In 1991, throughout the turmoil of the Gulf War, French philosopher Jaun Baudrillard published a collection of essays in the Guardian and Libération under the title ‘The Gulf War Did Not Take Place’. He did not imply that the war did not actually take place, but that everything that was said about it was an illusion. The events leading up to the war looked like a perfectly manufactured scene from Hollywood – they were not real, but a promotion. All information on the war was promoted to point to one direction, which in effect made everything look dubious.
Saddam Hussein, in fact, was a fake enemy. At one point, he is perfectly pampered and strengthened by the West during the Iran-Iraq war, receiving generous amounts of economic and military aid, and at another point, he is subjugated and suppressed. It was not the West v.s. Iraq, but the West in conflict with itself, as Jaun Baudrillard points out. Western hegemony is in crisis, and so the only way to sustain it is to perpetually create an irrational, mad and fabricated enemy that is ‘overtaken’ by the great powers. At the end of the day, it was not the Arabs or the Muslims that Saddam helped, but it was the West. After the war, the United States engulfed the Arabian Peninsula with its own forces to ensure the ‘security’ of the Gulf states, dragging them further back into the ages of dependency and colonialism.
The instability of the system can be singled out from Emmanuel Macron’s own words. In his address to the European Parliament earlier this April, he declared that the Syria strikes ‘were for honor of the international community’. They were for honor. Not for any other cause – not even for the Syrians – but for honor. The hypocrisy of launching these strikes was revealed by the US, UK and France’s neglect of what was taking place simultaneously in Gaza, yet it is questionable whether this would have equally served their stature.
On May 8th, Donald Trump announced that the US would officially withdraw from the Iran deal. It is important to realise that this decision was not judged on the value of the deal itself, but on how to sustain the existing hegemony. Israel is in conflict with itself, and its survival in in the region is deteriorating even further, meaning that now would be the ripe moment to unleash the ‘enemy’ and regain its credibility. The enemy – that is, Iran – must retain its barbaric, evil and vile image in order to keep Israel’s roots firm on the ground.
Behind the Iran deal is a fake enemy that the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia are keen on bringing it back on stage. Since the 20th century, this triad worked together to design the ‘ultimate peace plan’ for the region. In his book ‘H. St. John Philby, Ibn Saud and Palestine’ Jerald Thompson records that in order to prevent the occurrence of a unified Arab power surrounding Israel, there must be in place an Arab ruler, which in that case was Ibn Saud, that would give up Palestine in return for his place as the leader of a contained Pan-Arab union. Though the plan never came to fruition, it is still being developed today.
Indeed, Mohammed Bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, is no longer hiding his disregard for the Palestinian cause, as Middle East Eye reports his explicit statements that “it is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining”. He also added that Saudi Arabia’s top priority in the region is to confront Iran’s influence and power. Such statements collide and point to one direction: that defeating Iran is directly in conflict with providing a fair peace proposal for the Palestinians, and that Saudi Arabia’s leadership in the region is the ultimate goal. Whether the peace plan or war will come first, it is not yet entirely clear.
Iran, like Saddam Hussein, is the enemy that betrays its own cause: it eats up the Middle East and antagonizes it further, until its own flame is blown out by the imperialist powers. It is not the Iran nuclear deal that Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump are aggravated about, but it is the struggle to sustain their status, their honor, and their dominance.