Translation (by MEO) of Anis Naqqash speaking to his proposal for a Levantine Confederation.
In a recent conference held on Zoom and published on YouTube, senior Middle East political analyst Anees Naqqash spoke about his 2014 book titled The Levantine Confederation: The Battle of Identities and Policies.
The book proposes that the solution to the chronic problems of the war-ravaged and tumultuous Middle East region lies in the establishment of a confederation that unites the states of the Levant, or what Naqqash often calls the ‘West Asian region’.
Source: Kalam Siyasi (YouTube Channel)
Date: Aug 26, 2020
English translation by: Middle East Observer: http://middleeastobserver.net/naqqashs-solution-for-middle-east-a-levantine-confederation-pt-1/
One does not need to be a political or strategic expert in order to know that our (Arab and Islamic) countries are (currently) living through numerous wars, whether internal wars or those of an external (nature); and that international and local powers are participating in these wars; and that the (Arab and Islamic) nation’s capabilities are being exhausted by these wars and violence. Its unity, territorial integrity, potentials, property and civilization are being consumed (as a result).
The worst thing about these wars is that they often tarnish and distort (true) Islamic thought, thus proving that many of those who bear arms (in this region) are in a state of aimlessness regarding the actual and necessary track that they should pursue in order to confront the true enemies of the nation. In other words, it has been proven that many activists and local actors have a weak (level of) awareness. Thus, these topics must be highlighted in order to put things back on track.
The idea of a Levantine Confederation stems from two points. First, history shows that for more than 1400 years our region lived in a state of empire, starting from the Umayyads, to the Abbasids, all the way to the Ottoman Sultanate. Apart from some perversions during the Crusades and the Tatar and Mongol wars, the region lived in (a state of imperial) unity. No foreign power was allowed to intervene in its military, intellectual or economic affairs. However, following the two world wars, the (Arab & Muslim) nation was faced with a set of programs, plans and schemes resulting from its military defeat against the Western powers. This defeat enabled these (Western) powers to set up a very dangerous triangle for us: the Sykes-Picot-Balfour triangle.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement (in 1916) divided the Arab states in the region into small(er) states, while the Balfour Declaration (in 1917) fulfilled the promise of giving Palestine to the Jews for the establishment of a (Jewish) entity, one of the most brutal entities that the (Arab and Muslim) nation has ever faced in the modern era in terms of military, conspiratorial and intelligence capabilities. Today, this (Israeli) entity is posing a new danger, penetrating deep into the nation and the minds of its people.
In addition, these geographical divisions (created by Sykes-Picot and Balfour) established two types of regimes. First, there were the regimes that were built for religious-sectarian reasons, such as the Lebanese state established as a favor for the (Christian) Maronites in Lebanon. However, Lebanon has changed due to shifts in different kinds of balances as Maronites are no longer the largest demographic group (in Lebanon), nor do they occupy the main role in the country. Therefore, Lebanon always suffers from political problems because of its system that is based on sectarian identity, while it is demographically changing in relation to its sects, as some sects weaken and others grow stronger, which causes continuous security disturbances.
In fact, a part of Syrian land was cut off during the drawing of the map of Lebanon. The map of Syria was not drawn by the hands of its people. Rather, it was established based on the lines and borders demarcated by the French, who at that time gave Turkey a part of Syrian territory. Turkey was the only country (in the region) to demarcate its own borders via blood (i.e. through the military sacrifices that it made), because it was defending what was left of the Ottoman Empire. In other words, historically, Turkey was the only country whose borders were drawn with the blood of its people. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s borders were determined by the French Commission (the French body that controlled Lebanon). Many parts of Syrian territory were cut off, and what was left became the Syrian state.
The good thing about Syria is that it preserved its unity against the four-zone division project that the French were planning for. (The French) wanted to establish (four states): an Alawite state, a Druze state, and two Sunni states, one in the north and another in the center; but this project was foiled by the national unity of the Syrians.
Iraq did not demarcate its (own) borders either. Not one Iraqi was involved in the drawing up of the map of Iraq. It was Miss Gertrude Bell – an advisor at the British Foreign Ministry – who drew up the map (of Iraq) and proclaimed Faisal the King of Iraq, based on a sectarian equation that would satisfy both the Shias and Sunnis, and she added some Kurds to a part of the current Iraqi map because (she deemed them) as fierce fighters who would fight against Turkey if a clash broke out between Iraq and the new Turkey.
(Winston) Churchill established Jordan and drew up its map. There was no country called Jordan. The establishment of Jordan fully complemented the British project to establish the State of Israel, in addition to Iraq which was also a British protectorate.
In conclusion, the Levant was suffering from the delineation of borders that were carried out without consultation with its people. (The Levant) was divided up, and new, quasi-national territorial identities were established alongside the sectarian and religious identities that continued to play an (important) role too.
The other reason behind this explosion in the region, which I consider the major reason, is the American decision to topple and occupy Iraq with the following objectives: 1) to take over the oil wells that America was highly in need of at that time; 2) to weaken all ideas that relate to supporting the Palestinian cause and the potential for alliances or agreements between Arab states. In this regard, (the Americans) wrote (at the time) that they seek to weaken what they call the ‘Arab nationalism’. They thought that by the fall of Baghdad, Syria and the Palestinians, the remaining states will toe the line when it comes to the American will in shaping a new Middle East.
Therefore, the first reason behind this security explosion that has occurred is the American attack (on the region); and the second reason relates to the inherited quasi-national identities, territorial divisions, and sectarian and religious identities that spur (each sect) – when the main body of the state breaks down – to take up their positions, in fear of any significant incidents and disturbances that may occur, while external and Western powers work on heightening these tensions by (carrying out) secret plans that trigger strife and shatter the nation (Ummah), as is happening today.
Based on this background, we began to look for a solution to this crisis in order to resolve this great impasse. It was possible for one to review and re-present the concept of ‘Arab nationalism’ from the Nasserist, Baathist or Arab nationalist point of views, yet these proposals have demonstrated over the last 40 or 45 years, their failure in uniting the Arab nation; in building a viable socialist system for (Arab) society; and in liberating Palestine, as (these political theories) had vowed and committed to do. Therefore, these theories began to suffer from weakness, and all the so-called ‘Arab nationalist’ powers in the region have fallen.
The Islamic movements that emerged, particularly after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, witnessed a great revival throughout all Islamic regions. Islamic political thought began to develop following the huge victory that was achieved in Tehran. However, it developed gradually. Firstly, it developed in terms of (its various) sectarian identities, a large part of which were kept under the control of the West that used them in the conflict with Communism, which led in turn to the (establishment) of an ‘Islamic jihad’ so to speak – that was controlled and directed by Western powers according to grandiose strategic schemes. There is also (various types of) limited, localised, Islamic (socio-political) action that does not live up to the (requirements and level of) the nation. There is also Islamic charitable work and projects that do not reach a level that can be deemed Islamic political action.
Thus, in the face of the onslaught of new global ideas, such as globalization…(consider) Europe, which has united, and which (poses) a new challenge to political thought. The European model has challenged and crushed the struggle of nationalities (phenomenon) which triggered the two world wars; the unity of Europe and its (new model) proved that nationalities can unite under an economic project that is able to save the peoples of Europe and preclude them from poverty at a time of US and Chinese (dominance). This means that (common) interest has united (Europeans) and turned them into the third economic power of the world.
This European challenge proved that the coexistence of multiple languages and cultures upon which nationalities are built can possibly create a broader identity, which they call the ‘European identity’. So, this European challenge offered humanity a new model unlike what we used to think i.e. unity and national identities are only established among those who speak the same language and share the same culture. We see a new model that has strong influence in the world.
The imperial powers that dominate the world themselves present totally different model(s) to all that which we have inherited of ideological and political thought. We have remarkable examples of this type, such as the example of the global migration to new continents, in which the migration of people to North and South America have established two types of states: weak and failed states, and the United States of America, a very powerful state that has dominated the world’s capabilities economically, and militarily controlled many regions with no power managing to arise as a (serious) competitor. This state (US) that came into existence via the (efforts of) scattered peoples from across the world, is comprised today of all the world’s ethnicities, colors and religions, (a state) in which the president – who holds the highest position at the White House – can be a black person of African descent, i.e. not a hundreds of years (American) descent but a person of a foreign father who is only he himself born in the United States.
Consequently, we notice that part of the crises that the US is suffering from today is related to its multiple identities, but at the same time, America has achieved its greatness through this economic power that has gathered the world’s finest minds in relation to economic, technical and creative matters. Actually, when he wrote his book in 1975, ‘(America) Between Two Ages’, Brzezinski admitted that 80% of the technical, engineering and scientific minds in the United States are actually ‘imported minds’ from around the world. This means that the United States has provided us with a model that says: a state which has law and order, and that provides a certain type of comfortable lifestyle (for its citizens), (such a state) can possibly become a magnet for the globe’s brains, such that they leave their miserable countries of origin and migrate to it. This thus becomes a dialectical relationship – that third-world states nurture the great imperial power of the globe with their home-grown brainpower and capabilities.
In view of this complex situation, I saw that it was our duty to begin the battle for the reestablishment of a new Levant via new political thought, and to determine the priorities of the (ongoing greater) regional conflict and put them in the following order:
The first struggle must be named “national liberation from Western and Zionist hegemony”. We cannot dream of an economic renaissance and intellectual and social liberation if our countries are still under direct or indirect occupation by Western and Zionist powers. Therefore, the Levantine political parties and movements have to realize that national liberation must be a collective mission to support the resistance movement in the region for the sake of liberating Palestine. During this battle, the American forces in the region must be defeated in order to clear the region of foreign forces and Zionism.
The second mission is to find new political ideas that diverge from Ibn Khaldun’s theory of domination (i.e. there can be no social order without a form of power based upon constraint and domination) because our study of previous empires (shows that) they were ruled by the dominant ethnicities, tribes, clans or families (of those times). The Umayyads were one group who dominated the entire nation just to rule it under the name of the Umayyads. The same applies to the Abbasids and the Ottomans who were the predominant group (in their nation during their respective times). Despite the advantages and the power that these empires had, they were built on domination rather than dialogue. At that time in history, it was probably difficult to have a dialogue that brings together all these ethnicities and peoples in order to build an empire based upon mutual understanding and social contracts. I am saying this to make sure our reading (of events) is realistic. Today, however, domination is no longer acceptable nor permitted, even if it offers a booming economy and heightened regional security. National, innate and religious tendencies remain an obstacle to accepting hegemony and domination of asabiyyah (defined by Ibn Khaldun as social solidarity).
Therefore, our only solution is to present a project of dialogue which we have named “The Levantine Confederation”. This project is built upon an understanding between states that have strong central security, states that are aware of the international conflict and are able to act as a lever to this project by starting a strategic dialogue between each other in order to build a Levantine system similar to the European system.
This (Levantine system) will restore to the Levant its previous empires, not by domination, but by a new socio-political contract that respects (the Levant’s) cultural and religious heritage, respects human rights, and builds a new system without changing the current maps, because changing them may lead to new clashes and instabilities. However, the borders will have minimal restrictions. (In other words,) the black borderline will be turned into a light gray line, similar to the EU borders that are almost non-existent. A person will be able to travel all over the Levant without a need for a travel visa. Goods will be transported from one country to another without paying customs except for a nominal fee. A (Levantine) investor will invest in any (Levantine) country. The economic renaissance can also be integrated with agricultural, industrial and energy – oil and gas – projects, etc.
We will build this (Levantine) system through understanding as Europe did. As a result, we will have fulfilled a big dream of the Islamic movement, i.e. uniting the Ummah (the Islamic community). (This system) would not unite a billion and a half (Muslims), but (at least) it would unite the core (of the Ummah) at the Levant. We will have also realized a huge dream of Arab nationalists who are not chauvinists nor racists. They rather adopted nationalism as an ideology to confront the West or unite Arabs against the Western and Zionist attack, but they failed (to do so).
However, this (Levantine) confederation will include many countries from inside and outside the Arab world, which will contribute towards freeing the Arab region from Zionism and Western control, and ensuring its coexistence with its natural neighbors with whom it shared a history of 1400 years under previous imperial systems.
Consequently, our (project) would have integrated with previous projects that have not succeeded, and we would find a new atmosphere for dialogue away from the atmosphere created by the mouthpiece of Western media financed by petrodollars. Unfortunately, the demonic Western media, with its intellectual toxins that fuel sectarian and ethnic conflicts in our region, no longer comes (to us) in English, nor in French. It is no longer a white man raising these issues to us. Their news rather come via Arab media funded by Arab petrodollars from Gulf countries that have put themselves at the service of the American-Zionist project, which is no longer a secret to anyone.
It is no longer a secret; no one can say anymore that we are (falsely) accusing a (particular) state of being an ally of America and an ally of Zionism, now that all the masks have fallen off. They (some Arab states) themselves admitted that they had served America for 70 years (by implementing) its regional and international strategies. Today, they are openly expressing their convictions and publically (sharing) their relations with Zionism and the US. For them, Arabism and Islam have become a type of folklore with no ideological, political or cultural importance, (and they feel no need to) respect the will of their people and the people of the region. They have lost all these titles (Arabism and Islam). However, they have a strong grip on the Arab media because 80% of it is financed by Arab oil (monarchies). Therefore, we are facing a major offensive locally and internationally.
I believe that no country alone, no matter how powerful it is, can face such an offensive; and no party can claim that it alone can confront it. Even Turkey, with its current capabilities, cannot defend the region on its own and run things alone no matter how great its economic and military capabilities. The reason is that if Turkey took action individually, without joining the socio-political and security pact and the dialogue we are calling for, other powers (in the region) will be troubled by the Turkish forces and will begin a resistance under the title of rejecting a (potentially) new Ottoman (Empire). Some people in Turkey may have the idea of resurrecting the Ottoman Empire with the same old ultranationalism, but this is impossible these days.
Iran, which today leads the Axis of Resistance in confronting Israel and the US presence in the region, meaning that it leads the armed national liberation movement against the Western presence, also (has not yet been able to achieve) a broader regional dialogue (that is necessary) to clarify its goals and cooperate with other powers. However, there is an advantage that I must point out, which is that the bilateral Turkish-Iranian cooperation is almost impeccable. However, there are many regional issues that (both countries) do not agree on, the most important of which are the conflict in Syria; Iraq; in addition to some other matters. Even regarding Palestine (there are differences between the two). The Iranian involvement has now become an engagement that challenges the US and Israel with (its provision of) weapons and equipment aimed at unconditionally supporting the Palestinian resistance with all means (possible). Turkey, on the other hand, supports the Palestinian people, but without disturbing Zionism. It refuses to withdraw its recognition of (Israel as a state), it does not bother the US, nor does it support the (Palestinian) resistance with arms. There must be a dialogue to settle these issues.
I think that the dialogue aiming to build a Levantine Confederation that moves away from Ibn Khaldun’s concept of one ‘asabiyyah (socially cohesive group) having control over the region, will (in fact) bring ideological peace to the region, because the Turkish bloc represents a major Sunni bloc and the Iranian bloc represents the largest Shia bloc in the Islamic nation. Therefore, (more cooperation between the two countries) would offer a respite to this sectarian conflict that the Zionists, the US, and all enemies of our nation – and even the Takfiris from within our nation – seek to ignite in order to weaken our nation. In other words, this is a positive thing that we must support through (the establishment) of an intellectual system that explains to public opinion what we (who call for a Levantine Confederation) do and why are we doing this. Our movement should not be secret or private, and our tactics should be clear, so that no party is accused of wanting to dominate.
The most important thing (necessary here) is that the idea of the hegemony of one sect with its individual capabilities must be completely precluded. We must push parties, powers, movements, thinkers, writers and journalists towards a region-level social, security and political union through dialogue and conferences, and not through hegemony. This (approach) will facilitate the consolidation of financial, economic, military and security capabilities. It would also dispel the worrisome ideas prevailing in the region as everyone fears for their doctrine, nationalism, and even their clan. In order for everyone to feel that there is a great fusion in the region (between our countries), just as big as a nuclear fusion, such that there would be a win-win situation for all, with no losers.
This is what I wrote about in my book after (conducting) a historical study of the way geographical maps were drawn up, by highlighting the ways in which client regimes were implanted (in our region), and by speaking about (the importance of) natural resources, a very important issue when it comes to questions of strategic awareness. Geography is a dominant (factor) that we often forget about. (Geography) is not only related to borders, but also to natural resources and the interconnectedness of natural geography, relating to plains, mountains and valleys. It refers to oil and gas reservoirs. It refers to transit lines, energy transit routes, and the networking/integration of potentials in relation to economic-related transport and the transit of passengers.
Therefore geography is a dominant/undeniable (factor) that must not be forgotten. In the past we lived in an open geography (i.e. without rigid national borders), and what is utterly disgraceful today is that the Hejaz Railway line, that was built just before World War One, had passed through all of these countries, from Istanbul to Hejaz, passing through Palestine and Baghdad, while we are unable today to implement even a portion of this project which would tie these areas together.
Unfortunately, the great danger (we are facing today) is that, (after) the Emirati normalization (of ties) with the Zionists, if things do go as planned as (the Israelis) wish, you will see (frequent) trains setting of from the Arabian Peninsula to the port of Haifa, and (you will see scores of) aircraft and ships coming and going from the Arabian Peninsula towards occupied Palestine through these countries (on a daily basis). They (Israel and its allies) will establish a regional network conspiring against the unity of our nation, against the freedom of Palestine and against the true Islam of (Prophet) Muhammad. With their money, they (seek to) bypass all of us, while we, in the Levant, (are yet to) be able to build this confederation.
(The) main goals (of this Levantine Confederation) should be: removing Israel (from existence); liberating the region from Western and American hegemony; networking/integrating the economic; social and intellectual capabilities of the region; opening the borders between the (states of the Levant) for investment and cooperation; and reviving the Levantine empire not through national or sectarian hegemony, but through a voluntary decision (by all parties).
(To accomplish these goals), there should be collective action by the scholars of the region to reformulate Islamic political thought and reexamine modern Islamic law. When I say a new (Islamic) law, I do not mean that we should invent a new law, but I am an advocate of common jurisprudence to ensure that no doctrine introduces laws of its own and deviates from other doctrines with fatwas that are not based on joint scientific research. In medicine, doctors conduct joint research – likewise with engineers. All scholars around the world hold joint conferences. However, Muslim scholars have organized (many) conferences to call for Islamic unity, but for 1400 years, they have not been able to come out with a common jurisprudence to revitalize (the Muslim) nation through this noble (Islamic) law and Islamic ideas that must be not only in harmony with the era, but also ahead of it. These (new Islamic) ideas should embrace the current era with mercy. Whether they were read in Istanbul, Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, Tehran, Washington or Paris, they would triumph over all intellectual minds that might criticize them and propose their own ideas.
This is a new way of thinking; this is a new political logic that we strongly need, especially since we are, with all power…I know that, today, the Axis of Resistance, i.e. the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine in addition to the capabilities in Syria, Iran and elsewhere, is able to defeat the Zionist enemy (Israel) with a battle in which victory is definitely ours. But the question is: how would the Levant look like the first day after this victory? What position will Turkey adopt? What position will Egypt adopt? What position will these states (i.e. current allies of Israel) adopt? How will (the situation) be after the victory? Does anyone doubt that the American exit from the region will occur very soon? Who will fill this void? Who is going to maintain the balance in this region? Who will stop this great fire that is sweeping through the whole region if there isn’t a project greater than Iraq, greater than Syria, greater than Iran, greater than Turkey, greater than Lebanon, a project that benefits everyone and serves their interests. This is the introduction that I wanted to start with. I am eager to hear your opinions and comments to benefit from them. Thank you for listening.