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US Plan B for Syria: Give Al-Qaeda More Powerful Weapons

April 17, 2016

By Stephen Gowans

According to the Wall Street Journal [1], Washington has a Plan B for Syria. If the UN-mediated Geneva talks between the Syrian government and foreign-backed opposition fail to bring about the resignation of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (i.e., the regime change in Syria the United States wants) Washington will “up the ante” by equipping al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels with more powerful weapons than the CIA, and Washington’s regional allies, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, have already given them. The new weapons would place in the hands of so-called moderate rebels—Islamists who cooperate with, fight alongside of, are enmeshed with, share equipment with, and operate under license to, al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria, the Nusra Front—the means to attack Syrian aircraft and artillery. In effect, “upping the ante” would amount to funnelling more powerful weapons to al-Qaeda—an organization Washington claims to be fighting a war on terror against—using the misleadingly labelled “moderate” rebels as an arms conduit.

Syrian rebels 1There are no “moderate” rebels in Syria. “Moderate” is a term of deception used by Washington to sanitize its collusion with al-Qaeda and other Islamists and to foster the appearance of US intervention on the side of the angels. Because Washington can’t give weapons directly to al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise—a group it officially designated as a terrorist organization after it unleashed a string of suicide bombings in Syria, including against civilians [2]—it delivers arms indirectly through allied Islamists groups it dishonestly calls “moderates,” with the mainstream media actively participating in the deception by aping Washington’s use of the term.

As early as 2012, the US Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that the armed opposition in Syria was dominated by ultra-conservative Sunni jihadists, along with the Muslim Brotherhood (which has had a long history of violent insurrection in Syria to overthrow what it sees as the “infidel” and “apostate” non-sectarian secular government in Damascus, and AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq, forerunner of Nusra Front and Islamic State.) [3] Even the Free Syrian Army, touted in the early days of the war by Western media as a secular, moderate group sharply differentiated from the jihadists, in reality hardly lived up to the carefully crafted image bestowed upon it by Western PR specialists to garner the support of Western public opinion. In December 2012, the New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and Anne Barnard reported that not only did the Free Syrian Army coordinate with al-Qaeda fighters in Syria, it included groups with similar ideologies—that is, with ideologies similar to that of Osama bin Laden. [4] When in 2012 the United States officially designated al-Nusra a terrorist organization, “moderate” fighters launched a protest under the banner “We are all Jabhat al-Nusra.” [5]

Moderates, in the form of secular armed forces, or comprising fighters whose aim is not a constitution based on a conservative Sunni interpretation of the Qur’an, but on democratic principles, are virtually absent, a “fantasy” as US president Barack Obama has called them. [6] With no ready-made secular democratic force on which to build an armed opposition to the Syrian government that would be acceptable to Western populations, the United States tried to manufacture one, not once, not twice, but three times, according to Joshua Landis, a specialist on Syria. Each attempt ended in spectacular failure. [7] The Pentagon abandoned a $500 million program to recruit and train 3,000 “moderate” rebels after managing to graduate only 54 fighters. [8] Obama would tell New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that the idea that there was ever a moderate opposition that was going to overthrow Assad and fight Islamic state “if we just sent a few arms is a fantasy.” [9]

latuff-syrian-rebels47According to US Director of Intelligence, James Clapper, “moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who’s not affiliated with ISIL.” [10] Hence, inasmuch as the armed opposition is largely, if not wholly, comprised of ultra-conservative Sunni Muslims, and has been since at least 2012—one rebel leader said the Western concept of secularist Syrian rebel is misguided [11]—“moderate” means a jihadist—just not one who holds an Islamic State membership card. This would include the Nusra Front. Indeed, attempts have been made to label al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise a “moderate” fighting group through rebranding, replacing its name with the Army of Conquest (also Victory Army and Jaish al-Fatah) and then declaring the newly named group “moderate.” (Al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, in fact, is also a rebranding of al-Qaeda.)

That the Army of Conquest is simply a new cloak for al-Qaeda is a reality that’s not difficult to uncover. Supported by US allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, the Army of Conquest “is led by al-Nusra Front…and by the ideologically similar Ahrar al Sham,” according to veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn [12]; is built “around al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, well armed and supported by the region’s Sunni states,” according to Syria specialists Joshua Landis and Steven Simon, writing in the unofficial magazine of the US State Department, Foreign Affairs [13]; “is an alliance of insurgent groups that includes the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and the hard-line Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham,” according to the Voice of America, the US government’s official propaganda arm [14]; and is a “rebel alliance in which Nusra plays an indispensable role,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov [15].

It’s also clear that al-Qaeda’s idea of moderation leaves much to be desired. As part of its attempt to rebrand itself as moderate, the jihadist group has said that it would not automatically massacre people it sees as infidels, such as Syria’s Alawites, Druze and Christians, but would exercise moderation by allowing them to convert to ultra-conservative Saudi Wahhabi-inspired Islam. [16]

Syrian rebel 4The other significant player in the Army of Conquest, Ahrar al-Sham, is an al-Qaeda clone, according to Cockburn, which would make it a clone of al-Nusra itself. [17] The Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas reports that the organization espouses “an ultraconservative Salafist brand of Islam and feature(s) political agendas and anti-Shiite sectarian rhetoric” and fights “alongside Nusra Front.” [18] In other words, Ahrar al-Sham is al-Nusra in all but name. Still, US secretary of state John Kerry calls the al-Qaeda clone “moderate” because it’s not ISIS or al-Nusra, extending Clapper’s definition of what a moderate is to any Sunni jihadist group that has yet to be designated a terrorist organization, regardless of whether it uses terrorist methods or not, or has the same goals as those that do. “I don’t want to categorize people except hard core like the Nusra Front and the Islamic State,” Kerry said, [19] revealing that the label “moderate” is meaningless and strictly serves a political function of concealing the true nature of the groups Washington has allied itself with in Syria. Ahrar al-Sham’s veridical nature as a violent Islamist organization of the al-Qaeda type hasn’t stopped Kerry from giving it his seal of approval or European diplomats from meeting with its political officers. [20]

Not only are the “moderates” ideologically similar to al-Qaeda, if not direct clones, they are part of the al-Qaeda nexus in all but name. As early as 2012, the paragon moderate rebel group, the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, was reported by the New York Times’ Tim Arango and Anne Barnard to have been working closely with al-Nusra. Not only that, FSA members expressed admiration for the al-Qaeda franchise. [21] Echoing the Times, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Western-backed rebel group cooperated with al-Qaeda in Syria. [22] Indeed, the conclusion drawn by Cockburn that “there is no dividing wall between” ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra “and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies” [23] is underscored almost daily in the leading US newspapers.

• “Many of the anti-Assad groups aligned with the United States fight alongside the Nusra Front.” New York Times, February 23, 2016 [24].
• “Nusra Front…fights alongside both Western-backed and Islamist rebels.” Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2016 [25].
• Nusra Front “forces are intermingled with moderate rebel groups.” Washington Post, February 19, 2016 [26].
• “The rebel groups that the West considers relatively moderate are … intertwined in places with the Nusra Front.” New York Times, February 12, 2016 [27].
• “Al-Nusra has fought alongside rebel units which the U.S. and its regional allies have backed.” Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2015 [28].
• “CIA-backed Free Syrian army factions and extremist elements such as Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham…have been collaborating.” Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2015 [29]
• “…insurgents who have been trained covertly by the Central Intelligence Agency…are enmeshed with or fighting alongside more hard-line Islamist groups, including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate.” New York Times, July 27, 2015 [30]
• “Some of the same groups being backed by Washington are liaising and cooperating with the Nusra Front.” Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2014 [31]

Aligned with, fighting alongside of, liaising with, intermingled with, intertwined with, collaborating with, enmeshed with, cooperating with: In how many ways is it possible to say that the “moderate” rebels backed by the United States and its allies are part of an alliance dominated by al-Qaeda and its offshoot Islamic State—that they are nothing more than al-Qaeda’s foot soldiers?

“U.S. officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years.” [32] In view of the reality that the moderates are mislabelled Islamists who are a part of an al-Qaeda-led alliance and that they “fight under license” to al-Nusra and Islamic State, as Cockburn reports, [33] who has the CIA been training and equipping over the past several years? The answer is clear: al-Qaeda-led jihadists. As Assad observes, “If Obama said the moderate opposition is fantasy, so who do you send the money and armaments to? Reality. You don’t send to the fantasy, you send it to the reality, and the reality are the extremists.” [34]

Hence, the idea that there exist in Syria secular moderates who follow the traditions of the Enlightenment is a con, designed to appeal to Western publics who are more likely to back efforts to aid secular democrats than al-Qaeda-led jihadists. British prime minister David Cameron claimed improbably—to hoots of well deserved derision—that there are 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria, which is indeed true if, like Humpty Dumpty, Cameron uses words to mean whatever he chooses them to mean. He probably meant, moderate fighters are whoever the West and its allies train and equip, regardless of the groups’ ideologies and methods.

Politicians and corporations are no strangers to this sort of definitional legerdemain. The Obama administration insists there are no more than 3,870 US troops in Iraq. Others say there are as many as 5,000. Who’s right? It depends of what definition of “in Iraq” you accept—the commonsense one, or Obama’s. If the number of US troops in Iraq at this moment is simply tallied, then, there are in the vicinity of 5,000 US military personnel in the country. On the other hand, if you mean what Obama, following Humpty Dumpty, means, then, there are indeed 3,870 US troops in Iraq. The key here is to understand that the US president defines “troops in Iraq” as US military personnel in the country minus those rotated in on a temporary basis. [35] The same principle would apply were it claimed that there are no US troops in Iraq, by defining US military personnel as all active US soldiers operating between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers who are over the age of 65. In other words, one can define “troops in Iraq” in whichever way one wants—and Obama does. The same definitional stratagem is used to deceive Western publics into believing that their governments back secular fighters in Iraq who thirst for democracy, by defining the word “moderate,” which everyone believes to mean one thing, and which connotes something desirable, to mean something entirely different, without disclosing the fact that the word is being used in a singular way.

Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk had challenged Cameron’s claim that there are tens of thousands of moderate fighters in Syria, putting the number at closer to 70, on par with the complement of about four dozen moderates the Pentagon was able to recruit despite a $500 million budget that would have been the envy of Croesus. [36]

The US plan, then, to up the ante if the Geneva talks fail to produce a political transition in Syria (i.e., Washington’s desired goal of regime change) by equipping al-Qaeda-led “moderate” rebels with more powerful weapons is a scheme to strengthen al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise militarily. If it is not already clear that rebel groups will pass on US-supplied arms to the al-Qaeda franchise they are enmeshed with, cooperate with, fight alongside of, liaise with, and are ideological similar to, if not clones of, consider this: The rebel group Division 13, which received aid from the United States [37], “had a tacit collaboration with Nusra and even shared with the group some of its ammunition supplies,” according to the Wall Street Journal. [38]

Syrian rebels 2Still, concern that Western-backed rebels may act as an arms conduit to al-Qaeda if Washington carries through on its Plan B ought to go further. Shouldn’t we object just as strenuously to the arming of the so-called “moderates” themselves, since they are virtual replicas of al-Qaeda? They are ideologically similar to, if not clones, of the Sunni Islamist organization, and like al-Nusra, practice sectarian violence and are animated by an intolerant, ultra-conservative Saudi Wahhabi-inspired Islam which they aspire to make the constitutional foundation of a Syrian state. As if to underscore the similarities, in 2012, the West’s “moderate” jihadist darlings declared that “We are all Jabhat al-Nusra.” Arming the “moderates,” then, is equal in effect and principle to arming al-Qaeda. Washington and its allies, including the reactionary Gulf monarchies, have already accoutred al-Qaeda-led jihadists with weapons in Syria, and are now threatening to up the ante by giving their Islamist proxies even more deadly arms if they don’t get their way at the Geneva talks, visiting even more misery, bloodshed and terror than they have already done on Syria.

Washington cares not one iota for the welfare of the residents of this hapless country, long savaged by Western imperialism. On the contrary, it is willing to spill rivers of Syrian blood and foment sectarian terror, through its al-Qaeda-led proxies, in order to overthrow a government that insists on charting its own course to meet its people’s needs in their own way. This is the outcome of the United States’ imperialist project to secure a self-assigned “leadership” position in the Middle East, which is to say, to deny the region’s people the right to determine their own lives and future. Fortunately for humanity, but unfortunately for the US elite, on whose behalf the US imperial project pivots, the targets of imperialist eruptions have often felt it better to fight than to submit, Syrians no less so than the long string of heroes in the service of human progress who have resisted programs of exploitation by fighting back.

1. Adam Entous, “U.S. readies ‘Plan B’ to arm Syria rebels,” The Washington Post, April 12, 2016.

2. C.J. Chivers, “Life with Syria’s rebels in a cold and cunning war”, The New York Times, August 20, 2012; Ben Hubbard, “Islamist rebels create dilemma on Syria policy”, The New York Times, April 27, 2013; J. David Goodman and Nick Cuming-Bruce, “Syria bars 17 Western diplomats and allows increased aid agency presence”, The New York Times, June 5, 2012.

3. http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

4. Michael R. Gordon and Anne Barnard, “US places militant Syrian rebel group on list of terrorist organizations,’ The New York Times, December 10, 2012

5. Mark Landler, Michael R. Gordon and Anne Barnard, “US will grant recognition to Syrian rebels,” the New York Times, December 11, 2012.

6. Thomas L. Friedman, “Obama on the world,” the New York Times, August 8, 2014.

7. Patrick Cockburn, “Britain is on the verge of entering into a long war in Syria based on wishful thinking 6and poor information,” The Independent, December 1, 2015

8. Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard, “U.S. revamping rebel force fighting ISIS in Syria,” The New York times, September 6, 2015.

9. Patrick Cockburn, “Syria conflict: Turkish threats of intervention after Ankara bombing taken seriously by Barack Obama,” The Independent, February 20, 2016.

10. James Clapper: US Director of Intelligence: http://www.cfr.org/homeland-security/james-clapper-global-intelligence-challenges/p36195

11. Nour Malas, “Islamists gain momentum in Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2013.

12. Patrick Cockburn, “Saudi Arabia intervening in the Syrian civil war would risk Russian wrath,” The Independent, February 11, 2016.

13. Joshua Landis and Steven Simon, “Assad has it his way: The peace talks and after,” Foreign Affairs, January 19, 2016.

14. Glen Greenwald, “BBC protects UK’s close ally Saudi Arabia with incredibly dishonest and biased editing,” The Intercept, October 26, 2015.

15. Yaroslav Trofimov, “To US allies, Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria becomes the lesser evil,” The Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2015.

16. Patrick Cockburn, “Syrian conflict: Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front abduct leader of US-backed rebels dealing blow to plans to build moderate opposition to regime,” The Independent, July 30, 2015.

17. Patrick Cockburn, “Egypt plane crash: This attack shows that Russia is hurting ISIS,” Independent. November 7, 2015.

18. Nour Malas, “Terrorist designation beleaguers Syria talks,” The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2016.

19. David E. Sanger, “John Kerry adds voice to those urging bigger push against Islamic State in Syria,” The New York Times, November 23, 2015.

20. Ben Hubbard, “In Syria, potential ally’s Islamist ties challenge US,” The New York Times, August 25, 2015.

21. Tim Arango, Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “Syrian rebels tied to al Qaeda play key role in war,” The New York Times, December 8, 2012.

22. Maria Abi-Habib, “Al Qaeda emissary in Syria killed by rival Islamist rebels,’ Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2014.

23. Belen Fernandez, “Book review: The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising,” The Middle East Eye, September 3, 2014.

24. Neil Mac Farquhar, “Questions linger over Russia’s endgame in Syria, Ukraine and Europe,” The New York Times, February 23, 2016.

25. Jay Solomon, “U.S., Russia agree to implement Syria cease-fire,” The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2016.

26. Karen de Young, “U.S. Russia hold Syria cease-fire talks as deadline passes without action,” The Washington Post, February 19, 2016.

27. Karen Zraick and Anne Barnard, “Syrian war could turn on the battle for Aleppo,” The New York Times, February 12, 2016.

28. Farnaz Fassihi, “U.N. Security Council unanimously votes to adopt France’s counterterrorism resolution,” The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2015.

29. Sam Dagher, “Syria’s Bashar al-Assad Tries to Force the West to Choose Between Regime, Islamic State,” The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2015.

30. Anne Barnard and Michael R. Gordon, “Goals diverge and perils remain as U.S. and Turkey take on ISIS,” The New York Times, July 27, 2015.

31. Sam Dagher, “Militants seize oil field, expand Syrian domain”, The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2014.

32. Greg Miller and Karen De Young, “Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut,” the Washington Post, June 12, 2015.

33. Patrick Cockburn, “Britain is on the verge of entering into a long war in Syria based on wishful thinking and poor information,” The Independent, December 1, 2015.

34. President al-Assad to Portuguese State TV: International system failed to accomplish its duty… Western officials have no desire to combat terrorism, SANA, March 5, 2015.

35. William McGurn, “Obama hides his Iraq war,” the Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2016.

36. Robert Fisk, “David Cameron, there aren’t 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria—and whosever heard of a moderate with a Kalashnikov anyway?”, The Independent, November 29, 2015.

37. Dion Nissenbaum, Nathan Hodge, and Sam Dagher, “U.S. rebukes Russia over Syria strikes,” The Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2015.

38. Sam Dagher, “Al Qaeda affiliate attacks Western-backed Syria rebels,” The Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2016.

Written by what's left

April 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Al Qaeda, Islamism, Syria

Tagged with , , ,

Zionism, Genocide and the Colonial Tradition in Contemporary Syria

April 2, 2016

By Stephen Gowans

ISIS “is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions.” – US Secretary of State, John Kerry. [1]

“If we had to choose between ISIS and Assad, we’ll take ISIS.” – Former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, now a member of Israel’s Knesset. [2]

The International Association of Genocide Scholars has accused ISIS of carrying out a genocide against Shiite Muslims, as well as Yazidis and Kurds in the Middle East. The Knights of Columbus has expressed concern about the militant Sunni organization’s efforts to expunge Christians from its Caliphate in Syria and Iraq. And US Secretary of State John Kerry has denounced ISIS for its genocidal nature, expressed, he says, “in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.” [3] And yet, if given a choice between ISIS and Assad, Israel—a state which liberally invokes the Nazi anti-Jewish genocide to justify its existence—would take ISIS. At least, that’s what former Israeli ambassador to the United States and Knesset member, Michael Oren, says, and his view appears to be in the mainstream of Israeli strategic thought. Shimon Peres, when he was Israel’s president, anticipated Oren. He said he hoped the Syrian rebels—dominated by Al Qaeda and its progeny—would win. [4]

Al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, controls the Syrian border with Israel [5], and along the Golan Heights, the Israeli military coordinates with the Qaeda militants. [6] Israeli military forces talk of having arrived at “an understanding” with a group Washington and its allies officially condemn as a terrorist organization, and of “familiarity” with Al Qaeda’s “forces on the ground.” The Israeli-Al Qaeda alliance is “extremely tactical,” Israeli military officials say. [7] This hasn’t escaped the attention of the government in Damascus. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Foreign Affairs that the Israelis “are supporting the rebels in Syria.”

It’s very clear. Because whenever we make advances in some place, they make an attack in order to undermine the army. It’s very clear. That’s why some in Syria joke, ‘How can you say that al Qaeda doesn’t have an air force? They have the Israeli air force.” [8]

“Sunni elements…control some two-thirds to 90 percent of the border on the Golan (and) aren’t attacking Israel,” says Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, noting that the Qaeda militants “understand who is their real enemy” and it “isn’t Israel.” [9]

Israeli paramedics “patrol the border and provide treatment for casualties they encounter. Once (rebels) are evaluated, some are sewn up and treated on the ground. Others are taken to a makeshift field hospital for basic surgery and recovery. But patients who require extensive surgery are sent to a civilian hospital, Ziv Medical Center, in the Israeli town of Tsflat, about an hour away.” [10] From 2013 to 2015, 1,500 Sunni militants crossed into Israel to receive treatment. [11] Some, if not the bulk of the militants, were members of Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

So, if Israel isn’t Al Qaeda’s real enemy, as Yadlin says, who is? And why?

The Axis of Resistance

“There is no doubt that Hezbollah and Iran are the major threats to Israel, much more than the radical Sunni Islamists…” – Amos Yadlin. [12]

The philosopher Thomas Kapitan argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be posed in terms of a Western-Arab one, since Israel was created and has been sustained by Western intervention in the Middle East. At the same time, it can be posed as a Western-Islamic conflict, since it involves the implantation of a foreign Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world. [13]

I would argue that Iran understands the conflict as a Western-Islamic one, Syria as a Western-Arab one, and Hezbollah, as both. The perspectives of these three parties, who make up what has been labelled the “Axis of Resistance,” are anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, and anti-Zionist, though the parties have arrived at these positions from different starting points. The common thread of the alliance is political, not religious. As the New York Times’ Anne Barnard explains, “While President Bashar al-Assad and many security leaders belong to the Alawite sect, related to Shiism, they consider themselves secularists allied with Iran and Hezbollah for strategic and political, not religious, reasons.” [14]

The common political thread which unites the alliance is opposition to Zionism, which is to say, hostility to the idea that a Jewish state can be implanted on territory stolen from, and ethnically cleansed of, its indigenous Palestinian (and largely Muslim) population. Support for Palestinian self-determination is the central political theme of the Axis of Resistance.

In its constitution, Syria declares its enmity to an exclusivist Jewish state constructed on stolen Palestinian territory, and does so in the context of reference to Western colonial intervention in the Arab world. The constitution’s preamble declares that Syria is “the beating heart of Arabism, the forefront of confrontation with the Zionist enemy and the bedrock of resistance against colonial hegemony on the Arab world and its capabilities and wealth.” [15]

Iran’s opposition to Zionism is no less resolute, but has been misconstrued in the West as a military threat rooted in anti-Jewish xenophobia. But as the Washington Post’s Glen Kessler explains, Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei “has been consistent, stating repeatedly that the goal is not the military destruction of the Jewish state but the defeat of Zionist ideology and the dissolution of Israel through a popular referendum.” [16]

According to Khamenei,

The Islamic Republic’s proposal to help resolve the Palestinian issue and heal this old wound is a clear and logical initiative based on political concepts accepted by world public opinion…We do not suggest launching a classic war by armies of Muslim countries, or throwing immigrant Jews into the sea…We propose holding a referendum with the Palestinian nation. The Palestinian nation, like any other nation, has the right to determine their own identity and elect the governing system of the country. [17]

Hezbollah, formed to repel the 1982 Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, to recover Lebanese territory still not returned by Israel (Shebaa Farms), and to safeguard Lebanon from future Israeli aggression, is also committed to the promotion of Palestinian self-determination. Its goal, as explained by its leader Sayyed Nasrallah, “is to topple the Zionist project,” by which he means dismantling the apparatus of the Zionist state established on stolen land and founded on the denial of Palestinian self-determination. [18] Achieving that goal, in Hezbollah’s view, means the return to the Palestinians, the rightful owners, of “all of Palestine…from the (Mediterranean) sea to the (Jordan) river”. [19]

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Palestinian resistance organization, plays a small but important role in the Axis of Resistance. It sees the Arab-Zionist conflict as one that cannot be completed or ended through a two-state solution, but only with the establishment of a secular democracy on all of the land of historic Palestine, with equality for all its people. [20] The historical goal of the PFLP is to have a single democratic state in Palestine. [21] Ahmed Saadat, the group’s jailed leader, says the Middle East conflict can only be resolved through the creation of a state shared by Palestinians and Jews. [22] Significantly, the PFLP, a secular, Marxist, organization, is largely funded by Iran [23], belying the fiction that the Axis of Resistance is based on religious, rather than political, anti-Zionist, viz., anti-colonialist, ties.

The project of dismantling the Zionist state apparatus in Palestine is tantamount to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. The anti-Zionist project is no more anti-Jewish and aimed at the destruction of Jews than the anti-Apartheid struggle was anti-White and aimed at the destruction of South Africa’s European settler community. At the center of both is the fight against colonialism and for self-determination of indigenous peoples.

Saudi Arabia: Base of Arab Reaction

The perspective of Saudi Arabia, and that of its fellow Gulf tyrannies, is one of “loyalty to neo-colonial and Zionist forces,” a charge levelled by Arab parties in Israel’s Knesset, after the oil monarchs labelled Hezbollah a terrorist organization. [24] Hezbollah’s joining in the fight with Syria, Iran, and Russia against the sectarian depredations and terrorism of Al Qaeda and its offshoots is presumably the underlying reason for the reactionary Arab monarchies’ denunciation of the Lebanese resistance organization.

Hezbollah’s Nasrallah points out that “the only state or entity or existence that ‘Israel’ views as posing an existential threat is the Islamic Republic in Iran.” [25] But why not Saudi Arabia? An Arab and Muslim state–and therefore, if Israeli rhetoric is to be believed, one that ought to be adamantly hostile to Israel–Saudi Arabia has the world’s fourth largest military budget, exceeded only by the defense outlays of the United States, China and Russia. [26] Riyadh spends more per capita on the military than does any other country in the world, including Israel, which is second ranked, and the United States, ranked third. At $81 billion, the Saudi state’s annual military expenditures are over six times greater than Iran’s comparatively meager annual defense budget of $13 billion. Surely, given this significant imbalance, Israel should regard Saudi Arabia as a far larger threat than Iran. What’s more, the military outlays of the Saudi tyranny are five times greater than Israel’s military budget. And Israel spends more on its military than Iran does on its own. How, then, can Iran, but not the Saudi military colossus, be an existential threat to Israel? It doesn’t add up, unless we acknowledge that Saudi Arabia is, as the Arab parties in Israel’s Knesset observe, servants of “neo-colonial and Zionist forces.”

The Arab monarchies have, from their birth, been entangled with Western imperialism and have acted as their local agents in return for protection against their own people. Indeed, the states are creations of the West. The “artificial borders that demarcate their states, were designed by imperialists seeking to build fences around oil wells in the 1920s.” [27] Saudi Arabia is no exception. As Nasrallah observes, the Saud family dictatorship was “established with British support, British money, and British artillery, as part of the British colonial scheme to control” the Arabs. [28] British support for the Saud family tyranny remains as strong as ever. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron had the Union Jack lowered last year to mark the death of the Saudi despot, King Abdullah, emblematic of the utter hypocrisy of the British elite, which ingratiates itself with the head-chopping, misogynistic, Islamist tyrants on the Arabian peninsula, while strutting around the globe at the heels of their US master posing absurdly as champions of democracy.

Today, Saudi Arabia, along with Israel, stands as one of the most important regional allies of the international dictatorship of the United States. And, as protégés of the dictatorship, the Saudi rulers long ago reconciled themselves to the existence of a Jewish state as an outpost of Western imperialism in the middle (literally) of the Arab nation, bisecting its African and Asian spheres. As much as Israel, Saudi Arabia is a satrapy of the United States. It sends vast sums of its oil wealth to US investment banks and spends lavishly on the purchase of US arms; hence, its improbable position as the world’s fourth largest military power despite having a population of only 30 million, less than one-tenth of the United States’.

The dictatorship on the Arabian Peninsula leads from within the region a war against anti-neo-colonial forces which reject the hegemony of the United States and Israel and implacably insist on Palestinian self-determination. It seeks to weaken and undermine these progressive forces by using religion to achieve the profane end of diverting resistance to the Western imperialist project into wars on “apostates” and “infidels.” The infidels and apostates turn out to be none other than the region’s anti-colonialists, either secular nationalists, socialists or communists, or Iranians and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, all of which reject Western intervention in the Arab and Muslim worlds, whether the intervention is direct, or through the proxies of Israel and the Arab monarchies. To obscure these political differences, Saudi-inspired political Islam denounces as infidels the secularists for rejecting the organization of society on the basis of the Qur’an, while the Iranians and Hezbollah are excoriated for “apostasy” because they hold a different view of Islam. Religious questions of infidelity and apostasy are exploited in Machiavellian fashion as a smokescreen to obscure signal political differences and to mobilize the Sunni faithful against progressive forces.

The nature of the Saudi tyranny was acknowledged recently in The New York Times. Reporter Ben Hubbard wrote, “The country was founded on an alliance between the Saud family, whose members became the monarchs, and a cleric named Sheik Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab, whose teachings were used to justify military conquest by labelling it jihad against those deemed to be infidels, most of whom were other Muslims.” [29] Nothing has changed. With Saudi Arabia ensconced in the US empire, Wahhabi-inspired ideologies, such as those adhered to by Al Qaeda and its offshoots, are used to justify military conquest of territories in which there exists strong opposition to US domination and Zionist colonialism, by labelling it jihad against secular infidels (the Syrian government) and apostates (Shiite Iran and Hezbollah.)

Nasrallah points out that Arab and Muslim resistance to Israel has been continually channeled into other projects, to the delight of the Israelis. He questions the priorities of fighters “from all over the word” who joined “the war in Afghanistan” in the 1980s against a Marxist-Leninist government and Soviet military that intervened to prop it up. It is not that he questions the legitimacy of the fight, but he challenges the priority, defining the defeat of Zionist ideology and the dismantling of an exclusivist Jewish state apparatus in the middle of the Arab nation and Muslim world as the single most pressing objective for his co-religionists.

Saudi Arabia took a lead role in propagating Islamism, and “at various times over the past century” Islamists have been “useful allies” of Western powers, Israel, and Arab monarchies.

As one of many examples, during the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and the West Bank for years eagerly sent radical young Palestinian Muslims off to Afghanistan to combat the Soviet Army…It did so on the basis of the curious argument that the path of ‘true jihad’ could be found not in resisting the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, but rather far away in Central Asia. The covert agencies of numerous states were involved in sponsoring this ‘jihad’ not the least of them the CIA and the Saudi and Pakistani intelligence services. Needless to say, the Israeli military occupation authorities and their attentive intelligence services regarded this development with benevolent indulgence, encouraging any movement that fostered the departure of these young radicals and that weakened the unpalatable nationalism represented by the PLO. [30]

After Afghanistan, they “immediately manufactured a new priority for us,” Nasrallah recounts. The Saudis “manufactured a war and invented a new enemy called the Iranian expansion.” He continued: They “implanted the notion that Iran is the enemy in the minds of many Islamic groups, that the priority is confronting the Shia danger, Shia thought and Shia expansion, and that this Shia danger is a bigger threat to the (Muslim world) than Israel and the Zionist scheme.” And yet, the Saudis evinced no hostility to the Shah of Iran, a Shiite, who was “close to ‘Israel’” and one of Washington’s policemen on the beat. [31] Most adherents to Saudi-inspired ideology believe that that fighting apostates and opposing Shiism is more important than opposing Zionist colonialism. [32] This, of course, has pleasing implications for the colonialists and their Western sponsors.

In Nasrallah’s view, the Saudis have cloaked political questions in “sectarian garb.”

“In Egypt today there is a political conflict, a deep polarization. Is this conflict sectarian? It isn’t sectarian but political. In Libya there is a major conflict and deep polarization. Is it sectarian? In Tunisia there is a major political conflict and in Yemen too. Yes, when we come to countries which are marked by religious pluralism and diversity, like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrain, the issue becomes a sectarian one when it is, in fact, a political conflict. This conflict is political. Why are you turning it into a sectarian one? They do this intentionally, not out of ignorance. Today, this sectarianism is one of the most destructive weapons in the region.” [33]

“It is not a conflict between religions, but one between one force with a program of resistance” (Iran-Syria-Hezbollah) “and one that is pro-colonialist” (the Arab monarchies.) But they would like to make it seem like a religious conflict.” [34]

The Colonial Tradition

At the root of the conflict in the Middle East is the question of whether an exclusivist Jewish state settled on lands usurped from the Palestinians has the right to exist. The answer is clear: it has as much right to exist as did the Apartheid state of South Africa—which is none at all. This does not mean, however, that Jews should not be welcome in an equal, democratic, state in the territories of historic Palestine. On the contrary, it is unrealistic to expect that the eviction of Jewish settlers from Palestine is a workable solution to the conflict, anymore than it was reasonable to expect that by the 1990s the eviction of European settlers from South Africa was workable. But a single, democratic state, in which all citizens are equal, regardless of religion—given the resonance of this kind of arrangement with widely accepted political principles of equality and the precedent of the dismantling of a racist European settler regime in South Africa—appears to be not only desirable, but imaginable and able to command popular support throughout the world, if it doesn’t already. It’s not global public opinion that stands in the way of ending Zionist colonialism; it is the support Israel garners from Washington as an outpost of US imperialism in the Middle East that is the obstacle.

Finally, the recently WikiLeaks-disclosed e-mails of Hillary Clinton written while she was US secretary of state show that a goal of Washington’s Syria policy is to overthrow the pro-Palestinian Arab nationalist government in Damascus to weaken the Axis of Resistance, and its central cog, Iran. Nasrallah pointed this out publically almost three years ago. “Israel knows that the source or one of the most important sources of the strength of the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine is Syria and of course the Islamic Republic of Iran. For this reason it wants to take out Syria from the equation and corner the resistance in Palestine and Lebanon.” [35]

To accomplish the goal of “taking out” Syria, Israel, a state established in part as a refuge from anti-Jewish genocidal stirrings in Europe, is colluding with organizations pursuing their own genocidal agenda, as part of a larger neo-colonial project of fostering divisions in the Middle East to weaken forces committed to the project of the self-determination of the region’s indigenous people. Europe’s colonial project frequently relied on genocide to clear the way for the mastery of European settlers over indigenous populations. But it is not genocide itself that ought to agitate our minds, but a fortiori, it is its parent, the colonial tradition, of which Zionism itself is an expression, and of which genocide has been one of its accustomed practices, which deserves our resolute opposition.

The greatest holocaust of all was not the one carried out against Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany, though that genocide, accompanied by the systematic extermination of others, including Roma, communists and Slavs, was as obscene as any other. If we have to attach priority to genocide, as is done in capitalizing the anti-Jewish holocaust as the Holocaust, then a much larger genocide, of which there is little discussion if even acknowledgement, has a more compelling claim to this grim mantle—the holocaust of the indigenous people of the Americas. In terms of the number of human beings exterminated, the American Holocaust is perhaps the greatest crime of the European colonial tradition.

Hitler’s regime, it should be noted, represented European colonial ideology and practice in its highest form. Its methods were based on those pioneered by Britain, France and the United States to build vast empires, and Belgium and Portugal, to build smaller ones. What made Hitler reprehensible to the Western mind, was not the brutality of his methods and his racist ideology—for these came directly from the European colonial tradition—but his seeking to build a German empire to the East, thus bringing home to Europe the methods and racism the British had used in India, the French in Africa and Indo-China, and the young United States had used to build a continental empire. Hitler said Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia, would be to Germany what the American West was to the United States and India was to Britain. In Discourse on Colonialism, Aime Cesaire remarked that “What (Westerners) cannot forgive Hitler for is not the crime itself…it is the crime against the White man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonial procedures which had until then been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the ‘coolies’ of India and the ‘niggers’ of Africa.” [36] Nazism was colonialism let loose on Europeans. Viewed from the perspective of the Nazi’s colonial horrors brought to Europe, Westerners may begin to understand the tantamount colonial horrors and oppressions the West visited upon Arabs and Persians and continues through its Israeli outpost to visit upon the Palestinians, to say nothing of the political character of the practices and ideology which Western governments and their allies follow, even to this day, in the Middle East.

1. Matthew Rosenberg, “Citing atrocities, John Kerry calls ISIS actions genocide,” The New York Times, March 17, 2016.

2. Yarolsav Trofimov, “Israel’s main concern in Syria: Iran, not ISIS,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2016.

3. Rosenberg, March 17, 2016.

4. Patrick Seale, “Only a ceasefire will end the nightmare in Syria,” Gulf News, July 26, 2012.

5. Yarolsav Trofimov, “Al Qaeda a lesser evil? Syria war pulls U.S., Israel apart,” The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2015; Trofimov, March 17, 2016.

6. Isabel Kershner, “Scanning borders, Israel surveys new reality of tunnels and terror,” The New York Times, February 11, 2016.

7. Trofimov, March 12, 2015.

8. “Syria’s president speaks,” Foreign Affairs, January 25, 2015.

9. Trofimov, March 12, 2015.

10. Ashley Gallagher, “Some wounded Syrians seek treatment from Israeli hospitals,” Al Jazeera America, March 18, 2014.

11. Trofimov, March 12, 2015.

12. Trofimov, March 12, 2015.

13. Thomas Kapitan, “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” in Thomas Kapitan ed., Philosophical Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1997.)

14. Anne Barnard, “Muslim shrine stands at crossroads in Syria’s unrest,” The New York Times, April 8, 2014.

15. http://sana.sy/en/?page_id=1489

16. Glen Kessler, “Did Ahmadinejad really say Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’?” The Washington Post, October 6, 2011.

17. Kessler, October 6, 2011.

18. “Sayyed Nasrallah: Never to leave Palestine, ‘Israel’ scheme toppled in Lebanon,” http://www.english.alahednews.com.lb/essaydetails.php?eid=30020&cid=385#.Vv_xacv2bcs

19. “Sayyed Nasrallah’s full speech on Al-Quds day,” July 10, 2015. http://www.english.alahednews.com.lb/essaydetails.php?eid=29890&cid=564#.Vv_xm8v2bcs

20. “PFLP affirms that PLO membership does not mean acceptance of the ‘two-state solution’”, PFLP web site, retrieved March 2, 2009, http://www.pflp.ps/english/?q=pflp-affirms-plo-membership-does-not-mean-acceptan

21. Paula Schmitt, “Interview with Leila Khaled,” 972 blog, May 17, 2014.

22. “Jailed PFLP leader, “Only a one-state solution is possible,” Haaretz, May 5, 2010.

23. Creede Newton, “Paradise is in the life, not the next: the Marxists of Gaza are fighting for a secular state,” vice.com, February 25, 2016.

24. Trofimov, March 17, 2016.

25. “Sayyed Nasrallah’s full speech on Al-Quds day,” July 10, 2015.

26. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, “Transforming World Atlas,” August 4, 2015.

27. Robert Dreyfuss, The Devi Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, Holt, 2005, p. 99.

28. Full speech delivered by Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Nasrallah, on the commemoration ceremony held in honor of Sheikh Mohammad Khatoun, delivered on January 3, 2016. http://en.abna24.com/service/middle-east-west-asia/archive/2016/01/03/728497/story.html

29. Ben Hubbard, “ISIS turns Saudis against the Kingdom, and families against their own,” The New York Times, March 31, 2016.

30. Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, Beacon Press, 2006, xxx.

31. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on al-Quds Day, July 10, 2015. http://www.english.alahednews.com.lb/essaydetails.php?eid=29846&cid=385#.Vv_yjsv2bcs

32. Radwan Mortada, “Why isn’t the Islamic state fighting Israel?,” Al Akhbar English, August 2, 2014.

33. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s live speech on al-Quds Day, 2013.

34. Workers World, June 1, 2008.

35. Sam Dagher, “Hezbollah says weapons coming from Damascus,” The Wall Street journal, May 9, 2013.

36. Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, Monthly Review Press, 2000, p. 36.

Written by what's left

April 2, 2016 at 9:02 pm

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