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While Syria's population is crushed, global public opinion ponders between Coke and Pepsi
At Least, Assad Holds Syria Together
by Jalel Harchaoui.
This 12,000-word essay attempts to understand Syria through a holistic as opposed to a simplistic approach. To try and address the greater Middle East with ‘concision’ is counterproductive. Barack Obama said on 27-Jan-09 that “it is impossible to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
At Least, Assad Holds Syria Together

Bashar al-Assad in a rare moment of relaxation.

A large human catastrophe has been unfolding within Syria’s borders. The nearly-two-year stretch of violence began a month after Egypt’s Mubarak[1] was forced out by his people against Washington’s expectations. On 15-Mar-11, forty ordinary Syrians marched peacefully through Old Damascus in favor of democracy—and against Bashar el-Assad’s dictatorship. By 31-Dec-12, the number of human beings slain had exceeded 60,000 according to the U.N. Over 750,000 Syrians have fled their country, the majority to Lebanon.

The public outside Syria is confused with respect to the ongoing destruction and killing (over 100 innocent Syrians are liquidated per day). It has been announced that the world’s major geopolitical power is “stymied at the U.N.” (NYT, 21-Jul-12). Its lieutenant, Great Britain, lamented the “obstacles” blocking a formal U.N. Security Council resolution (British Foreign Secretary William Hague, 01-Aug-11). Were it not for Beijing’s and Moscow’s bad faith, U.S.-NATO would act swiftly, and with the great dexterity it can, so as to minimize loss of life on Syrian territory. Sadly, Western powers and their allies are not permitted to do so. Since the U.N. is paralyzed, U.S.-NATO can’t intervene. As far as lethal action, U.S.-NATO is sitting this one out entirely, are Western voters being told. “In a situation like Syria, […] can [Washington] make a difference,” bemoans President Barack Obama in the 27-Jan-13 issue of the New Republic.

The reader can at once discard that stream of fantasy. The U.S. boasts such a well-documented record ignoring the U.N. Security Council and violating its resolutions, one can with certainty establish that the U.S. wants chaos and violence—to an extent. Chaos and violence, confined to the country’s frontiers, are the only means of blowing out of proportion the influence of this or that fringe of Syria’s population, depending on what is desired. Chaos and violence are also the only means of slotting into a new regime suitable to external powers without altering Syria’s current borders. We return to these considerations.

 

BASHAR AL-ASSAD’s SECULAR DEMOCRACY

Bashar al-Assad’s Supreme State Security Court, a loose, ad-hoc “court not constrained by the usual rules of criminal procedure, sentenced over 100 people in 2007, most of whom had [expressed Sunni] Islamist leanings” (Human Rights Watch, 31-Jan-08). Those Syrian citizens’ crime was to express their pro-democracy opinion. Torture was used on a routine basis. Sentences amounted to approximately eight years in prison. Bashar al-Assad’s war on Syria’s peaceful intellectuals is well-documented, too. On 10-May-07, a Damascus criminal court sentenced Dr. Kamal al-Labwani, a physician and founder of the Democratic Liberal Gathering, to 12 years in prison with hard labor for “communicating with a foreign country and inciting it to aggress Syria” after he called for peaceful democratic change in his country during a visit to the United States and Europe in the fall of 2005. Overall, since Nov. 1970, Hafez and Bashar al-Assad have ‘disappeared’ over 17,000 dissidents, Soviet-style. Most of the suspects were eliminated on account of their Sunni persuasion. Separately, much like in U.S.-backed NATO member Turkey, Kurds are considered subhuman in Assad’s Syria. “The largest non-Arab ethnic minority in Syria, comprise about 10 percent of the population […]. They remain subject to systematic discrimination, including the arbitrary denial of citizenship to an estimated 300,000 Syria-born Kurds. [Assad’s] authorities also suppress the use of the Kurdish language in schools and suppress other expressions of Kurdish identity” (HRW).

During the eight months between 15-Mar-11 and 15-Nov-11 alone, before Washington ratcheted up its flow of foreign mercenaries, money and arms into Syria, Bashar al-Assad murdered over 3,500 Syrian citizens (source: United Nations, 08-Nov-11). That fact is either disregarded or considered acceptable by the vast majority of anti-violence individuals in the West. The automatic assumption is that there exists a “bond between the Bashar Assad government and the civilian population” (radical newsletter Counterpunch, 14-Dec-12). That naïveté is a tribute[2] to the efficacy of doctrinal constraints imposed by the world’s powers (U.S.-NATO on the one hand; Beijing-Moscow on the other). Such delusion, not to say plain anti-Arab racism, is a useful thing to have prosper in the minds of Western anti-violence dissidents: it discredits them. To this day, any mention of the Assad dynasty’s crimes against humanity is labelled ‘gratuitous criticism’ by anti-violence groups in the West ("now’s not the time to badmouth the embattled Syrian president,” etc.). If over the next eight months, Beijing’s Communist Party murders 3,500 Tibetan protesters, every anti-violence person will express outrage. When Assad kills Arabs casually, the very same Leftists feel they need to defend the autocrat. This article endeavors to remove doctrinal prejudices.

In contrast with the foreign forces conducting the current assault on the Syrian people, Bashar al-Assad might appear to be a legitimate head of state. Among Westerners concerned about the ongoing horrors many are indeed tempted to oversimplify reality and confuse the government and the people. It is important that no one do. The Assad regime is, undoubtedly, a brutal, shameful dictatorship.

The London Guardian’s Jonathan Steele insists on what both anti- and pro-Assad Westerners happily forget about: Syria’s “large ‘silent majority,‘ made up of people who have many complaints against the government […] but who believe a military victory by the [Sunni extremists, combined with] the Alawite regime’s complete collapse would be a worse outcome [for the general population of Syria] than a negotiated process of reform [based on] concessions” (11-May-12; peacebuilding seminar on the Syrian crisis; Oslo).

 

It is key to identify the reasons Syria possesses any importance at all. The country’s fossil-fuel reserves have all but run out; so its importance lies elsewhere. Other examples of conflicts involving no material prize in a direct fashion might be pertinent.

 

WHY UNIMPORTANT COUNTRIES ARE SOMETIMES CRUCIAL

Countries with little natural resources have, throughout modern history, been the object of sustained interest on the part of world powers. A minerals-poor country’s strategic importance sometimes resides in its aptitude to disrupt and hurt its neighbors.

In 1986, speaking about resource-thin Afghanistan, Democrat Charlie Wilson explained why the U.S. government smuggled mercenaries and advanced weaponry into the central-Asian country. The campaign was not, the Texas representative insisted, an attempt to protect the indigenous population from Soviet crimes but an effort to do “everything possible to kill Russians, as painfully as possible[3].” In his 1996 memoir, Robert Gates recalls a 30-Mar-79 meeting during which then Under-Secretary of Defense Walter Slocombe looked to assess whether “there was value in keeping the Afghan insurgency going [by] ‘sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire.’” The Carter Liberals’ description of Washington’s deliberate policy is accurate and enlightening. Even after the USSR’s withdrawal in 1989, Afghanistan’s meager oil reserves were never a factor. However, a prospective pipeline from Turkmenistan-Iran going to India through Afghanistan could grant India undesirable independence from the U.S. That explains in substantial part why, over the last 11 years, Washington has been spending between $2bn and $10bn per month pounding Afghanistan.

Violence in carefully chosen areas can prove an effective lever for external powers intent on controlling other countries’ wealth in the greater region. It is, in many ways, a stone-in-their-boot dynamic. Whenever appropriate, countries like Afghanistan, Israel, North Korea, Rwanda can be inflamed or choked at a relatively low cost. The nature of the interference orchestrated depends on whether the ultra-rich lands nearby have to be (i) cracked open to foreign economic penetration, or, on the contrary, (ii) suffocated into a stalemate. One nuance to keep in mind is: the general population matters not. Whether in the camp supported by the foreign power or in the opposite camp, atrocities are inconsequential. What matters is the external power’s eventual control over the block of wealth at stake; nothing else. E.g., when Paris arms the Hutus illegally in early-1990s Rwanda, that by no means indicates that Paris “cares” about the well-being of the Hutus as an ethnic group. The French government, in that particular instance, only cared about Eastern Congo’s vast mineral resources.

North Korea is a miserable country. Not one positive statement can be made about it. The geographic location however gives it significance within the economic powerhouse that is Northeast Asia. Mineral-rich Siberia is closeby. The repressed, impermeable enclave situated between Russia and Mainland China on the one hand, and South Korea and Japan on the other, is a wrench in the Northeast Asia works. From the U.S.’ perspective, never-ending tension with North Korea is a means of blocking the region’s industrial integration. Washington therefore sees to it that Pyongyang continue being denied recognition.

The State of Israel is another manifestation of the same dynamic. If Israel’s neighbors’ sole resources were tourism and hummus, Washington would not be voting against every pro-justice U.N. initiative, or shipping cutting-edge weapons gratis to Tel Aviv. Nor would it be making sure its Western subordinates send as gift a combined $92 billion annually to the small, arid, resource-poor country. The general populations of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait must be kept in check. Control over the Gulf’s oil reserves is too important. The first layer of protection against the population is provided by the indigenous gangsters, i.e., the House of Saud family, et al. But indigenous gangsters sometimes are overthrown by the populace. Sometimes they “turn.” Consequently a second layer of protection is required locally. By actively maintaining Tel Aviv’s illegal, slow-grinding torture of the Palestinians, Washington gets highly-militarized Israeli society to fulfill precisely that role vis-à-vis the Arabian Peninsula[4].

Adjacent to the Peninsula’s oil treasure is yet another American military base: Bahrain. Despite its oil reserves having largely run out by now, the island harbors the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The Washington-backed monarchy’s on-going crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has been ruthless, making the 500,000-inhabitant country one of the most tightly controlled in the Muslim world. Preventing democracy is crucial for the U.S. The Sunni al-Khalifa royal family rules a mostly Shiite population. If the Shiite majority, amid its recent[5] attempts to struggle, ever does manage to achieve a peaceful, non-dictatorial form of governance for itself, that will give ideas to others. The Eastern part of Saudi Arabia—mostly populated by Shiites—contains all of the Sunni monarchical family’s oil. No leniency can be displayed towards socioeconomic grievances or opposition to authoritarianism in Bahrain. Or else, ordinary, non-violent citizens might influence public policy and that bane could propagate. For fear of such a forest-fire scenario, Washington concentrates heavy means of violence onto an otherwise poor island. An independent Shiite movement taking shape in Bahrain and then spreading around the Persian Gulf would be a major upset to current world order. When a society is democratic and its formal democracy fully utilized by the general public, that society becomes harder to exploit as a service area. Its wealth tends to remain committed to the domestic economy. Investment in education, infrastructure and advanced industries is bolstered. Corruption of government decision-makers is curtailed. High margins and profit-making become a difficult proposition. The Financial Times’ International Affairs Editor David Gardner says this simply: “the U.S. and its main allies shored local despots in the interests of […] cheap oil” (FT, 09-Jun-05). Poles of concentrated power aren’t interested in ending up with an Evo Morales-type populist regime in the Gulf. Democracy can’t be tolerated in Bahrain; its ramifications would be too far-reaching. Washington must make sure that torture and repression continue.

By the same tenet, one can appreciate the value of small, poor Rwanda[6] to non-African powers interested in the natural reserves outside Rwanda’s borders. Without U.S. surrogates Kagamé and Museveni on call, willing to carry out bloodbaths in stupendously rich Eastern Congo, it would be much more expensive for, say, Boston’s Cabot Corp. or Cleveland’s OM Group Inc. to conduct their mining operations “conflict free” in the Congolese provinces of Kivu today. In the late 1980s, Washington began pouring money and weapons into young Rwandan Tutsi exiles Fred Rwigyema and Paul Kagamé’s non-state guerrilla formation Rwandan Patriotic Front. That anti-French play turned out to be a shrewd investment as far as the U.S.’ eventual control over the Congolese people’s mineral resources. Overpopulated Rwanda—tortured by Brussels and Paris for over a century—was identified as a hothouse. If the United States supplied Kagamé’s death squads with enough money, training, arms and diplomatic cover then, surely, enough murderers and rapists could be manufactured to bring Kinsasha to its knees. They were and they did. Washington’s bet started paying off within less than a decade. By 1994, the French were eased out of the Rwandan picture (it wasn’t lack of trying on François Mitterrand’s part; but the U.S. won out). In 1996, U.S.-backed Kagamé’s killers began “freeing up” the resource-rich provinces of Eastern Congo. The 6.9 million Congolese slaughtered since 1996 are labeled an unfortunate tragedy attributable to local ethnic tensions. Such disgraceful misrepresentations go virtually unquestioned. Washington has become more refined since The Hague found Ronald Reagan guilty of state terrorism against Nicaragua on 27-Jun-86. Usage of Rwandan violence in the Congo is, for the U.S., cleaner, safer, more economical and more elegant than if the United States government had implemented terror directly in the ultra-rich area.[7]

The above series of examples, to which a myriad more can be added, should help look at Syria’s present-day tragedy in a manner closer to how Washington, Beijing or Moscow view it.

 

‘Assad is a different leader now’—Syria in recent history

Israel stole the Golan heights from Syria in early Jun. 1967. Three years later, Tel Aviv threatened to attack Damascus if it ever intervened in Jordan while King Hussein conducted his Black September operation of 1970-71. King Hussein’s campaign eliminated close to 15,000 Palestinian lives and expelled the PLO into Lebanon. Israel’s pressure on Damascus during Black September provided the opportune backdrop for General Hafez al-Assad’s to carry out his military coup in Nov. 1970. Assad knew how to display passivity when asked. From 1970 onward, faithless, principleless, once-step-at-a-time pragmatism[8] would remain the keystone of the Assads’ political longevity. After his Oct. 1973 attempt to retake Golan heights failed, Hafez al-Assad refrained from insisting upon International Law being enforced (U.N. 242). In 1974, he went ahead, ignored Leonid Brezhnev (without estranging Moscow) and gave up the Israel-occupied territory by negotiating directly with the United States. On 01-Jun-76, once he received the U.S./Israel’s green-light, Hafez al-Assad invaded Lebanon and slaughtered over 1,500 Palestinians there, as well as many of their Lebanese allies. “With U.S. and Israeli support […], the Syrians played willing Lebanese factions one against the other to maintain their supremacy,” Middle East scholar George Emil Irani writes accurately (20-May-08). Gestures such as the Tel al-Zaatar massacre of 12-Aug-76[9] were always appreciated by Washington and Tel Aviv—despite the fact that the Assad dynasty, as mentioned above, would never in a predictable fashion take orders from anyone.

The Assads’ job has always been to prevent—by force—Syria’s plural mosaic society from disintegrating lest the region’s unstable equilibrium be disrupted. Any doubt about that Realpolitik entente with the West was removed in a visual fashion when Tony Blair had Elizabeth II invite Bashar and Asma al-Assad for a night at Buckingham Palace on 17-Dec-02. A few weeks prior to Washington’s attack on neighbor Iraq, the Syrian torturer could ask a few favors. (Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Syria broke off after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.). In Mar. 1982, the Christian Science Monitor captured the dynamic well as Hafez al-Assad razed the city of Hama and slaughtered approximately 18,000 Sunni Syrian human beings in cold blood[10] during the month of Feb. 1982. The sober magazine noted then that “U.S.-Syrian relations may be warmer than they look,” and pointed out that “President Reagan and Hafez Assad exchanged messages March 3.” Eyewitness and Middle East expert Robert Fisk said of the Hama massacre that “the West and the Syrian regime were very much together at that stage” (03-Feb-12). Simultaneously, if “Syria and the Soviet Union have a friendship treaty,” it however appears that the latter “doesn’t mean much beyond arms[11] and military training” (CSM, 04-Mar-82).

Washington’s and Moscow’s complacency towards the Hama atrocity of 1982 sheds instructive light on the tragedy currently taking place at an even greater scale in Syria. It is a reminder of the primary function external powers expect the Syrian head-of-state to fulfill.

Like all former European colonies, present-day Syria’s borders are highly artificial with respect to ethnic-and-religious lines[12]. Washington’s relation with Israel in its current form emerged in Jun. 1967. Soon after that, the tension inherent in Syria’s unnatural borders became a concern for the U.S. and its main clients in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Assads, father and son, used their “clampdown” currency to buy off Washington’s tacit support and, thus, stay in power. The Moscow-backed secular-Alawite dictators’ stopping the balkanization of their country would be their surest way of being “kept” by the West through the decades. Although recalcitrant in other domains, the Assads have acted, reliably throughout their reign, as an iron fist holding Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites[13], Kurds, Druze and Christians tightly in place—to Washington’s satisfaction. That was true in 1982. It is true now. On 21-Jul-12, Andrew J. Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a subsidiary of AIPAC, told the New York Times, correctly, that the U.S.’ plan consists in carrying out a “controlled demolition of the Assad regime.” The word “control” is not meant to convey concern about the people of Syria; 60,000 can die; or 200,000 can die; that is not a criterion. Tabler’s terminology refers to the need to keep the killing confined within Syria’s borders and achieve “a transition process for the day that Mr. Assad’s government falls.” Until the moment Assad is replaced with a non-Shiite equivalent, Syria as it exists today must remain a resilient pressure cooker. The slaughter inside is irrelevant. Any unscripted over-spill of violence in the surrounding region is highly relevant.

From Beijing and Moscow’s vantage point, the same thinking as Washington’s applies. The thrust toward social justice in Muslim societies is bad news for Russia’s current pyramid of power. If Kremlin-backed dictator Assad is jettisoned too abruptly, if it is perceived that popular mobilization can succeed, his overthrow could inspire the oppressed Muslim population in Central Asia. That includes Chechnya and resources-rich satellites such as the harsh dictatorships of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Moscow does not want any change there. On 20-Dec-12, the Los Angeles Times stated: “Moscow has said for some time that its interest was to avoid […] anarchy in the heart of the Middle East.” Coming from Putin, the word “anarchy” is a reference to functioning democracy. The uprising begun in Syria two years ago must be viewed everywhere by the public as misguided, lacking integrity and doomed from the start to falter in a tragic, wasteful manner. Whether Assad stays is secondary. Of course, Bashar al-Assad getting to stay on would be a bonus for Russia. Having managed to maintain a Shiite dictator in Damascus while Tehran is being strangled economically would undoubtedly constitute a tactical victory for Moscow and Beijing. Indeed, China has been expanding its own mineral-extraction area towards the West, in search for oil and other resources. The endeavor includes pipeline and railroad. China is intent on building more direct links with Iran and the whole of Central Asia in the short term. Therefore, the notion of popular self-determination in Central Asia can only be a nuisance from Chinese Politburo members’ vantage point.

 

‘whoever thought I would be more moderate than my father erred’

A few years after Israel’s withdrawal, 02-Sep-04’s U.N. 1559 ordered Bashar al-Assad to leave as well, ending 28 years of Syrian military presence in Lebanon. A month prior to Syria’s departure, the Washington Post was already indicating that “the Bush administration [including National Security Council officials] is reaching out to the Syrian opposition because […] unrest in Lebanon could spill over and suddenly destabilize Syria, which borders four countries pivotal to U.S. Middle East policy” (WP, 26-Mar-05). A senior National Security Council official even adds that “a consequence of [Syria] getting out of Lebanon [might] be the collapse of the Assad regime, and they’re looking around for alternatives.” An “alternative” here means a clone of Bashar al-Assad in terms of mailed fist, but non-Shiite if at all possible. An identical dictator, without a bond with the Persians.

In their effort to replace Assad with a non-Shiite clone, American planners admit freely to having nothing to offer to the people of Syria: no political vision or idea. “Some U.S. analysts, the Post specifies, […] warned that the Syrian Reform Party [and other local anti-Assad parties sponsored by the U.S. National Security Council] are unrepresentative and too small” to even have been heard of in Syria. That ideological void—Washington just wants control; that is it—is reminiscent of the war against South Vietnam. In 1966, Washington’s efforts to combat the indigenous villagers’ aspirations for independence was recognized by the puppet regime of Nguyen Van Thieu in Saigon as not “able to compete politically with the Vietnamese Communists” (NYT, 11-Feb-66). Carnage and devastation would continue another nine years in Indochina. The mentality of U.S. planners is not much different in the case of the Levant as of 2005. Acutely aware of not being “strong enough now to compete” politically, Washington has no option but to turn to violence and money. The confrontation has to be shifted out of the political-opinion sphere and into the sole realm wherein the U.S. and its Sunni allies are cogent.

In addition to clamping down upon his population of 22 million, one of Assad’s signature services to the West has been espionage. Along with Pakistan’s, Syria’s intelligence agencies are among the most competent in the world when it comes to non-state terror networks; much more efficient than the CIA. Bashar al-Assad has on many occasions furnished Paris, London and Washington with crucial tips related to ongoing plans to attack European cities, helping to save civilian lives. The close link between the CIA and Assad’s intelligence agencies is tellingly illustrated by how well Sunni terrorist Abu Musab al-Suri was treated after being captured by the Pakistani intelligence service on 31-Oct-05. The Syrian man is recognized by Western experts to be one of the most influential and dangerous ideologues in 9/11-inspired non-state violence. Suri was instrumental in perpetrating the train bombings of Madrid, 11-Mar-04, and London, 07-Jul-05. A mere couple of years after Pakistan captured the criminal and sold him to Washington, the latter saw it fit to hand[14] the mastermind over to Bashar al-Assad. In early 2012, Bashar al-Assad, as a warning to the U.S. about the consequences of attacking his regime, cut the senior terrorist loose into the wild (WSJ, 06-Apr-12).

 

2002-05: ‘we will respect innocent life in Iraq’

The bombing of Afghanistan undertaken on 07-Oct-01 severely eroded the global wave of sympathy that had engulfed the United States after 11-Sep-01. As a result, the amount of fiction and poetry disseminated by the Executive for public consumption had to be cranked up. So much so, Cheney & Associates seemed to be confused by their own scam in 2002-05. In a 06-Nov-03 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, George W. Bush could be heard affirming that “the Saudi government is taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections.” “Democratic progress is found in […] predominantly Muslim countries [such as] Albania […] and Sierra Leone.” “In Bahrain […], citizens elected their own parliament.” Washington’s “commitment to democracy […] in the Middle East, which is my focus today, […] must be a focus of American policy for decades to come.” And, “Iraqi democracy will succeed.” Lyricism of this ilk helps get the U.S. taxpayer to cough up $3 trillion for a murderous attack-and-occupy operation in Iraq for the benefit of the Fortune 500. Cheney & Associates erred however; they ignored the extent to which the Iraqi population was going to hold Washington to its official rhetoric.

Experts and career foreign-service officials warned the neoconservatives in power that 52% of Iraqi are Shiite Arabs. Saddam Hussein’s contempt for the Shiites was one of the reasons the Reagan administration supported the Sunni mass murderer during the years 1982-90. Washington’s primary goal then was to punish Iran for disobeying it and kicking the shah out in 1979. (Reagan designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984.) The fear of Shiites gaining access to democracy was another reason for Washington’s support for Hussein. In Mar.-Sep. 1991, George H.W. Bush helped the secular Sunni-Arab tyrant crush Kurdish and Shiite pro-democracy rebellions. Bush senior was opposed to anything but dictatorship in Iraq, regardless of the circumstances. For obvious arithmetic reasons, any functioning democracy in Iraq is bound to grant a degree of freedom to its Shiite Arabs. The latter, whether secular or religious, will always feel closer to their Shiite-Persian neighbor to the east than to the Western occupier that ransacked their country, instituted torture in all prisons, pushed corporate tax down to 15% and murdered 1.1 million fellow-Iraqis. Those inexplicable cultural quirks, despite being highlighted by a few Washington realists, were very difficult for Cheney & Associates to comprehend. High was the eagerness to launch preventive self-defense against Iraq ahead of the Nov. 2002 elections. As he scrambled for war, Cheney assumed that the Aboriginals were not necessarily going to be all that adamant about democracy. The country’s Shiite-Arab majority had been oppressed and politically marginalized for decades after all. Why wouldn’t they wait another 5-10 years? A “moderate” form of governance in Iraq would “greet” Americans “as liberators” and that would be that (NBC, 16-Mar-03).

Seasoned politician, war veteran and multi-term senator John Kerry “voted for the use of force [against Baghdad in 2002] but later said that was a mistake based on faulty intelligence about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction” (Boston Globe, 08-Jan-13). Ordinary Iraqis, including those without a degree from Yale, somehow never made that “mistake.” In fact, everyone except perhaps America’s general population, knew the U.S. invaded Iraq because it possesses the world’s second-largest oil resources. The country’s geographical location offered a means of strengthening the U.S.’ control over the main energy-producing region of the world. From there, the Iraqi populace owed no allegiance to Washington. After the invasion, the attacked society, like any society, was very particular and persistent when it came to democracy and full sovereignty.

The war of aggression against Iraq[15] helped Iran on a number of levels; and the Arabian Peninsula’s monarchies realized it. “The collapse of Iraq—the [Baath] army, the [existing] government [structure]—created a huge gap in security in the region” as a result of Donald Rumsfeld’s military coordination and L. Paul Bremer’s governorship in Mar.-May 2003[16], said Mustafa Alani, an analyst at a Dubai-based mouthpiece of the Peninsula’s petro-monarchies (NYT, 07-Feb-09). Uncontrolled insurgency is a headache. But an even crueler blow to Washington was 2004-05’s non-violent resistance among Iraq’s general population. Peaceful civil disobedience is always more damaging to structures of domination than violence. The Iraqi movement, whose symbolic leader is moderate Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani, insisted on real-life elections: direct suffrage to a national assembly; no alternative make-do solutions[17].

In 2004-05, through peaceful mobilization, the Iraqi masses rejected three attempts by the U.S.-occupation authorities to postpone, evade or dilute genuine democracy. Non-violence prevailed. Bush was compelled to allow fair elections on 15-Dec-05. This significant victory of non-violent resistance from the Iraqi populace constitutes probably the true beginning of the recent thrust for democracy in the Arab world. (It is seldom mentioned as such, if at all.)

In May 2006, the moderate Shiite Iraqi Nouri al-Maliki, who lived in exile in Iran, came to power as Iraq’s Prime Minister via a coalition of Moderate Shiites and Sunni Kurds. Maliki is not peculiarly anti-American. Hence, the Sunni supremacists endeavor to hurt the Shiite community until Maliki’s government caves in. The Shiite fundamentalists, meanwhile, want Baghdad to become a Shiite capital, which—once united with Damascus and Tehran—would form a Shiite bloc politically independent of the United States, and catering to Northeast Asia’s energy needs. Shiite-fundamentalist parties such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s are opposed to secularity, financed by Iran, and vehemently opposed to U.S. exerting any influence in the region. They are also bent on utilizing violence to retaliate against Sunni supremacists for their car-bomb and suicide attacks against Shiite civilians.

The unforgivable slippage by Washington in Iraq—to have tolerated democracy in a Shiite-majority country—gave rise to what the Washington Post called “Saudi disillusionment with the Bush administration” (11-May-07). The Persian Gulf region’s monarchic families, led by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, ramped up frantically their shipments of arms and money to Sunni terrorist militias in Iraq. Perhaps one means of grasping the Saudis’ tactic is to consider the example of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Sunni Jordanian killer is a creature of the United States. He was trained, paid and armed in Afghanistan by the Reagan administration in 1987-88. In 2002, the Bush Administration invoked the possibility of Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq, among other pretexts, to justify its war of aggression. In 2003, Zarqawi saw the U.S.-induced chaos in Iraq as opportunity to found a new network of terror there. Separately, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s impressive anti-Shia killing spree inspired Syrian Sunnis, Lebanese Sunnis and Palestinians to create a violent cell called Jund al-Sham in Lebanon. (On 07-Jun-06, the Bush administration had USAF F-16c jets kill Zarqawi north of Baghdad.) Lebanon’s Jund al-Sham fighters, however, pleased U.S.-Israel-Saudia on 19-Jul-04, when they assassinated a Hezbollah senior official, Shiite militiaman Ghaleb Awali. The Gulf’s monarchs saw promise in such Sunni-vs.-Shiite incidents. If they lavished Sunni non-state terror with armaments and money, harm could be inflicted upon the independent Shiite movement.

In 06-Dec-06’s report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, Republican James Baker and Democrat Lee H. Hamilton wrote, “Funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.” “As worries about Iraq increase, the Gulf States are becoming more active.” “While the Gulf States are not proponents of democracy in Iraq[18], they worry about the direction of events: battle-hardened [Shiite] insurgents from Iraq could pose a threat to their own internal stability, and the growth of Iranian influence in the region is deeply troubling to them.” Sunni terrorists “in Iraq and Pakistan have been more enthusiastic about killing Shia than killing Americans,” remarks Iraq expert Patrick Cockburn (14-Jan-13). Fanatics of the Saudi school of thought regard Shiite Muslims as “the lowest of the low,” more nefarious than any other imperialistic plague. Saudi-flavored Sunni supremacists claim that Tehran’s unavowed goal is to destroy Islam from within, resuscitate the Persian empire of yesteryear and rule over the entire world. That is what made Sunni terrorism so attractive to the U.S. and its client states in the late 1970s.

In late 2006, the Bush administration embraced a policy of providing clandestine funding and underground support to rogue groups picked among the Sunni terrorist demimonde. The same idea has been rolled out in many Muslim-majority countries.

Lebanon over the last decade is an informative example.

 

SHIA: THE MENACE OF SELF-DEFENSE and DETERRENCE

Shiite Lebanese political party “Hezbollah, which is on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations […] was largely responsible for pushing Israel to [retreat and] end its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon on 24-May-00” (NBC News, 20-Jul-04). Increasingly since 2000, “Hezbollah has accepted the political process and has been legitimately engaged in participatory and competitive politics” (NYT, 09-Apr-07). That reality doesn’t jive with Western ideology; it jeopardizes the racist axiom that Muslims are incapable of participating in a democratic system[19].

It bears emphasizing that the Sunni-Shiite antipathy softens as one steers away from the Persian Gulf region. Indonesia’s Sunni Muslims harbor no acute aversion to Shiite Muslims. Same can be said about Morocco’s Sunni Muslims, or Nigeria’s. The antagonism between the two branches of Islam is a local phenomenon. It is in great part attributable to the overt discrimination against Shia instituted in 1926 by the House of Saud when it established its tyranny in Arabia. The sectarian strife is also a function of material and geopolitical circumstances[20]. If the Sunni monarchical families now in power hadn’t reaped untold wealth from the Eastern part of the Peninsula, their obsession with the Shiite population would be less intense. The Peninsula’s ruling class has everything to lose should the slightest degree of social justice be introduced. Conversely, a major assault from a common non-Muslim aggressor can push that Sunni-vs.-Shiite resentment onto the back-burner. On 14-Nov-11, Israeli anti-crime activist and former Knesset member Uri Avnery remarked that if the U.S. and Israel bomb Iran, “the whole Islamic world will unite against them. Both Shiites and Sunni; it’ll make no difference” any longer at that stage.

The veteran Israeli pacifist’s observation above is confirmed by the reality observed in Lebanon during the July War. On 24-Jun-06, the Israeli Defense Forces raided under-siege Gaza and abducted two adult Palestinian brothers suspected of being involved in Gaza’s self-defense measures (the London Observer, 25-Jun-06). In a symmetrical cross-border intrusion on 25-Jun-06, Hamas militants used underground tunnels near the Israeli border with Gaza and abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. On 12-Jul-06, the U.S./Israel complex initiated a 34-day air campaign against South Lebanon, dropping 4,6 million cluster bomblets indiscriminately on civilian camps and villages in Lebanon. The operation killed 1,300 people, the majority of whom were civilians in Lebanon. The U.S./Israeli attack was designed to cause South Lebanon’s Shiites to leave and flee into Syria and southern Iraq. It failed. The targeted people stood their ground. Lebanon’s armed Shiite militants fired nearly 4,000 rockets into Israel during the conflict (Hezbollah has more than 30,000 rockets ready for deterrence purposes).

The Hezbollah leadership decided not to instigate any terrorist attack in reprisal of Israel’s Jul. 2006 assault on Lebanon. The Lebanese guerrilla, consciously, chose not to widen “the battle out of its natural frame.” No Shiite terrorism was resorted to. No Paris-subway attack; no Israeli embassy hit; no plan hijacked; no pizza place incinerated. Hezbollah’s armed branch restricted itself to firing rockets at Israeli territory during Israel’s attack[21]. That “self-defense only” discipline on the part of Shiite leader Hassan Nasrallah was a vicious and Machiavellian play. Outside the realm of violence and money, the U.S./Israel juggernaut’s aura is notoriously thin.

In effect, the 2006 bombing turned Shiite leader Nasrallah into a respected figure among Shiites and Sunnis throughout the region. In 2007, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage recognized explicitly that Hassan Nasrallah had emerged as “a political force” in his country. That threat of consistent politics—much more worrisome than violence—was enhanced by 2006’s U.S./Israeli aerial offensive. A few months after the latter ended, Sunni-vs.-Shiite confrontations increased, along with violence. Those factual patterns are consistent with Avnery’s important suggestion. From there, it follows that the U.S. has no option but to cultivate sectarian violence within the Middle East’s Muslim community.

To 2005-06’s Saudi-funded escalation in Sunni-terror attacks on Iraqi soil, Tehran did respond by supporting Shiite militias. Iran has been accused of supplying components for bombs used to strike Sunni Iraqis in reprisal operations. On 13-Feb-12, when an Israeli diplomat’s car was the target of a terror attack in New Delhi, Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Iran is behind these attacks.” The 18-Jul-12 explosion of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria killed seven innocent people. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak affirmed that the attack had been carried out by “either Iran or other radical [Shiite] Muslim groups” such as Hezbollah. Those assertions by Tel Aviv officials are most likely correct. In Nov. 2012, during the assault on illegally-under-siege Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces, Palestinians fired Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets into Israel. The use of those rockets, irrespective of how understandable, was criminal; the Tehran-financed weapons were deliberately targeted at civilian areas. On 07-Jun-12, the Pentagon told Congress that “Iran […] publicly threatened [on 28-Dec-11] to use its naval forces to close the Strait of Hormuz” in response to Washington imposing unilateral sanctions on its oil exports.

The Shiites have been using force over the last decade. But have they used enough of it, by comparative standards? The U.S.-Israel-Saudia nexus’ rhetoric is predicated upon the claim that Tehran is “the world’s greatest exporter of terror” (Netanyahu, 15-Feb-12). Is it? Reality features an intractable problem: Shia’s “self-defense only” discipline. The issue is encapsulated in a sentence from the Pentagon’s 2012 presentation to Congress on Military Power of Iran: Tehran “has threatened to launch missiles against U.S. interests and our allies in the region in response to an attack.” The U.S. military cannot honestly utilize the phrase “Iran has threatened to strike” without adding “in response to an attack.”

 

NOV. 2006: washington resumes its PRO-JIHADI TERRORISM POLICY

The year 2006 saw a formidable series of attacks by Saudi-funded[22] Sunni insurgents on Shiites and U.S. troops in still-occupied Iraq. Washington accused Shiite-Alawite Bashar al-Assad of not blocking Sunni terrorists from crossing into Iraq from Syria. “The bombing [that killed 140 civilians] on 22-Feb-06 of two Shia holy sites in Samarra catalyzed an unprecedented level of violent attacks, primarily against civilians” (Human Rights Watch, World Report, 11-Jan-07). Shiite armed militias responded with violent counterattacks. The number of non-U.S. individuals murdered in Baghdad only, during Jul.-Aug. 2006 only, exceeded 5,000 (Iraqi authority figures). Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians fled their occupied country and went to Syria, creating their own schools and communities there. Chaos “in Iraq […] brings an estimated 40,000 [Iraqi refugees] a month over the Syrian border” (NPR, 15-Dec-06). On 23-Nov-06, “Sunni-Arab millitants launched a salvo of five car bombs and two mortar rounds on one of [Baghdad’s] poorest neighborhoods, [a] densely populated Shia slum [, killing 161 Shiite civilians]. Shia militias responded immediately by launching 10 mortar rounds on Baghdad’s main Sunni mosque, […] killing one person” (Jonathan Steele, the London Guardian, 24-Nov-06). The day of 23-Nov-06 exemplifies the butchery made possible by the money and support flowing with abandon from the Arabian Peninsula.

The havoc in Iraq could no longer be played down or ignored stateside. The torn country was still under U.S. occupation. In the weeks around the mid-term elections, American politicians on both sides of the aisle were slightly more vocal (Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation was accepted on 07-Nov-06). On 14-Dec-06, Democratic senator Bill Nelson visited Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and asked for his assistance with respect to Iraq’s descent in chaos on George W. Bush’s watch. On 20-Dec-06, Democratic senators John Kerry and Christopher Dodd followed suit. The White House called the trips to Syria “inappropriate.” The diplomatic overtures conferred undue legitimacy to a government committed to “thwarting democratic reform in the Middle East,” as opposed to U.S.’s close allies there—all renowned as beacons of peaceful, non-religious democracy. (Briefly in 2007, even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice contemplated requesting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s help in stabilizing Iraq. But the idea of following radical peacenik James Baker’s 06-Dec-06 recommendation was abandoned. Only a brief, preliminary chat between Rice and her Syrian analog took place during a conference in Egypt on 03-May-07.)

On 22-Nov-06, Iran invited the presidents of Iraq and Syria to Tehran for a summit with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss the American occupier’s manifest inability to contain non-state terror in Iraq. The humiliating gesture[23] caused Dick Cheney to fly to Saudi Arabia on 25-Nov-06 in a “hastily organized mission to Riyadh” (WP, 23-Nov-06). “The rise of the Shiites” figured prominently on the agenda of the meeting with King Abdullah. The conclusion of the meeting was twofold. Cheney instructed the Saudis and the Qataris to reduce their flow of funds and arms into Iraq. The Sunni petro-monarchs’ massive interference since 2004 in the U.S.-occupied society was counterproductive. The Gulf States had pushed Iraq to the brink of collapse. The extraordinary carnage was convincing more moderate Shiites to view Tehran as a responsible regional player, in stark contrast with the Western aggressors and their Sunni partners. The latter were asked to tone down slightly their anti-democracy assault against Shiite Prime Minister Maliki’s government until U.S. occupation ended[24]. As the Washington Post put it, “U.S. officials fear that a change of government in Baghdad would only deepen the political disarray there and [forcibly accelerate] the withdrawal of troops” (09-May-07). The U.S. Vice President’s meeting with King Abdullah saw “him push the Saudis to use their influence with Sunni insurgents in Iraq to halt attacks on the country’s Shia majority” (Jonathan Steele, the London Guardian, 26-Nov-06). From his two hours with the sultan, Cheney came away with an even more important conclusion: the Redirection Doctrine. Enough years had elapsed since the 9/11 atrocity. Outside of Iraq’s special case, Washington was now going to resume supporting uncontrollable Sunni fanatics the way it did in 1980s Afghanistan. But at a larger scale.

Cheney’s Redirection Doctrine consists in cultivating and funding Sunni terrorism in the hope that some of it ends up redirected against Shiite terrorism. A clear enunciation of the philosophy was published in the New York Times by Brookings Institution thinkers on 09-Apr-07. Washington, they proclaimed, must apply itself to “encouraging the animosity of one [branch of Islam activism] toward the other [because] underscoring their differences serves the global war of terrorism better than creating a sense of solidarity” across Middle-East anti-Americanism. Since late 2006, the U.S. has indeed been engaged “in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence,” a former senior intelligence official told Seymour Hersh in 2007. “In this process, we [Americans] are financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences.”

 

OBAMA’S STRATEGY: CHENEY’S ‘REDIRECTION’—ON STEROIDS

Driven by the same fear of Tehran’s growing political credibility, the Obama administration continued, and still continues, Cheney’s program of active anti-Shiite[25] terrorism promotion. In fact, it has escalated it. This has been visible in Libya since early 2011. “In Libya […], the fall of the Gaddafi regime has left the country in the hands of competing militias” (FT, 03-Feb-13). That dismal development, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’ assassination by Saudi-style murderers, is not discussed nor is it seen as indication that Washington ought to quit supporting terror.

Yemen is another interesting example. Washington planners responsible for financing and arming Sunni terror elements on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer do not view today’s Yemen as a sign that perhaps the decades-old policy has done enough damage as it is. That, perhaps, it is an unjustifiable crime. Yemen has been a collateral victim of Washington’s support for terrorists. Its sovereignty has been torn to bits by corruption and bloodletting. The country is grappling with a Shiite rebellion in the north; a secessionist movement; a Sunni-inspired insurgency in the south; armed tribes that control substantial swaths of land. In the year of 2012, Washington increased covert drone strikes and piloted air attacks, conducting one such extrajudicial attack a week in Yemen, approximately. That’s the only conclusion that has been drawn from the tragic chaos: more illegal killings by the U.S. government. The Yemeni catastrophe is not at all construed as an invitation to question the United States’ continued sponsoring of uncontrollable anti-Shiite terror, and debate it with the American voter.

The Obama administration’s effort to support Sunni terrorism has been efficacious. Four years ago, Sunni death squads were still concentrated in specific locations such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Individual governments—assuming that they were interested in doing so—still had the capability to stifle them. Now, “Saudi jihadi"-style terror, thanks to unbridled funding from U.S.-backed petro-monarchs, is much more scattered. It has become extremely doubtful that one country can stop, let alone reverse, the spread of suicide-based crime across continents. In that sense, Obama’s policy of supporting uncontrollable, fanatic Sunni killers is a success. In addition to active funding and arming, Obama’s extrajudicial-killings campaign, too, has helped foster Sunni terrorism. The U.S. government’s drone program—by harassing, humiliating and murdering populations in violation of the law and without declaration of war—assists Sunni terror cells in recruiting more and more educated individuals from non-fundamentalist pockets of the local societies under attacks from the White House. Thus far, Barack Obama has, using unmanned drones, assassinated approximately 2,700 human beings, including 195 children. “The more frustrated among [ordinary civilians] are thereby prey to the siren songs of the jihadis” (David Gardner). Non-violent communities, once they have been maimed by the United States’ criminal devices, turn to terror squads. Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen (Princeton) says that “civilian casualties inflicted by drone strikes has contributed to the [Sunni terror] group’s ability to grow and attract tribal support” in Washington-attacked regions. By (i) supporting non-state death squads, and by (ii) leading by example in terms of illegal murdering in foreign countries, Barack Obama’s action has made an appreciable difference since Jan. 2009—even though both of those programs were already underway in 2006-08.

 

reputational fall-out from a decades-old crescendo

In 2012, Washington heightened its sanctions against Iran, thus ensuring that its daily oil exports be slashed to 1.4 million barrels per day down from 2.6 million as of 2003. Despite the U.N. disagreeing, Obama cut the Iranian economy out of the international financial system, effective 17-Mar-12. On a political plane, Washington’s severe measures helped the Iranian regime’s image. Domestically, the Iranian population, weakened, now is more obedient and frightened by the authoritarian regime of the clerics in power[26]. Regionally, the U.S.’ aggressiveness improved Tehran’s profile in the eyes of the Arab world’s secular, educated sectors. The antipathy of those sectors for the Persian mullahs’ resilience is lesser now than in 1979[27]. The Shiite theocratic dictatorship is by no means popular with Arab countries’ ordinary populations. But, juxtaposed to Washington’s confrontation-seeking demeanor, a nuclear-deterrent-equipped Iran is viewed as a good counterweight to have in the region. This sympathetic perception prevails not only in the Arab world but also in the Global South (Latin America, West Asia).

Tel Aviv’s assassinations of Iranian physicists also has contributed to ennobling Tehran’s image in contrast with the “arrogant front"[28]. The threat of force, as proffered by Washington, is a violation of International Law; it is not explicitly authorized by the U.N. Security Council. The U.S., by punishing and threatening the signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, consolidated Iran’s standing and influence on the ordinary population of the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant. If only by contrast, Iran, “America’s nemesis for the past decades has emerged as the Muslim Middle East’s unrivaled power” (NYT, 08-Feb-09). That is an old principle in international affairs. If a country—because it displays defiance and seeks to strike out on its own—must be declared “an enemy”, then that country had better be crushed in a clean-cut and rapid manner. Otherwise, political credit will accrue to the underdog, not the bully. That precisely has been the case with Iran since 1979, irrespective of how backward, harsh and undemocratic the theocratic dictatorship is.

In Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009, the U.S./Israel bloc damaged its already-negative image when it killed 1,391 Palestinians in Gaza, including 318 children and 111 women. (Hamas militants killed nine Israelis, including three innocent civilians.) On 30-May-10, amid a routine act of international-waters piracy between Cyprus and Gaza, the IDF murdered nine humanitarian workers aboard the ship Mavi Marmara (knives and wooden sticks were found on the deck). On 28-Sept-12, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave what was universally perceived as “a clownish performance […] at the United Nations, at which he brandished his famous Wile E. Coyote cartoon of a nuclear bomb, [then] backed off his bellicose talk for now” (The New Yorker, 29-Oct-12). To reassert Tel Aviv’s might, Netanyahu attacked illegally-under-siege Gaza anew on 08-Nov-12. The concurrent volatility in the immediate vicinity (next door, in Syria and in Egypt) made it difficult to pursue Netanyahu’s low-intensity massacre for more than two weeks. From Washington’s perspective, the Middle East is like a car-accident victim. The body needs to be operated upon urgently but it is too unstable, making no more than one invasive-surgery procedure possible at a given moment.

 

SUNNI MONEY AND PALESTINIANS’ LEADERSHIP

On 23-Oct-12, the prince of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, announced a $400 million donation in infrastructure aid to Gaza. Hamas, the Palestinian party with the most votes in Gaza (roughly 44%), is of Sunni persuasion. Tel Aviv, as part of its response to the First Intifada, begun in Gaza on 08-Dec-87, deported the most virulent Palestinians into Southern Lebanon. Being both illegally occupied by the same criminal state, Lebanese Shiites and Palestinian Sunnis established strong bonds. The latter have caused Hezbollah resistants to support Hamas resistants over the years. The recent monetary gift from U.S.-backed Qatar possesses several advantages. It might be a way to “deepen the estrangement between Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Fatah-ruled West Bank by empowering Hamas” (WSJ, 23-Oct-12). Much more significantly, it is a way for the Sunni monarchs to buy off popularity among the Palestinians in Gaza away from Shiite Hezbollah. The concerted effort to re-Sunni-tize Hamas started several years ago. It paid off in late 2011 when Hamas’ leader abroad Khaled Meshal sided with anti-Assad Sunni fighters in Syria. Assad expelled Meshal from Syria on 27-Jan-12. Behind the U.S.’ victory against Shia, Qatar has played a pivotal role, said weekly Le Point on 10-Dec-11. Aptly enough, the French magazine identified Qatar as “a new actor that irrupted in the ‘Hamas-Damascus relationship’ landscape”. On 22-Dec-11, Egyptian think-tank Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies explained the advantage of having realigned the Palestinians’ most meaningful formation with Sunni extremist grouping Muslim Brotherhood. “Hamas in Cairo [now will] be slower and weaker than what it was in Syria, which prided itself on resisting Israeli and American interests. Egypt is different.” This blow to Iran was achieved while, within the under-siege strip, “Gaza heavyweights, led by [local prime minister Ismail] Haniyeh […] hoped to replace [Meshal] in internal elections,” to no avail, wrote the London Economist on 24-Nov-12. Now, the Palestinians’ top leadership, thanks in large part to all the Qatari money, is on the “right” side of Islam.

The headquarters chosen for Khaled Meshal was Cairo, not Doha in Qatar. The Taliban already has “a political office in Qatar to communicate with the international community.” Indeed, in late 2011, “American officials impressed upon [occupied Afghanistan’s president Hamid] Karzai that Qatar was the best option” for parking Taliban representatives (WSJ, 04-Jan-12). To have Hamas’ foreign office and the Taliban’s foreign office both headquartered in Qatar would have been a bit too brazen. It’s better to maintain the illusion that those Sunni leaders are not paid by U.S.-backed Qatari aristocrats.

As part of its concerted support for Sunni extremism, the Obama administration has not neglected the opinion-management facet. Fallacies require maintenance. One example is Swiss national and Oxford professor, Tariq Ramadan. The intellectual of Egyptian descent is a prolific Sunni far-right Islamist writer (his grandfather founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928; his father was given shelter by the Swiss government in 1961 because he was an enemy of Nasser’s Arab secularism). Condoleezza Rice denied his U.S. visa on 28-Jul-04. As reason, the Bush administration had cited the academic having donated $1,600 in 1998-2002 to a pro-Hamas charity supervised by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent Sunni-Egyptian hatemonger. The Obama administration put emphasis on nurturing extreme Sunni fundamentalists interested in influencing Hamas ideology, as opposed to leaving the Palestinian party under the political influence of the Shiite universe. As part of that pro-Sunni-obscurantism effort, Hillary Clinton, on 20-Jan-10, lifted the visa ban on Tariq Ramadan. Now, his enlightened opinion[29] is published in the New York Times, no less. When is the last time a Shiite intellectual was published in the national “newspaper of record”?

 

Washington’s support of Sunni fundamentalism in North Africa

A less-violent (for now) manifestation of Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-backed intervention in Arab countries is Egypt and Tunisia immediately after the uprisings of early 2011. The United States allowed members of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011-12 by virtue of the pro-"Sunni jihadists” philosophy instigated by Vice President Dick Cheney. The Peninsula’s U.S.-backed monarchies had Tunisia and Egypt release Sunni extremists from prison, when those religious extremists have in fact no connection with the recent secular thrust for democracy in those countries. One way for Washington and the monarchical families to ensure the pro-democracy forces in North Africa lose their secular character, and never turn into a revolutionary movement was to rally around them. Although not representative of the majority, local branches of the Muslim Brotherhood have existed under North-African dictatorships as political groupings since Reagan’s pro-Sunni extremism policy of the 1980s. In contrast, 2010-11’s spontaneous popular uprisings were, by definition, without properly-funded, experienced or even clearly-identified leadership; without a mature organizational structure to represent them. That rendered the power vacuum after Mubarak and Ben-Ali’s downfalls easy for the Sunni monarchies to intervene into in 2011. A validation of that analysis is the fact that popular demands and persistent discontent are flaring up anew today. Economically, the Muslim-Brotherhood leaders now in Cairo and Tunis have renewed the IMF-imposed conditionalities that contributed to the buildup of the socioeconomic pressures behind 2010-11’s unrest.

 

The United States’ Non-lethal intervention in Syria

On 14-Jan-13, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen explained to the world that “foreign intervention” within Syria can only have “unpredictable regional repercussions.” The pro-war Danish politician probably meant to say foreign intervention in uniform. For at least twelve months now already, the NATO-Saudia-Qatar-Israel alliance, led by the U.S., has been injecting agents provocateurs and weapons into Syria. That campaign of interference, destruction and murder is “intervention,” albeit not in uniform. It relies on clandestine surrogates without declaration of war, along the approach outlined above. In Syria’s case, Doha and Riyadh look after the bulk of the money-and-armament influx. On 01-Apr-12, Qatari news outlet Al-Jazeera announced that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates committed overtly to providing $100 million a month to pay anti-Assad terrorists on Syrian soil, encourage the Assad government’s troops to defect, and buy arms (that official figure omits the flow of black money). In this way, Washington and Paris can convienently affirm that they only give “non-lethal equipment,” coordinational and political support. The crimes committed by the anti-Assad groups are not the United States’ fault[30]. Also, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does much of Washington’s dirty work in terms of sending undercover operatives into Syria. On 18-Feb-12, Haaretz, the main Israeli daily, said 49 Turkish agents had been captured by Assad’s forces on Syrian territory.

Washington has had its subordinates Riyadh, Doha, Tel Aviv, Ankara and Paris arm non-Syrian terrorists—most of them brought over from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Tunisia—and send them into Syria territory. If the Shia-Alawite dictatorship is to crumble within the context of the so-called Arab Spring, then, the reasoning goes, that development should not be looked at passively by the U.S. It must be used as an opportunity to move in and install a Sunni-dominated dictatorship instead. The maneuver would prevent the ethnic-and-religious patchwork that is Syria from coming apart at the seams (dangerous given Israel’s criminal record in the region). A non-Shiite dictator in Damascus would also derail the Shiite “Hezbollah-Damascus-Tehran-Baghdad” alliance that has emerge thanks to the U.S.’ 2003 attack on Iraq.

In Nov. 2011-Jan. 2012, the U.S.-NATO-Saudia-Qatar-Israel alliance multiplied in a dramatic fashion the amount of foreign terrorists, money and arms that it sent into Syria. Beside impatience, the late-2011 hardening has to do with the presidential elections of Nov. 2012 approaching. Bashar al-Assad’s resilience during 2011 proved annoying. Very explicitly, on 16-Feb-12, National Intelligence director James R. Clapper told a Senate committee that attacks in Damascus and Aleppo against the Assad dictatorship had been carried out by outside Sunni extremists, mostly likely brought in from Iraq. While the casulaty estimate for 2011 is approximately 6,500 Syrians killed, the casualty estimate for 2012 is approximately 53,500 Syrians killed. The sharp rise is owed to the U.S.-NATO-Saudia-Qatar-Israel alliance accelerating its “non-lethal intervention” in late 2011.

When, on 16-Jul-12, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declares Washington’s determination to advance “security, stability, peace, and democracy” in the Middle East, the first word, “security”, refers to Washington’s policy of arming, paying and protecting rogue anti-Shiite terrorists. U.S.-backed Qatar is a good place to look: the absolute monarchy is a close and obedient client of the United States. One soft-spoken sentence from Hillary Clinton in 2012 would have sufficed to stop any interference in Syria from Qatar. Moreover, “Qatari special forces operated extensively on the ground in Libya, shipping in military supplies overland from Sudan as well as having them dropped by French and other NATO aircraft” (Reuters, 17-Dec-12). On 11-Dec-12, Hillary Clinton “placed Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian group with links to al-Qaeda in Iraq, on [the U.S. State Department’s] list of foreign terror organizations” (WSJ). Simultaneously, Middle East specialist Peter Apps reports that “surface-to-air missiles might already have been shipped to rebels inside Syria by Qatar” (12-Dec-12). The pro-Suni-terror doctrine is not confirmed in an official manner—yet it is ubiquitous across foreign-policy experts. “Mona Yacoubian, a former State Department official [informs Reuters that] ‘Fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra are considered amongst the most effective... and appear to have gained increasing legitimacy’” (emphasis added[31]). Nigel Inkster, former senior MI6, conveys even more eloquently the lunacy now dominant among Western decision-makers. Some old-school skeptics’ “worry would be that [an assault on Western interests] would happen later” but “foreign jihadist fighters flocking to Syria appear mainly focused on fighting Assad’s forces[; those radicals seem to have] little enthusiasm for taking effort […] to target the West.” So it is too early to have any qualms. At this stage of the game, it’s okay if Jabhat al-Nusra’s 7,000-odd professional killers funded by Gulf States with U.S. support destroy Syrian civilization. To make an omelette, one’s got to crack a few eggs. Once the West’s goal is accomplished, then we will revisit. “Even if Jabhat al-Nusra establishes a strong power base in Syria after Assad,” former MI6 official Inkster tells another outlet, “you have to wonder whether [that local victory] will ever really raise their sights above the near enemy;” not necessarily (FT, 03-Feb-13). So why not recruit those suicidal terrorists? They will probably just stop there; like they did in Afghanistan in 1989. One must be either straight-laced or paranoid to question whether the end—to replace Assad with a non-Shiite strongman—justifies the means employed by Washington and its affiliates.

 

Why is Obama ‘leading from behind’

In 1961, John F. Kennedy instituted “U.S. support of Mafia-like oligarchies and their uniformed gunmen” in Latin America, through full, “direct complicity.” “U.S. assistance programs were retooled to strengthen the hold of local military forces over their own people"[32] (Charles Maechling, State Department official in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, in a 18-Mar-82 Los Angeles Times article). In 1964, in keeping with Kennedy’s policy towards Brazil, the Johnson administration found neo-fascist general Castelo Branco to be “a man of dignity” and “a remarkable Latin American chief of state.” As Lyndon B. Johnson carried out 31-Mar-64’s coup and installed torturer Branco in Brasília, the U.S. President authorized $50 million in emergency aid easily (the equivalent to $500 million today). With equal ease, Johnson sent[33] an additional $150 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money to Brazil’s predatory junta in Dec. 1964. Those days of casual, play-it-by-ear profligacy from the Executive branch are gone. Washington now is in Sequester mode.

“Leading from behind” is a phrase used by an Obama adviser in an Apr. 2011 interview with the The New Yorker’s reporter Ryan Lizza within the context of U.S.-NATO’s intervention in Libya. The expression was perceived by pundits as a military image. It is not. It has to do with a cash-strapped Treasury: the United States government’s debt exceeds $16.3 trillion. On 27-Mar-12, Republican, and former Secretary of State, James Baker explained it using simple words. “I am not a big fan of what [the U.S.] did in Libya; even though I am glad to see Gaddafi gone, the seasoned politician said. […] Syria is a hell of a different case than Libya. […] I think we need to proceed very cautiously [in Syria.] We’re broke. We don’t need another major engagement; we really don’t need [a military operation] we can’t fund right now, and can’t pay for.” That pecuniary aspect is key for anyone wondering why medieval, pariah governments such as the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Qatar or Saudi Arabia are nowadays in a position to “take the lead” in financing jihadist-style terrorism in the world. Thanks in part to Dick Cheney’s $3 trillion aggression against Iraq, the United States, and one must not forget this, is a country deeply in debt. Federal personnel could go without full paycheck any day now (uniformed military; civilian Pentagon staffers; defense contractors; intelligence operatives; etc.). As a result, when a small monarchy flush with cash such as Qatar goes and starts funneling money and uncontrollable terrorists into Syria, Washington can only follow “from behind,” mainly by providing diplomatic cover. At the same time, Qatar’s interference is documented in detail by the U.S. and its allies Turkey, Jordan and Israel. The weapons smuggled illegally by the Qatari monarchy’s billionaires are monitored. Every killer paid and sent into Syria is kept track of. That means that if U.S. voters protest against Washington’s unconditional support for murderous, backward, fundamentalist, corrupt Qatar, Washington can stop Qatari terrorism in one phone call. If, say, the people of the United States brings a lawsuit against Qatar with The Hague, Qatar will be found guilty of unlawful use of force in five minutes. In other words, despite the huge imbalance in terms of financial health, Washington—if pressured by enough American voters—can still neutralize Doha with no effort whatever. Right now, Obama chooses to support terrorist state Qatar because American voters let him. Same willful ignorance and obstinate equanimity as during Camelot.

 

Conclusion

Any involvement—flow of arms and money—whether from Moscow or U.S.-NATO—enhances the violence in Syria. It can only make a bad situation even worse. Ordinary citizens of U.S.-NATO countries therefore have a moral duty to oppose the criminal policies implemented by their elected governments. Both murderous camps, Moscow-Damascus and U.S.-NATO, are pursuing their own interests there, not the Syrian people’s. (And certainly not their own citizens’ interests.) Cornered, Assad and his Alawite entourage are continuing their campaign of violent repression. Meanwhile, the various factions of “rebels” are getting more and more military/pecuniary aid from the West and its allies.

On 01-Feb-13, White House press secretary Jay Carney declared that Bashar al-Assad’s “hands are drenched in blood, the blood of his own people.” That has been true of the Assad dynasty for decades. In addition to the West’s toleration, Moscow, Beijing and Iran no doubt have supported Damascus militarily, politically and financially. So the White House’s rhetoric contains no information; it gains by being ignored.

As of today, the West’s ordinary citizens can’t influence Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping. However—as voters, as taxpayers, as the funders of the destructive operations described above—the West’s general population can influence U.S.-NATO’s interference activities. De facto, the West’s citizens are complicit.

The tragic, lingering development in Syria has been possible because ordinary citizens’ point of view is entrenched in Pepsi-vs.-Coke representations of human affairs. The population is trained to not ever think about a third choice. Those doctrinal constraints must be demolished. The world is a complex place. The high school-football cheerleader mentality expected of the general population must be discarded and surpassed. Until then, massacres such as the current one in Syria—and many others elsewhere—will become more and more trivialized. If one doesn’t tolerate their government enhancing the butchery, one can speak up. A legacy of democratic channels and democratic tools and democratic freedoms exists in the West. Ordinary citizens of U.S.-NATO countries can break their silence and utilize that democratic, peaceful equipment so as to coerce their own elected governments into aborting their murder-and-destruction policies. U.S.-NATO governments must stop participating in the atrocities now ongoing in Syria. Ordinary Western citizens form the sole entity in a position to hamper today the Western bloc’s substantial contribution to the crimes against Syrian citizens.

~ Jalel Harchaoui.


[1] The recent thrust for democracy in Arab countries began in Egypt in the form a labor strike on 06-Apr-08 at the Misr Spinning & Weaving textile factory. The general strike was suppressed by police, but the imprint it left on ordinary Egyptians’ consciousness played a pivotal role triggering a new attempt at justice in 2011. The catalyst in early 2011 was the wave of popular uprisings in Tunisia begun on 17-Dec-10. The people of Tunisia succeeded in overthrowing Paris-backed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali on 14-Jan-11.

[2] Nowadays, even anti-imperialistic milieus seem to be pervaded by the racist prejudice that Muslim societies, as opposed to Judeo-Christian societies, aren’t ready for democracy yet. That somehow the Muslim populace is inherently immature, and therefore needs to be shepherded by a paternalistic, coercive, authoritarian form of governance. Those racist ideologies were propounded by devoted statists such as Harvard’s Samuel Huntington, Harvard’s Fareed Zakaria, Standford’s Fouad Ajami, et al. Paris Sciences Po’s Gilles Kepel, a prominent French scholar of Islam, also has helped spread the myth that Muslim faith intrinsically, unlike Christian faith, Jewish faith, etc., makes democratic development impossible. The Islamaphobia can and must be overcome.

[3] Washington donated over $6bn’s worth of U.S.-taxpayer money to violent fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Part of that money was given directly; part was through close U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The 1979-89 covert U.S. assistance involved CIA and DoD specialists assisting and training Islamist supremacists in secret headquarters near Rawalpindi, Pakistan. By 1983, the annual flow of arms shipped to the terrorists amounted to 10,000 tons. The quantity of arms reached 65,000 tons annually by 1987 (WP, 19-Jul-92). Once the period of intense support from America ended, Hekmatyar became a ‘bad’ violent fundamentalist as opposed to a ‘good’ violent fundamentalist. At no point did anyone among Western leadership, as Wilson expounded, care about the fact that Hekmatyar’s terror group was tearing Afghan civilian society to shreds in the 1980s. Prior to the late 1970s, such violent Sunni fanaticism could be found only within the Peninsula’s oil monarchies; nowhere else. Washington chose to spread it around at a vast scale using U.S. taxpayers’ funds (armament; Saudi-type fundamentalist schools; training bases; etc.). The consequences of that 1980s campaign are now corroding countless societies across the planet, including in Africa, Western Europe, North America and West Asia. A traditional aerial bombardment can be stopped. A heavily-funded incubation campaign whereby non-state terror elements are protected, trained and mentally conditioned cannot be easily stopped once it has gained momentum. Any U.S. planner responsible for those undemocratic decisions could have, with relative ease, predicted that over three decades ago. It would have sufficed to try and imagine Washington’s reaction to an outside entity financing a similar experiment inside U.S. society. Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski “argues that even given the 20/20 hindsight after September 11, the covert aid remains justified” (The Nation, 25-Oct-01). At least, that’s clear.

[4] Before Israel demonstrated its warring abilities in Jun. 1967, Washington had almost zero interest in the young state. Einsenhower had it exit the Sinai at once in late 1956 when the French and British governments helped the Israeli Defense Forces attack Egypt. After 1971-73, any military distinction between Washington and Israel would soon evaporate. Especially after the U.S.-backed regime of the shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979. Had the U.S. not had cast the lone veto on every U.N. resolution meant to affirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, Israel could have been tempted to comply with International Law and 22-Nov-67’s Resolution 242. In Jan. 1976, the latter had been accepted in principle already by all Arab countries. Ever since then, a negotiated settlement has been achievable along the lines of Israel’s 04-Jun-67 borders, plus or minus some minor land swaps. However, Israel integrating itself peacefully into the region would have removed Washington’s only good pretext to maintain massive on-hair-trigger-alert means of violence in the main energy-producing region of the world. That pretext is called America’s “moral obligation” to defend Israel’s right to exist against external threats.

[5] "In Feb. 2011, Riyadh ordered tanks into Bahrain to help put down a popular uprising” (Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs). In Feb.-Mar. 2011, thirty unarmed demonstrators along, with five police officers, were killed. Thousands were jailed and released once the protest’s momentum suppressed. The vast majority of the protesters “were Shia Muslims in a country ruled by a minority Sunni royal family. Since then, opposition and human-rights activists say another 45 people have been killed” (BBC). Thirteen Bahraini citizens remain in prison owing to their pro-democracy opinions. In Jan. 2013, repression by the family dictatorship caused the death of an 8-year-old boy. The protests of 23-Jan-13 were not reported by Western corporate media.

[6] Current Rwandan President Paul Kagamé was trained at the U.S. Army C&GS College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Another Washington-backed government is Yoweri Museveni’s repressive regime in Uganda. Mass murderers Kagamé and Museveni work in unison for the United States.

[7] If one pays attention to the various reports and literature that inform Western consciousness today, one will notice that the Congolese horror surpasses the 1940s’ Holocaust and, yet, remarkably, no center of power is involved. The mainstream uniformly fails to connect Eastern Congo’s ongoing bloodletting to the United States’ leadership. Even the media-exposed 23-Mar-09 terror cell ("M23") itself is, at the very worst, accused only of being “supported” by Paul Kagamé. That is a bit like saying that the American President “supports” the U.S. Marine Corps when the latter decides on its own to go conduct some slaughter abroad.

[8] Another illustration of the Assad philosophy is Oct. 1998. In the late 1990s, using weapons provided by Bill Clinton, Ankara exterminated 35,000 Kurds and destroyed 3,600 villages in southeastern Turkey (if Paris did the same in the Basque country, everyone would be shocked). In 1998, Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz threatened war with Hafez al-Assad over his support for Turkish Kurd separatists. Hafez quickly dropped the ball, expelling Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan and bowing to Ankara-Washington’s murderous campaign. (Öcalan was captured by in Kenya on 15-Feb-99.) In a 30-Dec-00 interview with Lebanon’s As-Safir, Bashar al-Assad admitted to being aware of his father’s reputation as a mindless, opportunistic dictator with no loyalty. He defended himself against it: “The Americans think that our [the Assad dynasty’s] political behavior is pragmatic.” Bashar went on to reaffirm his undying “adherence to national and pan-Arab principles.” To believe that Assad father & son are committed to pan-Arabism is as realistic as believing that Bush father & son were committed to free-markets capitalism. Same level of absurdity. Concentrated power is committed to only one thing: concentrated power.

[9] The massacre perpetrated by Hafez al-Assad fueled the mounting Sunni dissent within Alawi-ruled Syria in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood—which itself used violence—was met with violent repression. Hafez al-Assad had his brother Rifat murder approximately 900 Sunnis in the city of Palmyra on 27-Jun-80. That history of bitterness and bloodletting provides fertile terrain for foreign interference today.

[10] Amnesty International’s casualty estimate for Hama is between 10,000 and 25,000, the vast majority civilians. The Assads’ “rule by murder and fear” was noticed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only on 26-May-12, never before that. Bill Clinton sent Madeleine Albright to represent him at Hafez al-Assad’s funeral on 13-Jun-00. The U.S. Secretary of State eulogized Assad as a “major figure” and expressed sadness at his passing. To this day, there has not been any need for the perpetrators of the Hama massacre to “be identified and held to account” (Hillary Clinton’s phrase, 26-May-12). Hafez’ brother Rifaat, who confirmed explicitly having carried out the Hama massacre, now lives happily in London, protected by David Cameron.

[11] Since a 1971 agreement, the Russian Navy has had, to this day, a military base in Syria, in the port of the city of Tartus.

[12] During the years 1945-75, European governments purposely drew problematic borders through their colonies. The trick was a means of retaining control over those societies post-decolonization. In an environment of cultivated fear and hatred, the public is distracted with its own internal antagonism and becomes oblivious of governance. That makes economies easier to penetrate, and officials easier to influence.

[13] The Alawi sect is an offshoot of Shia.

[14] The ordinary American might want to juxtapose the haste with which Washington let go of Abu Musab el-Suri against its zeal lashing out at Omar Khadr. When he was 15 of age, the Canadian citizen was accused of war crimes, i.e., attempting to defend his village in Afghanistan against U.S. invasion. The terror heavyweight was shipped to the U.S. torture chamber in Bagram, then off to Guantánamo for eight years. Ottawa refrained from requesting extradition (Khadr possesses the right citizenship but, unfortunately, he is of the wrong breed). Khadr had to choose between 30 additional years’ imprisonment and eight additional years’ imprisonment. He pleaded guilty. The U.S. voter is invited to compare the West’s treatment of Omar Khadr vs. the West’s treatment of Rifaat al-Assad, Abu Musa al-Suri, et al.

[15] Washington did transfer enormous wealth away from American taxpayers. Yet, Dick Cheney and his team managed to turn the invasion of Iraq into one of the worst catastrophes in colonial history. That, assuming that the war of aggression was not a crime to begin with, and that the 1.1 million Iraqi slain do not count.

[16] On 23-May-03, L. Paul Bremer disbanded the Iraqi military, security, and intelligence infrastructure of Saddam Hussein.

[17] Veteran Reaganite Richard Haass recommended that the Bush administration quit “promoting an alternative to direct elections […]; the U.S. will be forced to give in to the ayatollah’s demands” or it’ll end up “facing literally millions of angry Iraqis” (WSJ, 11-Feb-04).

[18] That phrase from senior statesmen such as James A. Baker III is interesting. It reminds the reader how unconditionally supportive Washington is of the Gulf’s murderous family dictatorships. One can simply try and imagine a U.S. politician writing in an official report: “North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un is not a proponent of democracy in Denmark; he worries about the direction of events there.”

[19] "Democracy is unlikely to succeed [in an Arab society] anytime soon” (Joshua Landis, professor of Middle Eastern studies, in Samuel Huntington’s Foreign Policy, 05-Jun-12).

[20] Many distinguished political scientists in the West suggest that the tension between Shiites and Sunnis dates back to some obscure 7th-century feud. That is a racist view, which conveniently ignores present-day socioeconomic reality.

[21] Hezbollah’s security strategy, like Tehran’s, is to remain focused on deterring an attack and direct self-defense.

[22] The fact that U.S.-backed Peninsula aristocrats are a major financier of terror is controversial only to people who don’t read. Very conservative institutions have documented the connection in no ambiguous terms. For instance, Standford University’s investigation Mapping Militant Organizations states that Al-Qaeda in Iraq “continues to rely on […] funding and fighters originating from Saudi Arabia, and logistical support from elements throughout the Arabian Gulf.” The White House itself is candid, too, in its own way. “On the eve of Cheney’s [11-May-07] trip, a senior administration official said that Abdullah’s “political and moral stature” in the region gives him important leverage with Iraq’s Sunnis” (WP). Coming from a Peninsula monarch, “political stature” can only mean weapons and mercenaries, and “moral stature,” money. What else can those words mean? On 09-May-07, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius explained that “Saudi Arabia [used to implement] its political machinations behind a veil, quietly doling out cash in an effort to buy peace.” However, lately, Iran’s president Ahmadinejad “frightened the Saudis into abandoning their traditional reticence.” At the time when the Persian Gulf aristocrats were still all hampered by their ‘traditional reticence,‘ “money and manpower from Saudi Arabia helped create and sustain Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization” (NYT, 14-Oct-01). Now that they have finally ‘abandoned their traditional reticence,‘ the reader is left to imagine what type of ‘peace’ the Arabian Peninsula billionaires are ‘buying’ as we speak.

[23]  Faithful to his usual ambivalence, Bashar didn’t go to the 28-Nov-06 meeting in Tehran.

[24] The American press didn’t conceal the Arabian Peninsula monarchs’ unbridled anti-democracy interference in Iraq. “The Saudis appear to favor replacing the Maliki government” in Iraq (WP, 09-May-07) but, during his visit in Riyadh, the U.S. “vice president will make the case that Maliki was elected” (WP, 11-May-07).

[25] As soon as he came to power, Obama accelerated the development of “30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The [powerful conventional] bomb […] was designed to take out bunkers like those used by Iran to protect its most sensitive nuclear development work” (WSJ, 25-Feb-12). The initiative was, officially, already underway under Bush but Obama jolted it markedly.

[26] The toughest, most extreme political factions tend to be more accepted within the context of a society that is attacked from without. To take an extreme example, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were a very marginal element in Laos before the U.S. bombings reached their peak in 1973. That drift of the general public toward hard, authoritarian ideology is a standard phenomenon whenever a country is, or perceives itself to be, under assault. One has only to look at the Golden Dawn party as Greek society is being “restructured” by the IMF and the EU/ECB.

[27] In 1953, Barack Obama said on 04-Jun-09, “the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government” and replaced the parliamentary system with Mehmood Qureshi’s dictatorship. The latter, over the coming quarter century, with Washington’s support, compiled one of worst human-rights records in the area. As Standford’s ultra-right-wing thinker Francis Fukuyama perspicaciously noted, “there is no culture in which this sort of behavior is not strongly resented” (WSJ, 12-Mar-11).

[28] "The arrogant front” is a phrase used on 18-Feb-07 by Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ali Khamenei, to describe the U.S.-Israel-Saudi-Qatar alliance’s active search for military confrontation. Former Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger also referred to “American arrogance and militarism” in a 23-Mar-03 Los Angeles Times op-ed article condemning the aggressive war against Iraq as fundamentally immoral.

[29] Speaking of the Syria butchery, Tariq Ramadan affirms that “no other solution [to Syria’s predicament exists] except that imposed by force of arms,” which is exactly the kind of rationalization expected of him by the U.S. State Department (08-Jan-13, Egypt’s OnIslam.net). In a 30-Sep-12 New York Times op-ed piece, he informs the world of the flaw that hinders “Arab thought.” “Intellectual limitations […] afflict” those who are committed “secularists.” The latter, Ramadan writes, ought to embrace Islamists and listen to them. Muslims interested in democracy, Professor Ramadan goes on, must refrain from “standing against overlapping of religion and politics.” They must mix them together. When it comes to democracy, Arabs are different from all other humans. Indeed, amid the recent thrust for democracy in Arab societies, “Islamists have legitimacy” (no explanation is provided). Egyptians and Tunisians are, it goes without saying, “facing foreign pressure with regard to democratic processes.” The popular struggle in favor of democracy in Egypt and Tunisia is not waged by the young, educated, secular Muslim protesters who have been risking—and losing—their lives over the last few years. No. The pressure in favor of democracy comes from foreign powers, everyone knows that. In prior decades, the Oxford savant asserts, the “Arab world” was in a state of “lethargy.” Hosni Mubarak and his generals didn’t use wholesale torture. Their brutal dictatorship was neither supported nor funded by Washington and its affiliates. Ben-Ali’s police state didn’t benefit from the unconditional backing of France. Just “lethargy,” that is all it was. That is one useful visa Hillary Clinton issued there.

[30] Washington, according to the mainstream press, has only been “enhancing the command-and-control of the rebel information, largely by improving their ability to communicate with one another,” nothing more. “The [Obama] administration has not taken [the] course [of] arm[ing] the Syrian opposition” (NYT, 21-Jul-12). The same mendacious approach was used in the 1980s as a way for the Executive to work around the normal congressional-approval process. The Reagan administration employed then the governments of Taiwan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to bankroll and implement its terrorist operations in Central America. Same with Israel. Washington routinely used Tel Aviv to support apartheid despite congressional limitations. In the 16-May-82 issue of the Boston Globe: “American-made helicopters […] went from Israel to Rhodesia […] despite a trade embargo.”

[31] In Jan. 2013, the U.S. State Department prepared a synopsis of reports submitted by different anti-Assad groups. “As rival Free Syrian Army battalions recruit fighters [among civilians], they ‘buy them with money,‘ notes the summary” (WP, 01-Feb-13). That says a lot about the ‘legitimacy’ the former State Department alludes to. Non-Syrian Sunni guerrilla formation Jabhat al-Nusra “is not only fighting Assad’s forces […] but […] taking over the distribution of breakfast in Aleppo” (FT, 03-Feb-13). That material opulence, too, is an indication of the sheer amount of cash the Gulf States have been funneling unrestrainedly into the anti-Assad militias.

[32] When Caroline Kennedy declared that she saw in Barack Obama “a president like my father,” she was quite prescient (NYT, 27-Jan-08).

[33] Source: David F. Schmitz, 1999. Thank God They’re On Our Side: The United States & Right-Wing Dictatorships, 1921-65. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.