NEW EASTERN OUTLOOK (by Ulson Gunnar 9/21/14) – As the US and Europe prepare another round of sanctions against Russia over the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, the third round of such sanctions since the conflict began shortly after the Euromaidan unrest resulted in the installation of a NATO-backed regime in Kiev, a curious and inexplicable oversight appears to have been made.
While wild accusations have been leveled against Russia over its involvement over the violence in Ukraine, claims ranging from covert support up to and including unsubstantiated claims of a “full scale invasion,” prominent media organizations across the Western World have for years reported a flow of cash, weapons, equipment and fighters from America’s allies in the Persian Gulf as well as from nations like NATO member Turkey, and into the conflict raging within Syria’s borders.
While baseless claims leveled against Russia have served as ample justification for the West to continue leveling sanctions against Moscow, no sanctions have as of yet been leveled against the overt sponsors of militancy and, in fact, terrorism in Syria. So widespread has state-sponsored terrorism become in the Middle East that what began as a limited proxy war against Syria has transformed into an immense regional army with tens of thousands of paid soldiers requiring millions of dollars a day to operate across multiple borders and confounding the forces of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon combined.
ISIS is State-Sponsored, So Why Aren’t These States Being Sanctioned?
Clearly, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria also known as ISIS or ISIL, are the benefactors of vast state-sponsorship and yet the West has not identified nor condemned these sponsors, let alone move toward leveling sanctions similar to what it is seeking to impose upon Moscow.
Most Americans think the current war plans are really about war on ISIS. The long game continues to be regime change in Damascus. Americans should simply pay closer attention to what the top command is saying in very plain terms.
Hagel couldn’t have been any clearer in his Senate Armed Services Committee testimony Sept. 16:
As we pursue this program, the United States will continue to press for a political resolution to the Syrian conflict resulting in the end of the Assad regime. Assad has lost all legitimacy to govern, and has created the conditions that allowed ISIL and other terrorist groups to gain ground and terrorize and slaughter the Syrian population. The United States will not coordinate or cooperate with the Assad regime. We will also continue to counter Assad through diplomatic and economic pressure.
As many other commentators have said before me, bombing ISIS inside Syria (without Syrian approval, which amounts to an attack on a sovereign state) is but a Trojan Horse backdoor attempt to accomplish the regime change Obama pushed for a year ago.
Plans for regime change in Syria were discussed very publicly in Washington going back to the 1990’s (esp. PNAC and the neo-cons), and again in the early 2000’s (immediately after Saddam was toppled).
Understand that plans for the current bloodbath in Syria were made long ago in Washington. Read the following Time Magazine article from 2006 entitled “Syria in Bush’s Crosshairs.”
Current war plans leave even the likes of academic Syria experts baffled. Joshua Landis expressed in frustration on his Twitter feed today: “HAGEL SAYS END OF ASSAD REGIME IS U.S. GOAL IN SYRIA & political solution?! How would this work? Makes no sense me.” No one should assume that the people in charge of the White House’s Syria policy actually care about people in Syria or Iraq.
Last year, the White House decided it was time to push for direct military intervention against Damascus, using as a pretext the August 21 chemical attack incident. If you still believe “Assad gassed his own people” please read this article I wrote based entirely on mainstream admissions concerning CW usage in Syria (the United Nations final report, establishment media outlets, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the major defense tech. contractor Tesla Labs).
A lot has been invested in the three year long push to oust Assad. For the Gulf states, the U.S., Turkey, Israel, Cameron’s Britain, it is inconceivable that the Syrian state overcame the plot and still endures intact.
So now plan B is in effect…
I hope that I am wrong, but here are my predictions of what we’re about to see:
1) The U.S. will bomb ISIS sites inside Syria.
2) Washington will continue to warn the Assad regime not to interfere while coalition jets fly over Syrian territory.
3) Either ISIS or a so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition group will use one of the many MANPADS now in their hands to down a U.S./Western military plane. (Both ISIS and Syrian rebels have every incentive do this! See #4)
4) Downed jet incident will be pinned on the Syrian regime, and U.S. will respond (as promised) by simply expanding the scope of its campaign to bombing Syrian government facilities.
5) U.S. will attack by air both ISIS and Syrian government sites while claiming to wage “war on terror” on two fronts
6) U.S. equipped/trained Syrian opposition rebels will attempt to move in to bombed out government facilities
The above video entitled, “US Key Man in Syria Worked Closely with ISIL and Jabhat al Nusra,” which shows raw reporting footage compiled by “Eretz Zen” channel (YouTube), is the clearest video evidence to date documenting the role of the United States in creating and sustaining ISIS on the Syrian battlefield.
Amazingly, the video has yet to be widely viewed, even though it has been authenticated by the top academic Syria expert in the U.S., Joshua Landis, of the University of Oklahoma, and author of the influential Syria analysis site Syria Comment. Dr. Landis, himself a mainstream analyst regularly quoted by outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Aljazeera, commented on his Twitter account about the footage (8/27/14): “in 2013 WINEP advocated sending all US military aid thru him [Col. Okaidi]. Underscores US problem w moderates.”
The video, documenting (now former) U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford’s visit to FSA Col. Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi in Northern Syria, also shows the same Col. Okaidi celebrating with and praising a well-known ISIS commander, Emir Abu Jandal, after conducting a successful joint operation against Syrian Army forces at Menagh Airbase in early August 2013. Abu Jandal’s identity can be further established in an interview he did with Al-Jazeera (Arabic), immediately after the capture of the airbase.
In interview footage from the Eretz Zen video, the U.S. “key man” Okaidi, through which U.S. assistance flowed, also praises ISIS and Al-Qaeda as the FSA’s “brothers”. The video further shows Okaidi proudly declaring that al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) makes up ten percent of the FSA.
In truth the “Free Syrian Army” was from the beginning but a “branding” construct created by western and Gulf governments. Men like Okaidi were marketed to the world as the “face” of the Syrian opposition, but in reality served as conduits of covert support for more effective fighting forces like ISIS and al-Nusra Front.
The summer of 2013 was a time when ISIS was still operating under the radar and thus not well known to the western public. The capture of Menagh was celebrated by the American political class. Looking back at mainstream reporting of the rebel operation, one finds admissions like the following in the Wall Street Journal:
“Foreigners fighting with an offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq—called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS—led the capture of the Minigh air base north of Aleppo early Tuesday, according to local activists and some rebel commanders. The seizure offers Syria’s rebels a strategic victory after eight months of failed advances on the base.”
While much reporting at the time declared the Menagh campaign a victory for the FSA, it was ISIS that led the assault with the initial suicide bombings that aided rebel entry into the base.
“However, the biggest clue as to their relationship with the Free Syrian Army may be in this video, posted on Monday immediately after Menagh fell. In it, the FSA head of the Aleppo Military Council, Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi, leads a press statement praising his fighters for taking the base. Standing next to him is ISIS Emir Abu Jandal, whom al-Oqaidi invites to give a statement.
The footage indicates that not only are there links between ISIS and FSA fighters on the ground, but that there was a high level of coordination and collaboration in the operation to besiege and take the airbase…”
It must be remembered, as the video so clearly documents, that Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford was the State Department’s top man giving public and material support to commanders like Okaidi and his ISIS and Nusra fighters.
More recently the UK-based “Conflict Armament Research” documented U.S. weapons recovered from ISIS by Kurdish groups operating in Iraq. The Washington Post reports (9/7/14):
The most powerful weapons documented were the two 90mm Yugoslav anti-tank rocket launchers, known as “Osas,” which resembled rockets that were transferred to moderate Syrian rebels, reportedly by Saudi Arabia last year.
Report: Islamic State may have taken anti-tank weapons from Syrian rebels
THE WASHINGTON POST (9/7/2014) – Anti-tank weapons that were likely once owned by moderate Syrian rebels have landed in the hands of Islamic State militants, according to a newly released field investigation conducted in both northern Iraq and Syria.The Islamic State has also captured “significant quantities” of U.S.-manufactured small arms and has employed them on the battlefield, researchers found.The investigation, led by a small-arms research organization known as Conflict Armament Research, marks a rare attempt to physically document the weapons being used by the Islamic State, the radical group that has expanded its control in parts of Syria and Iraq.Militants with the group have picked up significant caches of arms after seizing Iraqi and Syrian military installations. The new research suggests they have also amassed arms after overrunning the moderate Syrian rebels being supplied by the United States and other allied nations.
Glenn Greenwald: “USSR is evil empire of unprecedented threat —> Al Qaeda is unparalleled evil, makes USSR seem mild –> ISIS makes AQ seem mild, etc. etc.”
“The question at the heart of this whole story is – Who was the ventriloquist? And who was the dummy?
Maybe we were the dummy? By allowing perception management with its simplifications, falsehoods and exaggerations to create a simplified vision of the world – we fell into a fake universe of certainty when really we were just watching a pantomime.
And now as the Arab Spring unfolds and reveals the true chaos and messiness of the real world – above all the horror of what is happening in Syria – we find ourselves completely unable to understand it or even know what to do. So those stories get ignored while we follow others with clearer and more simplified dramas which have what seem to be obvious goodies and baddies – thank god for Iran, North Korea and Jimmy Savile.” —from He’s Behind You, by Adam Curtis
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]
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The 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.