HEADLINES

BATTLEFRONT: The Middle East

By John Macklien A. Olandag | Feature Writer

Vol. XCI No. 14

Jan. 17, 2020


The aircraft’s engines roared through the humid Middle Eastern air. Through the swaying of palm trees standing on the brown, fine sand a smell of an innocent day gushed through the surroundings as metal clanks and revving engines all sounded in unison. Footsteps were then heard. As the soles stepped on a plane tarmac suddenly sounds of rolling propellers were heard seemingly finding its prey. Like insects finding cover everyone was thrown into disarray. A shot was fired, followed by multiple ones, and the horrendous sounds of bullets hitting the metals and the flesh grazed through the airport. After the prey flew satisfied of its kill, a recognizable figure stood lifeless. His decorations made noise yet his body lay in disorderly repose. 

Baghdad airport stood witness as Major General Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top officials and a face of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was neutralized by an MQ9 reaper drone attack ordered by the Pentagon, upon the personal approval of US President Donald  Trump that happened Friday, January 3. This flared anger in Iran and immediately she retaliated by firing missiles at US bases in Iraq, claiming that this was a warning to Washington that they were battling the wrong enemy.

Middle East has always been a battleground during the modern and contemporary times as Islamic ultranationalist factions arose using their religious affiliation as their shield. They despised traditional Muslims for they were rejecting the hegemony of Allah, that He wanted to wipe out those who embrace outside cultures. Before the civil war in Syria, the rise of Saddam Hussein, the rise of Al-Qaeda, Middle East was under the protection of Western powers. 

At the onset of the First World War, European powers sent troops to the Middle East to maintain order with revolts happening especially in the Arabian Peninsula. France and Britain took the lead in dividing the Middle East among themselves. Syria and Lebanon became a protectorate of France, while Palestine and Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) went into the hands of Great Britain.

The Western powers seemingly underestimated the situation of their spheres of influence. Later, the Arabs went into revolt as a disagreement of a centralized government where both Jews and Christians thrived. Aside from not being used into a unified government, they found it a nuisance to have such mixed population. The rise of liberal-minded and Western-educated Arab figures further strengthened the movements for self-governance. When Hitler attacked Poland in 1939, Europe came into chaos, and the British and French were seemingly weakened deploying their troops to fight for the Nazis who committed genocidal killings among Jews, and later the Japanese in which the British were ill-equipped to fight.

Later these nations were granted their independence but different radical movements arose as conflicts in ideology worsened. Extremists believed that Allah did not favor the way Muslims lived then because of their affiliation with Western ideas and culture. Eventually, other factions rose out of conflicts in belief, with most resorting to terrorism as many radicals claimed it was a way of redemption for God. 

The extremists then made their way into the international scene threatening people. One of the most famous and televised terrorist acts was the siege of the Iranian embassy in United Kingdom in April 30 to May 5, 1980, when six members of an Iranian extremist group led by Oan Ali Mohammed took the employees and staff of the embassy hostage. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) televised the crisis that shocked the world. Days later the Special Air Service (SAS) would make a daring rescue mission that would impressively take the lives of only two hostages and kill Oan. This made SAS a famous world figure but this was not the end of extremism in the Middle East.

Al-Qaeda would then step up with the World Trade Center in America as their epitome of terror. The Americans finally got their revenge in May 2, 2011 when the United States Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) team raided Osama bin Laden’s, the leader of Al-Qaeda, compound in Pakistan.

Furthermore, conflicts in the Middle East escalated as more and more extremist groups emerged and diplomatic skirmishes erupted. The threat of war has always been a controversy with the rise of multi-factional groups each having their own desires for autonomy; while some practiced terrorism for religious and fanatical reasons. 

As of this writing, soldiers are still encamped in different parts of the Middle East, uncertain of their destiny. A situation of life and death will be a coin toss for them. They may either bring home with their backpacks or confined inside their flag-draped coffin. 

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