How a ‘$15 billion hole’ could spark a global war

A single successful terrorist operation could cause a $15 billion loss to the world economy. Indeed, one successful attack with a shoulder-fired antiaircraft missile could do so.

This example explains precisely what terrorism is. It has no mind or soul, no faith or religion, and no political logic to justify it. Man has killed his fellow man without case since creation. He will continue to do so as long as the good with which mankind was imbued at creation must fight the elements of evil that distort his human soul.

But there are indeed people whose good nature overpowers any anger that may make the act of evil seem fair to them. People of this nature are good at what is known as anger management. In others, however, evil tightens its grip and leaves no chance for escape. When such evil controls a group of people entrusted with power, it creates a situation where that group claims they know what is best for a certain cause or a specific group of people—or even the entire world. Those who hold such an absolute belief in their own rightness should feel the responsibility to consider the consequences of any action they might take in furtherance of their cause before embarking upon it. But what should they do when such action means taking lives, destroying what has been created, and possibly igniting wars?

Global political stability is a prerequisite for global economic stability

Bakir Oweida

The $15 billion figure I mentioned is attributed to General David Petraeus, the former head of the CIA. It was recently cited by Michael Crowley in Time magazine as part of an analysis of the ongoing controversy over the Obama administration’s hesitation in responding to a request from Ahmed Jarba, the leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, to provide his forces with MANPADs.

While I don’t necessarily seek to support Jarba’s request, neither do I wish to side with those in the White House who warn of the dangers of those missiles falling into the hands of terrorists. But I do think it is fair to say that a $15 billion “hole”—as Time described it—in the global economy could indeed spark a destructive global war.

The expansion of war

Does our part of the world really need more reasons to start more wars? Of course not. Wars have been flaring up for a long time; they are always in the news. But the potential expansion of the scope of these wars, taking them beyond purely regional conflicts by dragging in international parties, is also a dangerous—and increasingly likely—possibility.

The developments in the Middle East—from the fall of the Shah of Iran and the rise of the Khomeinist revolution to the crimes of 9/11 and the shocks of the Arab Spring—are clear. The reasons for starting these conflicts seemed simple and imperative to some at the time, but they were enough to launch fleets and deploy armies. In this context, perhaps only specialists would pay attention to the markets, the importance of the arms industry, and the role of the global economy in international decision-making.

Further flare-ups

The flashpoints in the Middle East region are not only susceptible to further flare-ups, but also there is the likelihood that any future conflicts would not subside without a fierce war. Global political stability is a prerequisite for global economic stability—but we cannot ever think that global stability can come without a resolution of the various conflicts that have racked the Middle East. Indeed, the factors conducive to such a fierce, destabilizing war are already present in the region. Some of them can even be observed.

For example, an observer might ask about Egypt’s potential role following the election of Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi as president. Can it be imagined that the Egyptian Army would stand idly by if the campaign launched by General Khalifa Haftar against Libya’s armed militias widened, pushing some of the remnants of these groups to flee to Egypt?

There is also Egypt’s dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam. True, more than one official in both Egypt and Ethiopia has emphasized their keenness to resolve the water conflict peacefully. There have also been mediation efforts by Moscow and Beijing. Yet the danger of the eruption of a military confrontation remains. That danger would be even greater if Addis Ababa insists on moving forward with its plans for the construction of the dam without any revisions that take Egypt’s interests into account.

If I may go back to Libya again, it is clear that anything could happen there. Given the increase in weapons smuggling from Libya to a number of African countries, it is difficult to imagine that Algeria, Tunisia and Sudan will just watch things in Libya deteriorate from a distance. The mere infiltration of armed Libyan elements into the territory of any of these countries would be enough to justify an attack, even if Libya’s neighbors wished to avoid such a scenario.

Even more, could it really be imagined that the clashes between Al-Qaeda and the Yemeni Army will remain confined within the current attack-and-retreat pattern? At any rate, would the security of the region even brook the continuation of this situation without any final settlement in sight?

Regarding the situation in Iraq, will Iran and Turkey only be content to supply their allies with funds and equipment? Are these not merely lures seeking to entrap as much as possible in a land open to the ambitions of the greedy?

All these considerations have brought me to my principal questions: Can we really imagine that Tel Aviv would brush aside the headache of a nuclear Iran instead of breaking Iran’s back? Would Putin let an Israeli strike on Iran pass without response, as though it were of no concern to Russia? After all, Russia’s Caesar has long sought to pump fresh blood into the veins of its international influence, even at the price of further bloodshed. Ukraine may perhaps be the beginning of this.

There are many signs of danger, but my ancient and beautiful wish for a world without wars is far away indeed.

 

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 31, 2014.

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Bakir Oweida is a journalist who has worked as Managing Editor, and written for several Arab publications based in London. His last executive post was Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, responsible for the Opinions section, until December 2003. He can be reached on bakir@hotmail.co.uk and bakir@darbakir.com

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