for Aleppo won decisively by coalition made up of Syrian state, Russia, Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and a variety of other militias. US left on sidelines but seizes and keeps control of oil wells.

*Uzbek president Islam Karimov dies, succeeded by prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, beginning the process of repairing relations with its neighbours and dismantling Karimov's brutal dictatorship.

2017 *Bin Salman becomes Crown Prince, de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, breaks relations with Qatar over alleged support for terrorism and meddling in neighbours' affairs, with only Bahrain in tow. US ignored Saudi protests, happy to keep Qatari airbase, even as Qatar supports Hamas and has friendly relations with Iran.

*Prime Minister Saad Hariri detained in Saudi Arabia and forced to resign, prompting most of Lebanon's political class and civil society to unite behind him, resulting in his return, reinstatement as PM, but still best pals with bin Salman, no bad feelings. Perfect example of 'money talks'.

*Iraq forces, with Shia and Kurdish allies, including Iranian troops, drive out Islamic State.

*ISIS Uzbek gunman kills 39 people celebrating New Year at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul.

*UNESCO votes to declare Old City of Hebron Palestinian World Heritage site, prompting Israel to increase (armed) settlers there.


*Gazans' Great March of Return, Israelis (sitting on guard towers taking pot shots and laughing) kill 168 unarmed Palestinians.

*ISIS controls only a few pockets in Syria. Trump orders withdrawal of US troops but is overridden. Most Russian troops withdraw but Russian volunteers (called mercenaries in western media) remain. Russia equips Assad with S-300 missile defense. Israel continues to bomb Syria, targeting Iranian troops and Hezbollah. Turkey invades northwestern Syria seizing large areas from Kurdish control, fearing their effect on dreams of Kurkish independence.

*In February, Israeli F-16I shot down by Syrian air defenses (no deaths). Two hours after downing of jet, Israel renews bombing killing 25. In September, Israeli jet uses maneuver to trick Syria into shooting down Russian jet, killing all 15 on board (revenge on Russia?).

*Trump recognizes Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

*In Iraq, political bloc of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wins most votes. Shia former minister Adel Abdul Mahdi elected prime minister, calls for all US troops to leave.

*US begins talks with Taliban. By 2018, 3,500 occupation and 111,000 Afghan deaths, and Taliban insist on complete withdrawal of US troops (fitting end to history's Great Game).

*US withdrawal from nuclear deal with Iran. Total economic embargo is in fact outright war on Iran. Europe forced to join but sets up alternative to SWIFT, Paris-based Instex, to clear trade with 9 members as of 2019, BUT only if Iran sticks to nuclear 'deal' (what deal?). Pretense, never used, but clever pretext to condemn Iran.

*Saudi-American journalist Jamal Khashoggi tortured, murdered and dismembered by Saudi intelligence agents at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October, with evidence pointing to bin Salman, as he continues his war crimes in Yemen with Trump's approval.

*Ahmed Khan, glamorous cricket legend, elected prime minister of Pakistan.

2019 *Egyptian President Morsi collapsed and died during his trial for treason etc.

*Khashoggi forgotten as US and European arms supplies and weapons continue to flow to Saudis.

*Israeli raids on Syria fall, as Syrian defenses improved thanks to Russia, though pro-Iranian targets in Baghdad blown up, and Israeli attempted drone attack on Iranian oil facilities in 2019 thwarted.

*US now argues that illegal Israeli settlements not really illegal, withdraws from UNRRA and votes against UN resolution to continue UNRRA, Palestinians' lifeline.

*US withdraws from Syria (except for oil rich north area), handing over authority to Russia (and Assad), and Turkey invades to create a buffer zone 'cleansed' of Kurds.

*CHP candidate Ekrem Ä degreesmamoÄŸlu defeats AKP candidate for mayor of Istanbul. Erdogan insists on new election and CHP's majority increased. AKP lost many cities as tide turns against Erdogan.

*Despite US threat of sanctions, Turkey buys Russia's S400 defense system, as did Syria.

*Week of June 13--21 starts with attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13, Iran shoots down drone June 19, ends with Donald Trump ordering, and then calling off, military attack on Iran on June 21.

*Spectacular bombing of Saudi oil supplies by the Houthi, cutting exports in half, shakes Saudi resolve on war in Yemen. Iran denies involvement, though it is the major funder of Houthi rebels. As with earlier Iranian shooting down of a US drone, no retaliation taken, though Trump said he was urged on.

*In Lebanon, civil society activism protesting garbage, electricity and gas crises, transcends all sects. Beirut Madinati (Beirut My City), which came second in 2016 elections, emulated in other Lebanese cities, spearheads general strike starting on independence day in November.

*in Iraq, 100 people die in protests against unemployment and corruption in cities including the capital Baghdad.

*In Iran, similar protests have being going on since 2017, and the latest, following an 50% increase in the price of fuel led to rioting and burning of gas stations, but was quickly quashed. Amnesty claimed 100 deaths resulted, with the government stating that the savings from the fuel price rises are planned to be distributed to 18 million poor families, representing 75% of Iran's population. The government also announced that 8 of those arrested were working with the CIA.

*Two sets of parliamentary elections pit Netanyahu against centrist alliance led by former armed forces chief of staff Benny Gantz, but neither produce a clear majority, with Gantz contemplating coalition with Arab parties for first time in Israel's history. Meanwhile, bus service begins on Sabbath for the first time, defying ultra-orthodox. Mizrahi (eastern) Jews talk of common Arab heritage with Muslim Israelis. Times a-changing.

*In December, Russia presents own Persian Gulf security doctrine -- internationally-accepted framework with UN in authority -- inaugurating its own 'New World Order', so the world 'will have peace of mind for exporting their crude to Japan, the Far East and China.'

*Jordan opens its first nuclear power plant.

*The Aral Sea disappears from the map.

Despite extreme duress from sanctions and outright subversion and terrorism, Iran was the great winner. Just staying intact and uncowed gives Iran a prestige that no other power can rival. And it is all thanks to its nemesis the US for overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, leaving the US in an intervention trap, stuck in regime-change wars everywhere.
At the same time a new rival for Iran is Ayatollah Sistani, the senior Shia leader in Iraq, who is opposed to Khomeni's vilayat-e faqih (guardianship by jurists). In 2019, Sistani turned 90 and Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei 80, and Iraq-Iran will dominate the next decade.
Iraq-Iran could become the dominant force in the Middle East, recalling the Fatimid rule of Egypt in the 10--12th centuries, which ended with the liberation of Jerusalem from the Christian Crusaders.
At the same time, Iran has openly begun talks with the Taliban in search of a way forward, despite the Taliban's open hostility to anything Shia. Trump's desire to leave is belied by what can only be a complete defeat of US plans there.

Iran has the keys to peace in the Middle East and the US can only wring hands and gnash teeth, despite its control of world finance and economics. Washington's lesson from the decade should be to NOT interfere if it wants peace and prosperity, as whatever it seems to do backfires.

Blowback for Erdogan for betraying Assad took a new turn in 2019 as ISIS selected Turkey as its next base to reorganize, recruit and plan. Along with his misguided Syria policy, Erdogan's authoritarian style resulted in a string of losses, leaving a sad legacy after two decades in power.

Israel continues its persecution of Palestinians, with US backing, but with Houth-like drone attacks from the plucky Palestinians.

Russia is the other big winner, now respected as a powerful, honest broker, leaving the US as a dangerous enemy to just about everyone.
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Eric Walberg Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Eric writes for Al-Ahram Weekly and PressTV. He specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs. His "Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games", "From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization" and "Canada (more...)

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