The German expert on affairs in the Middle East Mr. Peter Scholl-Latour speaks about the violence in the Middle East, hate-preachers from Saudi Arabia and the dangers of the future.
Peter Scholl-Latour, with his intimate knowledge of the Islamic world, blames the West with a massive misinterpretation in considering the new outbreaks of violence in several Arab countries.
In his interview with the editor Mr. Thomas Shepherd of the German newspaper “Saarbrücker Zeitung”, the 88-year-old Middle East-expert, Mr. Peter Scholl-Latour, demands more restraint of the West in this region of the world.
(The original interview with Mr. Scholl-Latour was published on 15/09/2012 here)
Interview with Mr. Peter Scholl-Latour:
Editor: Mr. Scholl-Latour, the Arab world is in turmoil, embassies burn, there are dead. What is currently happening in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere? Where does this hatred come from?
Peter Scholl-Latour: The West and especially the Americans have started with an illusion from the beginning. They believed that a revolution against the local potentates would lead to a Western form of democracy in these countries. This is clearly not the case. Take Libya as an example: The people there wanted to get rid of the dictator, no doubt.
But the opponents of Gaddafi were no pro-American forces, but in contrast, they were especially Islamists – and very, very dedicated (Islamists). In addition, there is this stupid movie now, a form of defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, which goes far beyond of what they were earlier used to by cartoons.
The Americans always think that the enemy of their enemies must necessarily be their friend. But they are wrong. They already were wrong with this in Afghanistan.
Because the Afghans had fought very bravely against the Soviets, the Americans thought that the Afghans became pro-Western, but that was nonsense, of course. I was traveling with radical mujahedeen in the time of the war against the Russians.
While they were fighting against the Russians, they also shouted at the same time “Death to America”. I was wondering if they are crazy, because they were operating the war by American money. But they sang: “Neither the west, nor the east, but only Islamic”. One has to know that.
Editor: What is behind the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya?
Mr. Scholl-Latour: One has to see that chaos is threatening in Libya, because there are a lot of tribes in this country. Moreover, there are several Islamic brotherhoods, and what should not be underestimated, the emergence of the Salafists – Islamic extremists, financed and armed of all from the Western allies Saudi Arabia.
I suspect that what has happened in Benghazi has been initiated by such forces, because in Libya, a moderate government was elected, which was set up by the Americans. The slain U.S. ambassador was the one who has built up the opposition government against Gaddafi.
Editor: You mentioned Saudi Arabia. Is the danger, which is posed by Saudi-Arabia, underestimated?
Mr. Scholl-Latour: There are two forces. On the one hand, the government, it has an interest in the status quo and seeks the protection of the Americans. And on the other side, there are the religious institutions – and they are relentless. The people, who have blown up the World Trade Center, were no Afghans, they were Saudis.
And if hate preachers occur here, then they are persons from Saudi Arabia. It is the land that is, in terms of religion, the most reactionary country of all. But one needs the Saudis, just because of the oil. The Americans have totally taken a side and want to make the Saudis strong against the Iran. And we (Germany) provide (Saudi Arabia) them with another 600 Leos (tanks).
Editor: How do you assess the situation in Syria?
Mr. Scholl-Latour: The Assad regime was bad, but it was no better and not worse than others. In terms of religion, the Syrians have been infinitely much more tolerant than Saudi Arabia, which do not tolerate Christians at all, where one is not allowed to import cross and a Bible. Syria is much more liberal. But the whole wrath of the West is against Assad and they do not consider who is really part of the opposition.
This uprising in Aleppo is no longer a Syrian uprising. The ones, who are really fighting, are mostly people who have previously fought in Iraq, running around with black flags and they totally reject the West. They are what is commonly known as Al Qaeda. These bombings, which are occurring in Syria again and again, which are not carried out by Syrian nationalists, must be implemented by people who are deeply steeped in religion.
In Syria strange as it sounds, Al Qaeda became an ally of the Americans. We came there to the absurd situation that Assad will eventually be overthrown, which will lead to a long civil war.
The twelve percent of the Alawites in the Syrian population know that after the fall of Assad that they will not only lose their privileges, but that they also would get massively massacred. But the Alawites will defend themselves to the last. The war could then jump on Iraq.
Editor: Can the West do anything?
Mr. Scholl-Latour: We should finally stay out of the whole story. These constant proclamations that we are now applying tougher sanctions (e.g. sanctions against Iran, Syria …), only harms the poor people. I witnessed it in Iraq, when it was not allowed to import chemicals for many years.
The ground there could not be fertilized, it was not enough food there, water could not be purified, and the infant mortality rate has increased enormously.
Editor: Should the West just watch?
Mr. Scholl-Latour: Whom do you want to come to the rescue? In Egypt, the military or the Muslim Brotherhood? Do you want to help the Salafists, who are funded by Saudi Arabia, but are the most rabid enemies of the West and also recruit people over here? Whose side do you want to join? The West cannot do anything anyway. He is also not able to do anything militarily.
Editor: Your new book is called “The world goes to pieces”. This is probably correct.
Mr. Scholl-Latour: The equilibria, which have stabilized in crises in former times, this understanding between Washington and Moscow, is not happening at the moment. Then, in addition, there is an uncertainty for the future, there is a new world power: China. Insignificant are only the Europeans with their internal trifles.
Editor: In conclusion, where are the trouble spots of the future?
Mr. Scholl-Latour: There will be riots in Algeria. Also, the mercenaries of Gaddafi have returned to their home countries with their weapons. We see the result in Mali: The northern part is in the hands of the Islamists. And it’s not only Mali. Niger dissolves; Burkina Faso stands on swaying feet, in Nigeria are signs of evil, where extremists systematically murdered Christians.
What one does not think of: It would be the responsibility of Christians to care for the Christians in the Middle East. But that is nobody doing. The Pope could paint the town red a little bit more; a few pious sayings, that is not enough. He really has to rise a more powerful voice.
Personal information of Mr. Scholl-Latour
Mr. Peter Scholl-Latour was born March 9, 1924, in Bochum, Germany, as a son of a physician and he is a Franco-German journalist and publicist. In 1945 and 1946, Mr. Scholl-Latour became a member the Commando Parachutiste Ponchardier, a unit of French paratroopers, with whom he has even fought in the First Indochina War.
He has studied political science, Arabic and philology in Mainz, Paris and Beirut. In 1948, he was a volunteer of the German newspaper “SZ” for which he has reported from Africa and Asia among others. He has worked as a journalist since 1950, spending many years as a correspondent in Africa and Indochina, as a studio manager in Paris, as television director of the tv station WDR, and editor-in-chief of the German magazine Stern. In 1973 he and his team were prisoners of the Viet Cong for about one week.
In 1954 and 1955 he was a spokesman for the government of the Saarland under the Prime Minister John Hoffmann. Scholl-Latour is also one of the most successful non-fiction authors in Germany.