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Collapse and Rebirth of Cultural Heritage

The Case of Syria and Iraq


Edited By Lorenzo Kamel

Cultural heritage and illicit trafficking in the Middle East are two key topics of our time.  The  book  sheds  light  on  both  aspects,  and  identifies  the  need  to  democratize  cultural heritage, by giving greater control to local communities. It also investigates the link between local hotbeds of conflict and violence in countries such as Syria and Iraq,  as  well  as  war  economics,  transnational  criminal  networks  and  the  politics  of  deliberate destruction and theft of cultural heritage. Finally, the chapters analyze the impact  of  non-violent  and  violent  non-state  actors,  fragile  states,  forced  migration,  environmental  degradation,  as  well  as  how  local  and  international  institutions  have  reacted to the dramatic events which the region and its inhabitants have experienced in recent years
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Chapter 1: The Steep Cost of Destabilizing Iraq and Syria (Elijah J. Magnier)


Elijah J. Magnier

Chapter 1: The Steep Cost of Destabilizing Iraq and Syria

Every American president since Jimmy Carter has declared ‘war on terror’, a war that has been not merely a ‘clash of civilizations’ (MacDonald et al. 2012: 118). Rather, it has been, and remains, an ill-conceived strategy, because it has aimed to fight the former Soviet Union’s expansion and hegemony and control the very rich energy sources in the Middle East, without foreseeing the devastating consequences of such a strategy for the region’s populations and their cultural heritage (Chomsky 2008: 162–3).

The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, an ambush of the type the United States suffered in Vietnam, dragged Moscow into a quagmire (Brzezinski 1983: 429; see also Gibbs 2000: 241–2). The arming of the Afghan and Arab Mujahedeen and their victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan gave them the necessary boost to attract thousands of jihadist followers with the objective of establishing an ‘Islamic state’ (Islamic Emirate or Caliphate) in the Middle East and Central Asia. The ‘warriors of peace’ (Fisk 1993) appeared to be the worst enemies of ancient and modern civilization.1 They advocated the return of the ancient glory of Islam, according to their own interpretation of glory and of Islam.

When the Taliban Mujahedeen took power, they presented the world with an example of the kind of rule to expect. Not only did the Taliban carry out indiscriminate killings (Girardet 2011: 306), violate human...

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