A propagandist-in-chief's war on intellectual imperialism and pursuit of a resistance episteme

Posts Tagged: Iran

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As the name and description of this blog reveals, its main focus is to expose intellectual and discursive imperialism, i.e. the language imperialists use to distort our reality which we then internalize. If we are to successfully resist these attempts, we must devise a counter-hegemonic discourse of our own. In this ongoing effort, I propose the glossary below containing 20 key terms which anti-imperialists and supporters of the Resistance project should avoid or use with caution. For each widely used concept, I have suggested alternatives that we should adopt and normalize in its place. This is of course just a small sample of the discursive imperialism we are subjected to daily. I urge readers to send me suggestions for other important terms I have omitted or forgotten, especially those that relate to the war on the Resistance Axis. Once I have enough suggestions, I will update this post with a longer glossary.

1.  Arab street : This term should be avoided at all costs given its negative connotations. It alludes to an angry and unruly mob lacking organization, discipline and independent thought, and has violent and irrational connotations. The term is used exclusively to describe Arabs; all other peoples and nationalities are considered publics or people by western media. Moreover, since the Syrian crisis began, the concept of the “Street” is now used selectively by western media when referring to anti-western or anti-Zionist protests, while the concept of “people” i.e. the “Syrian people” is reserved for those representing the West’s allies. i.e. the Syrian opposition. The concept of Arab public should be used instead as it implies a politically aware and rational political culture which has democratic aspirations, and hence, is on an equal footing with western and other publics. 

2. International Community: Used mainly by US and Western officials, this essentially particularistic concept has now entered the Arab popular vernacular. It attempts to universalize the small elite club of UN Security Council members and NATO member states to imply the whole world, hence the concept of “international”. As such, any decision or stand taken by this small group of states, who make up less than 1/3 of the world’s nations, is construed as a universal decision or position taken by the whole world which stands united (the concept of “community” alludes to agreement and unity) in the face of a specific threat.  The term is therefore used as a tool for isolating states and political actors which defy imperialist powers. The concept of NATO powers or “some members of the UN Security Council” or the US and EU or US/EU/Arab Gulf alliance , depending on the context, should be used instead to downsize the alliance as one consisting of a few imperialist states and their regional proxies.

3. Regime: The concept in English has very different, and much more negative, connotations than its Arabic translation ( نظام ). Given that a regime is an authoritarian form of government, western media and public officials routinely use the term to demonize the US’ enemies, even if those governments are popularly elected i.e. the “Iranian regime”.  By the same token, US allies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain etc. which are not merely undemocractic but openly anti-democratic, are bestowed with popular legitimacy by western officials who refer to them as “governments”. Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies should be uniformly called monarchies or regimes, while members of the Resistance Axis should be referred to as governments. This should also apply to the Syria government, which admittedly, has not historically enjoyed free and fair elections, but still enjoys a large degree of popular support and hence, has a considerable extent of popular legitimacy which regimes lack. Since repression of dissidents is not peculiar to authoritarian regimes, but also typifies some liberal democracies like the US, this criterion alone should not preclude the designation of a political system as a  government.

4. Israel:  As per the policy of Resistance media, “Israel” should never be granted legal recognition and referred to as such. Common substitutes include “Zionist entity” though it is preferable to use the term “Israeli regime” or “Zionist regime” as the latter reduces Israel to a tyranny that can be subject to “regime change” and overthrow like any other authoritarian regime, as opposed to an invincible power or permanent fixture in the region. It is also preferable to “entity” in that calling for an entity’s eradication could be construed as mass genocide, whereas a regime’s eradication is merely revolutionary overthrow of a political order.

Other synonyms that should be popularized are “Occupied Palestine” with reference to territories outside of the ’67 borders. Jerusalem should always be referred to as “Occupied Quds”. Moreover, the “illegal settlements” should be called “settler colonies” as that is a more accurate historical description, and will strike a deeper chord with Arab and Muslim viewers, as well as anti-imperialist non-Arabs and non-Muslims, and liberals who reject all forms of racism.  

5. Democracy: This concept has become less of a scientific description of political systems than a moral value or label that western powers use to undermine and isolate nations who refuse to submit to their hegemony. Moreover, the term is almost invariably used to denote one specific form of democracy—liberal democracy—which typifies European and North American democracies that focus on procedural aspects of democracy like elections and constitutional legitimacy. This excludes many other forms of democracy found in other parts of the world which emphasize substantive aspects of democracy like popular participation, national self-determination, economic equality etc.   In order to break the Western liberal monopoly on the term, we should refer to western democracies as liberal democracies to be distinguished from other types such as “Islamic democracy”, “Socialist democracy” etc.

6. Arab Spring: Despite the pervasiveness of this term in both Arab and Western media, it should be avoided on account of its origins and connotations. The concept of a revolutionary “spring” was previously associated with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. The American political journal Foreign Policy later used it in the Arab context as a catchall phrase for uprisings in the Arab world. The term quickly caught on in American policy-making circles and was subsequently wedded to US foreign policy objectives in the Arab world to steer the uprisings towards liberal democracy and US-friendly governments. This was mirrored on the political and intellectual levels by a reprioritization of objectives whereby confronting imperialism and Zionism became secondary to domestic political struggles. Owing to these considerations, and the fact that the term has now become synonymous with Islamist takeovers, civil wars, and US/NATO invasions, it is preferable to adopt the less optimistic and less controversial concept of “Arab Uprisings”

7. Revolution: This term should be used very sparingly as no Arab uprising has come anywhere close to a full-fledged “revolution” in the scientific sense of the term. The most they have achieved is regime change, and in some cases, i.e. Egypt, not even that. Moreover, considering how all of these uprisings have been hijacked by reactionary and conservative Islamist forces, they have effectively become “counter-revolutionary”, if we are to adopt a Marxist or liberal understanding of revolution. Far more appropriate and accurate substitutes are revolt, “rebellion” , “uprising” and “insurgency”.

8. Middle East: The universalized concept of “the Middle East”, which has even found its way into our Arabic vocabulary, needs to be de-naturalized and removed from our lexicon. The problem with this term is its British colonial origins. Seeing itself as the center of the universe or the self-styled geographic “zero-point”, Great Britain referred to countries to its east as the “Near East” or “Middle East”. We are not “Middle Easterners”; we are Arabs. When we start referring to our region as the “Arab world”, we not only normalize a new anti-imperialist discourse, but an anti-Zionist one as well; for while Israel can, in theory at least, be considered part of the Middle East, it can never be part of our Arab world. Alternative terms include “Arab and Islamic world[s]” which covers non-Arab, Islamic countries as well.

9. “Moderation/Moderate” This term should not be adopted in any context as it was coined by the Bush administration to designate regional allies including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and UAE who were juxtaposed with “extremists” like Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Palestinian resistance groups. The term was later used to distinguish US-friendly branches of the Muslim Brotherhood from more “extremist” Salafi and jihadi Islamists. Even sectarian Islamists are labeled “moderates” by the West (Sheikh Youssef al-Qardawi was once dubbed a “moderate” by many western observers) if they serve the Empire’s agenda. As such, we should use the term “mainstream” Muslims/Islamists if the aim is to distinguish between groups or movements, while avoiding the concept of “moderation” altogether.

10. Tolerance:  Although this term is used frequently by western liberals to highlight positive qualities like pluralism and diversity which characterize liberal multiculturalism, it actually has hidden discriminatory undertones. To “tolerate” someone or something suggests that it is somehow inferior, deviant or bad, and is being graciously endured by those practicing this tolerance. It s therefore preferable to boast the “openness” of a state or movement vis-à-vis others, or its pursuit of communal, religious, or any other type of  “coexistence” between equals, rather than its mere “toleration” of them.  This is especially the case when discussing coexistence under the Assad government, or in Iran and Lebanon. People in these countries don’t merely “tolerate” Christians, Sunnis etc. they coexist with them and are open to others.

11. Religious minorities: While this seems to be a neutral term devoid of any hidden meanings, in the context of the civil war in Syria and the wider anti-Shia regional campaign, it would be preferable not to highlight the minority/majority binary. Not only does this binary invite accusations of a Shia power grab in Syria and Lebanon etc.,(i.e. minorities usurping majority rights)  the concept of minority denotes identity politics, group exclusivity and  sectarianism overall. The concept of religious community is better suited to describe religious minorities and sects as it doesn’t invoke numerical comparisons and has more harmonious inter-religious overtones.

12. Human rights: There is nothing inherently wrong with invoking arguments of human rights violations, especially when it serves our political agenda, but we should also naturalize a discourse of “people’s rights” which is an entirely different concept of rights. The difference is an important one: “human rights” refer mainly to “negative” individualrights (freedom fromstate interference) and belongs to the western liberal tradition. The West then succeeded in enshrining these rights as a universal value shared by all cultures, even ones which do not share, let alone, prioritize, such values.  “People’s rights” is a concept which arose in the Third World as a reaction to this ethnocentric rights discourse, and called attention to the collective or communal rights that groups, communities and nations are entitled to, such as sovereignty, independence, self-determination and autonomy, which, for anti-imperialist nations, take precedence over individual rights.

13. Terrorism: This is probably the most problematic term for any media as there is no universal definition of what constitutes terrorism. Although policy-makers and officials use the term very selectively to designate their enemies, western media has become much more cautious in its use of the term and often puts quotation marks around it. That is not to say that Resistance media should shun the term, only that it should be careful in its use, especially concerning takfiri groups. A sound approach would be to refer to “terrorist attacks/bombings”, when speaking of violent activities, but to refrain from calling the bombers “terrorists” as this type of labeling has a very strong association with Bush’s “War on Terror”— which essentially targeted the Resistance Axis—and will appear to many as reminiscent of the post- 9/11 Islamophobic political culture which enraged Muslims. Moreover, for the sake of ideological and intellectual consistency, if the term “terrorism” is used with reference to takfiri violence, it should also be used to describe all instances of violence which deliberately target innocent civilians such as US drone strikes and Israeli attacks on Palestinians, so as to avoid conforming to US-Eurocentric definitions of terrorism.

14. Assad: All too often in western media one reads of “Assad’s Alawite sect”, “Assad forces”, “Assad’s army”, the “Assad regime”, or simply to Assad alone as though he were synonymous with Syrian the state, i.e. “Hezbollah has helped turn the tide of the war in Assad’s favour this year.” Whether in the case of the Alawite sect, the Syrian Arab Army, or the Syrian state or government, the purpose behind this practice is to personalize the conflict and reduce all of the above to mere instruments of a “dictator” thereby denying them any sense of agency or institutional role in a post-conflict Syria. Making Bashar al-Assad synonymous with the above, also serves to legitimize violence against Alawites, Syrian soldiers, Syrian government and state infrastructure etc. as they come to be perceived as various incarnations of a single leader. It is therefore imperative that the term “Assad” is not used to preface any other word or to betoken any other idea. Assad should only be used when referring to the person of the Syrian president.

15. Stronghold/heartland: Another widespread practice in western mainstream media is to name Alawite areas in Syria as “Assad’s heartland” or areas controlled by the Syrian government as a “regime stronghold”. This is also the standard norm when describing any Shi’a area of Lebanon as “Hizbullah’s stronghold”.The very sinister usage of this term is evident when areas in Dahyeh or in Syria have been subjected to terrorist bombing, and they are  depicted as “strongholds” of Hizbullah or Assad. Such [mis]labeling conceals the fact that these are heavily populated, residential areas and renders them legitimate objects of violence and destruction.  It also has the effect of sanctioning the punishment of the inhabitants of these areas for supporting Hizbullah/Syrian government. We should therefore shun such terms and restrict ourselves to describing the religious composition of an area if this factor was a principal motive for the bombing, i.e. “Takfiris targeted the predominantly Shia area of Bir Hassan”.

16. Foreign backed: In order to offset western and Arab media’s pervasive use of epithets such as “Iran-backed” or “Syria-backed” when referring to Hizbullah or other movements, we should refer to the Syrian opposition, the March 14 camp in Lebanon, and others in that category as “Saudi-backed”  (in the case of the al-Qaeda affiliates and takfiris in Syria, as well as March 14) and “NATO/US backed” (in the case of other armed factions in Syria and March 14). This will not only undermine the autonomy these groups like to project, but will also tarnish their image in the region as the majority of Arabs are still ardently anti-American, and very few have favorable perceptions of Saudi Arabia. Wherever possible, the strategic alliances these groups have with the US, Israel, NATO and Gulf monarchies, should be mentioned. While it may be tempting to also dub these groups —especially March 14—as “pro-western” as western media customarily does, it is preferable not to as this alliance is not based on any shared cultural values (some of which are positive) with the West but on a patron-client relationship and political expediency.

17. Hizbullah: We should avoid any of the adjectives and terms used to describe Hizbullah in western media. The gravest of these errors is to refer to its allies as sponsors or backers as this reduces it to a proxy and obscures the fact that it is a significant regional force which has an interdependent relationship with regional allies . Moreover, it should never be introduced as a “Shi’a” movement as this will only further undermine its support among Sunnis, especially given the general sectarian climate in the region which has caused Hizbullah to lose of some of its popular appeal. Finally, Hizbullah should not be referred to as a “party” unless one is discussing its political participation in Lebanese state institutions. Nor should it be downsized to a mere “group” or worse, a “militia” for obvious reasons. The most accurate description is “resistance movement”, “political movement” and “grass-roots movement,” all of which reflect its composition, the scale of its support and its political priorities. 

18. Activist: This is another problematic concept that is mainly used in mainstream western media but which has also found its way into Arab media. The word is a peculiarly western concept as it refers to individuals and groups who belong to civil society and work independently in pursuit of political, social, economic and environmental causes. The activities they engage in are supposed to be non-violent and they are theoretically independent of state control as more often than not, their grievances emanate from government policies or lack thereof. This definition confers activists with an automatic sense of legitimacy, non-partisanship and other positive democratic attributes. However, given the absence of civil society and independent political actors in the Arab context, usage of the term is often misleading particularly when used in the Syrian and Lebanese contexts where the overwhelming majority of “activists” are financially supported by western governments and western NGOs which also rely on political funding. In short, they are hardly independent and often unwittingly serve foreign agendas.

The term is all the more problematic when mainstream western media refers to Syrian opposition supporters as “anti-regime activists”, while calling their counterparts “regime supporters”. This labeling misrepresents the much broader political ambitions of the “regime supporters” who may or may not support the government per se, but are united by a fear for their lives, the territorial integrity of their country, communal coexistence and the state’s secular character, among other concerns . By referring to them to as “regime supporters” they are stripped of agency and a political cause and reduced to sectarian Assad groupies.

The solution is either to refer to supporters from both camps (this applies to Lebanon too) as “activists”, i.e. Syrian government activists, Resistance activists in Lebanon etc. or, to drop the term altogether and label them “opposition supporters”. The term “activist” can then be reserved exclusively for individuals and groups advocating non-partisan goals like civil marriage, environmental causes etc. even if they receive foreign funding.

19. War in Syria: While there can be no denying that there is a war is taking place in Syria and it does possess characteristics of a civil war, referring to it as such suggests that there are two independent sides who have some political or moral parity between them. This terminology distracts the reader or viewer from the proxy nature of this war and obscures the broader imperialist /Gulf Arab onslaught against the Syrian state using local and foreign tools. As such, it remains a war ON Syria and not one between two sides in Syria.

20.  “Spillover” effect, this phrase has become very popular since the crisis began in Syria and is used almost exclusively to refer to violence in Lebanon. The problem with Resistance media’s adoption of this term is that it tacitly acknowledges that the violence is a spontaneous and local reaction to Hizbullah’s role in Syria, which is a distortion of reality given that Hizbullah’s involvement in Syria was triggered by the presence of takfiri and Syrian rebels in Lebanon, and attacks on Lebanese Shi’a in Syria and on Lebanese territory. Usage of this term is a huge misnomer which downplays what is essentially an external plot to eliminate political and military resistance forces in the region by replicating the sectarian dynamic in Lebanon. It should therefore not be used in the context of Lebanese violence.

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Western and Third World leftists, as well as some of us here in the region, often romanticize governments, movements and individuals in the Resistance Axis. The truth is that our side which represents politically just causes can be grossly unjust on the interpersonal and social levels, in professional settings, in the domestic political arena, and in the economy to name but a few. Our camp is not immune to corruption, crime, violence or even treachery as Hamas has demonstrated all too well. Sometimes it is greed and opportunism which drives some Arabs to sell out to the imperialists and their cronies, but often-times it is disillusionment with our camp for all of the above. In times of such disillusionment and outright disgust with such injustices I remind myself that I am not supporting the Resistance Axis or its constituents per se, but its struggle against imperialism and Zionism. And if Iran, Hizbullah, Syria, and Palestinian groups were to abandon this struggle, then we should abandon them. This is beyond partisanship and ideology; it is identity and being.

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Psychopathologize this: my latest piece for Al-Jazeera English on the psychological disorders of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel. 
Excerpts: “One has to first understand the US’ pathology and how it affects the behaviour of its partners who share diagnostic “Cluster B” traits with it. As a Malignant/Classical/Grandiose Narcissist (not to be confused with the Compensatory/Vulnerable narcissism exhibited by the likes of France and the UK), the US imperium is characterised by “an obsession with one’s self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition.”…….. 
As expected of borderline personalities, Saudi Arabia reacted to this neglect with fits of rage, impulsivity and a destabilisation of the relationship - a kind of “I hate you, don’t leave me” phenomenon - which only serves to push the narcissist further away from the borderline personality. In the case of the Saudi borderline personality, existential fears are especially pronounced as they directly relate to regime survival, which, in no small measure, is dependent on US military and political support…..
The histrionic’s penchant for “hysteria”, “self-dramatisation, theatricality, exaggerated expression of emotions”, and discomfort when “not the centre of attention”, has been showcased by Israel’s “borderline hysterical response” to the interim agreement with Iran, as one Foreign Policy writer described it. These theatrics were most vividly illustrated by Netanyahu’s meme-generating, Looney Tunes-inspired, Iranian bomb cartoon which he somberly displayed at the UN last year - a textbook case of the histrionic’s “highly impressionistic” style of expression.”…

See full article here

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Many are concerned that Iran’s nuclear deal in Geneva will lead to a wider regional agreement whereby Iran will be forced to relinquish the Palestinian cause and support for Hizbullah’s resistance. There is no room here for a response that refers to political identity, ideology and historical precedents, nor to the implications of the deal on Iran’s foes and allies, which I will leave for another time. For now I just want to highlight one fact: had it not been for Iran’s resistance-driven foreign policy and its regional alliances—in short, Iran’s supposed liabilities—the US would not have been compelled to recognize Iran as a nuclear power, and more importantly, as THE leading  regional power. Only an irrational and suicidal state would relinquish the very forces and alignments which were responsible for its ascendance on the world stage. If anything, the Geneva agreement has proven that the path of dependency and Arab “moderation” will earn its members little more than a regional spoiler role. This deal only confirms the logic of  independence and resistance as the soundest path to national security and power.  

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All those naysayers out there can go suck it. If Netanyahu’s “historic mistake” outcry wasn’t enough, other Zionist officials have been waxing lyrical about this historic breakthrough: “Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said “there is no achievement in this agreement. This is the biggest diplomatic victory Iran has known in recent years – since the Khameini regime (came to power).” When asked if the deal contains any positive aspect, Lieberman replied “no, there is no such thing.” The tone was echoed by a government spokesperson who said “This is a bad deal. It gives Iran exactly what it wanted – a significant reduction of sanctions while preserving the most significant part of its nuclear program,” a official from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni addressed the deal during a special Ynet broadcast: “This is a terrible deal that will threaten not only us, but the entire world….”

Full story here

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We do not regard this uprising/ insurrection to be a Zionist one solely on account of Israeli and Syrian opposition figures’ open love for one another. Nor is it solely on account of the Zionist state’s official support for this opposition and their shared interests in toppling the Assad government and destroying the Syrian Arab Republic.. 
What really makes this a Zionist uprising is the fact that in just two years it has achieved the same strategic objectives that Israel sought hard, yet failed to affect in over 60 years of its existence. And it has succeeded in achieving Israel’s goals almost exclusively with sectarianism, which has effectively become the new Israel in our midst.
No Israeli invasion, attack, occupation, annexation, settlement construction, humiliating peace, or hasbara [Israeli PR] campaign, was ever able to force resistance movements like HAMAS to change their priorities and abandon their erstwhile allies; or to persuade the Arab people that the Assad government, Iran and Hizbullah are their primary enemies as opposed to Israel; or to reduce anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism to the politically incorrect “old school” politics of a bygone era; or to elevate the statuses of once despised Arab monarchs to regional liberators; or to render Shi’ism as the cancerous cell in the region rather than the Zionist entity. 
An uprising which not only collaborates with Israel but serves its strategic interests can only be a Zionist uprising. And the worst part is, that we have reached a point where such labeling is no longer taken as an insult or seen an accusation.

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Am surprised AFP still quote me considering how regularly I trash them on this blog:

"Hezbollah has already declared that it is operational and active in Qusayr" in central Syria, Hezbollah expert Amal Saad-Ghorayeb told AFP.

"The Iranians have admitted in the past that they have advisers there and yesterday we heard them say they were ready to train the Syrians… the involvement of these actors has become more open," she said.

"But I also think that it has increased."

The intervention raises the prospect of a dangerous “regionalisation” of the conflict, the analysts warned.

"I don’t think Hezbollah’s going to respond to this," Saad-Ghorayeb said.

What’s problematic is how Syria’s going to respond,” she said, adding that Damascus was unlikely to respond “conventionally” but would feel forced to produce some reaction to avoid emboldening Israel.

"I think what’s required now is for them (Syria) to find a way to respond in an unconventional way that wouldn’t drag the region into a war."

Full report here

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This video proves beyond any reasonable doubt, that Ahmadinejad did in fact hug Chavez’s grieving mother. But as media close to the Iranian president has noted, it is evident from the video that he was clasping his hands in the manner he customarily does when greeting women, in order to avoid shaking their hands. You can see him clasping his hands as he walks towards Chavez’s mother and then giving in as she put her hands over his and leans towards his cheek. With all due respect to the religious sensitivities of some, but it is ridiculous that Iran’s conservative establishment is not capitalizing on their president’s humanity and progressiveness, given that the now viral image has given a tremendous PR boost to Iran in Latin America and beyond. 

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An op-ed today in al-Akhbar referred to Israel as  “the enemy” in Arabic. Although use of this term to describe Israel was once very common in Arab popular parlance and in local media, its use in this context has significantly decreased since the Syrian uprising.  Once a term reserved almost exclusively to Israel, the concept of the enemy from without has been fast replaced by the enemy from within in both pro-government and opposition circles. While government supporters can hardly be faulted for depicting the Zionist-normalizing, NATO-loving FSA as an “enemy” force, especially given its proxy status and military links with Syria’s strategic enemies, as well as its intent to destroy Syria as a state, it is both morally inexcusable and intellectually indefensible for Syrians and Arabs who profess enmity towards Israel, to use this term to describe the Assad government or Hizbullah or Iran, all of whom have paid a high price for confronting the Israeli enemy both politically and militarily.

The danger of such labeling can hardly be overstated in this case; the link between power and language has been well documented by the likes of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. As these thinkers have noted, language creates not only knowledge, but reality itself. The resulting discourse, which becomes internalized by its subjects shapes their assumptions, values and cultural habits. In short, it changes and re-fashions their political identity and beliefs.

To be more accurate, this discursive onslaught began in 2005 when the Lebanese became divided over whether Syria or Israel was their real enemy, with some March 14 politicians referring to the Zionist entity as “our neighbor”. But irrespective of this semantic divide and March 14’s collaboration with Israel during the July war as Wikileaks documents later revealed, not once did Hizbullah refer to the opposing camp as “the enemy”,” and settled on terms like “ our opponents/rivals” and “the other camp”.  Compare  this to the Syrian opposition camp today, whose leading “intellectuals” and activists in the Arab world have no qualms about speaking of the “Shia enemy” or the “Iranian enemy”, or cheering on the FSA who issue empty threats to attack Hizbullah and assassinate Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah.

By redefining the concept of the “enemy”, both the Syrian uprising and to a lesser extent, its US- engineered counterpart in Lebanon, have succeeded in reversing decades of Arab political socialization, whereby those who prioritize resistance to Israel and the US are mocked and dismissed as old-school anti-imperialists, or more disparagingly by Third Wayers like Bassam Haddad, as “Fumigating Anti-Imperialists”.

  The Arab Spring may not be a revolution in the economic or political sense of the term, but it has achieved a semantic revolution which, if left unchecked by counter-hegemonic forces, will lead to the full intellectual and political colonization of the Arab mind and the Arab identity. 

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That’s right, two-thirds of the Iranian people are willing to brave western sanctions and lend support to their government’s pursuit of its nuclear program, as reported by the Washington Post here. Moreover, a more detailed analysis of the findings on the Gallup website  reveals that although 85% believe the sanctions have hurt Iranians generally while 83% say they have been hurt  personally  by them, they still want Iran to pursue nuclear power. RESPECT. 

Findings like these only underline how detached from reality the US’ and Europe’s Realist-driven foreign policy is. The reality is that some nations are not motivated solely by economic interests nor do they cow in the face of military threats. Imperialism has helped forge a nationalist, resistant and justice-seeking political identity and culture among the peoples it oppresses as a matter of foreign policy. And where this political identity is weakened, as in religiously diverse Syria, it is only on account of Empire’s divide-and-rule tactics to sow sectarian strife. 
Excerpts from the WaPo article:

But, judging from a new Gallup poll, the sanctions do not seem to be successful at two major, secondary goals: turning Iranian public opinion against the nuclear program and against national leaders for behaving in a way that has invited sanctions. Last year, The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson reported that the Obama administration sees public discontent as an intended effect of the sanctions. But an overwhelming majority of Iranians told Gallup that Iran should continue its nuclear program, even when the question was specifically phrased to remind them that economic sanctions are a direct result of that program.

Gallup asked, “Given the scale of the sanctions against Iran, do you think Iran should continue to develop its nuclear power capabilities, or not?” Almost two-thirds of respondents, 63 percent, said yes. Only 17 percent said no; 19 percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer.

The poll also found that Iranians are almost five times as likely to blame the United States for sanctions as they are to blame their own government. Even fewer blame Europe or the United Nations, though both are instrumental in the crippling economic sanctions. Pollsters asked, “Which of the following groups do you hold most responsible for sanctions against Iran?” Out of the seven choices, the most popular by far was the United States, with 47 percent. Only 10 percent blamed the Iranian government; 9 percent said Israel; 7 percent each named “Western European countries” and the United Nations. Three percent said “someone else,” zero said “no one,” and 17 percent declined to answer.

Sanctions do not, based on this poll, seem to be rallying Iranians against their leaders or the nuclear program, but rather reinforcing popular antagonism toward the United States. To the extent that Iranian leaders are worried about popular support, this poll suggests that nuclear development and defiant foreign policy will continue to be winners.

 

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When AFP and SOHR are now referring to a regime-led “guerrilla war” , you know that it has become increasingly hard to depict the war in Syria as a brutal regime fighting its own people. This is even more so the case considering all the resistance and revolutionary connotations the term “guerrilla warfare” carries and the fact that the article below refers to “civilian” “men and women” fighters “from all sects”.

 If Iran has indeed been training this secular, nationalist guerrilla force, then we can be even more certain that Assad’s war is one against foreign oppressors and their local proxies—a defining feature of all  resistance movements which Iran has trained and supported. Excerpts from the article:

"The (regular) army is not trained to fight a guerrilla war, so the regime has resorted to creating the National Defence Army," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman. Most of the new fighters are members or supporters of the ruling Baath party, said Abdel Rahman. "They include men and women, and members of all the sects."The new force is not connected to the pro-regime shabiha militia… Members of the paramilitary force, like the popular committees before, will focus on fighting in their own neighbourhoods."The paramilitary force includes an elite fighting force trained by Iran," Abdel Rahman told AFP.

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It has become increasingly apparent that the war on Syria has not merely succeeded in sowing sectarian discord among the Arab public at large, but has even infected the reasoning of once progressive, secular, Arab intellectuals.

Take founder of Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah as an example. Last week, Ali tried to sanitize the FSA of its sectarian crimes by blaming anti-Alawite hate speech on Twitter on “pro-Assad trolls”.  This week, Ali has gone one step further in his defense of rabidly anti-Shia, sectarian takfiris by condemning all those who disseminated a fatwa [mis]attributed to Shia-bashing, Saudi Wahhabi cleric Muhammad al-Arifi  who later denied ever issuing it.

The fatwa in question permitted Syrian rebels to engage in temporary marriages with Syrian women over 14 for the sole purpose of sexual gratification—a religious edict which is easily believable considering Wahhabi misogyny and Arifi’s record of morally repugnant social and political positions which Ali himself notes in his piece. For example, in one such instance, Arifi brands Shia as “treasonous villains”.

Viewed against this background and given that the fake tweet uses an identical Twitter handle as Arifi’s original account and an identical profile pic, reporting the fatwa can hardly be portrayed as an unforgivable sin at a time when mainstream media has done nothing but manufacture entire news reports and narratives about Syria, with an even flimsier grounding in reality.

Yet, despite Ali’s admission that Arifi “has openly engaged in sectarian incitement against Shia Muslims”, Ali seems intent on whitewashing the takfiri cleric by devoting an entire article and numerous tweets to dissociating the nefarious figure from the fake tweet—as though it were significantly worse than his other odious rulings and statements.

More disturbing still, is the Islamophobia accusation Ali levels against all those who circulated the offensive tweet. Ali suggests that Iran is in cahoots with Israel in spreading Islamophobia when he links his EI piece on the subject to the following tweet:

“Zionists, Islamophobes, Hindu nationalists, US progressives and Iran come together to spread Islamophobic trash.”

Ali makes a similar allegation in his piece : “Progressive news organization AlterNet has fallen for and disseminated a story, pushed by Zionist, Islamophobic and Iranian outlets, claiming that a prominent Saudi cleric issued a religious edict authorizing sex-deprived fighters in Syria to rape women there.”

Aside from the absurdity of lumping Iran together with Israel in ANY campaign, Ali’s branding of a nation which identifies itself as the Islamic Republic of Iran as Islamophobic, is equally, if not more, absurd.  In so doing, Ali seems to be adopting Saudi media discourse which uniformly attempts to depict Iran as harbouring an anti-Sunni agenda, as well as a Wahhabi discourse that seeks to de-Islamicize Iran as a heterodox version of Islam . This attempt is further revealed by Ali’s assertion that Iranian tv outlets, namely Press Tv, reported that Arifi’s fatwa legalized rape, as indicated in the above excerpt. When distinguishing media which misinterpreted the fake tweet as a license to gang rape from those that didn’t (Ali informs readers that “the term “gang rape” does not appear in the New TV report”), he neglects to list Press Tv as an outlet which did not use these terms in its report. In fact, if one follows the Press Tv link to the fatwa story which Ali himself provides, all that can be found is a faithful translation of the fatwa and non-sensationalist headline “Militants can marry Syrian women: Wahhabi cleric in Saudi Arabia.” 

I wonder what Ali’s next campaign will be, perhaps to justify Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s exhortion to: “fight all those working with the regime, whether they are combatants or civilians or religious scholars or the ignorant”? 

No matter how ardently Ali will struggle in future to appease his pro-opposition fans with his takfiri-washing, the rest of us know full well the difference between Islamophobia and Salafi Takfiri-phobia. While the former targets Sunnis and Shias alike and does not distinguish resistance actors like Iran, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qassam Brigades, from  Salafis, Syrian jihadis and Wahhabis,  the latter exclusively targets mainstream Sunnis, Shia and Christians; in other words, the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims. Ali’s efforts would be better spent defending our people rather than those who seek to divide and destroy our region and who surely will not countenance secular progressives like himself. 

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A friend on Facebook just asked me how tolerant Iran was of the Syrian MB given  Iran’s 6 point plan solution. I answered this: The Iranians have to accept the Syrian Brotherhood just as they did in Egypt. Iran’s biggest threat today comes from the sectarian scourge. As I keep repeating, sectarianism is the new Israel for the Resistance axis. When we consider the amount of popular support the MB enjoys—as much we may dislike this fact—and the fact that the other option are the Salafis and Salafi Takfiris, Iran has to build bridges with the less intolerant and violent of the two. For all its “Islamic awakening”” rhetoric with regard to the Arab uprisings, Iran is of course much more secure with the type of secularism represented by Assad than the Sunni Islamism represented by these increasingly sectarian mainstream trends. But if Iran hopes to neutralize some of these sectarian tensions, it has to embrace the inevitable ascent of Islamism in the region, just as the Americans and NATO countries have. Islamic unity is not merely desirable on the doctrinal or ideological levels, it has now become a strategic necessity to thwart Empire’s divide-and-rule tactics. Israel was an easier enemy to defeat than sectarianism.

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The concurrence of two important Syria-related developments today—Farouk al-Sharaa’s interview with Al-Akhbar and Iran’s 6 point proposal to resolve the Syrian crisis—does not appear to be a mere coincidence. The considerable overlap between the solutions envisaged by both the Islamic Republic and Sharaa—neither of which would have been put on the table had the Assad leadership rejected either one outright—indicate a growing realization within the Resistance Axis and Syrian government circles, that there is no going back to the status quo ante. Yes, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi did say on Sunday that “Iran will never allow any Western plots to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to succeed” but this doesn’t contradict Iran’s attempts to find a political solution to the conflict, nor does it signal any back peddling on its part as AP boldly claims in this report which curiously cites an “Iranian-born political analyst based in Israel” to corroborate the reporter’s fanciful analysis. Rejecting the forcible ouster of Assad while calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict by means of an internal national dialogue, are not mutually exclusive objectives but part and parcel of a realistic yet principled position on Syria. In fact, the only parties who have been repeatedly calling for an intra Syrian dialogue for well over a year now, are Iran, Hizbullah, Russia and China. Not a single Western or Arab capital aligned with the opposition has done the same.

While many in the Syrian government believe that the foreign-backed insurrection/proxy war can be won decisively on the battlefield, Syria’s allies like Iran and Hizbullah, as well as officials like Sharaa, do not see the military option as sufficient. This view is not only evinced by Iran’s recent proposal but by Hizbullah’s repeated calls for a dialogue between the government and the opposition whose popular representation has never been denied by the movement (Nasrallah never uses the term “majority” of course, but he does refer to a “portion” or “segment” of the population who support the opposition).

This view or understanding is also evident in Nasrallah’s recent appraisal of the conflict: “the Americans are in no hurry to end the [violence] in Syria” as their aim is to weaken and destroy Syria. In other words, by playing into the US’ divide and rule strategy, Syrians from both sides are digging their own graves both literally and metaphorically. Rather than unleash Israel on Syria as it did on Hizbullah in 2006, the US and Israel have now subcontracted the task of destroying Syria to the Syrian rebels using sectarian war rather than foreign invasion as their preferred instrument of destruction. Indeed, sectarianism has become the new Israel as a matter of US policy.

As such, the Syrian government and its allies are faced with two options: fighting an ultimately un-winnable war where the most the regime can hope to achieve is control over a small sliver of a dismembered Syria in a regional climate of all out sectarian warfare (the inevitable spillover effect of the Syrian war) or, a restructuring of the political system (forming a transitional government, followed by parliamentary elections, a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution and presidential elections as per the Iranian proposal) and a forced partnership with its enemies. In the most favourable scenario for the Resistance Axis, the Baath party and government loyalists would be heavily represented in the new parliament, the constitution would protect the rights of religious minorities and the government would preserve Syria’s foreign policy constants. But perhaps most importantly, the Syrian Arab Army would remain intact and its military ethos unchanged —note Sharaa’s emphasis on this point and Nasrallah’s repeated warnings to preserve the “only remaining strong Arab army” . Ideally, Assad would be re-elected to office but this is no longer a certainty considering rapidly escalating sectarian sentiment. In other words, the most favourable compromise would be one characterized by major reforms in the political system without sacrificing the integrity of the state as happened in Iraq and Libya.

Undoubtedly, the resulting political configuration would be a very unhappy and shaky marriage between an Assadist Syria and a Salafi-cum-Brotherhood-cum western liberal Syria.The closest analogy that comes to mind, is Hizbullah’s tenuous coexistence with March 14 who, like its counterparts in Syria, have conspired with the US, Arab states and Israel to disarm and/or destroy the resistance movement, and who could easily have continued to wage a civil war against it to this very day had Hizbullah not easily defeated its militias in 2008. Just as Hizbullah was forced into this partnership for the sake of Sunni-Shi’ite relations, national unity and a modicum of sovereignty, the Syrian government will have no choice but to do the same.

Of course, all of the above is moot given that the opposition and its foreign backers have already rejected the Iranian proposal as well as others like it, such as Kofi Annan’s 6 point plan. This rejection will only serve to bolster the position of proponents of an exclusively military solution. While Iran, Hizbullah and many in the Syrian government will continue to view significant military advances as an exigent need for “cleansing” as much territory as possible, such battlefield successes are increasingly being viewed as ways of strengthening the government’s bargaining position in an internal dialogue, and Iran and Russia’s negotiating position in talks for a broader regional agreement with the US and its Arab allies. The Dublin and Geneva talks may well be a step in that direction, though there is no guarantee that any breakthrough is in the offing.



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While I worried for a couple of days about use of the chemical weapons red herring as a pretext for a US/NATO invasion, my fears dissipated today because of two factors that had escaped my mind or I hadn’t given attention to:

First is the very high probability of Russian and Iranian (and very likely Hizbullah along Lebanon’s border with occupied Palestine) direct military intervention in the event of US-NATO invasion of Syria. This has surely been one of the main obstacles thus far to a US led invasion.  Like people, the behaviour of states, is guided by two main considerations: physical security and ontological security; that is, security of their identity. When a conflict threatens both, it becomes all the more existential. Make no mistake about it: If the US and/or NATO invade Syria this will not merely be construed as a threat to Iran’s and Russia’s strategic interests in Syria and the region, but as an existential battle. An attack on Syria will be construed as an attack on Iran and Hizbullah, and a grave threat to Russia’s security. The origins of both the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hizbullah lie in their resistance to imperialism and Israel and as such, their raison d’être would be called into question if they took a back seat and allowed the Empire to destroy Syria, empower Israel and control the region in one fell swoop.

Neither Russia nor Iran can countenance a US-led world order, with the Arab world entirely under its hegemony, or the idea that the West can pursue regime-change at will. Iran would be severely weakened by an invasion of Syria and would be seen as low-hanging fruit ripe for invasion and overthrow.

Russia would view an attack on Syria as potentially destabilizing for its own security due to the threat from Islamists in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus who would be emboldened by an Islamist or jihadi take-over of Syria. It would also invite western meddling in Russia as it would for Iran, and is therefore an issue of national sovereignty for both.

It’s interesting to note here, that neither Russia nor Iran are hiding their involvement in Syria; while Iran has admitted to the presence of “advisors” in Syria, the Russians periodically leak then deny various stories implicating them in military involvement in Syria. While this is clearly psychological warfare, it is the kind that is grounded in reality.

Second, is the nature of the threats to invade. There seems to be deliberate indecision on the issue as revealed by NBC’s reports this week: “On Monday, US officials said the Syrian regime has ordered its Chemical Weapons Corps to “be prepared” which was interpreted to mean get all the precursors and pieces together to at least begin preparations for weaponization.”’ But then the same article reports that ” a senior defense official told NBC News on Tuesday” that “There is no evidence yet that the Syrian military has actually begun the process of mixing precursor chemicals to produce deadly Sarin nerve gas.”

And then on Wednesday NBC reported that: “As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the “precursor” chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.” In short, on Monday US officials accused the Syrian government of preparing the Sarin, then on Tuesday officials said no they weren’t and then on Wednesday they claimed they were pouring the chemicals into bombs.  Coupled with news of talks on Syria between Clinton and Lavrov in Belfast today, such flip-flopping may well signal bargaining maneuvers. Viewed in this context, threats of impending invasion may well be a convenient ruse to raise the stakes for Russia and Iran so as to improve the US’ bargaining position in what could be the beginning of a lengthy grand bargain process.

 In an unusually guarded tone Clinton reportedly said that while ” the U.S. believes any transition to a “democratic, unified” Syria “cannot possibly include Assad,” the U.S. intends to hold “every party to the same standard” of human rights and democratic values. “This is not just a one-sided dialogue” against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, she said.

The State Department’s plan to designate the al-Nusra Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization must be viewed against this backdrop. The insurrection in Syria may well be “constructive chaos” but it is chaos nonetheless. Attacks by Al-Qaeda-affiliated and jihadi  groups have only increased in intensity and scope. Their readiness to turn their suicide bombs on western and US targets in a “liberated” Syria is surely a reality that at least some of US officials are increasingly wary of. Add to that the threat of a regional or even, an international, war breaking out in the event of an invasion, and the chemical weapons-invasion threat begins to sound increasingly hollow.  When you are bargaining from a position of relative weakness or compromised strength, saber-rattling is not mere psych-ops but an effective policy tool.  

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