Monday, November 16, 2015

The Huddle

Huddlers on the Roof: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to the opening session of the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, on Nov. 15 2015.
DDGD November 15, 2015

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The Delirica  

In the previous edition of DDGD, I made the easy prediction that the terrorists involved in the Paris Attacks were probably inhabitants of the various Parisian banlieues. Revelations over the last 48 hours confirm this, but also point to a possible involvement of actors hailing from abroad with some of them trained in Syria, albeit not Syrians. Some of these actors seem to hail from a particular banlieue of Brussels, while at least one figure seem to have been a Syrian who came through Greece as a refugee. Some of the French and Belgian actors could have been trained by IS/Daesh in one of their camps in Syria. Be that at it may, and despite the growing complexity of the picture, the main conclusions are the same:

 ·         We are dealing here with an ethos that could spark domestically planned attacks in Europe and the U.S. and beyond. Receiving training abroad gives an extremely crucial advantage and allows for the perpetration of deadlier attacks, but it is not necessary for planning and conducting attacks. “Surveillance files have been opened on more than 5,000 suspected Islamic extremists in France, but security services only have the manpower and resources to monitor a small fraction of these numbers 24/7. Around 1,000 have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight jihad or are in transit there, and those are just the ones French authorities know about.

·         Syrian and other refugees should not be feared or demonized. After all, we are dealing here with hundreds of thousands of refugees as opposed to possibly a couple of dozen terrorist infiltrators. This may not mean much on the popular level as there is certainly no shortage of opportunistic populist politicians willing to cease the moment to push for their extremist and racist agendas. Still, reasonable politicians cannot abandon the scene; their voice is needed now more than ever in order to tackle the challenges ahead in an objective and rational manner.

·         The push for peace in Syria should now gain more momentum; the plan introduced by the parties in Vienna is promising, but gives too much time to Russia, Iran and Assad to create more untoward realities on the ground that could defeat the purpose of achieving a serious democratic transition in Syria.

 ·         There is still a need in France and elsewhere to tackle the issue of ghetto development and job creation in regard to certain suburbs and communities, and to facilitate the integration processes in regard to migrants and refugees.

“Surveillance files have been opened on more than 5,000 suspected Islamic extremists in France, but security services only have the manpower and resources to monitor a small fraction of these numbers 24/7. Around 1,000 have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight jihad or are in transit there, and those are just the ones French authorities know about.”

As such, we have three pitfalls we need to avoid in the coming phase:

·         We cannot dismiss the existence of an indigenous dimension to the problem of terrorism, that is, the domestic factors encouraging radicalization of Muslim youth in France, Britain and elsewhere. Another aspect of this dimension is gun smuggling from the Balkans and other Eastern European countries, the Paris Attacks would have been impossible without these smuggled weapons (this is why Donald Trump’s remark on this matter is such a big fucking bêtise). This particular problem cannot be effectively tackled without addressing a variety of problems related to the current relations between East and West Europe, including the issue of endemic administrative corruption in the East.

Homage to Trump: Hey Melania honey, don’t forget to pack your gun for the concert this evening, you know, just in case the band turned out to be horrible or something. This reminds me: I really need to get me a new cowboy outfit and holster for my upcoming meeting with Putin.”

Note: The Syrian Conflict as well as the various terrorist operations that happened since, in Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Egypt and now France comes a further proof of the dangerous nature of that macabre and unholy, if you will, three-way linking autocratic regimes, organized crimes and terrorist networks and which cannot be handled without an integrated strategy that calls for addressing a variety of “domestic” and “foreign” challenges.

·         We also cannot afford to ignore the fact that we are dealing with a growing ethos whose primary causes stem from problems indigenous to countries in Africa and Asia and inherently related to structural failures there as well as to failure associated with the political and religious culture. Interventions in these countries’ affairs from both the West and the East - with the latter’s role often neglected by Western-based analysts with their narcissistic obsession with their role in this world – often serve to amplify the impact of these inherent problems but they do not create or invent them (see note below). Combatting this ethos, therefore, requires an integrated strategy that seeks to respond to the root causes involved, as I noted previously and as my friend Rami Khouri argues here today, that is, the three-pronged problem of authoritarianism, corruption and underdevelopment.  

·         Refugees not the problem and a handful of terrorists should not be used to demonize millions of innocent refugees. We should fight against all attempts by populist right-wing politicians to do so, as this is bound to compound the suffering of these innocent people, as well as create the potential for radicalizing the most emotionally vulnerable among them.

United Nations General Assembly Hall
Note: Indeed, we are dealing here with the long-standing structural failure of the Global Order, stemming from the long-term neglect of the pursuit of the basic goals announced in the UN Charter: conflict resolution and democratization. The onset of the Cold War served to waylay and defer this pursuit, but the end of this war marked a low-key revival that resulted in such endeavors as the European Association Agreement, various peace processes conducted under the supervision of the UN in different parts of the world and, later, the Freedom Agenda announced by the Bush Administration. But these efforts were not pursued with the necessary sense of urgency, and they dragged on and on, and when finally, the sense of urgency was introduced, it came as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and culminated in America’s Iraq Misadventure which undermined the whole matter. Obama’s foreign policies served to exponentially worsen the situation. Because the challenge that has been facing us since the establishment of the UN was never about intervention-avoidance, but about agreeing a formula for smart intervention. How can conflict resolution, if not preemption, work without intervention? While intervention should never be reduced to a militaristic affair, how can diplomacy work if not backed by real threat of sanctions and force?

For this, these recommendations made by Peter van Buren below with their usual incoherent mix of folly and righteousness create only paralysis.

“If I had exactly the right strategy, I’d tell you what it is, and I’d try and tell the people in Washington and Paris and everywhere else. But I don’t have the exact thing to do, and I doubt they’d listen to me anyway.

But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.”

These are the problem here: there was no attempt at identifying the causes of the failure of the Global War on Terror over the last 14 years. We are only left with the inference that intervention itself was wrong and not simply the manner and scope of it. Declaring that “Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan” is all too true, but coming from a man with no plan, as he himself admit, it was bound to lead to statements like this: “Leave the Middle East alone.” Can we really do so at this stage, especially considering that we helped create the mess by allowing for all these previously hidden problems to rise to the surface? Refusing to fix what you helped broke is not a good moral policy, and creates more antagonism towards us among the ranks of the people affected by our intervention, and then, by our departure. On the other hand, should we leave the Middle East alone, will others do the same? Could we afford not to be concerned about that?

But of course, van Buren is right about not compromising our basic freedoms at home and disenfranchising Muslims. Mixing these clearly ethical stands with a series of foolish and downright amoral recommendations on the Middle East is exactly why such Libertarian stands are so dangerous and inconsistent. If we are truly concerned about values and principles, then, we do have a responsibility towards the peoples of the Middle East and far beyond. Because when you choose to intervene and disengage on the basis of the most suitable domestic narrative, and irrespective of the impact to others, this make you part of the problem that those others are dealing with. In order to avoid this, we should be more consistent in the way we apply certain principles. And we are talking here about the very principles enshrined in the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of human Rights. So, despite the seemingly ethical and human nature of the stands iterated by van Buren, among other Libertarian figures, including Ron and Rand Paul, they are in fact inherently selfish and unethical. 

As for bombing ideas, of course one cannot do so. But when that idea legitimates and calls for killing innocent people to get a certain ideological message across, and when, despite this, it manages to attract followers ready to act on it, then, that leaves one little choice but to act forcefully on all relevant fronts: the ideational, the socioeconomic, the political, the diplomatic and the military. But leaving the Middle East alone now when IS/Daesh, Assad, Putin, Khamenei, Erdogan, Hezbollah, etc. are busy trying to reshape it is not simply unethical, it’s simply put the wrong strategy to adopt. But then, it is not supposed to be a strategy, for if it were, van Buren and colleagues would have told us. Instead they admit that they have no strategy, then, they prescribe this.

The Daily Delirynth

“… the White House now believes Putin may be coming around on the point that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, according to one White House official. The White House says Russia now supports negotiations led by the United Nations on a transition government between the opposition and Assad regime that will lead to free and fair elections, according to the source.”

So, will this huddle seen around the world lead to a Syrian-owned resolution of the Syrian Conflict. Not really, for Mr. Putin still “insists Assad should be allowed to run as a candidate. The White House disagrees.” Putin, then, is “coming around” to accepting the necessity of Assad’s departure, meanwhile though, he “insists” on allowing him to run as a candidate in a future presidential elections. This is apparently his interpretation of the little known legal doctrine of “Huddling for Peace.”

This brings us to… 

“In a joint statement, the countries involved in the talks, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, laid out a plan including formal talks between the government and opposition by Jan. 1.”

As to the fate of Assad, Secretary John Kerry said:

"We still differ, obviously, on the issue of what happens with Bashar al-Assad," Kerry said. "But we are relying on the political process itself, led by Syrians, which it will be going forward, and the Syrians negotiating with Syrians; that that can help bring a close to this terrible chapter."

So, it will probably be up to Mr. de Mistoura, then, to interact with Syrian opposition and the different regional and international parties to put together a list of groups and individuals that will be invited to attend talks with the Assad regime.

UmReeka: Obama – the Leader from His Behind, the man who, in order to reach a deeply flawed Faustian deal with Iran, ended up creating a major security concern for the entire world, and an even bigger humanitarian disaster involving millions of Syrians. In the process, decades of international legal developments culminating in the creation and adoption by close to 200 nations of the legal doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect, were allowed to unravel. The promise of Never Again made after the Rwandan Genocide became “we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force,” then, it magically transformed into “a contained” problem. In the interim, we heard things, like no use dwelling on the past, and lies such as: the situation was always bound to be complex and the options were always equally bad, etc. Delusions breeding lies which retroactively justify them. The only thing we really learn from history, it seems, is how to repeat it. Our progress is forever doomed to remain a mere technological and ideational phenomenon, while our behavior continues to dwell under the influence of eons old instincts.

But the New York Post gets it wrong. Obama is not simply blind to the terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam, his blindness, in part willful, is to whole set of issues far larger than Islam and the Muslim World revolving around issues of power projection and dispensation. Downsizing the issue to “Islamic terrorism” serves a domestic political agenda that has little to do with fixing the problem and more with creating new ones.       

In the meantime, Obama supports France by sticking to fighting ISIS from the air. This is the lesson Obama learned from Winston Churchill when the latter said in his world famous speech: “we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, and that’s about it. Let others fight them on the ground and the beaches.”

This is how Daesh rules in Raqqa, not by consent of the populace, but by fear and intimidation
North of Holy: Punishing Raqqa: True, Raqqa has emerged as the Syrian capital of IS/Daesh. But Daesh is practically an occupation force there and has little indigenous support, quite contrary to the “distinction” made by Alain Bauer, “a leading French criminologist and adviser to officials in Paris, New York, and elsewhere.” Mr. Bauer, his insights perhaps a bit limited by grief, claims that not only is IS/Daesh “embedded among the civilian population,” but that “[t]hey are representing the civilian population” there, “at least those who have remained and sometimes profited from the group’s presence.” “They are not enslaving them.” He said. “And a war is a war.” This is why he believes “We need to erase Raqqa.”

But, if Mr. Bauer was blinded by grief in his analysis, what about Robert Baer, the known CNN analyst? I personally heard him today on CNN as usual using the destruction of the city of Hama in Syria by Hafiz Al-Assad in 1982 as a method of how terrorism can be defeated and peace restored. Now, Mr. Baer made it quite clear that he is not advocating such a course, but this is what will be needed to destroy Daesh, he said. So, it’s genocidal maniacs have the solution to our problem. Even though, it was Assad Sr. himself who was directly responsible, through his repressive tactics and support for his corrupt coterie, for creating that little problem with Islamist terrorists that “necessitated” the destruction of Hama. Just like his son is responsible today for the creating of Daesh today. Don’t you just loooove realism!

Perhaps, we should just arm Bashar Al-Assad and give him aerial support, just like the Russian are doing, and just allow him to repeat his father’s feat, over and over and over and over again until all of Syria is “liberated” from its people, or at least those unruly and mostly Sunni ten or fifteen million of them. 

Juan Cole does not argue for the adoption of this course, but he recommends a course that is as equally impractical and unrealistic as that recommended by Peter van Buren and the Libertarians, when he argues that “ISIS is the most urgent threat to the West stemming from the Syrian war and must be destroyed. Assad’s murderous dictatorship can be dealt with next.”

So, years ago, Cole and colleagues argued for engaging Assad because they chose to believe that he was a reformer. This was indeed a cause célèbre for the democrats up until the onset of the Syrian Revolution, with top democrats like John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi, both of whom visited Damascus and sat with Assad, even when the Bush Administration was seeking to isolate his regime internationally. In fact, mere weeks after he lost the 2004 elections to Bush, Kerry went on a trip to Damascus to assure him that he will oppose any action meant to isolate his regime. A month later, the former Lebanese PM, Rafic al-Hariri was assassinated, with all evidence pointing at the Assad’s regime involvement at the highest levels, that is, Bashar, in the matter.

But when the revolution broke out, these officials, and their academic advisers, directly or indirectly, like Mr. Cole, were caught off-guard, and they had to immediately disassociate themselves from their previous position. But, for some, this came as a mere tactical withdrawal, not necessitating any kind of reassessment of their former ideological views. Coles was one of those people. He was never on board of taking any action against Assad directly, so when he recommends dealing with him later, one has to be wary.

Not that Mr. Cole is some evil opportunistic character. On the contrary, he is a decent person who often uses his blog to support humanitarian causes and to fight against Islamophobia, and takes much flak for it from the right with which he often deals graciously. The problem here is in part ideological. But it also involves having he wrong instincts when it comes to the realm of action. This is why this issue is hard for me, on the one hand I have ample reasons to respect and appreciate people like Cole, and I do understand their motivations, or at least I think so, but, on the other hand, they have often served to undermine any effort I and people like me have are making to get this administration to adopt a more proactive attitude towards our cause. They are simply far more influential than foreign-born upstarts like me who often cannot find a comfortable place for themselves in the political spectrum here. Despite my vociferous criticism of Cole, other academics, “experts” and “pundits,” and my strong objections to the Obama Administration policies, including my ridicule of the Man himself, I actually cannot demonize or dismiss any of them, nor the legitimacy of many of their concerns.

I just happen to believe that this focus on fighting the symptoms rather than on the real disease to be disadvantageous to the two peoples to whom I now belong: the Syrians and the Americans, with all their ethnic diversity.

But, thank heavens, the Obama Administration seem to be doing some “coming around” itself, by refusing to ignore the symbiotic relations between Assad and IS. This is what John Kerry had to say about this today:

“… make no mistake – anybody, please – Assad has cut his own deal with Daesh. They sell oil. He buys oil. They are symbiotic, not real enemies in this. And he has not, when he had a chance over four years, mounted his attacks against Daesh. The Daesh headquarters sat in Raqqa for years. It was never bombed by his bombs. It was children and women and hospitals and schools that were bombed by his bombs.

So that is the reality here. And I think for him to try to blame what happed in Paris on anybody other, particularly the West who is trying to save his country and save his people and who is the biggest single donor to the refugees that he has created in order to safeguard them, is beyond insanity. It’s insulting.”

So, perhaps there is hope yet, hope that, somehow, administration will be able to prevail upon the Russians and convince them of the necessity to remove Assad.

As for Raqqa, Daesh has long created fortified underground facilities to protect its fighters from air strikes, as they had ample time to do it. So, the people who are suffering as a result of these intensified rounds of aerial strike, are the innocent Syrians who either chose not to abandon their homes and their city, something anyone who fog to get a roof over their heads should understand, or have been prevented from doing so by IS fighters who want to use them as human shields. What Raqqa needs is to be liberated from the ground, not punished from the air, and though in all cases the innocent will suffer, with a ground campaign people will have a glimmer of hope that their suffering will end at one point. Limiting the fight to aerial strikes takes hope away and push people into Daesh’s lap.

The Qalifate: Can France’s Far-Right Marine Le Pen Use Paris Attacks to Win Power? “Marine Le Pen used the horrific attacks on Paris to push her right-wing brand of politics. Many fear this could be her chance to seize power.” What a victory for the Qalifate that would be! This will be their greatest feat of all. But the people of France and the free world should know that a vote for hatemongers in the West is a vote for hatemongers in the East. The politics of fear- and hate-mongering are not the solution, we need to stand strong by the ideals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it took us over 10,000 years to enunciate them, and be vigilant. Not paranoid. Vigilant. Imagine here a person advancing slowly in the dark holding a lit candle in his hand and shielding its flame with his palm, not a person lurching backward with his arms failing in the air fighting invisible ghosts at whom he long threw his candle. When Daesh speaks of the Paris Attacks as First of the Storm, stoking fear, hate and paranoia is exactly what they are trying to achieve, that’s why our response should be rational, measured and carefully considered. And I am definitely not one to use these words by way of justifying inaction, or little action. No. I do believe that there exists a need for targeted aerial strikes, but they should be part of an overall plan that calls as well for ground operations and for a diplomatic push that ends up unseating Assad and, hopefully, holding him accountable for his crimes as well. Albeit, in exchange for his stepping down, one can forgo accountability and settle for peace. Putin’s insistence on Assad’s participation in future elections simply ignores the people’s needs for some closure and accountability. But then he is dictator, who got away with destruction of Chechnya and many other more recent crimes, what would he know about the need for accountability?

The No-Fly Zone: Russia: Hezbollah not a terror group, their cooperation in ISIS fight should be encouraged. Of course! Heaven forbids any of their Shia allies get classified as terrorists even if they behaved like ones. It’s only those damn Sunnis who should be blamed. Assad, his local Alawite militias, his imported Shia militias, and his allies, including Hezbollah – they are champions of the holy resistance against the Sunni population and its criminal demands for freedom and fair representation. So, let’s simplify the issue, shall we? Ideological Groups for Dummies, and for the Willfully Blind for When They Choose to See: In the case of any group where membership is based on adherence to a specific political ideology and attachment to a specific ethnic background, tribal, national or religious, and which relies on the support of an armed faction to the extent that the group’s policies and decisions are intimately linked with the interests of that faction, we can safely declare that this group is inherently fascist and always willing to deploy terroristic means to serve its specific agenda. Got it? I sincerely hope so.

And to finish today’s long round up, what better way than to reference the first what is bound to be a long series of conspiracy theories revolving around the Paris Attacks? This one comes to us courtesy of Iran’s propaganda organ: Press TV: West needs Paris false-flag attacks to pressure Syria: Barrett

Quote of the Day

“Any Parisian from my generation, and I shouldn't be asked to be — be demanded to stand out louder than any other French. Because being a Muslim doesn't make me naturally close to the attackers.” --French writer, journalist and activist Rokhaya Diallo

Tweets of the Day

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