These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 31, 2011.
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Youths in punch-up on council coach trip to Blackpool
From The Express and Star
A group of Asian and Muslim teenagers started a fight in Blackpool after being taken on a taxpayer-funded trip to the seaside resort to stop them causing trouble at an English Defence League march in the Black Country. Please stop trying to kid us that there were Hindu and Sikh youngsters in the troop – we are not stupid! But during their day-long excursion, they were involved in a fight which left father-of-two Derrick Brownhill unconscious and with bruising and swelling to his face and head, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard. The trip cost the public purse more than £2,113 and saw the group, who were aged 17 and 19 and from the Tipton and Oldbury areas, accompanied by a police officer and officials from the council.
Prosecutor Mr David Swinnerton told the court that “The five defendants were part of a group of 19 Asian and Muslim males specifically taken to Blackpool by a police officer and five other officials from Sandwell Borough Council for the purpose of distracting them from anti-social behaviour on the day of the EDL march in Dudley.”
At the time of the violence, two of the gang were on bail for a hammer attack in Tipton that took place three months before the Blackpool incident.Three of the defendants were jailed for up to 21 months by Judge Amjad Nawaz yesterday, who told them:
“There is nothing more disturbing than to have to sentence a dock full of young people just past their childhood years having engaged in offences of such severity that custodial sentences are inevitable.”
The Telegraph has their names and a little more about what they actually did. They are:- Riad Hussain, Wasim Telhat, Fahad Atiq, Raja Rashid and Mazahar Taheir.
. . . the group confronted Mr Brownhill, a father of two, who was travelling on a coach parked nearby that had travelled from the Kingswinford area of the West Midlands. . . Mr Brownhill was punched and hit with such force by Riad Hussain that both feet left the ground and he was unconscious for a brief period. Members of the group were heard chanting racist comments towards the coach, in earshot of Mr Brownhill's pregnant partner, two young daughters and a group of elderly people
Councillor Derek Rowley, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for safer neighbourhoods, said: “Clearly, this was a very unfortunate incident which we totally condemn. We have a duty to foster good community relations and we will continue to work with local people and all our partner organisations towards that aim.”
He said the men were sent to Blackpool because it was thought they could be aggressors as well as targets. During the EDL march in Dudley, a 16-year-old girl suffered a broken leg, six protestors were hit by a car and 21 people were arrested.
If I remember correctly the speeding car, which scattered protestors one of whom was the girl whose leg was broken was driven by a man of Asian appearance, accompanied by a passenger ditto. I do not recall hearing of their eventual arrest.
It (Sandwell Council) said although it had no plans to do anything similar in the future, it would have to consider removing young people from situations in an attempt to prevent them from getting into trouble.
Posted on 03/31/2011 3:14 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Among The Twittering Masses
There is this funny comment on Assad's speech:
"What about yesterday. One of 's "parliamentary" goons crossed the line... "Labayaka ya Bashar". Blatant Shirk."
Here's how you are supposed to say it.
Posted on 03/31/2011 9:07 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
CAMERA On Akiva Eldar, One More Israeli Who Cannot Bear To Face Reality
Eldar on Who Started the War
The August 2001 bombing of Sbarro pizzeria
In his column Monday berating the Israeli leadership for not having accepted the Arab League initiative, veteran Ha'aretz journalist Akiva Eldar provides another example of his selective vision ("Arab peace initiative is another missed opportunity for Israel"). He writes:
Instead of making peace with all the Arab states, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched a war against the Palestinians the day after the March 2002 Arab League summit: In response to the murder of 30 Israelis in the Hamas suicide attack at a Passover seder in Netanya's Park Hotel, he ordered the army to reoccupy the territories (Operation Defensive Shield ).
That is an interesting take on reality. If Eldar considers Operation "Defensive Shield" the launching of a war against the Palestinians, how does he describe the year and a half-long terror offensive directed against Israel which preceded the operation? In Eldar's mind, was the murder and carnage of Israelis on buses, cafes, and pizzerias, and the firing of rockets at Israeli towns -- which first began in the beginning of 2001 -- simply the normal course of affairs?
Eldar's sentence reflects his worldview in which methodical and institutionalized Palestinian violence against Israelis is natural and acceptable. Yet, when Israel responds (after 135 Israelis were murdered in one month alone), and attacks in return in order to defend its citizens, and not to murder innocent civilians indiscriminately, Eldar accuses Israel of "launch[ing] a war."
-- By Yishai Goldflam
Posted on 03/31/2011 9:17 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
When An Al-Sabah Meets An Al-Sabah Going Through The Rye
Kuwait government resigns to avoid parliament grilling
Mar 31, 2011
Cairo/Kuwait City - The Kuwait government resigned on Thursday, the official news agency KUNA reported, after parliament filed an application to question three ministers.
The cabinet had been expected to quit after the ministers, all relatives of the emir, were set to to be grilled by legislators over allegations of impropriety and administrative violations.
Among the cabinet members due to be questioned was Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, who also serves as Information Minister.
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah was expected to accept the resignation and reappoint Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah to form a new government, according to Kuwait media.
It is not unusual for parliament to try to call ministers to account for their actions. However, the ruling family considers it a breach of their honour if a relative of the emir has to justify himself to the legislature.
In addition to the oil minister, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah and the minister for economy, construction and development, Sheikh Ahmed al-Fahd al-Sabah, had been called for questioning.
Several members of parliament have said the motion had nothing to do with the upheavals in the Arab world.
But Shiite Muslim opposition lawmaker Saleh Ashour said he wanted to question the foreign minister because he had 'failed to safeguard the integrity and interests of the country in the face of insults from Bahrain,' according to the Kuwait Times.
Ashour said that highly offensive statements were made against a number of Kuwaiti Shiite families, his included, on Bahrain state television over the weekend.
Kuwait sent troops to Bahrain, after a request by the government there was made to neighbouring Gulf States, to help quell anti- government protests led by the Shiite majority against the Sunni minority monarchy.
Posted on 03/31/2011 9:25 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Sunnis And Shi'a Doing What Comes -- In Islam -- Naturally
From The Economist:
Sectarian bad blood
Regional tension shakes Iraq too
Mar 31st 2011 | BAGHDAD
Baghdadis want to have their say too
STILL recovering from its own bloody sectarian strife, Iraq has been rattled by events in Bahrain, where a mainly Shia protest movement has been quelled by the island kingdom’s ruling Sunni minority, backed by forces from Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf states. After the Saudi troops moved into Manama, Bahrain’s capital, in mid-March, Iraqi members of parliament fired off a string of angry speeches.
Politicians from Iraq’s Shia majority, including a former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, castigated the Saudi intervention. Some Sunni, Kurdish and Christian members of Iraq’s parliament also condemned the Saudis, but the speaker, Osama el-Nujaifi, who hails from a leading Sunni family in Mosul, Iraq’s strongly Sunni city in the north, decided to close parliament down for ten days. Some Iraqi politicians, including Iyad Allawi, a Shia who leads the main Sunni block in parliament, said that a hiatus was required to stop sectarian tension boiling over in parliament.
But it is still bubbling. Politicians and religious leaders have continued to respond to events in Bahrain along sectarian lines. Muqtada al-Sadr, a populist Iraqi Shia cleric with a big following who leads his movement from a temporary home in Iran, has castigated the intervention too. Members of his political party have called for Bahrain’s embassy in Baghdad to be closed, whereas Haider al-Mulla, a Sunni MP, blames the uprising in Bahrain on Iranian interference and says that Iran’s embassy in Baghdad should be shut.
The prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia who spent several years in exile in Iran, has also slammed Saudi Arabia, embarrassing his own ministry of foreign affairs by disparaging so powerful a neighbour ahead of a summit of the Arab League planned for May. Far from curbing his language, Mr Maliki later went on to say that the Saudi intervention in Bahrain could lead to a sectarian war in the region.
The authorities in Bahrain have since suspended flights to Iraq, as well as to Iran and Lebanon, where Hizbullah, the Shia party-cum-militia which underpins Lebanon’s current coalition government, has praised Bahrain’s protesters. Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s leader, enraged Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family by likening it to Libya’s Qaddafis. This, said Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid al-Khalifa, was tantamount to a “terrorist threat”. Hizbullah, he claimed, was training Bahrain’s opposition; the leader of one of Bahrain’s more radical opposition movements, al-Haq, had stopped off in Beirut to meet Hizbullah people on his way back from exile in London to Bahrain. Newspapers in the Gulf say the authorities in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have deported several hundred Lebanese Shia expatriates.
Iraq’s parliament has now reopened but the row has weakened a coalition government that is in any case built on a fragile ethno-sectarian power-sharing agreement. More than a year after elections, no defence or interior minister has been appointed. Iran, it is said, has been promoting its own candidate for the interior ministry, whereas the defence ministry was promised to Mr Allawi’s Sunni-backed block. But Mr Maliki has rejected several of Mr Allawi’s nominees. Although the prime minister has a firm grip on the security services and has been trying to expand his own executive powers, he is looking more isolated as erstwhile allies complain that he has broken the promises he made when he was putting his ruling coalition together.
Mr Sadr has sought to capitalise on Mr Maliki’s weakness by making himself look less sectarian, for instance by holding press conferences alongside Mr Allawi. The Sadrists have also declared themselves in favour of a freer press and have sounded sympathetic towards protesters on the street. If relations with Mr Maliki worsen, the Sadrists may throw their weight wholeheartedly behind the protesters, who have so far been mainly secular. But some of them say they would work with Mr Sadr’s anti-Western religious movement if that would help their cause.
Posted on 03/31/2011 10:23 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Amil Imani On Those Missing Muslim Moderates
March 30, 2011
The Missing Moderate Muslims
“I am already against the next war,” read the bumper sticker on a car ahead of me. I long to tell the driver: the next war is already here; Islamists are waging it in every corner of the globe and the “moderate Muslims” are either actively supporting them, placing the blame on the West, or simply looking the other way. This war aims to wipe out everything that free people cherish, including the right of expressing their sentiments. Banishing war has been the perennial dream of mankind’s best, while its worst have been frustrating its realization. To renounce war unilaterally and unconditionally is surrender and death.
Humanity has suffered horrific wars in the past. Yet, the present multi-form and multi-front war waged by Islamists has the potential of inflicting more suffering and destroying more lives than any before it. Ruthless Islamic forces are advancing rapidly in their conquests while those of freedom are acquiescing and retreating. Before long, Islamism is poised to achieve its Allah-mandated goal of cleansing the earth of all non-Muslims. Any and all means and weapons are to be enlisted in the service of this final holy war that aims to establish the Islamic Ummah.
But Islam is a religion of peace and the great majority of Muslims are not party to any plans and actions of the radicals, so claim academic pundits, leftist journalists, and hired Islamic apologists. The incantation of these “authorities” is the lullaby that puts the people into a sleep of complacency. For an average free human busy with all manners of demands on his time and resources, would hardly want to worry about the threat of Islamism when those he believes are “in the know” emphatically claim that there is nothing to worry about. Some of these advocates of Islam go further by accusing those who sound the alarm as racist, bigot, hatemonger and much more.
But where are all the peace-loving moderate Muslims that supposedly are in great majority? The Muslims who are neither jihadists themselves, nor do they support them? I and others, time and again, have been calling upon them to stand up and show the world that they oppose the fanatical Islamists. It is small comfort even if the vast majority of Muslims are not fanatic radicals, when they do nothing to demonstrate their position. It is instructive to recall that it is invariably a minority, and more often than not a very small minority, that launches a campaign of death and destruction.
Perhaps it is wishful thinking on the part of the non-Muslims to believe that one can be a Muslim moderate, given that Islam is radical at its very core. To be a moderate Muslim demands that the person explicitly renounce much of the violent, exclusionary, and radical teachings of the Quran. By so doing, the individual issues his own death warrant in Islamic countries, is condemned as apostate if he lives in a non-Islamic land and may even earn a fatwa on his head.
It is deadly, in any confrontation, to assess the adversary through one’s own mental template, because the two templates can be vastly different from each other. People in the West are accustomed in relativistic rather than absolutistic thinking. To Westerners, just about all matters range from black to white with an array of gray shades between the two poles. To Muslims, by contrast, nearly everything is in black and white and with virtually no shades of gray. The former type of thinking is typical of more mature minds, while the latter is that of young children and the less-enlightened.
This absolutist thinking is enshrined in the Quran itself. When the starting point for a Muslim is the explicit fanatical words of Allah in the Quran, then the faithful are left with no choice other than literally obeying its dictates or even taking it to the next level of fanaticism. Good Muslims, for instance, do not shake hands with women, even though the Quran does not explicitly forbid it. Although the Quran stipulates that men are rulers over women, good Muslim men take it upon themselves to rule women not much better than they treat their domesticated animals.
All extreme systems operate outside of the constraints of checks-and-balances and according to the principle of negative feedback loop. That is, once it starts, the extreme becomes more and more extreme until self-destructs and takes the larger system down with it. Cancer is a case in point. It begins with only a few cells. Left unchecked, the few cells continue expanding and stop only with the death of the host.
Fanatical Islam may indeed be a minority. Yet it is a deadly cancer that has metastasized throughout the body of the world. Urgent confrontation of this advancing disease is imperative to stave it off.
Dozens of Islamist shooting wars of lesser and greater bloodletting are presently raging in the world, aided and abetted by the “moderate Muslim” majority. The so called moderate Muslims, even if they exist, are complicit in the crimes of the radicals either by providing them with funds, logistics, and new recruits or by simply failing to actively confront and unequivocally renounce them.
As is the case with cancer cells, it is the malignant minority that is death-bearing.
In Germany of the 1930s, for instance, very few people were Nazis and most Germans dismissed them as a bunch of hot-headed fools. Before long, the hot-headed few cowed in the dismissive masses and as a result millions lost their lives.
The tentacles of the Islamist hydra have deeply penetrated the world. The Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood poses a clear threat in Egypt with its large block of representatives in the parliament, but also wages its deadly campaign through its hundreds of well-established and functioning branches all over the world.
The Wahhabis finance thousands of madressehs throughout the world where young boys are brainwashed into becoming fanatical footsoldiers for the Petrodollar-flush Saudis and other emirs of the Persian Gulf.
The end-of-the-world believers of the bomb-aspiring Iran’s Khomeinism are busy establishing the Shia hegemony in an arc extending from the Gulf of Oman to the Mediterranean Sea.
Al Qaeda and dozens of its like-minded jihadists relentlessly carry their barbaric campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, the Philippines, the former Soviet Union republics, the Russian federation, Somalia, North Africa and parts of Europe, as well as other lands.
I keep hoping that the purported peace-loving moderate Muslims are indeed the great majority who would prove me right by demonstrating their peacefulness and moderation in action. Thus far, only a faint murmur of equivocation is all that I hear from these people.
Are “moderate Muslims” an illusion? The only viable alternative for peaceful people of Islamic background, therefore, is to leave the bondage of violent Islam altogether and join ranks with humanity’s free.
The selected puppet president Ahamadinejad boasts that Iran’s mullahs’ nuclear train has no reverse gear and lacks brakes. He should harbor no illusions. The non-Islamist masses of Iranians will not docilely submit to the mullahs’ maniacal plans. It is the unmatched force of freedom that has no reverse gear and it is the force fully capable and determined to bring the mullahs’ train to a screeching halt before it is armed with the Armageddon nuclear weapons they so doggedly pursue.
Posted on 03/31/2011 10:52 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Save Iran -- Bomb Iran (A Continuing Contretemps)
In the heady days and weeks of the Green Revolution, and the Islamic Republic seemed to some just about to topple because of demonstrators in the streets, Amil Imani was among those most hopeful. So hopeful was he that he took issue with those -- well, with me -- for suggesting that the one thing that would ensure the permanent survival of the Islamic Republic of Iran would be the attainment of nuclear weapons. For this would make the regime impossible to dislodge militarily, and within Iran, would cement the support of the Muslim masses, who would be so proud of such an achievement. No land invasion of Iran is necessary, but military strikes, to supplement Stuxnet, and from on high, could be undertaken, especially now that Sunni regimes and peoples in the Gulf are so exercised about Shi'a Iran and its real or perceived troublemaking and threats to the wellbeing of local Sunnis in Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq.
I don't know if this position still disturbs Amil Imani, or whether he's reconsidered his earlier reliance on street demonstrations to overturn the regime in Iran. A Russian patriot could have ardently desired American -- or later, during that dustup on the Ussuri River, even Chinese -- attacks on the Soviet Union. A German patriot could right up to 1945 have ardently wished for military attacks on Nazi Germany to succeed -- have rooted for Bomber Harris and those raids on Hamburg, Dresden, Cologne, Berlin. But many Iranians in exile seem to be unwilling -- Amil Imani is not alone -- to call for such military strikes. Why that should be, why they are incapable of understanding -- like those young "pro-democracy" Arabs who fail to understand who is most likely to be able to take advantage of a weakened state, or like those secular and Mossadeghesque Iranians (Ghotbzadeh et al.) who thought they would take power in Iran, only to find themselves outmaneuvered, and outnumbered, by Khomeini and his sinisiter associates who knew they had the support of the primitive and unhinged-by-oil-wealth masses.
Perhaps he has had time to think about this some more. Or not.
Here, re-posted, iust to remind readers, is the article about Iran that was prompted by remarks from Amil Imani, an article intended to continue the contretemps. Only he knows if he still holds to his original position. I see no reason to change mine.
Save Iran - Bomb Iran
by Hugh Fitzgerald (January 2010)
In remarks published at this site recently, the Iranian-American exile, Amil Imani, a fearless apostate, and a patriot (who wishes both his former country, Iran, and his new country, America, well), argues that it would be misguided for either the United States or Israel to bomb the nuclear project of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is totally opposed to such an action:
“Bombing the [nuclear weapons] facilities is the worst thing America and Israel can possibly do. By so doing, they throw the Mullahs a lifeline and hugely hurt the Iranian people.” A military attack would also solidify the Islamic world against America, Israel and the West. The best thing to do is to impose the measured but effective sanctions that I have listed above and provide moral and financial support for the Iranian opposition in Iran.”
I think Amil Imani, and other Iranians in exile who may share his views on this, are dead wrong, and that the interests, in some cases, of Iranian nationalists, even the most un-Islamic of them, and of the Infidels – the Americans and the Israelis above all, but not only the Americans and the Israelis – require that the nuclear weapons project, that has gone on, without any significant or long-term halt (whatever some in the C.I.A. may have tendentiously insisted a year or two ago) and the final achievement of which has become an obsession with the people who rule Iran, the remaining loyalists among the “akhoonds” (a term for a Muslim cleric, used only dismissively by Iranians in exile) and the ferocious Revolutionary Guards, called the Basiji.
For what Amil Irani should ask himself is this: what will be the consequences of the attainment of nuclear weapons by the people who run the Islamic Republic of Iran? It is not true that the Islamic Republic of Iran is on its last legs. It has demonstrated a ferocity – see Mohammad al Jaffari, see Shirazi, see Ali Larijani (just a few months ago breathlessly described as a “moderate” in the Western press), see assorted clerics who have not echoed the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, see many others. And see, too, how silent are the rural poor, the Iranian villagers who, it should not be forgotten, far outnumber the educated, or the being-educated, that is, the students of Tehran and Ispahan and a few other cities, and whose minds and hearts will swell with pride when the Islamic Republic of Iran acquires nuclear weapons, and perhaps even explodes one in the desert over, say, Baluchistan, just to make things clear to any Sunnis in that area, or to the southwest, in Khuzistan.
But, some Iranian exiles may insist that we will win, we are practically toppling the regime now. I don’t agree. I don’t think the regime is about to go. It would be nice to think so. But again and again, those who have been of a secular bent have always miscalculated the power of Islam, and those impelled by Islam. When Kanan Makiyya confidently predicted, for his Washington friends, a brand-new Iraq, sane and stable and grateful to the Americans, what was he thinking? He himself now says he did not understand, he did not appreciate, the realities of his own country. Could it be that, as someone who inhabited a world consisting of the moral and intellectual elite among the Iraqis in exile, and what’s more someone who had been not only out of Iraq, but out of the Muslim Arab Middle East for many years, he had forgotten the hold of Islam, and what the attitudes and atmospherics of Islam do to the minds of men, save for the remarkable few (such as Mithal al-Alusi), who must live in a society, a state, suffused with Islam?
Iran is not an Arab country. It has another, pre-Islamic identity, and the narrative of Iranian history, with its Darius and its Cyrus and its obvious monuments – Persepolis and similar places are hard-to-ignore evidence of the pre-Islamic history, and the Persian poets are held, in the Iranian national narrative, to have helped Iran withstand the cultural and linguistic imperialism of the Arabs, who benefited so often from all the ways in which Islam is, and always will be, a vehicle for Arab supremacism. When it came to Arab cultural and linguistic imperialism, the Iranians managed to repel it. But now a regime that has nothing to do with the history of Iran, and that has everything to do with the curse of Islam, could stay in power forever, or at least for many more grim decades, if it manages to obtain nuclear weapons.
Like Kanan Makiya, like Rend al-Rahim Francke, like perhaps even Ahmed Chalabi, Iranians who have spent years abroad come to believe, I think, that the regime must be crumbling. Vladimir Nabokov somewhere describes how like millions of other Russian émigrés, living in Paris, Berlin, Harbin, Prague, in the 1920s, he was absolutely convinced that the Bolsheviks would fall. They didn’t fall, not for another sixty years, and tens of millions of victims later. For years there have been those who claim to have inside dope about Iran, and “contacts with Iranian exiles” (think of Michael Ledeeen), and for years these people have been claiming that Iran’s regime is just about to fall. It should; it deserves to; it is a monstrous regime. But all the excitement of the demonstrations, the two weeks of them that followed the “election” of Ahmadinejad, and the recent smaller demonstrations that have caused such hope and such excitement and such premature anticipation, should not cloud minds that have to think about the consequences, and the consequences not only as they are viewed by Iranian exiles thinking only of how best to shake the regime, but of the security calculations that must be made by those responsible for protecting the people of the United States, of Western Europe, of Israel. The view, and the analyses, may be different; the interests may even be different.
I don’t think they are, however. I think that the greatest damage to the interests of Iranians in Iran, and in exile, that is those who want to remove the Islamic regime, is to see that regime manage to obtain that weaponry. I repeat: the Primitives always outnumber the advanced, secular classes. In Turkey, the secular class, after 80 years of uninterrupted and systematic constraints, of all kinds, put on Islam, find themselves under siege, find that Islam is back, despite Kemalism, and with a vengeance, discover that they, the secular class made possible by Kemalism, do not constitute a majority of Turks but more like one-quarter of the population, and that is not enough to resist the onslaught, clever and relentless, by Erdogan and the others we call “Islamists” but who should merely be called “the Turkish Muslims who take Islam seriously.” Just as the secular Turks miscalculated their power, secular Iranians miscalculate their power, or rather, they dismiss too readily the majority of Iranians who, while they may not be enthusiastic about the Islamic Republic, nonetheless will be so thrilled by Iran becoming a nuclear power (Kissinger appeared to be in favor) – a goal sought by the vainglorious Shah, and he might have received that nuclear information from America, and other forms of technical assistance, had he, the Shah, not been deposed by Khomeini by means of those tapes made at Neauphle-le-chateau, and the ruthlessness of Khomeini’s primitive brigades, who did such things as burn down the Rex Cinema (killing nearly 500 people trapped inside), deemed “decadent” for its perfectly innocent (but Infidel) movies.
Now the Iranian exiles should ask themselves this question: if the Shah had made his request for nuclear knowhow a few years earlier, and if his request had been granted, and if Iran had become a nuclear power, and if Khomeini and his bezonians had then managed to depose the Shah, they would have come into possession of such weaponry. And then where would the world be today? But, we are told, the epigones of Khomeini, the akhoonds and the Basiji, are on the ropes. Are they, really? And will they still be on the ropes if a nuclear bomb, an Iranian bomb, the Iranian, the Shi’ite, the Persian bomb, is dropped in the desert, or will they be hailed and hailed and hailed by the kind of people whose families supply the sons who go and become members of the Basiji, and enjoy smashing the skulls of those who like to watch Kierostami, or go skiing, or simply enjoy the book-learning of universities?
Let’s suppose that in the best of outcomes, the regime falls in Iran, and is then replaced by, say, a regime as close to that of the Shah, minus the corruption and minus Savak, as possible. Imagine it to be headed by the Shah’s son, who would take guidance from his charming francophone mother, the former Shahbanou. And imagine, too, that many Iranians in exile move back to Iran, determined to curb the power of Islam in Iran. Imagine even that, say, Abbas Kierostami, and a dozen other figures of similar stature, mimic the act of Emir Kusturica (who, though born into a Muslim family, and considered to be a Muslim, decided a few years ago to have himself christened as Serbian Orthodox because, he said, of course that was what his ancestors had been before being forcibly converted to Islam by the conditions of Ottoman rule), and decide to become Zoroastrians, noting that this is the religion of Iran, and that the conditions under which their ancestors were converted can well be imagined, and they thought it time to publicly demonstrate that freedom of religion, including freedom to jettison Islam, would now be protected, and so on. Stirring. Wonderful. But what would be the reaction, not to my imaginary scenario, but to something far more modest, if there were an attempt to re-secularize Iran, at least to the extent it had been under the Shah? Would the primitive masses of Iran easily acquiesce? If the Shah of Iran, that seeming pillar of stability, with that great oil wealth with which he attempted to make life better for the rural poor, could be followed by Khomeini (and the 30 years of hell that followed), why and if Khomeini and his epigones could then be followed, come the new regime, by the Son of Shah, then why could not the Son of Shah be replaced, ultimately, by another Khomeini-like figure, some Muslim cleric, or some military man nostalgic for Islam? In other words, Infidel lands that are the potential victims of Muslim nuclear aggression or nuclear blackmail, cannot rely on a change in regime, both because that change may not be quite so inexorable or impending as one may be led to believe, and because even if the change does come about, no Muslim country – even Iran – can be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, beyond the single unfortunate case of hideous Pakistan, a country which, however, is being vigilantly monitored and not being allowed to acquire more potent and effective means to deliver such weaponry.
It may be painful for those who are Iranian patriots to hear from those who wish them well that nonetheless we do not wish them so well that we are willing to accept their assurances, and their hopes, about the use of nuclear weapons. And it may seem presumptious, too, that a non-Iranian who does not know Farsi, and cannot possibly have the kind of contacts that Iranians in exile have, nonetheless is unwilling to go along with the hopeful enthusiasm and belief in an impending change in regime or, to some still more outrageously, saying that it doesn’t matter what regime Iran comes to have, because it still is a country, like Turkey after 80 years of Kemalism, still possesses masses who are Muslim, and who are susceptible to the siren song of Islam, even to a “return to Islam” as has happened, alas, in Turkey.
The series of assumptions made by Amil Imani and other Iranian exiles, including those who have shed their Islam forever, when it comes to the nuclear bomb project of the Islamic Republic if Iran (IRI), need to be examined. First, the assumption that the regime is teeter-tottering, and any day now, before the acquisition of nuclear weapons, that regime will fall. This is not a given. Then there is the assumption that even if the regime is still in power when those nuclear weapons are finally produced, and perhaps even tested, that will have no effect on the ability of the regime to withstand those who wish to overthrow it. Really? When I claim that such a feat will win the Iranian regime all kinds of support, formerly lukewarm, among the primitive masses (50% of the Iranian people? 60%? 70%?), outside of the major cities, what is the reply? Is it that most Iranians will not be thrilled by such an achievement, Iran now a nuclear power, for all to see? Oh, they will be thrilled. They will say to themselves, well, yes, the elites of North Tehran and the exiles may think one way, but the Islamic Republic makes us proud, proud, proud. When one reads the observations on Iran and Iranians by acute foreign students, such as Sir Reader Bullard and A.K. S. and J. B. Kelly,-the one aspect of national character that is always mentioned is that of pride.
One source of Western woe has been the naïve belief that Islam can be permanently constrained. It keeps coming up from under the ice like Rasputin under the Neva. It keeps trying to return, in the Shah’s Iran, in Ataturk’s Turkey, in Egypt under both the ancient regime of fat Farouk and then under the stratokleptocrats of Nasser and Naguib, and then just Nasser, and Sadat, and Mubarak with his Friends-and-Family Plan. The mistakes have been shared both by Western specialists, and by the secularists themselves. Bernard Lewis has spent much of his life studying modern Turkey, and he did forefeel the return of Islam (the title of an early essay in “Encounter”), but he surely has been surprised at how thorough and rapid has been the assault on Kemalism in Turkey. And so have the Turksih secularists themselves, who never expected to be threatened as they now feel threatened. And the power of Islam can be seen in post-war Iraq, where not the secularists (how many votes did Mithal al-Alusi receive when he last ran?) but the parties connected to particular Islamic sects are in the ascendant, though to read some of the secular Iraqi bloggers, of course writing in English in order to influence American policy, you would think that the secularists would soon be shown to be in control. But it isn’t so. The wishful thinking, all over the lands of Islam, of the secular and the Westernized is remarkable. Having managed to jettison Islam themselves, they refuse to recognize its fantastic and continued hold on the minds of others, of so many others.
Not only should the Americans bomb the nuclear project of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for their own good and siffucieint reasons. But they should do so, pace Imani, pace many other Iranians in exile, because it is the one thing that will so humiliate the regime in the eyes of its own people, that it will not recover. Oh, I’m sure in the first weeks, even for several months following such an attack, there will be a Rally-Round-the-Flag effect. Some of the less sober Iranian dissidents will ostentatiously declare their outrage, and some may declare their outrage and add that “we were on the verge of winning and now this” which will be a convenient way to explain, and lay blame for, the regime’s sturdy ability to resist those who would overthrow it.
But what happens after those weeks or months are over? How likely is it that the aggressive regime of Ahmedinejad , Khameini, Jaffari, Shirazi, Larijani, will be able, once it has been proven impotent, and its most important program, the focus of the entire regime, upon which vast sums have been spent, and yet now, though it will not be entirely destroyed, will have been so damaged as to be set back, by many years, and what’s more, the regime, like Saddam Hussein after the destruction by Israel of his nuclear reactor in 1981, did not dare to again pursue nuclear weapons, but abandoned it, knowing that Israel meant business and would attack again. If the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear project is attacked, it need not be completely destroyed for the attack to be a great success. The attack need only buy time, and also make clear to the Iranians that the Western world, beginning but not ending with the United States and Israel (ideally, acting in concert), mean business.
The regime will have lost face, and will also have been seen to have squandered tens of billions of dollars on a project that has in the end came to nothing. It is surely not beyond the wit of the Iranians in exile, and of the Iranians in opposition, to make that point, again and again, and to explain that whatever other horrors the Islamic Republic has inflicted on those it rules, it has also wasted the country’s patrimony on its attempt at weapons acquisition of a kind that would inexorably call forth the kind of response that the smoldering soil of Natanz reflects. The regime will become no longer feared, but a figure of fun, of ridicule, of waste, and this will be understood not only in Teheran, but in the villages all over Iran. And the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has shown its ferocity, and shown it can withstand the students and their supporters, of every age and type, in the streets, will not be able to withstand the destruction of everything it has been working for, by the implacable military power, the planes, rockets, and missiles, deployed in a good cause by Infidel nation-states that are not kidding around, and are fully prepared to use them, in order to deny Iran or any other Muslim state, the possibility of acquiring weapons of mass destruction, prepared to use them, if necessary, again and yet again.
The most farseeing of the dissidents should not oppose, but ardently hope for, a military attack on the nuclear project that, if it succeeds, will only ensure the survival of the Islamic Republic of Iran for many more unendurable decades of cruelty and misrule.
Posted on 03/31/2011 10:57 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
A Musical Interlude: You Was Right, Baby (Peggy Lee)
Posted on 03/31/2011 11:18 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Mr. Rennert Writes, For The Umpteenth Time, To Mr. Brauchli
Dear Mr. Brauchli:
Janine Zacharia, the Washington Post's Jerusalem correspondent, concocts a conjectural piece entirely with anonymous sources that Israel somehow hopes that Bashar Assad will emerge from spreading anti-government protests in Syria still firmly in power ("Israel, no fan of Assad, may prefer that he stay" March 30, page A8).
While acknowledging that Assad has been allied with Iran in providing massive amounts of rockets and other weaponry to the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebaon, on balance, Zacharia concludes, Israelis feel they're better off with him than with some problematic Islamist or radical successor. After all, he's maintained quiet on the Syria-Israel border for decades.
"Israelis have been forced to confront the notion that they may well be better off with him than without him," she writes.
To support her thesis of an Israeli tilt toward Assad, Zacharia quotes an unnamed cabinet member as predicting that Assad will survive the current unrest. She also cites a comment from an unidentified "senior Israeli military commander that "we've had a dictator, but it's been very quiet." But even he -- whoever he may be -- stresses that "it's absolutely clear to us that the Syrians play a negative role in the region."
Thin gruel indeed to substantiate the headline and Zacharia's conclusion that Israelis would prefer to see Assad remain in power.
But it gets even worse.
Zacharia's only clearly identified source totally rejects her notion that Israelis think they're probably better off with Assad than with any likely successor regime.
Ehud Ya'ari, a commentator on Arab affairs for Israel's Channel 2 television station, tells her that "A different regime is not naturally an ally of Hezbollah and the Iranians. People would very much like to see Assad gone and his whole regime replaced. That doesn't mean they don't have concerns about what's coming next."
Ya'ari, however, appears at the very end of her piece -- well after she has written the very opposite of his view that Israel would be better off with Assad gone.
Zacharia -- had she chosen to do so -- could have written a a totally different conjectural piece that Israelies "would very much like to see Assad gone" by quoting Ya'ari at the top of her article instead of at the bottom.
I suppose she figured she could make a bigger splash in the Washington Post by concocting a piece about Israelis supposedly wishing to see Assad remain in power.
But all this theorizing is totally beside the point. Israelis are realists. They've got Assad's number and know that, whatever happens, they will continue to live in a tough neighborhood. Wishful thinking is not their wont.
What is more reprehensible in Zacharia's piece than her concoction of a phony lead based entirely on anonymous sources is outright anti-Israel bias in dealing with real threats Israel faces on both its northern border with a Lebanon under Hezbollah's sway and on its southern border with Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Zacharia writes that Israel, in publicizing Hezbollah's huge arsenals of missiles in southern Lebanon, would like to avoid "the kind of international rebuke it received after it launched an operation in late 2008 to try to stop Palestinians militants from firing rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed in that offensive."
For the second day in a row, Zacharia tosses in a "Palestinian" fatality count on the high end of various estimates that fails to tell readers that most of those 1,300 Palestinians were operatives of terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Fewer than half were civilians, according to both IDF and Hamas reports.
She similarly injects a misleading bit of history when she writes that Heabollah has been expanding its weapon arsenals in southern Lebanon, "all since 2006, the last time Israel attacked the Shiite militia."
Again, no mention that Israel attacked Hezbollah in 2006 to put a halt to numerous cross-border attacks by Hezbollah into Israel after Israel's complete withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
Thus, Israel is painted as killing only "Palestinians" -- not terrorists in Gaza, and Israel ends up being the aggressor against Hezbollah in 2006 without mention of prior provocations by Hezbollah, like crossing the border to kill and kidnap Israel soldiers.
Distorted anti-Israel history a la Zachaira and the Washington Post.
Posted on 03/31/2011 11:25 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Just A Reminder To The Alawites
The Massacre of the Military Artillery School at Aleppo - Special Report
On 16th June 1979, in collaboration with a number of the Combatant Vanguard (Attali’a el-Moukatillah) headed by Adnan Uqla, Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf, the officer on duty (in charge of moral and political steering and head of Ba’ath Party Unit) at the Military Artillery school, located at el-Ramouseh district in Aleppo province, committed a massacre, killing 32 cadets and wounding 54 others. The culprits targeted cadets from the Alawite sect, however the then minister of information Mr. Ahmad Iskander Ahmad stated that they included Christians and Sunni Muslims.
The then Syrian minister of the interior, Mr. Adnan Dabbagh accused, in an official statement on 22nd June 1979 the Muslim Brotherhood Organisation for being behind the killings. He said: “ The latest of their (Muslim Brotherhood) assassinations was that in the artillery school in Aleppo, where they were able to bribe a member of the armed forces, Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf, who was born in Tadif, a village in the Governorate of Aleppo. They utilised his presence and his powers on the day when he was duty the officer at the school. On the evening of Saturday 16 June, el-Yousuf was able to bring a number of criminals of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation into the school. He then called the cadets to attend an urgent meeting in the mess hall. When they rushed from their beds in response to his orders and came to the hall, he ordered his criminals accomplices to open fire. Automatic weapons were fired and hand grenades were thrown. In a few moments, 32 unarmed young cadets were killed and 54 wounded.”
On their part, the Muslim Brotherhood Organisation denied any knowledge of the carnage prior to its occurrence, they also denied any involvement in a statement distributed two days later, on 24th June 1979. The statement was entitled: A Statement from Muslim Brotherhood about facts finding and history testimony regarding the artillery school incident in Alepp “The Muslim Brotherhood organisation was surprised, exactly as the others were surprised at the campaign launched against them by Adnan Dabbagh, the Syrian minister of the interior, accusing them of treason and treasury …, charging them with things which he is well aware that they have nothing to do with. He blamed them for the carnage committed at the artillery school and also the assassinations that took and are still taking place in Syria.”
In their statement, Muslim Brotherhood made clear that the group that committed the carnage, including Ibrahim el-Yousuf are well known to the Syrian authority, and that they have nothing to do with Muslim Brotherhood: “a- Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf who committed the carnage at the artillery school in Aleppo is known as an active member of the (ruling) Syrian Ba’ath Party. He has not any connection with Muslim Brotherhood. So, why his actions are imputed to Muslim Brotherhood ? “
In the aforesaid statement, the Brotherhood challenged the Syrian authority to give any evidence about their involvement in the massacre: “ The Muslim Brotherhood challenges any authority in the world to prove, via neutral inquest, whether their leadership or members have ever committed violence; nonetheless the Syrian rule have found many adversaries who believe in the use of violence.”
Twenty years later, the present leader general of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Mr. Ali Sadruddin al-Bayanouni defended his organisation’s innocence when interviewed by “ No Frontiers” programme transmitted by Aljazeera satellite channel on 7th July 1999: “the Syrian authority made us responsible for incidents which we have nothing to do with, like the artillery school massacre, despite the fact that we issued a statement revealing our position. Those who committed the carnage left their statements”, he said Mr. Husni Abo, the leader of the “Combatant Vanguard” who was arrested after the massacre and executed in prison in 1980, said in a televised interview (while still in custody) broadcasted by the Syrian TV in 1980 that he had not approved the massacre. It is said also that Mr. Abdusattar el-Zaim who was killed by the authority near Damascus (1979) and who led the Vanguard after the death of Marwan Hadid in prison (1975) was also against executing the massacre. In the meanwhile Adnan Uqla was very determined to carry out the action. He planned for the massacre and committed it in collaboration with Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf.
Immediately after the massacre, a country-wide campaign was started to uproot the Muslim Brotherhood organisation. In two weeks time, the authority had already arrested about 6000 citizens. Fifteen Muslim Brotherhood members already in prison were executed. The decree issued by the supreme state security court on 27th June 1979, some of whom had been in jail since 1977 all of them have nothing to do with this issue.
Cairo radio commented on the Syrian authority’s executions on 10th July 1979: “ The Syrian authorities have tried to put the blame for the massacre on the Muslim Brotherhood so as to divert attention from the covert conflict between Alawis and Sunnis within the Syrian party… The members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were executed recently had been detained in Syrian prisons since 1977 and had no connection with the artillery school incident.”
The Brotherhood’s statement we quoted, regarded the accusation as a pre-arranged plot made by the authority to trap and condemn the Muslim Brotherhood: “ Numerous Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders and members have been detained for months, and some of them for years. Is the announcement issued by the authority yesterday no more than a plot to condemn them (Muslim Brotherhood) with something they have not done ?”
The Syrian authority linked between the artillery school massacre and the external opposition supported by the Egyptian president regime of Anwar Sadat, because of the former refusal to sign a peace treaty with the Zionists as the latter did: “ These people moved immediately after the (Egyptian-Israeli)Sinai agreement (signed in September 1975). Their criminal actions escalated following al-Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem (in November 1977), and again following the signing of the shameful and humiliating agreements with the Zionist enemy. They began a series of assassinations in Syrian cities, in Aleppo, Hama and Damascus. The victims included innocent citizens in various walks of life and of diverse employment.”
The brotherhood’s response was very critical : “ It is incredible to accuse the Brotherhood of dealing with Israel, however , their struggle on the land of Palestine is known to all, meanwhile the others (Syrian authority) bear the responsibility of the successive defeats.” “ The (Syrian authority) claims that the Brotherhood are acting in favour of Camp David treaty is refuted by the fact that they are the only party who sincerely and insistently refuse a Jewish state on even a foot of the Palestinian land.”
The Combatant Vanguard members (Attalia Almoukatilah) wrote their organisation’s name on the board in the mess hall, recording their responsibility for the operation, leaving literature that confirmed their liability and disclosed their motives behind the massacre. Moreover, a year later on 11th June 1980, Adnan Uqla confirmed the Vanguard’s responsibility for all military actions taken, including the massacre at the artillery school. He stated: “ The Combatant Vanguard has its independent leadership since its conception in 1975, the Combatant Vanguard is the only party responsible for the historical confrontation resolution with the ignorance (Syrian regime)…”
Names of the main figures who planned and executed the massacre of the artillery school in Alepp
1- Adnan Uqla : born in 1953, an architect, resident of Aleppo, his family come from southern Syria. His membership in Muslim Brotherhood was terminated either in 1974 or 1977 because of his opinions regarding the armed confrontation with the Syrian regime.
2- Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf: An active member in the Ba’ath Arab socialist party and the officer of moral and political steering at the artillery school. He was born in Tadif village in the governorate of Aleppo. It was said that his brother was killed by the Syrian authorities and he determined to avenge him. Other sources said that Adnan Uqla convinced him to work for the Combatant Vanguard.
Posted on 03/31/2011 12:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Here is a song by someone or something called IAMX. The song is "I Salute You Christopher", and subtitled "An Ode to Christopher Hitchens". Thanks to Jeremy Harding, who appears to take it seriously:
I salute you, Christopher I salute your life/ How you played the dice. / Your words will live in us / timelessly insane / explosive, fresh, and wise. / Some will just forget / some will close their eyes / some will turn the tide. / I salute you Christopher / whiskey raised and downed / You risked, and you took the crown / Console yourselves / that a scientific death is better than a fairy tale / of the eternal life / Control yourselves / because the man in the sky is a tyrant and a lonely psychopath / dreamed up to steal your minds / A horseman on a trial / A brilliant gentle wreck / with a brutal mouth for press / No submit, no compromise / Saint Christopherof the truth / and the destroyer of smoke screens and threats / They will learn to see in time / they will think before they refuse / the civilization rules / I salute you Christopher/ I declare you as our King / or Queen, depending on your mood...
This is all I could find. I don't know if those three dots mean there's more. Perhaps: "...depending on your mood/ I salute you Christopher, even though you could sometimes/Be rather rude./ I salute you Christopher, though none can/ Say you're well/ But plenty in better health could not/Write such a Hitch-free book on Orwell."
You hum it and I'll sing it.
Posted on 03/31/2011 12:24 PM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 31 March 2011
I have indeed been banned from the increasingly pusillanimous Harry's Place - all intelligent and articulate critics of Islam are banned, while stupid and illiterate ones remain - but I still read it occasionally, and I read this:
The commentator Horowitz refers to in his article opposing ODS is one ‘Ali Sina’, a Canadian-based Iranian blogger endorsed by Robert Spencer and by Mary Jackson, who denounces all Greeks as ‘corrupt thieves’, has been banned from commenting at Harry’s Place and writes at the New English Review.
The horror. This would be the same New English Review that you write for? Or is it some other? Perhaps you are trying to "change the system from within", like all those Socialist hedge fund managers - or perhaps you are just hedging your bets.
As for Greeks being corrupt thieves, as far as Britain is concerned, they and the rest of the siesta countries of the EU certainly are. Greece falsified its accounts in order to get into the EU, so it could qualify for EU subsidies from hard-working Britons, and now a bailout from the hard-working Germans. That is robbery.
Sooner or later, Aymenn, you are going to have to get off the fence. Your bread is probably buttered on the other side.
Posted on 03/31/2011 1:19 PM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Jonathan Tobin On "Democracy"
For those who still remember Roger Cohen’s shilling for the despicable anti-Semitic Iranian regime in early 2009, his current stand as a champion of democracy in the Islamic world still chafes. But ever since the crackdown in Tehran after the stolen presidential election that year, he has been a consistent critic of the tyrannical regimes that dominate the Middle East. However his animus toward Israel — the conceit behind his original dishonest claim that the Ahmadinejad government was actually benign — still informs his writing.
Hence although his ringing manifesto “Arabs Will Be Free” in today’s New York Times was ostensibly about the cause of freedom in the Arab world that he says won’t be denied, it paired a call for the end of the Assad regime in Syria as well as other autocracies with support for Hezbollah. What, you may ask, does the Iranian-supported Lebanese terrorist movement have to do with the Arab Spring? Isn’t Hezbollah the main ally of two of the most repressive regimes in the region: Iran and Syria?
As far as Cohen is concerned, we need to forget about that salient fact as well as the way Hezbollah has co-opted Lebanon and turned its south into a military base bristling with missiles pointed at Israel. That’s because he considers Lebanon to be one of the three democracies in the region, along with Turkey and Israel. That is an absurd assertion but not the only astounding thing in his column.
Lebanon may have elections and a parliament but the idea that the Lebanese government is anything like a functioning democracy is pretty silly. Its government is, even when it is functioning properly, divided strictly along sectarian lines. The parties there are not competing for votes on the basis of ideas but on that of ethnic and religious identity as well as their respective military power. Hence, Hezbollah’s current strength. But that’s okay with Cohen, who takes comfort in that fact that this hasn’t led to war. At least not yet.
Cohen believes that the West must “talk” to Hezbollah and in order to justify this stand, he compares the Shiite extremist group to Shas, Israel’s Sephardic religious party. While I agree that the power that Shas has in Israel’s truly democratic system is troubling, there is no comparison between the two. Shas may be a corrupt and cynical organization with no interest in anything but accruing patronage, but it is not a terrorist movement. Its leaders have been both thieves and fools, but they have murdered no one. Their ethnic appeal is based in a desire for representation, and not as a military organization.
He goes on to broaden the analogy with Hezbollah to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. All are, he says, problems, like Shas. But these are very different problems. Turkey’s ruling Islamic party is moving that formerly secular and Western-oriented country in the wrong direction but, unlike the Brotherhood in Egypt and Hezbollah, it actually has adapted itself to democracy and is peaceful — even if worrisome.
The trouble with Cohen’s advocacy for democracy is that he is incapable of drawing the one meaningful distinction between groups bent on Islamist domination such as the Brotherhood and Hezbollah and a genuinely democratic though deeply flawed party like Shas. If the Arab spring winds up bringing parties such as these Islamist groups to power then the result will be the same kind of democracy that Cohen once lauded in Iran.
Posted on 03/31/2011 1:40 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Robert Baer On How The Alawite Officers Keep Syria Under Control
As President Bashar al-Assad’s regime tries to cope with growing unrest and protests throughout much of Syria, he will almost inevitably have to rely on his army to take a wider role in attempts to restore order. But we should not make the mistake of thinking that Syria is about to follow the path of Egypt. Unlike Egypt, few Syrians look at the army as a benign institution. Rather, it is as a palace guard, meant to keep the ruling Alawite sect in power.
The Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam, represent about 11 per cent of the population. It is only thanks to their control of the army (and intelligence services) that they keep their grip on Syria. So no matter how bad things become, Syrians would never trust them to oversee any reform, let alone democratisation.
When I was working in Syria in the 1980s, a Syrian officer offered me an insight into the reality of the country’s army. One night not long after the 1973 war, the officer was up late into the night keeping previous president Hafiz al-Assad company. Around three, he watched Assad as he picked up the phone from the side table and asked his operator to put him through to a frontline post on the Israeli border. A lieutenant came on the phone, sleepy and irritated that he had been woken up.
Assad asked him his name. Rather than answering, the lieutenant asked who his caller was. When Assad told him, the lieutenant naturally enough lost his composure and could only stammer his name. He became even more confused when Assad started to ask the lieutenant about his family and village, knowing all the names of his brothers. “Assad had no idea who would be on duty that night,” the Syrian officer told me. “But it is the very reason Assad has so tightly held on to power all these years. It was his army.”
Assad made it a habit to read every officer’s file, committing their personal details to memory. He also personally approved transfers and promotions. But more importantly, Assad instituted an unwritten rule that every large combat unit would be under the command of an Alawite officer. There would still be Sunni commanders, but in name only. They would have no real power over their units and were not permitted to put a single aircraft into the air or drive a tank out of cantonment – without the authority of the ranking Alawite. The Alawite officers were related either by blood or bonds of loyalty that could never be broken.
Assad’s son, having become his successor, has shown few of his father’s sharp political instincts but he has had the good sense to leave his father’s military system in place. Like every other Alawite, he understood that this is a matter of survival for his sect and his hold on power these last 10 years has depended on it.
Over the weekend an Alawite with ties to the Assad family messaged me in frustration about how little the west understands about Syria, what is at stake and how far the Alawites will go to hold on to power. He said the police in Dara’a – the town where the first demonstration started – had fired on the crowd in order to protect the lives of Alawites. At the same time he was worried that things might go too far. The hardliners around Mr Assad say that the Alawites cannot afford to make concessions to the street. If they do so they risk being forced from power. Only decisive and unanswerable force will work, as history has shown.
In February 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood seized Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city. For several days Mr Assad’s father hesitated on how to respond. But when he heard that dozens of Alawites had been massacred, without a second thought, he ordered the army to shell the town. His commanders were told to spare no one in putting down the revolt.
I visited Hama one year later, seeing for myself how Assad’s artillery had all but removed the town from the earth. The Alawites I talked to were not happy, but they believed that the Sunni rebellion was snuffed out only thanks to the regime’s violent reprisal. Then, just as today, the Alawites recognised it was the Alawite-led army that safeguarded their survival.
There is no way to predict whether Mr Assad has the stomach for another Hama, or for that matter, whether things will get bad enough for him to consider it. But the one certainty is that if he and the Alawites are forced from power, Syria will not have an army to fill the vacuum. And then the question becomes whether or not the west intervenes to stop a civil war.
Only a fool would predict what is coming next in the Middle East. But if Hama is any guide, the potential for violence in Syria makes Libya and Yemen look mild. Moreover, chances are good that chaos in Syria risks spilling into neighbouring countries – notably Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and maybe even the Arab side of the Gulf, which is already riven by sectarian divisions. This is a worst-case scenario, but the point is if it comes about, there will be no way the west could just stand by and hope for the best. [no, this is not a "worst-case scenario." It is a "best-case scenario" and there is no need for the West to "hope for the best." That would be the best.]]
The writer is a former CIA operative in the Middle East
Posted on 03/31/2011 1:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
The Pleasures of Perfidy
by Theodore Dalrymple (April 2011)
No feudal lord ever demanded more of his serf’s time or product than the British state now demands of its subjects: indeed, if he did, he would have provoked an immediate peasants’ revolt. Just as in the overpopulated parts of Nigeria the rule is ‘If it moves, eat it,’ such that there is hardly any bush-meat left, so in Britain the rule is, ‘If it moves, tax it.’ Even if you are not directly employed by the state in Britain, you spend almost half your working time working for it. This is what the French newspapers, as lazily incurious and ill-informed about Britain as the British newspapers are about France, call ‘savage liberalism.’ more>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 1:58 PM by NER
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Dietrich Bonhoeffer Rediscovered
by Rebecca Bynum (April 2010)
The exemplary life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been brought to the attention of the world by Eric Metaxas (author of Amazing Grace: William Wilburforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery). Like his earlier book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich) is likely to be made into a compelling movie as well as a bestselling book. Bonhoeffer was the son of a prominent German family who was raised in the traditional German aristocratic liberal tradition. He became a pastor and theologian and then a key leader of the Christian resistance to Nazism, working in Germany, London and America. Eventually, his faith led him to join the conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler which culminated in the failed von Stauffenberg plot. Bonhoeffer, in turn, was executed on Hitler’s orders on April 8, 1945 (just three weeks prior to the Fuhrer’s own suicide at the end of the war). more>>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:04 PM by NER
Thursday, 31 March 2011
DalÃ and GaudÃ: Two Eccentric Catalan Geniuses and the RenaixenÃ§a
by Norman Berdichevsky (April 2011)
Two eccentric Catalan artists, Antoni (not Antonio) Gaudí and Salvador Dalí (Americans, please note, the accent is on the last syllable!) created a revolution in their respective fields of architecture and painting – and exemplified with their magnificent work the Catalan genius for non-conformism and innovation. These characteristics among many other behavioral traits set the Catalans apart and explain why they are so insistent on maintaining a separate identity from the Castilians even after coexistence in a united Spain for more than five hundred years. more>>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:20 PM by NER
Thursday, 31 March 2011
When Prashad And Cole Comically Collide
You can watch this Lincoln-Douglas debate here.
Juan Cole approves of the American intervention in Libya to "save civilians" and exaggerates the participation of the Arab military.
Vijay Prashad disapproves of the American intervention in LIbya because the Americans and Gulf Arafs are using their Libyan "tools" to promote "reaction."
They deserve each other.
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
The Comforting Illusions of Friendship
by Geoffrey Clarfield (April 2011)
I can’t remember when first I met Richard and I can’t remember how we became friends but it may have been through music. I have a vague recollection that I met him at one of those jam sessions which were not quite concerts, where young teenagers from different junior highs and high schools within a subway ride of our school, would converge in the basement of a local Catholic Church, Our Lady of the Assumption, to play rock and roll. more>>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:28 PM by NER
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Shame as the Master Emotion: Examples from Pop Songs
by Thomas J. Scheff (April 2011)
We are rarely proud when we are alone.
It is difficult to understand the importance of shame in modern societies because we live inside an ethos that is highly individualistic and focused on exterior matters. When interior matters are viewed, thought and perception are recognized, but little attention is given to emotions and relationships. This essay focuses on the social-emotional world, and proposes that shame should be considered the master emotion. more>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:35 PM by NER
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Z Street: A Jewish Organization in the Spirit of the Bergson Boys
by Jerry Gordon (April 2011)
Z Street was founded in 2009 by a veteran Philadelphia Jewish activist and former Zionist Organization of America (ZoA) official, Lori Lowenthal Marcus. Marcus is a Brandeis University and Harvard Law school graduate and legal educator, who also practiced as a First Amendment Rights lawyer and knew something about Constitutional rights of free speech. more>>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:41 PM by NER
Thursday, 31 March 2011
A Musical Interlude: A Hundred Years From Today (Jack Teagarden)
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 31 March 2011
J Street: Perhaps Pro-Peace, but Certainly not Pro-Israel
Remarks delivered to ACT, Middle Tennessee Chapter, February 8, 2011
by Matthew M. Hausman (April 2011)
Good evening. I’m speaking tonight as a proud Jew and committed Zionist, and I’m here to offer my thoughts on J Street, an organization that claims to be “pro-Israel and pro-peace.” In order to have some perspective, however, I think it’s necessary to delve a little into some of the historical background of the Jewish Left in order to understand how such groups could come to exist. more>>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:48 PM by NER
Thursday, 31 March 2011
The Magic Mountain and The Middle of the Journey: Analogous Tales
by Sam Bluefarb (November 2011)
Although Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) is best known for his criticism, his unfinished, posthumous novel, The Journey Abandoned (2008), sparked a renewed interest in him as novelist without prejudicing his greater importance as a critic. This reawakening led to a reappraisal of what had been his first—and only--novel, the underestimated The Middle of the Journey (1947). For many years, I have ruminated over how that work might have been influenced by Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain (1924), and how it resembled the earlier novel in a number of ways. Mann’s of course is the incomparably greater work; yet both are quintessentially representative of their times. more>>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 2:55 PM by NER
Thursday, 31 March 2011
Itâ€™s Always Later Than You Think
by John M. Joyce (April 2011)
What follows is the full text of a short disquisition given to the Symposium held by NER in the Year of the Occluded Cesspit by Doctor N.E. Mesis, B. Horlog. M. Chr. Ph.D., Permanent (Permanent) Secretary of the Department of Time. It is not often that NER gets to publish such wonderful material from such an illustrious and respected person and we should all be grateful that the good Doctor spared us the time to explain some of the inner workings of his Department. Remember as you listen to him that the Departmental motto is Ab aeterno, ad litteram. more>>>
Posted on 03/31/2011 3:06 PM by NER