The Other Pole

Rime Allaf has an unmissable piece in the Guardian. As a counterpoint to the sectarian war scenario we’re hearing so much about, Rime offers the other pole.

From 1946, spoiled by the US-sponsored coup of 1949 which first brought military rule to the region, Syria witnessed a shortlived parliamentary democracy, a vibrant civil society and a brief period of a free press, and it elected leaders whose names remain embedded in the national memory as examples of the Syria it can be, and it should be. While perhaps initially elitist in nature, unlike the current varied spectrum of opposition groups and revolutionary committees, it is a logical inspiration for the future.

The whole article is well worth reading. There are good observations on how the supposed fractiousness of the ‘opposition’ is not necessarily a bad thing, and important commentary on the future ramifications of Iranian miscalculations.

One major issue may change in the post-Assad era: relations with Iran and Hezbollah. The strategic alliance with Iran since the Islamic revolution flourished under Bashar al-Assad’s reign, especially following the invasion of Iraq, but Iranian support in repressing the current protests won’t easily be forgotten. Likewise, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s support for the Syrian regime has incensed many, especially after his praise for every other Arab uprising; only last year, it would have been unimaginable to see Hezbollah’s flag burned in Syria, as it has been recently.

Playing with Political Fire

by Brenda Heard

The timing of political manoeuvring often reveals the stark business of domination.  Sometimes the timing is flagrant, like the recent commotion in Greece.  In the very hours of forbidding the passage of the aid flotilla to Gaza, the financially strapped Greek government welcomed the approval of an €8.7 billion aid payment from the European Union.  With Israel’s position as an EU-groupie, even the Associated Press couldn’t resist smirking at Greece’s underlying ‘incentive to cozy up to its rich Mediterranean neighbor’.

Political manoeuvring also thrives on more subtle timing, as for example in the case of the notorious indictments of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Widely announced as imminent in December 2010, they somehow found themselves on the backburner when the Arab uprisings claimed every corner of Middle East news coverage.  Some six months later, on the heels of the formation of a Lebanese government non-hostile to the targeted Hezbollah—in the very hours between finalising the government’s policy statement  and its being subject to a parliamentary vote of confidence—only then were the indictments set into motion.  Bored of battling the credibility of Arab protests, international media eagerly shifted to the new sensational headlines.

Particularly when it comes to the Zionist project, the Western Israeli Alliance has often banked on timing—on distraction and exploitation. Five years ago, for instance, Israeli forces repeated the pretext-invasions of 1978 and 1982.  Five years ago, Israeli forces renewed their aggressive campaigns of 1978 and 1982.  With the full backing of their Western allies, five years ago Israeli forces again attacked Lebanon.

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Under Control: the Arms of the Lebanese Resistance

by Brenda Heard

The arms of the Resistance, it has been suggested, should be abandoned as a matter of principle.  ‘From now on’, explains Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, ‘the possession of weapons, decision of war and peace, and defending the country should only be under the state’s control’.  Political principles, it would seem, can be slippery.  ‘From now on’?  Perhaps this disclaimer is meant to ease the turnabout from the Hariri-Ministerial Cabinet Statement issued just over a year ago:

Based on the Cabinet’s responsibility to preserve Lebanon’s sovereignty, its independence, unity and the safety of its land, the government underscores Lebanon’s right through its people, army and resistance to liberate or regain authority of Shebaa Farms, Kfarshouba hills and the occupied part of Ghajar village and defend the country against any aggression’.

For the sake of argument, however, let us set aside the dictates of political expediency.  Let us look at the reality of what this stance entails.

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US, the Arab Revolt and al-Qaida

M. Shahid Alam

On December 24 2004, I wrote an essay, “America and Islam,” for which I received much heat from Zionist and right-wing bloggers in the United States.

The article made the point that the leaders of al-Qaida believe that they have to carry their war to the home ground of the ‘far enemy’ – the United States, Israel and Western powers – in order to free the Muslim world from foreign domination. This anyone can verify from the numerous communiqués of al-Qaida.

To say this is not to endorse the terrorist methods that al-Qaida employs. This was my moral position then: and it is my moral position now. At the same time, we should not shrink from recognizing that the total wars waged by many states, including the United States, since WWII differ from the methods of al-Qaida only in the infinitely greater scale of the destruction they wreak upon civilians.

The article made another critical point. It argued that al-Qaida, in some measure, reflects the political and moral failings of Muslim societies. If Muslims had shown more spine in resisting local tyrannies through non-violent means, their courage would have scotched the violent extremism of groups like al-Qaida.

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People Power in the Middle East

M. Shahid Alam

From his weekly perch at CNN, Fareed Zakaria, speculated last Sunday (or the Sunday before) whether George Bush could take credit for the events that were unfolding in Tunisia, whether this was the late fruit of the neoconservative project to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East.

It is quite extraordinary watching Zakaria – a Muslim born and raised in India, and scion of a leading political family – mimic with such facility the language of America’s ruling classes, and show scarce a trace of empathy for the world’s oppressed, despite his propinquity to them by reason of history and geography. He does have a bias for India, but here too he only shows a concern for India’s strategic interests, not the interests of its subjugated classes, minorities and ethnicities. This I offer only as an aside about how easy it is for members of the upper classes in countries like India, Pakistan or Egypt to slip into an American skin whenever that dissimulation offers greater personal advantages.

As a cover for deepening US control over the Middle East – here is the latest civilizing mission for you – the neoconservatives in the Bush administration argued that the Islamic world produces ‘terrorists’ because it lives under autocracies. To solve the ‘terrorist’ problem, therefore, the US would have to bring democracy to the Middle East. This demagoguery only reveals the bankruptcy of America’s political class. It is a shame when the President of the United States and his neoconservative puppet-masters peddle such absurdities without being greeted by squeals of laughter – and shouted down as hypocritical, as farcical.

Who has been the leading ally and sponsor these past decades of nearly all the despotisms in the Middle East – those of royal pedigree and others seeking to become royalties?

Regardless, the real plan of United States failed miserably. It was dispatched to its grave by a people’s resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Coffee With Hezbollah: A Review

by Tom Chartier

Lately, in the last few years… like since Richard Milhous Nixon assumed the coveted title of POTUS… I have had trouble falling asleep at night. Sound familiar? You betcha! The stresses and anxiety of the days have a tendency to beat us to death, and relaxation is tough to find.

How to switch off the horrors of tomorrow’s deadlines, tomorrow’s exams, and tomorrow’s humiliations at the TSA pat-down and peep show? Tough questions indeed.

To make matters worse, I also have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Not only do I live in complete terror of… well, terror… I also live in terror of saying the wrong thing. Look at all the trouble that dude Assange has caused with his little website, wikileaks.com! My God! State secrets, plots, skullduggery and shenanigans are being exposed! Is there no decency left in America?

God… or State… forbid the First Amendment and Free Speech should actually be upheld. We have our national paranoia to protect!

But… I have veered from the path of the straight and narrow and my purpose. Let me return to the subject of stress relief.

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Reese Erlich: “Stop using the word ‘terrorist'”

Defining what a terrorist is and isn’t is a major dilemma. What one may consider terrorism, another may consider resistance. So where does one draw the line? Reese Erlich tackles that topic in his latest book “Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence, and Empire.” Erlich is a veteran journalist who has covered U.S. foreign policy for decades. He has freelanced for National Public Radio, Radio Deutsche Welle, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Radio, and writes for The San Francisco Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News.

Drawing on firsthand interviews and original research, Erlich argues that yesterday’s terrorist is often today’s national leader and that today’s freedom fighter may become tomorrow’s terrorist. By branding all of American’s opponents as “terrorists,” it makes it more difficult to look beyond the individual or the political group and understand what they are really all about. I caught up with Erlich recently and here’s what he had to say.

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