Orthodox Church of Antioch: the West feigns empathy for a problem of its own making

There’s been renewed American media coverage and discussion of the Middle East’s Christian population as a result of Islamic State’s (ISIS) purging of Christians in Mosul. While this attention is good, the entire presentation and discussion of current threats to the region’s Christians continues to be driven by distorted assumptions, contributing to a false and dangerous narrative that will only exacerbate and prolong the persecution. This false narrative tends to assume that western countries are benevolent players in the region, standing up for the rights of native Christians and against Islamic extremism.

France’s recent declaration of amnesty and resettlement assistance for Iraqi Christians was met, in various Christian and conservative corners, with celebration and adulation. Why can’t the U.S. issue the same appeal as France? “Why not us?” …some commentators are asking. Yet this completely ignores the root of the real threat to the Middle East’s Christians. This week’s official statement by the Orthodox Church of Antioch speaks to the heart of the problem, and cuts through the false narrative:

In the midst of all destruction which is taking place in the Middle East and with the recent events like killings and displacements which affected Christians and others, and in the midst of the conflicts in Syria and the attack on Gaza, we hear some officials of Western governments giving  declarations from time to time or publishing some “studies” to express their unreal empathy with Christians of certain areas and showing their solidarity with them, describing their circumstances in a way that supports the logic of minorities. But the most recent of these declarations  is that of the French government regarding its readiness to accept the Iraqi Christians and granting them a political asylum, in addition to the study issued by the American Ministry of Foreign Affairs that describes the presence of the Christians in the Middle East as “a shadow of its former status”.

We, in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, would like to confirm that the difficult circumstances in the East do not justify  anybody’s attempt to misuse them as “Trojan Horse” to empty the East from its Christians, declaring  that what Christians are confronting in the East is similar to what is happening to religious or ethnic minorities in other places of the world. We believe that helping the  inhabitants of the East, Christians or Muslims, starts with  uprooting terrorism  from its homeland and  stop nourishing the movements of extremism and Takfirism (religious prejudice) , whose financial resources  are very well known as well as  the states and the governments that offer them  the ideological, logistic and military support through undeclared international alliances.

Some American Christians might be bewildered at such a harsh condemnation of France’s offer from the Orthodox Church, but some essential background information is necessary.

First and foremost, it must be remembered that the Islamist groups that have been, for at least the past two years, targeting Christians for kidnapping, extortion, and murder, are funded, armed, trained, and politically supported by Western and NATO powers and their Gulf allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Above left: Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, in northern Syria in May 2013 with rebel “Free” Syrian Army Colonel Abdul-Jabbar who at that time was head of the western backed and funded Aleppo Military Council (video here). Above right: “Free” Syrian Army Colonel Abdul-Jabbar with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal after their forces jointly capture Menagh Military Airbase in Aleppo province, August 2013 (video here and here). [Photo and commentary courtesy of Orontes:Syrian Christians in a Time of Conflict]

As I detailed last February, the terrorist coalition that attacked the Christian towns of Maaloula and Saidnaya included not just the “bad Islamists” like Al-Nusra (in Washington’s rhetoric), but “Free Syrian Army” units as well, which are directly supported by Washington, even the point of receiving US government paid salaries. As for groups like Nusra (a transplant of Al-Qaeda in Iraq), Islamic Front, and ISIS, these are funded out of Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait -all allies of the West and Washington.

When Middle Eastern Christian leaders frequently speak of the “West’s silence” when it comes to the systematic razing of churches, they aren’t just pointing to a failure to speak out, but are highlighting the actual complicity of Western policy-makers.

The Christian city of Saidnaya has been under constant rebel threat over the past year. US and Saudi backed rebels have promised to cleanse the region of its 2000-year-old Christian presence.
The Christian city of Saidnaya has been under constant rebel threat over the past year. US and Saudi backed rebels have promised to cleanse the region of its 2000-year-old Christian presence.

France itself led the way in getting the EU to lift an arms embargo on Syria, for the express purpose of allowing weapons/money to flow to Islamist rebel groups (the very groups now persecuting Christians). Now that these very groups (that France itself has given some degree of material support to) are cleansing Eastern Syria/Iraq of its ancient Christian population, France presents itself as the benevolent “good guy” ready to receive Christians with outstretched arms. The Patriarchate of Antioch certainly understands that refugees need help, but is ultimately calling out France (and others in the West) for its contradictory and hypocritical policies. Instead, the Patriarchate says that France should be “helping the people of the Levant, Christians and Muslims… by uprooting terrorism from their land and stop nurturing the takfiri groups.”

Downtown Damascus
Downtown Damascus

It’s further important to understand that the Christians of the Middle East present a real problem for Western policy makers. Christians have been integrally linked to nationalist Arab politics of the 20th century.  They are not, like many in the West assume, a mere forgotten minority on the sidelines, but are key parts of Levantine societies (esp. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine). Go to any major city in the near East and you’re likely to find large, ancient churches dominating the skyline alongside Muslim minarets. Middle East Christians have consistently voiced that any future political solution to the region must involve the input of the region’s sizeable and influential Christians.

Father of Arab nationalism Constantin Zureiq, an Antiochian Orthodox Christian (Wikimedia Commons)
Father of Arab nationalism Constantin Zureiq, an Antiochian Orthodox Christian

Sadly, “western solutions” to Middle East problems have sought to completely sideline the Christian component in these societies. This is partly because it has long been official Western policy to actively fight against Arab nationalism (a movement founded by Orthodox Christians like Constantin Zureiq and Michel Aflaq). More recently it’s been the policy of the West to woo the region away from pluralistic secular nationalism (represented by the Ba’ath for example), and to instead impose ethno-religious statelets, which spells trouble for the Christians. Western planners have made no room for Middle East Christians in their schemes.

One potential map of the Middle East, created by retired Col. Ralph Peters, envisions a future division according to Shia, Sunni, Kurdish regions, with absolutely no place for Christians, who will be “cleansed” through genocide or forced immigration. One article Peters wrote was called “Blood Borders” because he admitted that minorities would have to be killed off for his map to make sense! (Yes, as in well-known FOX News contributor Ralph Peters).

While some might understandably benefit by France’s latest offer, and this is good for those individuals and families who have already suffered enough, the Patriarchate has a firm understanding of the current and future designs of Western policy makers. Ethno-religious sectarianism was not a shaping reality for 20th century Arab nationalist movements, but is the long-term strategic plan of Saudi Arabia. Through the help of its closest ally, the United States, along with other western countries, the logic of sectarianism is being implemented, and there are few who understand the nature of the game.

muslim-christian-division-2

 

Advertisements

ISIS detonates Jonah’s tomb (and related tales from Mosul)

Walls of Ancient Nineveh (courtesy of WikiMedia)

Several days ago, like the rest of the world, I heard that ISIS had destroyed the grave of Jonah (yes, as in, Jonah and the whale). In all honesty, like the rest of the world, I had little idea that he grave was supposedly in Mosul. This short piece is a sharing of my own efforts to learn what was lost.

The modern city of Mosul lies in the north astride the river Tigris. In short, it is the historical twin city to Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire. The Babylonians destroyed Nineveh in 612 BC when they overthrew that empire, and a new city, Mosul (al-Mawsil), arose on the opposite bank of the Tigris. I have noticed that news sources sometimes try to disassociate the cities (saying that Nineveh is “nearby”, or similar). Perhaps the writers in question lacked the diligence to consult a map. Perhaps a diminished connection to ancient Nineveh suited each article’s obligatory paragraph attacking the historicity of the site. In any case, the remains of Nineveh’s western wall stand barely half a mile from the center of old city Mosul. Apart from the archaeological park, which is plainly visible from a satellite photo, the ruins of Nineveh are completely enveloped by the northeast suburbs of modern Mosul.

The site of the Nabi Yunus (prophet Jonah) mosque, was a few thousand feet south of the Mashki gate and modern archaeological park, on a hill known locally as Tell al-Tawba (the “hill of repentance”). Once upon a time, it would have been part of the western wall of Ninevah. For most of the Christian period of the city, which started in the late 1st or early 2nd century AD, it had been a church or monastery. M. Streck’s old entry on “Ninawa” (Brill’s First Encyclopedia of Islam, originally published in 1927) is worth reading because it sets the stage for recent events. The site remained in Christian hands even after the Islamic conquest; the first mosque was built on the hill sometime in the 10th century and the site finally changed hands after the Mongols took control of Mosul in the 13th century. Christian and Muslim alike venerated the tomb. Indeed, the 10th century Arabic geographer al-Muqaddasi said that seven pilgrimages to Nabi Yunus in Nineveh were as valuable at the great pilgrimage to Mecca.

This sort of background is needed if one wants to appreciate news coverage of recent events. Official statements from ISIS claim that the mosque was destroyed to purify Islam from perceived idolatry. Not surprisingly, news coverage has, on the main, treated the event as an affair between Muslim sects (cf. Telegraph, Time, NPR, Washington Post, to take a quick sampling). The odd thing is that most fail to observe that the mosque was a Sunni holy site. ISIS Islamists are also Sunni. This should not be confused with the Sunni vs. Shi’ite violence so common to Iraq.

Some, however, have noted that this is equally an attack on what little Christian community remained in Mosul. Nabhan’s Wall Street Journal article is useful as is CNN’s interview with Dr. Candida Moss from the University of Notre Dame. She also co-authored a CNN blog post with Joel Baden from Yale Divinity School in which they lay out the argument in greater detail. In short, because the site had a long Christian history and because Christians see Jonah as a prophetic anticipation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the destruction of Nabi Yunus should be understood primarily within the context of the religious cleansing taking place in Mosul.

This makes good sense, provided one knows the history of the site and takes the time to learn about the recent history of Mosul. Before the U.S. invasion in 2003, Mosul had a Christian population of roughly 130,000. By the time ISIS overran the city, only about 10,000 remained. It is not hard to understand why. Mosul had seen frequent outbreaks of Islamist aggression against Iraqi Christians over the last 10 years. One may find a compilation of the more infamous atrocities on Wikipedia.

NunThe fall of Mosul to ISIS was the final calamity for the remaining community. I will not outline ever detail here. Those interested may refer to the timeline provided by the Assyrian International News Agency. They closed, desecrated, and destroyed the remaining churches. Christians were given a deadline to convert, pay the jizya tax, or flee. As the deadline approached, ISIS marked Christian houses with the Arabic letter “N” for “Nazarene”.  (If you travel in the right Facebook circles, you have seen friends changing their picture to a stylized version as a sign of solidarity and protest, pictured to left.) As Christians fled the city, numerous reports indicated that they were robbed of all but the clothes on their backs (compare, for example, the Guardian, Breitbart). Interviewed survivors and church officials indicate that return is unthinkable as long as ISIS controls the city.

Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of the Chaldean Church, summed up the situation simply: “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians“.  Given that the city’s inhabitants converted to Christianity some 1800 years ago, that is a stunning and tragic statement. It is also the final stage of a religious purge that has a 10 year history.

Former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove says ISIS/Islamic State was Saudi sponsored project from the beginning

“Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.”

THE INDEPENDENT UK (7/13/14) – How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

Read the full article here.

Damascus and Baghdad: A Marine’s Syrian Education

My article written for Foreign Policy Journal (6/26/14).

FP JOURNAL– Last week, Sami Ramadani undertook the urgent task of giving Western audiences a history lesson on the supposed entrenched sectarian violence of modern Iraq. His The Sectarian Myth of Iraq, written for The Guardian, sends a message rarely acknowledged in the English speaking world: “We coexisted peacefully for centuries, and need neither brutal dictators nor western intervention.”

He explodes the illusion that Iraq and the Middle East in general is but a cauldron of historically rooted Shia-Sunni sectarian animosities, and that the current crisis is reducible to the region’s supposedly incurable religious violence—a mentality that has become a truism in the media and foreign policy establishment. This misperception spills over into common American discourse as the simplistic “Arabs hate each other,” or “this is a centuries old religious conflict.” But Ramadani’s point is proven by his wealth of historical references; his conclusions further run counter to everything Americans have been told about Iraqi society:

The most serious sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq’s modern history followed the 2003 US-led occupation, which faced massive popular opposition and resistance. The US had its own divide-and-rule policy, promoting Iraqi organisations founded on religion, ethnicity, nationality or sect rather than politics. Many senior officers in the newly formed Iraqi army came from these organisations and Saddam’s army. This was exacerbated three years ago, when sectarian groups in Syria were backed by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Many in American government and media have been asking over the past week: “How do we keep getting the Middle East so wrong?” There are many avenues of approach to this question, but perhaps the simplest and most basic, confirmed in my own experience, is that Americans continue to see the region according to simplistic stereotypes, caricatures, and orientalist abstractions. American assumptions never line up with Eastern realities, yet our power combined with ignorance continues to sow disaster. It might help for American policymakers to simply travel to those places they are intent on changing, and to live among the common populace for an extended period –doing so would likely shatter many illusions.

I served in the Marine Corps during the first years of the Iraq War and was a 9/11 first responder while stationed at Headquarters Battalion Quantico 2000-2004. I thought I knew something about Iraq upon the start of our new “war on terror”: Arab culture, with its intrinsic primal religious passions and resulting sectarian divisions, must be brought to heel under Western values of pluralism, secularism, and equality if peace and stability are to ever have a chance. This was a guiding assumption among the many Marine officers, active and retired, that I conversed with during my years at Quantico. Iraqis and Middle Easterners were, for us, abstractions that fit neatly into categories learned about by viewing a C-span lecture, or perhaps in a college class or two: there are Sunnis, Shia, some dissident sects, they all mistrust each other, and they all want theocratic states with their group in charge.

My first visit to the region as a civilian desiring to study Arabic in 2004, after completion of active duty military service, began a process of undoing every assumption I’d ever imbibed concerning Middle East culture, politics, and conflict. An initial visit to Syria from Lebanon was the start of something that my Marine buddies could hardly conceive of: Damascus became my second home through frequent travel and lengthy stays from 2004 to 2010, and was my place of true education on the real life and people of the region. While my fellow servicemen were just across Syria’s border settling in to the impossible task of occupying a country they had no understanding of, I was able view a semblance of Iraq as it once was through the prism of highly stable Ba’athist Syria.

During my first weeks in Damascus, I was pleasantly shocked at just how wrong my simplistic ideas about region were. I expected to find a society full of veiled women, mosques on every street corner, religious police looking over shoulders, rabid anti-American sentiment preached to angry crowds, persecuted Christians and crumbling hidden churches, prudish separation of the sexes, and so on. I quickly realized during my first few days and nights in Damascus, that Syria was a far cry from my previous imaginings, which were probably more reflective of Saudi Arabian life and culture.

What I actually found was mostly unveiled women wearing European fashions and sporting bright makeup – many of them wearing blue jeans and tight clothes. I saw groups of teenage boys and girls mingling in trendy cafes late into the night, displaying expensive cell phones. There were plenty of mosques, but almost every neighborhood had a large church or two with crosses figured prominently in the Damascus skyline. As I walked near the Old City, I was surprised to find entire streets lined with large stone and marble churches. At night, all of the crosses atop these churches were lit up, outlined with blue fluorescent lighting, visible for miles; and in some parts of the Damascus skyline these blue crosses even outnumbered the green-lit minarets of mosques. Historic synagogues were also accessible and well-kept in the small Jewish quarter of Old City Damascus and in the famous National Museum.

More surprising than the presence of prominent brightly lit churches, was the number of restaurant bars and alcohol kiosks clustered around the many city squares. One could get two varieties of Syrian-made beer, or a few international selections like Heineken or Amstel, with relative ease. The older central neighborhoods, as well as the more upscale modern suburbs, had a common theme: endless numbers of restaurants filled with carefree Syrians, partying late into the night with poker cards, boisterous discussion, alcohol, hookah smoke, cigarettes, and elaborate oriental pastries and desserts. I got to know local Syrians while frequenting random restaurants during my first few weeks in Damascus. I came into contact with people representative of Syria’s ethnically and religiously diverse capital city: Christians, Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Druze, Kurds, Armenians, Palestinians, and a number of Arab atheists. The characterization of Syrian city life that increasingly came to my mind during my first, and many subsequent visits and extended stays, was of Syria as a consciously pluralistic and secular society.

Syrian cities (and government organizations) are very much like Iraq before the war: neighborhoods are mixed, and people don’t identify themselves primarily along sectarian lines; “I am Syrian” or “I am Iraqi” is typically as far as you’ll get with “identity” type discourse. In fact, it is generally considered rude to even inquire of a person’s particular religious or ethnic background in daily conversation (much as it is in most parts of the world). The secularist, pluralist, and “Syrian first” attitude, more palpably experienced in urban centers, was a far cry from the simple caricature of “passionate, sectarian, conservative Islamic society” I’d been given while in the Marines and by American culture in general.

I certainly witnessed plenty of examples of Islamic conservatism in Syrian public life, but it was the secular and pluralistic (represented in the diverse population living side by side) aspect that always seemed to dominate, whether I was in Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, or coastal areas like Tartus. Syria’s committed secular identify was confirmed to me more than ever when I first traveled the freeway that wraps around Mt. Qasyoon—the small mountain against which the Damascus urban center is nestled. My speeding taxi passed a couple of expansive foreign car dealerships, but most prominent were a seeming myriad number of windowless entertainment venues, structured like residential mansions, lining both sides of the road. My taxi driver laughed at my perplexed expression and informed me that this was “brothel row” (my translation)—a place where guys go to drink and have their pick of East European, Syrian, and Iraqi women.

When I later got to know a group of Syrian Christian guys—enough to where I could ask potentially awkward or embarrassing questions—they confirmed, with some degree of shame, that all big cities in Syria have their seedy underbellies (“like your Nevada,” my friend Michel said). Places like brothels and “pick-up bars” were allowed to operate in public, but didn’t necessarily advertise what they were about. It was explained to me that while the Syrian government was deeply authoritarian in some respects, it generally allowed (and enforced) openness in social and religious areas unparalleled anywhere in the Middle East. I was told by many Syrians and Iraqis that Iraqi society had been little different from Syria prior to U.S. occupation. Most blamed the Americans and Western powers for the religious nature of Iraq’s resulting civil war, and the ultra-conservative path of the competing sects.

Syrian Ba’ath society, like pre-invasion Iraq, was never ideal; yet, it certainly escapes the many false stereotypes that have come to define the American outlook on the region. Baghdad was very much like Damascus prior to the American invasion: Iraqi nationalism, regardless of sectarian creed, was the organizing principle of the secular Ba’ath state. It is a tragic shame that those U.S. personnel sent to occupy Iraq never got to experience the country before the 2003 invasion. They would have learned the important reality: “We coexisted peacefully for centuries, and need neither brutal dictators nor western intervention.”

Dr. Srdja Trifkovic: The Ever More Complex Levantine Puzzle

http://syriathetruth.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/20140216-203553.jpgLR Editor’s Note: This is a must-read from Dr. Srdja Trifkovic of Chronicles Magazine. Dr. Trifkovic is the foreign affairs expert for The Rockford Institute, and has been featured on RT News and Al-Jazeera. He’s authored multiple books on Islam, the Balkans, and Middle East conflict. His June 14 article “The Ever More Complex Levantine Puzzle” offers a devastating critique of Ambassador Robert Ford’s championing  of the Syrian rebel cause.

…..

Chronicles Magazine – “Both Mr. Assad and the jihadists represent a challenge to the United States’ core interests,” former U.S. Ambassador in Damascus Robert S. Ford wrote in The New York Times on June 10. He advocated a strategy that would supposedly deal with both Bashar al-Assad and the jihadists: “with partner countries from the Friends of Syria group like France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, we must ramp up sharply the training and material aid provided to the moderates in the armed opposition.”

Decrying Washington’s “hesitation and unwillingness to commit to enabling the moderate opposition fighters to fight more effectively both the jihadists and the regime,” Ambassador Ford advocated providing his unnamed Syrian “moderates” with advanced military hardware, including “mortars and rockets to pound airfields to impede regime air supply operations and, subject to reasonable safeguards, surface-to-air missiles.”

Ford’s article is irresponsible and ill-informed at best. It was published on the very day the insurgents belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as “ISIS” to include Syria) started its spectacular advance on Mosul, Tikrit, and points further south. Even more surreally dangerous were the BloombergView editors, who urged (also on June 10) an outright, American-led anti-Assad intervention: “the U.S. and its European and regional allies should take the initiative to circumvent the UN Security Council and put the needed military muscle on the ground. Yes, Russia and China will be furious. So be it.” Now that would be a bold strategy, with many exciting ramifications in Ukraine, along the shores of the South China Sea, and elsewhere. With their gas supplies in balance, “the European allies” can hardly wait.

Ambassador Ford has wisely stayed out of the news over the past couple of days, but it would be interesting to find out if he still stands by the assessment he made four days ago. Does he still advocate arming the Free Syrian Army (FSA) “moderates,” who have been comprehensively routed by the Syrian security forces and who no longer exist as a fighting force? That same FSA, whose units invariably melt away – Iraqi-army-style – whenever confronted with the warriors of jihad, and who have observed a truce with ISIS since late September 2013? To claim that its pathetic remnant can be trained, armed and equipped to the point where it would be able take on Bashar’s army and ISIS simultaneously is insane. Or does Ford have the murderous Al Nusra Front in mind, jihadist to boot, which is a battlefield rival to ISIS and hence perhaps worthy of being treated as a “moderate” force? That same Al Nusra which is currently spreading its reign of terror into Lebanon?

And how exactly would be those surface-to-air missiles subjected to Ford’s “reasonable safeguards”? Perhaps like 400 such missiles were safeguarded in Libya in September 2012, only to end up “in the hands of some very ugly people”? Not to mention thousands of others, which remain unaccounted for; and not to speculate on the vast, yet unknown quantities of U.S.-supplied weapons and ordnance – probably including anti-aircraft missiles – which have fallen into the hands of ISIS fighters in Mosul and Tikrit…

Does Ambassador Ford still advocate working with “our partners” which are funding ISIS, the group which “was built and grown for years with the help of elite donors from American supposed allies in the Persian Gulf region”? The same ones whom al-Maliki has been publicly accusing for months of supporting ISIS? In particular, does Ford still advocate cooperating with that same desert kingdom which, in addition to ISIS, has given us endless other woes around the globe? As Robert Fisk, one of the best informed Middle East analysts in existence, commented in The Independent on June 12, “after the grotesquerie of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide killers of 9/11, meet Saudi Arabia’s latest monstrous contribution to world history: the Islamist Sunni caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, conquerors of Mosul and Tikrit – and Raqqa in Syria – and possibly Baghdad, and the ultimate humiliators of Bush and Obama”:

From Aleppo in northern Syria almost to the Iraqi-Iranian border, the jihadists of Isis and sundry other groupuscules paid by the Saudi Wahhabis – and by Kuwaiti oligarchs – now rule thousands of square miles. Apart from Saudi Arabia’s role in this catastrophe, what other stories are to be hidden from us in the coming days and weeks?

Fisk rightly points out that “the story of Iraq and the story of Syria are the same – politically, militarily and journalistically: two leaders, one Shia, the other Alawite, fighting for the existence of their regimes against the power of a growing Sunni Muslim international army.” In that conflict, various Sunni ruling oligarchies in Riyadh and around the Gulf – most of them with substantial Shia populations – see their own broader picture in terms of an existential Sunni-Shia regional contest, in which their sympathies (and money, and arms) are invariably with the forces of “orthodox” jihad. The United States government needs to publically acknowledge this ill-guarded secret before any meaningful U.S. counter-strategy can be devised and developed.

Left to their own devices, those royal aiders and abettors of ISIS will not change their ways. Even the strange spectacle of ISIS joining forces with the Baathist remnant in northwestern Iraq is unlikely to sway Kuwait – the victim of Saddam’s aggression in 1991 – and terminate its role as a financing and organizational hub for ISIS and other Sunni jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. It would be incongruous for the United States to treat Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrein, and Kuwait as “partners” while they continue supporting such groups, and at the same time to support Al Maliki against ISIS on the Iraqi front… and to continue insisting on Bashar’s removal on the Syrian flank.

Read the full article here…

Understand that the Foreign Policy/Media Establishment has been cheerleading for Al-Qaeda in Syria for a long time now


 Image: Must be seen to believe – screenshot of FP’s article literally titled, “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists.”

LR Editor’s Note: This is an excellent article in Global Research originally published 24 August 2012. Author Tony Cartalucci highlighted an enduring theme of the conflict in Syria: the media, foreign policy establishment (Washington think tanks, etc…), and the US government have consistently defended and supported Syria’s Islamist radicals. With jihadists now suddenly surging into Iraq, the media labels them terrorists. “Freedom fighters” in Syria and “terrorists” in Iraq? Read the below shocking report in light of events currently unfolding in Iraq.
….

Foreign Policy published a recent article literally titled, “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists.” In it, general editor of the Neo-Con Middle East Forum Gary Gambill concedes that the Syrian government “would not be in the trouble it’s in today were it not for the Islamists,” revealing what the West and its media houses have attempted but failed at obfuscating – that the violence in Syria is the work of sectarian extremists, not “pro-democracy activists.” The latter’s existence was amplified by the Western media specifically to provide cover and legitimacy for the violence and subversion of the former.

Gambill continues his “two cheers” for terrorism in perhaps the most perverse statement found to-date in the Western press on the subject:

“Islamists — many of them hardened by years of fighting U.S. forces in Iraq — are simply more effective fighters than their secular counterparts. Assad has had extraordinary difficulty countering tactics perfected by his former jihadist allies, particularly suicide bombings and roadside bombs.”

Gambill is gushingly praising men who have killed Western troops, admiring their prowess on the battlefield through their use of indiscriminate terrorist tactics which have killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians across the Arab World.

The Big Lie

Gambill continues by stating, “The Sunni Islamist surge may also be essential to inflicting a full-blown strategic defeat on Iran,” before concluding at length as to why the US should support terrorism in Syria:

“For the foreseeable future, however, Iran constitutes a far greater and more immediate threat to U.S. national interests. Whatever misfortunes Sunni Islamists may visit upon the Syrian people, any government they form will be strategically preferable to the Assad regime, for three reasons: A new government in Damascus will find continuing the alliance with Tehran unthinkable, it won’t have to distract Syrians from its minority status with foreign policy adventurism like the ancien régime, and it will be flush with petrodollars from Arab Gulf states (relatively) friendly to Washington.

So long as Syrian jihadis are committed to fighting Iran and its Arab proxies, we should quietly root for them — while keeping our distance from a conflict that is going to get very ugly before the smoke clears. There will be plenty of time to tame the beast after Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions have gone down in flames. ” –Gary Gambill, “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists,” (2012)

In this, Gambill divulges the true agenda behind destabilizing Syria – the isolation and undermining of Iran to the east, and Hezbollah in Lebanon to the West. Gambill also mentions the destruction of Syria as a means of realigning Iraq to US interests.

Gambill disingenuously claims that the US can do “little about” what he calls the “political ascendancy” of these sectarian extremists, portraying the rise of violence across the Levant and the miraculous resurrection of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Arab World as coincidentally aligned to American interests, and something that should be allowed, even encouraged, to run its course.

Gambill fails to mention, however, that this “political ascendancy” was planned, funded, armed, and organized by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia as far back as 2007, according to a detailed, 9-page report published by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker titled “The Redirection.”

In the report, it explicitly states:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.” –Seymour Hersh, The Redirection (2007)

Hersh’s report would also include:

“the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations.” –Seymour Hersh, The Redirection (2007)

In essence, Gambill’s gushing support for terrorism – and in particular, terrorists who have fought and killed Americans – is but the latest in an attempt to spin and repackage Al Qaeda and the fraudulent “War on Terror” as public awareness outgrows the fallacious “humanitarian pretenses” the operation has been couched within hitherto.

Gambill’s material support for terrorism echos a recent article titled, “Al-Qaeda’s Specter in Syria,” published by the Council on Foreign Relations, a premier Fortune 500-funded US think-tank, which stated:

“The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, rebel forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Assad regime’s superior weaponry and professional army. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.”

Why is Gambill Writing This?

Consider the audience of Foreign Policy. It is not propaganda fit for the masses. Rather it is for aspiring, as well as low to mid-level members of the global corporate-financier establishment. Western involvement in both Libya and Syria have undermined the governments, institutions, and organizations many of these people work for, and as public awareness (and anger) grows, it will be these low to mid-level members who bear the brunt of the system’s collapsing legitimacy. Many are already expressing doubts over the viability and nature of the West’s global agenda as it unfolds.

It must be remembered that the terrorists Gambill is “cheering” for had ensnared millions of Western troops for over a decade in the so-called “War on Terror.” It has killed thousands of troops, tens of thousands were maimed both physically and psychologically, and hundreds of thousands have forever lost time they could have spent at home with their loved ones. As public awareness grows of Western support for these very terrorists, it would be almost inconceivable that there would not be a profound, perhaps even violent backlash against people like Gambill and the establishment he represents.

Gambill’s cheerleading is designed to rally the lower ranks of the establishment around this new narrative as he and fellow warmongers attempt to flee forward through Syria and then into Iran. Eventually, the reckless promotion of terrorism Gambill and others are committed to will once again call US soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen into harms way – either to fight nations defending themselves against US-sponsored terrorism, or to liquidate US-supported terrorists when their services are longer needed.

Gambill by causally saying, “there will be plenty of time to tame the beast after Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions have gone down in flames,” means specifically more US troops will be deployed, and will most certainly die, all in the pursuit of corporate-financier interests in the Middle East. Gambill specifically refers to “hegemonic ambitions,” not any conceivable threat to US defense, as the impetus for cheering on terrorism, a theme that is omnipresent throughout US policy papers on Iran.

Legendary US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler once said “war is a racket.” For an increasing number of people worldwide, they are beginning to understand why.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? If Saddam were still alive, the US would beg him to return to power

A nice infographic from McClatchy DC.

Some analysts have asserted that ISIS had no comprehensive plan, but merely desired to sow death and destruction in Syria. For this reason, Western countries, as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and NATO member Turkey, did not make too much of a fuss about ISIS. More shocking is that there is growing evidence that ISIS directly benefited from Western-Gulf aid to the Syrian rebels. Looking at the below map of recently acquired ISIS territory, it looks like they have a very clear plan for long-term financing.

Embedded image permalinkIt is well-known that NATO member Turkey has long kept an open border policy for Islamist insurgents, including Nusra Front and other Al-Qaeda aligned groups, to freely access Northern Syria.

The above image is currently being circulated among international Syria analysts. It purports to show ISIS commander Mazen Ebu Muhammed being treated in a hospital in Antakya, Turkey (Antioch) on April 16, 2014. This raises some serious questions about whether ISIS has outside state sponsorship.

Cui bono? ISIS has been the fiercest enemy of the Kurdish groups in Eastern Syria. The Syrian government has been content to leave the Kurds alone, seeing in them an ally against extremism. Christian militias have also linked up with the Kurds for the sake of mutual survival. This explains Turkey’s willingness to tolerate and help groups like ISIS, Nusra, and Islamic Front. Turkey has been using extremists to cleanse the borderlands of hated Kurds, Armenians, and Syriacs -leftovers from genocides of 1915 and 1990’s.

Saudi Arabia gains by having ISIS tear through Iraq. The Saudis are deeply resentful of Iraq’s pro-Shia, Iran aligned government. For Saudi Arabia, the consequences of the American led regime change in Iraq were disastrous, as it opened a corridor of Shia hegemony straight from Iran to the Mediterranean (Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah). The Maliki dictatorship has been oppressive and intolerable for Iraq’s sizeable Sunni minority, hence the reports of Iraqi Army conscripts abandoning their weapons and uniforms as ISIS approached Mosul this past weekend.

All external actors of the Gulf-NATO-Israel alliance have been quite OK with ISIS and other extremists operating in Syria. Collectively the Syrian insurgency can be likened to a pit bull: train a dog up to kill and then let it off the leash… but there’s no telling if it’ll come back to bite you. Various states have unleashed their pit bulls on Syria for various motives -it’s primarily the Western powers that have underestimated the extent of the mess.

This week and next, American politicians and media pundits will be expressing their outrage that Bin Ladenite radicals have taken over much of Iraq. Yet these same voices have been cheerleading for the Syrian rebels over the past three years. The CIA and Saudi death squads have gotten loose, and it hasn’t been the first time in recent history.

But the constant and consistent failure of US foreign policy isn’t the real story here. The real story is the immense and unimaginable sufferings of common Iraqi and Syrian people as their states are destabilized through never-ending interventionism.