Century of Violence: What World War I Did to the Middle East
Damascus, year three of the civil war: The 4th Division of the Syrian army has entrenched itself on Kassioun Mountain, the place where Cain is said to have slain his brother Abel. United Nations ballistics experts say the poison gas projectiles that landed in the Damascus suburbs of Muadamiya and Ain Tarma in the morning hours of Aug. 21, 2013 were fired from somewhere up on the mountain. Some 1,400 people died in the attack — 1,400 of the more than 100,000 people who have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict.
Baghdad, in the former palace quarter behind the Assassin’s Gate: Two years after the American withdrawal, Iraqis are once again in full control of the so-called Green Zone, located on a sharp bend in the Tigris River. It is the quarter of Baghdad where the Americans found refuge when the country they occupied devolved into murderous chaos. Currently, the situation is hardly any better. On the other side of the wall, in the red zone, death has once again become commonplace. There were over 8,200 fatalities last year.
Beirut, the capital of Lebanon that is so loved by all Arabs: The city has long been a focal point both of Arab life and of Arab strife. The devout versus the secular, the Muslims versus the Christians, the Shiites versus the Sunnis. With fighting underway in Libya and Syria, with unrest ongoing in Egypt and Iraq, the old question must once again be posed: Has Beirut managed to leave the last eruption of violence behind or is the next one just around the corner?
Two years after the revolts of 2011, the situation in the Middle East is as bleak as it has ever been. There is hardly a country in the region that has not experienced war or civil strife in recent decades. And none of them look immune to a possible outbreak of violence in the near future. The movement that came to be known as the Arab Spring threatens to sink into a morass of overthrows and counter-revolts.
That, though, is likely only to surprise those who saw the rebellions in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria as part of an historical turn of events for the Middle East. To be sure, the unrest was a bloody new beginning, but it was also the most recent chapter in an almost uninterrupted regional conflict that began 100 years ago and has never really come to an end… MORE