7 Ways the CIA Helped Totally Screw Up the Middle East

A caricature of uncle sam as a plumber trying to unclog a toilet that says middle east on it

Can you imagine a Middle East without all of the United States' meddling? 

That'd be quite the sight. 

All eyes are on Iraq now, as it continues to grapple with life after the U.S.-led invasion back in 2003. Terrorist group Islamic State (IS) is waging a violent insurgency in the country, now taking control of massive swaths of land in both Iraq and Syria.

Rewind back to the time when brutal dictator Saddam Hussein was ruling over the country, and you'll remember that he was a part of President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil."

But go back even further and you might be surprised to learn that at one point, there were even budding ties between the CIA and Saddam. In 1988, during a war between Iraq and Iran, the U.S. helped Iraq carry out a devastating chemical attack by sharing intelligence information with the country.

That's just one example of how the United States has played a provactive role in the region.

Image Credit: Truthdig

Of course, the rest of the world — Germany, for example, with rocky U.S. relations over spying revelations — deal with American espionage and covert operations. While the U.S. has a bad habit of meddling in multiple parts of the world, it has had a particularly dark track record in the Middle East and North Africa.

Here are seven ways that the CIA has meddled in the Middle East and North Africa:

1. Orchestrating coups as first pushes into the Middle East and North Africa.


In 1947, the CIA helped topple the government of Syria. Over in Iran, the CIA also had a role in overthrowing the government in 1953.

The two coups were strictly cases of the United States looking out for its and Western ally interests.

In the case of Syria, the ousted government limited U.S. and Western ally oil investments. In Iran, the goal was for the U.S. and Britain to work together on instilling a pro-Western government with a new prime minister. 

But these efforts failed miserably and rather quickly: Officers eventually killed Syria's new president, and the 1979 revolution in Iran overthrew Iran's pro-Western government.

2. Helping Iraq carry out a lethal attack on Iran.


Long before the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam, the country actually once supported him.

The two had a working relationship where the U.S. often helped Saddam, limiting the growth for a country to develop and ensure stability. 

In the 1980s, with a border dispute between Iraq and Iran, the CIA aided Saddam in defending the Iraqi country. It was with the help of U.S. intelligence that enabled Hussein to successfully pinpoint and use lethal gas weapons on Iran. 

U.S. intelligence handed over Iran's military plans, along with the CIA's knowledge of Saddam directing his armies to use deadly nerve gas against Iran.

3. Backing an attempt to weaken an old frenemy.


Of course, this list is not complete without U.S. meddling in Iraq. Long before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the CIA directed a bombing campaign aimed at toppling Saddam Hussein in the 1990s.

The Iraqi National Accord, led by Ayad Allawi (who eventually served as the country's interim prime minister after the fall of Saddam), planted bombs across Baghdad. Initially, they targeted government assets, but eventually the campaign took a different turn, when agents began targeting school buses and movie theaters.

Civilian casualties most likely occurred, but lack of intelligence didn't confirm this.

4. Conducting torture, detainment and illegal interrogations at secret sites.


In a push to capture and gain information from suspected terrorists, the CIA went to extreme lengths by building and managing a network of secret prisons.

Using torture to gain information violates basic human rights, international law and inspires extremism once detainees are freed. Torture and extreme tactics can instill anger, frustration and the need to retaliate, thus creating risk of brewing anti-American sentiment.

At Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, prisoners faced waterboarding, sound abuse, solitude imprisonment, and other inhumane torture tactics. The U.S. government claims to have been misled by the CIA on its interrogation tactics. 

5. Violating international laws in the name of battling terrorism.


Multiple Middle Eastern and North African countries have aided the United States in flouting international law to pursue alleged terrorists, and even carrying out torture for them. Egypt, for example, has a long history of working with the CIA to take in terror suspects.

The CIA would send them via U.S aircraft and have them interrogated with extreme and harmful tactics.

Other countries, including Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Syria, have taken part in a massive CIA program where they would send "alleged terrorists" for extreme interrogations and detention, starting under the Clinton administration and continuing into the so-called "War on Terror."

6. Conducting drone strikes, fueling anti-Americanism.


Ever wonder why there is a silence over U.S. drone usage?

Look at Yemeni reporter Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who exposed how U.S. drone strikes kill innocent civilians. For his reporting, Yemeni authorities arrested and imprisoned him for three years, all under the direction of the U.S. government.

In the War on Terror, CIA and U.S. government drone strikes have affected some Middle Eastern nations such as Iraq and Yemen. The most devastating impact has been felt outside of the region, in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

More than 2,400 people have been killed in five years of drone usage. The U.S. is moving drone program control from the CIA to the Pentagon, but the CIA is still reportedly conducting such actions. 

7. Arming and training Syria rebels.


One of the most recent examples of CIA involvement in the Middle East is their efforts arming Syria rebel groups, starting deliveries of light weapons and non-lethal supplies in fall 2013, as their ongoing war continues to boil and threaten the Middle East as a whole. 

There are recent reports that the U.S. is ramping up aid and secret training of "moderate rebels" in Jordan. There is global discussion over whether weapons provided by the U.S. have somehow found their way to extremer groups, such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front. 

Given the complications of the Syrian war, the CIA's activities are seen as connecting the United States to worsening the situation in Syria and inflaming extremist violence in neighboring states.