Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bernard Lewis Project revisited

‘If the order were to be given for an attack, the American combat troops now operating in Iran would be in position to mark the critical targets with laser beams, to insure bombing accuracy and to minimize civilian casualties. As of early winter, I was told by the government consultant with close ties to civilians in the Pentagon, the units were also working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeri’s, in the north, the Baluchi's, in the southeast, and the Kurds, in the northeast. The troops “are studying the terrain, and giving away walking-around money to ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes and shepherds,” the consultant said. One goal is to get “eyes on the ground”—quoting a line from “Othello,” he said, “Give me the ocular proof.” The broader aim, the consultant said, is to “encourage ethnic tensions” and undermine the regime.’

This is a segment of an article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, a widely respected American journalist. Based on anonymous sources in the Pentagon, Hersh discusses the Bush administration’s plans to launch major air attacks on Iran and its covert operations within Iran’s borders to destabilize the country.

The US “encouragement of ethnic tensions” has been recently addressed by critics, including the Islamic Republic itself. Prior to the latest presidential elections in Iran, the province of Khuzestan was shocked by multiple bombings, which led to considerable civilian casualties. Many blamed the Arab separatists who are becoming growingly active in this region. One influential theory says that these separatist groups receive support from the US and Great Britain.

More recently, the Azerbaijan province has been the stage of public protests, and clashes with government forces. The background of the unrest was the publication of a cartoon in a national newspaper, which was considered as disrespectful towards the Azeri minority. It is by no mean surprising that people of Azerbaijan take action to protect and emphasis their (ethnic) identity. The interesting fact is, however, the timing and scale of the reactions, which may suggest that there is, in fact, more at stake that only a shattered ethnic pride. Could it be possible that a cartoon, picturing a cockroach speaking Azeri, would create massive protests a few years ago, prior to the Iran-US crisis on nuclear technology?

The stimulation of ethnic unrest is (unfortunately) not a new idea. Specifically in case of Iran, the current US plans seem to resemble a much older agenda, which is known as the “Bernard Lewis Project” . Bernard Lewis is one of the most influential scholars in the study of Islam and Middle East, whose views and expertise has been widely represented in public and political domain(1). From a scientific perspective, his views on Islam and Middle East, and their relation with the West can be considered as extremely orientalistic.

The Bernard Lewis Project was first presented in 1979. The core proposal of this project is to divide countries in the Middle East along ethnic and regional lines into smaller, rival states in order to weaken the power of existing governments. According to Lewis the West should provoke rebellion for national autonomy by certain minority groups that will, eventually, lead to the fragmentation of powerful states. In case of Iran, he formally proposed to target the Arabs of Khuzestan (the Al-Ahvaz Project), the Azeri’s (the Greater Azerbaijan Project), the Kurds (the Greater Kurdistan Project) and the Baluchi’s (the Pakhtunistan Project).

Now more than 25 years later, Iran is still too big for the region. This is especially problematic, as the country is perceived as a hostile state by the US. Undoubtably, Iran is a true (potential) threat to the US interests in the Middle East. Given the neoconservative agenda of the current US administration, it is not surprising that parts of Lewis’s proposition have been reconsidered in the context of recent developments, and already initiated in practice.

Moreover, the current situation in neighboring Iraq, where the country balances on the edge of a civil war, can facilitate further ethnic tensions in Iran, especially when an independent, self-governing Kurdistan emerges in Iraq. However, America’s first objective would be to target the oil producing Khuzestan region, as its separation will automatically paralyze the entire country, including the central government.

Apparently, the US aggressive policy towards Iran seems to be a component of the much broader “Project for the New American Century”, an old agenda that has also been revived by the neocons to ensure the American dominance as the world’s only superpower in the region.

(1) Dick Cheney remraked “I had the pleasure of first meeting Bernard [Lewis] more than 15 years ago, during my time as Secretary of Defense. It was not long after the dictator of Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and we brought in a large number of outside experts to speak about the history and the way forward in the Middle East. As you might imagine, I got a wide range of advice -- some of it very good and some of it terrible. No one offered sounder analysis or better insight than Bernard Lewis. He was an absolute standout, and I decided that day that this was a man I wanted to keep in touch with, and whose work I should follow carefully in the years ahead..... In this new century, his wisdom is sought daily by policymakers, diplomats, fellow academics, and the news media.” (1 may 2006). Read the entire speech here.


Dr O2 said...

As a nation we are so stupid. Our first reaction towards any trigger is seperation and not negotiation. No political maturity in reactions which can easily be triggered by outsiders :-S and it hurts to C tribes come before nationality.

Dr O2 said...

Missed ya great deal Hydra. Welcome back :-)

Nick said...

Thanks for the background info Hydra - The Project for a New American Century is still far too obscure: we need more people to understand it in order to successfully oppose its ideas.

I'm off to sign the No War Against Iran petition. I'm part of a new campaign that is working toward the same ends and trying to build solidarity between Iranians and Americans to prevent a war. Check it out: www.EnoughFear.org.

Thomas said...

Interesting, for a second there I thought you wrote that when a country's unstabile, its too big. Which might have some truth to it, take Holland for example.
Besides al that, I dont like the course that the US is takin'. They are so against ''the ashes of evil'' that they dont even see they might become it themselves. Shaping everything they invade to their own needs. Iraq has a culture of its own, when the americans invaded kentucky fried chickin, mcdonalds etc. popped out of the ground like mushrooms. Agin, this all aside, getting to the point.. I would not rest my faith nor confidence in the hands of the US, not now atleast.

Hydra said...

Hi Omid,

Thanks for your comment. That tribes could come before nationality is a potential problem to any state. But the idea that nationality should predominate local identity is itself a controversial one. National identity is, like the tribal identity, a fabricated sense of attachment to a region and culture. It needs constant stimulation by the national government and the culture of the country itself. Otherwise it would perish, resulting in separation.


Hi Nick, thanks for visiting. You have an interesting website there. I have forwarded it to some people.


Dear Thomas, The US is already for decades on the axis of evil. I don't think America is any better than mullahs in Iran or the Taliban in Afghanistan. They may dress and speak differently, but the ideology behind their actions are very similar: oppression, abuse and exploitation.

Hydra said...

Anonymous, I deleted your comment, cause it had nothing to do with my post. If you want to promote your links, let me know, and I may place them here. Thanks.

Daana said...

In the edited Edward Said's Orientalism in 2003, Said says that
Bernad Lewis is a Zionist who has
been fighting against Islam all his life, yet presentin his biased works as objective science. How regretful that the West famoust Islamic Studies Scholar is everything except being a scholar! He's servbed Cheney for invading Iraq. Hope everyone knows his
intentions and delete his name among scholars at least!

Anonymous said...

Seymour Hersch "respected"?!?!? ROFLMAO.

He is far from it. He has made more bogus reports than any other journalist out there.

Here's an expose of the many time Seymour has told fibs, false stories, or got taken by con artists selling a bright shining lie:

Anonymous said...

Hersh expose

Hydra said...

Hi Daana, Nice to see that you're familiar with Said's work. He's totally right about Lewis. These pseudo-scholars' main purpose is to place an academic mask upon aggressive ideology. Let's not forget that apartheid en Nazi ideologies were said to be based on scietific accounts as well....


Hello Patrick, so you may be a conservative person, you may like Bush and Rumsfeld, but hate Hersh. I can't care less, but don't deny the facts. Hersh IS a respected journalist. Maybe the fact that he's been awarded the Pulitzer Prize would mean something to you. But I guess not... The Pulitzer Prize is an American award regarded as the highest honor in print journalism and literary achievements. Do you think that B-class website you refered me to could compete with that?

Sam99 said...

Iran's president is leading the country to ruin. America will attack Iran if it continues supporting terrorists, and developing nuclear capabilities. I know a majority of the iranian population does not believe this. But you should, because it is a fact. The whole world saw through Iran's play with Hizballah, and even Russia and China will not save you now.