The Trump administration has a new plan for the war in Syria, Spencer Ackerman reports for The Daily Beast, and it’s the same as the old one: bomb the hell out of the Islamic State and other extremists while not just leaving the greatest purveyor of violence there alone, but treating it as a de facto partner.
This is, for those following along, broadly the same plan that the previous U.S. administration pursued. Despite the Assad regime crossing President Barack Obama’s self-imposed “red line” in 2013, it wasn’t until a year later that the U.S. bombs began falling — on the Islamic State and other extremists. The hereditary dictator and his forces were spared, and not for a lack of humanitarian justification, but because U.S. foreign policy elites had long before decided that a change in regime posed the greatest threat to perceived U.S. interests.
Leftists who embraced realists’ perverted version of anti-imperialism — support for dictators in the name of stability, not just when threatened by Western invasions but in the face of popular uprisings — overlooked this thematically inconvenient war on terror and the new president’s repeated desire to escalate it. As late as last fall left-liberal pundits were continuing to gravely warn of a coming war, portraying better informed critics of the regime-change storyline as the warmongers even as they ignored the thousands of U.S. airstrikes those purported warmongers decried. The latter’s crime was decrying Syrian and Russian airstrikes, too, which is well established as the road to World War III.
Christoph Reuter is one of the world’s most important investigative journalists. His dispatches for Der Spiegel have illuminated many of the otherwise murky details of conflicts around the Middle East and South-Central Asia. Recently he may have written his most important story yet when he came into possession of the initial planning documents for the organisation that we now know as the “Islamic State”. Here is joins Petra Stienen in conversation at the Heinrich Böll Foundation to discuss the groups origins, which he writes about in detail in his recent book Die Schwarz Macht. (The interview in English starts at 24:10).
For other articles in this series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
This week, the organization Shurat HaDin is having a conference titled “Towards a New Law of War”. They don’t hide where their alliances lie, and on their online conference page (nostalgically illustrated with WWII British bombers) you can find their Western-supremacist and racist agenda stated loud and clear:
…exchange ideas regarding the development of armed conflict legal doctrine favorable to Western democracies engaged in conflict against nontraditional, non-democratic, non-state actors.
If you cannot overthrow the tyrant, co-operate with him – after four disastrous years in Syria this seems to be the conclusion the international community has arrived at. While back in 2011 Bashar al-Assad’s days appeared to be drawing to a close, a growing number of people are now suggesting to see him as part of the solution, as illustrated recently by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Vienna.
The more methodical and brutish Syria’s dictator disregards human rights, the more he seems to assume the role of a potentially reliable partner in the eyes of some. That is primarily due to the Islamist terror army ISIS. Albeit there are few atrocities with civilian victims the regime is not responsible of committing and although it commits these crimes to a much greater, deadlier extent – Assad is readily seen as the “lesser evil”.
The implication that the situation in Syria could be pacified through a co-operation with Assad in the battle against terrorism is as plain as it is ill-conceived when it comes to the actual implementation. The fight against ISIS requires three things: the means, the will and a strategy.
There’s drama stirring in the Oslo National Theatre, but not the kind most cultural institutions expect. Under the auspiciousness of The Union of Theaters of Europe, the Oslo National Theatre has committed to a two-year project titled “TERRORisms”:
From 2013 to 2015, theatres from Oslo, Stuttgart, Belgrade, Tel Aviv, London and Reims will get closer to their TERRORisms. They will elaborate different points of view, exploring different aspects likely to determine fundamentally our societies… dealing with the issue of terrorism and its appropriation by artists.
I’ve just come back from Oslo, and to be honest, Norwegians- as individuals and as a society- didn’t strike me to be particularly “determined fundamentally” by “their” “terrorisms”. Admittedly, I’m not an expert on European contemporary art, but it doesn’t seem to me like there’s a lot ofartistic appropriation of terrorism being done in the European cultural sphere, and the notion is rather- let’s just say- foreign.
The Union of Theaters of Europe: The New Propaganda Front for Israel’s TERRORisms
VICE News reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings. Once you watch the film you’ll understand why my friend Faisal al Yafai calls them “a cancer of the Middle East politics and society“.
The Islamic State, a hardline Sunni jihadist group that formerly had ties to al Qaeda, has conquered large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group has announced its intention to reestablish the caliphate and has declared its leader, the shadowy Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the caliph.
The lightning advances the Islamic State made across Syria and Iraq in June shocked the world. But it’s not just the group’s military victories that have garnered attention — it’s also the pace with which its members have begun to carve out a viable state.
Flush with cash and US weapons seized during its advances in Iraq, the Islamic State’s expansion shows no sign of slowing down. In the first week of August alone, Islamic State fighters have taken over new areas in northern Iraq, encroaching on Kurdish territory and sending Christians and other minorities fleeing as reports of massacres emerged.
That is according to Afghan child witnesses interviewed by Yalda Hakim for Australia’s SBS Dateline. (h/t Shaheen)
Hakim, who was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to Australia as a child, is the first international journalist to interview the surviving witnesses. She said American investigators tried to prevent her from interviewing the children, saying her questions could traumatize them. She said she appealed to village leaders, who arranged for her to interview the witnesses.
Noorbinak, 8, told Hakim that the shooter first shot her father’s dog. Then, Noorbinak said in the video, he shot her father in the foot and dragged her mother by the hair. When her father started screaming, he shot her father, the child says. Then he turned the gun on Noorbinak and shot her in the leg.
Our friend Paul Woodward of the indispensable War in Context asks some pertinent questions about the attacks on Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia:
Have we reached a quite predictable moment where counter-terrorism needs redefining? In other words, that when car bombings initiated by one state-sponsor of terrorism provoke a counter-attack of the same kind, that we should call such an attack an act of counter-terrorism?
Now it would appear that Israel is reaping the reward for its own actions as Israeli diplomats have been targeted in India and Georgia. The attack in Delhi appears to have involved the use of the same method favored by Mossad — a magnetic bomb attached to the Israelis’ car by a passing motorcyclist.
Washington’s planned withdrawal of troops from Iraq next December is hailed as a turning point for the country. But the war on Iraq was much more than a military battle under the banner of regime change. It was an attack on the social body of a people that predated the 2003 invasion and will outlast a nominal troop withdrawal. As the world marks the ten years anniversary of 9/11 used as a pretext to invade Iraq, reflecting on the burdens of this war is a reminder that 20 years of violent US intervention will take decades to erase.
George Bush’s declaration of ‘war on terror’ in the wake of 9/11 took place one month after I arrived in the US to embark on my doctoral studies in anthropology. An unending war was unleashed with dramatic consequences on the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and the US. After 2003, members of my own family fell victim to the occupation and the sectarian violence, while others were completely uprooted from the city of Baghdad. The war was being felt in the US, as men and women of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent were subjected to physical, symbolic, and bureaucratic violence through torture, surveillance systems, and the new cultural economy of blame and accusation.
In 2003, I began my research on the effects of years of warfare in Iraq by mainly looking at the exodus of Iraqi doctors and the ‘un-doing’ of the Iraqi health system during the 1990s. I was already familiar with the topic. I had trained and worked as a medical doctor in Iraq during the 1990s, where I lived through the collapse of one of the region’s most developed health systems. As a doctor working under sanctions, I struggled in my everyday with the rapid deterioration of the whole country’s infrastructure, the lack of medical supplies, the migration of the medical staff, the dismantling of the service infrastructure, and the mounting of the regime’s coercive violence. We wrestled daily to stock low supplies of saline solutions, cannulas, disposable gloves, and antibiotics. Hospital structures began failing with the absence of maintenance and supplies, as many were on the UN sanctioned list of ‘dual use.’ This was not merely a war on a rogue political regime; it was a war on the social body in Iraq.