According to some, Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein only invaded Iran during Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule because he was implicated by foreign parties and only invaded Kuwait after he received hints from America's envoy in Baghdad.
Some argue the Libya’s revolution against Muammar Qaddafi was a foreign act and the toppling of Egypt's Husni Mubarak was also a conspiracy. Some think the Brotherhood made it to power because of America’s planning. The Brotherhood think Egypt’s General Abdelfattah al-Sisi turned against them because of Western interference.
And for three years now, the Syrian regime has been saying that the West is behind the revolution against it while the rebels insist there's a conspiracy to besiege their revolution for the sake of keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power.
A few days ago, my colleague Eyad Abu Shaqra wrote an article saying that it's time to acknowledge there are conspiracies being planned outside our region. My colleague, Eyad, is not the only one who sees a conspirator behind every crisis. For decades now, this has been the common belief among intellectuals. This belief was strengthened by literature that became famous in the 1960s and 1970s like The Game of Nations by Miles Copland.
I don't want to completely deny conspiracy theories because secret apparatuses from each country take part in activities that are meant to influence situations in a direction that best benefits their country.
But there exists an exaggeration of conspiracies when reading modern history.
Clout vs. Conspiracy
There's a lot of mix up between exploiting events to alter their path and between triggering the events themselves. For example, the fall of Iran's Shah in 1979 was almost inevitable as a result of the unrest in Tehran. The West preferred to support Ayatollah Khomeini and favored him from among all competitors.
Sending Khomeini to Tehran via an Air France jet from Paris strengthened his chances among other competitors from the leftists and nationalists parties. But Khomeini was already a prominent figure, not an invention of the West.
When Saddam decided to invade Iran a year after Khomeini seized authority, the decision was his alone and it reflected his mentality and his naive understanding of the world around him. He thought that the fall of his enemy, the Shah, and the chaos in Iran, represented a chance to regain what he considered occupied Iraqi lands.
There's no doubt that the U.S. exploited Saddam's stupidity -- especially considering he was a character whose stupid actions were easy to predict. The possible conspiracy in this is not that the West pushed Saddam towards crossing the border but is the reestablishment of relations with him after he got involved in the war and after arms warehouses were opened for him. Meanwhile, Israel was selling arms to Iran.
We, Arabs, hold onto conspiracy theories whenever there's something we cannot settle or understand. This is because conspiracy theories are a comfortable pillow on which those who want to justify their failure or incapability can sleep on.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
This was an exploitation of the situation aiming to put rivals in a long state of war because Khomeini and Saddam were rivals of the west.
This is not a conspiracy as much as it is an exploitation of the stupidity of two leaders who hated one another and who wanted each other's land. The same thing happened in Kuwait. Saddam made several indications about his intent to occupy Kuwait. These indications represented his greed and ignorance of the principles of superpowers' higher interests.
The fact that the American envoy did not prohibit him from invading Kuwait doesn't signify anything important. Back then, the Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, said that the Americans conspired against Saddam; claiming that’s why the latter invaded Kuwait.
They also claimed that the Americans were conspiring to occupy Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, meaning that Saddam had to be supported. All this turned out to be false. The same is being said about Syria's revolution. But the reason behind this revolution is that the Bashar al-Assad government is truly a regime which expired following the death of Hafez al-Assad.
The decadent sectarian security regime eroded, making a coup or revolution inevitable. It's a natural result. The revolution's incapability to see the revolution through is a result of Iran's and Russia's interference. Hurting the cause further, the American president is not enthusiastic to engage in another war. In the end, the regime will fall -- but unfortunately the price will be very high.
We, Arabs, hold onto conspiracy theories whenever there's something we cannot settle or understand. This is because conspiracy theories are a comfortable pillow on which those who want to justify their failure or incapability can sleep on. Those who use conspiracy theories the most are people who failed to come through with the empty promises they made - like Abel Nasser, Saddam, Qaddafi and Assad.
I am not saying there is no merit behind some conspiracy theories but most of them are an exploitation of emergent circumstances which we create. Each party is conspiring to gain from these circumstances but we must blame no one but ourselves. There are countries which rose from the ashes throughout history such as Japan, Germany and Turkey, and no one prevented them from being successful.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 23, 2014.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.