Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blessed Are the Peacemakers! Or, Rise of the Putinistas!

Fighters from the Free Syrian Army eagerly assemble an FN-6 anti-aircraft missile launcher for use against soldiers loyal to the Assad regime

DDGD – October 27, 2015

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 Editorial Comment

Democracy and social justice are basic requirements for stability and prosperity of states, and the wellbeing of their citizenry. Their importance and relevance in our lives go beyond the bounds of political ideology. Achieving them will not come as a result of an ideological struggle in the name of some “ism,” be it socialism, capitalism, Islamism, or nationalism, but as a result of a consistent struggle for the rule of law, accountability, transparency and institutional checks and balances, which could include regional and communal dimensions as well as specific constitutional protections. Those who take the struggle for justice as an ideological battle pitting one segment of society against another artificially reduce our choices to either tyranny or chaos.

But the popular allure of ideology and the simplicity of its basic notions, and the rawness if not downright instinctiveness of its favorite methods, give it the upper-hand at every turn, while the alternatives tend to call for sober, rational and ethical stands that most would deem unrealistic, or are often too rushed to heed. The confusion that realists create when they project their cynical stands as being the sole rational alternative makes the situation even more complex, and heightens the allure of the most radical ideological interpretations out there.

And the solution? Frankly, I know of no solution beyond admonishing perseverance, organization and continuous reassessment of one’s stands.   

 Briefly Noted

Saudi prince held over record Beirut airport drug bust. Knowing of the current schisms within the Saudi monarchy at this stage, one wonders whether this was just a regular drug bust, or whether someone was planning for a long and violent internal confrontation. After all, Captagon is the drug that is helping fuel the civil-cum-proxy war in Syria, with fighters from all sides using it on a regular basis. 


Educators, this one’s for you: The wonderful I Am Syria Team has just launched a new teaching package that should be of tremendous use for you in the classroom, check it out:  Teaching About the Syrian Refugee Crisis – A zero-prep, Common Core-friendly, interactive lesson; made by teachers, for teachers; ready for class today! The effort was spearheaded by I Am Syria’s Education Director Andrew Beiter.

US and Saudis vow to step up war on Assad in defiance of Russia. Meanwhile, * U.S. Sees New Need to Engage Russia, Iran on Mideast, * John Kerry Says Iran Is In on Syria Talks, * Russia Said to Redeploy Special-Ops Forces From Ukraine to Syria, * Saudi Arabia’s King Salman phones Russia’s Putin over Syria and * Jordan, Russia set up mechanism of military coordination concerning south Syria, even as the CIA continues to use Jordan as a base to train Syrian rebels operating in southern Syria. Because, you know, proxy wars never really preclude peace and cooperation talks. On the contrary, the two tracks call out for and reinforce each other. After all, this is how peacemaking supposed to work, isn’t it?

US fears Russian subs near undersea cables may cut off communications – report. Indeed, Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific told the NY Times, “I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing.” Oh, oh. Putin better watch out. There is nothing more dangerous than U.S. generals worrying about their info flow.

Harsh conditions are foiling Russian jets in Syria. Oh, oh. Nature better watch out. There is nothing more dangerous than Russian generals worrying about their virility demos.

China says U.S. naval destroyer sailing close to Chinese-built island damages peace and stability. Oh, oh. Americans better watch out. There is nothing more dangerous than Chinese generals scalding those challenging their ancient superstitious beliefs.

Israel quiet over “hotline” with Russia on Syria. Oh, oh. Reuters better watch out. There is nothing more dangerous than Israeli generals getting pissed when noise is made about something they intended to remain quiet.

Did a Russian Journalist Just Out Vladimir Putin's Secret Daughter By Accident? There go her chances for embedded in the right global agency. “High birth” indeed. 

Is War About to Break Out in the Balkans? Could the Republika Srpska become Putin’s next stage for demonstration his virility and machismo in the form of “hybrid warfare?” Perhaps, but not until his involvement in Syria “succeeds.” But “success” in Syria might come more as a result of one’s ability to redefine the term, then, successfully promote that new definition, than on achieving the earlier stated objectives.

What Russia’s Own Videos and Maps Reveal about Who They Are Bombing in Syria. Unsurprisingly they do not back Russia’s repeated assertions that it is mainly targeting the Islamic State. In fact, and just as Syrian activists and U.S. and European officials have been claiming, Russia is mainly targeting anti-Assad rebel groups. The assessment was made by Billincat.

India to host Darfur Genocide Architect, Sudanese President Omar Bashir, as activists call for his arrest in accordance with a warrant issued by ICC. The Indian government might be hoping to turn Bashir into a Gandhian peacemaker, though he is already an orthodox follower of the Putin peacemaking method.

Why there must never be another Yalta – and how we can make sure there won’t be. To Putin, Putinistas, and other brand of “realists,” the UN Charter, not to mention the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, mean little. To them, the real arrangements are represented by such elitist approaches as the ones seen at Yalta. But these elitist arrangements are exactly the thing that comes at the expense of freedom and justice, even in the case of people living “the blissful life” in the developed world. For this, it is indeed strange to see that the greatest advocates of such arrangements since Yalta have for the most part been leftist. Obviously, this is not the case here.

Morocco poised to become a solar superpower with launch of desert mega-project. Now all Morocco has to do is avoid war, internal strife and acts of terrorism and sabotage, and it’s set to become another powerful regional player. Time to resolve the Western Sahara issue.

Syrian rebels eagerly unpack their brand new surface-to-air missiles... from China. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to… what? China? Via Sudan? Qatar? And Turkey? What in the name of Confucius and Muhammad is happening?

With all those peacemakers currently bustling around our illustrious region, Mother Nature once again proves that no one can make peace like her: Deadly Heat Is Forecast in Persian Gulf by 2100. I am not really sure why people still insist on worshipping her deadbeat husband instead? (And someone might want to remind those “climate” “change” “scientists” that the national identity of the Gulf is still subject to dispute).

 The Surreal Adventures of Pu Bear

Russia’s military is proving Western punditry wrong. The point is that Russia’s military preparedness is better than previously postulated; more importantly, it seems that Mr. Putin is quite willing “to employ its conventional forces to achieve limited political objectives.”

But why is this surprising? Hasn’t Putin demonstrated this willingness of his repeatedly already in South Ossetia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine?

Since Western military intelligence experts are hardly idiots, and since they may not be as short-sighted as their political counterparts, the question in front of us is not why are they in the habit of underestimating Russia and its leaders, but why do they want us to think that they are? The answer could be as simple as their desire to inflate their future budgets. Then again, if you are already looking at the unfolding phase as a new Great Game, AKA the Great Devolution, then, the issue is not simply about Syria as much as it is about its impact on developments and calculations pertaining to developments elsewhere. 

The trick, then, is to analyze current developments as an unfolding objective phenomenon and not allow the usual punditry or ideology to taint our analysis. Despite its significance, we cannot reduce all developments to a Putin vs. Obama prize fight.

Be that as it may, one could still describe the two men as being faces of the same coin that we will have to use one hapless day, not too long into our future, and for many of us it’s already there, to pay the ferryman taking us all to Hades.

 Lax Americana

“If we can get into a political process, sometimes these things have a way of resolving themselves,” John Kerry on the recent summit in Vienna.

Indeed, this seems to summarize the Obama administration’s realist take not only on Syria, but on various other critical developments, conflicts and crises all around the world, with the notable exception of South China Sea. But this point of view ignores the inevitability stemming from the nature of the players and states vying for more territory, more control, and more influence, that the ultimate resolution will favor powers that are inherently inimical to the U.S. and to democracy and democratic values in general. Fort his, this retrench, renege and wash our hands posture is bound to create many security problems and existential challenges in the not-so-distant future, and is, therefore, pretty goddamn irresponsible. And we haven’t even began to discuss the moral and ethical implications involved.

There is just something about this facile way with which realists accept the inevitability of having our darkest impulses continue to reassert themselves on the global scene that is uninspiring and unedifying. This is no way to lead, or be lead. Nothing good comes out of cynicism. There is nothing inevitable about inhumanity. It’s our indifference and cynicism that makes it so. Those who want to express their cynical side, let them tell jokes and draw cartoons, not practice politics.

 Of Democracy Promotion & Peacemaking

European Bureaucrat: So, you're here seeking asylum? What compelled you to make this decision?
Iraqi Refugee: America promoted democracy in my country.
European Bureaucrat: I see, and you?
Syrian Refugee: Russia and Iran are currently making peace in mine.

 Milk & Honey, with a dash of garlic

Yes, the occupation is the perennial and legitimate reason for any uptick in violence in the Occupied Territories, but, no, that does not provide enough explanation for the current upheavals and, considering the deplorable methods deployed by both sides which mostly target civilians, there is nothing that can justify it.

The roots for the current violence can easily be found in the unholy convergence of two cynical undercurrents: the one championed by PM Netanyahu and Israel’s far-right movements and parties, the religious and secular nationalist varieties, and the one being surreptitiously organized by Iran- and Gulf-backed Islamists. These dynamics are indeed quite similar to those that could help radicalize some of the refugees currently “invading” Europe, with Iran, and GCC states having their role in this matter as well.


German intel: Migrants will bring anti-Semitism. And let’s not forget of course, the bubonic plague.

But, snide remarks aside, there is a legitimate concern here, since most of these refugees do come from cultural backgrounds infused with racist views of Jews. However, the fear is whether this influx would lead to the rise of any organized hate groups focused on Jews. There have been Muslim migrants in Europe for decades now and no such organized groups have so far emerged. There have been incidents of attacks on Jewish temples and cemeteries, but usually always attributed to individuals, rather than organized groups. There were terrorist cells, but these were funded by some factions in the PLO or, in some cases, the Syrian and Libyan regimes.

As for Jihadi networks, the fact is these networks already exist in Europe, as radical preachers tend to operate freely and not in short supply. The ranks of these networks might indeed increase, it as a result of infiltrators already embedded among the refugees, but as a result of active of recruitments carried by these radical elements already active in Europe. There are many angry young men and women who, if local authorities are not quick to provide them with employment programs and study opportunities, might in time fall to the lure of radical preachers. When that happens, and depending on the level of organization involved, and the particular ideas of the local ideologues, the choice of targets would depend on any number of factors. Attacking American targets, or malls, might be more important than attacking Jewish temples.

Be that as it may, there is indeed a legitimate reason for concern here, but authorities need to be careful when it comes to setting the right priorities and plans of action. The organizers and beneficiaries of radicalization may not, for the most part, be found within the ranks of the refugees, but may already be embedded in Europe, with most operating openly and are likely known to the authorities: they are the radical preachers and their followers, and the far-right leaders and their followers. Between these two sides, their rhetoric and their actions, a psychological climate conducive to radicalization is bound to emerge, ensnaring the most vulnerable elements among the refugees. Employment programs, grants for establishing small and medium size businesses, study opportunities, vocational training and encouraging volunteerism are the key components of any successful programs meant at facilitating integration and preempting radicalization.

The refugees bring with them a variety of challenges and opportunities. It is the way in which their host communities choose to interact with them that will determine whether the positives will outweigh the negatives. Openness and organization are needed to ensure a positive outcome. So is cooperation between local and national governments, as well as between governments and NGOs. Identifying the right interlocutors from among the ranks of the refugees as well as the expatriate communities from the same background is also important in facilitating integration.

Authorities should focus more on recruiting professionals, intellectuals and artistic figures, rather than religious figures. They should focus more on creating cultural and artistic activities than catering to religious ceremonies. There is nothing wrong in the religiosity of the refugees and migrants. They are overwhelmingly moderate. But people should not be reduced to their religious belonging and belief systems, and their psychological and cultural needs might tinged with religiosity and some religious symbols, but beyond that, there is a desire to sing, dance, shop, watch TV serials and movies, drink, yes even alcohol, and date. In other words, these refugees want and need to engage in all the things that the average Christian or Jewish European would consider important in life. It’s disconcerting to see so many politicians from all ideological sides address the refugee integration challenge as though it were primarily a religious one.

 A Point of View: You really wanna talk about a migration crisis, Syria surely has one: migrants come with their guns,   cannons, missiles, planes and tanks, they come by land, sea and air, and they not only stay, they fight their own wars there, then, they kick the natives out, imprison many, and enslave the rest, sometimes all too literally. Now that's a crisis. What Europe has is nothing more than glorified logistics problem.

Video(s) of the Day

Refugees arrive to the Greek island of Lesbos (a video produced by the Samaritan Purse):

The pitfall, into which many of these faith-based aid groups fall, irrespective of their motivations, is that the story ends up being more about them, their work and their beliefs, than the refugees and their suffering.

European migrant crisis: refugees wade through freezing water into Slovenia

Incredible drone footage shows the moment thousands of refugees trek across sprawling farmland as they attempt to cross the border from Croatia over to Slovenia.

The Norwegian authorities told Sky News that 1,500 Syrians have now cycled into Norway - the vast majority in the last two months.

 The Outer Margins, of our attention span

 Quote of the Day

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” --Confucius

 Tweets of the Day
 Artistic Delirium

By Syrian Painter Abdalla Omari


By renowned Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat

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