Column: Strategems in the Middle East

Abdullah MuradoğluBY: Abdullah Muradoğlu*

When the Arab Spring first broke out in Syria it was thought that the U.S. administration wanted to bring down the Assad regime. The U.S. supported and maintained this impression. This “fake impression” or “screening,” as we may call it, created expectations among anti-Assad groups and thus the incidents happened one after another and created this picture we see today.

New actors were brought to the stage and the ethnic and sectarian tension in Iraq started to poison Syria. This atmosphere created more convenience for the plans to be carried out. The secondary actors on the stage had no other chance but to play the roles that were given to them. The elements that made up Syria disintegrated further. No one expects Syria to return to its old days. Damascus and all the other secondary actors have been shattered and are now trying to fortify the last points they will hold in Syria. Iran, Russia, and the U.S. have a corridor expectation. The Syrian stage has actually turned into a “war of corridors.”

For a while now there has been views that Washington doesn’t have a Syrian policy. Is this really the case? Do those who advocate this view speak comfortably because they know the plans related to Syria? If they do know, then they must know what the next step would be. Isn’t it naive to argue that the U.S. does not have a Syrian policy in a period in which a “new world order” is attempted to be built among this crisis? Perhaps what we perceive as the absence of a policy is the policy itself. Taking a step before knowing what the plan is can be risky.

One of the tactical manourevres stated as “strategems” by the Chinese, is stated in the following sentence: “Acting as if you aren’t doing anything is actually the best way of doing something.” According to the information given in Harro Von Senger’s “The Book of Strategems,” the Chinese formulated this strategem as a way to “sit right at the top and watch the war of the tigers.” In a critical article Mao wrote in 1939 on Europe’s war situation within the scope of strategem he says: “The U.K., U.S. and France do not have serious intentions to prevent a world war from erupting. Quite the contrary, they are trying to accelerate the war. The U.K., U.S. and France are trying to provoke Germany to fight against the Soviet Union, but they themselves are sitting right at the top and watching the war of the tigers. They will set the Soviet Union and Germany against each other, ensure that they are weakened from the war and then come into the picture and act as if they are there to fix the problem. However, their plot has been ruined with the Soviet-German Nonaggression Pact.”

Yet, the “Nonaggression Pact” was later broken. Hitler made the mistake of his life by attacking the Soviet Union. The Nazis lost the war and the Russians made irrevocable losses. Although the Russians look like they are among the winners, this war pushed the Soviet Union to the verge of disassociation in the 1980s.

Didn’t the U.S. and other Western countries sit right at the top and watch the tigers at war during the Iran-Iraq war? Of course this doesn’t mean they didn’t do anything. When the time comes, this wait turns into a pre-prepared act. The U.S. secretly gave Iraq logistic support when Saddam Hussein was at the verge of defeat. The U.S.’s policy didn’t comprise one of the tigers winning, instead it was based on both tigers defeating each other. This policy later prepared the destruction of Iraq. Time is flying, and it seems like the time that felt long to us is now in the past.


*Abdullah Muradoğlu is a Turkish columnist. He writes for Yeni Safak daily newspaper

 (Published in Yeni Safak daily on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017)