An ANZAC day reflection.

A Death in the Family
Having volunteered for Iraq, Mark Daily was killed in January by an I.E.D. Dismayed to learn that his pro-war articles helped persuade Daily to enlist, the author measures his words against a family’s grief and a young man’s sacrifice.
By Christopher Hitchens October 3, 2007 12:00 am

I was having an oppressively normal morning a few months ago, flicking through the banality of quotidian e-mail traffic, when I idly clicked on a message from a friend headed “Seen This?” The attached item turned out to be a very well-written story by Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times. It described the death, in Mosul, Iraq, of a young soldier from Irvine, California, named Mark Jennings Daily, and the unusual degree of emotion that his community was undergoing as a consequence. The emotion derived from a very moving statement that the boy had left behind, stating his reasons for having become a volunteer and bravely facing the prospect that his words might have to be read posthumously. In a way, the story was almost too perfect: this handsome lad had been born on the Fourth of July, was a registered Democrat and self-described agnostic, a U.C.L.A. honors graduate, and during his college days had fairly decided reservations about the war in Iraq. I read on, and actually printed the story out, and was turning a page when I saw the following:
“Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … “

I don’t exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.? Over-dramatizing myself a bit in the angst of the moment, I found I was thinking of William Butler Yeats, who was chilled to discover that the Irish rebels of 1916 had gone to their deaths quoting his play Cathleen ni Houlihan. He tried to cope with the disturbing idea in his poem “Man and the Echo”:
*Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot? …
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house lay wrecked?*

Abruptly dismissing any comparison between myself and one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, I feverishly clicked on all the links from the article and found myself on Lieutenant Daily’s MySpace site, where his statement “Why I Joined” was posted. The site also immediately kicked into a skirling noise of Irish revolutionary pugnacity: a song from the Dropkick Murphys album Warrior’s Code. And there, at the top of the page, was a link to a passage from one of my articles, in which I poured scorn on those who were neutral about the battle for Iraq … I don’t remember ever feeling, in every allowable sense of the word, quite so hollow.

I writhed around in my chair for a bit and decided that I ought to call Ms. Watanabe, who could not have been nicer. She anticipated the question I was too tongue-tied to ask: Would the Daily family—those whose “house lay wrecked”—be contactable? “They’d actually like to hear from you.” She kindly gave me the e-mail address and the home number.

I don’t intend to make a parade of my own feelings here, but I expect you will believe me when I tell you that I e-mailed first. For one thing, I didn’t want to choose a bad time to ring. For another, and as I wrote to his parents, I was quite prepared for them to resent me. So let me introduce you to one of the most generous and decent families in the United States, and allow me to tell you something of their experience.

In the midst of their own grief, to begin with, they took the trouble to try to make me feel better. I wasn’t to worry about any “guilt or responsibility”: their son had signed up with his eyes wide open and had “assured us that if he knew the possible outcome might be this, he would still go rather than have the option of living to age 50 and never having served his country. Trust us when we tell you that he was quite convincing and persuasive on this point, so that by the end of the conversation we were practically packing his bags and waving him off.” This made me relax fractionally, but then they went on to write: “Prior to his deployment he told us he was going to try to contact you from Iraq. He had the idea of being a correspondent from the front-lines through you, and wanted to get your opinion about his journalistic potential. He told us that he had tried to contact you from either Kuwait or Iraq. He thought maybe his e-mail had not reached you … ” That was a gash in my hide all right: I think of all the junk e-mail I read every day, and then reflect that his precious one never got to me.

Lieutenant Daily crossed from Kuwait to Iraq in November 2006, where he would be deployed with the “C,” or “Comanche,” Company of the Second Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment—General Custer’s old outfit—in Mosul. On the 15th of January last, he was on patrol and noticed that the Humvee in front of him was not properly “up-armored” against I.E.D.’s. He insisted on changing places and taking a lead position in his own Humvee, and was shortly afterward hit by an enormous buried mine that packed a charge of some 1,500 pounds of high explosive. Yes, that’s right. He, and the three other American soldiers and Iraqi interpreter who perished with him, went to war with the army we had. It’s some consolation to John and Linda Daily, and to Mark’s brother and two sisters, and to his widow (who had been married to him for just 18 months) to know that he couldn’t have felt anything.

Yet what, and how, should we feel? People are not on their oath when speaking of the dead, but I have now talked to a good number of those who knew Mark Daily or were related to him, and it’s clear that the country lost an exceptional young citizen, whom I shall always wish I had had the chance to meet. He seems to have passed every test of young manhood, and to have been admired and loved and respected by old and young, male and female, family and friends. He could have had any career path he liked (and won a George C. Marshall Award that led to an offer to teach at West Point). Why are we robbed of his contribution? As we got to know one another better, I sent the Daily family a moving statement made by the mother of Michael Kelly, my good friend and the editor-at-large of The Atlantic Monthly, who was killed near the Baghdad airport while embedded during the invasion of 2003. Marguerite Kelly was highly stoic about her son’s death, but I now think I committed an error of taste in showing this to the Dailys, who very gently responded that Michael had lived long enough to write books, have a career, become a father, and in general make his mark, while their son didn’t live long enough to enjoy any of these opportunities. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now …
In his brilliant book What Is History?, Professor E. H. Carr asked about ultimate causation. Take the case of a man who drinks a bit too much, gets behind the wheel of a car with defective brakes, drives it round a blind corner, and hits another man, who is crossing the road to buy cigarettes. Who is the one responsible? The man who had one drink too many, the lax inspector of brakes, the local authorities who didn’t straighten out a dangerous bend, or the smoker who chose to dash across the road to satisfy his bad habit? So, was Mark Daily killed by the Ba’thist and bin Ladenist riffraff who place bombs where they will do the most harm? Or by the Rumsfeld doctrine, which sent American soldiers to Iraq in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment? Or by the Bush administration, which thought Iraq would be easily pacified? Or by the previous Bush administration, which left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 and fatally postponed the time of reckoning?

These grand, overarching questions cannot obscure, at least for me, the plain fact that Mark Daily felt himself to be morally committed. I discovered this in his life story and in his surviving writings. Again, not to romanticize him overmuch, but this is the boy who would not let others be bullied in school, who stuck up for his younger siblings, who was briefly a vegetarian and Green Party member because he couldn’t stand cruelty to animals or to the environment, a student who loudly defended Native American rights and who challenged a MySpace neo-Nazi in an online debate in which the swastika-displaying antagonist finally admitted that he needed to rethink things. If I give the impression of a slight nerd here I do an injustice. Everything that Mark wrote was imbued with a great spirit of humor and tough-mindedness. Here’s an excerpt from his “Why I Joined” statement:

Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).… Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.

And here’s something from one of his last letters home:
I was having a conversation with a Kurdish man in the city of Dahok (by myself and completely safe) discussing whether or not the insurgents could be viewed as “freedom fighters” or “misguided anti-capitalists.” Shaking his head as I attempted to articulate what can only be described as pathetic apologetics, he cut me off and said “the difference between insurgents and American soldiers is that they get paid to take life—to murder, and you get paid to save lives.” He looked at me in such a way that made me feel like he was looking through me, into all the moral insecurity that living in a free nation will instill in you. He “oversimplified” the issue, or at least that is what college professors would accuse him of doing.

In his other e-mails and letters home, which the Daily family very kindly showed me, he asked for extra “care packages” to share with local Iraqis, and said, “I’m not sure if Irvine has a sister-city, but I am going to personally contact the mayor and ask him to extend his hand to Dahok, which has been more than hospitable to this native-son.” (I was wrenched yet again to discover that he had got this touching idea from an old article of mine, which had made a proposal for city-twinning that went nowhere.) In the last analysis, it was quite clear, Mark had made up his mind that the United States was a force for good in the world, and that it had a duty to the freedom of others. A video clip of which he was very proud has him being “crowned” by a circle of smiling Iraqi officers. I have a photograph of him, standing bareheaded and contentedly smoking a cigar, on a rooftop in Mosul. He doesn’t look like an occupier at all. He looks like a staunch friend and defender. On the photograph is written “We carry a new world in our hearts.”

In his last handwritten letter home, posted on the last day of 2006, Mark modestly told his father that he’d been chosen to lead a combat platoon after a grenade attack had killed one of its soldiers and left its leader too shaken to carry on. He had apparently sounded steady enough on the radio on earlier missions for him to be given a leadership position after only a short time “in country.” As he put it: “I am now happily doing what I was trained to do, and am fulfilling an obligation that has swelled inside me for years. I am deep in my element … and I am euphoric.” He had no doubts at all about the value of his mission, and was the sort of natural soldier who makes the difference in any war.

At the first chance I got, I invited his family for lunch in California. We ended up spending the entire day together. As soon as they arrived, I knew I had been wrong to be so nervous. They looked too good to be true: like a poster for the American way. John Daily is an aerospace project manager, and his wife, Linda, is an audiologist. Their older daughter, Christine, eagerly awaiting her wedding, is a high-school biology teacher, and the younger sister, Nicole, is in high school. Their son Eric is a bright junior at Berkeley with a very winning and ironic grin. And there was Mark’s widow, an agonizingly beautiful girl named Snejana (“Janet”) Hristova, the daughter of political refugees from Bulgaria. Her first name can mean “snowflake,” and this was his name for her in the letters of fierce tenderness that he sent her from Iraq. These, with your permission, I will not share, except this:

One thing I have learned about myself since I’ve been out here is that everything I professed to you about what I want for the world and what I am willing to do to achieve it was true. …
My desire to “save the world” is really just an extension of trying to make a world fit for you.

If that is all she has left, I hope you will agree that it isn’t nothing.

I had already guessed that this was no gung-ho Orange County Republican clan. It was pretty clear that they could have done without the war, and would have been happier if their son had not gone anywhere near Iraq. (Mr. Daily told me that as a young man he had wondered about going to Canada if the Vietnam draft ever caught up with him.) But they had been amazed by the warmth of their neighbors’ response, and by the solidarity of his former brothers-in-arms—1,600 people had turned out for Mark’s memorial service in Irvine. A sergeant’s wife had written a letter to Linda and posted it on Janet’s MySpace site on Mother’s Day, to tell her that her husband had been in the vehicle with which Mark had insisted on changing places. She had seven children who would have lost their father if it had gone the other way, and she felt both awfully guilty and humbly grateful that her husband had been spared by Mark’s heroism. Imagine yourself in that position, if you can, and you will perhaps get a hint of the world in which the Dailys now live: a world that alternates very sharply and steeply between grief and pride.

On a drive to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and again shortly before shipping out from Fort Bliss, Texas, Mark had told his father that he had three wishes in the event of his death. He wanted bagpipes played at the service, and an Irish wake to follow it. And he wanted to be cremated, with the ashes strewn on the beach at Neskowin, Oregon, the setting for his happiest memories of boyhood vacations. The first two of these conditions had already been fulfilled. The Dailys rather overwhelmed me by asking if I would join them for the third one. So it was that in August I found myself on the dunes by an especially lovely and remote stretch of the Oregon coastline. The extended family was there, including both sets of grandparents, plus some college friends of Mark’s and his best comrade from the army, an impressive South Dakotan named Matt Gross. As the sun began to sink on a day that had been devoted to reminiscence and moderate drinking, we took up the tattered Stars and Stripes that had flown outside the family home since Mark’s deployment and walked to his favorite spot to plant it. Everyone was supposed to say something, but when John Daily took the first scoop from the urn and spread the ashes on the breeze, there was something so unutterably final in the gesture that tears seemed as natural as breathing and I wasn’t at all sure that I could go through with it. My idea had been to quote from the last scene of Macbeth, which is the only passage I know that can hope to rise to such an occasion. The tyrant and usurper has been killed, but Ross has to tell old Siward that his boy has perished in the struggle:
*Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt;
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm’d
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.*
This being Shakespeare, the truly emotional and understated moment follows a beat or two later, when Ross adds:
*Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.*

I became a trifle choked up after that, but everybody else also managed to speak, often reading poems of their own composition, and as the day ebbed in a blaze of glory over the ocean, I thought, Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell’s when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, “I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.”

I mention Orwell for a reason, because Mark Daily wasn’t yet finished with sending me messages from beyond the grave. He took a pile of books with him to Iraq, which included Thomas Paine’s The Crisis; War and Peace; Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (well, nobody’s perfect); Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time; John McCain’s Why Courage Matters; and George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. And a family friend of the Dailys’, noticing my own book on Orwell on their shelf, had told them that his own father, Harry David Milton, was “the American” mentioned in Homage to Catalonia, who had rushed to Orwell’s side after he had been shot in the throat by a Fascist sniper. This seemed to verge on the eerie. Orwell thought that the Spanish Civil War was a just war, but he also came to understand that it was a dirty war, where a decent cause was hijacked by goons and thugs, and where betrayal and squalor negated the courage and sacrifice of those who fought on principle. As one who used to advocate strongly for the liberation of Iraq (perhaps more strongly than I knew), I have grown coarsened and sickened by the degeneration of the struggle: by the sordid news of corruption and brutality (Mark Daily told his father how dismayed he was by the failure of leadership at Abu Ghraib) and by the paltry politicians in Washington and Baghdad who squabble for precedence while lifeblood is spent and spilled by young people whose boots they are not fit to clean. It upsets and angers me more than I can safely say, when I reread Mark’s letters and poems and see that—as of course he would—he was magically able to find the noble element in all this, and take more comfort and inspiration from a few plain sentences uttered by a Kurdish man than from all the vapid speeches ever given. Orwell had the same experience when encountering a young volunteer in Barcelona, and realizing with a mixture of sadness and shock that for this kid all the tired old slogans about liberty and justice were actually real. He cursed his own cynicism and disillusionment when he wrote:
*For the fly-blown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing what I had learned
Out of books and slowly.*
However, after a few more verses about the lying and cruelty and stupidity that accompany war, he was still able to do justice to the young man:
*But the thing I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.*

May it be so, then, and may death be not proud to have taken Mark Daily, whom I never knew but whom you now know, and—I hope—miss.

Qatar crisis will Trump sell out democracy in the old realist style?

Some people have pointed out that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is central to the cultural and political ‘swamp’ that delivers terrorists to Macron led France and the rest of us westerners.   Is the KSA still run by Assad type mass murdering tyrants in the making?   It is true they are the born to rule rats that own the KSA but no doubt they occasionally worry about when their Saudi Nasser will emerge and dispose of them.  After all they know there used to be a Shah in Iran and a King in Iraq and Egypt.  They keep their military strong but perhaps not to strong.  They are similar to the Syrian and the military thugs of Egypt in their hatred of democracy and a free press.  They have fallen out over Syria because of the sectarian divide.  But they have always done business in the past.  With Egyptian support they are making war in Yemen and bringing on a mass murder from starvation there as a result.

Not much has been said at Strangetimes about this war but it has reached catastrophe levels lately and is regularly in the MSM.  Clearly it’s part of the sectarian region wide war and the great Islamic divide.  There is no analysis that I am aware of -nothing any left can be proud of- that people have brought to my attention over these last few years. NADA.  I, having kept focused mostly on Syria, know little about it. But I wonder if Yemen is now going to drag in the West.

The rulers of the KSA regularly kill their political opponents and are none to keen on a western style free press.  Half their own country is in effect enemy territory with a sullen oppressed Shia population that this leadership in Wahhabi style hate.  Brutal in that Wahhabi tradition, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali points out they are very much Daesh style in killing those in their way, right down to the public head lopping.

These born to rule rats, started demanding that democracy in Qatar be wound back in the manner that the Egyptians have and that the Turks have resisted!   Together with the UAE born to rule and their propped up Sunni rulers of Shia in Bahrain they sprung a crisis on the US over Qatar. Trump may have wanted to go the way of the old realists that he so admires but the Turks under Erdogan stepped in as the regional leaders of the democratic changes and said NO.

Consider the list of actionable demands that the US forced the KSA led anti democrats to deliver.  The 13 demands in full.

1  Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.

2  Sever all ties to “terrorist organisations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.

3  Shut down al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.

4  Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.

5  Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.

6  Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.

7  Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.

8  End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.

9  Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.

10  Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.

11  Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.

12  Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.

13  Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.

So the military coup leaders from Egypt and the born to rule reactionaries of the KSA are demanding that the Muslim Brotherhood types be sold out.  Well most of this is what Trump would either want or think ‘he’ could live with; but this is not good for the big picture of draining any regional swamp and that much is clear.  The Turks stepped in.

The peoples of the gulf are all no doubt siding with Qatar because they are mostly Shia people that hate their KSA overlords like in Bahrain where the US led by Obama  let the Arab spring be crushed by the KSA army rolling in and keeping the people in their place.

Importantly both Turkey and Iran are going to back Qatar so the ‘parting of the ways’ is next.

The people of Kuwait are going to side with the country of Qatar but I wonder what the rulers of Kuwait will do in the longer run?

The Shia led government of Iraq is going to back Qatar -if Qatar at least does more over Al Qaeda and other Sunni terrorists and that will be required by everyone so they will IMV make a big show of stepping up over this issue.

Democracy is the solution and that now requires Muslim Brotherhood type Islamist governments like Turkey and what was previously won or almost won in Egypt.

The new leader of the KSA is quite obviously ‘modernising’ and at a rapid rate but he has a big job ahead.    What ever he does the swamp is not going to remain static and the blatant oppression of the Shia peoples is central.  BUT the big fly in all this is still Syria where the HIRISE dominated by the ‘Shia’ are the big problem led and protected from the West by Russia.

The West has now clearly had a gut full of Russia so more complex revolution is on the way.

 

What will the Western cow do?

Assad’s troops are – one year on from the ineffective Trump cruise missile attacks – again using chemical warfare and consequently bringing on some form of western attack. What will it be?  Well we can guess that it will be more effective because the last attack was not meant to be effective and Trump has been insulted when he was talking about going home!

So IMV

  1. Trump has no choice other than to do something more this time.

The HIRISE cow was obviously not interesting in stopping Assad’s mob from doing this kind of attack and we ought to assume that the main players rather than attempt to block it, accept this latest build up of chemical actions (there had been a steady build up over a few smaller attacks) as some necessary cost of doing business. After all didn’t HIRISE accept the price last year and didn’t it all blow over and they continue to make substantial gains ever since? The whole world saw that the attacks were ineffective and at least most of the world have been able to admit that the counter revolutionary HIRISE cow has made those gains in the intervening period.

The Assad policy of building rubblestan and sending refugees north in the tens of thousands are the policies that have been there all along.  HIRISE has enabled that war to continue. The territory opportunistically re-controlled in the last year -as Daesh was destroyed by the US led cow – absolutely against the will of that western cow – has been substantial and the control manpower has been found and the ‘ethnic’ clearing systematic in some areas but not along the Euphrates.  Sufficient HIRISE troops to hold the current footprint that they have established ARE on the ground provided they don’t go up against a Western US led cow.  The HIRISE are weakest along the Euphrates and ought never have been permitted to occupy this territory in the first place.  But Trump was not then interested in the punch up that he has now become interested in.

2. Now even just because of the explicit Russian threat there will be more than just cruise missiles and the attacks will unfold over some time rather than the short sharp and useless stunt of last year.  I also note that even more A10’s were the other day sent to Incirlik and McCain is clear  https://www.nbcnews.com/video/mccain-calls-for-us-airpower-in-syria-43835971887 but that was 6 years ago.

3. The longer this goes on and the closer to their so called ‘vital interests’ this is seen to come the more sure we can be that the Russians will either shoot something down or hit some launch site or it will be humiliated as unable to stand up to the US/West.  Obviously it is therefore now in a lose, lose situation so how will it choose to lose least is the question that Trumps advisor’s must consider? There is no good option.

The context of all this is that Putin’s audacity has continued to the point where the West has even had a chemical attack carried out in Britain. In order to achieve what? was the question that people were pondering before they apparently shrugged and moved on.  (North Korea’s dictator carried out a spectacular poisoning against a 1/2 brother and got away with it.) Trump recently indicated the US led cow had done the job and he was wanting to go home! That was not a possible choice at this stage so we can ask why, but because it is Trump it becomes imponderable.  The point is this problem of Vlad and his HIRISE mates is worse now than last year and it was bad then.

4. It follows that the world is now caught in a spiral where nobody planned to be.  The West led by Trump is going to strike – that is for sure – and if the Russians hit back directly the US will escalate.  It would therefore be better for the US/West to attack the other members of the HIRISE cow and hope the Russians don’t get silly or that if they do they fail on every occasion.  I can hope but can’t see how they will.

I conclude that in the McCain context of a fightback position being adopted by the Donald something like the opportunity to drive the enemy back across the Euphrates where the US killed a couple of hundred Russian ‘contractors’ recently and thus start the attacks on the Iranians must be a big temptation.

 

Russian plane shot down; good thing or bad?

It’s now 2 years and 5 months down the killing tracks launched by Vlad the honest.  Arthur recently said; ‘I still expect a negotiated transition from the Assad regime, facilitated by Russia and Iran.’ and Barry pressed the like button.  David has remained mute while posting on safe ground.  None have attempted to complete the 1/2 theory.

If any of these three are still claiming that the Russian bombers are in Syria to bring the war to an end – with a plan of ending the Assad regime – bringing about elections and thus the democratic opposition to power in all of Syria, then there is no hope for any useful debate.   Naturally Arthur has not produced any MSM articles, trumpeting this now self evidently wrong insight. Instead there has been an ongoing refusal to debate and systematically concede any points to others who had worked on StrangeTimes as a collective blog.  The charge of wrecker is irrefutable.

No the Russians didn’t turn up to do what Arthur thought.  The 1/2 theory was only ever a half theory leading nowhere, a dead end. And, no, this is not just a matter of timing! Russians turning up has been an unmitigated disaster for the Syrian democratic revolution.

Arthur further said; ‘As far as I can make out the opposition does not view itself as defeated and reports that it has been are from the same media that goes on about “the Russia thing” in the US.’  The correct reply to this is so what?  That has nothing to do with the views expressed against the 1/2 theory on this site by me.  This site got very active trying to work out what was going on in September 2015 when the Russians turned up and Arthur took a position that was measurable and was disputed and then was systematically argued against.  I told you at the time that the Russians were there to kill the side that I was backing and they did and are.  I also told you that Putin was not doing something brilliant but rather the opposite.  The democratic revolution has been set back but not defeated.

Arthur went on to say ‘…Certainly I was not expecting those gains and it confirms my complete inability to get a handle on timescales….’   and I say; the expedient of not having a meaningful time line for any events at all is simply a device to ensure he would be unable to be proven wrong over anything, so naturally, Arthur clutches for this life preserver.  But all were told years ago, that Assad will be moved along as required but not in the near future.

We were also told by Arthur that ‘Obama would be able to claim success’ well that is a time-line and Obama could not make the claim now could he?

Munich style documents were waved aloft in triumph and they had time-lines, and 1/2 theorists were told point blank and at the time, that the documents would be dishonoured, and they were.

Time lines are in the picture and they only emphasise how clear the dispute is.

100’s of thousands of refugees later, all the deaths, and rubble and apparently Putin still showed up to end the regime and consequentially bring democracy!  That is really what has been and still is argued! But now it is just waffle about how Iran and Russia can’t possibly believe… and ‘6.  The territorial gains by the regime could, if they are suicidally inclined, be preparation for an ongoing war in which they hope to remain in charge. … But I see no sign that they are inclined towards suicide and no sign that they are gaining forces rather than just territory that will cost them a continued depletion of forces if they choose to keep fighting.’  Who said they would win?  Not me!  What I said was that Russians would turn the tide and kill the revolutionaries.  They did that!  Arthur thought (scoffed) that there were obviously not enough of them.  I showed where the troops would come from.   Arthur was wrong because there was enough of them!  I expected their bloody gains but Arthur didn’t.

We can already see that when a political solution does show up the half theory will be able to lay claim to it.  There you go I told you so will be the claim!  HIRI(S)E turned up to end the regime (S) and bring about a political solution and that will require elections.  But what you were told was that enclaves were going to be cut out and Syria not put back together (at least in any near future).

The current maps do reflect a great deal of reality.  They even show in great detail just how the process unfolds.

People are also still deluding themselves that the self obsessed wrecking conduct was acceptable behaviour in dealing with someone (me) who not only disagrees, but apparently, writes far too much about why they disagree. Perhaps people might tell the world why they had to (and ought to) smash a debate by first refusing to hold it; and then complain that others won’t shut up and just read their great insights; and, or play idiotic ‘collect links’ with them, till they get bored and move on because “nothing can be done” anyway! What utter tosh!

Actually, after all the brazen scoffing people have just had to resort to silence.

Naturally nothing can be done now about any MSM article that was threatened but never delivered. All quite predictable, and predicted.  Totally unacceptable behaviour in refusing to debate a perfectly disputable 1/2 theory is all justified because the other side was too verbose.  Nothing to back-down about at all.

What else could people expect from collectors of links who just knew – from that very first month – that the Russians had turned up to end the regime and end the war.

Let us not forget the ongoing distortion that is now essential in anything to do with the Syrian 1/2 theory and justifying the recidivist, base behaviour of pathetic wrecking.

Well here is a problem for these comrades with a ML background.

The war is not ended, the maps have altered, and the FSA types have been killed in large numbers by the HIRISE, these are the material circumstances.

There is a functioning coalition of the wicked anti-democrats and they are not in Syria to bring democracy to Syrians.

I am in favour of Al Qaeda being defeated root and branch. Yet, I am in favour of, for example, the latest Russian plane being shot down.  The pilot was then involved in a shoot out on the ground and died.  This is good IMV because only the west in co-operation with Turkey can bring about a progressive occupation of Syria.

I think Erdogan is furthering the democratic struggle in uniting with the FSA, and I understand why the Turks will fight the PKK, in whatever form they appear in, until a return to a negotiated progress is under-way and that will not begin (sadly) until the Afrin issue is dealt with to the extent of the Kurds having to move east of the Euphrates. (I admit to being utterly conflicted over this issue, and instinctively wanting to side with the Kurds)

I have great sympathy for the Kurds, but I can’t deny that they have conducted themselves badly in this nth west region against the FSA etc., as they have collaborated with the Assadists.

With no expectation of reasonable conduct I repost the following as proof that a debate was reasonable at the time and that I was the one that conducted myself properly.

patrickm

1. De l’audace, may well be a motto that Putin finally turns to when it’s time to settle on a plan. We have seen him and his sort operate plenty of times before; encore de l’audace, toujours de l’audace. He is after all at the start of this bold new in your Western face action doing the audacious whatever else it is. For Marxists there are the five more ponderous constants of war in the strategic background; for supermen types there is blitzkrieg to smash democratic revolution; kill the democrats and terrorise the masses. Putin is an action man anti-democrat with a faltering economy no less. Putin is Assad’s big untrustworthy brother.

2. Obama once said “What I could not support was a dumb war, a rash war, a war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics”. So we can’t hope for audacity from this man. From him we got a self promotional book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ and for the next 470 days there is for the West, if not no hope, very little. But audacity? Well I don’t think we have to worry about any precipitate overreach from the affronted superpower for that period. “No, what’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics–the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.” BO “Right…is that the time? Shit I have a Paris climate conference to get to.”

3. Anyway the Putin plan unfolds and while the think tanks scramble to offer leadership to the Western leaders which is fair enough when even the best of them started with; “To be frank, I still don’t see any clarity in Russia’s stance on Syria”; we Australian Communist commentators can at least formally mark off the parts that have unfolded.

4. The enemy works to a broad plan to fight a new phase of this old war with his new COW. In short, regardless of the now moot if not futile think-tank search for THE Putin plan – the actual fresh troops turn up every day and go to work on their part of it, so we can tick the boxes and people can propose corrections as events move further along. This anti-democrat’s plans may not work in the long run but as Keynes said…all dead by then.

5. The urgent systematic killing by Russians of FSA types is working to that set Russian plan that sooner or later will also incorporate the ‘transitioning’ of Assad but only as, if and when required and that is very far from urgent.

6. The urgent warning-off of Turkey, the regional power capable of intervening is a part of the plan. Turkey had no choice but to threaten to shoot down any other over-flying Russians, with the clear implication that you stay to your side and we will stay to ours and we Russians will use all of the Syrian air space because we are working for the lawful Assad government!

7. Urgently making NATO NFZ war, and the establishment of safe zones a no longer viable option, by declaring all those in armed revolt against the Syrian ‘government’ terrorists – and subjecting them from day one to barrel bombing is a big part of the full plan.
http://billkerr2.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/syria-needs-no-fly-zone.html
http://billkerr2.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/how-syrians-can-return.html

8. The elimination of any fatal US red line ‘veto’ was long ago achieved by noticing that one was feebly declared then pushing it to the utter limit before, and with the all important intervention of big brother, surrendering that WMD stockpile for the US to dispose of. No choice and so it was no longer a useful stockpile by that point anyway. Thus Obama was played then and this was just an earlier phase of this same war. Current planning of this ongoing war developed with this very important background. The Russians had gotten themselves involved and had supposedly delivered to Kerry and Obama a US ‘win’. Spare us all from such wins that ought to have been an instant hot war when the line was crossed and the Russians ought to have been shown the door and the US cruise missiles smashed Assad’s airports and his command and control etc., the NFZ declared there and then with the Russians dramatically warned off as they had failed and were not a Mediterranean power anyway. Not to be. So the conclusions were that the US were not serious about fighting and that is the vital background.

9. The inclusion of Hezbollah troops – now with a considerable footprint, Iraqi Shiites, and Iran is a big part of the plan and they are in and involved in what is a region wide power play. So cruise missiles are thrown across their air space no less!

10. A deal is dangled for the Kurds that gives them what the leaders of Turkey didn’t want to see them get.

11. Whatever the US and the Europeans thought last month, this month their concern is to warn Putin that they will fight to protect Turkey’s borders only.

12. Putin wants to now get zones in Syria’s fight against Daesh terrorism. They have told the US to get out of the way.

13. They have declared war on the Western supported forces and humiliated not just the US but all of NATO and the local Sunni states.

So with all those boxes ticked the clock ticks along as well.

14. People can add to that list as the days go on but just saying this can’t be happening because Russia is not a Mediterranean power capable of doing it – and if fought it could not- is no longer very relevant.

15. The other day I thought ‘The current lot [Western political leaders] will have to wait to get told what to do about this crisis. Western leaders have no intention of leading.’ and some people are leading their analysis with what appears to me as something, something, something, ‘and exclude both Bashir and the Takfiris without chaos and slaughter in Damascus?’

IMV it is clear that Putin has built a region wide coalition to fight the other region wide gang. There is a red line.

16. I have no problem engaging in ‘suppose’ questions unlike those who imagine they really will require a quality environment to produce work in! ‘10. Then why couldn’t a second stage follow an initial regime change with some sort of Geneva style negotiations for an orderly transition to a transitional regime that excludes…’

17. Because Iraq and Syria these last few years demonstrates to the locals that a massive war is required to rid this region of what even barely democratic types in it are up against. Bashir types and the Takfiri types are very good at killing, causing terror and consequent flows of refugees. So people who have fought them over all this time by now ought to think like the allied leaders of WW2 that no amount of power sharing will work in an environment where it is so easy to slaughter Shiite peoples’ and that only unconditional surrender is viable. That is not viable without the separation that the Kurds have long enjoyed. They have been the standout success. They have, in other words policies of population separation. In the WW2 case the killing went on all the way to the bunker.

18. I agree that;
1. World politics currently does not revolve around a clash between two superpowers; however this now up and running region wide conflict is between the 2 Islamic sides that are slipping into murderous sectarian war backed by the 2 regional powers Iran on the 1 side and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the other. So Putin has joined on the one side. He joins as more than just a CEO leading a former superpower. Russia and him personally has a massive history of dealing with Islamic issues and currently he has public support for his brand of De l’audace, so he will try to sustain that support by reminding people of Beslan school type of reasons to deal with the swamp. The Daesh side is providing plenty of Nazi like conduct to remind people of ‘why they fight’. Putin I think also believes in a swamp theory, but ultimately his solution is the same as the Egyptian ‘solution’ just a form of rotten ‘realism’. No solution at all really just gangsterism that might be self-talked by both these mere mortals into a case of best they be leading ‘benevolent’ dictatorships.

19. With all Putin’s problems, Russians no doubt have a dogged nature, so he can for now and for some time formulate this grand move as an unavoidable effort to deal with the worst of the worst. And on the other side…well let us just say a big COW are attacking Daesh from the air without follow up ground forces, while the revolting Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) strikes out in all directions (Yemen) and has a deep state structure where support for Daesh and all round Sunni supremacy is not able to be prevented. Thus Putin plays as a special player on the new team rather than throws Russian weight around as if this were one superpower v another. Obama plays on the other team thus ensuring Daesh can’t form heavy columns and the Russians are in sufficient strength to turn on any big Saudi effort that might get sent North in due course. Putin believes he has some time to establish the best solution map and that other players particularly Turkey are going to be distracted by their own problems while he does so. Also Israel keeps dividing the other team’s effectiveness and Putin has no such Albatross. Putin has a realistic goal with his team and it includes moving Assad along when and as that is required. I along with most of the world think it will be required but not right now. Keeping a client or vassal type state going, with the core being the Alawite people of the former Syria in as big a chunk as is realistic, is I believe seen to be viable. The breaking of eggs bit is dumping millions of refugees for resettlement. The region is renowned for this but actually it is a major issue from the history of Putin’s region as well.

20. Just because ‘Russia was not a Mediterranean Great Power at all and “Moscow simply cannot deploy the kind of forces to Syria that could meaningfully change the arithmetic of the war and save the regime.” He can ONLY come and play on the side that requires his special talents as a kind of defensive full back. High speed counter attacks are launched by the fullback, momentum and audacity could be his calculation.

21. I also think ‘Putin is not an imbecile and knows that.’ So, he has a team view and an assessment of the other team as in disarray with his conclusion being disunity is death for them. Now not surprisingly some people who don’t play in teams haven’t got a clue and constantly play the role of wrecker. This Putin fellow is nothing but an ‘Us and Them’ type captain blood.

22. As for Obama the clock is now 470 days and his policies having in fact made the whole situation catastrophically worse than it needed to be, he will thus not have a chance to undo this and ever look successful even to his supporters. Despite having avoided more US blood and treasure in Middle East wars. Clinton will try to clean up the mess. But IMV the American prestige will not return to any great extent and the only thing that can do prestige building is a return to the revolutionary path of America, and no bourgeois leadership has the vigor for that unavoidable people’s struggle for democracy. The US will remain on the side of the angels but the greatest gift they could manage was to STOP being the swamp making blockage. The unblocking of tyranny is hard work for the revolutionary masses in the region. They are faced with a vast war that is terrible to contemplate, yet obvious to the ME masses who are seething with hatred. The US superpower status is now gone and is not coming back. The revolution must go on without being led by US ground forces.

23. yes ‘There are people within the Assad regime who believe they cannot win and face death if they don’t end the war.’ and they have had their spirits lifted from the depths of this depression for now. How long their mood stays up will depend on progress on the ground as the reserves turn up and reverse the battlefield direction. But ultimately if not enough reserves turn up and not enough of their FSA type enemies are killed, and not enough of the demographic problem that they have are driven off as refugees then that mood will return. So I guess lots of killing and Shiite troops and refugees in all directions are proposed by captain blood.

24. I accept ‘The Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah and the US, not being imbeciles also think that the Assad regime cannot win.’ So, they are probably all impressed that he has slaughtered his way into this almost holding pattern that has perhaps with a little more big power help, could perhaps establish another monstrosity that would have the Netanyahu type feel about it. If the Israeli forces can do this type of thing… I think that is delusion, as the world has changed and this is second time as farce, but I am not them and there is this region wide split that is at war anyway so they might feel something can be done about a Shiite crescent better placed to fight the Sunnis till a regional solution is eventually found after this required test of strength.

25. Assad did not draw the correct lessons from Libya, nor the whole issue of the Arab spring and just retire for a peaceful good life. That choice was, at the time, available to him and is not now. Who knows what will become of him.

26. Putin and the Ayatollahs still want to come out being winners ‘despite having been responsible for supporting a totally failed catastrophic policy’

27. It is to me extraordinary that there are STILL people in the West who believe in allying with the Assad regime, but I guess they are now very few and the vast majority of people believe that he must go and therefore can accept anything that is presented as him going. The people that count in policy making circles all know he must go. Thus all the transitioning out talk. But the Iraqi leadership after long and painful experience, and Kurds in Syria, and most leaders in Iran and even Vlad the audacious wants new maps. So despite the contradictions and conflicting interests Baathist Assad ended up being semi supported by the Iraqi Shiites and hence the new deep state gangster elite that runs big chunks of that divided country where the Iranian’s back all manner of functioning militia.

28. “And it’s safe to assume that those in power would think longer and harder about launching a war if they envisioned their own sons and daughters in harm’s way.” BO I think a bit like Obama in that Putin struck because of his central insight that leadership was MIA and the liberals that he did face now had become complacent and bureaucratic with US Democratic policy makers more obsessed with not fighting wars and playing with drones and the killing of individuals like Bin Laden. Obama wrote “The conservative revolution that Reagan helped usher in gained traction because Reagan’s central insight – that the liberal welfare state had grown complacent and overly bureaucratic, with Democratic policy makers more obsessed with slicing the economic pie than with growing the pie – contained a good deal of truth.”

We are all cruise missile something or others now even just for the theater! But the important thing is those Russian helicopters are now at work as the ground assault is rolling against our ‘FSA’ types!

 

Arthur

Ok I appreciate that you are now at least attempting to respond to points I have made so it could be productive to engage. Unfortunately I simply don’t have time due to other factors and will still just try to produce a coherent publishable article (which I also don’t have time to do) and still not engage other than indirectly through series of links, notes, and drafts working towards publishable articles not directly engaging with this stuff.

END

Well IMV, not engaging with “this stuff”, has proved to be not so good for Arthur and the half theory supporters!

What now?

What do Marxists make of current developments in and around Syria?

Since direct Russian intervention in Syria was sprung on the world in 2015, sufficient events have unfolded to permit a general stock-take. There has been 15 months of very ‘strange times’ so where do the issues currently stand?

I presume a rethink of what I called the 1/2 theory – is self evidently required because Obama is departing his leadership role without any ability to claim success for his policies (even being publicly blamed by Kerry for being the real problem for why the US finds itself where it currently does) and short of a lucky bomber Assad will still be around!

Turkey has just declared that they are about to force the Kurds out of the (‘SDF’ Manbij pocket) http://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2016/24-december-pres-erdoan-says-al-bab-phase-about-to-be-completed

Pres. Erdoğan says Al Bab phase about to be completed in Syria, next step will be Manbij and then Raqqa. More than just send Kurds east of the Euphrates I think, because the Turks are also declaring that no new state will be permitted in northern Syria http://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2016/24-december-erdogan-no-ways-to-establish-any-new-states-in;  and that after Manbij they are going to Raqqah.

http://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2016/24-december-sdf-released-many-civilians-in-manbij-sdf-arrested,  is being reported.
http://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2016/24-december-erdogan-i-informed-the-us-russia-and-iran-that

The coming period will however see more than just the liberation of all territories in both Iraq and Syria controlled by Daesh. Complexity is being heaped upon more complexity and a wider war is still not unthinkable.

The September 2015 intervention required urgent analysis from those of us that have developed and argued consistently for our ‘draining the swamp theory’. It was analysed – and with very different conclusions drawn.

That period of flat out disagreement can now be summed up. Barry, Dave and Arthur thought that what was unfolding would end the regime and end the war. That theory collapsed in the face of what I have called the HIRISE Coalition of the Willing – Hezbollah, Iran, Russia, Iraq (shia militia), Syria (Assad +), Egypt – war making.  What next?  What do people now say is happening? Are there any sites where a serious and respectful discussion is taking place? Are there any Main Stream Media (MSM) articles that others want to draw attention to?

Just for starters; if the Turks are soon going to Raqqa how are they going to get there?  Literally what will be the route of the Turkish forces if they have come to blows with the SDF/Kurds in the Manbij pocket?  I hope the Kurds back out of this but it’s not very promising at this point.  I think the Turks are already facing a HIRISE red line west of the Euphrates. I hope the US can get a deal done at this late stage to bring them south east of the river.  But the Turks are serious about no ‘new state’ in the nth and everyone knows Assad can’t rule in peace so after Daesh territory is removed from the map over the next few months or if the fight breaks out with the Kurds after a few months more, what comes next?

Zugzwang a review

Zugzwang

by Ronan Bennett 2007
Bloomsbury

Zugzwang

Set around the great chess tournament held in St.Petersburg, in April/May 1914 (annotated) where the winner was to become endowed as the first chess Grand Master by the Tsar,Bennett takes the reader on a journey through plots within plots, revolution and chess. A thrilling, novel novel as a game is played throughout the story that challenges the reader to play along. (I skipped that but it will intrigue players I’ve no doubt) Bennett states of the main character, Rozental, “chess enthusiasts will have their opinion on the identity of the man on whom they think it is based.” The game played when the characters have time to play it is the Spethmann-Kopelzon game, (not the championship game) which it is said “bears a remarkable similarity” to King-A.Sokolov, the Swiss team Championship played in 2000.

Spethgame

I am not giving anything away the cover does not, to say “zugzwang is a chess term derived from the German, Zug (move) and Zwang (compulsion,obligation). It is used to describe a position in which a player is reduced to a state of utter helplessness. he is obliged to move, but every move only makes his position even worse.” I have never heard of this concept before but it strikes me that there is a lot in the way of general explanation of world events that can be understood through applying this idea. Hence this review.

Add a touch of spice, a psychoanalyst, (Otto Spethmann) and a few Anna K’s, police, spies, double agents and concert pianists (Kopelzon) and you have as the cover says, “A riveting story of treachery,murder,intrigue and passion” in a mere 274 pages and with an excellent Biblio of political background of late Tsarist Russia. Such big characters and ideas in succinct style. It is not surprising to learn Bennett is a regular chess journalist for the Guardian.
Bennett states in Acknowledgements that “Similarities may also be observed between Zugzang’s Gregory Petrov and the real-life Bolshevik militant Roman Malinowski.”

A can’t put down and informative read. Enjoy it from the bargain tables as I did.
Other reviews

A Path Out of the Middle East Collapse

We have been asked to put this up for critical discussion.  We are in no sense promoting a criminal like Kissinger.

 

With Russia in Syria, a geopolitical structure that lasted four decades is in shambles. The U.S. needs a new strategy and priorities.

By  Henry A. Kissinger  Oct. 16, 2015 7:18 p.m. ET

The debate about whether the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran regarding its nuclear program stabilized the Middle East’s strategic framework had barely begun when the region’s geopolitical framework collapsed. Russia’s unilateral military action in Syria is the latest symptom of the disintegration of the American role in stabilizing the Middle East order that emerged from the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.

In the aftermath of that conflict, Egypt abandoned its military ties with the Soviet Union and joined an American-backed negotiating process that produced peace treaties between Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan, a United Nations-supervised disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria, which has been observed for over four decades (even by the parties of the Syrian civil war), and international support of Lebanon’s sovereign territorial integrity. Later, Saddam Hussein’s war to incorporate Kuwait into Iraq was defeated by an international coalition under U.S. leadership. American forces led the war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States were our allies in all these efforts. The Russian military presence disappeared from the region.

That geopolitical pattern is now in shambles. Four states in the region have ceased to function as sovereign. Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq have become targets for nonstate movements seeking to impose their rule. Over large swaths in Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army has declared itself the Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL) as an unrelenting foe of established world order. It seeks to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a caliphate, a single Islamic empire governed by Shariah law.

ISIS’ claim has given the millennium-old split between the Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam an apocalyptic dimension. The remaining Sunni states feel threatened by both the religious fervor of ISIS as well as by Shiite Iran, potentially the most powerful state in the region. Iran compounds its menace by presenting itself in a dual capacity. On one level, Iran acts as a legitimate Westphalian state conducting traditional diplomacy, even invoking the safeguards of the international system. At the same time, it organizes and guides nonstate actors seeking regional hegemony based on jihadist principles: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria; Hamas in Gaza; the Houthis in Yemen.

Thus the Sunni Middle East risks engulfment by four concurrent sources: Shiite-governed Iran and its legacy of Persian imperialism; ideologically and religiously radical movements striving to overthrow prevalent political structures; conflicts within each state between ethnic and religious groups arbitrarily assembled after World War I into (now collapsing) states; and domestic pressures stemming from detrimental political, social and economic domestic policies.

The fate of Syria provides a vivid illustration: What started as a Sunni revolt against the Alawite (a Shiite offshoot) autocrat Bashar Assad fractured the state into its component religious and ethnic groups, with nonstate militias supporting each warring party, and outside powers pursuing their own strategic interests. Iran supports the Assad regime as the linchpin of an Iranian historic dominance stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean. The Gulf States insist on the overthrow of Mr. Assad to thwart Shiite Iranian designs, which they fear more than Islamic State. They seek the defeat of ISIS while avoiding an Iranian victory. This ambivalence has been deepened by the nuclear deal, which in the Sunni Middle East is widely interpreted as tacit American acquiescence in Iranian hegemony.

These conflicting trends, compounded by America’s retreat from the region, have enabled Russia to engage in military operations deep in the Middle East, a deployment unprecedented in Russian history. Russia’s principal concern is that the Assad regime’s collapse could reproduce the chaos of Libya, bring ISIS into power in Damascus, and turn all of Syria into a haven for terrorist operations, reaching into Muslim regions inside Russia’s southern border in the Caucasus and elsewhere.

On the surface, Russia’s intervention serves Iran’s policy of sustaining the Shiite element in Syria. In a deeper sense, Russia’s purposes do not require the indefinite continuation of Mr. Assad’s rule. It is a classic balance-of-power maneuver to divert the Sunni Muslim terrorist threat from Russia’s southern border region. It is a geopolitical, not an ideological, challenge and should be dealt with on that level. Whatever the motivation, Russian forces in the region—and their participation in combat operations—produce a challenge that American Middle East policy has not encountered in at least four decades.

American policy has sought to straddle the motivations of all parties and is therefore on the verge of losing the ability to shape events. The U.S. is now opposed to, or at odds in some way or another with, all parties in the region: with Egypt on human rights; with Saudi Arabia over Yemen; with each of the Syrian parties over different objectives. The U.S. proclaims the determination to remove Mr. Assad but has been unwilling to generate effective leverage—political or military—to achieve that aim. Nor has the U.S. put forward an alternative political structure to replace Mr. Assad should his departure somehow be realized.

Russia, Iran, ISIS and various terrorist organizations have moved into this vacuum: Russia and Iran to sustain Mr. Assad; Tehran to foster imperial and jihadist designs. The Sunni states of the Persian Gulf, Jordan and Egypt, faced with the absence of an alternative political structure, favor the American objective but fear the consequence of turning Syria into another Libya.

American policy on Iran has moved to the center of its Middle East policy. The administration has insisted that it will take a stand against jihadist and imperialist designs by Iran and that it will deal sternly with violations of the nuclear agreement. But it seems also passionately committed to the quest for bringing about a reversal of the hostile, aggressive dimension of Iranian policy through historic evolution bolstered by negotiation.

The prevailing U.S. policy toward Iran is often compared by its advocates to the Nixon administration’s opening to China, which contributed, despite some domestic opposition, to the ultimate transformation of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The comparison is not apt. The opening to China in 1971 was based on the mutual recognition by both parties that the prevention of Russian hegemony in Eurasia was in their common interest. And 42 Soviet divisions lining the Sino-Soviet border reinforced that conviction. No comparable strategic agreement exists between Washington and Tehran. On the contrary, in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear accord, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and rejected negotiations with America about nonnuclear matters. Completing his geopolitical diagnosis, Mr. Khamenei also predicted that Israel would no longer exist in 25 years.

Forty-five years ago, the expectations of China and the U.S. were symmetrical. The expectations underlying the nuclear agreement with Iran are not. Tehran will gain its principal objectives at the beginning of the implementation of the accord. America’s benefits reside in a promise of Iranian conduct over a period of time. The opening to China was based on an immediate and observable adjustment in Chinese policy, not on an expectation of a fundamental change in China’s domestic system. The optimistic hypothesis on Iran postulates that Tehran’s revolutionary fervor will dissipate as its economic and cultural interactions with the outside world increase.

American policy runs the risk of feeding suspicion rather than abating it. Its challenge is that two rigid and apocalyptic blocs are confronting each other: a Sunni bloc consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; and the Shiite bloc comprising Iran, the Shiite sector of Iraq with Baghdad as its capital, the Shiite south of Lebanon under Hezbollah control facing Israel, and the Houthi portion of Yemen, completing the encirclement of the Sunni world. In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be treated as your friend no longer applies. For in the contemporary Middle East, it is likely that the enemy of your enemy remains your enemy.

A great deal depends on how the parties interpret recent events. Can the disillusionment of some of our Sunni allies be mitigated? How will Iran’s leaders interpret the nuclear accord once implemented—as a near-escape from potential disaster counseling a more moderate course, returning Iran to an international order? Or as a victory in which they have achieved their essential aims against the opposition of the U.N. Security Council, having ignored American threats and, hence, as an incentive to continue Tehran’s dual approach as both a legitimate state and a nonstate movement challenging the international order?

Two-power systems are prone to confrontation, as was demonstrated in Europe in the run-up to World War I. Even with traditional weapons technology, to sustain a balance of power between two rigid blocs requires an extraordinary ability to assess the real and potential balance of forces, to understand the accumulation of nuances that might affect this balance, and to act decisively to restore it whenever it deviates from equilibrium—qualities not heretofore demanded of an America sheltered behind two great oceans.

But the current crisis is taking place in a world of nontraditional nuclear and cyber technology. As competing regional powers strive for comparable threshold capacity, the nonproliferation regime in the Middle East may crumble. If nuclear weapons become established, a catastrophic outcome is nearly inevitable. A strategy of pre-emption is inherent in the nuclear technology. The U.S. must be determined to prevent such an outcome and apply the principle of nonproliferation to all nuclear aspirants in the region.

Too much of our public debate deals with tactical expedients. What we need is a strategic concept and to establish priorities on the following principles:

  • So long as ISIS survives and remains in control of a geographically defined territory, it will compound all Middle East tensions. Threatening all sides and projecting its goals beyond the region, it freezes existing positions or tempts outside efforts to achieve imperial jihadist designs. The destruction of ISIS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad, who has already lost over half of the area he once controlled. Making sure that this territory does not become a permanent terrorist haven must have precedence. The current inconclusive U.S. military effort risks serving as a recruitment vehicle for ISIS as having stood up to American might.
  • The U.S. has already acquiesced in a Russian military role. Painful as this is to the architects of the 1973 system, attention in the Middle East must remain focused on essentials. And there exist compatible objectives. In a choice among strategies, it is preferable for ISIS-held territory to be reconquered either by moderate Sunni forces or outside powers than by Iranian jihadist or imperial forces. For Russia, limiting its military role to the anti-ISIS campaign may avoid a return to Cold War conditions with the U.S.
  • The reconquered territories should be restored to the local Sunni rule that existed there before the disintegration of both Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty. The sovereign states of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Egypt and Jordan, should play a principal role in that evolution. After the resolution of its constitutional crisis, Turkey could contribute creatively to such a process.
  • As the terrorist region is being dismantled and brought under nonradical political control, the future of the Syrian state should be dealt with concurrently. A federal structure could then be built between the Alawite and Sunni portions. If the Alawite regions become part of a Syrian federal system, a context will exist for the role of Mr. Assad, which reduces the risks of genocide or chaos leading to terrorist triumph.
  • The U.S. role in such a Middle East would be to implement the military assurances in the traditional Sunni states that the administration promised during the debate on the Iranian nuclear agreement, and which its critics have demanded.
  • In this context, Iran’s role can be critical. The U.S. should be prepared for a dialogue with an Iran returning to its role as a Westphalian state within its established borders.

The U.S. must decide for itself the role it will play in the 21st century; the Middle East will be our most immediate—and perhaps most severe—test. At question is not the strength of American arms but rather American resolve in understanding and mastering a new world.

Mr. Kissinger served as national-security adviser and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

http://www.wsj.com/article_email/a-path-out-of-the-middle-east-collapse-1445037513-lMyQjAxMTI1MjE2NzIxMDcwWj

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/wall-street-journal/us-needs-new-plan-for-middle-east/story-fnay3ubk-1227573426194

The general commander of People’s Defense Units (YPG) in an interview with SOHR, “We view al- Hasakah as a nucleus of the new democratic Syria

From the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)
October 1 2015
For those on Face Book the SOHR has a regular update on clashes and casualties etc..

“Daesh is a force of darkness, it bears no relation to Islam and the humanity, and we appeal to our Arab brothers, who left their villages and towns, to go back home”.

“The war may continue for ten years; it is the nations’ game on my the land of my country, where the victim in this war is my people”.

In these words, Siban Hammo the general commander of People’s Defense Units (YPG) concluded his interview with SOHR.

People’s Defense Units, known by YPG too, established a military force in the last four years, where the number of its fighters reached to 50000. The nucleus formation began in the Syrian Jaziar with the end of 2011, where it was able to achieve victories against “Islamic State” as well as its clashes with the regime forces, Jabhat al- Nusra (al- Qaeda in Levant) and Islamist factions in successive periods. It military formations have distributed in three main region where the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is combined with People’s Defense Units (YPG) within the Democratic Society System, declared the establishment of 3 districts of al- Jazira, Efrin and Kobani in the late January 2014.

YPG has gained world-wide fame during IS attack on Ayn al- Arab (Kobani) and seizing more than 356 towns, villages and farms that guided to the military alliance between YPG and US-led coalition. SOHR could interview the general commander of YPG Siban Hammo, where the main points on the Kurdish and Syrian arena in general.

First of all, how do identify YPG?

“best definition of it is its name People’s Defense Units, its fundamental pillar is the young Syrian Kurdish men who are militarily disciplined, while its mission is to protect the people in Rojava in all its constituents under these deadly mess in the cantons of Rojava”. Rojava is an expression for the regions inhabited mostly by Kurdish people in Syria.

Is it faction from the Krilla forces – the military wing of PKK? And does it fight on Turkish territories with PKK?

“YPG is a military force belongs to the Democratic Self- Management in Rojava, and it is fighting in fierce battles to protect its regions, so YPG has no interest to open a front with Turkey expanding to hundreds of kilo meters, this is a military suicide, and what is said on the contrary of this is meaningless and does not merit a response.

What is your response to the accusations of recruiting children?

“We have issued a lot of statement in response to these allegations but it seems that some people insist on repeating this just to defame the good reputation gained by YPG, we all know who recruit children as fighters and suicide bombers by the name of Jihad.”

What is the relationship between the Self- Defense Forces, which was announced some time ago, and YPG? Is it an attempt to increase YPG personnel obligatorily? And is it a permanent or temporary step?

“The Self- Defense is a step to organize a permanent protection, where the society in all its constituents protects its self, and to that time YPG stays the most experienced in defending our areas. For this reason, the Self- Defense is a goal we seek to reach to, and its first step was YPG.”

Now, let talk about the hottest event, what is the story behind the last clashes in al- Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo?

“To answer this question, we have to see the whole picture, provocations have started by attacking our areas in the villages of Deir Ballout and Diwan as well as kidnapping civilians and banditry; the last one was the attempt of arm-twisting by their attack on the neighborhood of al- Sheikh Maqsoud believing that it is the weakest link because it is far from the center of gravity Efrin and due to the difficulties of ensuring logistic support, as the neighborhood besieged for more than a week and the humanitarian situation there is so bad specially because the neighborhood is inhabited by more than 250000 civilians from all society constituents.

We also draw attention to the point that the national members in the opposition were disturbed about this attack on the neighborhood of al- Sheikh Maqsoud, I, in turn, wondered and would you like you to wonder like me, who benefit from this attack? And who benefit from opening a front against the kurds? What is the advantages?

“Simply, Jabhat al- Nusra, al- Soltan Morad Brigade and Ahrar al- Sham Movement are agents for another force in fighting Kurds, and this force or the third-party gave them the orders to open this front.”

What is the prospect of the battle in Aleppo, is it a defensive or offensive measure?

“From our side, the battle is defensive, we respond to the sources of fire and protect the outskirt of the neighborhood. But if the same situation continue surely we are going take more stringent measures, and we are going to change the battle into the offensive position, I do not say that we are going to control more areas but I assure that we are going to hurt them and targeting their held areas.”

Do you think that Ahrar al- Sham, Jabhat al- Nusra, al- Zinki and other factions may alley themselves to attack Efrin?

“Jabhat al- Nusra believe in Bay’ah (in Islamic terminology, is an oath of allegiance to a leader) and does not believe in alliances simply because it does not believe in partnership, it endeavors to control all the factions exist in its-held areas whether by force or enticement by lining the pockets.

In addition, it is practically controls Nour al- Din Zinki Movement, part of al- Shamiyyah Front like al- Sham Legion and even with Soqor al- Jabal battalions supported by US. However, anyone refuses to join Jabhat al- Nusra is going to be assassinated as what happened to Hazem Movement, the Syrian revolutionaries Front and the Division Jabhat al- Nusra is unveiling the reality of its method that is assassination or control, and after that it will mobilize against Efrin. Here, I want to add something, it saddened us that there are some people in the Free Syrian Army who do not differ from Jabhat al- Nusra in their actions.”

Is the truce in Kefrayya and al- Fu’ah in the countryside of Idlib will have negative effect on Efrin particularly on Atmah and Jandirs front?

“We do not count very much on this agreement as it is a periodical and tactical one, we hope to be a success to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of civilians, women and children on both sides. However, as realistic reading, we do not expect it to be a success especially after a lot of breaches occurred in the past 2 days. Concerning Jabhat al- Nusra, we are enemies and what made the situation getting worse is the declarations issued by it several times that when they finish fighting in al- Fu’ah they are going to attack Efrin. Regardless al- Zabadani – al- Fu’ah agreement, the war between us has been declared for a time sometimes directly and sometime indirectly.”

How do you evaluate the current the situation in al- Hasakah, and what is your goal in the area?

“From the military aspect, the situation from al- Hasakah to Kobani is a defensive one. So, after expelling Daesh from al- Hasakah, Kobani and Tal Abyad our units are deployed defensively to repel any possible attack carried by IS militants.

“We view al- Hasakah as a nucleus of the new democratic Syria. For this reason, we are working on establishing joint councils includes Kurds, Arabs and Syriacs, and on increasing the communication among all constituents. So, the success of our project in al- Hasakah is the motivation to fine similar solution that could be applied on the whole Syria where Syria will be free and democratic for all people.

What about the ongoing military actions in the countryside of Ayn al- Arab (Kobani)?

“The military operation in the countryside of Kobani is under the military operation room of Burkan al- Forat that includes YPG and some factions of the Free Army, so this operation is going to continue until we reach al- Raqqa and expel Daesh from it. YPG is committed to providing all kinds of support to the factions of the Free Army affiliated to the military operation room of Burkan al- Forat in order to defeat Daesh and retake al- Raqqa.”

Were you going to achieve these glory victories in Ayna al- Arab (Kobani) without US-led coalition support?

“To be realistic, we cannot deny the role offered by US-led coalition in Koabani battle but frankly speaking, I confirm that the legendary resistance and courage of our fighters as well as their ability to scarify their blood were behind these victories. So, US-led coalition had an important role but it is not the basic one.

Under these victories, there are some parties accuse you of seeking to secede from Syria in order to establish a Kurdish entity.

“These are false accusations, the Turkish government underlies them where it tries to portray any Kurdish strife as if it is a secessionist movement. Rather, those who repeat these accusations should communicate with us and see our project, then they will discover that our main project for Syria is establishing a pluralist parliamentary democratic system, and that it is Syrian project par excellence for all the constituents of Syrian people. It is the real guarantee for the unity of Syria, so stop repeating Erdogan speech like parrots. I would like also to ask them, is the stay of Daesh in Jarablos and the countryside of Aleppo is a guarantee for the unity of Syria?!”

What is your response about that YPG displaces the Arabs from their regions?

Frankly speaking, we got bored of these blatant lies and falsehoods, we issued a formal statement about that, as well as many human rights organizations have refuted these allegations. In war, it is very normal that the civilians will leave the clashing areas towards safer places, and that what happened in all the clashing areas in Syria from Horan to Qameshlo, but those who have been disturbed by our victories and tolerance and humanity turned to confuse what we have achieved. In addition, we have repeatedly launched appeals for the citizens to return to their homes, and allow me to reiterate the call from your rostrum to all citizens on order to come back to their homes.”

Too much talk about your relation with the regime especially after al- Hasakah clashes, how do you explain this relation if any?

“These accusations are the same of accusations of seeking to secede, so those who repeat such accusations have closed their minds on two ways, whether to be with me or with the regime. I said to them we the are the third line. Our revolution against injustice and tyranny has its own special way that is nor similar to anything. We are convinced of the impossibility of the military solution for the Syria crisis but it should be a cultural, intellectual and political one. Therefore, we depend on ensuring protection to the citizen who will build new democratic Syria; the peaceful Syria. We are friends of people and friends of all those who want democracy and equality.

Earlier, you held a truce with Jabhat al- Nusra and other Islamist factions, if there is any mediation are you going to hold a truce with “Islamic State”?

“Our conviction is that Daesh is a force of darkness, it bears no relation to Islam and the humanity, even it is criminal force established to destroy all what is human. In my opinion, there is no big difference between Jabhat al- Nusra and Daesh but the war with al- Nusra is a little bit complicated because there are a lot of Syrians in its ranks and because there are some parties attempting to burnish its image on media. As for the truce, there was no truce between only Jabhat al- Nusra and us but it always was with several factions and Jabhat al- Nusra was signing with them on the truce.”

Lastly, what is your vision for the realistic solution of Syria crisis?

Unfortunately, what is happening in Syria, we can call it clashes of titans; it is more like a third world war, where the major powers are fighting to divide the zones of influence in the world.”

“The solution is not in the hand of Syrian now, it is related with the contesting powers, we see it a war of change of maps, divisions, agreements and mentalities that are hundreds years old. Syria is also a conflict center and the solution of disputes will be on its land. Unfortunately, our point of view is that the war may take dozens of years, and all what the Syrian people can do is having the will and the attempt to achieve a joint project that protects them, reduce the losses and help them to promote strongly at the end of war.”

“The war will not stop in Syria but it will extend to all the Middle East and my extend more than that, and then will see a reverse migration from all countries towards Syria which will be the safest country.”

Russia back on the frontline

I have been asked to publish this for discussion.

by TOM SWITZER

The Australian

September 30, 2015 12:00AM

Since Russia’s incursion into Ukraine 18 months ago, the West has indulged in the rhetoric of moral indignation, punished Moscow with economic sanctions and treated Vladimir Putin as a pariah in world affairs. “Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters,” President Barack Obama declared in January. “That’s how America leads — not with bluster but with persistent, steady resolve.”

Somebody forgot to tell the Russian President. Putin’s address to the UN General Assembly this week, following his lightning military deployment to Syria, marks Russia’s resurgence on the global stage. The Russians, far from being marginalised in international relations, are playing a weak hand rather skilfully and are being allowed to do so because of considerable ineptitude and vacillation on the part of the Obama administration.

The upshot is that Washington will have to take the Kremlin far more seriously in the future. This is not just because Putin’s support for the embattled Assad regime will help degrade and destroy Islamic State jihadists in a four ­year civil war that has claimed nearly 250,000 lives and displaced more than nine million people. Rather, Russia’s intervention in Syria shows how rational Moscow’s concerns over Western policy in the Middle East are, and that the Obama administration had better start treating it like the great power it still is.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Moscow voluntarily jettisoned the Warsaw Pact and acquiesced in the expansion of NATO and the EU on to the frontiers of the former Soviet Union. But the limits of Russia’s post ­Cold War retreat have been evident since the Western ­backed coup against a pro-Russian ally in Kiev in February last year. Putin has played hardball to protect what Russia has deemed as its sphere of influence in the Baltics long before Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin appeared on the scene. And in the Middle East it is determined to protect what it perceives as its vital interests.

Putin fears that if Bashar al­Assad’s regime falls, Russia’s presence in western Syria and its strategic military bases on the Mediterranean will be gone. That is why he has sent tanks, warships, fighter jets and troops to bolster the regime, which has faced a troop shortage and loss of towns as it seeks to maintain Alawite rule over an overwhelming Sunni majority.

And by reaching an understanding with Syria as well as Iraq and Iran to share intelligence about Islamic State, Putin is positioning Russia again as a key player in the Middle East, and one that is more willing than the West to defeat Sunni jihadists. In the process, he has exposed the shortcomings of the White House’s policy towards Syria.

Until recently, the prevailing wisdom held that the Assad regime — the nemesis of Sunni militants was on the verge of collapse, an outcome that Washington, London and Canberra had enthusiastically encouraged for much of the past four years. And although Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop now recognise that Assad must be part of any negotiated political solution, the Obama administration continues to insist that any resolution of the conflict must lead to the exit of the dictator.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warns Russia’s continued support for Assad “risks exacerbating and extending the conflict” and will undermine “our shared goal of fighting extremism”. British Chancellor George Osborne goes so far as to say the West’s aim should to be to defeat both Assad and Islamic State. But given Washington’s futile attempts to destroy the Sunni jihadist network during the past year, most seasoned observers of the Syrian crisis are entitled to think that such strategies are manifest madness.

The consequences of removing Assad would be dire. The regime would collapse and its Alawite army would crumble. Sunni jihadists such as Islamic State and al­Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al­Nusra, also known as al­Nusra Front, would exploit the security vacuum and dominate all of Syria. The ethnic minorities — the Alawites, Shi’ites and Syrian Christians — would be massacred. And there would be the flight of millions more refugees into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

If we are to avoid these horrific outcomes, Russia will have to play a central and positive role. It has had significant influence in Damascus during the past half century; indeed, many Syrian military officers have received training in Moscow. Russia’s navy and advanced anti­aircraft missile systems are based along the Mediterranean. It’s likely to deploy ground troops to the eastern coast. And Moscow has recognised that notwithstanding Assad’s brutal conduct, his regime is fighting the jihadists that Western leaders repeatedly say pose a grave and present danger to the world.

Obama says the US would work with any nation to end the fighting in Syria. But to engage Russia, the West needs to change its policy approach substantially. Alas, the prevailing Russophobia in Washington and Brussels remains a serious obstacle in the path of reaching accommodation with Moscow.

The problem in Ukraine is not related to a revival of the Soviet empire, as some hyperventilating politicians and pundits argue. The problem is the widespread Western failure to recognise an old truth of geopolitics: that a great power fights tooth and nail to protect vital security interests in its near abroad. Take Ukraine: it is a conduit for Russian exports to Europe and covers a huge terrain that the French and Germans crossed to attack Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most Crimeans are glad to be part of the country they called home from Catherine’s rule to that of Nikita Khrushchev.

From Moscow’s standpoint, the expansion of NATO and the EU into Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, taken together with efforts to promote democracy, is akin to Moscow expanding military alliances into Central America. Some may respond by saying that Ukraine, however ethnically and politically divided it remains, has every right to join the West. But did communist Cuba have a right to seek political and military ties with the Soviet Union in 1962? Not from Washington’s perspective. Does Taiwan have a right to seek nationhood? Not from Beijing’s perspective.

This is a shame, but it is the way the world works, and always has. Not only does Putin know it, he calculates that a weak, inept and cautious Obama administration won’t push the issue despite the dire threats and warnings from congress and the Pentagon.

And so it was inevitable that the Russians would push back in the Baltics, first to secure the Crimean peninsula, the traditional home of the Russian Black Sea fleet (which Russian intelligence feared would become a NATO base), then to destabilise Ukraine with the aim of persuading Kiev’s anti ­Russian regime to protect the minority rights of ethnic Russians and maintain its status as a buffer state.

As for Syria, the problem here is not the Russians — or even Iran’s Shia crescent of Damascus, Baghdad, Hezbollah and the Yemeni rebels. After all, they’re committed to fighting Sunni jihadists. The problem is that US ­British aligned Sunni states — Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabs — have aided and abetted the Sunni rebellion that has morphed into Sunni jihadism.

Yet these reactionary regimes still have the temerity to call for Assad’s ouster. Following regime change, we’re told, a US­ led coalition of Arabs and Turks can create a peaceful and prosperous Syria.

Leave aside the fact Assad’s support stems not just from Moscow and Tehran but also from Syria’s military, political and business elites, including many urban Sunnis. Assad is a brutal tyrant. He has used chemical weapons against his own people. And he has launched relentless barrel bombs in rebel areas. But he is more popular than ever in the one ­third of Syria his regime still controls (which happens to be the major cities and the coastland). That is largely because many know his demise would lead to widespread ethnic cleansing.

The idea that Assad’s fall would lead to something approaching a peaceful transition of power is as delusional as the neo­conservative views about Iraq and Libya in 2003 and 2011 respectively. The downfall of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, it was onfidently asserted, would lead to viable democratic states. If anything, both post­Saddam Iraq and post­Gaddafi Libya are failed states that have attracted terrorists like flies to a dying animal.

As in the case of Iraq, Syria is an artificial state and an ethnically divided society created out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. In both nations the invasion and civil war, respectively, have unleashed centrifugal forces that are eroding political structures and borders that have prevailed since the end of World War I.

In Iraq, the 2003 invasion ended the nation’s sectarian imbalance between the minority Sunni and majority Shia communities. Ever since, the Shia have been more interested in seeking revenge against their former Sunni tormentors than in building a nation. The result: a Sunni insurgency that has morphed into a plethora of jihadist groups, including Islamic State.

In Syria, the Arab Spring in 2011 encouraged the Sunni majority to challenge and destroy the minority Alawite regime. The result: centrifugal forces that threaten the viability of Syria as we have known it for nearly a century.

As unfashionable as it is to acknowledge, partition is the likely outcome of the civil war. According to Joshua Landis, a veteran Syria observer and director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, many Syrians, and Alawites in particular, privately acknowledge that the prospect of outright military victory against the Sunni militants is highly unlikely and that it would be impossible to coexist with Sunni fanatics.

For Syria, partition would most likely mean an Alawite Shia state in the regime’s western heartland and a Sunni state to the southeast. Notwithstanding statements to the contrary, this is the emerging reality on the ground.

As long as the regime endures, it at least prevents Sunni jihadists from consolidating their hold over the whole nation and creating a strategic sanctuary along Syria’s coasts.

The moral and political problems posed by Syria’s civil war during the past four years have been real and extremely difficult ones. Assad heads a brutal regime that, according to The Washington Post, has killed about seven times as many people as Islamic State in the first six months of this year.

But the cold, hard reality is that if the US and its allies are serious about defeating the Sunni jihadists, and not merely determined to feel virtuous and moralistic, we will need to tone down our anti­Russian bombast, restore a dialogue with Putin and recognise the madness of regime change in Damascus.  And if that means accommodating Putin’s power play in the Middle East, so be it.

Tom Switzer is a research associate with the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. His interview with Joshua Landis airs on Between the Lines on the ABC’s Radio National on Thursday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 10am.

 

The following pic is from Radio Free Syria and is an image of Russian bombs near Roman ruins and Kafranbel Oct. 1st. 2015

Russiabombs2

Syrian Links

Drop any links that you think may be useful for getting to grips with ‘Syrian issues’ in this thread.

Here is a sample .

 

 

 

End Baath 2

1    I would fully endorse the statements that ‘A GLOBALIZED WORLD WITH OPEN BORDERS CANNOT PEACEFULLY COEXIST WITH FASCISM!’ and that ’FASCISM MEANS WAR’.  So, as there are fascists like Putin all over the world currently in charge of large military formations and busy making war, the question arises; how do anti-fascists unite to fight back?  How do we intend to defeat the fascists? To the extent that western governments are still sitting on the fence; then like Libya the situation will get worse till they get off the fence and in this case end the Assad tyranny as they simultaneously deal with Daesh types.  It is a war of two fronts.

2    IMV ‘a devastating regional war spreading from Syria throughout the region with profound implications for Europe and the rest of the world’ is already underway and thus can’t be avoided. Diplomacy and military actions must now proceed together, but what are the diplomats tasks now?  What are the military tasks?  Who has real skin in the game?

3    I think the evidence is overwhelming that Obama and Putin really are strategic imbeciles but Putin is the fascist not Obama. Obama is just a treacherous liberal that could care less even about ruling class national interests when there is a big price to pay.  Dithering is as dithering does.

4    Turkey, Britain and France cannot directly act against Russian meddling in Syria. It is now quite apparent that the era of imperialism is so long gone for these powers that they are in essence reliant on the U.S. in leading them as a united COW, or better still as a part of a united NATO action. Even though ‘they have no real rapid deployment capability, and no strategic airlift or sealift capability capable of moving any militarily relevant force within any reasonable time frame’ they don’t really require it.  Turkey has the capacity to drive heavy columns straight down the roads to the sound of the guns. Britain and France could deploy strategically useful elements to Cyprus, and Turkey, and even Jordan. They could with a few days notice for some and weeks to months notice for others. The planners ought to have been planning on contingent intervention for some years then refined and adjusted several times over by now. This issue had already long ago got to the point of a vote in the British parliament over bombing in Syria. Now we have had reports of the British using killer drones recently despite the vote.  The vote would I think be different now.

5     It is perfectly true but irrelevant that ‘by simply closing the Mediterranean and hence Syria to hostile shipping, which they can still do quickly, they can remind Russia’s military that Russia is not, never has been and never will be a mediterranean power’  but they will not push against Putin in this manner and he is well aware that they would not because it would mean war if they did. Yet Putin really is an imbecile! Unfortunately so were the likes of Hitler; Tojo; and Mussolini; and there were people like Yamamoto telling them so, but they could not stop the madness unfolding. They will all stand back and shrug that it is NOT ‘their duty to dispose of him quickly’, but only to increase in measured ways what they are doing now, and what they have been doing is so far been little and late. They are useless!

6     Obama really is a strategic imbecile who has been up in Alaska preparing for the Global warming Paris event!  This refugee ‘flood’ is unfolding in the media every day and he is MIA. In 15 months he will been gone! And when it comes to war making he wants to be gone! So, it will be a year or more for everyone, most probably including the U.S. to mobilize a force capable of serious intervention in Syria.

7     Turkey has long advocated removing the Assad regime and has all along pointed out ‘that there is no other way to avoid millions of refugees continuing to pour out of Syria.’  Yet the ‘stable’ democratic Turkish government have got nowhere with Obama and the situation has got worse and themselves much less stable.  A war is resuming again in Turkey with not just the worst of the Kurdish nationalists but with all manner of anti- Turkish forces having an interest in seeing that it break out and bog the Turkish military down. Even the threat of it is beneficial to Assad and Putin.

8     The executive in both Britain and France is terribly conservative and are still only managing the refugees rather than dealing with the source of those refugees.  They are not even raising the alarm about Putin’s ridiculous intervention to establish and preserve in Syria something that resembles Israel. They can’t do that.

9     There could not be any Anglo ­French expeditionary force in 2015 or 16.  The ruling elites of both countries will manage the Syrian casualties but not take any of their own.  There is no effective system that exists after the Europeans deserted Bush and Obama deserted U.S. leadership. There is nothing other than ineffective thrashing about while the war goes on with those that are prepared to put boots on the ground. Enter the fascists led by Putin.

10     In the midst of all this the West’s own little fascist – Netanyahu – is provoking the Palestinians of East Jerusalem and is thus preparing public opinion to make more war on the Palestinians; even no doubt as he prepares to pull out of more of the West Bank and create yet another vast open air prison.

11     Putin has made it impossible to simply declare war on Assad. No one can now announce ‘a no fly zone and an intention to start enforcing it’ without dealing with Russian air assets. It is now a hot war where Russian helicopter gun ships must be shot down in numbers over an extended period. Russians fighting as Martians might have to be copied as tit for tat.  There was ‘European public opinion that would certainly swing behind a no fly zone and accelerate a rapid shift in US public opinion’ but they were not banking on war with Putin’s troops.

12     The ruling elites won’t act quickly enough so the war ‘will take much longer and will be a much bigger and bloodier regional war than if they act immediately while Obama still dithers.’

13     But just because FASCISM MEANS WAR progressives have to propose a fighting response to tyranny. So… All air defences close to the borders of Turkey and Jordan must be extended deeper into Syria. That is to say that what is sauce for Putin in Martian activity is sauce for everyone else in enforcing the shooting down of anything that is dropping barrel bombs on the Syrian people.  Trouble is that really does require boots on the ground and until they are put in Putin will continue to implement real war for the establishment of the fascist enclave.  Russians flying helicopters are going to be the direct enemy of anyone wanting the revolutionary transformation of the now contested part of Syria that Putin has determined to preserve as a predominantly Alawite and Baathist led enclave.

14     As for Germany; Merkel is not any sort of leader worth a cracker like say Mao and he most certainly did not permit uncontrolled sloshing about of peoples’.  The refugee issue is not resolved by open borders! It is childish to think that devil take the hindmost people are even 1st priority in a war where the people under attack are being barrel bombed for wanting to vote. Any form of NO FLY WAR NOW is the priority to stop the – Putin, Assad, Netanyahu style policies of driving refugees off their land!

15     Country shopping for economic benefit is all well and good for the lucky ones but it will not solve anything for the proletarian classes who will lose their doctors; engineers; and so forth with the get up and go initiative who do go off to the ‘good life’ in the developed West.  The West just can’t rob the undeveloped world of their best and brightest and then all the terribly progressive people feel so good about it!

16     No one can, for example, pretend that Abbott did not stop people drowning!  People were drowning. People are now drowning in the Mediterranean sea and no policy that yabbers on about open borders will be acceptable currently to the masses. That desirable distant policy relies on what Europe had to do to get its borders lifted.  The U.S. in the 19thC taking the huddled masses did not prevent the mass slaughter of the 20thC world wars.  When people are being driven in their millions out of THEIR land and cities THAT is the issue.

17     No rubble producing fascist enclave that generates mass deaths and refugees as policy can be permitted to keep going on with their policies!

18     Obama and Putin are engaged in what appears to me as complete imbecility because of their own logic that includes in Obama’s case outright ruthless neglect.  No ‘well executed misinformation campaign’ here just exactly the sort of disaster that we ought to expect from a collapsing international system.  The revanchist sees an opportunity and as his only tool is a hammer then it must be a nail.

19     The ‘US and Russia are NOT cooperating to assist the Assad regime to move out of Damascus and retreat to a coastal enclave’, and so ‘that could NOT still count as America still exhausting every other alternative before eventually doing the right thing.’, but Obama might grasp at this stupid straw.  It may look good to him now that [something like] it is happening anyway. Whatever he thinks I am sure Damascus can not be lost by Assad and any enclave held in the long term. So, I do not think that Putin and Assad have conceded Damascus in any sense at all, and I am sure Obama knows jack shit about what to be getting on with other than some climate change clap trap for Paris.  The f..ing ‘leader of the free world’ is MIA over the refugee flow.

20     Putin does not intend to ‘escort the Assad clan out of Syria’. He is joining the Iranians and making war. Of course if he was ‘providing temporary protection for the Alawi and other minority communities until international peacekeepers can arrive’, then of course ‘nothing should be said or done to prejudice that operation.’  But that is not what is happening because if it was he would not have sprung it on all of them.  He is putting the enemies of Assad between a Western anvil and his hammer and also bringing in his own anvil to smash Western supported FSA types on as and when he chooses.  He is fighting the Western supported FSA types from the start.

21     Without very big U.S. backing Europe and Turkey simply do not have the stomach to stop the war in Syria that is however now a “clear and certain danger” to their vital national interests.  They will continue to try and bumble along managing refugees and being humiliated by Putin bumbling around like a crazed loon with a hammer.  The only international system that was operating was one of U.S. superpower leadership and with Obama at the helm it is currently not functioning as well as on the way out strategically.  So the situation will get even worse!

22     Perhaps as Iyad El-Baghdadi @iyad_elbaghdadi says ‘The Syrian catastrophe was very preventable, if the world’s red line was “killing protesters” rather than “drowned refugee toddlers”.’,  but that is the past and the question for all now is what is to be done to stop Assad and his great and powerful gangster friend killing democratic revolutionaries into the future.

Chomsky Drowning not Waving

Admin note:

It is now a decade after the 2005 series of elections in Iraq disproved Chomsky’s original narrative and the struggle against tyranny across the whole region is raging; so the following compilation article (comprised of newspaper articles, interview transcripts and blog comments etc.) is here updated and rewritten to place on record a more thorough repudiation of the Znet /Chomsky approach to the Iraq war, both at the time and currently. 

Chomsky himself is now reduced to rambling greenie mush.

For most of the intervening years the usual suspects have managed to just shrug their shoulders and point to the ongoing war as THE disaster, and that has very often sufficed (in their eyes) for an argument against launching the liberation.  But the 2015 fight against ISIS/Daesh has exposed that method. This fight is but one more example of the first fight and the attitude to this fight is demonstrating yet another level to the depth of head turning treachery that pseudolefts must resort to in the face of such a vicious enemy of progressive humanity.

The war for the transformation of the entire region is now focussed on Daesh and is thus widely accepted as unavoidable for the west by western peoples including a majority of reluctant working class ‘voters’. Neverland thinking is – in WW2 manner – once again isolated in the face of united efforts that are now required (obviously I would have though) right across the region. People like Steven Hawking and Geoffry Robinson are speaking out and those like Chomsky that remain opposed to ‘imperialist meddling’ gone a bit quiet. IMV the masses have grasped that western countries are and ought to be at war.

Progressive forces across the Islamic regions are seeking western military assistance and the pseudoleft ‘anti-imperialists’ have now split over every incident where the western ruling elites are in anyway involved.  The Syrian revolution has shattered what remains of the western anti-war masses that were on the streets in their millions prior to the destruction of the heavy weapons systems of the Baathists and the liberation of Iraq by the Coalition Of the Willing.

“Well, of course revolutionary war is illegal. Legal systems are created by revolutions, not revolutions by legal systems”, is the take home point from the criticisms of Noam Chomsky’s position on the Iraq war outlined below.

One further point.

The article when first published had a flavor of ‘naive’ optimism over the entire Iraq modernity project. In the writers defense – we were ‘younger’ then and just how deadly such ‘swamps’ are for any type of democratically minded reformists was not yet on full and daily display.  But nevertheless this more sober view from someone ‘older and wiser’ is still an overwhelmingly optimistic perspective because frankly history gives progressives good cause to be optimistic and ‘if you don’t  fight, you lose’ is a useful maxim to live by whatever history throws at us. 

Internationalists take what we call the mass line.  The entire approach to politics of always taking the mass line and uniting the many to defeat the few is the foundation for realistic optimism right across this planet whatever local events and temporary setbacks we confront. 

The winds of progress still blow whatever the tides are doing in the ‘backwaters’ of the world.

Noam Chomsky – Drowning not Waving.
first published at Lastsuperpower
by Patrick Muldowney 01/09/2006

The U.S. ruling-elite forgot to install puppets, is the stunning inference we are obliged to make from the following interview of Noam Chomsky given back in December 2005. 

Obviously the US military did not install puppets. The US ruling elite undoubtedly intended to remove the Baathists regime and disband the Baathist army and state structure because that is what they did. Restructuring the same tyranny with a US friendly as ‘their’ son of a bitch was not even possible in the 21st C. Once the heavy weapons were gone from the Baathists the Kurds and the Shia could never be put back in ‘their place’. There would have to be a new regime and elections were the only viable option.

For many years after the removal of the Baathist regime in 2003 (right through the required period of occupation and beyond) there were attempts to portray the Iraqi political forces as puppets by some western pseudoleftists and these lies and distortions was tolerated by many others in the anti-war milieu even when know to be rubish.

To rip off the Iraqi peoples (oil or whatever) puppets would have been required not independent nationalists and such an instalation as had often been installed in say central America in the early parts of the 20th C was predicted but when it did not happen the anti-war crowd discraced themselves. They abandoned theory and valid forms of argument. so nothing else makes sense; and as that inference doesn’t either we are thus dealing with a senseless argument from Chomsky who is far from being a senseless individual.

The point is everyone knows all these years later that his reasoning at the begining of 2003 left him only 2 years later dead in the water when the COW didn’t follow his purported imperialist ‘game book’ and people turned a blind eye to this rather than face up to the required corrections.

Noam on the People

In this interview Chomsky tells us how things were done by the old time imperialists, people like the Japanese in Korea, and the British in India.  These were imperialists that really knew their business not like what he is implying are the incompetent bunch of Neo-Cons then comprising the Bush Administration.  He is laughing at the current crop because he beileves they don’t even know what they HAVE to do!

In reviewing events ranging as far back as his youth Chomsky however gets himself lost and confused. The obvious though unstated conclusion is that the U.S. ruling-elite is not behaving rationally. Don’t misunderstand me, he would never say this directly. Quite the reverse, but it is nevertheless the only legitimate conclusion that can be drawn from his interview.

Citing various examples he points out that the U.S. in reality has always been opposed to democracy in the Middle East. He points out that they have done so while always proclaiming the opposite rhetorically. Chomsky maintains that after 9/11 the U.S. has not changed policies, and the current talk amounts to the same as it ever was.  For Chomsky the Bush administration is as opposed to the spread of bourgeois democracy as have been all other U.S. administrations since WW2!

Meanwhile, Bush maintains there is a new policy.

Chomsky is no longer just arguably wrong, but on the results of the Iraqi elections demonstrably wrong in this crucial example.

Clearly the election in Iraq produced genuine representatives with mass support. These Iraqis are no puppets of U.S. imperialism and to think otherwise is ludicrous. Yet the moribund section of the ‘peace movement’ would have us think just that.  Their position is unsustainable.

Chomsky knows the elected representatives are not puppets, so he creates a diversion and argues instead that ‘democracy’ has to mean something other than the establishment of a bourgeois representative democracy.  A modern representative democracy with proportional representation is a desirable and supportable advance on the absolute tyranny of the Baathists and he knows that.  But instead of accepting this and arguing that the Iraqi masses (just like we in the west) will have to move beyond that level of progress at some point, he fudges this issue of moderate and reasonable negotiated progress.

While anti democratic bombing in Iraq’s markets and schools etc is almost daily still going on in this war between those who are agreeing to a constitutional government and proportional representative bourgeois democracy Chomsky dumps a mish mash of anarchist ideas on us that effectively concludes that unless they (the representatives) hold the ‘apparent’ views of the masses, (established by secret British polling no less) and demand that the Coalition withdraw forthwith, then the Iraqi political forces are just political elitists no longer representing anyone except themselves!  The Ballot barely counted and the newly and in most cases re-elected politicians are to be ignored once more by Chomsky, they being nothing but political elitists!

That is a pathetic slight of hand.  The perfect is here put forward to be the enemy of the good.

On top of that distortion Chomsky is not interested in pondering what is in the imperialists interests in the here and now for this century as they planned and implemented this war- a war that was sure to lead to this or a very similar democratic political outcome.

Instead, in what is a deliberate diversion, he tells us that we must never believe declaratory policies, no matter what or who the political leaders are as if we have to take a course in understanding class society 101 from an anarchist viewpoint. But this diversion into the obscure anarchist land of direct democracy is vital a little later when a patently deliberate sleight of hand is pulled.

Chomsky talks endlessly about how he thinks the will of the Iraqi people ‘apparently’ (the word is deliberately used on several occasions) is that the coalition forces should withdraw immediately and leave it to the Iraqi people to sort out. Yet the vast majority of the political forces that stood for election don’t think this and said so during the election campaign.

Thus for Chomsky the ‘apparent’ will of the Iraqi people was not just determined by free and fair elections (that delivered a proportional number of elected representatives of the Iraqi people).  Rather the will as Chomsky implies all through this interview is to be determined by a representative poll conducted in secret by the British, and with questions what’s more that we currently do not have clearly before us!

For the decrepit ‘peace movement’ all the election did was enable the imperialists to establish a political elite (leaders and a government) that all good people can now ignore because;  ‘No rational person pays the slightest attention to declarations of benign intent on the part of leaders, no matter who they are. And the reason is they’re completely predictable, including the worst monsters,…’

So, those who just ran for election with their platforms and so forth right up front, who are daily risking their lives in the cause of the liberation, can be ignored by Chomsky as speaking for no-one when they again ask the coalition to remain in Iraq and continue assisting to fight the jihadists and Baathists and to build the armed forces etc..

Make no mistake; once ignored, these openly campaigning politicians can then be called collaborators and understandably attacked by the ‘resistance’.  Noam and the rest can then shrug with a ‘what do you expect’ exasperated expression.  These political leaders will be physically attacked over the years with no solidarity from Z-net types until the attacks in the new Iraq are so blatantly fascist that Noam will have to fall silent.

The concept of a resistance will have to at some point vanish from the narative.

For anyone remotely attracted to democracy in any form Noam has led them into a dead end.

The violent elements of this ‘noble’ resistance will become ‘the monsters let loose’.  A mass non-violent method of resistance led by no-one really – because those leaders would have had to be ignored as well one supposes, will have sprung de novo fully formed and in control of a country fighting undemocratic monsters.  Actually you can get away with these leaders (like Chomsky himself) all you do is call them a ‘sort of figure head’ for the mass movement (non violent to be sure).  Just don’t look back because there will be no ‘lawful’ trail to follow.  A revolutionary transformation will be unavoidably real and will have been fatherless.  ‘Not in my name!’ was the banner carried by the confused left and the pseudoleft all marched behind it.

Having plunged this far into Z net thinking we can now see that there is not even a veneer of open inquiry to be found.  We are confronted with blatant anti-American shibboleths.   There is no ‘seeking truth from facts’ over what has been happening in Iraq.

History was being used by Noam not to guide us forward but to block inquiry into unacceptable areas. It is as if we are in a church service being preached at and not involved in any political analysis. Now we are firmly in the realm of the pseudoleft where theory trumps practice; cultures are fixed and relative; and the ‘struggle against western imperialism’ has regressed to the point where even norms of the basic bourgeois democratic revolution are abandoned before our very eyes.

I have at least one thing in common with Chomsky: I didn’t accept the declaratory policy of the Coalition before, during, or after the war in Iraq*. Nevertheless, I do NOT believe the leaders are ‘completely predictable’ and as evidence for this view I offer the fact that Chomsky admits that he did not predict what they would do once they had overthrown the Baathist tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

Chomsky – as did all the usual suspects – got it dead wrong and he openly admits this. He believed it would be business-as-usual.

Yet a very few dissident left-wingers with a long history of campaigning against imperialism got it right.

For instance, people at Lastsuperpower.net predicted that the US administration, would push for elections that everyone knew islamist parties would win and the Shia would dominate and that this push for democratic elections was in stark contrast to Vietnam where because the democratic result was going to be the election of communists they simply refused to hold them.

In the example of the Vietnam War, left-wingers predicted that U.S. imperialism would be crushed by people’s war and thrown out of Vietnam, and they were. We didn’t apologise for the armed-struggle, we supported it. ‘One side’s right, the other’s wrong; victory to the Vietcong’, was one of the demonstration chants of the time.

No mass non-violent movement threw the imperialist forces out they were defeated by the armed-struggle of the Vietnamese in conjunction with a supportive political struggle on the streets of the Western world. The Vietnamese were engaged in a justifiable armed-struggle just as they engaged the French and Japanese before and leftists around the world supported that armed-struggle!

The current war in Iraq is being waged by Baathists, reactionary Islamic jihadis, and Arab national chauvinists of a mostly Sunni persuasion, but also a very few Shia chauvinists. All are opposed to democracy in any form and can only be described as the enemy of all potential democratic revolutions in Iraq, whether non-violent or armed. They are the enemy of all modernity as the U.S. was in Vietnam and ought be as firmly opposed.

There is thus no comparison between the two wars just as there is no comparison between the war in Vietnam and WW2.

The warring opponents of democracy constitute but a minute [I would now correct this expression to small] portion of the Iraqi population and deserve no support or understanding whatsoever from any descendents of the Enlightenment. They ought be fought by a united-front of all: just like the vicious medievalist Islamists invading from other countries in the region. These Islamists are reactionary, ‘crusader’ types and the irony is not lost on those suffering from their ‘Kamikaze’ and head lopping activities.

The surrounding countries that the Islamists come from are still very deeply mired in the swamp of Middle Eastern reaction, and that ongoing problem is exactly what we ought to be discussing now and not the defense of the Iraqi masses from their vicious attacks.

This is exactly what Noam Chomsky did discuss way back on September 10 2002, and it was raised by Last Superpower author Albert Langer in his article published in 2003 in the mainstream Australian press.

May Day – it’s the festival of the distressed

by Albert Langer

THE AUSTRALIAN 01 May 2003

‘The war in Iraq has woken people everywhere – and the pseudo-Left has really blown its chance’.

Millions who marched in mid February stopped marching two months later, as soon as the argument shifted towards democratising and liberating the Iraqi people. Those millions still agree that George W. Bush is an arrogant bully, but they no longer believe the peace-mongers have got it right. People want to figure out what is going on and are joining the debate at websites such as Last Superpower.

For months, the argument was about weapons of mass destruction and the role of the UN. If the demands of the US, and the UN, had been fully met, Saddam Hussein could have lived happily and the Iraqi people miserably, for ever after.

But look at what happened next! Suddenly we were hearing a different song. Bush has been making the argument not for disarming Iraq but for liberating Iraq. Stripped of the “God bless America” stuff, the US President’s case now goes like this:

“If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots of the ‘campaigns of hatred’, we can not only reduce the threats we face, but also live up to ideals that we profess and that are not beyond reach if we choose to take them seriously.”

Actually, those words are from Noam Chomsky two days before Bush’s UN speech on September 10, 2002.

But if Bush had adopted Chomsky’s position so early, that would have prevented congressional authorisation. Such a position threatens to destabilise despotic, reactionary regimes everywhere. But those in the US foreign policy establishment have devoted their entire careers to supporting the most corrupt tyrannies in the Middle East, in the name of “stability”.

For Chomsky, “draining the swamps” apparently didn’t include killing people and blowing things up. Fortunately, Bush is made of sterner stuff.

Both Bush and Chomsky know the US cannot be secure from medievalist terrorist mosquitoes while the Middle East remains a swamp. But Bush also knows that modernity ‘grows out of the barrel of a gun.’

That is a genuinely Left case for a revolutionary war of liberation such as has occurred in Iraq. The pseudo-Left replies: “That’s illegal.”

Well, of course revolutionary war is illegal. Legal systems are created by revolutions, not revolutions by legal systems.

The next logical step for the new policy is to establish a viable Palestinian state. Bush has put himself in a position where he can and must take that step. Naturally, he will not admit to the enormous strategic and policy retreat that such a step implies, so he has preceded it with enough triumphalist rhetoric to make even the Fox News team look queasy.

The revival of the Left in the ’60s only began once it was widely noticed that the remnants of the previous movement were reactionaries obstructing progress. After it tried so hard to preserve fascism in Iraq even after Bush Jr had wisely given up on Bush Sr’s policy of keeping the Iraqi dictator in power. Can anyone deny the pseudo-Left is reactionary?’

END Albert Langer

As things stand, one could be forgiven for not noticing that a reasonable parliamentary democracy has been agreed upon by the Iraqi masses via a mass vote. The Constitutional Referendum in October does not get a mention – yet it was this document that formally establishes how the Iraqi ‘will’ is to be determined, and replaced the Baathist tyranny. And note to Chomsky it’s not a secret poll conducted by the British military with god knows what wording!

Chomsky goes on at length actually condemning the most democratic election ever held in Iraq and ignoring the proportionally elected representatives. He wants no part of an Iraqi Government because he wants to continue to classify these representatives as collaborators, as does Robert Fisk, whom he praises.

The Iraqi people have gone to the polls three times in twelve months yet their representatives are to be called collaborators and ignored? Something of a card trick; in the end you have been told the will of the Iraqi people so often that ‘apparently’ there is no need to talk to any representatives. In the end you are forced by the card sharp to choose the ‘withdraw at once’ card.

The old-time anti-democratic imperialist practices were the standard practices of the preeminent imperial powers just prior to their crushing defeats. Chomsky is referring to a period so long-ago now that one can speak of a different era.

The US ruling-elite tried the same old policies in Indo-China and met with utter defeat almost 35 years ago. The Vietnamese war of National Liberation is what a war of liberation looks like when imperialists are really trying to prevent elections. But Noam Chomsky insists that the US ruling-elite went into Iraq with no genuine plan to hold free and fair elections.

Could anyone in the year 2006 imagine British imperialists re-colonizing India (And through local Indian puppets to be sure) ruling India for the benefit of the English ruling-class? Could the Japanese elite run Korea via Korean puppets? Of course they couldn’t. Why on earth would anyone think that ‘the great Satan’ could achieve this result in Iraq?

Chomsky then admits to having got it wrong about what the US government intended for Iraq at the time of the invasion. From the transcript;

Andy Clark: “With the war in Iraq, it seems we are viewing the US’s engagement in some bold, in your face, strategic geopolitical chess. In your opinion, what is the US’s next likely international move?”

Noam Chomsky: My own guess frankly, was that the invasion of Iraq would be over in about three days and that the US would install a stable client regime. It should have been one of the easiest military victories in history. But they did turn it into a catastrophe. My guess back at that time was that the next place the US would move would be the Andes in the Western Hemisphere.

End transcript

This is not only admitting that he didn’t have a clue that this was not business-as-usual but that the experienced imperialists didn’t even know how to do the old policy. (That the U.S. had been following since WW2) Chomsky gave example after example of how it is done – and then he says the Bush Administration bungled it.

Unbelievably Chomsky does not concede even the possibility that the U.S. is following a different policy he just blurts out that they blew it and turned what should have been a cake-walk, into a ‘catastrophe!’ This admission comes up, about halfway through the interview after he has gone beyond mere foolishness to ‘explain’ the real reason for the war by no more than chanting the believers mantra; ‘I mean, let’s be serious. Of course it’s oil.’

Naturally there is no analysis of exactly how the imperialists of 2006 are to achieve the long sought mythical holy grail of stealing oil without the old imperialists ability to install puppets.

No blood for oil placards

That is what it would have to be, a miracle without rational basis.

Either you have the puppets and you can steal the oil or you don’t have the puppets (As the U.S. elite clearly don’t have) and the oil revenues stay with the Iraqis. It is not done by magic so let’s really be serious because whatever the reason for the war of course it’s not about oil!

From the transcript

Miguel’s email: “Forget about the US and EU governments: they’re hopeless. Where to for ‘the people?’ How can the insanity be stopped? Or will it have to run its course and get much worse before it can get better?”

Andy Clark: What’s your take on that?

Noam Chomsky: The violence in Iraq is a serious problem for the Iraqis and I tend to agree with, apparently the majority of Iraqis, that it’s the occupation forces that are stimulating the violence. The fact that an insurgency even developed in Iraq is astonishing. I mean it’s an amazing fact that the US has had more trouble controlling Iraq than the Germans had in controlling occupied Europe or the Russians in controlling Eastern Europe. After all, the countries under Nazi or Russian occupation were run by domestic forces, domestic police, domestic armies, and domestic civilian forces. The Nazis and the Kremlin were in the background and if needed, they came in, but mostly it was domestically run. There were partisans in Western Europe and they were very courageous, but they would’ve been wiped out very quickly if it hadn’t been for enormous foreign support and, of course, Germany was at war.

Well, in Iraq none of these circumstances prevailed, there was no outside support for the resistance. The little support that has arisen, and it is very slight, is mostly engendered by the invasion. But there’s no outside support. The country had been devastated by sanctions. The US was coming in with enormous resources to rebuild it and they have turned it into a total catastrophe. It’s one of the worst military catastrophes in history. You look at figures for something like, say malnutrition; malnutrition is way up since the US took over, that’s unbelievable. It’s one of the few wars that can’t be reported, not because reporters are cowards, but because it’s too dangerous. Reporters are mostly in the Green Zone or else they go out with a platoon of marines. There are some, like Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and a couple of others who are independent and brave it, but not many. This is an incredible catastrophe. But it’s very likely, and I tend to agree with apparent opinion of most Iraqis on this, that it’s the invading armies themselves that are engendering the violence. Well, they’re carrying out plenty of it, but the violence of the insurgents would probably decline if they left and allowed Iraqis to be on their own.’

End transcript

I read the above two paragraphs, gaping open-mouthed. This war can’t be reported ‘…because it’s too dangerous’! But not for the ‘brave’ partisan anti-coalition reporters – the outright apologists for the insurgents like Robert Fisk, and Patrick Cockburn, who rather than ‘brave it’ are best seen as a protected species of pro-war propagandists. They are not anti-war they are on the other side!

Fisk et al support the right of people’s under imperialist onslaught the theoretical right of resistance; they do not have to condone all the acts, indeed they don’t, after all it’s conveniently a mixed bag of sweets to pick from. As demonstrated these two ‘reporters’ are more properly called propagandists – having argued that the masses of Iraqis viewed the politicians that were elected last January and formed the interim government as nothing more than ‘collaborators’. I predict they will not retract from this position. They will absurdly say this again of the politicians elected in December, yet if they do, who will take them seriously besides Noam Chomsky?

Chomsky now has to face up to the nonsense of calling the once more, free, and fairly elected representatives collaborators. Or it may be time for the anti-war types to dissolve the people and elect a new set, because they keep electing – against all historical examples, one must add – ‘collaborators’.

‘This war can’t be reported?’ Au contraire, it is the most reported war of all time. This war is being fought in the era of instant mass-communications. Bombings and be-headings are often shown live. There are dozens of new and vibrant media outlets in Iraq from TV stations to almost every shade of newspaper. What Chomsky means is that western reporters have to rely more on Iraqi reports.

Then Chomsky stoops to outright deception. He starts out by agreeing that the elections are an important milestone event, then pulls a subtle word switch in order to maintain the ridiculously improbable notion that any democratic outcome was not the U.S. Government’s intention all along.

From the transcript;

Andy Clark:…After the vote, the President has called the elections an important milestone. Professor Chomsky, how do you see the elections? Do you see them as an important milestone for Iraq?

Noam Chomsky: Actually I do, but before talking about that, I should just bring up a kind of a truism. No rational person pays the slightest attention to declarations of benign intent on the part of leaders, no matter who they are. And the reason is they’re completely predictable, including the worst monsters, Stalin, Hitler the rest.’

What he would have us believe is that the U.S. ruling-elite under the leadership of the likes of Paul Wolfowitz were attempting in the 21st Century to;

‘…The US tried, in every possible way, to prevent elections in Iraq. They offered effort after effort to evade the danger of elections. Finally, they were compelled to accept elections by mass non-violent resistance, for which the Ayatollah al Sistani was a kind of a symbol. Mass outpourings of people demanding elections. Finally, Bush and Blair had to agree to elections. The next step is to subvert them and they started immediately. They’re doing it right now. Elections mean you pay some – in a democracy at least – you pay some attention to the will of the population. Well, the crucial question for an invading army is: ‘do they want us to be here?’…

Andy Clark: But isn’t this the start of a process that could see the occupying troops from America and Britain leaving? We’ve seen an awful lot of Iraqis taking part in the elections, two thirds, we’re told. The turnout was quite high…

Noam Chomsky: But hold on a second, … Now of course, there’s a conflict, the Iraqis have forced the occupying powers to allow some kind of electoral process. What the occupying powers are doing now is perfectly clear and very familiar, very familiar. … The way they want it to work – standard procedure – you want the local forces to run their own countries, so … the US-run state terrorist forces are the military, the civilians are local, and the US is in the background. If anything goes wrong, they move in, the same with the British in India, the same with the Japanese in South Korea.

Andy Clark: So you see this is a step to set up a sort of puppet government and not something that’s really representative of ordinary Iraqis?

Noam Chomsky: That’s what they are trying to do, but there’s always a conflict about that. Many of the Western backed or Russian or Eastern or other backed tyrants rose up. However, it is as clear as a bell that the US, and Britain behind it, are doing everything they can to prevent a sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq.’

End transcript

Saddam statue topples

So, Chomsky is saying that the U.S. went into a country with the intention of putting puppets in place, but, presumably, forgot how. Like, they had never done it before??

This is not analysis, this is a pseudo-analysis from a leftist that is now deeply mired in pseudo-leftism and who can no longer tell the real article from the shoddy fraud.

When you get it wrong as he admitted you really ought to pause to think; why did this error of judgment happen? But Chomsky dares not pause to genuinely analyse his errors, instead he rushes on with the explanation that the Bush Administration are just incompetent imperialists. He insists that it was the Neo-Cons that got it wrong by not doing what all competent imperialists do. So, he apparently only got it wrong because they did. SO, it’s not his error at all!

Anything but face up to the policy change that is now being implemented while Chomsky calls black, white. Unlike other analysts, he did not spot it coming before the war and he would not debate the issues when the analysis was pointed out to him, because to Chomsky it was an absurd, unworthy theory. He thought he didn’t have to think about any new issues but now reality is catching up and he is forced to think about the issues.

If the U.S. imperialists did not intend to install puppets after the Baathists were overthrown, and the Iraqi army disbanded then they were left with precisely what options? To honestly pose the question is to answer it.

Contrary to the Chomsky view, the liberating Coalition wanted an election right from the start and they could not possibly not have wanted one in this day and age. The only debate was what type of democratic election. The U.S. elite sought alternatives that empowered the other (Sunni) sections of the Iraqi population to a disproportionate extent, at the expense (necessarily) of the Shia majority. They were told NO, by Sistani who then called for a demonstration of resolve and the matter was thus decided in favour of Proportional Representation. (PR)

Chomsky’s version is a fairy tale. The world would not have tolerated the U.S. preventing Iraqi elections and everybody should have known this. The U.S. ruling-elite most assuredly did.

Iraqi girl U.S. flag

The only question was what was to be the election regulations etc.. This is why there is deliberate distortion by Chomsky because he understands that if they did not do what he thought they would do and ‘install a stable client regime’, then the outcome would be determined by the Iraqis in an election process.

Now we can ask a question again and this time hope to get a genuine answer based on what the Iraqi people think elections mean.

From the transcript;

Andy Clark: ‘Do you see them as an important milestone for Iraq?

Noam Chomsky: ‘Actually I do’.

End Transcript

Iraqi woman voter

Iraqi woman voter

Actually he does not see them as an important milestone in a genuine sense as to note the milestone properly is to take those elected seriously and to give some honour to those who have enabled their election Chomsky does neither and instead gives contempt and comfort to the enemy.

* The Iraqi election has ended the old war, irrespective of how it started and begun the new war. This war is deserving of support from all democrats, all leftists and all progressives world-wide.

• Results that Chomsky won’t notice.
(Posted at Last Superpower by Patrick Muldowney at 22/01/2006)

Of the 275 seats available from the December 15 election, the results have been announced as follows;

Shi’ites UIA Daawa & SCIRI 128

Shi’ites Risaliyun (Muqtada al-Sadr) 2

(Edited Arthur comment;  Not the only 2 seats for Sadr.  The party which won 2 seats was a faction of Sadr supporters who didn’t agree with joining in the dominant Shia islamist UIA ticket (Elites and Cadres group or some such “Life of Brian” type name). That dominant Shia ticket included candidates from SCIRI, Daawa, and Sadr supporters as well as others. A total of about 30 Sadr supporters was elected, mainly on the dominant UIA ticket.)

Whether Sadr supporters would have won more or less than the total of about 30 if they had not joined the UIA ticket cannot be determined from the fact that (some faction of them) won only 2 seats running independently. It is however highly likely that the total of 30 allocated in the ticket is a significant overestimation of their actual voting strength as an inducement to abandon their armed insurrection and rely on voting instead by joining the UIA mainstream.

Secular Kurds 53

Secular Shia al-Iraqiyah (Iyad Allawi) 25

Kurds (Sunni Islamist) 5

Sunni NAF 44

Sunni NFforND 11

Sunni, Mishaan Juburi liberal party (ex-Baathists) 3

Turkmen, oppose Shia fundamentalism (at least) 1

Christian, oppose Muslim fundamentalism. 1

Yazidi; oppose Muslim fundamentalism. 1

Mithal al-Alusi, a Western-style liberal 1

These 275 people are self evidently not U.S. puppets. This election result either destroys the theory that it was the intention of the ‘imperialist invaders’ to install puppets (to steal the oil etc., for which there is no evidence despite Chomsky’s ‘explanation’) or it firmly declares at the least that such a theoretical attempt has failed.

Legitimate Iraqi representative politicians are now in charge. This is undoubtedly a bourgeois revolutionary victory over the once all powerful Baathist tyranny. It was achieved in less than three years of struggle, and it has to be said that any other even vaguely realistic hypothetical effort to achieve the same result without a liberating invasion would have cost many more lives, and dragged on over a great many more years. And yes I know the war still goes on, but I am prepared to say right now that the strategic direction is clear. This revolution is going well.

Democratic forces can now hold political power in large areas of Iraq, and while the enemies of the Iraqi ‘peoples with purple stains on their fingers’, can still attack them with random bombings and so on, the Iraqi masses are now well armed and determined to remain on the offensive; and they continue to have very powerful allies.

Yet despite these revolutionary gains, some ‘opinion leaders’ among western political trends are prepared to call these newly elected politicians nothing but ‘collaborators with the occupation, from the point of view of the ordinary Iraqis’. (As Robert Fisk called the same representatives when they were last elected about one year ago) That is essentially what Chomsky and the Z-net types are stuck with. They will have nothing to do with the new reality. They will do their best to deny recognition to these brave politicians. They will fail to give them the due respect and support they have earned as the duly elected representatives. The Z-net types are trapped.

The western anti-war movement will have to split yet again over the issue of where too next. One section will continue to call the evident progress of this revolution ‘a quagmire’, and recommend that the U.S. ruling-elite should ignore the requests for on-going assistance and simply withdraw and leave it to the Iraqis to sort out their ‘civil-war’. Most of the remainder seeing the political dead-end, will just fall silent.

It reminds me of the behaviour of the China-line leftists in the late 1970’s. They went along en masse with the counter revolution of Deng and Co, and the nonsense that was being peddled by various CP (ML’s). When the pretense that this new direction was a continuation of the revolutionary struggle of Mao became unsustainable the people that had been taken in just drifted away. There was not much effort to say ‘I was wrong’. The actual result was rejection of the political tendency that had been proven correct, as well as that tendency which had led them into a dead end.

The current ‘peace’ campaigners; greens; liberals; conservatives; and ‘leftists’, will be objectively behaving as outright racists if they refuse assistance to the Iraqi People now. None of these tendencies belly-ached about their own government’s offering police and other military assistance to authorities in other countries such as Spain when they were dealing with mass-murdering bombers, or with the authorities in Bali; or London; or New York and so forth. Why would they reject the appeals of the Iraqi political leadership for assistance now?

Consider what a national unity government means.

“The UIA and the Kurds could form a government but in this period we have no interest in doing this and are leaning more towards a national unity government,” says Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister.

As we saw with the negotiations over the Iraq Constitution; and the three months of negotiations to form the interim government elected last January this latest series of negotiations will go on for quite some time, and no doubt some seemingly peculiar compromise solutions will be worked out.

However, even though numerous issues have already been worked through with the formation of the interim government a year ago it is always possible that we could be surprised, and also that longer rather than shorter, negotiations are to be expected. In the end however, I don’t doubt that a national unity government will be formed even if some of the smaller political forces decide to remain outside of it.

These historic negotiations are intended to establish a country that has never before existed. A country where the majority of the population is no longer ruled by an ethnically privileged 20%. That 20% has some adjusting to do and they are not in a strong negotiating position. Those who can’t make enough of an adjustment will remain at war with the vast majority, but that is up to them, because I would be willing to wager that an inclusive democracy with ample power sharing; religious tolerance; and economic guarantees regarding proportional shares of the country’s oil wealth is on offer.

It would not make sense for the 80% to fail to protect the proportional interests of the 20%, because there is really nothing in it for them, as compared to the advantages of ‘living the good life’ in a rapidly developing peaceful and united Iraq.

Just as the U.S. could never steal the oil resources and did not go to war for oil, neither does it make any sense for the Kurds, and the Shia to try and take down the Arab Sunni people’s from their rightful share of the growing wealth. It is far easier to keep making a larger pie to share, than to fight over crumbs from a much smaller static pie. Peace will bring an enormous economic opportunity.

Insurgents will not improve their negotiating position with more time, and their opponents are definitely not going to send the large military ally home while those groups remain at war. Until such a time as the new Iraqi armed forces are massively more powerful than the insurgents, about the best that the ‘nationalist’ insurgency can face save for, (because this war really is lost) is a plan for a method to establish a time-table for the occupation troops to go home, or some such gobbledygook wording, because they will not be given a firm time-table. All this is on offer now so I would guess that most will grab it with both hands.

What ‘guarantees’ are to be given in terms of stopping military actions against both the government and Coalition forces and providing protection to economic assets as a result of inclusion in the government are the big issues. How is delivery of the guarantees to be measured? Cease-fires have to show up statistically. Areas have to go quiet, casualties have to fall, and discipline has to be enforced by the locals first.

The Government sending the Coalition home only arises in the context of having substantially built up the national armed-forces, and demonstrable demobilization of the insurgency. The Government must become far more powerful. These are hard-nosed negotiators requiring more than just promises of future peaceful behavior. There will have to be measured steps, on both sides, as the fighting reduces but inevitably goes on. This messy latter stage part of draining the Iraqi swamp can only be run by the locals.

The first of the steps, required of those entering the political process is the total isolation of the Al Qaeda type Jihadis, this is the bottom line starting point to the new negotiations.

The nationalist insurgents are now clearly drawn into politics, and thus separated from and fighting against these ‘enemies of all’. The huge bulk of the elected politicians will be obliged as evidence of their sincerity to publicly denounce the latter types as ‘enemies of all Iraqis’, and to make reasonable efforts to stand-down the former nationalist insurgents that have an honorable peace process before them. All are obliged into giving due allegiance to the national armed-forces and police-force, in due deference to not just majority rule but a substantially consensus rule.

Incidentally, the vote this time seems to me to be a good base for a rise in the secular vote in four years time as a big growth in young voters continues and more people drift away from religious style political representation under the influence of a vibrant mass-media as now exists in Iraq. If secularist politicians perform well they have every reason to be optimistic. After all, Iraqi politics has now opened up and progressives not only have a place at the table, but an electorate to win. They have space, time and enough people so could need little else to make good progress with this revolution.

But to get a flavour of what the anti-war luminaries make of the same developments see Juan Cole; Bay Area Indymedia

 

For a more up to date picture of Iraqi politics  “The Security Council reiterates that no terrorist act can reverse the path towards peace, democracy and reconstruction in Iraq, which is supported by the people and the Government of Iraq, and by the international community.” See here for more UN Security Council statements on current situation faced in Iraq

Syria is Charlie Hebdo without the world’s focus

French cartoonists aren’t the only one’s having problems with Islamo-fascists. Cartoonist and anti-Assad activist, Raed Fares is finding it difficult to stay away from the ‘justice’ of thugs when he is in Kafranbel, a town in Syria’s Idlib province. He narrowly survived a shower of bullets on Jan. 28th 2014 after leaving his office around midnight to travel home. His car and the brick wall close by were reportedly riddled with bullets luckily most missed and he survived after being shot twice in the back.

Meanwhile, a year later on January 17th 2015 Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) soldiers behaved like thugs when they occupied the community offices of the Mazaya women’s centre in response to a wild rumour. It’s a training centre for tailors, hairdressers and nurses, which also houses a Free Syria radio station and office for a publication. Workers and activists were beaten and forced to leave and threatened with beheading if any returned. A pregnant woman was beaten and there were fears for the unborn child but thankfully mother and child have stabilised.

This cowardly attack was prompted by nothing more than false rumours that the publication of ‘mocking and insulting pictures of the Prophet Mohammad’ was ‘imminent’. So it appears that wild and false rumours are all that is needed to disrupt national coalition processes and have these bullies invade the women’s space, where they were uninvited by the unveiled women and where they then beat them and abused them further calling them whores. These thugs were REALLY ‘mocking and insulting’ their own code.

Although real free speech allows for the right to offend, and say what others do not want to hear – in this case in Syria building a united front requires that this not occur just as it requires that atheists have the right to exist and promote their beliefs. Offending each other is not productive and serves the enemy whatever that enemy believes about the after life.

JAN occupiers have now withdrawn from the offices and JAN officials have claimed that the incident was unauthorised and that they will rectify this error.

Banners from Kafranbel have consistently caught the attention of English readers since the outbreak of the fighting in Syria now roughly 4 years ago, and with a death toll over 200,000. It is difficult to concisely convey messages especially in a second language but the Kafranbel activists have poignantly portrayed the demands and hardships of life in Syria and their humour and courage seems to know no limits. It appears that JAN is the only authority at present in Kafranbel as it was necessary to lodge a complaint against these crimes with JAN itself.

Some examples of messages from Kafranbel.
Syria inactivity

to die on the feet Syria

Obama waits people die

For further examples

For background Raed Fares and Kafranbel activists

Al-Qaeda challenges Islamic State with Paris attack

An early summary prior to the death of the perpetrators.(And escape to Syria by the wife of Coulibaly – Hayat Bemoudienne)

From Al Monitor

Summary Al-Qaeda’s deadly terror attack in Paris may have been an attempt to restate its relevance and effectiveness in its global jihadist struggle with the Islamic State.

by Antoun Issa Posted January 8, 2015

The deadly attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris was the realization of a long-expected nightmare — a planned homegrown terrorist attack. The two prime suspects, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, are French-born Muslims of North African descent. The brothers allegedly went on a killing spree that claimed 12 lives, while a third, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, provided the getaway car. Mourad, who has been unemployed and according to reports homeless, has since surrendered, while the brothers, at time of writing, remain at large, having reportedly robbed a service station in the north of France.

From the information available, it seems clear the Paris attack was well-planned and executed by an established terror network, or sleeper cell. The two men were well-armed with Kalashnikovs, carried out a military-style assassination of its prime target, the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, and had devised an exit strategy that has so far succeeded in evading French police. Seven people connected to the suspects have already been arrested, suggesting a wider network could have helped facilitate the attack.

This differs substantially from the Sydney cafe siege in December, which was the action of a single man who, despite his professed radical Islamist leanings, appeared to be mentally unstable. According to eyewitnesses, the French brothers claimed to be members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has for years maintained a foothold in parts of Yemen. Charbonnier was publicly identified as an assassination target by al-Qaeda in 2013.

This, thus, dispels early suspicions on Twitter that the attack might have been a spontaneous response by supporters of the Islamic State (IS) after Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon yesterday of IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This would be extremely unlikely, given that al-Qaeda’s core in Afghanistan would prefer nothing more than the elimination of its jihadist archenemy Baghdadi. Indeed, there is a strong possibility that the Paris attack might be more about IS than fighting a holy war against the West.

Al-Qaeda and IS have been engaged in a fierce competition for primacy in the jihadist world since al-Qaeda disavowed IS in February 2014. The result has been an ongoing bloody war between IS and al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra. Since IS’ spectacular offensive in Iraq and Syria last summer, al-Qaeda has been on its back foot playing catch-up as IS steals the world headlines. The main jihadist movement suddenly found itself in second place while IS was drawing the scorn of the West and winning the praise of would-be jihadists.

Jabhat al-Nusra was becoming increasingly concerned that IS’ new fame made it a more attractive destination for new recruits, and thus countered IS’ caliphate with its own declaration of an Islamic emirate in Syria’s northern Idlib province in November. Additionally, there have been reports of splinters in al-Qaeda franchises and defections to IS, most notably in North Africa.

The rise of IS has placed significant pressure on al-Qaeda to respond to demonstrate its relevance and effectiveness in the jihadist world. There is no better way to demonstrate to would-be jihadists worldwide that al-Qaeda is still the don at the table than a terrorist attack in a major Western city. Indeed, the United States has been on alert for such a headline-grabbing attack by al-Qaeda for some time, given its repeated strikes on the al-Qaeda-linked Khorasan group in Syria, which US officials said was planning attacks in the West similar to the Charlie Hebdo raid.

By killing a dozen in Paris, al-Qaeda is throwing down the gauntlet to IS. Of the two, only al-Qaeda can claim to have carried out terrorist attacks in the West, since IS has confined its operations thus far to the Middle East and to contiguous territorial expansion. Despite the jihadist glamour of IS’ caliphate, the ability to carry out major attacks in the West remains a drawing card for al-Qaeda. The frightful question is whether IS will respond to al-Qaeda’s challenge and seek its own headlines with a terror attack in the West.

Until now, there have been few indications that IS was planning to expand its operations beyond the areas where it maintains a physical presence. Unlike al-Qaeda, it has not sought a global franchise network to destabilize the international system, but rather sought to consolidate territory to replicate a nation-state model, and thus conform to the international system. Out of the dozens of small grassroots jihadist factions pledging allegiance to Baghdadi, IS has only endorsed one such pledge outside of Iraq and Syria — Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in the Sinai Peninsula.

According to Al-Monitor, IS enlisted Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis — renamed Wilayat Sinai — precisely to carry out terror attacks against Western targets in Egypt in retaliation for the US-led airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria. This threat, which was reportedly conveyed by Israeli intelligence, prompted the closure of the British and Canadian embassies in Cairo in December. But there appears little information to demonstrate — or at least there has been nothing disclosed by Western intelligence agencies — that IS is planning revenge attacks in the West.

But IS’ calculations may change following the successful terror operation in Paris by its rival in al-Qaeda. Should IS choose to match al-Qaeda’s terror prowess, the West could be facing more regular terror attacks. Such a feat wouldn’t be insurmountable for IS, given the thousands of Western jihadists fighting in its ranks, and the thousands more who discreetly support it in Western cities.

As demonstrated by the Paris attack, the fear now is not whether al-Qaeda and IS can establish sleeper cells in Western cities, but how many and in which cities, and whether the West becomes a new battleground for the growing jihadist feud.

Who Failed the Test of #JeSuisCharlie?

As I repost this article the terrorists are no longer at large but have been killed after taking hostages at a commercial Printer on the outskirts of Paris.

From Not George Sabra.

Which side are you on?

It’s the most basic question in politics.

After three Al-Qaeda gunmen burst into the editorial board meeting of Charlie Hebdo magazine and executed six of its staffers as well as two policemen guarding them, figuring out which side to take could not be any easier. Cartoonists the world over took up their pens to slam terrorism and masked murderers while the French people poured into the streets with signs proclaiming” we are not afraid” and “we are all Charlie.”

This spontaneous and unmistakably progressive reaction is worlds away from the Islamophobic ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ campaign that erupted in response to Comedy Central censoring an episode of South Park in 2010. When someone ripped a Qu’ran at one of the Paris demonstrations, the crowd turned ugly and booed the provocation, a clear sign that the incendiary polarization strategy Al-Qaeda was counting on to gain recruits and prestige among Western Muslims has failed miserably. Others exploited the popularity of the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag on social media by promoting an alternative hashtag, #JeSuisAhmed, referring to the French Muslim policeman who gave his life defending a magazine that mercilessly mocked Islam.
And yet there were a few who refused to join the broad masses in their mourning, outrage, and solidarity, who failed the test of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. They opted for victim blaming or exploited the tragedy to push their political hobby-horses.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, openly blamed Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier for his own death, writing “had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive.”

Stop the War Coalition leader Lindsey German argued, “The one effective response to such attacks would be to change foreign policy, which has helped to create precisely the terrorism that it now abhors.” In the Lindsey German universe, France helped U.S. president George W. Bush invade and occupy Iraq and should have never, ever done so! Or perhaps she is arguing that France should change its foreign policy of avoiding unjust and unnecessary wars waged on false pretexts?

Patrick Cockburn writing in the Independent responded by arguing that making peace with Bashar al-Assad — a murderous tyrant who sponsored, fostered, and funneled Al-Qaeda into Iraq during the American occupation — would help tamp down terrorism, somehow, some way. Cockburn is becoming more Fisk-like with every new article.

Ali Abuminah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, echoed Bill Donohue’s victim-blaming in the Tweet below (apparently in his view Al-Qaeda is an anti-racist organization or attracts anti-racists).ali

In a blogpost republished on the wretched Jacobin, Richard Seymour managed to write something that brings to mind the old adage “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” First, he questioned the use of the term terrorism in what was unquestionably a terrorist attack. Second, he decried the “enormous pressure” to stand in “solidarity with what is frankly a racist publication” and predicted an “inevitable statist backlash against Muslims, or the ideological charge to defend a fetishized, racialized ‘secularism,’ or concede to the blackmail which forces us into solidarity with a racist institution.” When he got the intense internet blowback that this nonsense deserved, he defensively posted a Charlie Hebdo cartoon as an example of the publication’s racism. He claimed the drawing was about the “Muslamic demographic threat” (a favorite topic of Islamophobes) when it was actually mocking the indignation of the privileged and well-off in France who decried the government’s decision to end benefits for children of the rich, thereby revealing the author’s ignorance and zeal for self-justification.

Mixing up two unrelated issues — Boko Haram’s sex slaves and budget cuts aiming at the 1% in France, using the suffering of the former to ridicule the latter — is one of Charlie Hebdo’s signature methods of being obnoxious, controversial, offensive, and yes, racist. But dwelling on the reactionary aspects of the trash Charlie Hebdo published in the context of today’s political moment does the following:

Enables victim-blaming (he/they ‘deserved’ it).

Ignores how the broad masses have rushed to the defense of Charlie Hebdo without embracing its reactionary aspects or falling into jingoism, racism, or militarism. Their reaction has isolated and minimized the retaliatory violence directed at Muslims and Arabs in France to the political fringes.

Most dangerously, it distracts from the main enemy here — Al Qaeda and its cousin, ISIS.

The three killers are still on the loose in France, wreaking havoc and taking hostages and no amount of useless bleating from (pseudo) left ideologues that Al-Qaeda’s assassination of Charlie Hebdo’s staff is the “bitter fruit of racism and imperialism” is going to stop or slow their crime spree in France, Yemen, Iraq, or Syria.

France’s Left Front (Front de gauche) led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon got it exactly right by calling for “respond[ing] with more democracy, more fraternity and tolerance” and for unity among all democrats (which means excluding the likes of the National Front). Almost one year after ISIS nearly assassinated the Syrian revolution’s top cartoonist, Raed Fares, that is exactly what is needed in France, Syria, Yemen, and everywhere else, both within and between all nations.