Posts Tagged ‘ISIS’

ISIS vs. Iran: which side should we be on?

June 7, 2017

The ISIS attack on Iran shows the alignment of alliances in the Middle East.

On one side, there are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and also Israel.

On the other, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

If the U.S. aim is to crush Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, why does the U.S. side with Saudi Arabia against Iran?

If you think Iran is the problem, ask yourself:

When was the last time that Iranian-backed terrorists attacked people in Europe or North America?

When was the last time that terrorists backed by Al Qaeda or ISIS attacked people in Israel?

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Russia as the jihadists’ “far enemy”

January 5, 2017

isis-610417-putin

When Al Qaeda jihadist terrorists attacked the U.S. World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, it was part Osama bin Laden regarded the USA as the “far enemy” who propped up all the “near enemies” in the Arab world.

But for many of the jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, the “far enemy” is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, not the USA.   A large number are Chechens, a Muslim nationality living mostly within the Russian Federalion, or Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs or others living under regimes in Central Asia that are propped up by Russia.

One of Putin’s first actions when he came to power was to ruthlessly crush the independence movement in Chechnia.   The justification was a series of terrorist attacks that were very likely a false flag attack by the Russian FSB.

Since then many Chechen fighters have been driven out of Russia, and are now fighting the Russian-backed Assad government of Syria, along with Uzbeks and other nationalities from the former Soviet republics.

Some analysts think that the export of jihadists is a conscious Russian strategy.  The best outcome, from the Russian point of view, is that they die fighting in Syria.   But even if they survive, they have made themselves known to Russian intelligence services.

Saudi Arabia does the same thing with its jihadist rebels—suppresses them at home and encourages them to go wage war in other countries.

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Where ISIS gets its money

October 16, 2016

We finally know what Hillary Clinton knew all along — US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent.

A realistic map of the Middle East

August 22, 2016

truemapofmiddleeastThomas_Map-01

This map of the Middle East, showing which entities actually control what territory, was published by Frank Jacobs on the Strange Maps web site.  Here’s Jacobs’ key to the map.

  • The Syrian central government (in light grey), based in Damascus, controls a coastal strip of territory in a patchwork shared with a number of rebel forces. The interior of the country is lost to government control, except a single light grey island in a sea of dark grey (for IS): the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor.
  • The ‘official’ rebels (in green) control a fragmented archipelago of territories, spread across the north, middle and south of the country – also concentrated in the east, but without coastal access.  Aleppo, in the north, is on the front line between government and rebel forces, with horrific consequences for the city and its people.
  • Large parts of northern Syria are controlled by the Syrian Defence Forces (in red): a contiguous zone in the northeast, and a smaller zone in the northwest.  Both are separated by the zone of contact between Turkey and Islamic State, although that zone has gotten a bit narrower since the takeover by the SDF of Manbij.  The SDF, by the way, are mainly Kurdish forces, and the area they control is often referred to as Rojava – Kurdish for ‘West’.
  • The Islamic State controls not only the largest part of Syria, but has also spilled over into Iraq, where it dominates mainly Sunni areas in the centre, up to and including the city of Mosul in the north.  The IS’s territory is surrounded by enemies, but has the advantage of being contiguous, with the exception of two exclaves, one in southwest Iraq, and another one in southeast Syria.
  • What remains of Iraq is controlled in the south by the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad (in light blue), and in the North by the Iraqi Kurds (in yellow).
  • The map also reflects the mainly unrecognised secession of Northern Cyprus (in dark blue) and the de facto secession of Hezbollah-dominated areas within Lebanon (in green) – both facts on the ground predating the Syrian conflict, and likely to survive it.

Source: Frank Jacobs | Big Think

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The threat of a global holy war

April 21, 2016

One of the worst thing that could happen is an escalation of the U.S. “war on terror” into a global war between Christendom and Islam.  That is the goal of al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

If it happened, the United States and much of Europe would become as beleaguered as Israel is today.  The devastation that has been visited on Gaza, Palestine, Iraq, Libya and Syria would be spread to the whole world.

That is why Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were careful to distinguish jihadist terrorists from Muslims in general.

Unfortunately, there are Americans, such as Lt. General (ret) William “Jerry” Boykin, who don’t.

President Bush fired him in 2007 from his post as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence for saying that the United States is in a holy war of Christian crusaders against Muslim jihadists.  Even though Boykin was a brave and patriotic soldier, Bush acted in the best interests of the United States.

Boykin has endorsed Ted Cruz for President, and Cruz has appointed him as one of his top advisers.  I think Cruz also wants to make the “war on terror” a religious war.

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Is there hope for peace in Syria?

December 22, 2015

Hope for peace in Syria depends on two things:

  • the defeat of the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh), because those fanatics cannot live in peace with anyone else
  • renunciation of “regime change” as a U.S. goal in Syria, because you can’t negotiate a peace with someone while you are openly bent on his destruction.

peace-in-syria-262x300Secretary of State John Kerry has said some things that indicate the United States might be willing to work with Vladimir Putin for a negotiated peace.  I hope this is so.  U.S. policy under President Obama has been marked by a steady drift toward war, interrupted by sudden lurches toward peace, as with the Iranian sanctions negotiations.

Almost all the Democratic and Republican candidates are worse on this issue than the current administration.  Hillary Clinton is a war hawk.  Bernie Sanders says that the destruction of ISIS should take priority over removal of President Assad of Syria, but removal of Assad should remain as a long-term goal.

The Republican candidates are all over the map.  I regret having given Donald Trump and Ted Cruz credit for certain glimmers of sanity when in fact they have no coherent policy.   The one voice of sanity is Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is a clear and principled opponent of regime change, but has little chance of winning the GOP nomination.

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Now Russia is drawn into the Sunni-Shiite conflict

December 15, 2015

ISIS, al Qaeda and the other violent jihadist fighters are not from any one country.  They are part of an international movement, so there are Arabs fighting in Afghanistan and Chechens fighting in Syria.  In a sinister way, they resemble the international brigades that fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

ISIS, al Qaeda and their supporters are inspired by teachings of the Wahhabis (or Salafis), an extremely harsh theocratic sect with roots in Saudi Arabia and a strong following in Pakistan.

But a report by Christoph Reuter of Spiegel Online indicates there is a parallel movement among the Shiite Muslims, whose strength is in Iran:

151007165249-putin-assad-syria-large-169Assad’s army isn’t just vulnerable, it also isn’t strictly a Syrian force anymore. For the last two years, the forces on his side have increasingly been made up of foreigners, including Revolutionary Guards from Iran, members of Iraqi militias and Hezbollah units from Lebanon.

They are joined at the front by Shiite Afghans from the Hazara people, up to 2 million of whom live in Iran, mostly as illegal immigrants. They are forcibly conscripted in Iranian prisons and sent to Syria — according to internal Iranian estimates, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 of them fighting in the country.

The situation leads to absurd scenes: In the southern Syrian town of Daraa, rebels began desperately searching for Persian interpreters after an offensive of 2,500 Afghans suddenly began approaching.

It is the first international Shiite jihad in history, one which has been compensating for the demographic inferiority of Assad’s troops since 2012. The alliance has prevented Assad’s defeat, but it hasn’t been enough for victory either.

Furthermore, the orders are no longer coming exclusively from the Syrian officer corps.  Iranian officers control their own troops in addition to the Afghan units, and they plan offensives that also involve Syrian soldiers. Hezbollah commanders coordinate small elite units under their control.  Iraqis give orders to Iraqi and Pakistani militia groups.  And the Russians don’t let anyone tell them what to do.

Source: SPIEGEL ONLINE

There is no inherent reason why Sunnis and Shiites should be at war.  They have lived side by side in peace for more centuries than they have been in conflict.

The main reason they are in conflict now is that it is in the interest of governments such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to use armed religious militias to advance their own political and economic objectives.  Another reason is the destruction of civil order as a result of U.S. invasions, so that the religious militias are the only source of protection.

There is a great danger to the world if the USA and Russia allow themselves to be drawn further into this conflict, the USA on the side of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Sunni fighters and Russia on the side of Iran, Syria and the Shiite fighters.

A confrontation between the world’s two main nuclear powers would mean that the killing and destruction now going on in the Middle East could spread over the whole world.

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Who will fight for the U.S. against ISIS?

December 15, 2015

The Syrian situation reminds me of a remark by Adam Smith in (I think) The Wealth of Nations — about how masterminds who think of themselves as master chess players, using other people like pieces on a chessboard, will find the people they think they are manipulating are actually playing their own game.

image-931841-panoV9free-whwk-931841The aims of the U.S. government in the Middle East are, in no particular order, to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to counter the growing power of Iran and to destroy the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).

The bitter experience of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions means that the American people will not tolerate a large-scale intervention with ground troops, so American leaders, including the principal Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, look for pawns to carry out U.S. purposes.

Here is a rundown on these pawns and the games they are playing.

  • Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirate governments, all predominantly Sunni Arab nations, fear the rise of Shiite Iran and Shiite power in Iraq much more than they do Sunni Arab ISIS or al Qaeda.   To the extent they fear ISIS and al Qaeda, it is more as an internal threat, and they are happy to see their local rebels go off to fight and maybe die for ISIS.   The Saudi government doesn’t crack down on individuals who contribute to ISIS because they reflect the beliefs of Wahabism (aks Salafism), the harsh version of Sunni Islam that rules Saudi Arabia.
  • The Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq are fighting ISIS effectively, but they are fighting to defend themselves and their goal of an independent Kurdistan, to be carved out of the existing territory of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran, not as part of any overall “war on terror”.  They aren’t going to give up that goal just because it is inconvenient to the USA.
  • The Turkish government desires the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria and the suppression of Kurdish nationalism more than suppression of ISIS.  Oil from ISIS-controlled territory enters Turkey, and money and arms go from Turkey to ISIS.  Turkish politicians talk of the glories of the Ottoman Empire and of the unity of ethnic Turks across Asia.
  • The Iraqi government desires to prevent breakaway movements, whether ISIS, other Sunni Arab fighters or Kurds.
  • CQfwkI2WwAALwwnThe Sunni Arab militias and tribal leaders in Iraq blame the United States for overthrowing Saddam Hussein and setting up an Iraqi government dominated by Shiite Arabs, so they’re not willing to be U.S. proxies in a campaign against ISIS.
  • The Shiite Arab militias in Iraq hate ISIS, but their leaders distrust the United States and won’t work with Americans.
  • The “moderate Arab” rebels in Syria primarily desire to get rid of Bashar al-Assad and talk about fighting ISIS primarily to obtain U.S. weapons – many of which wind up in the hands of ISIS, al-Nusra and like groups.
  • The Iranian government desires to support Shiite Muslims against all enemies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey or ISIS, and to defend Syria and also Hezbollah, which represents the Shiite Muslims in Lebanon.
  • The Syrian government is an enemy of ISIS because ISIS is an existential threat to its existence.  But the Assad regime regards the other Syrian rebels and the Kurdish separatists as equally threatening

This leaves Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Putin justifiably fears the influence of ISIS and other jihadist terrorists on the large Muslim population in the Caucasus and other regions of the Russian Federation.  He also wants to defend Russia’s Syrian ally and keep Russia’s naval station in Syria.  But for him, the war against ISIS is a war of self-defense, not merely a means of extending Russian influence.

If fighting ISIS is the top U.S. priority, then the U.S. government should find a way to cooperate with Russia against ISIS.  If the U.S. government is unwilling to cooperate with Russia against ISIS, then fighting ISIS is not the top U.S. priority.

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What is Russia’s real objective in Syria?

December 14, 2015

1.Russia-False-Narrative-in-Syria_13.Russian Airstrikes 30 NOV-02 DEC-01

Is Vladimir Putin’s objective in Syria to destroy ISIS or to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad?  It seems to me that the answer is “yes”.

I’ve read articles criticizing Putin for concentrating Russian airstrikes on rebels other than ISIS.  Some of these articles hint that Putin or maybe even Assad are secretly supporting ISIS.

I think this criticism mistakes the nature of air power.  Command of the air can be devastatingly effective when used in combined operations with ground troops.  But bombing alone, in and of itself, seldom defeats a determined enemy.

What these maps show is that Putin’s air strikes are concentrated on “rebels” not part of ISIS and not part of the al-Nusra front (formerly known as al Qaeda).

There is, however, no clear distinction between ISIS, al-Nusra and generic “rebels”.  Individuals and small bands change affiliations according to the situation, and U.S. weapons given to “rebels” are often acquired by ISIS through capture, gift or sale.

Christoph Reuter of Spiegel Online suggested that Assad wants to defeat the U.S.-backed rebels first and ISIS last, because, so long as ISIS is in the field, he can present himself as the only alternative.  I suppose this is possible, but the simpler explanation is that Russia is concentrating on bombing the troops that are actually fighting the Syrians.

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How the USA helps ISIS, AQ and the Taliban

December 7, 2015

syrianrebels

The U.S. government provides arms to ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban.  It sometimes does this directly, as in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s and Bosnia during the 1990s.  Other times it arms ineffective and corrupt governments, warlords or insurgents who then give the arms of ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The U.S. government is an enemy of the nations fighting ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taiban.   These include Syria, Iran and Russia and, in the past, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  I’m not praising these nations’ governments.  I’m just pointing out they are the enemies of the terrorists the U.S. government supposedly is making war on.

The U.S. government declines to confront nations from which ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban draw support.   I’m thinking of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates and Turkey.   Oil flows out and money and arms flow in.

U.S. military intervention creates the kind of environment in which ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban flourish.   When the structure of civil government and civil society are smashed, as happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, only criminal, religious or military groups can flourish, or criminal religious warlords such as ISIS, al Qaeda or the Taliban.

One motive for joining ISIS is to take revenge for killing of bystanders in U.S. military operations.
Drone operations, bombing campaigns and support for oppressive governments create more terrorists than they eliminate.

Many Americans support the claims of ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban to be true representatives of Islam.   Presidents Obama and George W. Bush distinguished between terrorists and mainstream Islam, but many American politicians and journalists seem to be intent on turning a struggle against a tiny group of terrorists into a crusade against the world’s more than 1 billion Muslims.

Ironically, many Iranians and Iraqis believe that Americans intentionally created ISIS.   I’m sure there was no such intention.  I just think that certain people in the U.S. government sought to use the war on terror as a screen to achieve other geopolitical objectives which they gave higher priority.

One of these objectives was to be the dominant military power in the Greater Middle East.  Another was to control oil, gas and pipeline routes.  A third was to back Israel, Saudi Arabia and other allies against their enemies and rivals.

They neither achieved these objectives (unless waging war is a goal in itself) nor effectively fought terrorism.

§§§

If we Americans are serious about waging a war on terror, we should stop doing things that make the terrorists stronger.

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Turkey, Syria and ISIS: links 11/30/2015

November 30, 2015

2300syria-ISIS-7-27-15

The Turkish government wants to establish a “safe zone” in Syria territory that supposedly will be a haven for refugees fleeing the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).

But Tony Carlucci, in the article linked below, contends that its real purpose is to be a safe zone for ISIS oil tankers moving out of Syria, and arms and ammunition coming in.  And it also would keep apart Syrian Kurdish fighters, which the Turkish government opposes because of rebellious Kurds in Turkey itself.

The U.S. government is supposedly fighting a war against terrorists.  But in Syria, the U.S. and Turkish governments are more interested in toppling the government of Bashar al-Assad, even if it makes ISIS and other radical Islamist terrorist groups stronger.

LINKS

Why the West Won’t Hit ISIS Where It Hurts by Tony Carlucci for Near Eastern Outlook.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey and his friend Frank Munley).  Unlike Carlucci, I don’t think the U.S. government is intentionally promoting ISIS.   I just think there are certain people in the government who have delusions about their ability to manipulate groups such as ISIS for their own purposes.  But the intention doesn’t matter – only the result.

Why Turkey Stabbed Russia in the Back by Pepe Escobar for World News Daily.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey and Frank Munley)

Guess Why The U.S. Is Not Seriously Bombing ISIS’s Oil Business by Moon of Alabama.

Will Turkey Close or Erase Its Border With Syria? by Moon of Alabama.

Erdogan’s Dirty Dangerous ISIS Games by F. William Engdahl for Near Eastern Outlook.

7 Things I Learned Reading Every Issue of ISIS’s Magazine (7 – 4) by Robert Evans for Cracked.com.

7 Things I Learned Reading Every Issue of ISIS’s Magazine (3 – 1) by Robert Evans for Cracked.com.

Why so few Christians among the refugees?

November 21, 2015
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.  Source: Newsweek.

The Christian community in Syria dates back to the time of St. Paul, who was converted on the road to Damascus.

Today the survival of Christianity in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries is under threat.  Syria has lost 700,000 Christians in the past five year, nearly two-thirds of its Christian population.  Iraq has lost more than a million Christians since the 2003 invasion.

The so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh) singles out Christians for beheading and rape.  It calls them “crusaders,” meaning that they are supposedly part of an age-old European invasion of the Middle East.  Yet Syria was a Christian country for centuries before Mohammad was even born.

20150327cover600x800revMany religious scholars fear for the survival of the ancient Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.  This is something new, not a centuries-old conflict.

Christians and Muslims mostly lived together in peace during the Arab Caliphates, the Ottoman Empire and European colonial rule, and, if there was persecution, it fell short of genocide.

Despite all this, there are relatively few Christians among the Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees knocking on the doors of Europe and the United States.

An estimated 10 percent of Syria’s population is Christian, yet they constitute only 2.5 percent of the Syrian applicants for asylum in Europe.   I would have expected more, if only because, unlike with Muslims, there are no predominantly Christian nations in the Middle East region.

I don’t think this is because of intentional discrimination.   Asylum seekers are screened in refugee camps, and Middle Eastern Christians reportedly are reluctant to enter refugee camps because of persecution and abuse by Muslim refugees.

Certain American and European politicians have called for asylum of Syrian refugees to be limited to Christians. [1]

Barring refugees solely on the  basis of religion is wrong and possibly a violation of international law.  But there surely is justification for an affirmative action program for some of the world’s most persecuted people.

LINKS

The New Exodus: Christians Flee ISIS in the Middle East by Janine Di Giovanni and Conor Gaffey for Newsweek.

Syria’s Beleaguered Christians by the BBC.

Christian refugees discriminated against by US and UK governments by Harry Farley for Christianity Today.

Why So Few Syrian Christian Refugees by Jonathan Witt for The Stream.

Why the question of Christian vs. Muslim refugees has become so incredibly divisive by Michelle Boorstein for the Washington Post.

∞∞∞

[1]  Actually, I think it would be a fine thing if Texas, Hungary or some other place became a haven for the world’s persecuted Christians.

ISIS law and Saudi law

November 21, 2015

Punishments_FINAL-01

LINKS

The Shared History of Saudi Arabia and ISIS by Madawi Al-Rasheed for Hurst Publishers.

Crime and punishment: Islamic State vs. Saudi Arabia by Rori Donaghy and Mary Atkinson for Middle East Eye.

Inhuman Monsters: Islamic State vs. Saudi Arabia by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

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Why retaliating against ISIS won’t help

November 17, 2015

Evil did not come into the world with the first murder.
Evil did not come into the world with the first execution.
Evil came into the world when the people killed an innocent person because he was the same family or tribe as a murderer.
                 ==Author unknown

I admit I don’t know what to do about the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).  But I do have a good idea of what the French, U.S. and other governments should not do.  They should not do what ISIS wants them to do.

imrsTerrorist attacks are the classic strategy of rebel and guerrilla movements that lack popular support.  They provide governments into striking out blindly at innocent people, creating grievances that enable the rebels to recruit.

These were the tactics of the left-wing guerrilla movements of the 1970s.  It was the tactic of Osama bin Laden in the 9/11 attacks.  His goal was to provoke the United States into getting bogged down in a quagmire war in Afghanistan.

French bombing raids won’t destroy ISIS.   Neither will they deter ISIS.  The ISIS fighters see their own attacks as retaliation for what the French and other Western governments have done to Arab peoples.

Instead the attacks help ISIS recruit new members and depict its movement as the defenders of the Arab world against outside aggression.

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The origins of ISIS in U.S. policy

October 19, 2015

The supposed legal authority for American military interventions is a resolution by Congress authorizing the President to use military force to root out terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

But after 14 years, radical terrorists such as Al Qaeda and its successors, including the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh), are stronger than ever.  Why?

It is because the American military is invincible in destroying the governmental and economic structures of nations, but is incapable of establishing order.

noam-chomsky-terrorism1This is partly by design.  The so-called revolution in military thinking inaugurated under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called for use of small, highly-mobile, highly-trained special forces with high firepower, instead of the mass armies of the World War Two area.   Such forces are effective at killing people and breaking things but not at long-term occupations.

The other is that the U.S. government, being averse to committing sending large numbers of Americans into battle, supports extremist Islamic terrorists when they are fighting other designated enemies.  This is what happened in Libya, and is the real reason for the Benghazi tragedy.  It is what is going on in Syria now.

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War and peace – October 13, 2015

October 13, 2015

The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century by Gary Leupp for Counterpunch.

CIA Interventions in Syria: A Partial Timeline by Michael S. Rozeff for LewRockwell.com.

Never get involved in a land war in (west) Asia by Thoreau for Unqualified Offerings.

The people in Washington who’ve planned military policy in the past 15 years must think that (1) the United States is so rich and powerful that no mistake can possibly have any fatal consequence and (2) the only proof that a policy is a mistake is an admission that it is a mistake.

War with Isis: Why Syria’s Christians can never go home by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent.

The right-wing nuts are right!  Obama really IS trying to impost Sharia law by Joseph Cannon for Cannonfire.

The radical jihadist militias that the U.S. government is arming want to impose Sharia law on Syria.  Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad, were ruthless dictators who’d stop at nothing to stay in power.  But they never persecuted Christians or other religious minorities merely because of their faith.

McClatchy Expected to Close Foreign Bureaus By End of the Year by Michael Calderone for Huffington Post.

The McClatchy newspaper chain had a different business model than its U.S. rivals.  Rather than catering either to the public or to the powers that be, their editors and reporters reported the news as they saw it, without fear or favor. Sadly this didn’t work out.

U.S. and Russian bases in the Middle East

October 3, 2015
blog_us_bases_middle_east

U.S. bases in the Middle East

Russian bases in the Middle East

Russian bases in the Middle East

Vladimir Putin has sent Russian forces to Syria to prop up the regime of Russia’s ally, Bashar al-Assad.

He said he is joining in the war against the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).  The U.S. government said Russia is targeting the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army and other “moderate” rebels rather than ISIS itself.

I’m not sure how significant that difference is.  I don’t think it is realistic to think it is possible to overthrow Assad and keep ISIS out of power without sending American forces to occupy Syria—and even then the outcome would be doubtful.

Many countries besides the USA and Russia have conducted air strikes in Syria.   One list includes Australia, Bahrein, France, Israell, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and should have included Canada and Turkey.

I don’t think Russia is in a position to challenge the U.S. military presence in the Middle East directly.  I think Putin’s plan is to enhance the power of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah vs. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, but to minimize actual Russian activity.

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Glimpses of Asia – October 1, 2015

October 1, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

Go Delhi Go | Hyperlapse (2 min)

Colonial Photography in British India
http://dissertationreviews.org/archives/12586

Where Do Languages Go to Die? – The tale of Aramaic, a language that once ruled the Middle East and now faces extinction
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/aramaic-middle-east-language/404434/

Mount Everest to be declared off-limits to inexperienced climbers, says Nepal
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/28/mount-everest-to-be-declared-off-limits-to-inexperienced-climbers

Map: Where the East and the West meet
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/28/map-where-the-east-and-the-west-meet/

Zen and the Art of Bonsai Maintenance
http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2015/09/20/stephen_voss_photographs_bonsai_trees_at_the_national_bonsai_penjing_museum.html

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Questions about ISIS financing

September 25, 2015

The so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh) supposedly gets revenue by selling oil or by selling antiquities.

How does the oil get to customers?  Who buys the relics?  How does the money get to ISIS?  How does ISIS use the money to buy arms and supplies?

Shouldn’t it be possible to cut off ISIS funding?  Wouldn’t this be less costly and, more important, not result in the deaths of innocent bystanders?

LINKS

ISIS profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers and then blowing them up by Robert Fisk for The Independent.  (Hat tip to Jack the expatriate)

Britain’s secret ties to governments, firms behind ISIS oil sales by Nafeez Ahmed for Insurge Intelligence.  U.S. firms are involved, too.

ISIS Export Gateway to Global Crude Oil Exports by George Kiourktsoglu and Dr. Alec D. Courtroubis of the University of Greenwich, London.

Why doesn’t the U.S. help Iran fight ISIS?

September 14, 2015

iran4

The European refugee crisis is due mainly to the Islamic State’s reign of terror in parts of Syria.

Bashar al-Assad is a ruthless dictator who will do whatever it takes to stay in power.  But his regime doesn’t mutilate and kill people because of their religion or lifestyle.   People of different religions and ethnicities have co-existed peacefully under his government.

This is not true of the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).  Under their rule, you are not safe unless you are willing to live under their extreme and wrong ideas of what Islam was like in the days of Mohammad.

Since the surge of millions of refugees into Europe directly affects U.S. allies, and since ISIS is the direct cause of this crisis, why does the United States hesitate to join forces with the Iranian government, which is the main enemy of ISIS?

Gareth Porter, writing for Middle East Eye, has a good idea of the reasons:

US policy toward the Middle East has long been defined primarily not by threats originating in the region but by much more potent domestic political interests, both electoral and bureaucratic.

The power of the Israel lobby in Washington, primarily but not exclusively over Congress, is well known, and that has imposed a rigid political and legal framework of hostility toward Iran on the US government for two decades, beginning with a complete trade embargo that remains in place and creates major obstacles to any shift in policy.

What is seldom acknowledged, however, is that the interests of the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA have become tightly intertwined with those of the anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East.

A set of mutually reinforcing bureaucratic interests now binds US policy to an alliance structure and military and intelligence programmes in the Middle East that have come to replace objective analysis of regional realities in determining US policy.

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Will Russia intervene militarily in the Mideast?

September 3, 2015

I read a couple of interesting posts during the past couple of days about Russia increasing its political and maybe its military presence in the Middle East.

I don’t know what to make of them, and I have no way of knowing what is on President Vladimir Putin’s mind.

Bashar_and_Asmaa_al-Assad_in_Moscow

Syria’s al Assad and wife in Moscow

I do know that, if I were in Putin’s place, with the USA and its NATO allies stirring up trouble in nations bordering mine, I would look for ways to stir up trouble for the USA and NATO.

If I were Putin, I would see ISIS as a threat, and look join forces with Syria, Iran and other anti-ISIS forces.

A pro-Russian, pro-Putin blogger who calls himself the Saker says that Putin has neither the desire nor the power to project Russian power any great distance from what the Russians call their “near abroad.”

The Saker pointed to the Russian Federation’s military oath, which is to defend the Fatherland.  It says nothing about invading foreign countries.

But the American military oath is to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution.  It also says nothing about invading foreign countries, and this hasn’t proved a limitation.  As the Saker remarked, U.S. foreign policy resembles the old Soviet “international duty” to intervene globally wherever necessary to defend supporters and defeat enemies.

(more…)

Jeb Bush blames Obama, Hillary Clinton for ISIS

August 15, 2015

Gov. Jeb Bush blamed President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the rise of the bloodthirsty Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) because they abandoned the policies of his brother, President George W. Bush.

In fact, Obama and Clinton contributed to the rise of ISIS by following the policies of George W. Bush.

jebbush-hillaryclintonThe Islamic State’s predecessor, Al Qaeda, had no presence in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  Al Qaeda and later ISIS were able to establish themselves in Iraq because the U.S. invasion destroyed the governmental structure of Iraq, and nobody was able to put it back together again.

But didn’t the withdrawal of American forces open the door to ISIS?  Whether it did or not, the withdrawal was begun under an agreement negotiated by President George W. Bush in his last year in office with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.   The reason for the agreement was that the American occupation was highly unpopular in both countries.

Realizing this, President Bush stopped listening to Vice President Dick Cheney and replaced Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates.   President Barack Obama retained Gates and implemented the Bush agreement.

President Obama’s most important foreign policy innovation was to make interventionism politically sustainable by finding a substitute for American boots on the ground—flying killer drones, Special Forces assassination teams and subsidies for Arab fighters.

During the 14 years since the 9/11 attacks, radical Islamist terrorists have grown stronger, and they gave grown strongest in those countries in which the U.S. military has been most active.  This includes Libya, which Hillary Clinton reduced to the same state of bloody chaos and ISIS-friendly environment as Iraq.

She and Jeb Bush are both war hawks.  She is the more experienced and knowledgeable war hawk, but there is no reason to think either would change the bad course of American foreign policy.

LINKS

Memo to Jeb Bush: It was W’s surge that created ISIL, not Hillary by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Republicans Can’t Face the Truth About Iraq by Eric Margolis via Unz Review.  [Added 8/16/2015]

George Bush didn’t know anything about Maliki, but put him in charge of Iraq anyway by Zack Beauchamp for Vox.

The Planned Destruction of Libya by John Wight for Counterpunch.

Hillary, the Ultimate Hawk by David French for National Review.

The US is the enemy of the enemies of ISIS

July 30, 2015

One reason that Al Qaeda and ISIS are strong is that US attacks on Muslim countries create the conditions of chaos in which they flourish.  Another is that the US government has been more interested in undermining nations that happen to be enemies of Al Qaeda and ISIS that in fighting Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Kurdish people

Women of Kurdistan

The latest example of this is President Obama’s support of the Turkish government in its attack on the Kurdish people.  The Kurds are dedicated and effective enemies of ISIS and support democracy, religious toleration and women’s rights, which are supposedly the ideals the US government represents.

But Kurdish nationalism threatens the unity of Turkey, and the support of Turkey is essential to the covert war being waged by the United States against Syria, whose government also is an enemy of ISIS.

The “war on terror” which the United States began on Sept. 12, 2001, is on the one hand so urgent that we Americans are being asked to give up basic Constitutional liberties, but on the other hand not important enough to distract from overthrowing regimes that Washington has targeted—first Saddam, then Qadaffi and now Assad.

LINKS

The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish guerillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent.

Has Iran cut off Hamas?  Is Hamas Turning to Saudi Arabia? by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

USA should join with Iran against ISIS

July 16, 2015

Israel and Saudi Arabia are not friends and do not even have diplomatic relations, but they work in parallel when it is in their national interest to do so.

Why should not the governments of the United States and Iran work together against our common enemies, the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) and Al Qaeda?

This would make more sense than trying to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda while making common cause with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates against the main enemies of ISIS and Al Qaeda.

axis.satan

Tom Jansson cartoon for The Cagle Post

Maybe this is what President Obama had in mind.  Maybe this is already U.S. policy.  If so, good!

Americans criticize the Iranian government for giving weapons and other help to armed factions in other countries, but that is no different from what the Saudis, the Gulf emirates, Israel and the United States itself does.  Iran’s current intervention in Iraq and Syria is at the invitation of the governments of those countries.

I think the violent conflicts in the Middle East, including the Sunni-Shiite conflict, would die down if Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, the USA and other countries agreed among themselves to stop giving weapons, supplies and money to the various battling groups.

Unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.  But I have to say the such an agreement is more likely than other nations agreeing to be neutral while the US government continues conducting bombing campaigns and arming its own proxies.

Iran and the United States are neither friends nor enemies.  They are countries with their own interests, which sometimes overlap and sometimes conflict.

LINKS

Rethinking Iran by Kevin Schwartz and Arjun Singh Sethi for Counterpunch.

Life under the Islamic State

July 10, 2015

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Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine has published a grim and terrifying account of life under the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Daesh).

It reminds me of reports of life in Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War or in the USSR under Stalin’s terror.

I think that U.S. efforts against ISIS will be futile so long as they are conditional—that is, conditional on not doing anything to offend Saudi Arabia or help Iran or Syria.

Iran and Syria are not democracies, nor was Libya before the overthrow of Qaddafi, but in these countries it was possible for a normal person to lead a normal life without day-to-day horrors.

The result of destruction of Libya, the proxy war in Syria and any attack on Iran are to create conditions of lawless violence from which movements such as ISIS can emerge.

LINK

Reports of Everyday Life Under the Islamic State by Uwe Buse and Katrin Kunz for Spiegel Online.