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September 12, 2014

Middle East Upside Down

Roy Meachum

Some readers know I lived in Cairo for more than a year; together with books, I’ve never left the Middle East. Although entirely in Africa, Egypt stands with its fellow Muslim nations.


Son Roy Neal Meachum gave me “Lawrence in Arabia” written by Scott Anderson, a son of Jack Anderson; the Mormon was chosen by the most ferocious Quaker I’ve ever met. Drew Pearson selected him to continue his legacy: hard-biting columns. I knew Jack and Drew as fellows in the same journalistic profession.


When I went to Cairo the first time, I was working in the Washington’s Metromedia (Fox) newsroom; someone called me “a Middle East expert.” This happened more and more. The first time I was infected with the history and ways of the Muslim – that is religion of the region, notwithstanding, Israel is bound to other Mosaic traditions.


Much of the trouble with Islam is difficulty with post-World War I; then, European nations had the say. There is the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided the region between British and French influences, never mind what T.E. Lawrence fought for. He worked for independence for the countries.


At the time, Iran and Afghanistan were not reckoned with Middle East; they had quietly been absconded by London. They were given back in the last few years – after Yankees bled. President Barack Obama was not desperate; having managed the troops’ exile to their families. He made the first speech on the region Wednesday evening – prompted by ISIS.


President Obama took over networks the other evening. He pronounced we’re bombing and shooting in Syria – anything to dump ISIS: the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They have already beheaded two American journalists: James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Heaven knows what reporters they have in custody.


The president announced the U.S. is going for the ISIS terrorists. He will not be returning ground troops to the Middle East. Some right-wing politicians disagree; the vice president under George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, gave a thundering address. Mr. Cheney’s no longer in power. More than me, some experts agree that President Bush was dragged along through the Iraq’s bloodshed.


Anyway, there is no danger that Mr. Obama could be involved. He seems to resist any Republican stricture on deployment. Thank God for that! The White House, by localizing to Syria, apparently increasing the pressure on Bashar al-Assad, who already had a revolt going


Jordan, Iran and Afghanistan are the remaining states in the expanded Middle East; King Hussein was replaced by King Abdullah in Amman. The British reluctantly faced the loss of Teheran; the shah landed in Egypt while I was there. Afghanistan ceased to be a London monopoly; the Taliban took over. Fluent Arab, I don’t have; anyhow the region boasts Persian and Afghani. Rapidly coming along is Pakistan’s language: Urdu.


Most Americans have not considered how the Middle East expanded.


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