Thursday, August 25, 2016

How the West is Complicit in Nurturing Islamic Radicalism?

King Fahd and Margaret Thatcher.
The pivotal role played by the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology in radicalizing Muslims all over the world is an indisputable fact; this Wahhabi-Salafi creed has been generously sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab States since the 1973 oil embargo when the price of oil quadrupled and the contribution of the Arab petro-sheikhs towards the “spiritual well-being” of Muslims all over the world magnified proportionally.

However, the Arab autocrats are in turn propped up by the Western powers since the Cold War; thus syllogistically speaking, the root cause of Islamic radicalism has been the neocolonial powers’ manipulation of the socio-political life of the Arabs specifically, and the Muslims generally, in order to exploit their energy resources in the context of an energy-starved industrialized world. This is the principal theme of this essay which I shall discuss in detail in the following paragraphs.

Peaceful or not, Islam is only a religion just like any other cosmopolitan religion whether it’s Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism. Instead of taking an essentialist approach, which lays emphasis on essences, we need to look at the evolution of social phenomena in its proper historical context. For instance: to assert that human beings are evil by nature is an essentialist approach; it overlooks the role played by nurture in grooming human beings. Human beings are only intelligent by nature, but they are neither good nor evil by nature; whatever they are, whether good or evil, is the outcome of their nurture or upbringing.

Similarly, to pronounce that Islam is a retrogressive or violent religion is an essentialist approach; it overlooks how Islam and the Quranic verses are interpreted by its followers depending on the subject's socio-cultural context. For example: the Western expat Muslims who are brought up in the West and who have imbibed the Western values would interpret a Quranic verse in a liberal fashion; an urban middle class Muslim of the Muslim-majority countries would interpret the same verse rather conservatively; and a rural-tribal Muslim who has been indoctrinated by the radical clerics would find meanings in it which could be extreme. It is all about culture rather than religion or scriptures per se.

Islam is regarded as the fastest growing religion of the 20th and 21st centuries. There are two factors responsible for this atavistic phenomena of Islamic resurgence: firstly, unlike Christianity which is more idealistic, Islam is a more practical religion, it does not demands from its followers to give up worldly pleasures but only insists on regulating them; and secondly, Islam as a religion and ideology has the world’s richest financiers.

After the 1973 collective Arab oil embargo against the West, the price of oil quadrupled; the Arabs petro-sheikhs now have so much money that they are needlessly spending it on building skyscrapers, luxury hotels, theme parks and resort cities. This opulence in the oil-rich Gulf Arab States is the reason why we are witnessing an exponential growth of Islamic charities and madrassahs all over the world and especially in the Islamic World.

Although, it is generally assumed that the Arab sheikhs of the oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and some emirates of UAE sponsor the Wahhabi-Salafi sect of Islam, but the difference between numerous sects of Sunni Islam is more nominal than substantive. The charities and madrassahs belonging to all the Sunni denominations get generous funding from the Gulf States as well as the Gulf-based private donors.

All the recent wars and conflicts aside, the unholy alliance between the Americans and the Wahhabi-Salafis of the Persian Gulf’s petro-monarchies is much older. The British stirred up uprising in Arabia by instigating the Sharifs of Mecca to rebel against the Ottoman rule during the First World War. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire backed King Abdul Aziz (Ibn-e-Saud) in his struggle against the Sharifs of Mecca; because the latter were demanding too much of a price for their loyalty: that is, the unification of the whole of Arabia under their suzerainty.

King Abdul Aziz defeated the Sharifs and united his dominions into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 with the support of the British. However, by then the tide of British Imperialism was subsiding and the Americans inherited the former possessions and the rights and liabilities of the British Empire.

At the end of the Second World War on 14 February 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt held a historic meeting with King Abdul Aziz at Great Bitter Lake in the Suez canal onboard USS Quincy, and laid the foundations of an enduring American-Saudi alliance which persists to this day; despite many ebbs and flows and some testing times, especially in the wake of 9/11 tragedy when 15 out of 19 hijackers of the 9/11 plot turned out to be Saudi citizens. During the course of that momentous Great Bitter Lake meeting, among other things, it was decided to set up the United States Military Training Mission (USMTM) to Saudi Arabia to “train, advise and assist” the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces.

Apart from USMTM, the US-based Vinnell Corporation, which is a private military company based in the US and a subsidiary of the Northrop Grumman, used over a thousand Vietnam War veterans to train and equip the 125,000 strong Saudi Arabian National Guards (SANG) which does not comes under the authority of the Saudi Ministry of Defense and which plays the role of the Praetorian Guards of the House of Saud.

Moreover, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Force, whose strength is numbered in tens of thousands, is also being trained and equipped by the US to guard the critical Saudi oil infrastructure along its eastern Persian Gulf coast where 90% of Saudi oil reserves are located. Furthermore, the US has numerous air bases and missile defense systems currently operating in the Persian Gulf States and also a naval base in Bahrain where the Fifth Fleet of the US Navy is based.

The point that I am trying to make is that left to their own resources, the Persian Gulf’s petro-monarchies lack the manpower, the military technology and the moral authority to rule over the forcefully suppressed and disenfranchised Arab masses, not only the Arab masses but also the South Asian and African immigrants of the Gulf Arab states.

One-third of the Saudi Arabian population is comprised of immigrants; similarly, more than 75% of UAE’s population also consists of immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka; and all the other Gulf Arab States also have a similar proportion of immigrants from the developing countries; moreover, unlike the immigrants in the Western countries who hold the citizenship status, the Gulf’s immigrants have lived there for decades and sometimes for generations, and they are still regarded as unentitled foreigners.

Notwithstanding, it is generally believed that political Islam is the precursor to Islamic extremism and terrorism, however, there are two distinct and separate types of political Islam: the despotic political Islam of the Gulf variety and the democratic political Islam of the Turkish and the Muslim Brotherhood variety. The latter Islamist organization never had a chance to rule over Egypt, except for a brief year long stint; therefore, it would be unwise to draw any conclusions from such a brief period of time in history.

The Turkish variety of political Islam, the oft-quoted “Turkish model,” however, is worth emulating all over the Islamic World. I do understand that political Islam in all of its forms and manifestations is an anathema to the liberal sensibilities, but it is the ground reality of the Islamic world. The liberal dictatorships, no matter how benevolent, had never worked in the past, and they will meet the same fate in the future.

The mainspring of Islamic extremism and militancy isn’t the moderate and democratic political Islam, because why would people turn to violence when they can exercise their right to choose their rulers? The mainspring of Islamic militancy is the despotic and militant political Islam of the Gulf variety. The Western powers are fully aware of this fact, then why do they choose to support the same Arab autocrats that have nurtured extremism and terrorism when the ostensible and professed goal of the Western policymakers is to eliminate Islamic radicalism and militancy?

It’s because this has been a firm policy principle of the Western powers to promote “stability” in the Middle East rather than representative democracy. They are fully cognizant of the ground reality that the mainstream Muslim sentiment is firmly against any Western military presence and interference in the Middle East region. Additionally, the Western policymakers also prefer to deal with small groups of Middle Eastern strongmen rather than cultivating a complex and uncertain relationship on a popular level; certainly a myopic approach which is the hallmark of the so-called “pragmatic” politicians and statesmen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Neocolonialism: Colonization By Other Means

Ayub Khan and John F. Kennedy.
It’s an indisputable fact that British colonizers built roads and railways in India, they established missionary schools, colleges and universities, they enforced English common law and the goal of exploiting natural resources and the 400 million strong Indian manpower at the time of independence in 1947, and trading raw materials for pennies and exporting finished goods with huge profits to the Indian consumer market never crossed their altruistic minds.

Puns aside, there is an essential precondition in the European Union’s charter of union according to which the developing economies of Europe that joined the EU allowed free movement of goods (free trade) only on the reciprocal condition that the developed countries would allow the free movement of labor.

What’s obvious in this stipulation is the fact that the free movement of goods, services and capital only benefits the countries that have a strong manufacturing base; and the free movement of workers only favors the developing economies where labor is cheap.

Now, when the international financial institutions, like the IMF and WTO, promote free trade by exhorting the developing countries all over the world to reduce tariffs and subsidies without the reciprocal free movement of labor, whose interests do such institutions try to protect? Obviously, they try to protect the interests of their biggest donors by shares, i.e. the developed countries.

Some market fundamentalists who irrationally believe in the laissez-faire capitalism try to justify this unfair practice by positing Schumpeter’s theory of “Creative destruction:” that the free trade between unequal trading partners leads to the destruction of the host country’s existing economic order and a subsequent reconfiguration gives birth to a better economic order.

Whenever one comes up with gross absurdities such proportions, they should always make it contingent on the principle of reciprocity: that is, if free trade is beneficial for the nascent industrial base of the developing economies then the free movement of labor is equally beneficial for the workforce of the developed countries.

The policymakers of the developing countries must not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by such deceptive arguments, instead they should devise national policies which suit the interests of their underprivileged masses. But the trouble is that the governments of the Third World countries are dependent on foreign investment, that’s why they cannot adopt an independent economic and trade policy.

The so-called “multinational” corporations based in the Western financial districts make profits from the consumer markets all over the world and pay a share of those profits to their respective governments as bribes in the form of taxes. Every balance of trade deficit due to the lack of strong manufacturing base makes the developing nations poorer, and every balance of trade surplus further adds to the already immense fortune of the developed world.

A single large multinational corporation earns more revenue annually than the total GDP of many developing nations. Without this neocolonial system of exploitation the whole edifice of supposedly “meritocratic” capitalism will fall flat on its face and the myth of individual incentive would get busted beyond repair, because it only means incentive for the pike and not for the minnows.

Regarding the technological progress, I do concede that the Western countries are too far ahead and even the Far Eastern nations, like Japan, South Korea and China, that attained their independence later than India and Pakistan, have become developed and prosperous nations, while we have lagged behind. The way I see it, however, our failure is primarily the failure of the leadership.

It's a fact that the European culture evolved in a bottom-up manner during the Renaissance period especially after the invention of the Gutenberg's printing press when books and newspapers became cheaper and within the reach of the common man, but when we look at the technological and economic development of nations in the 20th and 21st centuries, that happened mostly in a top-down manner, especially in Russia after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and in China after the Maoist revolution in 1949.

Cultures take centuries to evolve and the basic driver is always the level of socioeconomic development of the masses, therefore, our primary concern should be to improve governance and invest in the infrastructure development and the technical education and vocational training of our labor force. In the long run technologically advanced and economically prosperous nations are more likely to bring about a cultural change, too.

Regarding the contribution of British colonizers to India, the countries that don’t have a history of colonization, like China and Russia for instance, have better roads, railways and industries built by the natives themselves than the ones that have been through centuries of foreign occupation and colonization, like the subcontinent. The worst thing that the British colonizers did to the subcontinent was that they put in place a tyrannical governance and administrative system that catered to the needs of the colonizers without being accountable to the people over whom it was imposed.

It’s unfortunate that despite having the trappings of democracy and freedom, India and Pakistan are still continuing with the same exploitative traditional power structure that was bequeathed to us by the British colonizers. The society is stratified along the class lines, most of our ruling elite still have the attitude of the foreign colonizers and the top-down bureaucratic “Afsar Shahi Nizam” is one of the most inefficient in the world.

Regarding the lack of civic sense, any person living in Pakistan must have traveled on the motorway between Lahore and Peshawar where the Pakistani drivers scrupulously observe the traffic laws; people generally don’t break the law when the state provides all the facilities and there is no incentive for breaking the law. The issues of corruption and civic sense have more to do with economy than any inherent defect in the population.

Moreover, the rule of law is not limited to the Western countries; people of all the developed and prosperous countries obey the law. In Saudi Arabia, Iran and all other oil-rich Gulf countries where the public servants are better paid and the national economy is strong, nobody takes bribes and the people behave in just as civilized a manner as in the Western countries. Thus, corruption, bribery and lack of civic sense are primarily an outcome of poverty than any intrinsic features of the population.

On a national level there are two classes in any given society: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, or the peasantry in the rural agrarian economies. The bourgeois generally are privileged and educated people, while the peasantry is uncivilized and jahil. But who do the socialists, who tend to look at social issues from structural angle, hold responsible for social inequities? Obviously, they hold the bourgeoisie responsible for the structural injustices.

Similarly, on an international scale there are civilized and progressive First World states and the impoverished and uncivilized Third World societies; however from a structural angle under a neocolonial dispensation, who should we hold responsible for tyranny and injustice on a global scale?

In order to explain by way of an analogy in the Pakistani context that why colonialism and neocolonialism are unjust and self-serving, we all know that the Pakistani generals are much better administrators than our civilian democratic rulers; our economic growth rate during Ayub and Musharraf’s martial laws was much better; Zia-ul-Haq’s finance minister, Mahbub-ul-Haq, liberalized and radically transformed the ‘70s socialist era economic policy and all the later finance ministers kept pursuing the same policy, more or less, to date.

Moreover, army manages numerous cantonments, schools, colleges and hospitals and the quality of service in such institutions is much better; it has also established a business empire for itself and the quality of services and products like Defense Housing Authority’s residential projects, Frontier Works Organization’s construction of roads and bridges, Fauji fertilizer, Askari bank and cement, all of them are profitable business enterprises; however, despite the success of army’s governance model, its administrative skills and its business acumen, we, the persnickety intellectuals, would never recommend that it should be allowed to take part in politics or business, why?

I can’t explain this in a short essay but people have written voluminous books on the subject, read them. However, if the gullible comprador bourgeois endorse and praise the European colonizers then for the sake of consistency they should, perhaps, give due credit to our indigenous colonizers, too. Suffice it to say that capitalism is based on a single axiom that individuals always act in their self-interest, then how can you expect from the colonizers to work altruistically in the interests of the masses of their colonies?

Regarding the social injustice and inequality in the indigenous societies, I do concede that on the national level, too, class inequality and stratified social structure is untenable, however, any Third World state that dares to sidestep from the trade and economic policy as laid down by the neocolonial powers is demonized and vilified by the Western corporate media with labels such as “brutal, authoritarian, totalitarian,” to an extent that it becomes an international pariah, like Castro’s Cuba and Chavez’s Venezuela, for instance.

The way I see it, there are only two classes in the developed world: the ultra-rich and the middle class; social inequality does exists but the real poverty does not exists in the countries where the labor earns its wages in dollars, euros, pounds, dirhams and riyals. Millions of laborers from the Third World countries flock every year to the Western and Gulf countries and they make enough money not only to support themselves but also to send remittances back home to their poor families. This fact shows that the working classes of the prosperous countries are reasonably well off.

Moreover, as I have mentioned before that most of the multinational corporations that make profits from all over the world are headquartered in the Western financial districts; they share part of their profits with Western governments in the form of taxes; that’s why Western governments have plenty of funds for development and social welfare activities and they can even commit hundreds of billions of dollars to the needless wars to spur economic growth (Military Keynesianism.)

Notwithstanding, it’s a fact that I am somewhat insensitive to the issues of racism and discriminatory attitude that the immigrants suffer at the hands of white supremacists. Actually I am someone who is acutely aware of the reality of the Third World: laborers pulling carts like animals; construction workers doing backbreaking work under the scorching sun; the children of the Afghan refugees working as scavengers in the streets of Pakistan; and all in all a subhuman condition in which the majority of the Third World’s population has been condemned to labor.

The Western countries have their Wall Streets, the Third World countries have their counterparts in the form of Sabzi mandis; they control the global economy, we determine the prices of fruits and vegetables, therefore, if you want to criticize the structure of injustice, condemn the exploiters and not the victims, even if the latter are a bit “uncivilized” for your refined and elegant neoliberal tastes.

Regarding the neoliberals’ revulsion towards religious dogmatism, although it’s a fact that the first amendment rights were not revealed to the Bedouins of Arabia 1400 years ago, but does that implies that we should exclude 1.5 billion adherents of a faith from our project of building a Eurocentric liberal utopia all over the world? That sounds exclusionary. Our belief in the merits of cultural diversity and pluralistic society dictates that we should be open-minded and tolerant towards the contrasting belief and value systems.

Although, I concede that religious dogma limits the freedom of investigation, but it is never about the written word of the scripture as much as it is about the contextual interpretation of the scriptures by the subject. A Muslim living in a developed Western society would generally adopt a more liberal interpretation of a Quranic verse; a subject, who has been brought up in the urban middle class of the Muslim-majority countries, would adopt a moderately conservative interpretation of the same verse; and a rural and tribal Muslim, who has been indoctrinated in a madrassah, would adopt an extreme interpretation of the same verse.

It’s always the culture that plays a much more substantial role in forming our mindsets than religion, as such. The intellectual opinion leaders of the subaltern cultures need our approval and support for the cultural advancement of their respective societies, even if they don’t quite meet the criteria of our utopian ideals.

Cultural progress and social advancement are worthy ideals, however, being a citizen of an impoverished developing country my foremost concern is social justice. I can live in a moderately conservative society just as happily as I could live in a liberal state, but the mass exodus of the immigrants from the developing world to the developed world has less to do with the latter’s liberalism and cultural appeal and more with its economic prosperity: a fact that become obvious when we witness the changing trend of immigration to the conservative Gulf Arab countries instead of Western countries lately.

The way I see it from a pragmatic angle, secularism and liberalism only have secondary importance in our everyday lives; how much wiser the citizens of the supposedly secular states have become when they naively endorse and justify an absurd liberal interventionist narrative in the energy-rich Middle East, and elect the likes of fascist Bush and Trump to the highest offices? The only tangible progress that we have seen in the last two centuries has mostly been techno-scientific progress, other than that we are still stuck in the Renaissance era, culturally speaking.

To match the Western technological progress, more than the rhetoric of secular and liberal values the citizens of the developing world need to invest in their infrastructure development and the technical and vocational education of their human resource a la China, whose consistent GDP growth rate and $8,000 per capita income is the new paradigm for the whole of developing world.

China is an interesting case study in regard to its history, it did fight a couple of Opium Wars with the British in the middle of nineteenth century but the influence of Western imperialism generally remained confined to its coastal cities and towns and it did not make inroads into the inland areas, that’s perhaps the reason why the Chinese don’t feel shame in speaking their native Mandarin language and take pride in their cultural ethos and values, unlike the subjugated Indo-Pakistani elite of the subcontinent.

Moreover, China is ethno-linguistically homogeneous: more than 90% Chinese belong to the Han ethnic group and they speak various dialects of Mandarin. These two factors, along with the visionary leadership of Chairman Mao, Zhou Enlai and the Chinese Communist Party in general, have placed China on a path to progress and prosperity in the 21st century.

Philosophically speaking, if I buy a car for my personal use, build a home for my family and work hard on my job for my children, would you say that I am a good person? On the basis of aforementioned self-serving achievements, you could say that I am a competent and successful person, but am I “good” too? No, good basically means to be morally good, which in turn implies empathy, compassion and altruism; things that I do for myself and my family (which is a part of my extended self) don’t make me good; things that I do for others, who are not related to me, make me a compassionate and good person.

The Western civilization, no doubt, is a techno-scientifically advanced civilization; their scientists, technicians and inventors have made miracles happen; but how those technological inventions have been put to use, that we need to question? The motive for hard work in a capitalist society is not the general wellbeing, the incentive is only to make money. The highly entrepreneurial multinational corporations and their employees work hard day in and day out, but not for the welfare of the humanity; their motive is exclusively to make profit; therefore, should they be given credit for the unintended consequences of their self-serving motives?

An ethical egoist, a la Ayn Rand, might justify such haphazard “progress” and its concomitant consumerism; but the way I see it, Western materialism and commercialism has only worsened the human condition and has led to more violence, inequality and human suffering than ever before in the history of mankind.

Notwithstanding, the basic trouble with the 21st century social reformers is that they have lost all hope for bringing about economic reforms; nobody talks about the nationalization of the modes of production and labor reforms, anymore. Laissez faire capitalism and the consequent social stratification is taken for granted; thus, if reforming the economic system is out of question, the next best thing for the chattering classes to espouse is cultural reforms. It must be kept in mind, however, that reforming the culture is many times more difficult than reforming the economic system, which the neoliberals have already given up on, because it appeared daunting and impossible to achieve.

Truth be told, the victim-blaming Indo-Pakistani neoliberals lack any original insight into the social and political phenomena and they uncritically imitate the views of the Orientalist academics. After the onset of the Industrial Revolution, when the Western societies had been riddled with social disparity, the response of their intellectuals had been to come up with theories of economics such as socialism, Fabianism and Marxism; however, in the age of neocolonialism and corporate imperialism, the condition and social status of the labor in the developed countries has improved; therefore, their focus has shifted from economic reforms to cultural reforms. Our gullible intelligentsia, on the other hand, is fixated on bringing about cultural reforms without the essential prerequisites of socioeconomic development and investment on education.

The public schools of the developed world provide quality education to all the citizens irrespective of their social status, because in a country like UK the budgetary allocation for public education is $150 for a population of 65 million, while in a Third World country, like Pakistan, the education budget is only $5 billion for a population of 200 million.

Thus, the fundamental social axiom of the egalitarian modern world view: that is, the equality of opportunity, which is directly linked to the equality of elementary education, has been ensured in the developed world, but not in the Third World countries where education systems are highly stratified along the class lines. Although, the elite schools of the Third World countries provide quality education to the children of the upper classes, but their tuition fee is generally so exorbitant that it exceeds the net income of the majority of the households in Pakistan and India.

Necessity and common sense dictates that the underdogs all over the world must unite against the exploiters. But what do the neoliberal underdogs do? Those “useful idiots” are always eager to form an alliance with the exploiters against their regional rivals, and the perks usually are a few slices in the pie of outsourcing and foreign investment. Neocolonial powers obviously have a way with manipulating divisions and coaxing the ruling elites to act against the interests of the masses of the Third World.

For the last five centuries, since the invention of the Guttenberg printing press and the consequent Renaissance, only the Europeans have exploited the rest of the world; either through direct colonialism, or through a more subtle and indirect approach of economic neocolonialism. Keeping in mind the relative balance of power, only the Western World is in a position to enforce a system of international justice that can punish the wrongdoers in the same manner in which the judiciary and law enforcement agencies of nation states punish and deter the criminals.

What’s lacking is not the capacity but the will to enforce justice on a global scale, because the Western World is the beneficiary of the contemporary neocolonial system of exploitation. When it suits their interests, their aircraft-carriers, Tomahawks and Hellfires can destroy entire countries, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, in a matter of weeks; but when the will isn’t there, the Media Corps of the Western political establishments have indoctrinated plenty of imperialist apologists all over their former colonies to offer lame excuses on their behalf.

Finally, it’s a fact that we, as individuals, don’t like to revamp our deeply entrenched narratives even when such narratives have conclusively been proven to be erroneous, because our minds are incapable of radically transforming themselves, especially after a certain age. Despite being a mystery of gigantic proportions, the human mind still has its limits, especially the minds of grownups are highly cluttered.

The reality is always too complex to be accurately conceived by the mind. Our narrative is only a mental image of the reality that we have formulated to the best of our humble abilities. But since our minds are quite overloaded, therefore, we generally tend to adopt linear narratives; and try to overlook the deviations and contradictory evidence as mere anomalies (selective perception and confirmation bias.)

Moreover, our minds also adopt mental shortcuts, or heuristics, to ease the cognitive load while making a decision. To instantiate this concept, Pakistan has numerous problems: like, social injustice, corruption, patriarchy, bigotry and oppression of the minorities, to name a few. My individual narrative, however, has mostly been predicated on the social justice aspect; but I do appreciate the activists who are doing commendable work in other areas too.

My only gripe is that most social and political commentators, these days, restrict themselves exclusively to denouncing the crime and the criminals, without looking into the socio-political and socio-cultural root causes that have spawned the crime and the criminals; such an approach seems facile and lacking in perspective.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Why Intervention is Worse than Dictatorship?

John Kerry and Mohammad bin Zayed.
Let me take this opportunity to make it clear that I am in no way sympathetic towards the unrepresentative Middle Eastern dictators in general and Bashar al-Assad in particular, but in order to assign blame for the wrongdoing in Syria, we need to remind ourselves of the elementary distinction between the constant and variable factors.

Bear in mind that Bashar al-Assad has been ruling Syria since 2000, and before that his father had ruled over Syria for another 30 years. I do concede that Syria was not a democratic state under their rule but it was at least a functioning state. The Syrian crisis that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and made millions of refugees dates back only to 2011, something changed in Syria in that fateful year and it was obviously not Assad since he has been ruling since 2000, and up to 2011 at least people were not dying or migrating en masse out of Syria.

Therefore, though I admit that Assad is responsible for dictatorship, heavy handed tactics and forceful suppression of dissent in Syria, but he is not responsible for all the killings and violence, except may be in self-defense; for all the casualties and population displacements, the “change or the variable” that was added to the Syrian equation in 2011 has primarily been responsible.

Now if that variable is the Islamic jihadists then why did the Western powers nurtured them, when the latter are ostensibly fighting a war against terrorism (Islamic jihadism) at the same time? And if that variable is the supposed “moderate rebels” then what difference does it makes whether their objectives are enforcing Shari’a or “bringing democracy” to Syria?

The goals of the “Syrian Opposition,” whatever its composition may be, are irrelevant in the context of preventing a humanitarian disaster that has reduced a whole a country of 22 million people to rubble; in other words, the first priority of the so-called “humanitarian interventionists” in Syria should have been to prevent all the killings, violence and mass migrations irrespective of the objectives for which the Syrian militants have been fighting.

It can be very easy to mislead the people merely by changing the labels while the content remains the same – call the Syrian opposition secular and nationalist “rebels, militants or insurgents” and they would become legitimate in the eyes of the audience of the Western mainstream media, and call the same armed militants “jihadists, or  terrorists” and they would become  illegitimate.

How do people expect from the armed thugs, whether they are Islamic jihadists or secular and nationalist rebels, to bring about democratic reform in Syria or Libya? And I squarely hold the powers that funded, trained, armed and internationally legitimized the Syrian militants as primarily responsible for the Syrian crisis.

For the whole of last five years of the Syrian civil war the focal point of the Western policy has been that “Assad must go!” But what difference would it make now to the lives of the Syrians even if the regime is replaced when the whole country now lies in ruins?

Qaddafi and his regime were ousted from power in September 2011; five years later Tripoli is ruled by the Misrata militia, Benghazi is under the control of Khalifa Haftar who is supported by Egypt and UAE, and Sirte has become a new battleground between the Islamic State-affiliate in Libya and the so-called “Government of National Accord.”

It will now take decades, not years, to restore even a semblance of stability in Libya and Syria; remember that the proxy war in Afghanistan was originally fought in the ‘80s and even 35 years later Afghanistan is still in the midst of perpetual anarchy, lawlessness and an unrelenting Taliban insurgency.

Notwithstanding, in political science the devil always lies in the definitions of the terms that we employ. For instance: how do you define a terrorist or a militant? In order to understand this we need to identify the core of a “militant,” that what essential feature distinguishes him from the rest?

A militant is basically an armed and violent individual who carries out subversive activities against the state. That being understood, now we need to examine the concept of “violence.” Is it violence per se that is wrong, or does some kind of justifiable violence exists?

I take the view, on empirical grounds, that all kinds of violence is essentially wrong; because the ends (goals) for which such violence is often employed are seldom right and elusive at best. Though, democracy and liberal ideals are cherished goals but such goals can only be accomplished through peaceful means; expecting from the armed and violent militants to bring about democratic reform is preposterous.

The Western mainstream media and its neoliberal constituents, however, take a different view. According to them, there are two kinds of violence: justifiable and unjustifiable. When a militant resorts to violence for the secular and nationalist goals, such as “bringing democracy” to Libya and Syria, the misguided neoliberals enthusiastically exhort such form of violence; however, if such militants later turn out to be Islamic jihadists, like the Misrata militia in Libya or the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front in Syria, the credulous neoliberals, who were duped by the mainstream narrative, promptly make a volte-face and label them as “terrorists.”

Truth be told, democracy as a ground for intervention was invented by the Machiavellian spin-doctors of the Western powers during the Cold War. Here we must keep the backdrop in mind, the whole world was divided into two camps vying for supremacy and global domination: the communist and the capitalist bloc.

The communist bloc had a clear moral advantage over the latter; using its rhetoric of social justice, revolution of the proletariat and communal ownership of the modes of production, it could stir up insurgency against the status quo anywhere in the world, and especially in the impoverished Third World.

The capitalists with their “trickle down” economics had no answer to the moral superiority of the communist bloc. That’s when the Western propagandists came up with democracy and human rights as grounds for intervention and to offset the moral advantage of their archrivals vying for global supremacy.

Since then, and even after the dissolution of Soviet Union, it has become a customary tactic in the Western playbook to bomb a country, reduce it to rubble and then hold sham elections in the absence of political culture and representative institutions, like political parties, in order to legitimize the intervention and include the occupied territory in the neocolonial sphere of influence.

Whether it’s Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the same exercise has been followed ad nauseam to create a charade of justice and fair play. To answer the central theme of this write-up in a nutshell, “intervention” is a euphemism for war; and any kind of functioning government is much better than the death and destruction brought about by wars.

Fact of the matter is that the neocolonial powers only pay lip service to the cause of morality, justice and humanity in the international relations and their foreign policies are solely driven by the motive to protect their national interest without any regard for the human suffering in the remote regions of the world.

More often than not, it isn’t even about protecting their national interests, bear in mind that the Western powers are not true democracies; they are plutocratic-oligarchies catering to the needs of their business interests that wield a disproportionate influence in the governmental decision-making and the formulation of public policy. Thus, the real core of the oft-quoted “Western national interests” has mainly been comprised of the Western corporate interests.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How Obama Administration Encouraged the Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama and King Abdullah.
Although, I admit that Donald Trump’s recent remarks that Obama Administration willfully created the Islamic State were a bit facile, but it is an irrefutable fact that Obama Administration’s policy of nurturing the Syrian militants against the Assad regime from August 2011 to August 2014 created the ideal circumstances which led to the creation of not just Islamic State but myriads of other Syrian militant groups which are just as fanatical and bloodthirsty as Islamic State.

It should be remembered here that the Libyan and Syrian crises originally began in early 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings when the peaceful protests against the Qaddafi and Assad regimes turned militant. Moreover, it should also be kept in mind that the withdrawal of the United States’ troops from Iraq, which has a highly porous border with Syria, took place in December 2011.

Furthermore, the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, served as the United States’ Secretary of State from January 2009 to February 2013. Thus, for the initial year-and-a-half of the Syrian civil war, Hillary Clinton was serving as the Secretary of the State and the role that she played in toppling the regime in Libya and instigating the insurgency in Syria is not hidden from anybody’s eyes.

Additionally, it is also a known fact that the Clintons have cultivated close ties with the Zionist lobbies in Washington and the American support for the proxy war in Syria is specifically about ensuring Israel’s regional security as I shall explain in the ensuing paragraphs. However, it would be unfair to put the blame for the crisis in Syria squarely on the Democrats; the policy of nurturing militants against the regime has been pursued with bipartisan support. In fact, Senator John McCain, a Republican, played the same role in the Syrian civil war which Charlie Wilson played during the Soviet-Afghan war in the ‘80s. And Ambassador Robert Ford was the point man in the United States’ embassy in Damascus.

More to the point, the United States’ Defense Intelligence Agency’s report [1] of 2012 that presaged the imminent rise of a Salafist principality in northeastern Syria was not overlooked it was deliberately suppressed; not just the report but that view in general that a civil war in Syria will give birth to the radical Islamists was forcefully stifled in the Washington’s policy making circles under pressure from the Zionist lobbies.

The Obama Administration was fully aware of the consequences of its actions in Syria but it kept pursuing the policy of funding, training, arming and internationally legitimizing the so-called “Syrian Opposition” to weaken the Syrian regime and to neutralize the threat that its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, posed to Israel’s regional security; a fact which the Israeli defense community realized for the first time during the 2006 Lebanon war during the course of which Hezbollah fired hundreds of rockets into northern Israel. Those were only unguided rockets but it was a wakeup call for Israel’s defense community that what would happen if Iran passed the guided missile technology to Hezbollah whose area of operations lies very close to the northern borders of Israel?

Notwithstanding, how can the United States claim to fight a militant group which has been an obvious by-product [2] of the United States’ policy in Syria? Let’s settle on one issue first: there were two parties to the Syrian civil war initially, the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition; which party did the US support since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in early 2011 to June 2014 until Islamic State overran Mosul?

Obviously, the United States supported the Syrian opposition; and what was the composition of the so-called “Syrian Opposition?” A small fraction of it was comprised of defected Syrian soldiers, which goes by the name of Free Syria Army, but a vast majority has been Sunni jihadists and armed tribesmen who were generously funded, trained and armed by the alliance of Western powers, Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf States.

Islamic State is nothing more than one of the numerous Syrian jihadist outfits, others being: al Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, al-Tawhid brigade, Jaysh al Islam etc. The United States-led war against Islamic State is limited only to Islamic State while all other Sunni Arab jihadist groups are enjoying complete impunity, and the so-called “coalition against Islamic State” also includes the main patrons of Sunni Arab jihadists like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan.

Regardless, many biased political commentators of the mainstream media deliberately try to muddle the reality in order to link the emergence of Islamic State to the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the Bush Administration. Their motive behind this chicanery is to absolve the Obama Administration’s policy of supporting the Syrian opposition against the Assad regime since the beginning of the Syrian civil war until June 2014 when Islamic State overran Mosul and Obama Administration made a volte-face on its previous policy of indiscriminate support to the Syrian opposition and declared a war against a faction of Syrian opposition: that is, the Islamic State.

Moreover, such spin-doctors also try to find the roots of Islamic State in al-Qaeda in Iraq; however, the insurgency in Iraq died down after the “surge” of American troops in 2007. Al-Qaeda in Iraq became a defunct organization after the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi and the subsequent surge of troops in Iraq. The re-eruption of insurgency in Iraq has been the spillover effect of nurturing militants in Syria against the Assad regime when Islamic State overran Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in January 2014 and subsequently captured Mosul in June 2014.

The borders between Syria and Iraq are highly porous and it’s impossible to contain the flow of militants and arms between the two countries. The Obama Administration’s policy of providing money, arms and training to the Syrian militants in the training camps located at the border regions of Turkey and Jordan was bound to backfire sooner or later.

Notwithstanding, in order to simplify the Syrian quagmire for the sake of readers, I would divide it into three separate and distinct zones of influence. Firstly, the northern and northwestern zone along the Syria-Turkey border, in and around Aleppo and Idlib, which is under the influence of Turkey and Qatar. Both of these countries share the ideology of Muslim Brotherhood and they provide money, training and arms to the Sunni Arab jihadist organizations like al-Tawhid Brigade and Ahrar al-Sham in the training camps located at the border regions of Turkey.

Secondly, the southern zone of influence along the Syria-Jordan border, in Daraa and Quneitra and as far away as Homs and Damascus. It is controlled by the Saudi-Jordanian camp and they provide money, weapons and training to the Salafist militant groups such as al-Nusra Front and the Southern Front of the so-called “moderate” Free Syria Army in Daraa and Quneitra, and Jaysh al-Islam in the suburbs of Damascus. Their military strategy is directed by a Military Operations Center (MOC) and training camps [3] located in the border regions of Jordan. Here let me clarify that this distinction is quite overlapping and heuristic at best, because al-Nusra’s jihadists have taken part in battles as far away as Idlib and Aleppo.

And finally, the eastern zone of influence along the Syria-Iraq border, in al-Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, which has been controlled by a relatively maverick Iraq-based jihadist outfit, the Islamic State. Thus, leaving the Mediterranean coast and Syria’s border with Lebanon, the Baathist and Shi’a-dominated Syrian regime has been surrounded from all three sides by the hostile Sunni forces: Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood in the north, Jordan and the Salafists of the Gulf Arab States in the south and the Sunni Arab-majority regions of Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in the east.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Is Democracy Consistent with Islam?

Gamal Abdel Nasser, General Ayub and Bhutto.
Some people are under the impression that democracy and Islam are incompatible. But I don’t see any contradiction between democracy and Islam, as such. Though, I admit, that there is some friction between Islam and liberalism. When we say that there is a contradiction between Islam and democracy, we make a category mistake which is a serious logical fallacy.

There is a fundamental difference between democracy and liberalism. Democracy falls in the category of politics and governance while liberalism falls in the category of culture. We must be precise about the definitions of the terms that we employ in political science.

Democracy is simply a representative political system that ensures representation, accountability and the right of the electorate to vote governments in and to vote governments out. In this sense when we use the term democracy we mean a multi-party representative political system that confers legitimacy upon a government which comes to power through an election process which is a contest between more than one political parties in order to ensure that it is voluntary. Thus democracy is nothing more than a multi-party representative political system.

Some normative scientists, however, get carried away in their enthusiasm and ascribe meanings to technical terminology that are quite subjective and fallacious. Some will use the adjective liberal to describe the essence of democracy as liberal democracy while others will arbitrarily call it informed or enlightened democracy. In my opinion, the only correct adjective that can be used to describe the essence of democracy is representative democracy.

After settling on the theoretical aspect, let us now apply these concepts to the reality of the practical world, especially the phenomena of the nascent democratic movements of the Arab Spring. It’s a fact that the ground realities of the Arab and Islamic World fall well short of the ideal liberal democratic model of the developed Western World. However, there is a lot to be optimistic about. When the Arab Spring revolutions erupted in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, and before the Arab Spring turned into an abysmal winter in Libya and Syria, some of the utopian dreamers were not too hopeful about the outcome of those movements.

Unlike the socialist revolutions of ‘60s and ‘70s, when the visionaries of yore used to have a magic wand of bringing about a fundamental structural change that would have culminated into equitable distribution of wealth overnight, the neoliberal movements of present times are merely a step in the right direction that will usher the Arab and the Islamic World into an era of relative peace and progress.

The Arab Spring movements have not been led by Gamal Abdel Nassers, Zulfikar Ali Bhuttos, Jawahar Lal Nehrus and other such charismatic messiahs that the utopian thinkers are so fond of. But these revolutions have been the grassroots movements of a society in transition from an abject stagnant state towards a dynamic and representative future.
Let us be clear about one thing first and foremost: the Tunisian moderate Islamist political party, Ennahda, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would have followed the same old economic model of Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.

It’s a growth-based neoliberal model as opposed to an equality-based socialist model. It’s a fact that the developing Third World economies with large populations and meager resources cannot be compared to the democratic socialist countries of Scandinavia.

A question arises that what would have the Arab Spring movements accomplished if the resultant democratic governments would have followed the same old neoliberal and growth-centered economic policies? It should be kept in mind that democracy is not the best of systems because it is the most efficient system of governance. Top-down autocracies are much more efficient than democracies.

But democracy is a representative political system. It brings about a grassroots social change. Enfranchisement, representation, transparency, accountability, checks and balances, rule of law and the consequent institution-building, nation-building and consistent long term policies are the fruits of representative democracy.

Immanuel Kant sagaciously posited that moral autonomy produces moral responsibility and social maturity. This social axiom can also be applied to politics and governance. Political autonomy and self-governance engender political responsibility and social maturity. A top-down political system is dependent on the artificial external force that keeps it going. The moment that external force is removed, the society reverts back to its previous state and the system collapses. But a grassroots and bottom-up political system evolves naturally and intrinsically.

We must not expect from the Arab Spring movements to produce results immediately. Bear in mind that the evolution of Western culture and politics happened over a course of many centuries. Moreover, the Arab revolutions of ‘60s and ‘70s only mobilized the elite classes. Some working classes might have been involved, but the tone and tenor of those revolutions was elitist and that’s the reason why those revolutions failed to produce the desired outcome. The Arab Spring movements, by contrast, mobilized the urban middle class of the Arab societies in the age of electronic media and information technology.

In the nutshell, if the Arab Spring movements have not been about the radical redistribution of wealth, or about creating a liberal utopia in the Middle East overnight, what was the objective of those movements then? Let me try to explain the aims of the Arab Spring movements by way of an allegory. Democracy is like a school and people are like children. We only have two choices: one, to keep the people under paternalistic dictatorships; two, to admit them in the school of representative democracy and let them experience democracy as a lived reality rather than some stale and sterile theory. The first option will only produce half-witted cretins, but the second option will give birth to an educated human resource that doesn’t just consumes resources but also creates new resources.

Finally, I would like to clarify that the militant phenomena in Libya and Syria has been distinct and separate from the political and democratic phenomena of the Arab Spring movements as in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen. A question arises that when political movements for enfranchisement turn violent, do their objectives cease to be legitimate? No they don’t, but from a pacifist standpoint we ought to make a distinction between political movements, to which we should lend our moral support; and the militant phenomena which should be discouraged.

In civil law a distinction is generally drawn between the lawful and unlawful assembly. It is the inalienable right of the people to peacefully assemble to press their demands for political reform. But the moment such protests become militarized and violent, they cease to be lawful. Expecting from the heavily armed militants as in Libya and Syria, who have been described by the Western mainstream media as “moderate rebels,” to bring about political reform and positive social change is not only naïve but bordering on insanity.

In the latter case the only prudent course for the international community is to pressurize both sides: the militants and the regimes, to show restraint and avoid using force; the political right of peaceful demonstrations for political and social reforms is always a given. The demonstrators must have our political and moral support but beyond that any militarization and so-called “liberal interventionism” for ulterior motives in an opportunistic manner is only likely to further exacerbate the conflict.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Motives Behind the Rebranding of Al-Nusra Front

Abu Mohammad al-Jolani.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, in August 2011, to April 2013, Islamic State and al-Nusra Front were a single organization that chose the banner of “Jabhat al Nusra.” Although, the current al-Nusra Front is led by Abu Mohammad al Jolani but he was appointed as the Emir of al-Nusra Front by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, in January 2012. The current Al-Nusra Front is only a splinter group of Islamic State which split away from its parent organization in April 2013 over a dispute between the leaders of two organizations.

In March 2011, protests began in Syria against the government of Bashar al-Assad. In the following months violence between demonstrators and security forces led to a gradual militarization of the conflict. In August 2011, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi began sending Syrian and Iraqi jihadists, experienced in guerilla warfare, across the border into Syria to establish an organization inside the country.

Led by a Syrian known as Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, the group began to recruit fighters and establish cells throughout the country. On 23 January 2012, the group announced its formation as Jabhat al-Nusra. Al-Nusra rapidly expanded into a capable fighting force with a level of popular support among opposition supporters in Syria.

In April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio statement in which he announced that Al-Nusra Front had been established, financed and supported by the Islamic State of Iraq. Al-Baghdadi declared that the two groups were merging under the name "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” The leader of al-Nusra Front, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, issued a statement denying the merger and complaining that neither he nor anyone else in al-Nusra's leadership had been consulted about it.

Al Qaeda Central’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, tried to mediate the dispute between al-Baghdadi and al-Jolani but eventually, in October 2013, he endorsed al-Nusra Front as the official franchise of al Qaeda Central in Syria. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, however, defied the nominal authority of al Qaeda Central and declared himself as the Caliph of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Keeping this background in mind, it becomes amply clear that a single organization operated in Syria and Iraq under the leadership of al-Baghdadi until April 2013, which chose the banner of al-Nusra Front. For the sake of clarity, let’s call this pre-April 2013 organization al-Nusra-I; and the subsequent breakaway faction of al-Nusra-I under the leadership of al-Jolani, post-April 2013, as al-Nusra-II. Also bear in mind that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria operated in the Syrian theater since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, in August 2011, but it chose the banner of al-Nusra-I. And it rebranded itself as “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” only in April 2013.

Many biased political commentators of the mainstream media deliberately try to muddle the reality in order to link the emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the Bush Administration. Their motive behind this chicanery is to absolve the Obama Administration’s policy of supporting the Syrian opposition against the Syrian regime since the beginning of the Syrian civil war until June 2014 when Islamic State overran Mosul and Obama Administration made an about-face on its previous policy of indiscriminate support to the Syrian opposition and declared a war against a faction of Syrian opposition: that is, the Islamic State.

Moreover, such spin-doctors also try to find the roots of Islamic State in al-Qaeda in Iraq; however, the insurgency in Iraq died down after “the Iraq surge” of 2007. Al-Qaeda in Iraq became an impotent organization after the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi and the subsequent surge of troops in Iraq. The re-eruption of insurgency in Iraq has been the spillover effect of nurturing militants in Syria against the Assad regime, when Islamic State overran Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in January 2014 and subsequently captured Mosul in June 2014.

The borders between Syria and Iraq are quite porous and it’s impossible to contain the flow of militants and arms between the two countries. The Obama Administration’s policy of providing money, arms and training to the Syrian militants in the training camps located at the border regions of Turkey and Jordan was bound to backfire sooner or later.

As I have mentioned before that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had operated in Syria since August 2011 under the label of al-Nusra-I and it subsequently changed its name to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in April 2013; after which it overran al-Raqqa in the summer of 2013, then it captured parts of Deir el-Zor and fought battles against the alliance of Kurds and Syrian regime in Qamishli. And in January 2014 it overran Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in Iraq and reached the zenith of its power when it captured Mosul in June 2014.

Regarding the recent rebranding of al-Jolani’s Nusra Front to “Jabhat Fateh al Sham” and the supposed severing of ties with al-Qaeda Central, it’s only a nominal difference because al-Nusra Front never had any organizational and operational link with al-Qaeda Central and even their ideologies are poles apart.

Al-Qaeda Central is basically a transnational terrorist organization which targets the Western countries; while al-Nusra Front, Islamic State and many other Syrian militant organizations only have regional ambitions and their ideology is anti-Shi’a and sectarian, rather than anti-West or anti-Zionist, as such. In fact, al-Nusra Front has not only received medical aid and material support from Israel, but some of its operations against the Shi’a Assad regime in southern Syria were fully coordinated with Israel’s Air Force.

The purpose behind this rebranding of al-Nusra Front seems to be to legitimize itself and make it easier for its patrons to send money and arms. The US blacklisted al-Nusra Front in December 2012 and pressurized Saudi Arabia and Turkey to ban it too. Though, al-Nusra Front’s name has been in the list of proscribed organizations of Saudi Arabia and Turkey since 2014, but it kept receiving money and arms from Saudi Arabia.

After this rebranding, the reaction from the US has been: "We're gonna have to wait and see," State Department spokesman John Kirby said. "We judge a group by what they do, not by what they call themselves." In any case, Saudi Arabia and Turkey might not be willing to add the name of a militant organization, which only has local ambitions of fighting the Syrian regime and which has severed its nominal ties with al Qaeda Central.

It should be remembered that in a May 2015 interview with al-Jazeera, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani took a public pledge on the behest of his Gulf-based patrons that his organization only has local ambitions limited to Syria and that it does not intends to strike targets in the Western countries. Thus, this rebranding exercise has been going on for almost an year and al-Jolani finally announced the split from al-Qaeda in a video statement yesterday. Instead of al-Qaeda Central, the real affiliation of al-Jolani’s Nusra Front has always been to Saudi Arabia, which controls the flow of money and arms to al-Jolani’s organization.

In order to simplify the Syrian quagmire for the sake of readers, I would divide it into three separate and distinct zones of influence. Firstly, the northern and northwestern zone, in and around Aleppo, which is under the influence of Turkey and Qatar. Both of these countries share the ideology of Muslim Brotherhood and they provide money, training and arms to the militant organizations like al-Tawhid Brigade and Ahrar al-Sham at the training camps located in the border regions of Turkey.

Secondly, the southern zone of influence, in Daraa and Quneitra and as far away as Homs and Damascus. It is controlled by the Saudi-Jordanian camp and they provide money, weapons and training to the militant groups such as al-Nusra Front and the Southern Front of the so-called “moderate” Free Syria Army in Daraa and Quneitra, and Jaysh al-Islam in the suburbs of Damascus. Their military strategy is directed by a Military Operations Center (MOC) and training camps located in the border regions of Jordan. Here let me clarify that this distinction is quite overlapping and heuristic at best, because al-Nusra’s militants have taken part in battles as far away as Idlib and Aleppo.

And finally, the eastern and central zone of influence, in al-Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, which have been controlled by a relatively maverick Iraq-based outfit, Islamic State, and its Baathist military apparatus. According to credible reports, hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top and mid-tier command structure of Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy.

Moreover, it should be remembered that Saudi Arabia was staunchly against the invasion of Iraq back in 2003, because it regarded Saddam as a bulwark against the Iranian influence in the Arab World. After the invasion, when Iraq formed a Shi’a dominated government, the Gulf Arab states have consistently supported the Sunnis of Iraq against the Shi’a government. Therefore, the possibility that Islamic State has also received Gulf’s money and arms in the past in their battles against the Syrian regime cannot be ruled out.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What Makes Islamic State a Formidable Terrorist Group?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
It is an indisputable fact that morale and ideology plays an important role in the battle; moreover, we also know that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists, these days, has directly been inspired by the puritanical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is not sufficient to succeed in the battle.

Looking at Islamic State’s spectacular gains in Syria and Iraq in the last couple of years, a question arises that where does its recruits get all the training and state-of-the-art weapons that are imperative not only for the hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding vast swathes of territory?

The Syria experts of the foreign policy think tanks also seem to be quite “worried,” these days, that where do Islamic State’s jihadists get all the sophisticated weapons and especially those fancy white Toyota pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns at the back, colloquially known as “The Technicals” among the jihadists?

I think that I have found the answer to this riddle in an unprecedented December 2013 news report [1] from a website affiliated with the UAE government which supports the Syrian Opposition: it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, RPGs and other military gear, the Saudi regime also provides machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who have completed their training in the training camps located at the border regions of Jordan. Once those militants cross over to Daraa and Quneitra in Syria from the Jordan-Syria border then those Toyota pick-up trucks can easily travel all the way to Raqaa and Deir ez-Zor and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq.

Apart from training and arms which have been provided to the militants in the training camps located on the Turkish and Jordanian border regions adjacent to Syria by the CIA in collaboration with the Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies, another factor which has contributed to the spectacular success of Islamic State is that its top cadres are comprised of former Baathist military and intelligence officers of the Saddam era. According to an informative Associated Press report [2], hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top and mid-tier command structure of Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy.

While we are on the subject of Islamic State’s weaponry, it is generally claimed by the political commentators of the Western mainstream media that Islamic State came into possession of those sophisticated weapons when it overran Mosul in June 2014 and seized large caches of weapons that were provided to the Iraqi Armed Forces by the Americans during the occupation years.

On logical grounds, however, is it not a bit paradoxical that Islamic State conquered large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq before it overran Mosul, when it supposedly did not had those sophisticated weapons, and after allegedly coming into possession of those weapons it is continuously losing ground? The only conclusion that can be drawn from this simple fact is that Islamic State had those weapons, or equally deadly weapons, before it overran Mosul in June 2014.

More to the point, only thing that differentiates Islamic State from all other insurgent groups is its command structure which is comprised of professional ex-Baathists and its state-of-the-art weaponry that has been provided to all the Sunni Arab militant outfits that are fighting in Syria by the intelligence agencies of the Western powers, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

However, a number of Islamic State affiliates have recently sprung up all over the Middle East and North Africa region that have no organizational and operational association, whatsoever, with Islamic State proper in Syria and Iraq, such as, the Islamic State affiliates in Afghanistan, Libya and even Boko Haram in Nigeria now falls under the umbrella of Islamic State.

It’s understandable for the laymen to conflate such local militant outfits for Islamic State proper but how come the policy analysts of the think tanks and the corporate media’s spin-doctors, who are fully in the know, have fallen for such a ruse? Can we categorize any ragtag militant outfit as Islamic State merely on the basis of ideological affinity and “a letter of accreditation” from Abu Bakr al Baghdadi without the Islamic State’s Baathist command structure and superior weaponry that has been bankrolled [3] by the Gulf’s petro-dollars?

The Western political establishments and their mouthpiece, the mainstream media, deliberately and knowingly falls for such stratagems because it serves the agenda of creating bogeymen after bogeymen to keep the enterprise of Fear Inc. running. Before acknowledging Islamic State’s affiliates in the region, the Western mainstream media also similarly and “naively” acknowledged al Qaeda’s affiliates in the region, too, merely on the basis of ideological affinity without any organizational and operational association with al Qaeda Central, such as, al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb.

Notwithstanding, in order to create a semblance of objectivity and impartiality, the American policy makers and analysts are always willing to accept the blame for the mistakes of the distant past that have no bearing on their present policy, however, any fact that impinges on their existing policy is conveniently brushed aside.

In the case of the formation of Islamic State, for instance, the US’ policy analysts are willing to concede that invading Iraq back in 2003 was a mistake that radicalized the Iraqi society, exacerbated the sectarian divisions and gave birth to an unrelenting Sunni insurgency against the heavy handed and discriminatory policies of the Shi’a-dominated Iraqi government; similarly, the “war on terror” era political commentators also “generously” accept that the Cold War era policy of nurturing the al Qaeda, Taliban and myriads of other Afghan militant groups against the erstwhile Soviet Union was a mistake, because all those fait accompli have no bearing on their present policy.

The corporate media’s spin-doctors conveniently forget, however, that the formation of Islamic State and myriads of other Sunni Arab jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has as much to do with the unilateral invasion of Iraq back in 2003 under the previous Bush Administration as it is the outcome of the present policy of Obama Administration in Syria of funding, arming, training and internationally legitimizing the Sunni militants against the Syrian regime since 2011-onward in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region. In fact, the proximate cause behind the rise of Islamic State, al Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and numerous other Sunni Arab militant groups in Syria and Iraq has been Obama Administration’s policy of intervention through proxies in Syria.

Notwithstanding, fighting wars through proxies allows the international power brokers the luxury of taking the plea of plausible deniability in their defense and at the same time they can shift all the blame for the wrongdoing on the minor regional players. The culpability of Western powers lies in the fact that because of their self-serving policies, a system of international justice based on sound principles of morality and justice cannot be built on an international stage, in which the violators can be punished for the wrongdoing and the victims of injustice and tyranny can be protected.