After seeing some pictures of the war in Yemen, I wanted to write on the U.S’s long relationship with the Middle East. Many think it started that fateful day in September. And it’s true, 9/11 is when most people started paying attention to the region. But in truth, the CIA had been around the Middle East since the 50’s.
What we know from declassified documents is that the CIA orchestrated the 1953 Iranian coup that overthrew Iran’s prime minister. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering what the CIA did in the Congo and South America, but it still really sucks for the people who have to actually experience a CIA overthrow.
But the consequences of that coup will come up later. For now let’s return to 2001. After the towers fell, we invaded Afghanistan, to dispose a group we had supported in the previous century. Our military was supposed to be the best, but it turns out that a trillion-dollar army can be frustrated by lots of mountains and combatants who don’t wear uniforms.
We did clean up a lot of the Taliban, for a time at least. There were Taliban members and sympathizers a country over in Pakistan, but we couldn’t really invade them. Something about Pakistan having nukes and sometimes being our allies.
After that it was Iraq. We don’t often agree on anything as a nation, but I think we all try and quietly ignore Iraq at this point. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam’s regime, as horrible as it was, had nothing to do with the Saudi Arabians who flew planes into our towers.
But here’s where we’ll circle back to Iran. They’ve always had beef with us, ever since the whole CIA-coup thing. And then we up and invade both of Iran’s next-door neighbors. Suddenly Iran finds themselves the meat in an American-invasion sandwich. So what does Iran do in this situation?
Why, secretly attack US soldiers of course.
Iran is also majority Shia Muslim, which happens to be the dominant form of Islam in Iraq. This lent itself well to an Iranian-Iraq pipeline of weapons and fighters. It also didn’t help that our leaders turned Iraq into a dumpster fire with American and Iraqi lives as fuel.
So we’ve got Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. But if you think those are the only three countries we’ve got our hands in, you’re wrong. Next let’s talk about Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is Sunni Muslim, which if you’ll remember is the opposite of Iran. Interestingly enough, the two countries hate each other.
We’ve got an okay relationship with Saudi Arabia. Sometimes they help us, sometimes they help the groups trying to kill members of our military. Sometimes we chastise them, sometimes our POTUS signs a 110 billion-dollar arms deal with them. It’s complicated.
Saudi Arabia is also currently at war with Yemen, and has been for some time. It’s resulted in a horrific humanitarian crisis, and the U.S is helping Saudi Arabia orchestrate it (we’ve sent US soldiers and weapons to Yemen. Yipee.).
My point in all this is simple. We’re at about six-thousand dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, with about forty-thousand wounded. We’ve learned some hard lessons, or at least we should have. We meddled in Iran and Afghanistan, and that backfired. We’re still in Iraq, arming groups to fight for us. And they’ll likely turn on us when they realize US promises’ hold as much water as a mesh basket.
So how do we fix it? We’re so entrenched now. So let’s just start with a conversation. A conversation on what exactly we want to see happen in the Middle East, and why it looks like it does today.