Two cents | On: The US policy in Syria is not novel; The reasons for the Iran deal (and a brief explanation for the rise of ISIS)

So I have a habit of writing oversized Facebook comments that aren’t quite articles, so I’m going to start a (lazy way out) series called ‘two cents’ when I find something that I would like to blog, but can’t quite be bothered to turn into a proper article.

(The below was a comment I wrote on a political journalist’s Facebook page post; my comment is responding to another Facebook commenter)

The commenter asked the following, in response to an earlier comment I wrote about the Iran deal: “Why is a Muslim the enemy of another Muslim?! Why is Iran the enemy of other Muslim countries? Do you think it is reasonable to accept/reasonable people would accept the brutal and frankly non-islamic daesh’s rule from “fear” of another Muslim country? What is the threat? USA has Sunni allies in the region and is now only on speaking terms with Shia Iran. I’m asking for your opinion, please

(First section of my response: re ISIS)

Firstly, I am one of the many Sunni Muslims who see sectarianism as the cancer of our Muslim world and the ultimate tool by imperialist powers to keep us weak and engaged in useless battles. I have long argued the irony of Muslims stating ‘the West wants to divide and conquer us’ and then repeating sectarian arguments. Today I point out the irony of Sunnis who angrily cite Iran’s hypocrisy on Syria and Yemen whilst refusing to support the Bahraini uprising and Shias who angrily cite the Sunni states hypocrisy on Bahrain whilst refusing to support the Syrian one.

Secondly: Daesh is a direct consequence of a few things: 1) US destruction of Iraq as a predmediated genocidal policy starting not in 2003 but in 1990, 2) the ending of that period by the installation of a sectarian regime in Baghdad backed by the US and Iran that alienated Sunnis, 3) Western procastination and eventual betrayal of promises of support for the Syrians fighting the government there leading to massive anti-Western feeling and attractiveness of extremist groups. The US has bombed not only ISIS, which unpaltable as the fact may be has a degree of popular support (because its seen as finally an organised response to Iranian-sponsored regimes and is also highly efficient in running a state), but also mainstream rebel factions in Syria, including the biggest one, the Islamic Front. If my tone wasn’t as yet clear, I despise Daesh, was trying to bring attention to them when no one cared when they were attacking rebels in Syria simultaneously with the regime; in short I attacked them (you can see my timeline) long before anyone else

Three: Daesh was a predicted consequence of the genocidal policies of the Syrian regime and its sectarian loyalist militias, which has wiped off cities from the map, a cowardly regime that would have liberated Palestine in its entirety if it turned 1% of the force it used against its population against Israel. It is a predicted consequence of the world abandoning the daily-bombarded Syria entirely, and only waking up when the men with beards showed up. As in Iraq, there was a popular uprising that occurred against the sectarian policies of Maliki in 2012, it was peaceful, it was cracked down upon by the US-Iranian armed Iraqi government, ISIS consequently hijacked that revolution. However, the fact remains that ISIS is tolerated because it is seen by many as preferable to being under control of the Iraqi government.

(Second section: US policy on Syria is not new, and why Iran has become ‘dealable’)

It surprises me that so many people find the US position so difficult to understand. Its called a trap. What the US has done in Syria it has done repeatedly before, it essentially gives ‘green light’ (although it would be a mistake to take people’s agency away nonetheless) to certain movements and then betrays/abandons support when chaos hits. Historical examples include supporting the Shia uprising in Iraq in 1991 and encouraging it (diplomatically) but never coming (militarily) to aid of the uprising, allowing it to be crushed by Saddam; another couple of examples is encouraging Saddam to attack Iran in 1980 before ending up the conflict by selling weapons to Iran (see Iran-contra affair), and also giving a green light to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 (see famous ‘We have no opinion on internal Arab-Arab affairs’ quote, said by a US ambassador when an Iraqi official asked her of her government’s opinion on an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait). When dealing with areas under imperialist spheres I would advise people to a) study what the people on the ground are saying/doing, because they have agency and to act on an assumption otherwise is imperialist and orientalist in itself, and b) to study concrete imperialist policy, not the mirages put up by diplomatic statements.

Finally, I would like to note that Iran could have become one of the main beneficiaries of the 2011 Arab movements if it acted in a different way and indeed could have swept the carpet completely from under Saudi Arabia’s feet (as the representative of Muslims). It is forgotten but Saudi Arabia was at the beginning opposed to all the uprisings, including in Syria (where protesters used to chant against the silence of Arab states); if the Iranian regime had swept in at that point and supported the cause of the Muslim masses there, whom it theoretically had much more in common with than a secular vehemently anti-religious regime, it would’ve made its popularity concrete and essentially completely disarmed sectarianists on the Sunni side, for it would’ve shown that its loyalty was Islamic, not sectarian. Of course, what happened instead is that Iran backed up the most secular regime in the Arab world against, with a great deal of irony, an opposition which is very ‘Islamic republic’ in image (not to say that it would represent the same substance of the Iranian form).

The fact that it did this, unfortunately, proved that it is a sectarian and reactionary regime, and made a mockery of its theoretically ‘non-sectarian’ ‘Islamic republic’ credentials. Ultimately, it is that fact which in my opinion, that it proved itself to be a status-quo power with no “Islamic” potential to unite the Muslim world which has led to the rapproachment we are seeing today. The US will support any regime that does not threaten Muslim unification, be they secular or ostensibly Islamic in nature; Saudi has traditionally not threatened Muslim unification and this is why it has been an ally, Iran has just proved those credentials now, as well as fighting a popular, Islam-oriented (just Sunni) movement. It is inconceivable, regardless of one’s slant on Iran, that the US would otherwise choose to support -rather than curtail- Iran at the precise specific moment that its influence has expanded on an unprecedented scale across the region, a fact which no one, supporter or opponent, can deny. In the absence of a credible explanation (to my mind) that says that the US doing so because of humanitarian concerns for the Iranian people, and in the absence of a credible explanation (to my mind) that says that this is merely a coincidental event, this highly conspicuous fact would seem to back up my analysis.

[FB Paste – comment on intervention]

‘We shouldn’t rely on the West to overthrow Bashar, mainly because it was a waste of time and effort (was not going to happen), people should’ve gotten the hint a while ago, and anyone who still doesn’t see that at this point is frankly delusional, this is where I disagree strongly with the SNC.

On the principle of intervention, although I fluctuate (but tbh only due to potential religious prohibitions of taking something like the West as an ally – and interchangeably the question of whether it is ethical to accept the lesser evil (as it is stlll an evil) – but nothing else) overall I’m not against intervention in principle as it is the clear lesser evil in certain situations where short-term Western benefit is a necessary cost – there’s a reason that Muslims in Bosnia called their kids ‘Tony’ (regardless if that happened to be ‘cool’ for the anti-establishment in the West or not) and there’s a reason Yazidis on Mount Sinjar hold placards saying ‘thank you USA’. The reality is that the USA had other interests in those cases that *coincided* with a humanitarian action, this isn’t to say that the USA was ‘good’ because it saved Bosnians as it was killing half a million Iraqi children by sanctions at the same time, but it is to say that in such situations activists should seek to take advantage of that coincidence simply because of the reality of cost.

Every state/civilisation has a legitimising narrative and every legitimising narrative inevitably has two edges to it, a sharp one and a blunt one – no narrative of no state (no matter how powerful) can have no downsides. The West legitimises its abuses in the name of democracy, human rights etc., and so when an uprising for that sort of thing takes place the ‘anti-establishment’ instead of calling their bluffs actually went and said ‘fuck human rights, its a conspiracy’. And it also happens to be highly hypocritical because this policy of pushing for ‘Western state boycott’ in other parts of the world (encompassing a blank refusal to ‘deal with the system’ irrespective of the costs) is completely at odds with the reality of ‘dealing with the system’ domestically in the West – in other words those anti-establishment parties that push this policy abroad don’t ‘boycott’ the state at home, they engage with it (happily or otherwise) as a necessary means for survival and to accomplish social goals. *Domestic* anti-establishment politics in the West doesn’t consist of a 24/7 refusal to deal with the state since that’s unrealistic, unpractical and incurs high social costs. Those who push for the government to increase benefits lets say are still *dealing with the state* and its criminal bagage. Not doing so will leave people have their benefits sanctioned (which is bemoaned as a crime, yet alone something like thousands of people getting killed). It is priviliged politics, in other words.

Only those who have no idea whatsoever of how it is to live in a post-colonial military state, or attempt to garner radical ‘activist rep’ career will try and make those people out to be traitors (and them thousands of miles away presumably ‘patriots’). Indeed the assumption that those who have suffered at the hands of imperialism the most ‘not knowing what they are talking about’ when they’re asking for intervention now is orientalist and pathetic.

More crucially the two other assumptions underlying the position of the ‘automatically-anti-interventionist’ brigade is that a) the people in the region asking for intervention now would be unable to control their destinies against inevitable attempted Western manipulation in the future and b) that the ‘anti-establishment’ opposing intervention now can guarantee them a long and prosperous future of non-interventionism in exchange of ‘none this time’ – this is idiotic to the extreme since they are in absolutely no position (of power etc.) to make such a ‘pledge’ (couldn’t stop anti-ISIS intervention a year after Bashar saved his skin in 2013 by safeguarding CWs). Furthermore it ignores the fact that intervention is happening now whether they pretend to or not (and regardless of whether they are in their states of hibernation when there is no threat of attacking the regime and stop following the conflict), its not as if these countries have retreated from the arena and the massive death toll of not hitting the regime is a (hypothetically) worth-it cost.

The fact is if you leave post-colonial situations fester to their fullest extent you’re not ‘fighting’ colonialism, you’re allowing the manifestation of its evils to burst to the fullest effect. (the reality is that today’s left would have been undoubtedly saying ‘Hands off Rwanda’ 20 years ago, and probably did)

But yeah, ultimately I am against spending more time and effort at this point trying to get the West to intervene, one cannot continue to be deaf, we should be trying to get them to stop harming the rebellion by seeking to blockade it which has been their policy since 2012. The guys at أمريكا تدعم الأسد(America is supporting Assad) have finally got it. We won’t have much help mind you from those ‘activists’ trying to get the West to actively block Arab arms to the rebels, but that’s what we should do.

The human cost has been tremendous, but, and I don’t know if this is appropriate to say, there there might be some sort of conciliatiatory point if Bashar can be taken out without having NATO intervened, as there is value (if massive cost) of ‘doing it alone’. If anyone were to hypothetically intervene *now* against Assad I would probably personally be against it (although its not my prerogative) as the rebels have finally got support from the new Saudi King (who at the rate he’s going I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets assassinated a la King Faisal), after replacing the puppet that was Abdullah (not placing a value judgement on Salman being ‘good’ or not, just saying that he’s clearly different from his predecessor – rebel advances of recent months are directly related to him coming to power, as are reports of schisms with Sisi, rapproachment with Qatar and Turkey etc.) – again though, not my decision.’