From Assad to Tamarod to the Houthi-Saleh counter-insurgency, the Western left has discredited itself as a revolutionary “mentor” in the Middle East.
From Assad to Tamarod to the Houthi-Saleh counter-insurgency, the Western left has discredited itself as a revolutionary “mentor” in the Middle East.
ISIS may be the the most “facilitated” enemy in human history. By the Iraqi government, Syrian government, the Americans who allowed them to rise by ignoring warnings about them in the first place, and now the Russians who are bombing anyone but them.
This is NOT to state that ISIS is a foreign insertion. Is there something conspiratorial about how they got to where they are? Yes, that is what I’m saying. Am I saying that they were inserted from abroad without local dynamics? No. This argument fails to recognise that even if they all came from Mars, there was a receptive environment and population for them. ISIS was also attempted to be “introduced” during the US occupation of Iraq, but was defeated by Sunni tribes who were promised inclusive government. They didn’t get it, and so ISIS is now a popular *movement*, however unpalatable that fact is.
And the reasons it is popular is because of one common thread that everyone wants to avoid mentioning, because it has been talked about in a negative light for so long that its now come to resemble the boy who cried wolf (except that the boy who is now crying wolf is actually a new boy who used to refute those who once cried wolf – who are, in a further irony, no longer crying wolf): Iran, and the unpopularity of its client governments in Iraq and Syria, and a situation made so sectarian through its policies that it has allowed ISIS to pose as a Sunni counterweight to Shiite aggression. Ironically (to some, expectedly to others), it is as the West changes its rhetoric towards Iran that its regional popularity has reached an unprecedented low. Unfortunately, many have still not caught up with that reality.
Has ISIS “not been fought”, as Russophiles have claimed? No, ISIS has been fought and thousands of its fighters, as well as hundreds of civilians, have been killed by the Americans. Does this equate into “has there been full genuineness into eradicating it”? No, not necessarily, and this could be seen in various places where it has launched campaigns across open areas of desert with no interception.
There has been global complicity in the rise of ISIS. But to put its rise on an alien invasion is incorrect, and separate from reality. There might very well have been a conspiracy, but that is not where the conspiracy lies.
So John Kerry’s come out posing a “question” (which no one is genuinely asking) of whether Russia is there to help Assad (which is what it directly declared) or to fight ISIS. Of course, Russia;s airstrikes are overwhelmingly aimed at the enemies of both Assad and ISIS, a strategy which has led to the biggest ISIS advance in North Syria for more than a year, and indicative of the KGBite mentality of setting up a showdown between Assad and ISIS that the world will have to choose from, removing anything (which happens to be the main insurgency against Assad) in between.
ISIS is not an insurgent or rebel group – it intentionally (and accurately) does not define itself as one. It is not defined by a specific opponent it is up against, as a rebel group is by nature, by a regime it seeks to overthrow, but is defined by its main function – to set up an immediate new state, without having to wait for whatever regime there is to collapse. Regimes are fought as obstacles in the way of the expansion of the state, not as an ideological end aim of itself.
In other words, whilst rebels seek to overthrow a regime, ISIS seeks to eat up its (and others’) territories.
However, being fought is not just a privilege reserved for the regime, but for any groups in the way of that new state. This is why ISIS has targetted rebel groups more than it has the regime. Whilst inter-rebel conflict has existed amongst opponents of Assad, between such groups as the FSA and Al-Nusra, etc., this is an entirely different paradigm from that which exists vis a vis ISIS. Disunity and division may be preponderent, but active clashes between rebel groups are very rare. This is not the case with ISIS – making it an entirely seperate side in the civil war (unlike the FSA vis a vis the Islamic Front say, or Nusra, who despite problems and very occasional flare ups are on the same side).
Its political programme is not first and foremost to free Syria of Assad, it is first and foremost to set up a global state – Assad, like Abadi, Merkel, Cameron or Obama are simply obstacles in the way, to be countered in order of the strategic priorities of who’s standing in the way. This is why ISIS did not target the regime (and vice versa) during its period of ascendence (2013 – mid 2014) until it had secured enough core territory in Syria from rebel forces – the strategic geographical priority at the time was not the regime in this case, but rebels. This was in turn consolidated (or justified) to is followers by a perverse distortion of an Islamic Shari‘ principle, or war maxim, that it is a priority to fight apostates (originally meant to refer to defectors/treason) before fighting infidels. ISIS views the regime as infidels, alike to the US, France or Russia. It does not view the Sunni rebel groups that have refused to pledge allegiance to it however as infidels, but as active traitors – apostates.
Furthermore, whilst apostates are traitors who no truces can be made with (since that would imply recognition), truces can be made with infidels (a la two states at war, but not a state with a breakaway component, like the South during the American civil war) due to the different nature of that state of enmity.
This was directly explained by one ISIS fighter to a rebel in a famous walkie talking argument, where he stated that fighting him was a legal priority before fighting the kuffar, or infidels. Thus according to a Syrian rebel commander in the Islamic Front, ISIS “believe that if they were to enter Israel going through Palestine, they would fight Hamas before Israel, because Hamas are apostates whilst the Israelis infidels, and it is more prior to fight the apostate before the infidel”.
But we digress.
The purpose of Kerry’s statement is to say things in a way that the Russians could read in between the lines. Although the reason for Russia’s intervention in Syria to back Assad is such a plain, uncontroversial reality, one which Russia has even admitted, with Putin stating that Russia’s military operations would only end with the progress of the Syrian Army, and which therefore even the most staunch pro-Russian does not deny (they also do not find it embarassing), in choosing to pose a non-existing “confusion” conundrum Kerry is essentially sending a message in political/diplomatic language code.
In diplomatic language, obfuscation is how rivals convey their tacit “non-mindedness” (for lack of a better word) to the geopolitical actions taken by another. Indeed, obfuscation is often not necessary, since inter-state understandings are not done through the following of media statements given by politicians, but through contacts between the various intelligence and policy-making agencies between the two states. Kerry’s statement is not coincidental, it can’t be, considering that it is established beyond any doubt that Russia’s presence in Syria is to support the regime – not least because Putin has himself stated this. To think that it is would be a hopeless height of naiveté.
Russian policy makers know what US positions are not from what they hear from faces of the administration (whose main purpose is to play to a domestic audience, in this case appearing as anti-Russia/ not Russia’s bitch) but from real centres of decision making, intelligence agencies and departments, etc.. Such statements by Kerry therefore are “sugar on top”. Public statements that serve the aim of obfuscation thus resemble not ambivalence, since this could be done even with critical statements, but active cautionary advance.
For those who carry on the Afghanistan experience, with a sense of hurt and carried betrayal (grievance) against political Islam (even if they are hidden behind smiles in the greater battles against a US invasion or an Israeli occupation), for the US strengthening the forces of reactionary Islamism over that of progressive socialism, Syria today serves as an opportunity for revenge; no pasaran! even if the regime stemming the tide is an explicitly fascist one, enjoying the support of the world’s entire far-right. It seems that today the day has come for revenge. Anti-war/interventionist movements are unabashed about their support for Russia’s invasion of Syria, Afghanistan part 2. However, rather than a repetition of the scenario of US supporting reactionary Islamism over progressive socialism, or the US supporting proxies against Russian forces, what is happening today in Syria is an indisputable example of the reverse. Not only have both the US and (neo-imperial) Russia targetted Islamists in the Syrian arena, both now even have their “special forces” stationed in the same arena, which as students of the Cold War would be aware is a basic no-no of cold war guidelines, thus made only possible because the two forces are not in a position of confrontation with one another in this particular case.
The Cold War in Syria is not that cold at all. The vengeful pro-Russian Western left could not have chosen their moments worse; for what we are witnessing today (although still largely unrecognised) is the first major example in the post-cold war era of a 19th century harkback; an alliance between competing geopolitical imperailist powers, a throwback to the multipolar days of the 19th century. Despite the false narrative propagated by those inflicted with Talibanitis, the US has repeatedly bombed those Islamists they seek revenge against – not only ISIS, not considered even as an extremist member of the Syrian rebellion (it does not consider itself to be a “rebel” group anyway) but the revolutionary politically Muslims (“Islamists”) who are its biggest enemies – whilst clearly choosing one and only one side to serve as its “proxy” against ISIS: the YPG. In a double-whammy, their utterly-failed reading of the Syrian conflict has meant that the anti-imperialist left now finds itself, as much as they may like to deny it, on the same side as the Western imperialists they supposedly despise.
In case there are any delusions regarding this alliance: the US fight now isn’t with some socialist project in an area of Northern Syria with no potential for regional expansion (especially considering the antipathy between the YPG and Arabs in the north), it is with revolutionary Islam(ism). The proof of this is in the pudding: the US has chosen to rely on one set of “ideological extremists” (socialists) over another (Islamists). In the fight against ISIS it could have backed mainstream Syrian Islamists, Kurdish socialists, or both (none of these had been its allies between 2011-2013, but none of them were politically excluded either, as the Syrian regime was). As well as the YPG the US had tens of thousands of Syrian rebels (a bigger fighting force than the YPG) who had fought ISIS as much as the YPG (and prior to Kobane it should be noted had an infinitely better success rate against them, kicking them out of West Aleppo’s countryside and Idlib in 2014 without any “international coalition” help) that it could have backed. Instead, it explicitly chose not to – in fact it went further and actively bombed the forces which had the greatest potential to both militarily and ideologically weaken ISIS (Syrian Islamists), those with the greatest potential to drag non-secular anti-Assad recruits away from it. Along with the cutting of supplies to FSA factions, the US was essentially weakening the FSA, bombing the Islamic Front, bombing the Nusra Front, and then supposedly asking people not to join ISIS.
This of course undermined its anti-ISIS campaign and contributed further to radicalisation, but to be fair, the US campaign against ISIS has never been fully-serious, from the prevention to the disease phase.
The difference between opposing a cause and opposing a method
– If you came to me today and said, would you return Saddam Hussein to power, would I say Yes?
No, I wouldn’t.
Does this mean that I agreed with how he was removed from power?
No, it doesn’t, and if I could go back in time I would change that. But if I could go back in time I would also change him.
For so many people there is a dangerous conflation of anti-foreigner politics and those people being “good” rulers.
To the observer from within:
Do not snort when I talk about “freedom” or “dignity” – these things are not the preserve and privilige of the West and its citizens. These are our values as well. Do not think that us advocating for them means we advocate for the political systems that have appropriated them. Neither should you think that you saying “we can’t do those things” makes you “anti-Western”, you are simply keeping the privilige with them.
A good ruler is one that does not oppress those under his custodianship. He is one that does not order the deaths of even a single innocent that opposes him. Is one that does not believe in the theory of “you can’t make an omlette without breaking eggs”. A good ruler loses his legitimacy the moment he chooses to spill the blood of innocents. Even if it is a few – after all, as we see, when the mind is set it matters not even if he kills thousands.
Do not opportunistically talk about freedom and democracy when the West is actively oppressing it, but refuse to mention it when someone else takes the lead. Do not use freedom and dignity as a political tool if you do not believe in it, always, regardless of who’s the depriver on the other side. Do not use the sanctity of blood as a political tool, if you cannot condemn its wanton violation, always. Do not praise a ruler, if you cannot deny to yourself that he is likely to have used violence to spill innocent blood. Do not act as an apologist and say that the shedding of protesters’ blood was necessary “self-defence” against a foreign plot.
If your ultimate aim is to show yourself to be “an opponent of the West”, without understanding the reasons you are “an opponent of the West”, then pick up a Kalashnikov and join ISIS, Boko Haram or Al-Qaeda. You may not be as extreme in the physical depravity you are willing to inflict, but you are just as mindless as them.
Westernisation is about how your mind has been colonised, even if its orientation is to be anti-West. It is about believing that we need a “strong ruler” to keep stability. It is about ignoring the deaths of even single-digit number of protesters because of a government or leader’s authoritarianism/egomania. Do not ever expect you will reach the dignity that we aspire to have one day, equal to and beyond that of Western citizens, if you think like that.
To the observer from without:
To many people, thus, the actual cause mentioned in the title is not their primary concern if it is not about Western intervention (in this case, the Middle East is always a hot topic because of destrucive Western policy there). Thus, if that aspect is taken out solidarity and/or interest ceases to be forthcoming, at best, and at worst the story is skewed in order to remain relevant (deemphasising local agency in favour of Western one). They may legitimately ask, if we are to ignore the West’s role, why should we be focussing on this particular bad dictator here rather than anywhere else in the world? Our focus here is because of the West’s involvement. That’s fine, but once you enter that paradigm then you cannot pick and choose what constitutes its dynamics. When you enter, you must engage fully with all of them. If you enter a paradigm which involve authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, you must engage with that independently (as well as interdependently) of the role of the West. Do not condemn a regime once it enjoys Western support, if you are to apologise for it once its Western benefactor becomes embarassed and is in-turn replaced. If you enter a paradigm which involves geopolitical imperialist competition in the Middle East, you must engage with that as well, regardless of the role of the West in (for example) Russia’s actions.
If you enter that paradigm, and your observations on the situation do not cease, then you say “down with Saddam” if the people are saying that, even if the US is criticising him. If you enter that paradigm, then you say “down with Russia’s invasion”, even if the US is criticising it, if that is also what the people say. Western imperialism is about oppressing people, do not become the oppressor when the West changes its role. Most of all, do not pervert the reality to suit your own interests, of remaining relevant to anti-establishmentism. That would be the biggest disservice of all.
[This was pasted from a personal Facebook post]