The hell visited on Syrian society has been in many respects a continuation of the hell visited on Iraq in 2003, after 13 years of sanctions had already killed two million of its people, including half a million children.
During this sanctions period, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, in a rare moment of candor for a functionary of the empire, provided us with an invaluable insight into the pristine barbarism which lurks behind the mask of democracy and human rights that such people usually wear for the purposes of confusing the public mind as to who and what they truly are.
The interviewer, Lesley Stahl, put it to Albright that half a million Iraqi children had died due to the sanctions, and asked if she thought the price “is worth it.” Albright without hesitation answered Yes. “We think the price is worth it.”
The photos released by the Russian Defense Ministry that purport to show US hardware at Islamic State positions could be a “quite damning” evidence of Washington’s cooperation, Syria analyst Kamal Alam told RT.READ MORE: Russian lieutenant-general killed in ISIS shelling near Deir ez-Zor, Syria – MoD“Since the beginning of this war the Americans have not been sure which group to back and every group they back seemed to be the wrong group or end up being allied to either Al-Qaeda or ISIS [Islamic State, IS, ISIL],”
CORRECTION: The ADF was well aware white phosphorus had been used by members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria.
The drug is called Captagon, and it’s being used by all sides of the Syrian conflict.
The production of the drug, which keeps fighters awake over long periods of time, is said to be providing income for all factions involved in the Syrian war.
During the last year, shipments of Captagon have been seized on the way to the West Bank, Jordan, Sudan, Syria and the Gulf. In October, Anti-Media reported on a Saudi prince who was arrested for trying to smuggle two tons of the drug onto a plane.
Source: Captagon: The Jihadist’s Drug
Earlier this month, multiple reports surfaced of US-led coalition forces in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria, using the incendiary chemical weapon, white phosphorus, on civilians. For over a week, the US government and the coalition at large have remained silent on the issue — until now.In an error that will likely get him much backlash, in an interview with NPR, New Zealand Brig. Gen. Hugh McAslan, and member of the US-coalition has admitted — for the first time — to using white phosphorus during operations in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
A new Operation Inherent Resolve report has upped the official civilian death toll of the US-led aerial bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq by more than a third, confirming 484 civilian deaths – while activists claim the figure is several times higher.
While some are motivated by a genuine desire to help, others have come seeking personal glory, fighters say.
Syrian Kurdish forces have been among the bravest and most effective in the war against ISIS in Syria. They may well be on course to also be the most treacherous.
Report: ‘Efforts to contain the flow of foreign recruits to extremist groups in Syria and Iraq have had limited impact’
To sustainably defeat Islamic State you need a mutually reinforcing coalition.
Op-Ed by Dan Sanchez You’ve seen those internet ads that offer “one weird trick” for eliminating belly fat or boosting testosterone, right? Well, here’s one weird trick for getting rid of ISIS and boosting our security from terrorism. The “trick” is non-intervention. And it is …
“We strategically marched in the wrong direction.”
The Japanese manufacturer responded after an ABC News report on Wednesday said counter-terrorism officials at the US Treasury have been in contact with the auto gi
More than two weeks have passed since the lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed ashore on a Turkish beach, forcing the world to confront the tide of Syrian asylum seekers massing at Europe’s borders.
ISLAMIC State group fighters seized at least one cache of weapons air-dropped by US-led coalition forces that were meant to supply Kurdish militiamen battling the extremist group in a border
The cache of weapons included hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to a video uploaded by a media group loyal to the Islamic State group.
The video appeared authentic and corresponded to the Associated Press’ reporting of the event. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which bases its information on a network of activists on the ground, said the militants had seized at least one cache.
But the lost weapons drop was more an embarrassment than a great strategic loss. The Islamic State militants already possess millions of dollars-worth of US weaponry that they captured from fleeing Iraqi soldiers when the group seized swathes of Iraq in a sudden sweep in June
Baghdad: Even before a formal announcement, the deal for Australia to help Iraq battle the so-called Islamic State which now controls swaths of Iraq and Syria, drew sharp criticism from forces allied to the Baghdad government.
As Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was finalising the deal for Australian Special Forces. it was condemned by senior figure in three of the Shiite volunteer militias that now prop up the Iraqi Army on the battlefield.
Haji Jaafar al-Bindawi, chief of training and logistics for the Imam Ali Brigades, told Fairfax Media that the 200 Australians on standby in the United Arab Emirates to deploy in Iraq “should go home”.
Likewise, Adnan al-Shahmani, an MP who serves as a parliamentary and military liaison for several militia forces and who leads his own force in battle, said: “Foreign forces? Never! We don’t need them … in combat or as advisers.
“The militias’ objection to Australian and American advisers is part of a greater distrust of Western intentions.
Imam Ali Brigades’ Haji Jaafar al-Bindawi makes no promises about what will happen if Australian troops are encountered. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Asked how the conflict would run, the Imam Ali Brigades’ Haji Jaafar al-Bindawi said that victory would be declared when “the [IS] terrorists have been defeated and we have driven out the returned [US-led] occupation”.
“We don’t need air strikes – unless they are by the Iraqi Air Force.
“More foreign troops? No, we have a million heroes.
Earlier, Fadil al Shairawi, Baghdad actor and poet who serves as the Imam Ali Brigades’ spokesman, told Fairfax media: “I hope this new experience in Iraq for the Americans will not be a repeat of the last – we were a peaceful people with a full infrastructure, but the US destroyed that infrastructure and made us an aggressive nation.”
That deep suspicion of the West permeated an interview with the MP Adnan al-Shahmani. He argued: “We don’t need a coalition of more than 40 nations to defeat IS, so what’s going on here?
“We don’t need advisers. It’s not complicated – we are at war with a gang of thugs and the Americans say they want to help, but they won’t give us the weapons we need.”
On the Sunni tribal side of the equation, a senior figure – Sheikh Abdul Hamid al Juburi – was derisive about the intent of coalition air strikes.
Claiming to speak for all of the Sunni tribes in central Salah ad-Din province, where IS now controls several major centres, the sheikh argued: “In the war in Yugoslavia, the US was able to use air strikes alone to end the war – why not here?
The American’s insistence that whatever could be outsourced was outsourced meant that Iraqi colonels were provided with enormous sums of money to pay not only their soldiers’ wages, but also all the other costs necessary to maintain an army.The men charged with allocating these funds became hugely powerful and influential and, rather than spending it on things like fuel and ammunition, siphoned much of it off into their own coffers.
A parade of former leaders responsible for the destruction of Iraq and, thus, the rise of ISIL – John Howard, Tony Blair and the perennial warmonger Dick Cheney – have come forward in recent months to try and expunge their culpability from the historical record. However it was their neoliberalism that has spawned what is, today, essentially a failed State.
Soldiers would join the army, receive their pay-check, kick-back half of it to his officer – who’d then distribute it amongst all the other officers – and then go and work a second job somewhere else. When Mosul fell, it’s estimated that only one in three soldiers who were meant to be there actually were. And once IS were advancing, it was the leaders who were the first to flee.
As predicted by the Iraqi official, the some 30,000 troops stationed there left their posts, shed their uniforms and fled the few thousand (or less) advancing ISIL fighters.
Now, with the Iraqi army having all but completely dissolved, the U.S. and its allies have committed to air strikes to ‘degrade and destroy’ ISIL.
President Obama, Tony Abbott and a host of other world leaders that claim to be committed to fighting ISIL have become fond of saying that this is primarily Iraq’s fight, not theirs.
What they fail to say is that their commitment to the privatisation of the Iraqi army at the expense of proficiency is responsible for destroying the very institution they’ve now charged with taking the fight to ISIL. It’s these boys we say we’re going to train who won’t come out of their barracks.
Australia won’t send ground troops to fight Islamic State in Iraq, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australia will not be sending ground troops to fight against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.
Ms Bishop has met with Iraqi officials to discuss Australia’s role in the US-led coalition against IS militants.
Speaking at a news conference alongside her Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari in Baghdad, she said Australia is working with Iraq to see how best to provide further assistance in the region.
“We’ve not been asked and we’ve not offered to [send troops to Iraq]. So I do not envisage that being part of our arrangements with Iraq,” she said.
“We will only provide assistance at the invitation of and with the consent of the Iraqi government.”
Mr Jafaari reaffirmed Ms Bishop’s words and said Iraq considered sending in ground forces as “a red line”.
Last week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia’s special forces had not yet been able to enter Iraq because the Baghdad government had not provided the necessary legal guarantees.
Mr Abbott wants the 200 Australian special operations troops to be offered indemnity from prosecution under Iraqi law, such as that offered to US soldiers.
Tony Abbott says the Middle East is “a witch’s brew of difficulty and complexity”. As Australia conducts air raids in Iraq, what are some of the key ingredients in that volatile mix?
If Australia taking dramatic action on climate change is merely symbolic, what are we to make of our commitment to the fight again Islamic State forces? Adam Lockyer writes.
By now the Abbott Government’s rationale against taking dramatic action to combat climate change is familiar to most Australians. Its logic follows four steps:
1) Australia’s contribution is just a drop in the ocean; 2) As such, any action Australia takes will largely be symbolic; 3) As such, we can put to one side any assessment of how serious the original threat is and concentrate on whether we should make a symbolic gesture to this global problem; 4) Hence, the choice becomes: what is going to be the economic cost to Australia for this merely symbolic gesture?
We can largely limit the costs of our involvement to the dollar sum (and potentially the loss of our soldiers’ lives). Confronted by a “budget emergency”, is $500 million (and this a is conservative sum) worth symbolism? I would argue that Australia’s small symbolic contribution to fighting IS is a luxury that we, as a nation, can currently do without purchasing.
There is, however, one significant difference between climate change and the fight against IS. That is, even if Australia was to cut its emissions to zero, it would not significantly affect global temperatures. It would be a positive symbolic gesture and show moral leadership, but have no practical difference. In contrast, there is no reason why the Abbott Government needs to keep Australia’s contribution to the fight against IS at mere symbolic levels.
Unlike climate change, Australia could make a significant contribution to the course of the war against IS. Hypothetically, if IS was as big a threat to Australia as the political hyperbole suggests, then the Government could throw three regular brigades at IS, call up its reserves, introduce conscription and raise Defence’s share of GDP to World War II levels.
However, this level of commitment to the war against IS is completely unrealistic. So, we are left with a simple question: is half a billion dollars a year over an indefinite period worth mere symbolism?
Iraqi army and police score rare victory in the battle for Baghdad
A JOINT force of Iraqi army and police personnel have staged a brazen attack on an Islamic State staging post west of Baghdad killing 60 militants and providing some relief to locals in the Iraqi capital.
For days ISIS militants have been sweeping through the western province of Anbar toward Baghdad, sacking a number of towns and villages and seizing armaments from a military base the Iraqi army was forced to abandon.
But the joint local force stormed the militants camp in Jaberiya killing up to 60 militants while also killing a number of senior ISIS figures in a second fightback near Ramadi, the capital of Anbar region.
The rare success for local Iraqi forces has provided some relief to coalition forces — involved in Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq — that privately believed the Anbar province would be lost in a matter of days allowing ISIS forces an open back door into Baghdad. Reports the capital could be overrun by jihadists were scotched today.
Despite there having been yet another suicide bomb attack in eastern Baghdad yesterday, for the fourth day in a row the latest killing five civilians and three police at a police checkpoint, those in Baghdad maintain the capital has never been safer.
The Department of Foreign Affairs certainly has advised all Australians to get out of the city and the international airport while they could.
“This time a year ago about every seven days we were having a coordinated wave of attacks where 60, 70 or 80 people were killed, there would be eight or nine bombs that would go off all over Baghdad,” a government official in Baghdad told News Corp yesterday.
“Now there are maybe one or two incidents every couple of days so it’s certainly not nearly as dramatic as it was 12 months ago or even eight months ago but that is no cause for complacency that’s for sure. Robust security measures are in place.”
Baghdad remains a very much divided city with Sunni and Shia areas.
But most of the security forces are Shia so take it as in their interests to defend their city and the official said reports of Baghdad falling into imminent ISIS hands were completely overblown.
There are some 53,000 Iraqi military and police troops in the city.
“The level of violence in Baghdad has gone down in the past six months, the lowest its been in years and security has increased quite significantly in the past four to five months so the ability to undertake violence is reduced somewhat,” the official said.
“The closure of the (Baghdad) airport or something like this would be a major symbolic event and that would not happen. There is a lot (of forces) between us and them.”
Acting Chief of the Defence Force Ray Griggs agreed reports Baghdad was about to fall into ISIS hands was overblown.
(Reuters) – American-led forces have sharply intensified air strikes in the past two days against Islamic State fighters threatening Kurds on Syria’s Turkish border after the jihadists’ advance began to destabilize Turkey.
War on the militants in Syria is threatening to unravel a delicate peace in neighboring Turkey where Kurds are furious with Ankara over its refusal to help protect their kin in Syria.
The plight of the Syrian Kurds in Kobani provoked riots among Turkey’s 15 million Kurds last week in which at least 35 people were killed.Turkish warplanes were reported to have attacked Kurdish rebel targets in southeast Turkey after the army said it had been attacked by the banned PKK Kurdish militant group, risking reigniting a three-decade conflict that killed 40,000 people before a ceasefire was declared two years ago.
“For the first time in nearly two years, an air operation was carried out against our forces by the occupying Turkish Republic army,” the PKK said. “These attacks against two guerrilla bases at Daglica violated the ceasefire,” the PKK said, referring to an area near the border with Iraq.
U.S. officials have expressed frustration at Turkey’s refusal to help them fight against Islamic State. Washington has said Turkey has agreed to let it strike from Turkish air base. Ankara has said that is still under discussion.
NATO-member Turkey has refused to join the coalition unless it also confronts Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a demand that Washington, which flies its air missions over Syria without objection from Assad, has so far rejected.
The unrest shows the difficulty Turkey has had in designing a Syria policy. Turkey has already taken in 1.2 million refugees from Syria’s three-year civil war, including 200,000 Kurds who fled the area around Kobani in recent weeks
EXCLUSIVE: Australia’s 200 Special Forces are stalled in the United Arab Emirates, awaiting legal clearance to kick off their mission assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in repelling the Islamic State.
The Special Forces, under the leadership of 2nd Commando Regiment, arrived in the UAE a month ago, fully equipped for their “advise and assist” role, but Iraq is sending mixed signals on whether it wants the Australians in Iraq.
The new Iraqi government of Haider al-Abadi has expressed reluctance about allowing foreign troops onto Iraqi soil — even though small groups of combat specialists, including US, German and British, have made their way to the front line
The RT news channel has reported Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari as saying yesterday: “We are absolutely against foreign military bases and the presence of foreign military forces. Yes, we did ask for help, but it concerned air cover.
“The question of sending troops in was discussed several times and we were very frank and stated clearly that we are completely against the deployment of foreign troops on our territory, as it can cause justifiable fears and concerns among the Iraqi population.”
Further complicating matters, Prime Minister al-Abadi is yet to appoint a permanent Defence Minister as Iraq transitions to its new government.
The six Australian F/A-18F Super Hornets flying combat missions over Iraq operate under an agreement separate to the planned SoFA. It was negotiated between Baghdad and Coalition countries and gives them diplomatic clearance to fly over Iraq and conduct strikes.
No word had come through on the Special Force deployment as of yesterday.
The Iraqi Foreign Minister’s strong language appears to throw doubts as to whether it would accept as many as 200 Australians, who are fully primed to show their Iraqi colleagues that they are staunch and committed allies in combat.
The US, British and German specialists — who are also assisting the Kurds out of Irbil, in northern Iraq — have taken the chance and gone in without SOFAS.
In theory, Australia could send in the Special Forces today, but if — for example — they accidentally shot an Iraqi policeman, they could be arrested and jailed. Australia is not prepared to take that risk.
It may still be the case that they will go, and possibly at a moment’s notice if the deed is signed.
Behind the scenes, that resistance will be most forcefully applied by the Shia regime of Iran, which wields strong political influence in the Iraqi capital, which is also Shia and appears increasingly to be looking to its neighbour — a former enemy — for an Islamic solution to the ISIL scourge.
Australian military role unclear as Iraq minister rejects idea of foreign troops.
Iraqi foreign minister ‘absolutely against’ foreign presence but Tony Abbott remains confident of gaining legal clearance
The “level of engagement” of Australian special forces troops heading to Iraq is still unclear after the new Iraqi foreign minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was quoted as saying he was “absolutely against foreign military bases and the presence of foreign military forces”.
However, the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, confirmed the legal clearance contained in a status of forces agreement (Sofa) for the special forces troops was expected within days.
“With the new government of Iraq still forming, it is taking a little longer than we would have liked to have put those legal protections in place but I am confident that the situation will be revolved in the next few days,” Abbott said.
The Australian soldiers remain in the United Arab Emirates awaiting clearance to advise Iraqi military forces in their fight against Islamic State (Isis). The clearance has been in process for weeks.
Al-Jaafari’s comments appear to place a cloud over the status of foreign troops, though small groups of US, British and German troops are already on the ground in Iraq in an advisory role.
He was quoted as telling the RT news channel: “We are absolutely against foreign military bases and the presence of foreign military forces. Yes, we did ask for help, but it concerned air cover.”
“The question of sending troops in was discussed several times and we were very frank and stated clearly that we are completely against the deployment of foreign troops on our territory, as it can cause justifiable fears and concerns among the Iraqi population.”
Abbott rejected suggestions the Iraqi government was wavering about international troop deployments in its country.
Asked whether the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, had expressed any reluctance about Australian troops entering Iraq, Abbott said: “I made it very clear to [al-Abadi] in New York a couple of weeks ago that we were very keen to help.”
“I made it crystal clear that our special forces are ready to go and there is an enormous amount of good that they can do inside Iraq but we owe it to our special forces only to deploy them with the right legal protections.”
The alliance is under its greatest strain in Turkey, which has met US requests to intervene in Kobani on behalf of Kurdish rebels not just with refusal, but with air strikes aimed instead against Kurdish groups in Turkey.
Turkish fighter jets bombarded Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) positions in south-eastern Turkey this week for the first time since the start of the peace process between the outlawed group and the Turkish government in 2012.
The attacks on the PKK came in the wake of violent clashes last week between Kurdish factions and security forces in several Turkish cities, as anger grows over perceived government inaction against the Isis attack on Kobani.
According to local media reports, the strikes came in retaliation for armed PKK offensives on several military outposts in the area.
The Turkish chief of general staff said the military “opened fire immediately in retaliation, in the strongest terms” after repeated PKK attacks in the area, and before air strikes were launched.
Shiite militias backed by the Iraqi army are committing war crimes against civilians in their fightback against the Islamic State jihadist group, rights watchdog Amnesty International said Tuesday.
It accused the Baghdad government of supporting and arming groups of Shiite fighters who have carried out a string of kidnappings and killings against Sunni civilians in response to IS’s lightning capture of swathes of Iraqi territory in June.
Amnesty said it had seen evidence of “scores” of “deliberate execution style killings” against Sunnis across Iraq as well as Sunni families having to pay tens of thousands of dollars to free abducted relatives.
Many of those kidnapped are still missing and some were killed even after their families paid hefty ransoms to secure their release, the group said in a report.
The watchdog called on the government of newly-installed Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to rein in the scores of militias targeting civilians across Iraq.
“By granting its blessing to militias who routinely commit such abhorrent abuses, the Iraqi government is sanctioning war crimes and fuelling a dangerous cycle of sectarian violence that is tearing the country apart,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser.
The Sunni extremist fighters of IS seized control of swathes of territory in a June offensive that saw many Iraqi army units abandon their posts.
The group now controls large parts of western and northern Iraq, including the country’s second city of Mosul.
Army missions to regain ground are often conducted alongside allied groups of Shiite fighters, raising fears Iraq is returning to the deadly sectarian violence of the mid-2000s.
“The growing power of Shiite militias has contributed to an overall deterioration in security and an atmosphere of lawlessness,” Amnesty said.
Rights organisations accuse the IS group of widespread abuses, including the targeting of civilians in suicide bomb attacks and carrying out executions on captured soldiers, activists and journalists.
The group boasted on Monday it had revived slavery, providing its fighters with minority Yazidi women and children taken from northern Iraq as spoils of war.
Amnesty accused Shiite armed groups of using the battle against IS as a pretext for carrying out “revenge” attacks on members of the Sunni community.
“Shiite militias are ruthlessly targeting Sunni civilians on a sectarian basis under the guise of fighting terrorism,” it said.
– ‘Government must investigate’ –
The watchdog also accused Iraqi government forces of serious rights violations, including evidence of “torture and ill-treatment of detainees, as well as deaths in custody” of inmates held on terror charges.
It said the body of a lawyer and father of two young children who had died in custody showed bruises and may have been electrocuted by guards.
Another man was given electric shocks and threatened “with rape with a stick” before he was released without charge, Amnesty added.
“Successive Iraqi governments have displayed a callous disregard for fundamental human rights principles,” Rovera said.
“The new government must now change course and put in place effective mechanisms to investigate abuses.”
The current war against ISIS cannot be won with air strikes. I would go further and say it cannot even be won with a large ground force either. The reason is simple. You cannot fight an idea with guns or bombs. Guns and bombs may blow people away but the idea remains. And no matter how many people you blow away, others will come to take their place. That is the power of an idea. You can only fight an idea with a better idea. And thus far, no one in the west has been able to do that, if indeed it can be done.
One would have thought that the billions of dollars spent in just the last 25 years trying to restore some degree of peace and stability in the Middle East would have been enough to demonstrate the futility of waging wars. But no, it hasn’t. If it were not for the strategic interests of the region (i.e. Oil), the rest of the world would not have the will or desire to intervene.
And to think that Australia’s efforts in sending a couple of planes to drop a few bombs on an uncertain target will make a difference is just ridiculous. We, along with a multinational coalition, spent eight years routing out ‘evil’ and replacing it with supposedly highly trained ‘good’ for what result? The ‘good’ we left in place has disintegrated. Hugh White makes it clear that if we do it all again, this time for longer and with larger numbers, such a strategy will achieve no more than the last great effort. It might bring some form of political stability to the region for a short time, but it won’t bring a lasting peace.
It certainly doesn’t address the idea that motivates the ‘enemy’. The raw truth is, we do not know how to identify the ‘enemy’. Is it ISIS, is it Islam? Is it Israel? Is it far away Christians believing that this potent mixture of cultures and religions can ever be at peace? Even in a world without gods, there would still be conflicts but nothing as complex as this.
We should commend President Obama for at least holding back and not being sucked into sending another ground force to try and resolve this mess. But for how long can he hold back? The Hawks in the Pentagon are busting for another fight. The American people, by and large, are not. They’ve had enough. So have we, in Australia. Western interference in the Middle East has brought the conflict to our own backyards in ways no one ever dreamed of 50 or 100 years ago. We are reaping what we have sown.
I don’t think Tony Abbott has the mental maturity to realise this, and I fear that before long, he will commit us to increase our pathetic contribution to something that will make things worse.
For at least a decade, attempts to understand why some young Muslims living in Western countries turn to violence in the name of religion have raised questions about Western foreign policy in the Middle East. Many blame the United States’ foreign policy. The Islamic State uses anger and grievance against Western intervention as a powerful recruiting to
But is it really fair to blame Western foreign policy for the state of affairs in the Middle East?
There is some truth to the argument that anger at foreign policy and the West’s engagement with the Arab world is at the heart of Muslim anger, as well as a driver of radicalisation among Muslim youth.The “war on terror” – a phrase first used by US President George W. Bush just after the September 11 attacks in 2001 – was arguably a dismal failure.
American and British intelligence agencies have both reported that the US-led invasion of Iraq has actually increased the number of Islamist terrorists. The belief that the war on terror was a thinly disguised attempt to attack Islam was no longer limited to conspiracy theorists and 9/11 “truth seekers”. Instead, it became popularised among Muslims around the world.
However, to solely lay blame for the rise of a global and increasingly violent Jihadi movement on Western intervention ignores other crucial factors that allow extremism to take root and spread.
The origins of extremism
In his book A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the emergence of Islamism, Dr S. Sayyid describes five arguments that explain the spread of what is commonly called Islamic fundamentalism, Islamism or militant Islamism.
- Islamism is a response to the failure of Arab leaders to deliver meaningful outcomes to their people.
- Lacking opportunities for political participation, Arab citizens turned to mosques as public spaces for political discussion. As a result religion became the language of politics and of political change.
- Post-colonialism also failed the Arab middle class, as the ruling elite continued to hold power and wealth.
- Rapid economic growth in the emerging Gulf States increased the influence of conservative Muslim governments. At the same time, the expansion of the oil-based Gulf economy brought about uneven economic development, the response to which was growing support for Islamism as a mode of expression for internal grievances.
- Finally, the spread of Islamism has also been due to the effects of cultural erosion and globalisation contributing to a Muslim identity crisis.
So the current state of affairs in the Middle East is not simply an outcome of Western intervention and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Western foreign policy in the region has no doubt influenced the current situation. But the conditions for the spread of militant Islamism have come from attempts to deal with the crisis within: a crisis that is as much political in nature as it is religious.
Filling a power vacuum
In terms of politics, the traditional seats of power in the Arab world have been toppled, creating a void and opening opportunities for other Arab nations to vie for power.
With the decline of Egyptian power and ongoing chaos in Syria and Iraq, the Gulf states have emerged as the most economically and politically stable influences in the region.
Gulf state competition, particularly between Abu Dhabi and Doha, has become one of the defining features of the Middle East. While Doha supports the Syrian revolution as well as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, Abu Dhabi stands guarded against a foreign policy approach that strengthens Islamists.
Qatar, on the other hand, has been known to provide significant financial assistance to violent Islamist groups, including groups linked to Al Qaeda. It has also failed to act on wealthy citizens accused of financing terrorist organisations to the tune of millions of dollars.
Angered by its support for extremist groups, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia all withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March this year.
The political struggle for power has also played out as a struggle for religious space in the Arab world. Here, the declining role of Saudi Arabia as the traditional seat of religious authority and knowledge has contributed, as Saudi Arabia also struggles to contain extremist Islamist elements within its own brand of Islam.
Links have been made between Wahhabi Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia and the ideological frame of the jihadist movement. Such accusations have prompted Saudi Arabia to examine the Wahhabi Jihadist connection, leading to a review of religious programs and school curricular in the kingdom.
It may be tempting to oversimplify the conflict as a battle of the West against Islam, just as it is tempting to overstate its origins in the history of Western intervention and foreign policy.
ISIS effect: Terrified Iraqi soldiers bribing superiors to leave army
IRAQI soldiers are so terrified by the brutality of the Islamic State that they are now paying their superiors to allow them to leave the military.
The acts of bribery, known locally as the “astronaut phenomenon”, have grown so rampant that at times, nearly half of a platoon will be missing when called into battle, according to the Daily Beast.
The name comes from the idea that once a soldier abdicates his duties, he is in space, away from the world while it crumbles under war.
Officers are often paid full salaries to let soldiers quit and make sure the absence goes unreported.
Iraqi officer Kadhim al-Shammari told the Beast, “The astronaut phenomenon is destroying the Iraqi army. There are senior officers who are making deals with dozens of their men, giving them vacations for months in return for part or all of the men’s salaries.”
Coalition air strikes against Isis aid Bashar al-Assad, Syrian rebels claim
Shelling and bombing by the Syrian government intensifies in the two weeks since coalition air strikes against Isis began
Politically, it is a different story. “It is undeniable that Assad benefits in many ways from the anti-Isis campaign,” said Hokayem. “His own attacks and atrocities have received less attention. He cultivates ambiguity about coordination with the international coalition and benefits from the disarray and frustration among rebel forces and their sympathisers; the defection of some rebel units to Isis helps him portray all rebels as extremists.
“Obama said a few weeks ago that the US had no strategy yet to fight Isis. It seems there is still no strategy because the Syria component is missing. The US has adopted a narrow, counter-terrorism approach that is flawed and counter-productive, and has time after time ignored and denigrated its potential Syrian allies.”
This new rush to war not an intervention designed to meet humanitarian goals and objectives, writes Dr Adam Hughes Henry, but simply another bloody bombing campaign to protect strategic Western interests.
Yet the actions of IS, in terms of our contemporary world, are very far from unique and as grotesque as their crimes are, cannot possibly be considered the worst of the worst. There are examples of barbaric behaviour which continue to be exhibited by U.S.-UK allies all over the world.
Bombing from the sky is not a very useful humanitarian response. Current actions do not appear to have any such UN sanctioned legitimacy. Furthermore, there are no foreign troops on the ground to specifically defend these threatened ethnic populations, set up safe zones or sanctuaries and there is also absolutely no talk from nations like Australia of taking in any of the threatened groups as refugees as a matter of priority. As in Kosovo in 1999, the way to save civilians from the stated threat of ethnic cleansing is apparently to bomb the place. The bombing did not decrease atrocities, they actually helped to create and indeed initiate a new cycle of Serbian atrocities in reprisal to a relentless U.S. led NATO bombing.
In Syria, the so called humanitarian impulse centred on the Assad regime for strategic and political reasons, while the well-being civilian population of Syria was used to promote it one way or the other. anti-Assad regime forces were provided assistance and every encouragement by the U.S. and the UK; among these anti-Assad forces were supporters of groups such as al Qaeda and those that now pledge fanatical allegiance to IS.
The question must be asked: how can the new mission to Iraq, particularly one spearheaded by the U.S. and backed by regimes like Saudi Arabia (who routinely funds Jihadist terrorist groups) be based on any notion of universal humanitarian values?
The human rights abuses and atrocities of Western allies over the past 50 years have washed the ground with the blood of their faceless victims over and over again. Islamic State do not have anything approaching a unique monopoly over human rights abuses, terror or fanaticism — they are certainly not an unprecedented human evil.
This new rush to war is not an intervention designed to fulfil any specified humanitarian objectives and outcomes. Where are the safe zones, where is UNHCR, where are the troops and diplomacy designed to defend, protect and negotiate for the safety of civilians?
Such a mission would surely be very different to what we are seeing now.
The primary U.S. led mission in Iraq appears only to be a major bombing campaign against IS in support of strategic interests, with no clear statement of its expected timeframe or even a secondary option.
If war is really only the process of translating diplomacy into killing and death and Afghanistan, Libya and Syria are any indicators of what we are about to see unfold as we folly back to Iraq without as much as a second thought — the very worst is still to come.
This article by John Pilger is too long and doesn’t deserve paraphrasing. So I’m just putting foward the link
Kobanê, a small Kurdish town on the Syrian-Turkish border, has now become the ultimate test of Turkey’s ambivalence on how to engage the so-called Daesh in the rapidly worsening situation in Syria and Iraq.
The town is under siege from Daesh and fighters from the Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) are desperately holding on. It is not likely that the ongoing US air strikes will be effective in preventing Kobanê from falling into Daesh hands and it is not yet clear whether Turkey is really ready to intervene militarily.
That hesitancy has already stirred trouble in Turkey’s anxious Kurdish population, with unrest and demonstrations spreading across several cities and reports of multiple clashes with police.
Considering what is at stake here for Turkey’s domestic politics and regional security interests though, it is perhaps not surprising that Turkey is having trouble making up its mind.
From allies to enemies
This is largely because of the hugely complex web of relationships between the five main actors – Daesh, PYD, PKK (the Kurdish armed group that has been waging a bloody conflict against the Turkish state since the early 1980s), the Assad government in Syria and the Free Syrian Army (the main opposition group against Assad).
And aside from the intractably fraught relationships they have with each other, these five all present deep individual problems for Turkey.
Let’s start with the Syrian regime, which was one of the main supporters of the PKK in the region until the capture of Abdullah Öcalan in 1999. It also played a key role in turning Daesh into the rich and strong armed group it is today, apparently buying its oil through middlemen and releasing radical Islamist militants as far back as 2011 from Syrian prisons.
Turkey has long since burned all its diplomatic bridges with Damascus and it now sees no option to protect its long-term interests but the full removal of the Assad regime. This is largely why Turkey has been insisting on the creation of a no-fly zone (most likely to be the 36th Parallel again, as was the case for the protection of Kurds in Iraq during the 1990s), as this would be the only way to stop Bashar al-Assad bombing the Free Syrian Army.
The problem is that Turkey seems to be more or less the only state demanding that. And even if it was granted its wish, it still would not trust its Western allies’ intentions for Syria’s future.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s relationships with the PYD are even more murky. Salih Muslim, the co-chair of the party, was in Ankara only days before the Kobanê offensive came to a head asking for logistical and military support.
In return for its support, Turkey demanded that the PYD join the ranks of the Free Syrian Army against the Assad regime, which it has no intention of doing. Until now, the PYD has been quite content in its relationship with Damascus; Bashar al-Assad seems hardly bothered by the possibility of an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria and is more concerned with retaining a hold on power. With its relative security assured for now, the PYD has no reason to make such a major tactical switch.
Unlike Syria, Turkey is highly sensitive about the PYD’s possible demand for an autonomous presence in northern Syria, which could have major implications for its own domestic Kurdish crisis – forcing Ankara’s hand in negotiations over possible Kurdish territories in Turkey.
The war at home
Turkey is under massive pressure from the PKK and Kurdish political groups to resume a formal peace process no later than the Kurds’ October 15 deadline. The Kurdish pressure to intervene militarily is also mounting largely because the Daesh has been inflicting huge damages on both PYD and PKK.
Daesh therefore has not just become a major security threat for Turkey across its borders with Syria and Iraq, but has also thrown off the delicately calibrated power balance between Ankara and the PKK just before the start of full peace talks.
But even so, ever since securing the release of 49 diplomats and their families from the hands of Daesh in late September, Turkey is in a better position to consider a military intervention. The US-led alliance also recognises that without the deployment of ground forces, air strikes cannot fully destroy IS.
All this puts Turkey is in a strong position to argue that the increasingly likely full-blown military intervention in Syria should not only target Daesh, but should also remove the Assad regime once and for all. And it may just get its wish.
As an early signal of support for that strategy, NATO has recently declared that it will not hesitate to protect Turkey, while the Turkish parliament has already approved a motion allowing cross-border military incursions into both Iraq and Syria.
One way or another
The Turkish government is in a bind. On the one hand, it needs to respond to Kurdish demands to help Kobanê – if it doesn’t there is a real risk that the entire peace process in the country could collapse. On the other hand, the general public is highly sceptical about direct military intervention, fearing that Turkey would find itself in a deep quagmire.
This is indeed a major risk. After all, the West’s attempts to deal with the civil war in Syria and previously with the basket case that is Iraq have been highly patchy, largely ad hoc and more confusing than anything else. The fight against IS might be a priority for Barack Obama today, but Turkish fears of being left to pick up the pieces for decades to come are very real.
Even so, to reassure their erstwhile partners in the region that this is a sincere campaign, American politicians are trotting out the old mantra that “this is a campaign that will take months and years, not days and weeks”. That is good to know, as far as it can be trusted.
But in Middle Eastern politics, as in world affairs in general, even a day is long enough for priorities, interests and alliances to shift beyond recognition. The Kurds, and the residents of Kobanê, know that all too well.
Daesh: Khansa’a Brigade former fighter reveals what life is like inside the group
- 1 day ago October 07, 2014
A FORMER IS member has opened up on what life is really like inside the brutal Khansa’a Brigade — an all female unit that patrols the streets of Raqqa, Syria.
The 25-year-old former teacher, known only as Khadija, told CNN of her life inside the group of up to 30 women charged with ensuring people adhere to strict dress codes that demand women have their faces covered.
“At the start I was happy I was carrying a gun,” she said.
“It was something new. I had authority. I didn’t think I was frightening people. But then I started asking myself ‘where am I? Where am I going? I could feel the ties dragging me some place ugly.”
Watch the interview below:
During the interview Khadija describes how she grew up in Syria and became involved as an activist against the al-Assad regime — a time she describes as “great” before everything turned to chaos.
A man she met online lured her into joining Daesh with promises that it wasn’t a terrorist organisation and they could get married.
“He would say, ‘We are going to properly implement Islam. Right now we are in a state of war, a phase where we need to control the country, so we have to be harsh,’” CNN reports.
She convinced her family to move to Raqqa where a cousin who was also married to an IS fighter introduced her to the Khansa’a Brigade. She was paid a salary and learned how to fire a gun.
Women who broke the rules in the city were lashed by Umm Hanza — a terrifying leader describes as “not a normal female”.
“She’s huge, she has an AK, a pistol, a whip, a dagger and she wears the niqab,” she said.
Khadija is not the first young woman to be seduced by Daesh. In November last year Scottish teenager Aqsa Mahmood disappeared and is thought to be in Syria tweeting under the name Umm Layth.
Authorities in France and the US have also stopped young women citizens at the airport en route to joining Daesh in the Middle East. Interpol is still searching for Austrian teenagers Sabina Selimovic, 15, and Samra Kesinovic, 16, who disappeared from their homes in suburban Vienna and are thought to be with Daesh in Syria.
While other women continue to join the regime, extreme brutality ultimately forced Khadija to leave the group.
In recent weeks, detailed UN reporting based on eyewitness accounts from inside the region have documented a litany of atrocities committed by IS militants in Syria and Iraq, including public executions, rape, abductions and lashings.
She said a particularly violent crucifixion of a 16-year-old and news that a Saudi husband had been found of her convinced her she needed to get out.
“At the start, I was happy with my job. I felt that I had authority in the streets. But then I started to get scared, scared of my situation. I even started to be afraid of myself,” she said.
“I said ‘enough’ I decided no, I have to leave”.
She slipped over the border to Turkey just days before air strikes began but chose to spoke out so others can know the truth.
“I don’t want anyone else to be duped by them. Too many girls think they are the right Islam.”
Kurds protest in Turkey over besieged Syrian town, at least nine killed
(Reuters) – At least nine people were killed and dozens wounded in demonstrations across Turkey on Tuesday, local media reported, as Kurds demanded the government do more to protect the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani from Islamic State militants.
NATO-member Turkey has taken in more than 180,000 refugees who fled Kobani but has refrained from joining a U.S.-led coalition against the Sunni Muslim militants, saying the campaign should be broadened to target the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Kurdish politicians, part of Turkey’s fragile peace process with the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to end a three-decade insurgency, have criticized Turkey for inaction.
Ankara rejected the criticism. “It is a massive lie that Turkey is doing nothing on Kobani,” Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said on Twitter. “Turkey is doing whatever can be done in humanitarian aspects.”
He accused Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of adopting an “irresponsible way of conducting politics” and called the protests “a big injustice to Turkey’s well-meant efforts”.
The Kurdish party had issued a statement saying: “The situation in Kobani is extremely critical. We call on our people to go out into the streets, or support those that have gone onto the streets, to protest the ISIL (Islamic State) attacks and the … stance of (Turkey’s) AKP government against Kobani.”
The fight in Kobani against Islamist militants has become a rallying point for Turkey’s Kurdish community. They see Ankara as partly responsible for Islamic State gaining power.
Relations with the US have not reached the low-point of 2003, when Turkey refused to allow US invasion troops to cross its territory into Iraq, but they are undoubtedly strained. As Idiz noted, this may be because “every coalition member has its own agenda and is looking to others to do something that will make a difference on the battlefield”.
Thus while Turkey’s parliament last week agreed to authorise Turkish troops to cross into Syria and Iraq, there is no imminent prospect of them doing so – even if Kobani falls – unless Turkey is directly attacked or the US changes tack dramatically.
Instead, Erdoğan repeated his demand that a buffer area and no-fly zone be set up inside Syria, a demand repeatedly rejected by the US in part because it might be exploited by Turkey’s armed forces to suppress local Kurds. On the other hand, some suggest the US, responding to Ankara’s sensitivities, is deliberately limiting air strikes around Kobani to prevent too great a Kurdish advantage – a dark twist that would give even Machiavelli a headache.
Erdoğan and Davutoğlu insist the coalition’s top priority should be the ousting of Assad, above the destruction of Isis, and that Turkey will only step up its engagement, including deploying troops, if there is a “comprehensive strategy” embracing this aim. If Assad remains, they argue, other extremist groups will simply fill the vacuum if and when Isis is vanquished.
Erdoğan, a tough and stubborn veteran of Istanbul street politics, is often categorised as a western ally. This is a misperception. He is first and foremost a Muslim believer and a nationalist. His vision of Turkey is of an emerging great power and regional leader, independent of the US, the EU and other power blocs. Hence his willingness, for example, to harshly criticise powerful pro-western neighbours such as Israel and Egypt.
Erdoğan’s threefold objective as the Isis crisis unfolds appears to be ensuring Turkey’s security, minimising political and territorial gains by the PKK and Kurds in Syria and Iraq, and advancing the Sunni Muslim cause across the region, primarily by ousting Assad. From these aims he is unlikely to be deflected, whatever Obama says and whatever Isis does.
RAAF fighter aborted air strike on Isis target to avoid killing civilians
Australian Super Hornets pulled out of an air strike on an Islamic State target in Iraq when the risk of killing civilians became too high, defence officials have revealed.Johnston said an Australian combat “package” of F/A-18F Super Hornets had tracked a target on the first night of the missions, with plans to fire on it, but the risk of collateral damage was too high.
Daesh will keep it that way.
Were it legal, I’d open a book on conscription being introduced before the 44th Parliament finally faces the voters. It’s what Tories do.
They’ll creep it up. The sequence goes: advisors, air-drops, air-strikes, regular army, conscripts.
The National Service Act (1964) required 20 year-old males, ‘if selected’, to serve two years in the regular army plus three years in the reserves.
In March 1966, Coalition Prime Minister Harold Holt announced National Servicemen would be sent to Vietnam to fight with units of the regular army.
The Coalition’s answer to the ‘if selected’ question was a grotesque, almost medieval, ritual — a bastard cross of casino and death.
365 marbles, each marked with one day of the year, were placed in a barrel. If your birthday came out, it was the jungle for you. Happy Birthday!
Abbott is better placed. By denying unemployed young men any form of social support, he’s got a ready, albeit half-starving, pool of young Australian men to sacrifice on the altar of Mars.
Howard, notwithstanding the contempt in which he should be held for conspiring to create the state of mind that is ISIS, resisted the urge to conscript for Iraq or Afghanistan. It was bit like a man fighting back a Tourette’s symptom, but Australia had no appetite at the time and Howard was the consummate political animal. You could see him chafing though.
The U.S. was not so constrained. They didn’t need conscription for the War on Terror. They had a pool of poor, unemployed young people with no prospects whatsoever unless they joined the military. Many joined because it was the only way they could obtain an otherwise unfeasibly expensive college degree. Others so they could eat. Others to have their teeth fixed.
We are told our current escapade in the Levant is going to be a long war, though it’s not really a war because we don’t recognise ISIS as a state and so we can’t declare war on it. It’s an operation. A long operation.
It has already dawned on the Coalition that the best way to deal with the unemployed is to kill them. Then glorify them. Then use contrived media to entice other young men to their deaths.
Get ready for the body bags draped in flags
Crime and gangs: the path to battle for Australia’s Islamist radicals
Of the 160 or so Australian jihadists believed to be in Iraq or Syria, several are in senior leadership positions, they say.
But unlike fighters from Britain, France or Germany, who experts say are mostly jobless and alienated, a number of the Australian fighters grew up in a tight-knit criminal gang culture, dominated by men with family ties to the region around the Lebanese city of Tripoli, near the border with Syria.
Still, there is a clear nexus between criminals and radicals within the immigrant Lebanese Muslim community, New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas told Reuters.
The ease with which some hardened criminals from within the community have taken to militant extremism, and the prospect of what they will do when they return home from the Middle East battle-trained, is a major worry for authorities, he said.
In recent years, he said, the divide between criminal gangs and radicals in Lebanese community, who were driven by different motives, had narrowed.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says that at least 20 of the fighters are believed by authorities to have returned to Australia, and that more than 60 people believed to be planning to go to the Middle East have had their passports canceled.
A broad sampling of the areas in Sydney most associated with Lebanese ancestry on the 2011 national census – Auburn, Lakemba, Punchbowl, Granville – show them lagging far behind the rest of New South Wales state on indicators such as income and employment.
“It’s a troubled community as a group,” said Greg Barton, director of the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University. “So they’re over-represented in petty crime, in organized crime, in religious extremism.”
Aftab Malik, a Scholar-in-Residence at Sydney’s Lebanese Muslim Association who has spent years living in western Sydney’s Muslim community, said he believed the convergence between radical Islam and organized crime was unique to Australia.”I haven’t come across that in the U.S. or in Great Britain. It’s quite specific here and I don’t know why that is,” he said.