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ANALYSIS – There were, of course, victories for the Western powers in Muslim lands long before 1917. Britain and France were colonial empires who had seized control of lands in the name of freedom for centuries. However, 1917 was different and marked the beginning of the modern relationship between the Middle East and the West. For in this year came the fall of Palestine to the British, an event that led to eventual collapse and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Muslim World’s last and true Islamic state. So significant was this to the West that the General who led the British through the gates of Jerusalem remarked the ‘Crusades’ were now over, and his French counterpart upon arriving at Damascus remarked at Saladin’s grave that he stood witness to the triumph of the cross over the crescent. After this, both powers set about governing the Middle East according to their ‘zones of influence.’ The Arabs who helped them get into power were treated with classic colonial disdain – promises of freedom were not kept and when a new rival emerged from the Saudi desert funding to the ‘Sheriff of Mecca’ was simply frozen. No ruler would be allowed to be powerful enough to challenge another and, of course, no one would ever challenge the imperial rule of Britain and France. This was a pattern that would continue when those empires collapsed some thirty years later and the USA took their place. The defeat of Nasser’s Egypt in six days by the state of Israel meant Washington now had an ally that it could rely on to keep on eye on a Middle East which was being energized by nationalist movements – the strongest of which was the Baath Party which took control of Iraq and Syria. The Iran-Iraq War of the late nineteen eighties ensured neither country would emerge as a single power to challenge for supremacy of the Middle East. Washington armed both sides to ensure that this didn’t occur. And when the army of Saddam Hussein entered the oil Kingdom of Kuwait and threatened the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, America cobbled together a paper coalition and ensured the removal of the invading army. The terror attacks of 9/11 then offered policy makers in Washington the opportunity to rid the Middle East of Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi under the guise of freedom. Now it’s the turn of Syria and after that it’ll be Iran.

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