Mapping a More Murderous Middle East

A retired US Army officer makes an outlandish attempt to redraw borders in a volatile region. Frighteningly, there may be a method to his madness.


By Lorenzo Fiorito

Known as the ‘cradle of civilization’ and ‘the world’s crossroads,’ the Middle East has been carved up by every conqueror since Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The borders we know today were drawn by British and French colonizers. But a set of very different borders outlined on a map I came across recently, in the July 2006 Armed Forces Journal, explore frightening new territory.

In an article titled “Blood Borders,” retired US Army officer Ralph Peters points to the map to illustrate “How a better Middle East would look.” He goes on to explain that current borders are unjust to oppressed peoples, and that his map (which is unofficially being used in a training program at NATO's Defense College for senior military officers) is the solution.

When I first spotted the map I was surprised to find that not only was there a “Free Kurdistan,” and a “Free Balochistan,” but Israel had reverted to pre-1967 borders. Pretty major changes no doubt but not enough to prepare me for an Iraq that had been partitioned into three segments, one of which had been extended to cut off much of Iran and Saudi Arabia’s access to the Persian Gulf. Iran had lost territory due to its “madcap borders,” but the most pressing problem for Peters was “whether or not it should keep the port of Bandar Abbas or surrender it to the Arab Shia State [new segment of Iraq].”

"How a better Middle East would look": Peters' map.

As if all of this weren’t enough, the fictional map also contains a large new “Islamic Sacred State” that lays claim to Mecca and Medina, neither any longer under Saudi control. The argument goes that this would ostensibly correct the Wahabbi slant to Islam, which began in, and is propagated from, Saudi Arabia.

Peters rationalizes these changes by making arguments based on his own brand of geopolitical morality, noting that “the rise of the Saudis to wealth and, consequently, influence has been the worst thing to happen to the Muslim world as a whole since the time of the Prophet, and the worst thing to happen to Arabs since the Ottoman (if not the Mongol) conquest.” Although Peters doesn’t tell us who would rule this state it is clear that its borders would cut into the Saudi Arabian coastline along the Red Sea.

One of the creepiest things about the map is that the Gaza strip is nowhere to be found. The tsunami of ethnic liberation that would sweep across the Middle East stops just short of the West Bank, which is listed as “status undetermined.” As Peters puts it, “Correcting borders to reflect the will of the people may be impossible for now. But given time — and the inevitable attendant bloodshed — new and natural borders will emerge.”

He’s vague about whether these new and natural borders are merely an objective political trajectory or a worked-out geopolitical plan for the future of the Middle East and the Subcontinent. This makes it difficult at times to decipher what Peters is really getting at and how ominous his plans for the region really are. The problem is especially notable when he makes casual statements like: “Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works.”

Ultimately, Peters tips his hand a little when he notes that “Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform will continue to fight for security from terrorism, for the prospect of democracy and for access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself” (my emphasis). It can’t be said any better than that.

On November 18, 2006, just a few months after being published in Armed Forces, the Centre for Research on Globalization published another article featuring Peters’ map. The piece stated categorically: “The ‘New Middle East’ project was introduced publicly by Washington and Tel Aviv with the expectation that Lebanon [which had just gone through its 34-day war with Israel] would be the pressure point for realigning the whole Middle East and thereby unleashing the forces of ‘constructive chaos.’ This ‘constructive chaos’ - which generates conditions of violence and warfare throughout the region - would in turn be used so that the United States, Britain, and Israel could redraw the map of the Middle East in accordance with their geo-strategic needs and objectives.” And all of a sudden, the fact that there appeared to be no reconstruction plan for Iraq starts to make sense. .

“Blood Borders” dates back to around the time that Bush’s “troop surge” strategy emerged. But even in 2006, it was already clear that the Iraq war was in serious trouble, and that the Republican Party was a sinking ship. Such a massive restructuring of America’s last and only sphere of influence would take years, even decades. The attempt to wipe out Hezbollah as a preparatory battle for Iran will have to actually work this time. It will also take a lot of troops and a lot of cash (neither of which the US has) to pull all this off. And then there’s the fact that almost no one approves of the war we’ve already got.