Friday, October 16, 2015

The Grumbling Before the Storm

Perhaps Turkey's entry into the EU requires a little less grumbling, and a little more appreciation
for they are about to receive.

DDGD – October 16, 2015

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Today’s Post is brought to you by: The Society of Habitual Own-Foot-Shooters: we believe in the process of healing and in seeking new beginnings. Endings are anticlimactic and dull.

Editorial Comment

In this ever shrinking world, we no longer have the luxury to examine other people’s suffering with indifference. But it seems that our hearts and minds are shrinking at an even faster pace. We are condemned to being blind to the obvious, and, if by some miracle, we managed to see it one day, we will choose to belie our eyes in disbelief. For how could the truth of it all be so simple! It’s for this reason that we remain the major cause of our suffering: our indifference is a matter of choice, and the premise of it is sheer pride and vanity.

Articles & Commentary

According to statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin made at a regional summit in Kazakhstan, there are currently “an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 fighters from Russia and other CIS member states fighting for ISIL (The Islamic State in the Levant).” “We certainly cannot allow them to use the experience they are getting in Syria on home soil,” he said.

The interesting thing about these statements is that Putin and his government has known for years about this outflux of Jihadi elements from their Federation and other CIS members, yet they did little to prevent it. They seem to have concluded at the time that it would be in Russia’s interest to export their problem with hone-grown terrorism to Syria where it could be fought on foreign soil. This means that Putin is responsible for creating the current quagmire in Syria not only through its support of Assad and Iran, and his current focus on fighting anti-Assad rebels more than ISIL, but through his contributions to the expansion of ISIL.

Indeed, Russia and Iran are guilty of everything of which they accuse the United States; yet, the Anti-War movement has so far failed to point out their hypocrisy. The movement, it seems, is more anti-America than anti-War. But this hypocrisy of the anti-war movement did not go unnoticed by Syrian human rights activists and their colleagues from around the world. Still, their appeal in this regard is even less likely to make a difference here than it did in regard to their oft-reiterated demand for international support.

In the meantime, the Russo-Iranian alliance continues to prosecute its war in Syria by launching a major ground and air operation against rebel positions in Aleppo. Prior to the attack, Iranian troops and Hezbollah militias in Lattakia received a visit from Iranian Top Point man in Syria, General Qassim Soleimanni.

And as pundits and analysts continue trying to figure out who wining and who is losing in Syria…  

…it’s obvious that, for now at least, the Syrian people has lost, perhaps everything. 

Now that Palestine seems to be firmly heading towards a full-scale Intifada, as suicidal as this course is bound to be, the prospects for Jordan are also not that positive (Arabic). No, the king is not going to scrap the peace agreement with Israel, but he is going to face going popular pressure in this regard. And Iranian and Assadist agents provocateurs will surely be working around the clock to incite violence. With U.S. continuing to retreat, and Russia entering the fray, there is no reason for Iran to stop at the Syrian-Jordanian border.

For Iran’s goal at this stage, in accordance with its leaders’ notion of its national interest, its natural geopolitical sphere of influence that someone one day described as lebensraum, is to reach the borders with Israel in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Then, the real fun can start.

Russia may not be on board with this, and that might give an opening to Jordan and Israel to try to work something out. But the problem with agents provocateurs is that, once unleashed, they are hard to rein in, and their actions can precipitate what relatively “cooler” minds want to avoid. None of these scenarios would have been possible had it not been for Obama’s retreat at every turn.

Expect car bombs and suicide attacks soon in Amman, and other Jordanian cities soon. Will Obama take a stand there and then? Or, will he embark on another retreat? We will not need to wonder for too long.

The Grumbling Turk, aka Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, is reportedly unhappy with the deal just struck with the European Union over migrants and refugees. Or at least he’s playing so on TV. The deal reportedly offers “Ankara cash, easier visa terms and a ‘re-energized’ consideration of its EU membership bid,” in exchange for Turkey’s help in deterring economic migrants from Asia and encouraging Syrian refugees not to go to Europe. While there are many reasons for why the grumbling should not last for too long, and why Erdogan should sooner rather than later accept the deal, there are personal and ideological issues here as well as certain electoral calculations that might make Erdogan drag the process on for a while. So long as humanitarian issues are assigned to the backseat, no one seems to have any incentive to address anything in a timely fashion. 

Why We Needed Nasser And Arab Nationalism. Unless by “we” Mr. Uri Avneri means everyone but Arabs, actually the last thing Arabs has ever needed is totalitarian dictators, be they secular or religious.

More importantly, Mr. Avneri gives Nasser too much credit when he declares
WITH HIM died the vision of pan-Arab nationalism, the rebirth of the Arab nation under the flag of a European idea based on rational, secular thought. A spiritual and political vacuum was created in the Arab world. But nature, as we all know, does not tolerate empty spaces. With Nasser dead, and after the violent end of his successors and imitators, Sadat, Mubarrak, Gaddafi and Saddam, the vacuum invited a new force: Salafi Islamism.
In reality, the death of pan-Arabism and the rise of Salafi Islamism had more to do with structural problems within the Arab-majority states and societies, as well as the perseverance of the traditional paternalistic vision of power exercise and dispensation. This vision made it difficult, if not impossible, for the socioeconomic, political, religious and intellectual elite to see themselves as actual servants of the people, beholden to the people for the power and influence they have. Rather, they continued to view themselves as trustees over the people, having little faith, if any, in the wisdom of the average citizen. It is in this spirit that went on deciding what the real needs of this citizen are, falling on the political ideology that validated this point of view, and this frame of mind. Ours is an awareness deficit.

Quote of the Day

No foreign policy - no matter how ingenious - has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none. Henry A. Kissinger

Tweets of the Day
The No-Fly Zone: Comments, statements & policies that just make no sense (i.e. they don’t fly)

Apparently, since “the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been working for theological and political rapprochement between Sunnis and Shias!” because, apparently, “Iran has always seen itself not as a Shia but as an Islamic country and declares itself committed to a rapprochement between the different Islamic denominations.” If only Saudi Arabia would cooperate, and prove less distrusting of the Shia.

This extremely simplistic point of view is actually quite prevalent in the halls of academe in the U.S. and Europe. It is undoubtedly that Iran has hosted and taken part in many efforts and programs about theological reconciliation, but, it has also been simultaneously involved in trying to spread its revolution and its religious doctrine far and wide, with destabilizing effect on the region. Exercises focusing on multi-confessional reconciliation have always been held more for their propaganda value than out of conviction of the necessity or feasibility of the exercise. At best they are exercises in sycophancy and hypocrisy.

In reality, Iran was no more ecumenical than Saudi Arabia, and Saudi distrust of Iran as a Shia state was not haphazard. Despite their smaller demographic footprints, the bloodiest and most tumultuous of all regional upheavals since the birth of Islam have always had a confessional character to them and have often come as a result of an uprising by a particular Shia group of one variety or another.

At one point before the Islamic Revolution, and despite the nationalist impulses of both sides, the Saudis and the Iranians managed to create a rapprochement of sorts, a development facilitated by the fact that they both belonged to the anti-Soviet camp. The rapprochement picked up stream in the Shah’s last days, and was interrupted by the Revolution and the ensuing rhetoric of incitement adapted by Khomeini and his camp. The ensuing radicalization of Arab Shia in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi and Lebanon revived memories of earlier periods of upheaval and struck fear in the hearts of Al Saud.  

This is not to deny that Shia have been persecuted often enough throughout Islamic history. But, the historical reality is that periods of peaceful conviviality were the norm rather than the exception, and that during periods of confessional upheavals both sides proved themselves capable of acts of heinous atrocities.

Those who want to advocate a Sunni-Shia rapprochement or reconciliation should be far more aware of the perspectives of both sides, of the difference between historical facts and historical memories, of the political contexts involved, and of the challenges posed by other issues.

Video(s) of the Day

The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained

Artistic Delirium

“The Martyr” by Ammar Abdulhamid from "Reflections on Liberty and Revolution Series
- a digital deconstruction of Delacroix's famous Oeuvre "Liberty leading the people."

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