Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 04, 2013

Syria: Instead Of Courting Islamist White House Should Talk With Assad

U.S. officials are talking with commanders of new Islamic Front in Syria pretending that it is now the "moderate" alternative to Al-Qaeda:

The U.S. and its allies have held direct talks with key Islamist militias in Syria, Western officials say, aiming to undercut al Qaeda while acknowledging that religious fighters long shunned by Washington have gained on the battlefield.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia is taking its own outreach further, moving to directly arm and fund one of the Islamist groups, the Army of Islam, despite U.S. qualms.
...
The Saudis and the West are pivoting toward a newly created coalition of religious militias called the Islamic Front, which excludes the main al Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria—the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, known as ISIS.
...
Western diplomats said their engagement with the Islamists also aims to draw the powerful militias away from the Al Nusra Front and other groups affiliated with al Qaeda.

"We believe they are groups that, if we do nothing, may go toward more radicalization," one Western diplomat said.

This is of cause pure nonsense. The main groups that formed the Islamic Front are Liwa al-Tawhid and Ahrar al-Sham both of which are regularly sharing resources and cooperating with the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al- Nusra and the Islamic State of of Iraq and the Sham. They have the same roots and were formed before the early protests in Syria started. Both have also been implicated in several pogroms against Syrians people who do not agree with their Sharia driven program.

The only alternative to an Al-Qaeda led anarchy in Syria is a state led by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his party. Cooperating with Assad is the only way for the west to prevent a new fanatic Islamic state at NATO's southern border. This was already obvious two years ago when I, in February 2012, pointed out :

A Syrian state crumbling under terror followed by large sectarian slaughter and refugee streams with certain spillover of fighting into all neighboring countries. That can not be in anyone's interest.

It is time for the west to not only step back from this cliff but to turn around and to help Assad to fight the terrorists that want to bring down his country.

Some parts of the Obama administration are finally recognizing this obvious conclusion:

“We need to start talking to the Assad regime again” about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, said Ryan C. Crocker, a veteran diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence.”

Unfortunately the White House is not (yet) listening to Crocker:

It is not clear whether or when the White House would be willing to make such an abrupt shift in approach after years of supporting the Syrian opposition and calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster. It would certainly require delicate negotiations with Middle Eastern allies who were early and eager supporters of Syrian rebel groups, notably Saudi Arabia.

I do not understand what the problem with Saudi Arabia should be. That country has no alternative but to stay under the U.S. security umbrella. The White House should tell the Saudi King Abdullah to shut down Prince Bandar bin Sultan's mercenary terror army in Syria "or else ...".

Would the Saudis really want a fundamental confrontation with the U.S. at the same time as Iran is presenting itself as a viable alternative for U.S. influence in the Persian Gulf?

Posted by b on December 4, 2013 at 09:40 AM | Permalink

Comments

The only alternative to an Al-Qaeda led anarchy in Syria is a state led by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his party.

---

Christopher Hitchens could not have put it better.

Posted by: Louis Proyect | Dec 4, 2013 9:58:35 AM | 1

Dealing with Assad has always been the sane option in dealing with Syria, but , I'm not convinced US foreign policies are meant to engender anything sane. Submission or hegemony maybe, but not sane.

Posted by: ben | Dec 4, 2013 10:12:03 AM | 2

How do Western diplomats define "more radicalized"?
Wishing to see shari'a implemented and being ready to go for "djihad" is not enough? Belonging to groups who post beheadings video on the internet every now and then is too mild?

An example of this latest trend in the Western propaganda ("we are in control") appears today in the pseudonymous blog of I. Leverrier hosted by Le Monde since the beginning of the conflict, which finally decided to speak about foreign djihadists, but in its own way. Basically it says "yes there is a Chechen guy (who had been in jail in... Georgia before going to Syria for djihad in March 2012) who fights there but look, he says the local, Syrian, fighters are NOT Islamists, since they smoke and shave their beards".
http://syrie.blog.lemonde.fr/2013/12/04/syrie-temoignage-domar-le-tchetchene-chef-militaire-de-letat-islamique/

Posted by: Mina | Dec 4, 2013 10:23:17 AM | 3

On al-Nusra front, see about the connections between the Hariri people and Lebanese djihadists this article
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/tr/contents/articles/opinion/2012/al-monitor/jabhat-al-nusra-lebanon.html#

Some French "specialists" did not hesitate to say that al-Nusra was a creation of the Syrian intelligence (the same kind of mumbo jumbo Leverrier posts in his blog regularly)
http://ifpo.hypotheses.org/3540

Posted by: Mina | Dec 4, 2013 10:48:02 AM | 4

"Would the Saudis really want a fundamental confrontation with the U.S. at the same time as Iran is presenting itself as a viable alternative for U.S. influence in the Persian Gulf?"

b;
Correct me if I am mistaken, but somehow I get the impression that you look at Iran taking the position of SA in promoting the US influence in this region as a positive development?
Why the heck did we do the 1979 revolution? We were in a really good relationship with US prior to that. If we were going to end up becoming allies with US and promote their influence in this region, why the hell did we do the 1979?

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Dec 4, 2013 10:49:13 AM | 5

I do not understand what the problem with Saudi Arabia should be. That country has no alternative but to stay under the U.S. security umbrella. The White House should tell the Saudi King Abdullah to shut down Prince Bandar bin Sultan's mercenary terror army in Syria "or else ...".

Why should they care, this end will be taken care By Israel and her stooges. In whose interest is attacking Ma'loolaa? not Saudi's but to show the subservient Christian Establishment, that they are powerless. This is Zionist planning all the way! Have you heard the Pope, CoE, Orthodox Churches say much about the destruction in Syria?

Posted by: hans | Dec 4, 2013 10:51:18 AM | 6

"Cooperating with Assad is the only way for the west to prevent a new fanatic Islamic state at NATO's southern border.'

I've seen no real evidence that the US objects to "fanatic islamic states." It seems to get on very well with the Saud family. In fact wherever the option exists it supports wahhabi insurgents over Nasserites, shiah, baathists, socialists or just about anyone, Islamic fanatics are the US's default allies. It supported them in Afghanistan in the Balkans, in the Caucasus, it supported them in Indonesia in the sixties. It supported them in Yemen.

My own view is that, rather than talking to Assad or his enemies, the US should simply mind its own business. In this case this will involve the demobilisation of its thousands of death squads, calling off its auxiliaries and proxies, such as Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf CC. And ready itself for a reparations case brought by the Syrian government.

The other reason for the US not being encouraged to talk to Mr Assad is that the last time these people were on good terms Syria tortured people like Maher Arar to keep Uncle Sam, the psycho, happy.

Posted by: bevin | Dec 4, 2013 10:58:33 AM | 7

Yesterday Syria's ambassador to the UN accused Saudi Arabia of emptying its prisons and sending them to Syria with the offer of amnesty:

"The Saudi authorities release those criminals, the majority of them are affiliated to extremist, terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, to send them to Syria through hidden agreements through which they are given amnesty."

Despite the Syrian ambassador saying that yesterday, this is in fact old news USA Today reported it in January 2013.

Saudi Arabia has sent death-row inmates from several nations to fight against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences. Citing what it calls a "top secret memo" in April from the Ministry of Interior, AINA says the Saudi government offered 1,239 inmates a pardon and a monthly stipend for their families, which were were allowed to stay in the Sunni Arab kingdom.

Of course all of this goes back further. Was the same tactic Saudi Arabia used during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

"Afghan Arabs," on the other hand, were based mainly in the south-east and desperate for martyrdom. Many of them, including elements of Al Qaeda's predecessor (Maktab al-Khidmaat, or "Services Office"), were emptied from prisons of U.S.-allied Arab tyrannies, as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others disposed of their jihadists by exporting them to Afghanistan.

An old trick it seems to be. My guess is the US is working with a lot of these criminal elements for the purpose of prolonging the war, criminals after all aren't ideological like the Jihadists, criminals will do whatever the people who give them money/weapons tell them to. The US knows that they can't win on the battlefield, so are just working to prolong the conflict in hopes that Assad will agree to give up power in negotiations.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Dec 4, 2013 11:29:19 AM | 8

Given the numbers of Saudis that have been in the stats of the Syrian Perspective blog, it is very possible.

"Before we had one Qaddafi, now we have thousands"
http://www.lemonde.fr/libye/reactions/2013/12/03/libye-un-etat-en-morceaux_3524722_1496980.html

Posted by: Mina | Dec 4, 2013 12:19:54 PM | 9

The U.S. government is not a monolith. The split playing out is between pro-Saudi & pro-Israeli elements who prefer to fight perpetual counterterrorism wars in the Greater Middle East vs. elements who favor a Cold Waresque Great Power conflict "pivot" to Asia.

As b has argued in prior posts, Obama's deal with the Russians to have Syria join the chemical weapons convention and the agreement with Iran on its nuclear program is part of the Asia pivot. The House of Saud and Likud favor a maximal U.S. military footprint in the Middle East a la Bush to guarantee their regional heegmony; hence the Qaeda florescence of the prior year.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Dec 4, 2013 12:25:26 PM | 10

but what is more puzzling is the attitude of Russia.Putin receiving Bandar yesterday with a very benign statement by the Kremlin about the visit one day after Bandar's men took Ma'lula,burned the small town and kidnapped the 12 nuns?War and politics have a lot to do about perceptions and yesterday Kremlin event left the bitter perception of a Kremlin suddenly far away from its "principalist" position toward Syria meaning respect of International law,sovereignty,self determination right of the people,NO politic of regime change.A position that gave it the standing it now has in the world as a great power.Instead the Kremlin leaves us with the perception of under the table dealings and a big interest in the huge benefits its arm industry has gained as of lately.Could a russian here clarify the rational about the anodyne Kremlin statement in conjunction with the targeting of the Church in Syria especially that the nuns are greek orthodox?

Posted by: Nobody | Dec 4, 2013 5:44:45 PM | 11

B: aren't all of the Liwa groups MB brigades? After all of the CIA's efforts in training "moderate" rebels in Jordan (many of them recruited from remaining SAA deserters and residents of the Zaatari refugee camp, which has a strong MB contingent), some in the administration would rather rename failed policies than recognize facts on the ground.

Mina: Syrian intelligence agencies have a long history of infiltrating everywhere in Syrian society. It certainly would not be a surprise if intelligence has informers in many insurgent groups, including Al Nusra Front and ISIS. The French claiming that such groups are a creation of the Syrian government is a bigger leap.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Dec 4, 2013 7:06:24 PM | 12

'But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence.”;

they have come to believe their own propaganda...'bad as Assad is'? what utter nonsense/breath taking lie!

Posted by: brian | Dec 4, 2013 8:15:24 PM | 13

The only alternative to an Al-Qaeda led anarchy in Syria is a state led by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his party.

---

Christopher Hitchens could not have put it better.

Posted by: Louis Proyect | Dec 4, 2013 9:58:35 AM | 1


whatever is LP (loopy) doing here? pity CH isnt here to speak for himself. Its well known LP prefers Alqaeda, only islamphophobes fear and despise alqaeda

Posted by: brian | Dec 4, 2013 8:17:38 PM | 14

How do Western diplomats define "more radicalized"?
...
Posted by: Mina | Dec 4, 2013 10:23:17 AM | 3

the more radical sort cannibalise

Posted by: brian | Dec 4, 2013 8:18:51 PM | 15

I agree with bevin. The CIA runs the nihilist executive and the Zionist/Wahabi Lobby runs the nihilist congress. Both think that death and destruction everywhere else but at their house is the 'solution' to ... someone's problems.

I see no evidence that the somnolent American public even realizes how bad things are getting or how quickly. Or cares ... as long as it hasn't reached their individual houses ... so far. I'm afraid things look bleak indeed. It's never too late to start putting one foot in front of the other and starting off in the right direction ... tomorrow always does come and, due to our extended inattention to 'detail', it will only go from bad to worse without our active intervention.

Posted by: john francis lee | Dec 4, 2013 8:21:04 PM | 16

"If we were going to end up becoming allies with US and promote their influence in this region, why the hell did we do the 1979?"

Iran could become allies with the US and promote it's influence - if they came to that conclusion independently and based on the best interests of Iran and Iranians, no? Presumably if Iran, by exercising it sovereignty chose policies that fostered US interests in the region (though that's a purely academic scenario, one has to think) then why should they not?

For me, a USAian, to even pretend to propose the "whys" of the revolution with an Iranian is more than a tad ridiculous of course, but in good faith, just as a mental exercise and with all deference to you: It just seems though that the real success of 1979 was to secure Iranian independence of action and get rid of the Shah and his torturers, not necessarily having anything specifically to do with stymying US policies (though certainly there were a great many policies needing to be overturned for Iran to be acting fully in its and its neighbors interests).

So if Iran can use it's newfound leverage with the US to it and its allies advantage, then why shouldn't it do so? If an alliance of sorts can help defang Israel, find a political settlement in Syria, and collapse the terrorist kingdom of Saudi Arabia (all while maintaining Iranian sovereignty!) - so then all the better.

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 4, 2013 10:52:00 PM | 17

Exactly Obama needs direct talks with Assad. He also needs to talk directly with Congress on correcting Obama care.

Merry Christmas,

Chris

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Tax Return Preparer
Registered bonded California CTEC Tax Preparer
Please visit my website for all your Fillmore-Piru-Santa Paula Income Tax needs.

Posted by: Chris | Dec 4, 2013 11:19:33 PM | 18

When WSJ gets bored with printing fatuous claptrap about the silly things Obama is pretending to do with his Syria SNAFU, I double-dare WSJ to write something about the non-withdrawal withdrawal SNAFU in Afghanistan.
If WSJ are too busy reproducing White House bullshit to write it, I'll write it for them - if I can stop laughing long enough to hit the right keys.
This is just deflection. WSJ's stenographers probably aren't stupid enough to believe it either...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 5, 2013 12:52:15 AM | 19

“Iran could become allies with the US and promote it's influence - if they came to that conclusion independently and based on the best interests of Iran and Iranians, no?”

IMHO no. “Iranian people’s” interest is in fundamental contradiction with US *national* interests. I must say in passing that what I mean by “national interests” is the ruling class’ interests which in case of USA means US imperialism.

”Presumably if Iran, by exercising it sovereignty chose policies that fostered US interests in the region (though that's a purely academic scenario, one has to think) then why should they not?”

US interests are in getting Iranian oil to the market (under their own control) with the revenue resulting from the sale of that crude being funneled back to US/West to buy Western goods. You see, there was a reason that whenever Iranians had a chance to act independently they chose policies which went against the US interests.

“For me, a USAian, to even pretend to propose the "whys" of the revolution with an Iranian is more than a tad ridiculous of course,”

I don’t see why you say that. You and I, before being this or that nationals, are two human beings discussing the politics of this region. You are not trying to impose policies on Iranians you are just expressing your opinion (just as I am) which I appreciate a lot, and I don’t find it ridiculous at all.

“It just seems though that the real success of 1979 was to secure Iranian independence of action and get rid of the Shah and his torturers, not necessarily having anything specifically to do with stymying US policies (though certainly there were a great many policies needing to be overturned for Iran to be acting fully in its and its neighbors interests).”

You are right and you are wrong.
You are right when you say that the “real success” of 1979 was not in stymying US policies. It did not succeed that to any noticeable degree. On the contrary, it helped US policies in this region from 1980 all the way to the mid 90s. If it seems that US interests have been hurt in this region by Iran’s actions, it is -first of all- a phenomenon occurring from mid or late 90s and not before and secondly it was mainly because of failure of US policies rather than the success of Iranian policies (for example the stupid US invasion of Iraq was not Iran’s doing).
And you are wrong when you say that the real success of 1979 was to get rid of shah’s torturers. In terms of torture and mass execution Shah and his father absolutely PALE in comparison to Iran of 1981-88. In fact in terms of torture and mass execution and a severe atmosphere of terror and fascism, I have difficulty in finding any regime in the world worse than Iran of 1981-88.
My main point here is that Iran cannot be “independent” and a US ally at the same time. It is simply two fundamentally contradicting propositions. It is like an alliance between mice and cats.
Iran’s independence is a very bad example and a serious prelude to other peripheral countries independence. And the independence of countries in the periphery means an end to the growth of the western corporations and the western capital. The two can’t just co-exist.

By the way guest77, perhaps it would be interesting for you to know that you are defending the exact political theses that Iranian greens promote.

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Dec 5, 2013 3:15:34 AM | 20

I do not understand what the problem with Saudi Arabia should be. That country has no alternative but to stay under the US security umbrella. The White House should tell King Abdullah to shut down Bandar's mercenary terror army in Syria or else. Would the Saudis really want a fundamental confrontation with the US at the same time as Iran is presenting itself as a viable alternative for US influence in the Persian Gulf?
Well, this is what Bernhard says, and by saying it he retains his faint, almost subliminal connection with the world of overground journalism, and the world of overground political parties. But the concept that will not remain in Bernhard's sensorium, that flies continually in one ear and straight out the other, is 'deniability'. Bernhard does not understand the international extent of non-formal but binding systems of deniability. The KSA is executing an entire deniable strategy for the US, which knows it cannot sell direct support for totalitarian revolutionaries to its domestic constituencies (not 'public opinion', which doesn't matter, but the 'constituencies' as we call them in Britain, the grassroots party members, and the donors). The US can sell support for totalitarian incumbents to its domestic constituencies, and the support of liberal revolutionaries (this being the color revs phenomenon), but it cannot sell the support of totalitarian revolutionaries to its constituents, so it uses deniability. Hence the hoary and ridiculous myth that AQ is funded by uncontrollable 'private donors in the Gulf'. Gimme a break. These are 100% police states. Don't tell me the Mukhabarat in each country doesn't know who the donors are. They are no more than CIA cut-outs. Even if some wealthy man goes through the entire panjandrum of setting up his own charity, appointing directors, and awarding his own money, he's still no more than a CIA cut-out, because CIA is in a position to tell these rich men what they are to give their money to. We're talking about real political power here, not Bernhard's strangely liberal conception of Gulf states blithely defying US policy and causing nothing more than a sigh of philosophical regret from the Washington power elite.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 5, 2013 3:43:04 AM | 21

PS: I just noticed a grammatical slippage in the above. I started by talking about "US support for" various types of rulers or would-be rulers, then I slipped to "the support of" these various parties, which opens the way to the erroneous impression I meant "their support for the US." I didn't mean that, but actually, their support for the US is not a negligible factor, in fact it's an essential. Fortunately for the CIA, it's guaranteed by the coincidence of ultra-ultra-right-wing views on both sides. This is the lesson people ought to have learned from the exposure of Gladio: the CIA will coalesce effortlessly with rulers or would-be rulers of fascist views. This is not a problem. Case officers dealing with such people will routinely agree with them that the US itself would be much improved by a fascist coup. And they mean it, too.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 5, 2013 4:05:46 AM | 22

@ Rowan Berkeley | 21

Precisely what I came here to write. The "independent and insubordinate KSA" myth is just that - a myth. US could easily, and I mean easily force KSA and "Gulf's private sponsors" to drop support for Al Qaeda in many of its forms, but they didnt moved a finger. On the contrary, after couple of years pushing MB as "legitimate Syrians representatives", US now gave all keys to KSA and Al Qaeda, including arm-wrestling Qatar to do so.

Posted by: Harry | Dec 5, 2013 4:09:28 AM | 23

US Officials have also reached out to the Taliban, who hang the limbs of their dead soldiers from trees. Why talk? To give peace a chance.

Whilst I am a fan of the Syrian Army and do not wish to undermine its earlier achievements, since the agreement was reached on Syria's chemical weapons, it has been running amok. Southern Damascus suburbs have fallen like dominoes. They are sweeping down along the Damascus-Aleppo highway; through Qarah, Dayr Atiyah and now strangling Al-Nabk - forcing militants to continually retreat, where they seek cover in the Qalamoun mountains and threatening only the local goat population. It is pushing into Aleppo from the South East through Safirah to join the pro-Government Western half of the city - also targeting Al-Bab to its North East.

I believe that the chemical weapons deal fundamentally altered the direction that the US decided to take, thereby fatally undermining the opposition. At the same time as the deal between Lavrov and Kerry on Syria, it was decided that a new round of talks with Iran over its nuclear programme would be held. The rest is history. It's a shift; a pivot, if you like.

The reason that Western Officials gave for talks with Islamist brigades over Syria is, it says

to persuade some Islamists to support a Syria peace conference in Geneva on Jan. 22, for fear that the talks won't yield a lasting accord without their backing. The outreach aims "to find out whether these people are worthwhile bringing into the diplomatic process," the U.S. official said.

If this is true then it has echoes of the 2006 Iraq Awakening. Bad, though not necessarily mad, these Islamists will be told to be part of the solution, or be part of the problem. The Russians have long complained that the US has not placed enough pressure on the opposition to negotiate.

On Oct. 31, a group of militias that would eventually found the Islamic Front met with senior members of the FSA and the foreign minister of Qatar.

A week later, Qatar arranged a meeting between the Islamists and envoys from the...London 11. Senior members of Syria's most powerful Islamist militias, including the Tawheed Brigade...sat on the other side of the table.

Diplomats with knowledge of the talks say they have reservations about some of the groups involved.

A few weeks after this, Tawheed leader Abdul Qadir al-Saleh was dead. I wonder whether he decided to be part of the solution, or the problem.


As for the House of Sauron, perhaps as it gazes deep into the palantír of Orthanc, it has seen its own demise.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Dec 5, 2013 6:34:10 AM | 24

"The KSA is executing an entire deniable strategy for the US, which knows it cannot sell direct support for totalitarian revolutionaries to its domestic constituencies (not 'public opinion', which doesn't matter, but the 'constituencies' as we call them in Britain, the grassroots party members, and the donors)."

In order for this "deniability" to work there has to be widespread political indifference. Blindness might be a better word. America's days of denying its involvement in Bandar's adventures are in the past.
The cat is out of the bag.
Everybody understands that the US is backing the various forces invading Syria, it is supplying them with weapons, using its puppet in Jordan to give them bases, supplying Bandar's Saudi dilettantes with trained special forces expertise, providing reconnaissance and intelligence services and so on.
Everybody knows. Deniability no longer works.

Why is this?
For the same reason that "public opinion" matters. Which is that the US is in the throes of a socio-economic crisis out of which political changes are going to come.
The Pew report I cited two days ago is no more than a straw in the wind but the wind is getting stronger and it is blowing towards Washington DC.
People, such as the pensioners in Illinois and Detroit, are waking up to the fact that the government which cannot afford to pay their back pay, produce their savings, account for their contributions, is the same bunch that is currently air-freighting million dollar plus armoured vehicles into Kabul, driving them across the road and scrapping them.

The government that gives Sisi and his mates $3 billion a year to buy gold braid and electrodes with, that gives Netanyahu anything he desires to keep the war pot bubbling, that employs a hundred thousand troops at more than $1 million per person in Afghanistan, and wants to stay to build more bases, spend more money, this is the same government which, in its extreme prudence, detects possible problems with the social security trust fund by 2040. Unless taxes are raised, which might prove a disincentive to investors soon to be born.

The conventional wisdom, based on about five minutes of observation and massive amounts of wishful thinking by "pundits" who can barely comb their own hair and probably think that the Federalist papers are for rolling joints with, is that the American people are incapable of anger towards their political class.
Just watch them. This is a country that began with the Whiskey Rebellion and featured one of the bloodiest civil wars in history.The times are changing. The long night of apathy, nourished, to be honest, by eight decades of widespread prosperity and the heady sense of national superiority, is ending.
The Military Industrial Complex, with its pathetically low employment rates and its unbelievable rates of profit, has a fight on its hands.
I expect Louis Proyect is rubbing his hands and brushing up on his What is To Be Done, even as we confer.

re pirouz_2 @20
The prospect of Iran allying with the US is frightening. This is, as you seem to say, very much what a thin, but influential layer of westernised, bourgeois Iranians and masses of expatriates want. Like the Russians who yearn for Moscow to become more like New York and ally themselves with imperialists, they ought to bear in mind what the US has done to them and their country over the past thirty years. This would include inspiring the war started by Saddam and financed by the Sauds which led to the deaths of a million Iranians.
If there is to be any prospect of international law and peace it will have to be based upon strong and independent states. The current international anarchy, in which Obama and his gangsters are free to kill and plunder at will, exists because most states are either intimidated by the fear of offending the Empire (look what happened in Libya, look at Syria) or actually run, as are most NATO countries, by US agents-albeit agents too dumb to get on the payroll.
The truth is that Iran, like China, needs offer the US nothing.

Soon Americans will wake up and notice that the city to which they have been used to sending their most recalcitrant citizens, their most incorrigible con-men and least bearable bores, bullshitters and blowhards- the asylum in the District of Columbia has been taken over by the inmates, warmongers and ultra zionists, stone age economists and fanatical hypocrites straight out of Elmer Gantry. When that is done and the troops start coming home and the NSA is drowned in a bathtub, we can all settle back into the important work of reconditioning a planet devastated by philistinism.

Posted by: bevin | Dec 5, 2013 10:49:29 AM | 25

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/GECON-01-051213.html

Posted by: bevin | Dec 5, 2013 10:55:50 AM | 26

A "whiskey rebellion" is quite a nice idea, because even the most completely misinformed people will face death unafraid when completely sozzled on whiskey. I say "completely misinformed" because if, instead of being brought up on the abominable religions of our history, which exacerbate the fear of death - did you know that the orthodox Sunni view is that your consciousness will remain trapped in your body after death, even in the grave, and that there, in the grave, you will be interrogated by two angels, after you have had a day or two to reflect? - properly informed people would have grasped from Spinoza, who would be compulsory reading for teenagers, that the consciousness within them is not 'theirs' but is none other than the eternal and omnipresent consciousness that, along with physical matter, constitutes 'God'. So then they would have no fear of death at all (though large amounts of atrocious pain would still deter them, since it might continue after the effects of the whiskey had worn off).

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 5, 2013 11:11:52 AM | 27

back in the day there was a thing called the War on Terror: and the Bush Doctrine:

The Bush Doctrine identifies three threat agents: terrorist organizations
with global reach, weak states that harbor and assist such terrorist organizations,
and rogue states. Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s Afghanistan embody the first two
agents. Rogue states are defined as states that:
. . . brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal
gain of the rulers; display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors,
and callously violate international treaties to which they are party; are determined
to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other advanced military technology,
to be used as threats or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of
these regimes; sponsor terrorism around the globe; and reject human values and
hate the United States and everything it stands for.3
http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/articles/03spring/record.pdf


'display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors,
and callously violate international treaties to which they are party; are determined
to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other advanced military technology,
to be used as threats or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of
these regimes; '

sound like somebody you know?

Posted by: brian | Dec 5, 2013 3:37:21 PM | 28

Muslims and the afterlife

The torture of the grave, Islam and the afterlife

By Leor Halevi

Published: Friday, May 4, 2007

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Hardly a week goes by without front-page news of Muslims dying somewhere in the world in a violent way. Despite all the media attention, there is little understanding among non-Muslims of Islamic views of death and the afterlife.

Everyone knows, of course, that after death martyrs go straight to the Garden of Eden, where they recline on couches, savor meats and fruits and enjoy the company of dark-eyed houris while listening to the sound of flowing rivers.

But what happens to the vast majority of Muslims, those who do not die as martyrs?

According to Islamic doctrine, between the moment of death and the burial ceremony, the spirit of a deceased Muslim takes a quick journey to Heaven and Hell, where it beholds visions of the bliss and torture awaiting humanity at the end of days.

By the time corpse handlers are ready to wash the body, the spirit returns to earth to observe the preparations for burial and to accompany the procession toward the cemetery. But then, before earth is piled upon the freshly dug grave, an unusual reunion takes place: The spirit returns to dwell within the body.

In the grave, the deceased Muslim - this composite of spirit and corpse - encounters two terrifying angels, Munkar and Nakir, recognized by their bluish faces, their huge teeth and their wild hair.

These angels carry out a trial to probe the soundness of a Muslim's faith. If the dead Muslim answers their questions convincingly and if he has no sin on record, then the grave is transformed into a luxurious space that makes bearable the long wait until the final judgment.

But if a Muslim's faith is imperfect or if he has sinned during life by, for example, failing repeatedly to undertake purity rituals before prayer, then the grave is transformed into an oppressive, constricting space.

The earth begins to weigh down heavily upon the sentient corpse, until the rib cage collapses; worms begin to nibble away at the flesh, causing horrible pain.

This torture does not continue indefinitely. It occurs intermittently and ends at the very latest with the resurrection - when God may well forgive Muslims who have endured the punishment.

Surely this violence sounds medieval. Belief in "the torture of the grave" indeed stretches way back in history. It appears in eighth-century epitaphs and in early Islamic traditions, which elevated this belief to the status of dogma.

But pious Muslims today continue to adhere to this belief. In invocations, funeral prayers, sermons, and popular literature, Muslims are frequently reminded to heed this punishment.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of them take it seriously. The psychologist Ahmed M. Abdel-Khalek, who has studied anxieties about death among Arab youth, has found that preoccupation with the torture of the grave remains acute.

The Egyptians and Kuwaitis he polled worried about this torture more than they feared losing a dear relative or succumbing to a serious, fatal disease.

Recently, an Islamist Web site posted a picture of an 18-year-old man exhumed by the order of his father. Only three hours had passed since his burial, but already his corpse appeared aged and bruised. Scientists, according to the story, affirmed that this was caused by the torture of the grave; and the father explained that his son had been a sinner.

Many Muslims commenting on the picture took it as a sign from God to stop sinning and as a reminder to pray assiduously for relief from the punishment of the tomb. Several doubted the reality of the picture, prompting the author of the Web site to remove the posting and to apologize for it. But even a skeptic who challenged the "scientific" evidence professed in this public forum his belief in the reality of the torture of the grave.

Muslims can escape the torture of the grave by dying as martyrs. In Islam the category of martyr does not belong exclusively to those who die fighting in God's path. According to Islamic tradition, Muslims who die in a fire, by drowning, in the collapse of a building or in some other way involving great physical suffering merit the rank of martyrs in the afterlife.

This means that immediately after death, their spirits do not return to dwell within mutilated or burned corpses. Instead they enter the Garden of Eden, where they receive new bodies, perfectly reformed, so as to enjoy the rewards of martyrdom until the resurrection. Those who have lost a relative in a violent and shocking death - in the bombings in Baghdad, for instance - may find some consolation in this belief.

Leor Halevi, a professor of history at Texas A&M University, is the author of "Muhammad's Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society."

Posted by: okie farmer | Dec 5, 2013 3:38:21 PM | 29

a healthy remineder:

Question: What makes God; "GOD!"? The answer isn't love. The answer is POWER! If God was not all powerful He wouldn't be God. Likewise POWER is what makes America AMERICA!

http://www.thebushdoctrine.com/

nice to see an american equate america and God

however the site continuers:

'Thank God, Bush understood this concept, and wielded our power after the terrorism attacks on 9/11. (It was this stance that has kept us safe since.) After all, if the USA looses its power it will NO LONGER be the leader of the free world. Some other country or new political entity will take over.

Now we have a new president. Barack Obama wants to be friends with everyone, he wants world peace at the expense of selling out America's power. With him at the helm, we are well on our way to paving the road for antichrist to form his one world government. His kingdom is coming as the Bible prophesized: "On the wings of Peace and Security".

It's Satan's evil genius to create the issue no one can argue against, and all world leaders will be favored by their nations populate for bowing down to it.

Peace is on the way. But it's a smoke & mirrors show. A false peace leading to more death, destruction then the world has ever seen'
--------------

which reads like either satire or sociopathy

Posted by: brian | Dec 5, 2013 3:45:57 PM | 30

@29
'These angels carry out a trial to probe the soundness of a Muslim's faith. If the dead Muslim answers their questions convincingly and if he has no sin on record, then the grave is transformed into a luxurious space that makes bearable the long wait until the final judgment.

But if a Muslim's faith is imperfect or if he has sinned during life by, for example, failing repeatedly to undertake purity rituals before prayer, then the grave is transformed into an oppressive, constricting space'


this explains the fanatic! and impurity trumps murder as a sin...since islam formed in 7th century, how did the deceased die in muslim terms?

Posted by: brian | Dec 5, 2013 3:54:12 PM | 31

re 29, a text written by a Jew about Islam, may be polluted by modern interests, such as Israel. It may be necessary to check his view-point.

Posted by: alexno | Dec 5, 2013 6:48:47 PM | 32

"I do not understand what the problem with Saudi Arabia should be."

The answer (maybe) can be found at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/11/narcissistic-us-an-anxious-saudi-arabia-hysterical-israel-201311301119738260.html


Posted by: neretva'43 | Dec 5, 2013 7:15:35 PM | 33

Farsnews is reporting in a story

Secular Syria Rebels Mull Rejoining Gov't to Fight Al-Qaeda......

TEHRAN (FNA)- Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Gen. Salim Idris announced he is dropping the demand for President Bashar Assad to resign before the Geneva II peace conference looming on January 22.

He said that he’s content with talks toward an eventual transition at the end of the negotiation process, Antiwar.com reported Wednesday.

That may not sound like much on the surface, but it points to what officials say is a significant shift in the secularist rebel perspective, as they consider merging with the Assad government to end their mutual fighting and instead focus on the war against al-Qaeda and the rest of the Wahhabi extremist militants.

http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13920914000625

This seems like a big shift in the focus in Syria. With Iranian FM Zarif talking and focused about getting the foreign fighters out, along with strong support from Lavrov, Turkey pulling back and even elements of KSA having further thoughts about Bandar's Legions, the prospects of that Geneva Conference has just risen up out of the fantasy realm.

Oh, and Bandar is seeing Putin again. Putin was not impressed the last time by Bandar's bribes and threats. It will be interesting to see what's up this time.

Posted by: kafkananda | Dec 5, 2013 9:38:36 PM | 34

@33 Fun read.

I don't have to tell anyone here that foreign relations and diplomacy - presented to the public as the lofty and selfless efforts of our leaders for "peace" and "security" - rarely escapes the petty, narrow-minded selfishness that drives your average inter-personal relationship.

The investiture of political power into fewer and fewer hands - from L'Etat, c'est moi to the Führerprinzip - leads always to the disastrous state of affairs where the personal proclivities of the king becomes the fate of a nation. And that same situation is becoming more and more the fact of today's world. We only have to look to the US invasion of Iraq to see how the wishes of a tiny elite pushed a nation of hundreds of millions down a path utterly inimical its own economic or political interests. A million dead and a nation destroyed: for the greed of some oilmen, for AIPAC's egos, and for George W. Bush and his fateful family feud.

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 5, 2013 9:42:02 PM | 35

@1

Pretty weak Louie, even for you.

Pro-Tip: When you are a pseudo-leftist academic that supports the imperialist invasions of Middle Eastern countries, avoid comparing others with pseudo-leftist academics who supports the imperialist invasions of Middle Eastern countries.

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 5, 2013 10:00:43 PM | 36

"By the way guest77, perhaps it would be interesting for you to know that you are defending the exact political theses that Iranian greens promote."

That is of great interest to me!

Thank you for the thoughtful response, there is a lot to think about there.

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 5, 2013 10:08:40 PM | 37

Having made Spinoza sound so nice, I ought to add the major qualification, which separates his ideas from those of orthodox mysticism: Spinoza does not believe in Providence. His 'God', while in other respects satisfying the simplest and most ample mystical hopes, is completely mindless. He she or it, this 'God', simply creates, endlessly and ad infinitum, without being equipped with any means either to evaluate the creation or to change it. The whole creation is one seamlessly integrated logical whole. It is, according to Spinoza, beginningless and endless, but if we might postulate something I would call 'logical time', which is not real time but an imaginary time in which God can make decisions and do things, 'prior to the Creation' ( not temporally but logically), then what we get from Spinoza is this: 'God' creates the entire eternal universe, past, present and future, all of it integrated by its own inherent and unchangeable mode of operation (what we perceive as temporal cause and effect), in one fell swoop, and having done so, is unable to alter it in any way. It is therefore pointless to pray to this God or expect the universe to 'evolve', 'progress', or ameliorate itself in any way. Beings like ourselves can and must think of ways to make life better, but 'God' will not guide us in this endeavour.

However, the plus side of Spinoza is unbeatable: precisely because at death, the consciousness of the individual simply reverts into the universal consciousness, bringing nothing with it (personality, memory, character, etc), there is no karma, no reward or punishment, it makes no difference whether you are a 'saint' or a mass torturer and murderer. 'God' learns nothing either positive or negative from your life, judges nothing, and is in no way afflicted by your sufferings on the one hand or your evil-doing on the other. 'You' do not persist as an identity, a 'soul', after your death, so you cannot be rewarded or punished, nor can you bring with you any 'karma', such as the dreadful burden of having tortured and killed thousands of other human beings, all this just evaporates. Of course, Spinoza did not go so far as to say this, since his work was in any case greeted by a great chorus of religious outrage (and even outrage from semi-secular cartesians). They all said: how dare you preach that there is no reward and punishment after death? If people believe that, they will lose all morality, since only the fear of god's judgment keeps them on the moral path. And in fact Spinoza's treatment of survival of the soul after death is extremely cautious. But it is not hard to draw the conclusions I have drawn. Only academics write about Spinoza, and they always miss the point I am making, that Spinoza's aim is to completely abolish the fear of death, because they are so preoccupied by the question: but will 'my soul', 'my personality', etc survive, and having grasped that the answer is 'no', they drop the subject as if it was no longer of any interest.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Dec 6, 2013 2:47:18 AM | 38

islamist manifesto?: goal: seek to remove 'tyrannical and parasitical rulers and replace with men of God who know difference between right and wrong' etc....what to make of this..when Assad is no T and P ruler and the 'men of god' are thugs who commit every wrong in their book and invent some that arent in it! https://twitter.com/Syricide/status/408606892584218625/photo/1

Posted by: brian | Dec 7, 2013 4:39:25 AM | 39

its a sin to say Merry Christmas...or so the islamists say https://twitter.com/Syr.../status/408294067609407489/photo/1

Posted by: brian | Dec 7, 2013 4:49:35 AM | 40

Syrian Rebel Watch
A BBC report on the use of Turkish safe houses by foreign Jihadists fighting in Syria.

This is hardly breaking news, the existence of such a system and the Turkish government's complicity in it's existence has been well known for years.

"Foreign jihadist fighters are using safe houses in southern Turkey to cross into Syria to fight against government forces, the BBC has learnt.

A man running one such house near the border town of Reyhanli said more than 150 people - including up to 20 Britons - had used it in the past three months.

The route through Turkey used by al-Qaeda-linked foreign jihadists is now becoming increasingly organised.

Opposition activists say jihadists are destroying the Syrian revolution.

'Not true Muslims'

The man in charge of the safe house near Reyhanli told the BBC's Richard Galpin that "more than 150 people stayed at the house" in the past 90 days.

"Between 15 and 20 were British. It's all done through invitations from friends".

He added that jihadists usually "stay for a day or two before crossing into Syria and stay on the way back when they are waiting for flights back to their home countries".

One such fighter from France told our correspondent that "there are thousands of us, literally from every corner of the world".

"And we are all al-Qaeda," he added.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25274886

Posted by: brian | Dec 7, 2013 7:48:44 AM | 41

Brian,
It seems the BBC decided to follow after this article in Vice
http://www.vice.com/read/syrian-jihadist-selfies-tell-us-a-lot-about-their-war

somehow it is the mirror image of Blackwater/Xe/Academi (SIC but maybe that's true, some academics have as much 'consciousness' as those thugs) behaviour...

Posted by: Mina | Dec 7, 2013 11:36:01 AM | 42

@42 I guess they got fed up with the Halal Meals Ready to Eat.

Posted by: dh | Dec 7, 2013 12:24:44 PM | 43

@42

Crazy. There is no difference at all between the style of the Jihadis and those of the Mexican narcos - it is hard to make out if it is the result of the unfortunate dominance of American culture across the globe, or if it is designed precisely to appeal to American youth. And then you see stuff like this:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/ucla-math-major-chris-jeon-thought-cool-join-rebels-fight-khadafy-libya-article-1.953492
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/drug-cartels-mexico-hire-u-s-soldiers-assassins-article-1.1454851

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 7, 2013 1:50:59 PM | 44

Meanwhile, Turkey is starting to send the Jihadis back to where they came from - for many, that means the West.

The cannibals are coming home to roost.

Today's Zaman

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 7, 2013 7:27:30 PM | 45

Gulf divisions exposed (what happened to Morocco, not even mentioned after becoming a full GCC member last year? Was the move too ridiculous?)
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/88566/World/Region/Mideast-turmoil,-union-proposal-top-Gulf-summit-ag.aspx

Posted by: Mina | Dec 8, 2013 6:10:43 AM | 46

UNWATCH typo: meant UNWATCH axis of evil: Hillel Neuer ‏@HillelNeuer 19 Nov
UN's axis of evil voted now for Syria: Belarus Bolivia China Cuba Ecuador Iran Nicaragua NKorea Russia Uzbek Venezuela Zimbabwe - and Syria....................youll not these are free and independent states...free of UNWATCH control

Posted by: brian | Dec 8, 2013 6:55:28 AM | 47

UNWATCH's Hillel Neuer ‏@HillelNeuer 19 Nov
Cuba just now took the floor at UNGA to defend the murderous Syrian regime. Now you see why we opposed Cuba's election to UN rights council.
================
when it comes to murderous regimes: Israel is in class of its own!

Posted by: brian | Dec 8, 2013 6:56:42 AM | 48

http://www.lrb.co.uk/2013/12/08/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 8, 2013 9:22:02 AM | 49

@49

Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the UN photos with a group of his colleagues and concluded that the large calibre rocket was an improvised munition that was very likely manufactured locally. He told me that it was ‘something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop’. The rocket in the photos, he added, fails to match the specifications of a similar but smaller rocket known to be in the Syrian arsenal.

Now will people catch on that "Brown Moses" aka Elliot Higgins aka "Fat White MI6 Moses" is a cheap liar and a fraud, or can we still expect to see him pick up his expensive gig as an "Foreign Policy Expert" on CNN or the BBC?

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 8, 2013 9:36:58 AM | 50

brian #41&42:

Perhaps the BBC reporter just got off the boat, because this is no recent development:

"Foreign jihadist fighters are using safe houses in southern Turkey to cross into Syria to fight against government forces, the BBC has learnt.

A man running one such house near the border town of Reyhanli said more than 150 people - including up to 20 Britons - had used it in the past three months.

The route through Turkey used by al-Qaeda-linked foreign jihadists is now becoming increasingly organised.

Foreign jihadis have been streaming into Syria, on and off for over two years, many of them through Turkey. (Nor is the angle of portraying the FSA as "mostly secular" new propaganda).

Perhaps the newer angle is through the Vice article. While some Western European jihadists had been mentioned early on (I recall an Irish fighter who had come through Libya), the various waves of jihadis have been recruited from neighboring countries, North Africa, Chechnya, Afghanistan. These AQ fighters appear to be recruiting via social media to England (cheeseburgers and meat pizza are not kosher; are they halal?). Are their other sources of idealistic or gullible cannon fodder drying up?

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Dec 9, 2013 5:05:50 PM | 51

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