Opinion: Beware of false prophets...

By Claude Salhani

Pundits or false prophets? Many are those who are only too happy to offer the White House their "expert views" on foreign policies, yet what they advise is not necessarily in the interest of the United States.

Daniel Pipes, historian, commentator and president of the Middle East Forum wrote last week that the Syrian civil war would eventually stabilize the Middle East.



At what point would the Middle East stabilize? After upsetting the fragile political, religious and social mosaic in Lebanon and bringing the country closer to the brink of disaster while millions of refugees drain it and Jordan and Turkey of its social resources?

And just how many more years of bloodshed, of death and destruction, beyond the incurred great suffering of the Syrian people would Mr. Pipes say are needed to achieve this new Pax Syriana? And how many thousands more need to die?


Here is what the Syrian civil war has accomplished so far according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:

- More than 290,000 people killed - More than 1.5 million severely wounded - Forced or voluntary exodus of about 9 million Syrians, out of a population of 22 million. - Forced brain drain as the country's intelligentsia, the cultural elite, thinkers, artists, poets, writers, actors, etc. have fled the war. As is often the case, the vast majority of these are unlikely to return.

As a result the country ends up suffering a cultural void the nation can not refill for generations.

In the interim what has happened is that the uncultured hordes of uneducated thugs attempt to assume positions of power and influence.

- The establishment of the so-called Islamic State on land belonging to Syria and Iraq. - The theft of billions of barrels of oil from Syria and Iraq, representing billions of dollars of lost revenue.

The end result is a huge strain on the remnants of Syria; its economy and future government will be obliged to foot the bill on healthcare for the tens of thousands affected by the war and who will be needing mental, psychological and physical care.


The harm caused to the areas in Syria and Iraq under ISIS control will take generations to repair. Their latest degradation has been to take sledgehammers and power drills to historical artifacts and treasures dating from the Babylonian and Assyrian eras and reduced them to rubble.

How Mr. Pipes thinks there can be anything constructive emanating from this war is indeed hard to fathom.

Mr. Pipes is not only a historian, writer, and political commentator. He is also the president of the Middle East Forum, and publisher of its Middle East Quarterly journal. As a prolific author, Pipes, though his articles and his views tend to project the issues as seen through an Israeli lens.

Such statements from people considered experts and who think they know the Middle East, are often in reality grossly misinformed on the region because they have not visited most of the Arab countries. Often they simply fail to understand the variant cultures within the Arab world. Or, they may indeed know the Middle East but choose to slant their views because they assume a predetermined political agenda, which generally does not serve the interests of the people of the region, nor does it serve the national interest of the United States.


We recall the "expert advice" given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US government before the invasion of Iraq. Netanyahu is reported to have predicted that Washington's invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein would propel the spread of democracy in the region.

Netanyahu, just as Pipes, could have not been further away from the truth. We have seen the results of both actions. One can walk away with two conclusions from such statements:

Either these experts are far less knowledgeable and they would like us to believe, in which case their advice should be treated with extreme caution; or they are well aware of what they're saying and purposely trying to confuse an already very confused and complex situation in efforts to enable policy that favors Israel alone.

In either case what comes to mind are the words of caution spoken by Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount.

"Beware of false prophets. They will come to you dressed in sheep clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."

This serves as a reminder that's some things have not changed greatly in over 2,000 years of Middle Eastern history, except for the use of the word "prophet." Today we call them pundits.


-- Claude Salhani is a senior editor with Trend News Agency, and a contributing editor to UPI. You can follow Claude on Twitter @Claudesalhani.

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