About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in Syria
With allegations of chlorine gas attacks in Syria on March 16, some humanitarian groups have called for a “No Fly Zone” over part of Syria. I believe this is reckless and dangerous and will explain why.
Part 1 of this article was published on March 31. It documented the campaign by Avaaz and others for a “No Fly Zone” in Syria and contrasted the promises with the consequences in Libya.
Part 2 examines the allegations of chlorine gas attacks in Syria, what various organizations are doing and saying and where major violations of international law are occurring.
Humanitarians Pushing for Intervention
We have a strange situation where “human rights” groups are demanding foreign intervention in Syria via a “No Fly Zone” while military leaders are expressing caution saying “hold on…do you realize that’s an act of war?” The humanitarian interventionists may feel righteous in their cause, but they should be held accountable when it leads to disaster and tragedy as we saw in Libya.
After decades of wars and occupation based on deception, exaggeration and outright lies, it’s past time to demand proof of accusations and to be skeptical regarding any call for military action.
What is the Evidence from Syria?
Syrian rebels and supporters have repeatedly accused the Syrian military of using chemical weapons, often with the accompanying demand for foreign intervention. The Syrian government has consistently denied the accusations.
A major push for a foreign attack on Syria followed the highly publicized incidents in Ghouta in outer Damascus on August 21, 2013. Many humanitarian groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined or led in accusing the Syrian government of being responsible and calling for “action.” A military attack was averted by the Syrian government agreeing to remove its existing chemical weapons and manufacturing facilities.
Opposition supporters like Kenan Rahmani predicted that the Syrian government would not comply with the agreement. But it did. On October 1, 2014, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that the elimination of prohibited chemical weapons and facilities in Syria had been successfully completed. It was a remarkable achievement and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Syria received little credit.
During 2014, as the Syrian government was working to successfully implement the agreement to dispose of banned chemical weapons, new unverified accusations emerged that the Syrian military was using barrel bombs containing poisonous chlorine gas. The accusations prompted renewed demands from governments actively supporting the armed opposition. The Syrian government removed all prohibited chemicals and facilities but now is accused of using a chemical which is not on the prohibited list.
According to its report, in May 2014, an OPCW team tried to investigate at the site of alleged chlorine gas attacks. The Syrian government gave the OPCW team passage to the rebel controlled area but the convoy was attacked by a rebel faction. None of the team members was injured but that stopped their on-site investigation. Instead, the OPCW worked with the well-funded opposition-supporting Violations Documentation Center to arrange interviews with numerous people from three villages. The interviews were conducted outside Syria, probably in Turkey. They gathered photographs, videos and other evidence and expressed “high confidence that chlorine had been used as a weapon in Syria” in three villages. They did not ascribe responsibility.
More recently there was an alleged chlorine gas attack on March 16, 2015 with six deaths including three children. The Avaaz petition and campaign sprung from this alleged incident.
Along with these accusations, there has been a steady drumbeat from various organizations that the Syrian government is committing war crimes. For example, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a press release on May 14 with the title “New Map Shows Government Forces Deliberately Attacking Syria’s Medical System.”
Are the Accusations Objective or Biased?
Following are some of the major organizations reporting or making accusations regarding the conflict in Syria:
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – This is the official intergovernmental organization tasked with promoting adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention. It has been responsible for removal of chemical weapons from Syria. It was then tasked with investigating allegations about use of chlorine gas as a weapon. While OPCW seeks to be highly professional and nonpartisan, there are questions of potential conflict of interest and bias as follows:
* The director general of OPCW, Ahmet Uzumcu, is the appointee of Turkey, a country which actively supports the Syrian opposition and has pushed for a No Fly Zone. Given that Uzumcu is a political appointee of a state directly involved in the conflict, he has a potential conflict of interest: he might advance his own career and please the Turkish government by making the Syrian government look bad.
* The interviews with villagers were done with OPCW “working closely” with the partisan “Violations Documentation Center.” How did OPCW verify the integrity of the witnesses?
* According to OPCW report, NATO’s CBRN Task Force (Chemical-Biological-Radioactive-Nuclear) collected data “in the field following reported attacks” and supplied this to OPCW. What exactly was the NATO task force doing in the rebel controlled territory?
* The official report of the OPCW notes that in the UN Security Council “Some doubts and questions were also raised in regard to the procedures and methods (of the Fact Finding Mission).”
AVAAZ – Avaaz is clearly biased and was involved in the Syria conflict from early on. They were supplying satellite phones and otherwise aiding and promoting local activists from early on. Is that a good thing? Not necessarily; their claims and actions in Syria have been controversial and criticized.
WHITE HELMETS / SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENCE – This is a new organization, highly publicized as civilian rescue workers in Syria. Their video and reports have influenced Avaaz and other humanitarian groups. Avaaz refers to the White Helmets as “Syria’s respected and non-partisan civil protection force.”
In reality the White Helmets is a project created by the UK and USA. Training of civilians in Turkey has been overseen by former British military officer and current contractor, James Le Mesurier. Promotion of the program is done by “The Syria Campaign” supported by the foundation of billionaire Ayman Asfari. The White Helmets is clearly a public relations project which has received glowing publicity from HuffPo to Nicholas Kristof at the NYT. White Helmets have been heavily promoted by the U.S. Institute of Peace (U.S.IP) whose leader began the press conference by declaring “U.S.IP has been working for the Syrian Revolution from the beginning”.
Apart from the PR work, White Helmets work in areas of Aleppo and Idlib controlled by Nusra (Al Queda). The video from a medical clinic on March 16 starts with a White Helmets logo. The next video of same date and place continues with the Nusra logo.
US and UK tax dollars pay for a program which has an appealing rescue component and is then used to market and promote the USA and UK policy of regime change in Syria in de facto alliance with Nusra.
The fake “independence and neutrality” of White Helmets is shown by their active promotion of a No Fly Zone.
MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERS (MSF) and other humanitarian groups no longer have staff in Syria. They rely on witnesses and videos provided by rebels. In a war zone it is difficult to ascertain when someone is speaking out of fear or intimidation or for payment. Witnesses in rebel-controlled territory may claim that helicopters dropped bombs with chlorine. But what if the witnesses are lying? The possibility for manipulation and deceit is huge.
PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (PHR) is also active reporting on the Syria conflict. They make bold but sometimes inaccurate assertions. They recently claimed that “people in Homs are facing serious health consequences as the medical system collapses, with only three doctors available.” This is inaccurate. I personally visited Homs one year ago and drove around the city for hours. Since the rebels departed the Old City last May it is being rebuilt and nearly all the city continues normally except for periodic terrorist car bombs.
A recent PHR press release is headlined “New Map shows Government Forces Deliberately Attacking Syria’s Medical System.” It looks slick and impressive but is inaccurate. For example, one of the most dramatic attacks on a Syrian hospital was the suicide bombing of Al Kindi Hospital in Aleppo. Yet the PHR map shows the attack having been carried out by “government forces.” Readers are encouraged to look at the 3 minute rebel video of the suicide attack which leaves no doubt who was responsible.
SUMMARY. Statements/documentation from the Syrian government and supporters tend to be dismissed or ignored; statements/video from opposition witnesses and activists tend to be accepted uncritically. That is bias.
The starting point for many criminal investigations is who has a motive? Who benefits from an action or event?
In order to prevail, the Syrian opposition needs foreign intervention. In order to prevail, the Syrian government needs to prevent foreign intervention.
Who benefited from from use of sarin gas that would cross Obama’s ‘red line’? The answer was always obvious. This received surprisingly little consideration as the US Government and humanitarian groups like Human Rights Watch argued that the Syrian Government was culpable without even considering who had motive.
Since that time, in-depth analysis of the August 2013 chemical attack in Ghouta increasingly points to the use of sarin gas by the rebels not the Syrian government. The “vector analysis” advanced by HRW has been discounted. The US and other countries almost began an international attack on the basis of false claims and analysis.
Similarly, who benefits from the use of chlorine gas that would violate the new UN Security Resolution? To ask the question is to answer it. Clearly it is the opposition rebels who benefit when the Syrian government is charged with using chlorine gas bombs. Clearly they are the ones who seek foreign intervention or imposition of a No Fly Zone.
A War of Aggression Against Syria
Supporters of intervention sometimes claim Syria has been “abandoned” by the international community. On the contrary, the Syrian conflict has continued primarily BECAUSE of foreign involvement.
The unholy alliance of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, USA, France and Britain (with silent partner Israel) have supplied, trained, provided weapons and salaries for Syrian and international fighters seeking to topple the government. They openly called themselves, with Orwellian chutzpah, the “Friends of Syria” as they divide the tasks of supplying the rebels and consider who should be the “legitimate political representatives”.
The crime has not been the absence of international effort; it has been the absence of enforcement of international law. The US and allies are doing to Syria what the US did to Nicaragua in the 1980’s. As the International Court at the Hague said in its decision on June 27, 1986:
… the United States of America, by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the “contra” forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State.
The Nicaraguan Foreign Minister at that time was Father Miguel D’Escoto. He served as president of the United Nations General Assembly in the year 2008-2009. When recently asked his opinion on what is happening in Syria he responded:
“What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.”
The conflict in Syria continues primarily because foreign powers continue to “arm, equip, finance and supply” the equivalent of the Contras. Imposing a No Fly Zone in Syria would not make anyone safer; it would dramatically expand the war and lead to vastly more, not fewer deaths.
Those who genuinely want peace in Syria need to press for ENDING foreign intervention in Syria via proxy armies and ENCOURAGING reconciliation and negotiations without preconditions.
The humanitarians pushing for intervention in Syria are not R2P (responsible to protect). They are R4W (responsible for war).
Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be reached at email@example.com
There is media confusion about what is going on in Yemen and the broader Middle East. Pundits are pointing out that the US is looking schizophrenic with policies that back opposite sides of the fight against al-Qaeda-style extremism in Iraq and in Yemen.
But it isn’t that hard to understand the divergent policies once you comprehend the underlying drivers of the fight brewing in the region.
No, it isn’t a battle between Shia and Sunni, Iranian and Arab or the much-ballyhooed Iran-Saudi stand-off. Yes, these narratives have played a part in defining ‘sides,’ but often only in the most simplistic fashion, to rally constituencies behind a policy objective. And they do often reflect some truth.
But the ‘sides’ demarcated for our consumption do not explain, for instance, why Oman or Algeria refuse to participate, why Turkey is where it is, why Russia, China and the BRICS are participants, why the US is so conflicted in its direction – and why, in a number of regional conflicts, Sunni, Shia, Islamist, secularist, liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, Arab and Iranian sometimes find themselves on the same side.
This is not just a regional fight – it is a global one with ramifications that go well beyond the Middle East. The region is quite simply the theatre where it is coming to a head. And Yemen, Syria and Iraq are merely the tinderboxes that may or may not set off the conflagration.
“The battle, at its very essence, in its lowest common denominator, is a war between a colonial past and a post-colonial future.”
For the sake of clarity, let’s call these two axes the Neo-Colonial Axis and the Post-Colonial Axis. The former seeks to maintain the status quo of the past century; the latter strives to shrug off old orders and carve out new, independent directions.
If you look at the regional chessboard, the Middle East is plump with governments and monarchies backed to the hilt by the United States, Britain and France. These are the West’s “proxies” and they have not advanced their countries in the least – neither in self-sufficiencies nor in genuine democratic or developmental milestones. Indebted to ‘Empire’s’ patronage, these states form the regional arm of the Neo-Colonial Axis.
On the other side of the Mideast’s geopolitical fault line, Iran has set the standard for the Post-Colonial Axis – often referred to as the ‘Resistance Axis.’ Based on the inherent anti-imperialist worldview of the 1979 Islamic revolution, and also as a result of US/UK-driven isolating sanctions and global politics, Tehran has bucked the system by creating an indigenous system of governance, advancing its developmental ambitions and crafting alliances that challenge the status quo.
Iran’s staunchest allies have typically included Syria, Hezbollah and a handful of Palestinian resistance groups. But today, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring counter-revolutions – and the sheer havoc these have created – other independent players have discovered commonalities with the Resistance Axis. In the region, these include Iraq, Algeria and Oman. While outside the Mideast, we have seen Russia, China and other non-aligned nations step in to challenge the Neo-Colonial order.
Neo-Colonial Axis hits an Arab Spring wall
Today, the Neo-Colonials simply can’t win. They lack two essential components to maintain their hegemony: economy and common objectives.
Nowhere is that more clear than in the Middle East, where numerous initiatives and coalitions have floundered shortly after inception.
Once Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya, all parties went their own way and the country fractured. In Egypt, a power struggle pitted Sunni against Sunni, highlighting the growing schism between two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) patrons Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In Syria, a heavyweight line-up of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, the US and UK could not pull together a coherent regime-change plan or back the same horse.
In the vacuum created by these competing agendas, highly-organized al-Qaeda-style extremists stepped in to create further divergence among old allies.
Western hegemons – the original colonials and imperialists – grew fatigued, alarmed, and sought a way out of the increasingly dangerous quagmire. To do so, they needed to strike a compromise with the one regional state that enjoyed the necessary stability and military prowess to lead the fight against extremism from within the region. That would be their old adversary, Iran.
But the West is geographically distant from the Mideast, and can take these losses to a certain extent. For regional hegemons, however, the retreat of their Western patrons was anathema. As we can see, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have recently rushed to resolve their differences so they can continue to design the region’s direction in this Western vacuum.
These counter-revolutionary states, however, share grandiose visions of their own regional influence – each ultimately only keen to achieve their own primacy. And the continued ascendance of Iran has really grated: the Islamic Republic seems to have moved from strength to strength during this ‘Arab Spring,’ picking up new allies – regional and global – and consolidating its gains.
For Saudi Arabia, in particular, Iran’s incremental victories go beyond the pale. Riyadh has, after all, staked its regional leadership role on a sectarian and ethnic divide, representing Arab and Sunni stakeholders against “Iranian” and “Shiite” ones. Now suddenly, not only are the Americans, British and French dallying with the Iranians, but the GCC itself has been split down the center over the issue of ‘engagement vs. confrontation’ with the Islamic Republic.
Worse yet, the Saudi efforts to participate in the overthrow of Gaddafi, squash uprisings in Bahrain, control political outcomes in Yemen, destabilize Syria, divide Iraq and conquer Egypt seem to have come to naught.
In all instances, they have yet to see cemented, meaningful gains – and each quagmire threatens to unravel further and deplete ever more Saudi funds
Today, the Saudis find themselves surrounded by the sickly fruits of their various regional interventions. They have endured recent attacks by violent extremists on their Iraqi and Jordanian borders – many of these recipients of past Saudi funding – and now find themselves challenged on a third border, in Yemen, by a determined constituency that seeks to halt Saudi interventions.
Beyond that, Syria and Lebanon have slipped out of Riyadh’s grip, little Qatar seeks to usurp the traditional Saudi role in the Persian Gulf, Egypt dallies with Russia and China, and Pakistan and Turkey continue a meaningful engagement with Iran.
Meanwhile, the Iranians don’t have to do much of anything to raise the Saudi ire. Iran has stepped up its regional role largely because of the Saudi-led counter-revolution, and has cautiously thwarted Riyadh’s onslaughts where it could. It has buoyed allies – much like NATO or the GCC would in similar circumstances – but with considerably less aggression and while cleaving to the letter of international law.
The Saudis see Iranian hands everywhere in the region, but this is a fantasy at best. Iran has simply stepped into an opportunity when it arises, met the threats coming its way, and utilized all its available channels to blunt the Saudi advances in various military and political theaters.
Even the US intelligence community’s annual security assessment – a report card that regularly highlights the “Iranian threat” – concludes in 2015 that the Islamic Republic of Iran has “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”
Yet all we hear these days blaring from Western and Arab media headlines is “Shia sectarianism, Iranian expansionism and Persian Empire.”
Tellingly, the American intelligence assessment launches its section on “terrorism” with the following: “Sunni violent extremists are gaining momentum and the number of Sunni violent extremist groups, members, and safe havens is greater than at any other point in history.”
And US officials admit: many of these Sunni extremists have been assisted and financed by none other than Washington allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
The Yemeni theater – a final battleground?
A senior official within a Resistance Axis state tells me: “The biggest mistake the Saudis made is to attack Yemen. I didn’t think they were that stupid.”
In the past week, the Saudis have cobbled together yet another Neo-Colonial ‘coalition’ – this time to punish Yemenis for ousting their made-in-Riyadh transitional government and pushing into the southern city of Aden.
The main Saudi adversaries are the Houthis, a group of northern, rural highlanders who have amassed a popular base throughout the north and other parts of Yemen over the course of ten years and six wars.
The Saudis (and the US) identify the Houthis as ‘Shiites’ and ‘Iranian-backed’ in order to galvanize their own bases in the region. But Iran has had little to do with the Houthis since their emergence as a political force in Yemen. And WikiLeaks showed us that US officials know this too. A 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Riyadh notes that Yemen’s former Saudi-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh provided “false or exaggerated information on Iranian assistance to the Houthis in order to enlist direct Saudi involvement and regionalize the conflict.”
And allegations that Iran arms the Houthis also fall flat. Another secret cable makes clear: “Contrary to ROYG (Republic of Yemen Government) claims that Iran is arming the Houthis, most local political analysts report that the Houthis obtain their weapons from the Yemeni black market and even from the ROYG military itself.”
Saleh was deposed in 2011 as a result of Arab Spring pressures, and in a twist worthy of the complicated Middle East, the wily former president now appears to be backing his former adversaries, the Houthis, against his old patrons, the Saudis.
The Houthis are adherents of the Muslim Zaydi sect – which falls somewhere between Sunnism and Shiism, and is followed by around 40 percent of Yemenis. Saleh, who fought the Houthis in half a dozen wars, is also a Zaydi – evidence that Yemen’s internal strife is anything but sectarian.
In fact, it could be argued that the Houthi – or Ansarallah movement – are a central constituency of Yemen’s ‘Arab Spring.’ Their demands since 2003 have, after all, largely been about ending disenfranchisement, gaining economic, political and religious rights, eliminating corruption, railing against the twin evils of America and Israel (a popular Post-Colonial Arab sentiment), and becoming stakeholders in the state.
To ensure the balance continued in their favor during the Arab Spring, the Neo-Colonial Axis installed a puppet transitional leader upon Saleh’s departure – an unelected president whose term ran out a year ago.
Then a few months ago, the Houthis – allegedly with the support of Saleh and his tens of thousands of followers – ousted their rivals in the puppet regime and took over the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. When the Saudis threatened retaliation, the Houthis pushed further southward… which brings us to the war front amassing against Yemen today.
This is not a battle the Saudis and their Neo-Colonial Axis can win. Airstrikes alone cannot turn this war, and it is unlikely that Riyadh and its coalition partners can expect troops on the ground to be any more successful – if they are even deployed.
The Houthis have learned over the past decade to fight both conventional and guerilla wars. This relatively small band of highlanders managed in 2009 to push 30 kilometers into Saudi territory and take over several dozen Saudi towns. When coalition-partner Egypt last fought a war with ground troops in Yemen, it became Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ‘Vietnam’ and nearly bankrupted the state.
Even majority-Sunni Pakistan, a traditional pipeline for staffing GCC armies, seems wary about this conflict. It too is fighting elsewhere on the same side as the Houthis, Iranians, Syrians, Iraqis – against violent Sunni extremists inside its borders and from their bases in neighboring Afghanistan. No amount of Saudi money will quench the anger of militant-weary Pakistanis if their government commits to this Yemeni fight – against the very groups (Houthis) that are battling al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
And, yes, it is ironic that the United States is now providing assistance and intelligence for the Saudi-led coalition – against the Houthis, who are fighting al-Qaeda.
But as mentioned earlier, this is not Washington’s neighborhood, and it does not approach this fight with the same goals of its close ally, Saudi Arabia.
The Resistance Axis official explains:
“The Americans see all outcomes as good: If the Houthis win, they will help get rid of al-Qaeda in Yemen. If the Saudis win, well, these are still the US’s allies. And if both sides enter a protracted war, that is “not a problem either,” referring to the ever-present US interest of selling weapons in conflict zones.
Despite a global ban, the United States has sold the Saudis $640 million worth of cluster bombs over the past two years, some of which have been used to carpet bomb parts of Yemen in the past few days. The cluster munitions were part of an overall $67 billion worth of arm deals with Saudi Arabia since the Arab uprisings kicked off in 2011.
The Iranians, meanwhile, are not doing much of anything, except insisting – like the Russians and others – that the bombardment of Yemen is criminal and that Yemenis need to solve their own problems via an internal dialogue.
And why should they make any moves? The Saudis are digging their own graves right now – and hastening the demise of the entire Neo-Colonial project in the Middle East, to boot.
“Tehran realizes that the fact that Riyadh had to bring together a major coalition to fight a group that is only on the outskirts of Iranian influence is a victory in itself,” says the US-based, conservative risk-analysis group, Stratfor.
Riyadh’s move to attack Yemen has just dragged the not-so-financially-flush Kingdom into yet another military quagmire, and this time directly, bypassing proxies altogether. Every airstrike in Yemen – and it is clear in the first few days that dozens of civilians, including children, have been killed – threatens to draw more adherents to the Houthi cause.
And every day that the Houthis are tied up in this battle, AQAP gets an opportunity to cement its hold elsewhere in the country. The net winner in this conflict is unlikely to be Saudi Arabia, but it may just be al-Qaeda – which is guaranteed to draw the Post-Colonial Axis into the strategically vital waterways surrounding Yemen.
The Arab League, under Saudi Arabia’s arm-twisting, just upped the ante by demanding that only a complete Houthi surrender (laying down weapons and withdrawing) would end the airstrikes. This ultimatum leaves very little room to jumpstart dialogue, and shows shocking disregard for the normal goals of military engagement, which try to leave ‘negotiation windows’ open.
It may be that the Saudis, who have rapidly lost influence and control in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, and other states in the past few years, have decided to go to the wall in Yemen.
Or it may just be some posturing to create momentum and bolster bruised egos.
But conflict has a way of balancing itself out – as in Syria and Iraq – by drawing other, unforeseen elements into the fray. With all the conflicts raging in the Middle East and encroaching on their borders, the Post-Colonial Axis has been forced to take a stand. And they bring to the field something their adversaries lack: common objectives and efficiency.
This is possibly the first time in the modern Mideast we have seen this kind of efficiency from within. And I speak specifically of Iran and its allies, both regional and external. They cannot ignore the threats that emanate from conflict, any more than the west can ignore the jihadi genie that threatens from thousands of miles away. So this Post-Colonial Axis moves further into the region to protect itself, bringing with it lessons learned and laser-focused common goals.
The Neo-Colonials will hit a wall in Yemen, just as they have in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Their disparate objectives will ensure that. The main concern as we enter yet another storm in Yemen is whether a flailing Empire will turn ugly at the eleventh hour and launch a direct war against its actual adversary, the Post-Colonial Axis. The Saudis are a real wild card – as are the Israelis – and may try to light that fuse. When the threat is existential, anything goes.
Yes, a regional war is as much a possibility over Yemen as it was over Syria. But this battle lies on a direct border of Saudi Arabia – ground zero for both violent extremism and the most virulently sectarian and ethnocentric elements of the anti-Resistance crowd – and so promises to deliver yet another decisive geopolitical shift in the Mideast. From Yemen, as from any confrontation between the two global blocs, a new regional reality is likely to emerge: what the Americans might call “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
And Yemen may yet become the next Arab state to enter a Post-Colonial order.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She tweets @snarwani
TEHRAN – A senior member of the Yemeni Ansarullah movement warned that his country’s crushing response to the Saudi aggression will devastate the Arab kingdom and change the geopolitics of the region.
“The Yemeni nation will change the map of the region,” Al-Alam Arabic-language TV quoted Nasreddin Amer, member of Ansarullah’s Information Dissemination Committee as saying on Monday.
“We will respond to Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz in the battlefield and unexpected events will take place in the coming days,” he added.
He reiterated that the Al Saud regime have embarked on attacking Yemen in order to prevent Yemen from becoming a free country which will not be under the control of the Saudi regime.
On Sunday, a senior member of Ansarullah movement’s Political Council Mohammad al-Bakhiti warned that the movement will give a crushing response to any possible ground invasion of Yemen.
“Any ground attack on Yemen will receive a rigidly harsh response,” al-Bakhiti said.
“We have not responded to the Saudi aggressions in the past five days because we wanted to allow the Arab countries to reconsider their action and stop their attacks,” he said, and added “but from now on everything will be different”.
Al-Bakhiti described the Saudi-led alliance against Yemen as a moral crisis, and said, “Whatever the Arab conference decided about Yemen will end in serious crisis.”
He underlined that the Yemeni people have confidence in their resistance and are confident that they will win.
On Saturday, a senior member of the popular Ansarullah movement warned of immediate attacks on Saudi territories if the latter refrains from putting an immediate halt to its aggression against Yemen.
“As the Ansarullah movement has promised collapse of some Arab regimes supporting the terrorists, if Saudi Arabia continues its aggressions against the oppressed Yemeni people the Ansarullah fighters will pave the way for the Saudi regime’s destruction by conducting martyrdom-seeking (suicidal) operations inside Saudi Arabia,” member of Ansarullah Executive Committee Abdel Mon’em Al-Qurashi told FNA.
He reiterated that Israel and Al Saud are on the same front and Saudi Arabia is taking orders from Washington and Tel Aviv.
“The main cause of the Saudi aggression is the failure of Riyadh’s policies in support of fugitive Yemeni President Mansour Hadi and Takfiri groups and its disappointment at them,” Al-Qurashi added.
He reiterated that the Yemeni army and people will give a crushing response to the Saudi aggressors.
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for five days now, killing, at least, 70 civilians and injuring hundreds more.
Five Persian Gulf States — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait — and Egypt that are also assisted by Israel and backed by the US have declared war on Yemen in a joint statement issued earlier Thursday.
US President Barack Obama authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to the military operations, National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said late Wednesday night.
She added that while US forces were not taking direct military action in Yemen, Washington was establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support.
What’s really terrifying about this threat
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | March 1, 2015
ISIS certainly is not what a great many people think that it is, if you judge what they think by what our corporate press proclaims incessantly.
Judging by what ISIS actually does and whom its acts benefit, its clandestine associates, and the testimony of some witnesses, ISIS is a complex intelligence operation. Its complexity reflects at least in part the fact that it serves the interests of several countries and that it has more than one objective. Its complexity reflects also the large effort to reinforce a false image with disinformation and staged events such as a video of a beheading which could not have been a beheading unless they’ve discovered a bloodless method until now unknown to science.
The subject of ISIS is not without brief glimmers of humor. The image of bands of men, swathed in Arabic robes and bumping their way around the desert in Japanese pick-up trucks with Kalashnikovs raised in the air for every picture has elements of Monty Python. The idea of modern, trained and well-armed military units turning and running from them resembles a war scene in a Laurel and Hardy comedy such as the one with Hardy stuck upside down in a WWI tank turret kicking his legs the whole time Laurel drives towards the German positions managing accidentally to round-up a whole trench-full of prisoners with some wire fencing that becomes snagged on the tank.
Despite the tiresome stupidities we see and hear about it, ISIS unquestionably does kill people and destroy things, that being its purpose, and there is no humor in that.
ISIS appears to have served several tasks so far. First, it frightened Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, out of office in Iraq, a man America and Israel grew very much to dislike owing simply to his good relations with Iran, one of the unintended consequences of America’s invasion of Iraq being expanded Iranian influence in the region. No doubt al-Maliki was terrified not so much by ISIS approaching in their pick-up trucks as he was by his own military’s tendency, as if on cue, to turn and run from ISIS, often leaving weapons behind. The message was clear: you won’t be protected.
Second, America’s highly selective “air war” against ISIS somehow manages to attack infrastructure targets inside Syria with the feeble excuse that they are facilities helping ISIS. We’ve seen what American bombing can do when it’s undertaken seriously, and somehow I have a hard time imaging the men in Japanese pick-ups lasting long when faced with what hit the Taleban in Afghanistan or Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. The air strikes are partly a show for the world – after all, how can America be seen not to be fighting such extremely well-advertised, super-violent terrorists, guys putting out videos regularly from a studio trailer they must haul around with one of their pick-up trucks? The air strikes’ main purpose appears to be a way of hurting Assad and assisting those fighting Syria’s army without coming into conflict with Russia, as they would with a large, direct campaign. They likely also punish elements of ISIS which have exceeded their brief and serve as a reminder to the rest of what could happen to them if they stray too far from their subsidized purpose once the war comes to an end.
Three, in some of the ground fighting in Iraq where we’ve read of Iraqi units fighting ISIS, the units are often Kurdish, and sometimes the press uses expressions like “Iraqi and Kurdish troops.” But the Kurdish region is still part of Iraq legally, although it has been given a good deal of autonomy by the central government. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the country’s prime oil-producing area, and in the estimation of many observers, an area both the United States and Israel would very much like to see severed from Iraq in the way Kosovo was severed from Serbia after America’s devastating air war there. This would not only permanently assure Iraq’s weakness, it would create a rather grateful and more willing oil supplier.
Where does ISIS get its technical equipment and the know-how to produce videos and run Internet sites? These are not qualities commonly found among fanatical fundamentalists anywhere; indeed most true radical fundamentalists tend to eschew technology. A supply of advice, technical assistance, and equipment comes from somewhere. Where does ISIS get the money for food, gasoline, clothes, ammunition, and Japanese pick-up trucks? And I wonder, did one of those wild-looking jihadi types just show up one day at an Iraqi car dealership and order a fleet of Japanese pick-ups? Were they delivered out on the desert or did a gang of jihadists march in, waving their Kalashnikovs, to drive them away?
The effort to destroy the Syrian government, whether by means of ISIS or anyone else, is warmly and generously supported by Saudi Arabia and its buddy Qatar – another oil-rich, absolute monarchy where political parties are banned – both these countries’ primary interest being the defence of their immensely privileged situations against creeping threats of all progressive developments such as equal human rights or democracy or indeed against revolt led by external forces. The payments we now know the Saudi royal family long made to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 were simply bribes to keep him and his anti-establishment work out of the country. They really didn’t care a lot about what the money bought elsewhere, but since 9/11 and its many Saudi connections – 15 of the perpetrators plus the past financing plus the many members of the royal family and bin Laden family secretly flown out by American officials at the time – the Saudi authorities were genuinely fearful of how America might respond and have become far more responsive to what America wants in the Middle East and now apply their money to such projects. What America wants in the Middle East is, invariably, what Israel wants, so there is now extensive, secret cooperation where once there was complete official hostility.
We have reports from plane-spotters in the region of daily flights of mysterious planes from Israel to Qatar. We have several eye-witness reports and photographs of supply bundles dropped from unknown planes into ISIS territory. Maybe ISIS has its own air force now? We know Turkey has served both as an entry point for countless terrorists into Syria and as a place of retreat and refuge when fighting with the Syrian army becomes too hot for them, the volumes of such activity having been too great to keep secret. We have reports of Turkish supply flights. A Jordanian official recently told a reporter that ISIS members were trained in 2012 by American instructors working at a secret base in Jordan.
If ISIS is what our corporate news pretends that it is – a fanatical Muslim extremist group that sprang suddenly from the desert sands much like Jack’s bean stalk – one blindingly obvious question is, why does it not attack Israel or Israeli interest? Isn’t that what one would expect from such a cast of characters? But it has not done so, undoubtedly because Israel is an important covert benefactor and supplier.
We might equally ask why ISIS has not attacked Saudi Arabia or its interests, for although the Saudi royal family officially professes a strict and conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fact many of them are very worldly people who spend a good deal of time and money at the world’s great pleasure palaces. Perhaps even more damning for a genuine fanatical fundamentalist, the Saudis now often secretly cooperate and make plans with Israel where mutual interests exist.
No, there is something highly suspicious about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who avoid such interests while managing to brutally kill poor Syrian soldiers just doing their jobs along with the odd foreign journalist or aid worker who may just have seen something they shouldn’t have seen. Of course, we have Edward Snowden himself having described ISIS as an operation intended to protect Israel. Despite the fact that some news sources have said the interview in which this was revealed never took place, my instincts tell me it likely did. Snowden has never refuted it, and the news sources saying it did not are highly suspect on such a subject.
The way ISIS serves Israeli and American interests is by providing a focus point for extremists, attracting them from various parts of the world so that they can be recorded and kept track of. Also the tracks back to the various countries from which they come provide security services with leads to places where there might be some festering problems. In the meantime, ISIS serves the interest of helping to bring down President Assad, a goal dear to the hearts of Israelis. Please remember that black operations, even the ones about which we know, show little consideration for lives or property. Just think of Israel’s attack on an American spy ship in the Mediterranean during the Six Day War, its pilots knowingly shooting up and bombing for two hours the well-marked ship of its ally and benefactor, no explanation worth hearing ever having been offered.
Just read conservative mainline sources (pretty much a redundant pair of adjectives) about the harm Snowden has done: claims of everything from his revelations about American intelligence having served to help ISIS avoid detection (!) to his revelations having set up the United States for another 9/11! You might think intelligent people would be ashamed of making such asinine public statements, but, no, there are almost no limits to trying to discredit those revealing murderous, dark operations.
We’ve had many reports of officials in various countries, including Canada as I write, concerned about the odd individual or small group running off to join ISIS. Now why should that be a concern? A few flaky people going abroad just removes them from your country, something I should have thought was a complete gain from a security point of view. Even if they were ever to return in future, you would know exactly who they are. Where is the basis for serious concern? But the psychological advantages of noise and hype to scare people about obscure dangers and “lone wolves” and “home-grown terrorists” outweigh completely good sense and intelligence.
Finally, there are numerous reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre, not his real name), the leader of ISIS, is a Western intelligence asset. What little we can learn about him makes that entirely plausible. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has said that the man is a Mossad agent, a claim supported supposedly by documents revealed by Edward Snowden. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is by all accounts a secretive man who speaks directly with few people, and even his birth place, given as Samarra, Iraq, is not sure. Records of his past, as those from his period of American captivity (always a great opportunity to “turn” someone to serving two interests), are not available. He was once reported killed but is still alive. He is said to have received intensive training from Mossad and the CIA, and some sources give his real name as Simon Elliot (or, Elliot Shimon), but few details can ever be certain in such dark operations.
The truly terrifying aspect of ISIS and other forces fighting with it in Syria is that the United States and Israel have approved and supported such wanton destruction in so beautiful and formerly-peaceful a place as Syria. Millions of lives destroyed and countless historic places damaged as though they were all nothing more than a few pieces moved on a geopolitical chessboard. I think it fair to describe that as the work of psychopaths.
With some recent, high-profile crimes committed by people purporting to follow the religion of Islam, the image of Muslims around the globe has largely been manipulated to project extremism, violence and intolerance. This manufactured image was long in the making, beginning as early as the 1980s, and reached epic proportions following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, irrespective of whether or not Muslim individuals, either by faith or birth, were behind it as executors or plotters. The negative propaganda which Muslims found themselves subjected to was done with the intention and precise objective, as the days following 9/11 have proven, to justify war against two predominantly Muslim countries. If the negative portrayal of Muslims was for reasons related to Islam, and not for other motives, then it would be difficult to explain the protective and shielded media coverage of several Middle Eastern monarchies with histories of violence and intolerance not only towards non-Muslims but also Muslims and those monarchies own citizens. Many Muslims throughout the world found themselves defending an unjust campaign portraying Muslims in negative stereotypes and associating Islam with violence and savagery. Mysterious groups alleged to be part of a global Islamic movement emerged with no objective but beheading Westerners and Christians, and distributing the gruesome savagery on YouTube and other media for the world to see.
While it cannot be ascertained who is the mastermind behind the illusive, ghostly and mercurial global al-Qaida organization (if it qualifies for such designation), it is highly likely that it has roots in Saudi and US intelligence establishments. ‘Islamic’ extremism was perceived favorably by Western media during the fight against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and during the Chechen wars of independence. Nevertheless, evidence points to a concerted campaign initiated and financed by the West (including think-tanks and media corporations) to portray Muslims as extremists and terrorists. The motives are abundant, most prominent of which are justification for the ill-conceived invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and, by extension, further legitimization of Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies and occupation of Palestinian territories that fall within dominantly Muslim-populated geographical areas.
The West found in al-Qaeda, and its self-replicating derivatives, individuals who can be used to further the West’s geo-political interests. But what made the West cultivate and harbor a group with a highly controversial and extremist doctrine that views the world with a binary lens: right vs. wrong. Halal (sanctioned by Islam) vs. haram (not sanctioned by Islam), Sharia (Islamic legislation) vs. Kufr (disbelieving), dar al-Islam (the house of Islam) vs. dar al-Harb (the house of disbelievers)? Solid evidence is not yet available to prove the link between al-Qaeda and Western and Saudi intelligence, at least in the public domain; however, a preponderance of evidence shows that al-Qaeda morphed out of direct Saudi government patronage. The conflict in Syria that started in 2011 indicates complicity between a host of governments, NATO member countries and al-Qaida. With the massive worldwide manhunt for al-Qaida, one would expect that any alleged al-Qaeda operative would be under heavy surveillance and most likely would not be able to cross international borders, at least with ease; such border crossing would be clandestine and rare. Yet a large influx of al-Qaeda operatives took place from the Horn of Africa, Northern Africa, Afghanistan, and the Arabian Peninsula into Syria through neighboring Turkey. That such movement of high-grade radicals could take place without the knowledge of Turkey, a NATO member country, seems highly unlikely. A recent German documentary produced by DW television uncovered the movement of goods from Turkey to ISIS territory with full knowledge of Turkish authorities.
In the pursuit of global geo-political plans, the West found in the religious doctrine of the Wahhabi-Salafi sect a highly extremist and exclusionist philosophy to advance its objectives. ‘’Philosophy’’ may be too grand a word to describe it; perhaps ‘outlook’ is more appropriate. The Wahhabi-Salafi sect is highly susceptible to manipulation because of its fundamental unspoken doctrine of imitation and largely succumbing to the wishes of the Amir (English: leader).
Wahhabism is attributed to Muhammad Ibn AbdulWahaab (1703–1792), a religious figure who was a staunch follower of Ibn Taymiyah (1263–1328). Salafism, derived from Salaf (English: forefathers) refers to the doctrine of imitating the companions of Prophet Mohammed in practically everything that is known about them. These two unlikely philosophies merge and bring about the violence that is wrongly attributed to Islam today.
Wahhabism is a dangerous sect (or cult) that interprets Islam primarily from narrations attributed to Prophet Muhammad, irrespective of their authenticity and their contextual time-space applicability. Wahhabis believe that everything the Salaf (English: companions of the prophet and their successors and the successors of the successors) did was perfect, and that the emulation of the Salaf is a religious duty, and their edicts are binding on all Muslims. In their understanding of Islam, the Wahhabis consider the Qur’an to be supplementary to alleged prophetic narrations rather than the primary source of guidance and legislation. The Wahhabis believe that wars waged by Arabs under the banner of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties were religiously mandated and thus were fundamentally Islamic. Amongst their beliefs is to invade non-Muslims’ land and force non-Muslims to convert, pay tax, or face execution. They do not believe that non-Muslims should have places of worship on Muslim land (surprisingly, they don’t provide a definition for ‘Muslim land’). Most alarming and dangerous of their doctrines is the ease by which a person can be killed. Their religious doctrine is replete with stories of people executed for offenses such as adultery, insulting Prophet Muhammad, interpreting the Qur’an in a way different from theirs, drug smuggling, theft, abandoning the daily prayer rituals, leaving Islam and converting to a different religion among others. The threshold for killing in their doctrine is exceptionally low; this reflects their disdain for human life. Their dress code is binary: black for women and white for men. In the narratives of their doctrine, the black color resembles evil and darkness while white is associated with goodness; thus their dress code for women reflects their opinion of women. Their interpretation of the Qur’an groups women with animals and material objects.
For Western governments with heavy interests in the Middle East, violence in the name of Islam justifies their geopolitical penetration into the region. The higher the level of violence by the ‘Islamic’ extremists, the higher the justification for intervention; the more objectives achieved, the higher the violence, and so on. The feedback loop, self-serving to both ‘terrorists’ and the governments that ostensibly oppose them, but in reality need them to further their geo-political goals, goes on until the objectives change. This is followed by new instructions to the Salafi leaders to focus on a new ‘jihad’. In looking at the history of the Arabian Peninsula over the past century, one finds al-Qaeda and the seemingly modern jihadi movements to be nothing but repackaging of older ones.
The founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia brilliantly and effectively used the same Wahhabi-Salafi doctrine to unify most of the Arabian Peninsula under his command. But his conquest could have never been possible without the British financial and intelligence support and, most critically, Orientalists’ understanding of the Salafi doctrine. The British directed the shots since they were the financiers of the then exiled and fragmented clan of Ibn Saud. The British financial support for Ibn Saud was not a charitable or benevolent gesture. The British Empire was at work chiseling the remains of the Ottoman Empire. The transformation from coal to oil to fuel the fleets of the British Empire, needed access to the Persian Gulf and its abundant fuel reserves. Ibn Saud found in the diehard Wahhabi-Salafis marauders, known then as the Ikhwan (English: brothers), zeal and fervor that could conquer mountains in the name of Islam, or more accurately in the name of the rewards promised by concocted Prophetic sayings for those who achieve ‘martyrdom’ during such allegedly God-sanctioned campaigns. The Wahhabi-Salafi brand of violence could have been known to the British from the time of their occupation of Egypt. It was Mohammad Ali of the Ottoman Empire who first had to deal with the Wahhabis and the first Saudi Kingdom. Ali suppressed the revolt of Mohammad Ibn Saud against the Ottomans and in the process, destroyed Der’eya, the seat of the government of the first Saudi dynasty, in 1818.
Abdulaziz Ibn Saud (the father of Salman, the present king of Saudi Arabia) struck a strategic alliance with the Wahhabis, who were led by the AlSheikh clan to divide the influence and booty of his conquest. The AlSheikh would control religious affairs and supply Ibn Saud with a new generation of Ikhwan fighters, whereas the control of everything else would belong to Ibn Saud. Whether it was Ibn Saud or the British behind this brilliant scheme remains unclear. Most likely the British were aware of the fervor of the Wahhabis; and both, Ibn Saud and the British used them with high efficiency and devastating effectiveness. The British grand plans were at work and Ibn Saud was given financial rewards and rule over vast tracts of land. The Hijaz had no strategic interest to the British who considered it a liability had they occupied it (potentially raising the wrath of millions of already agitated Muslim subjects under their colonial domain), so it was strategically given as a reward with consequent enormous financial benefits to Ibn Saud. The financial benefits of Hijaz come from the tax and economic activities associated with the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the cities of Medina and Mecca. Most interestingly, Ibn Saud with his extremist and fanatic fighters could have wiped clean all the scattered fishing Arab villages dotting the western side of the Persian Gulf cost. In fact, he could have sent a small crowd, not even a battalion, to spread the domain of his nascent kingdom, but the British had to draw a line in the sand, figuratively and literally. The British global strategic scheming was in full execution. The tiny remote fishing villages, in the British grand geo-political framework, had to be reinvented as little kingdoms and sheikdoms (the latest reinvention was the Kingdom of Bahrain with an area of only 305 square miles). The First and Second Gulf wars of 1991 and 2003 were the fruits of the British Empire’s machinations in those early days.
Fast forward to 2011. A global coalition started to unseat the Assad regime under the guise of the Arab Spring. The start of the insurrection in Syria can be traced to Der’aa, a small town close to the southern Syrian border with Jordan. The insurrection in Der’aa was met with severe repression by the Assad regime; a response that the regime later deeply regretted. Who was behind that Der’aa insurrection is engulfed in mystery. The partnership between the Jordanian and US intelligence dates back to the 1950s and surfaced very prominently when a Jordanian intelligence agent, Humam al-Balawi went on a rampage, killing 6 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents and a high-ranking Jordanian intelligence officer in Afghanistan in 2009. Jordan is highly valuable to US intelligence for several reasons:
1) The entire country, the army and the king are all underwritten by US money. Jordan has been a perfect model of a US satellite country since the transition from British to American control in the early 1950.
2) Jordan has a very diverse mixture of Arabs from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia; therefore, recruiting agent provocateurs is easy, especially considering the perpetual dire economic conditions of Jordan.
3) Jordan has a strong presence of Wahhabism that had been well tolerated by the regime (Abu-Musa’b al-Zarqawi, the mysterious al-Qaida figure that was killed by US forces in Iraq, was a product of the Jordanian flavor of Wahhabism). Using Jordan as a spring board to foment insurrection in Syria was highly probable considering that the Syrian regime was practically the last nuisance to Israeli’s efforts to neutralize the Arabs and force them to acquiesce to its own ‘peace’ terms which include the annexation of the West Bank and tracts of Lebanon and Syria. Of course, Syria is the strongest and strategic link between Lebanon and Hezbollah.
The insurrection in Syria that started in Der’aa was suppressed ruthlessly by the Assad regime, but the transformation into an armed insurrection was in sharp contrast to all other expressions of the Arab Spring, excluding Libya, which had a NATO intervention rather than a peaceful one. One cannot find armed components to any of the uprisings that occurred in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, or even Yemen. The armed insurrection in Syria needed money and men. The intelligence services who understood well how the Saudi regime came to power used the same process: direct appeal to the culture of extremism amongst the Wahhabis and much more broadly to the Salafis across the globe. The Saudi regime opened the door to many clergy under their tutelage and direct patronage to articulate the virtues of Jihad, especially on Syrian land. The Jihad sermons reached pitch fever in 2013 when the Saudi clergy even started reinterpreting alleged Prophetic Sayings (attributed to Prophet Muhammad), putting the Jihad in Syria as the pinnacle of all Jihads, even eclipsing any Jihad needed to liberate occupied religious sanctuaries such as the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. Many of the Syrian Jihad sermons by Saudi clergy are available on YouTube. One notable example is Mohammad Al-Arifi, who used to be a darling of the Saudi regime until recently; his inexcusable sin of mere criticism of the inefficiency of a recently-installed train service in Mecca netted him a short jail term. The result of these passionate, highly-charged sermons was a huge influx of fighters from Saudi Arabia, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, Afghanistan, even Europe. Considering the regional governments’ paranoia with security and especially for the slightest form of dissent, facilitating such a massive influx must have occurred under the full view of all governments in the region, most prominently, Jordan and Turkey. Financing of fighters, whether through the governments or individuals or organizations, came from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, since money laundering in those countries is easy. The US committed to providing logistics but the term ‘logistics’ can be interpreted broadly and expansively as America’s many imperial adventures around the world have proven.
During the early days of the present Saudi Kingdom, Wahhabis wanted to go beyond the Arabian Peninsula to spread their Wahhabism and zeal to the north (Trans-Jordan and Basra regions). They believed that Ibn Saud was a true Islamic Caliph. The British had to bomb the advancing Ikhwan, while at the same time bankrolling their king to the tune of 5,000 Sterling pounds per month (this could easily classify Ibn Saud as a former agent of the British Empire).
While ISIS is now the target of international outrage, and U.S. bombs, it is possible that this will not always be the case; history does tend to repeat itself, and if so, the change could be dramatic.
ISIS recruits believed in the Khilafa (an Arabic term used historically to describe an Islamically-sanctioned state) and expanding the domain of Islam as much as the Ikhwan did in the early years of the 20th century. ISIS expansion, however, had to curbed by the US and NATO. The similarity between the history of the Ikhwan and ISIS is truly striking. Based on these similarities, it is probable that ISIS will establish a new country over oil-rich swaths of lands taken from Syria and Iraq. The new ISIS nation will eventually soften its Jihadi zeal and receive international recognition. International corporate-controlled media can whitewash the new ISIS state as it has done most effectively for many other nations-states.
The top leadership of ISIS is shrouded in mystery. ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi, who was also declared, by ISIS of course, an Islamic (if not the only) Caliph, was jailed by the Americans during their occupation of Iraq then mysteriously released (a practice perfected by Israelis where ghost heroes are manufactured through short periods of imprisonment). The vast majority of ISIS members are thrilled at the thought of Caliphate being resurrected from the ashes and mayhem that has defined the Middle east since the British and French set foot there immediately after the end of WWI.
A very troubling doctrine of Wahhabism is the emphasis on allegiance to the Islamic Amir (English: leader), even if he were a tyrant, as long as the Amir allows people to perform the daily prayers. This doctrine, which has no foundation in either the Qur’an or Islam, helped Ibn Saud conquer Arabia as much as it helped al-Baghdadi conquer parts of Syria and Iraq. This very doctrine of allegiance to the Amir helps ISIS, Al-Qaida, or other offshoots to recruit individuals willing to execute orders of the Amir such as killings, bombings, etc. The executor of the Amir’s orders believes that he is executing God’s will. In summary, their doctrine is a carefully selected collection of narratives by controversial religious scholars who advocated extreme violence and land theft in the name of Islam.
The religious doctrine of the Wahhabis is so vast that one can always find in it alleged Prophetic narratives that justify and advocate for what is politically most expedient. The West, starting with the British Empire down to the American Empire, knew too well the Wahhabi extremist ideology and used it then and now, with high effectiveness and devastating consequences, to advance their geopolitical interests. The Wahhabis extreme violence at the beginning of the 20th century, most infamous of which was the Ta’if massacre , where between 300 and 400 Sunni Muslims were bludgeoned to death at the hands of the Ikhwan in 1924, is no different from their extreme violence that we are witnessing today. ISIS not only targeted non-Muslims such as Christians and Yazidi for killing, rape and forced conversion to Islam, but also savagely attacked Kurds. What the mainstream media failed to highlight was that Kurds are staunch Sunnis, neither ‘infidels’ nor Shias.
Justification for killing a cartoonist who depicts Prophet Mohammad disfavorably, along with any bystander who comes in between, can be found in Wahhabi doctrine as easily as killing 132 children in a school in Pakistan for no fault but being children of military personnel. It is the same doctrine that justifies blowing up 37 innocent Yemani men lining up to apply for a police job in one of the poorest countries in the world . The extremist and violent doctrine of the Wahhabi sect makes it easy for intelligence agencies to recruit suicide bombers. It is not possible at this time to confirm the identity of the plotters of grand-scale terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and the massacre in Charlie Hebdo; however, many indications point to Western intelligence. Acts of major terrorism amongst Muslims, such as the brutality of ISIS against so many Muslims, are heavily influenced by the doctrine of violence in the Wahhabi sect. Muslims can help in so many ways by taking a deep look at their religion and having the courage, mandated by Islam itself, to reject what is foreign and contradictory to their religion, such as the Wahhabi sect that fosters and breeds extreme violence, and embracing Islam from its undisputed sources. The stakes have never been higher for Muslims.
Copyright © 2015 · The Independent International Political Research Center
The US and Turkey have come to an agreement under which US military personnel will begin training so-called moderate rebels to fight in Syria. The announcement was made Tuesday. This is not just a foolish move; it is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire.
There are no moderate rebels. The moderate people in Syria support their government. If Obama is really serious about fighting ISIS he should join forces with the Syrian government and with Hezbollah–because they are the “boots on the ground” who are taking the fight to the terrorists.
How will the US know the “moderates” it trains aren’t really ISIS secret agents? That may sound funny, but I’m serious. In a report here we are told that the US has so far “screened” about 1,200 rebel fighters said to have been drawn from “several moderate groups in Syria.”
According to the report, the “screening” process is being headed up by Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata. The plans are to train about 5,000 “moderates” per year, but the process is going slowly because each applicant is supposedly being thoroughly checked. Some 100 US personnel are already in the area setting up three training camps–in Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia–and eventually about 1,000 US troops are expected to be involved in the program.
Question: how does Nagata know that at least some of the “moderates” being recruited for this effort aren’t in reality deep-cover ISIS operatives? Answer: he doesn’t. And even if they are moderates now, what’s to stop them from going over to the other side once they get their American training and equipment?
We saw an instance, late last year, in which two “moderate” rebel groups who had received US training–Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front–laid down their weapons and surrendered after coming into military conflict with Al-Nusra. The two groups had been supplied with GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles. All of this equipment ended up in Al-Nusra’s possession. It is said that Harakat Hazm gave up “without firing a shot,” and that some of its members even defected over to the takfiri militants. These events took place in early November of 2014, and they proved somewhat embarrassing for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, or WINEP.
In April of 2014, WINEP fellow Jeffrey White published an article in which he referred to Harakat Hazm as “rebels worth supporting.” I discussed White’s piece in a post entitled The Myth of the ‘Moderate’ Rebels, which I put up on October 15 last year. At that time, Harakat Hazm had not yet surrendered to Al-Nusra, but the post included a video about the organization that placed its supposed “moderation” into considerable doubt. Below is that video. Starting at about 1:04 in you will see footage showing five men seated at a table. The one in the center is Salim Idris, former chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army–another supposed “moderate.”
In my article I noted that the best way for the US to defeat ISIS, perhaps the only way, is to join forces with the Syrian government. But this will not happen, I also mentioned, because it runs counter to the wishes of the Zionist lobby in America, which wants to see regime change in Syria.
Now, just months later, one has to wonder: was it Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata who made the decision to give GRAD rockets and TOW missiles to Harakat Hazm? Nagata was already on the job training Syrian rebels in October of last year, and you can go here to see a report filed at that time that offers a little bit of insight into his background. The report doesn’t leave you with a great deal of confidence in him.
Once the initial 1,200 “moderates” have undergone their training, what happens then? Will they simply be wished the best of luck, sent off into Syria, at which point that’s the end of it? Hardly. According to a report here, once they are in Syria, the “moderate” rebels will be given the power to call in US airstrikes, which opens up a host of possibilities, including a scenario in which US air power is manipulated by those on the ground for purpose of attacking rival rebel groups. And this, too, has happened before–in Afghanistan.
How much of our tax dollars are being wasted on this enterprise? How much is being wasted now–and how much will be wasted in the years to come? Another consideration is the chance that all this will escalate. Those who remember history will recall that the Vietnam war started out with just a small number of US “advisers” in the country to train South Vietnamese troops. In 1959, a total of just 760 US personnel were in South Vietnam; in 1960, the number grew to 900. By 1968, America had more than a half million troops stationed in the country.
As mentioned above, one of the US training camps being set up is in Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabist ideology was born in Saudia Arabia, and the kingdom today remains its epicenter. Exactly what sort of persons do you suppose Nagata will be providing training for in his camp there? Perhaps they will include the enlightened followers of a Saudi cleric who recently explained why, in his view, the earth doesn’t rotate. The cleric has been identified as Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari:
The above video surfaced earlier this week. The following video, below, was posted three months ago and shows Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah discussing, in a somewhat bemused manner, the beliefs of clerics like al-Khaibari:
Not only is the “moderate rebel” a myth, but the notion that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are sincere partners in fighting ISIS is also a myth. All three countries have been heavily implicated in providing assistance to the very terrorists the Obama administration claims to be fighting. Due to the low price of oil, filling up gasoline cans is cheap these days.
The only people who attempt to put out fires with gasoline are either, a) the very stupid; or, b) those who only pretend to want to see the fire put out but who in reality are seeking to create a bigger fire.
In a speech given on Thursday, February 19, Obama asserted that the world is “united against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism.” This is a fairly accurate statement as far as it goes; the vast majority of the world’s people are indeed united on that point. The question, of course, becomes: does Obama really not know who his friends are in this fight?
The Middle East is really not that hard to figure out. The best, the brightest, the most patriotic of the region–these people already know what side they are on; they have joined the ranks of Hezbollah, the Syrian and Lebanese Armies, and the Syrian National Defense Force. They will fight and they will defeat America’s trained proxies, and then when nothing is left but for America to send in its own ground forces, they will fight America as well.
This is the course our leaders are presently headed on–all for Israel.
One of Britain’s largest construction firms has been linked to severely sub-standard working conditions for migrants in Qatar. Over 1,000 foreign workers perished in the Gulf state between 2012 and 2013, a government report shows.
The petro-rich Gulf state is investing over £200 billion in a construction frenzy in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup. Following a recent investigation into the matter, BBC Newsnight concluded that the building binge is benefitting many in the state – but not migrant workers.
Amid recent bribery allegations, Qatar’s World Cup plans have been tainted by a more unsettling reality than corruption alone. Hundreds of foreign workers hired to construct skyscrapers and stadiums in preparation for the global tournament have died in the Gulf state.
A report sponsored by the Qatari government found that migrants perished at building sites littered throughout Qatar. Most of them hailed from South Asia, many of them Nepalese. Swathes died from cardiac arrest, accidents, or falls in the workplace. Others took their own lives.
Amid mounting concern over the welfare of migrant workers in Qatar, questions have emerged regarding the obligations and responsibilities of global construction firms that win contracts in the country.
Following an in-depth probe into the conditions that foreign construction workers face there, BBC Newsnight uncovered damning testimonies about migrant workers’ poor pay, housing, and safety conditions.
Some of the workers forced to endure these conditions were employed by sub-contractors, which were in turn hired by Carillion – one of the UK’s most profitable construction companies.
Imran, a 32-year-old Bangladeshi worker whose safety pass and helmet bore the distinctive Carillion logo, told Newsnight that he deeply regrets his decision to come to Qatar.
Although a recruitment agent promised him 1,500 Qatari riyal (£263) a month, he is left with a mere 650 (£114) Qatari riyal once his expenses for food and medical treatment are factored in. He must then allocate half of that meagre sum to the recruitment agency that sourced the position for him.
“I am supporting elderly parents, my wife and a child,” he told the BBC. “I can’t send them the money they need…I don’t want to stay here but I can’t leave. The company have my passport.”
Describing a typical day, Imran said he wakes at 4 a.m., arrives at work at approximately 6 a.m., and continues to work for a further 11 hours. Reflecting on his accommodation, the Bangladeshi worker said it is overcrowded and ill-equipped.
“My room there isn’t fit for humans – six of us share and there’s no place even to sit and eat.”
Carillion told the BBC that it uses 50 different sub-contractors in the Gulf state, and that the firm employing Imran provides workers for one of those firms.
Reflecting on the unsavory nature of the 32-year-old’s allegations, the company said it is “deeply concerned and surprised” and will conduct “an immediate review of these claims to establish the position and take appropriate action.”
The migrant workers’ camps are located between 10-20 miles from the center of Doha. The BBC reported that workers were sat on the floor eating at one particular camp, which is used by a sub-contractor that supplies labor to Carillion.
Complaints of delayed wages, poor pay, and sub-standard working conditions are rife. Echoing Imran, one worker claims the sub-contractor he works for has the men’s passports, and that the workers are unable to access them.
However, a spokesperson for Carillion told the BBC that “health and safety is at the very heart of our business, and practice on site follows standards that we apply in the UK.”
He added that the firm “must abide by Qatari labor law in respect of wages, living conditions and employment rights,” and emphasized the company expects sub-contractors to “comply with Qatari law which prevents employers withholding workers’ passports.”
Drastic reform required
The Qatari report which documents the deaths of migrant workers in the Gulf state calls for serious reform of the nation’s policy for dealing with migrant employees.
Human rights campaigners have denounced the measures currently in place as being similar to indentured servitude – a historical form of debt bondage common to 18th century North America.
Ray Jureidini, a leading professor of ethics and migration, has been employed by the Qatari government to offer recommendations for the reform of the state’s labor laws.
He told the BBC that the country’s legislation requires an urgent overhaul, and warned that corruption and bribery by recruitment firms must be addressed.
Jureidini said that global construction firms profiting from Qatar’s pre-World Cup building boom also have a duty to take a proactive stance with respect to workers’ conditions.
“They don’t ask about the men supplied to them,” he told the BBC.
“They feel they don’t need to ask how the workers were recruited, whether they were trafficked, or whether they are caught in debt bondage or being exploited.”
Jureidini suggested that a “corporate veil” allows global firms to evade accountability for the fate of migrant workers, because the men are not officially documented in their company accounts.
Riyadh has ‘red-lighted’ the planned dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement before it even began. The Saudi call for Hezbollah to be put on the list of terrorist organizations made at the United Nations threatens to renew tension between the two sides, following an undeclared truce in the media that did not last for more than a few days.
Is there a fixed Saudi, and consequently Gulf policy, vis-à-vis Lebanon? Are these countries really keen on the stability of this country, as they claim, when they hardly spare any occasion to exacerbate its divisions? These questions and others are being asked after the new Saudi escalation against Hezbollah, which is likely to aggravate the already complex situation in Lebanon and the region.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdallah al-Mouallimi called on the UN Security Council on Wednesday to place the Resistance Party on the list of terrorist organizations. In a special session on terrorism, Mouallimi called for punishing Hezbollah and other groups including the Abu al Fadl al Abbas Brigade, the League of the Righteous, and other “terrorist organizations fighting in Syria.”
Al-Akhbar learned that as a result of the new Saudi position, contacts will be made with Riyadh over the next few days to contain possible reactions. Well-placed sources warned against negative repercussions from the Saudi move over the ‘preliminary dialogue’ between Hezbollah and the Future Movement.
The sources expressed concern that this could put an end to the de-escalation that begun when Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking during the Shia Muslim commemorations of Ashura, welcomed dialogue with the Future Movement. The sources told Al-Akhbar that the Saudi move, in addition to the sudden re-activation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) after a long period of inactivity, by summoning political witnesses, will create tensions in the country, and are indicative of a Saudi veto on dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah.
The sources asked, “How do the Saudis explain their position when barely two months have passed since their ambassador in Beirut Ali Awad Asiri celebrated his country’s National Day surrounded by deputies from Hezbollah? Why has Saudi Arabia made this call two days after the GCC summit, and as the UAE – which is influenced to a large extent by Riyadh’s position – placed a number of organizations on its terror list not including Hezbollah?”
The sources deduced that the Saudi policy is not yet ready to restore its balance in Lebanon and the region. The sources also had questions about Saudi-Israeli ‘intersection’ over trying to smear Hezbollah’s image as a resistance movement and link it to terrorism, something that Tel Aviv has sought for very long.
The sources described Mouallimi’s speech at the UN as a ‘sound bubble’ that will have no results, recalling Nasrallah’s declaration that Hezbollah will be where it has to be in Syria. They said the Saudi UN envoy’s move “demonstrates real disappointment in the ranks of the Saudi leadership over the failure of its project in Syria, with [Saudi]… making random accusations right and left.”
The sources pointed out that the Saudi envoy, in the course of justifying his call, cited the emergence of terror groups like ISIS and others, which he linked to the “practices of the Syrian regime” and the “sectarian policies of some countries,” rather than Saudi and Gulf support for these groups. The sources added, “Saudi Arabia is among the top supporters of terrorist Takfiri groups in Syria, which makes its talk about fighting terrorism lacking in any seriousness.”
The sources then linked the Saudi position to “growing concerns in the ranks of the Saudi leadership over the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and real fear from the possibility of the parties reaching an agreement that would undermine the Saudi leadership’s hopes to step up the siege on Iran.”
The sources ruled out any practical effect of the Saudi position in light of the current balance of power in the international organization, and in light of the responses the Saudi envoy heard regarding his proposal.
Iran’s envoy at the United Nations Gholam Hossein Dehghani had responded to Mouallimi’s call by emphasizing the need to make a distinction between legitimate resistance and terrorism, and the need to support the resistance. He also criticized regional countries for failing to match their words with deeds, and said that few governments in the region have taken the threat seriously, while the rest did not control their borders, did not stop ISIS from recruiting, and did not stop the flow of financial support to these “criminal organizations.”
For his part, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari accused Saudi Arabia of backing terrorism in the region, denouncing the inconsistencies in its diagnosis of the roots of terrorism. He said that al-Qaeda and its ilk had all grown thanks to Saudi patronage in Afghanistan. Jaafari also said that the carnage in Syria is supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, citing the call by 72 Saudi clerics for people to go for “jihad” in Syria, and wondered whether the Saudi government was serious about fighting terrorism.
Syria has once again slammed the Israeli regime’s support for the Takfiri ISIL militants operating inside the Arab country.
A Syrian military official, whose name was not mentioned in the reports, made the comments on Tuesday after Tel Aviv said earlier in the day that it had shot down a Syrian warplane as it attempted to fly over the ceasefire line into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The official confirmed the shooting down and underlined that the move was based on Tel Aviv’s policy of supporting ISIL Takfiris.
The aircraft was apparently a MiG-21 fighter jet which was downed by a surface-to-air Patriot missile, the Army radio said, adding that the wreckage landed on the Syrian side of the plateau.
However, an unnamed Israeli military official identified the downed aircraft as a Sukhoi Su-24 Russian fighter plane.
The development comes amid heavy clashes on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. The Syrian government has been hitting back at the foreign-backed militants there with frequent airstrikes.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011.
According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — are supporting the Takfiris fighting against the Syrian government.
Golan Heights have been under the Israeli occupation since the 1960s. The Tel Aviv regime captured 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed the region in 1981.
Let us be clear, if that is possible, about President Obama’s plan to deal with ISIS, the boogeyman of America’s own making. The president last week swore that he would “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, after having spent three years providing weapons and money to jihadists fighters, including ISIS, in hopes that they would “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Syrian state of president Bashar Assad. So, the Americans set out to destroy one state, in Syria, whose government had never presented any danger to the U.S., and wind up creating another state, a caliphate astride the borders of Syria and Iraq, that openly declares its intention to do battle with the U.S.
Obama assures us that he is assembling a new coalition of the willing to join him in smashing ISIS. It turns out that every prospective member of the coalition was a co-conspirator with the United States in giving birth to ISIS – Britain and France and other Europeans, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates…ISIS has many, many fathers, all of whom now deny patrimony.
Obama appears to be leaving the natural gas-rich nation of Qatar out of his coalition, which doesn’t seem fair, since Qatar was a loyal ally of the United States and NATO just three years ago, when Obama was busy trying to degrade and destroy another state, Libya, which also posed no threat to the U.S. The emir of Qatar worked his gaseous little butt off for Obama, sending money and guns and mercenaries to help the Libyan jihadists that the U.S. wanted to install as the new government.
Once regime change had been accomplished in Libya, Qatar helped the Americans send hundreds of Libyan jihadists to Syria, to put that regime out of business. But, Libya never did get a new state, to replace the one that was destroyed in 2011. Instead, the country is wracked by civil war, that is also a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its friends and Qatar.
Wars Within Wars Within Regime Changes
It seems that Qatar backed the wrong side – the Muslim Brotherhood – after the regime change in Egypt in 2011. The Saudi Arabian royal family hates the Muslim Brotherhood, because the Brotherhood advocate elections, and kings don’t do elections. So, the Saudis bankrolled another regime change in Egypt, putting the military back in charge, and are now fighting a proxy war with Qatar in Libya. Which is why the Saudis blackballed Qatar from participating in Obama’s coalition of the willing against ISIS. (You do understand all this, right?)
Turkey, which is part of NATO, has been a wonderful father to ISIS, allowing the caliphate’s fighters free use of its long border with Syria and Iraq. In return, Turkey gets to buy the cheap oil from the fields that ISIS seized from Syria and Iraq, which makes the Turks somewhat reluctant to try to kill little baby ISIS.
It’s starting to look like Obama might have to take out the caliphate on his own, which is why the president’s top military advisor is talking about putting serious U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq, and maybe in Syria. Meanwhile, Obama is putting together a new army of rebels to continue the job of degrading and destroying the Syrian state – unless, of course, these new fighters just take the money and guns and join ISIS, too.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Qatar will buy US patriot missile batteries and Apache helicopters in an arms deal worth $11 billion, senior officials at the US Pentagon said yesterday.
According to the US officials, Qatar will receive 10 radars, 34 launchers for Patriot systems designed to counter any missile attack, 24 Apache helicopters and Javelin anti-tank missiles.
Qatar has decided to buy the missile defence systems to confront any threat from Iran to the Gulf region.
The Qatari Minister of Defence Maj. Gen. Hamad Bin Ali Al-Atiyyah signed the deal in Washington yesterday following talks with his US counterpart Chuck Hagel, AFP reported.
Officials said the US wants to preserve its role as “the favourite defence supplier” for Qatar and other Gulf countries.
The Qatari deal will enhance the US economy as it will reportedly create 54,000 jobs, the Pentagon said.
The deal came on the heels of Hagel’s visit to Qatar in December, as well as talks in May between Hagel and his Qatari counterpart.
The United States is considering allowing shipments of portable air defense systems to Syrian opposition groups, a U.S. official said Friday, as President Barack Obama sought to reassure Saudi Arabia’s king that the U.S. is not taking too soft a stance in Syria and other Mideast conflicts.
A Washington Post report said Saturday that the U.S. is ready to step up covert aid to Syrian armed groups under a plan being discussed with regional allies including Saudi Arabia.
The plan includes CIA training of about 600 Syrian opposition forces per month in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar, foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius wrote on Thursday. That would double the forces currently being trained in the region.
The Obama administration was debating whether to use U.S. Special Operation forces and other military personnel in the training, something Syrian mercenaries have argued would carry less political baggage than the CIA, according to the column.
The Obama administration has been criticized by some in Congress for failing to do more in Syria, where 140,000 people have been killed so far, millions have become refugees and thousands of foreign gunmen have been trained since 2011.
Washington was also considering whether to provide the armed opposition with anti-aircraft missile launchers, known as MANPADS, to stop President Assad’s air force, the column said. Saudi Arabia wanted U.S. permission before delivering them, it said.
The plan, which was still being formalized, also called for vetting of opposition forces for “extremist links” during and after training, according to Ignatius.
Qatar has offered to pay for the first year of the program, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the column. The program would try to stabilize Syria by helping local councils and police in areas not under Assad’s control and seek to establish safe corridors for humanitarian aid, it said.
Saudi rulers are hoping for the United States to shift its position on support for Syrian armed opposition, whom Riyadh has backed in their battle to oust President Bashar al-Assad.