I’ve always held a particular fascination for the stomach-churning US foreign policy concept of “moderation”. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of equivocal and ironic expressions like when my son was 5 and professed to hate someone “a little”, or when one is praised for being “rather brilliant” or when a man tells a woman he is “a little bit” in love with her. But when it comes to the US’ foreign policy-mainstream media-think tank complex’s promotion of “moderate” rebels in Syria, I have far less tolerance for such equivocations. In the not too distant past, the Bush administration used the term “arc of moderation” to label the US’ Sunni Arab allies in the region which was pitted against the “arc of extremism”, aka, the “Resistance axis”. Then as now, moderation basically meant being moderate on Israel and imperialism, rather than any secular liberal ideals related to democracy, women’s rights, the treatment of minorities and openness to other religions. And even when US policy wonks called for engagement with “moderate Islamists” like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, this had far less to do with their participation in democratic elections and inherent liberalism than their “nonviolence” vis-à-vis the West and of course, Israel, which explains why a progressive movement like Hizbullah has consistently been labeled “terrorist” and “extremist”. In the Syrian context, when Obama talks about arming “moderate rebels” to confront ISIS, he isn’t referring to non-takfiri groups whose sectarianism is less doctrinal than it is socio-political, or which have been making local cease-fire deals with the Syrian government in a number of regions and are hence capable of engaging in dialogue with Syrian government to end the war. We can be certain that this isn’t the case when the only significant fighting forces worth backing are Jihadi groups, when Wahhabi Saudi Arabia is enlisted in the war on Wahhabi ISIS, and when the media has unabashedly been trying to promote Jabhit al-Nusra /al-Qaeda as more moderate than ISIS (only yesterday for example corporate media was awash with reports about how JaN pleaded with ISIS to spare Alan Henning’s life). When the US refers to “moderate rebels” it doesn’t even allude to oxymorons like moderately genocidal groups who execute in moderate numbers, are only moderately ideologically sectarian, and pursue a transnational Caliphate in moderation, but rather, groups which the US hopes are more co-optable and cooperative with its grander strategic aims than ISIS has proven to be. The bottom line is this: unless you’re a cute 5 year old who hasn’t quite mastered the love-hate dichotomy, or a teacher who likes to make her intellectual praise more credible by subtly qualifying it, or a goofy but charming guy who disarms women with understatements, you’re neither adorable nor endearing when you make gross understatements, least of all about takfiri-jihadis who pose an existential threat to everyone in the region.
My interview on ISIS on RT’s “In the Now” show earlier this evening where I argue that strikes against ISIS could transform it from a global jihadi group into a resistance movement in the public Muslim imagination.
Resistance versus Jihad is the new faultline in the region. It has now become patently obvious that the US is manipulating and instrumentalizing takfiri jihadism to defeat the Resistance. The hope is that ISIS can achieve what decades of Zionist aggression failed to deliver, by means of a policy of implosion, fragmentation and [strategically employed] terror, dealt by a heavily sectarianized Islamism which is devoid of any anti-imperialist content. Forget Clinton’s infamous “we created al-Qaeda” quote, and Seymour Hersh’s 2007 exposé of the US-Saudi role in funding al-qaeda affiliated militants in Lebanon, several developments this week reveal that ISIS has effectively become the US’ (and of course Saudi’s) new weapon of choice in confronting the Iran- Hizbullah-Syria-Iraq Axis: Obama acknowledges that the notion of a “ready-made moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat Assad” was a “fantasy”, and only days later, requests $500 million from Congress to fund this fantasy; the following day, the leader of one of the leading “moderate” Islamist groups Obama was alluding to, the Syrian Revolutionary Front, tells The Independent that the fight against al-Qaeda was “not our problem” and admits that his fighters conduct joint operations with al-Qaeda’s representative in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra; a Kurdish intelligence source reveals to The Telegraph that his people had informed the US and British governments of an imminent ISIS takeover of Mosul but that the warning “fell on deaf ears;” PM Maliki blames the US’ delayed delivery of 36 F16s Iraq had purchased for ISIS’ advance into northern and western Iraq; Netanyahu warns Obama against military intervention in Iraq, arguing “when your enemies are fighting one another , don’t strengthen either one of them. Weaken both;” ISIS declares war on Lebanon. The facts speak for themselves
Nothing irks me more than when naive Arab [pseudo] leftists voice their disillusionment with Hizbullah for “abandoning the resistance to Israel” by fighting with “fellow Muslims”; for its allegedly “sectarian” turn because of its military role in Syria and given its protection of the Sayyida Zeinab shrine in Damascus and its intent to protect holy shrines in Iraq; and for its appropriation of Bush’s “war on terror” discourse.
First of all, there is zero indication that Hizbullah has indeed abandoned its struggle with Israel. I would like to ask them if Israel committed any act of aggression against Lebanon which the Resistance didn’t respond to since the war in Syria began. Or if they read IDF General Amos Gilad’s admission that Israel has “not been successful in preventing a buildup (of rockets) in Lebanon,” which now threatens all of Israeli territory. But on a much more fundamentally basic level I want to ask what is inherently ignoble or unprincipled about fighting for one’s existence. Does this Intifada-chic crowd believe that a real resistance movement should turn the other cheek when any group or entity besides Israel attacks it and threatens its people and territory? Or more rudimentary still, do they believe there would even be a Resistance to fight Israel if it allowed petro-dollar funded Takfiris to have their way with it?
Second, despite the infantile Marxist fantasies of these Muqawama Hipsters, Hizbullah is not, nor has ever, proclaimed to be a secular or Socialist movement. It is an Islamic Shia movement which owes its roots both to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the Shia Islamic concept of the Wilayat el-Faqih. As such, for Hizbullah, the desecration of Shia shrines is a huge deal, just as the desecration of Islamic symbols is for hundreds of millions of Muslims. This doesn’t make Hizbullah a sectarian organization because religiosity and sectarianism are mutually exclusive concepts, even if they can and often do overlap as in the case of the Takfiris.
And finally, Hizbullah refers to Israel as terrorist, not just the Takfiris, so it can hardly be likened to a neo-con US president . Moreover, when Hizbullah uses the term terrorism it isn’t consciously or unconsciously adopting US discourse because a discourse is an entire, ideologically delimited, system of thought and language, not a word which has different uses for different actors. When Hizbullah refers to Takfiris as terrorists, it is using the term within the framework of a Resistance Axis discourse, not quoting from an American imperialist script.”
This is how the Dahyeh does the World Cup. Some friends noted the absence of the Iranian flag, which must have been sold out at this particular stand, given the Islamic Republic flag’s high visibility in Dahyeh. Nonetheless, If i was a western journo i would totally write a story on how Iran’s inability to beat Nigeria in this week’s match has led to a rift between Hizbullah and Iran, using this scene from a “Hizbullah stronghold”. I would then ask the juice vendor next to the flags why there is no Iran flag. He would merely shrug his shoulders in response because I am a suspicious looking white man, but i would go on to quote him as a “Hizbullah commander”/”Hizbullah source” depending on how stupid my editor is.
Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah introduced a new strategic and political motivation behind Hizbullah’s involvement in the war on Syria, which goes beyond its defense of Syria’s territorial integrity and the Syrian state’s support for resistance movements, and even beyond the existential threat takfiri-jihadis pose to Syria and Lebanon; Hizbullah’s defense of the Syrian Arab Republic today aims at preventing a repetition of the imperialists’ creation of Israel, only this time in Syria and the region as a whole: “the spectre of Palestine’s usurpation is being repeated today”. By arming and supporting takfiri groups (Nasrallah even drew parallels between their deployment and mobilization throughout the region and the mass migration of Jews to historic Palestine) the imperialists seek to fragment Syria and destroy the Resistance Axis, and in so doing, protect Israel. Basically, Hizbullah will never allow Syria to become a second Israel or a neo-colonialist outpost in the region designed to protect the first Israel.
Der Spiegel has just published a report on the funneling of Ukranian arms to jihadists in Syria via Germany. The following is a translation of the German text by Emily-Dische Becker:
"According to information obtained by Der Spiegel, a Ukrainian state enterprise is delivering rifles to Germany. The German federal government allegedly doesn’t know what is happening with the weapons. Are they being used in the war in Syria? According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the Ukraine is apparently doing arms deals through Germany. As the German Foreign Office acknowledged in response to a request by Die Linke (the Left party), the Ukrainian state company Ukroboronprom has been exporting semi-automatic rifles of the SKS Simonov variety to Germany. These imports were approved by the responsible government agencies.
The Foreign Office however is concealing where the weapons are ending up in Germany: The delivery terms of the German contract partner are “a business and a trade secret.” The rifles, it says evasively, are being delivered to Germany “for the purpose of modification.” The American Jamestown Foundation think-tank, which is said to enjoy strong historical ties to U.S. intelligence agencies, believes that the weapons are being delivered from Germany to Syrian rebels. Jamestown estimates the delivery of 54,000 small arms in the years 2011 and 2012. These could have been used for ” covert operations ” in Syria. The federal government is aware of the suspicions of the Americans, but does not want to investigate them. As stated in their response to the Left party’s inquiry, they have “no findings of [their] own on this matter.” Neither the German army, nor the military counterintelligence agency, nor the federal intelligence service (BND) are involved in the purchase of weapons [the federal government claims].
The Left party’s expert for foreign affairs, Sevim Dagdelen, is alarmed by the government’s ignorance: “It is scandalous that the federal government can not convey anything about the whereabouts of these weapons. ” To make matter worse, Berlin “can not dispel the suspicion that these weapons have been passed on to Islamist holy warriors to cause a regime change in Syria. “
A YEAR ago, following a string of victories, Syria’s rebels fought their way so close to the capital, Damascus, that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime appeared doomed.
Many commentators predicted his fall within days; others gave him only weeks to survive. Yet 12 months later the tide has turned dramatically in favour of the Syrian president, who has outmanoeuvred his opponents both at home and abroad.
In the past few days, a string of villages and towns in the strategically important Qalamoun region have fallen to government forces — among them the Christian town of Maaloula, northeast of Damascus, where Aramaic, the language of Christ, is still spoken.
Homs, once known as “the capital of the revolution”, is on the verge of falling to a Syrian army offensive. Trapped in the last rebel redoubt in the old city, only about 1,000 rebel fighters remain.
Last week, accompanied by the Syrian army, I walked through Maaloula’s battle-scarred streets after it was returned to government control having been seized by the rebels last November.
The previous day, Assad predicted that the main battles could be over by the end of the year. “This is a turning point in the crisis,” he predicted.
Assad’s closest ally, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, went further, saying the Syrian leader no longer faced the prospect of being overthrown.
What has changed in the course of the year? Based on extensive interviews with senior sources close to Hezbollah’s military command in Syria and briefings from high-ranking army officers, I am convinced the answer lies in the decision by Nasrallah and Assad to throw Hezbollah into the fray, thus changing the course of the war.
Until 2012, Hezbollah’s involvement had been minimal. The Iranian-backed group, a mix of fighting force and Lebanese political party, had only a single unit in Syria to guard a Shi’ite shrine in Damascus. At the time hardline rebels, many of them from abroad and affiliated to al-Qaeda, were gaining territory and influence and had sidelined the more secular fighters of the Free Syrian Army.
For Shi’ite Hezbollah, the largely Sunni rebel fighters posed a danger by threatening to undermine Assad. Syria, the group’s closest ally, stored on its behalf the vast quantities of munitions supplied to it by Tehran.
There was further danger to Hezbollah as jihadist rebels began to discuss the prospect of extending their holy war to Lebanon. This would have put them in a powerful position to strangle the group by severing its supply lines from Syria. As a source close to Hezbollah described it to me recently: “Syria is Hezbollah’s lungs.” He added: “It doesn’t matter how many weapons Hezbollah keeps in Lebanon. In any war with Israel, their stocks would be depleted. Resupply is vital.”
By early last year, 70% of Syria’s territory had slipped from Assad’s control.
Day after day, Damascus was being rocked by car bombs, and the regime had been shaken when the rebels succeeded in launching an assassination attempt on key members of his inner circle.
Assad had been leaning heavily on the advice of his generals, who were trained in conventional warfare, and were ill-suited to a guerrilla struggle. It was time for a wholesale change of tactics, he decided, and that could come only from Hezbollah.
Nasrallah went to Tehran to seek religious guidance from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who gave his blessing to sending fighters. Khamenei said it was a religious obligation to fight the jihadist rebels.
Nasrallah’s military advisers insisted that Syria’s army, reinforced by his men, had to go on the offensive. With the backing of Russia and Iran, a strategy was formulated to drive the rebels out of Damascus and win back control of the strategic corridor that links the Syrian capital to the Mediterranean coast. Nasrallah went to Tehran to seek religious guidance from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who gave his blessing to sending fighters. Khamenei said it was a religious obligation to fight the jihadist rebels.
Initially Hezbollah said its intervention would be confined to retaking the Syrian border city of Qusair and defending the Lebanese villages bordering Syria.
But Hezbollah’s fighters had underestimated their enemy. They soon found themselves in danger of being bottled up by rebel forces and realised they needed to capture far more territory than they had envisaged. This was now a full-scale war for them.
First, Qusair had to be taken in order to block the flow of rebels and weapons from Lebanon into rebel-held Homs.
Hezbollah sent several thousand fighters to the front while the Syrian army provided artillery and air support. In a sign of how closely they were now working together, Hezbollah was granted access to Syria’s military command operations centre for the first time.
Qusair proved a vital learning curve for Hezbollah, fighting far from its own terrain. The organisation was taken by surprise by the rebels’ prowess. In the first few days of battle, it took heavy casualties and was forced to regroup and change tactics.
After three weeks of heavy fighting, in which much of the town was destroyed by shell and rocket fire, Qusair was finally taken back into the hands of the regime last June.
The scale and ferocity of the battle persuaded Hezbollah’s commanders they needed to widen their strategic objectives. Homs, a rebel stronghold, had to be captured in order to choke off the rebels’ supply lines into Lebanon.
Today Homs no longer poses a threat to either Hezbollah or the regime, although it has a rump of rebel fighters, blamed for a car bomb outside a mosque on Friday that killed at least 14 people.
Control of the city was vital for Assad, as it links Damascus to the coastal towns of Latakia and Tartus, both parts of his Alawite heartland. The Alawite sect, to which Assad and his family belong, represents about 12% of the Syrian population.
In the next stage of their plan, the Syrian army and Hezbollah moved their attention to Qalamoun, the region where it made significant gains last week. Its harsh, mountainous terrain close to the Lebanese border had for months provided a base for rebel fighters to launch suicide attacks in Lebanese villages in revenge for Hezbollah’s support for Assad. Dozens have been killed by the bombs in recent weeks, most of them civilians.
“Ensuring the recapture of Qalamoun was becoming critical for Hezbollah,” the source close to the group explained.
Hezbollah fighters spearheaded the attack after the Syrian army had softened up the rebels by pounding their positions with artillery, rocket launchers and mortars.
Once Hezbollah won control of a village or town, it was handed over to Syrian troops or the pro-government militiamen known as the National Defence Force.
Despite the triumphs at Maaloula and Qalamoun, an all-out victory for Assad is still far from assured. Rebel brigades have made significant inroads in the north in recent weeks. Last month they captured Kassab, the sole remaining government-controlled border post with Turkey, cementing their hold on Syria’s northern border.
Though Kassab has little strategic importance, the well co-ordinated attack appears to have taken Assad’s military by surprise. Within 10 days, the rebels occupied a large area running down to the Mediterranean.
Despite the setbacks, Hezbollah has emerged as a bigger and more influential player in the region as a result of its intervention.
“There will be no limit for Hezbollah’s role and no boundaries,” said the Hezbollah source. “They’ll stay as long as he [Assad] needs them. When he considers Hezbollah’s presence is no longer needed, they’ll pull out immediately from all fronts,” he added.
As I watch Putin’s standing ovation today in the Russian parliament, and read news about Hizbullah’s latest attack on Israeli occupation troops in the Golan, I can’t help but think how terrifying it is to have an enemy as quintessentially stupid as the US and its allies. Just 3 weeks ago, an NYT headline penned by the head of Carnegie’s Moscow Center, boldly declared “Why Russia Won’t Interfere.” Such myopia is reminiscent of the “Assad’s days are numbered” mantra, and predictions about how “Hizbullah won’t respond [to Israel]” . Time and time again, we find that US intelligence services, think tanks and policy makers misread their enemy’s intentions and willingness to respond militarily to US/NATO/Zionist destabilization and aggression campaigns. The problem lies in their very rationality which is based on the deeply flawed premise that only imperialist powers will dare act militarily in puruit of their “security interests” (a euphemism for imperialist designs) while other nations can be sanctioned, destabilized and even bombed into submission, without standing up for their rights, security and very existence . And when anti-imperialist forces do strike back in self-defense, the US & co appear genuinely shocked by their digression from this “rational actor” model and are consequently branded as irrational (Assad is “delusional”, Putin is “in another world”, etc.) pariahs who can only be restrained by means of further sanctions, destabilization and bombing campaigns. What can be more terrifying than an enemy who possesses such a rationality?
A MUST WATCH!! Remarkable footage HERE and HERE exclusive to Manar Tv of the ambush the Syrian Army staged against Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa al-Islam rebels in Eastern Ghouta, killing 175 of them in one go. This is not the same footage al-Mayadeen showed of the rebels’ corpses , this is the operation itself. The army appears to have anticipated their advance and planted land mines across the entire area. I have never seen such a large formation of troops advance and fall at the same time, it’s almost unreal. Wow.
I rarely post stuff on women’s issues, but I just discovered this commentary in the Guardian by Jill Filipovic, which was begging for a smackdown. Sarcastically entitled “Can Girls Even Find Syria on the Map?” the author calls for greater participation of women in the “major international debate” on Syria because she is unhappy with the ratio of female to male information warlords. As an a Arab woman and a Marxist “Critical Feminist”, I have to ask bourgeois liberal feminists the following:
Who says this is YOUR debate in the first place? And by you, I mean you American and European “experts”. Women asides, what gives your universities, think tanks and media the right to be debating and determining the destiny of our region? Why do we never question the colonial mentality that underlies your Middle East departments and bureaus, your “centers for democracy” and “peace” for the Middle East initiatives? Who the hell are you to be studying us and issuing us Euro-American directives on “good governance” and “conflict resolution”? Crises of governance and conflicts which have been engineered by none other than your governments , with your intellectual cover.
What gives privileged white women the right to be pursuing their supposed “emancipation” on the backs of our oppressed people? And why are the needs of this “debate” greater than the need of Syria and its people?
On what moral grounds should Syrian and Arab women be celebrating the inclusion of more female liberal imperialists in framing the mainstream narrative on Syria? Should Syrian women thank their western counterparts for enjoining western governments to invade Syria? Or should they be thankful for the justifications made by these women for the arms that are being funneled to “moderate” takfiris and jihadis who oppress women in the most gruesome and violent of ways imaginable? Do Arab women really need more Elizabeth O’Bagys and Christian Amanpours to distort and fabricate the reality they are living?
And who says that women’s liberation is best served by jumping on the male-dominated bandwagon which oppresses and disempowers the weak and marginalized? In this case and in others, the erasure of difference does not lead to greater gender equality; only to the assimilation of hegemonic ideology, and hence a more sinister type of subordination by consent.
How can women’s oppression be extricated from the same patriarchal-capitalist system which oppresses other classes and races? How can we ignore the “intersectionality” of hegemonic institutions which reinforce the different modes of oppression that women are subjected to? As Bell Hooks and other proponents of Critical Feminist theory have argued, feminism is “a struggle to eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels, as well as a commitment to reorganizing society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires.”
As a “female Middle East expert who lives in the region” to borrow Filipovic’s words, my voice is not excluded from this debate because it is a female voice as she contends, but because it is an anti-imperialist voice. And frankly, I don’t want a “voice” in this “international debate” if the terms of this debate are still dictated by the white man and his interests.
Yes, Syria does need more women’s voices, but only those resistant voices which have liberated themselves from the imperatives of bourgeois liberal individualism and which refuse to submit to the discursive parameters drawn up by the Academy and mainstream media. What Syria needs is more women who understand how their liberation is linked to their freedom and dignity as human beings who are free from all forms of exploitation and subjugation. An integral part of this freedom is a sovereign and unitary Syria which is free from the predatory ambitions of the Empire and its Arab minions.
We saw it in Syria and now we are witnessing it again in Ukraine and Venezuela; namely, using the politics of protest to engineer anti-democractic movements which seek to overthrow popular and/or elected governments in the name of democratic freedoms. And we aren’t merely talking about undemocratic groups here, but anti-democractic movements which are opposed in principle to democracy (takfiris and jihadis in Syria; right-wing fascists in Ukraine; reactionary neo-liberals in Venezuela). In all these cases, governments are being rebuked, pressured and sanctioned for exercising their constitutionally prescribed and universally recognized duty to maintain law and order and to protect national security, public safety and national unity. And as we witnessed in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring”, democracy and revolution are now redefined in the public imagination as any popular outpouring of anger irrespective of the nature of its demands, the medium through which it is expressed, or its intersection with the interests of global capital.
If Israel is a cancer implanted in our midst then the Saudi regime is surely our brain aneurysm. The terrorist bombings in Syria and Lebanon by Saudi-backed groups like Jabhet al-Nusra, have made it clear to us all that there will be no peace or stability in our region so long as this reactionary and decrepit ruling family remains; this pinnacle of moral debauchery; this orgy of violence, “immersed in the mud of enslavement, infanticide and other medieval practices” to borrow the words of Walid Muallem; this architect of filthy Wahhabi sectarianism masquerading as an “Islamic school of thought;” this subhuman cabal of evil incarnate which is too cowardly to fight its own battles but must subcontract them to takfiri nihilists.. .There can be no coexistence with this pathological condition otherwise known as a “regional powerhouse.” The Saudi regime must go.
A report forecasting Israel’s strategic future looks positively at Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East though it fears instability along Israeli borders. Israeli Major General Amos Yadlin concludes
By Israeli officials’ own accounts, the Syrian uprising/war and even the rise of al-Qaeda on Israel’s doorstep have generally boosted Israel’s position in the region: “an increase in terrorist activity on Israel’s borders by terrorist groups … has thus far not materialized into a strategic threat….the opportunities presented by the upheavals in the Arab world outweigh the risks they incur. Foremost among these opportunities is the worsening relations between the Sunni axis led by Saudi Arabia and the Shia axis led by Iran. The weakening of the Shia axis, primarily as a result of the civil war in Syria, has broadened Israel’s room to maneuver in the Middle East and created an opportunity to expand its cooperation with the Sunni axis countries.”
Read al-Akhbar’s summary of Israeli Major General Amos Yadlin’s conclusion for the “Strategic Survey for Israel 2013-2014” here
Without ignoring or belittling Saudi sponsorship of the Takfiri groups who are slaying Lebanese and Syrian civilians, let us not forget the culpability of Israel and the US in these crimes, including today’s Dahyeh bombing. Not only do we now know that the Obama adminstration has been reaching out to “engage” the Islamic Front in Syria, which contains Al-Qaeda affiliates like Ahrar Al Sham (a senior figure for the group, Abu Khaled al Suri, admitted as much recently), but even more significantly, Obama made this very telling statement to the New Yorker, which effectively distinguishes between a good and a bad al-Qaeda and normalizes the former as a just another benign [to the US at least] sectarian force, involved in petty power-struggles, the implication being, that the US can manipulate these good Takfiris to serve its strategic interests: “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian…And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into…But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically.”