Sunday, January 31, 2016

Geneva -3: Syria Talks

Staffan de Mistura

Since the start of the proxy-war in Syria, the United Nations tried to end the violence. However, because of the geopolitical nature of the conflict, which made a Syrian-Syrian solution all but impossible, all attempts have failed and two UN envoys resigned. However, the rise of ISIL, the refugee crisis that threatened the EU, and the spread of terrorism beyond Syria and Iraq forced key states, especially the U.S. administration and the Russia government, to work together to bring an end to this devastating conflict. Previously, Russia and China have vetoed UNSC resolutions that absolved the rebels of any wrongdoing and targeted the Syrian government. However, after the successful Vienna meeting that brought together for the first time all key regional and global powers, the UNSC unanimously adopted resolution 2254. That step was built on other diplomatic initiatives and statements culminating in Geneva-3 Syria Talks now underway. To assist our audience in contextualizing these talks, we provide below key resolutions, statements, and documents that are to guide the #SyriaTalks. 




Friday, January 08, 2016

Journalism and media in Islamic societies in conflict zones

al-Sharq al-Awasat coverage
Journalism in Arab countries: With the increased violence and potential for sectarian war in the Middle East, one would think that the media and journalists would pay more attention to details, facts, and the language they use to report about the death and destruction in that part of the world. Instead, journalist and the media in general sided with their benefactors or religious/ethnic community, betraying the profession and their duty to objectively inform the public.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which wanted to be the New York Times of the Arab world showed its true identity: the mouth piece of the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Aljazeera, whose funders wanted it to be the BBC of the Arab world, resigned to its limited true function: serving the Qatari ruling family and its political allies—the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey. Alarabiya has become the Fox News of the GCC ruling families. Alahram serves Sisi… and the list goes on. 

Here is an example of the kind of headlines the “professional” journalists at al-Sharq al-Awsat ran recently:

Monday, December 28, 2015

The legacy of the illegal war on Iraq and the burden of befriending the Wahhabi rulers

ISIL war crimes
A day after the couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in San Bernardino, CNN reported that Malik had made “a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” Subsequently, it was reported that Malik attended al-Huda, a religious institute whose funding and curriculum were decided by Saudi benefactors, and Farook visited Saudi Arabia and married his wife in that country. The connection between terrorists and Saudi sponsored religious institutions is well documented. The connection between ISIL and its derivatives, terrorism, and the civil war in Syria and Iraq must be properly understood and factored into any global strategy to combat terrorism and reduce violence around the world. Law enforcement officials’ reaction to the San Bernardino shooting--suggesting that the attack “may have been inspired by ISIS” but “not directed or ordered” by the group--shows that the connection between Saudi political/religious systems and terrorism is not properly made and understood.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Genealogy, Ideology, and Future of ISIL and its Derivatives

Abstract: The organization known today simply as the “Islamic State,” or by its Arabic acronym, Daesh (English, ISIL), has historical and ideological roots that go beyond the territories it now controls. These deep roots give Daesh confidence that it will succeed in dominating the world, but give others reasons to believe that it will fail in controlling even a single nation. Mixing puritan religious and political discourses, ISIL managed to dominate all other armed opposition groups in conflict zones (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya) and has inspired individuals in many other countries (Egypt, Pakistan, France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia) to carry out brutal attacks in its name.

Dogmatic Origins: Traditionism

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Turkey’s elections results prioritize stability, continuity, and inclusion

Turkey’s elections, despite the difficult circumstances and some of the intimidating practices against Kurdish voters and the media, are  victory for those who believe in an empowered citizenship and peaceful transition of power. This is especially important because, in Islamic societies, fostering shared governance and strengthening democratic institutions are urgent needed. Participation in elections is powerful rebuke to those who believe in changing political order through violence and military coups. I do not speak the Turkish language, therefore, I cannot claim that I know the motives of the Turkish voters. However, statistics and persistent trends suggest that the winners of these elections should not use it to continue ignoring voices of dissent.

First, Turkish nationalism is retreating before religious conservatism. During these redo elections, the AKP siphoned more public support from the Nationalist Movement party (MHP) than from any other party. Voters' support for MHP dropped to 11.96% from 16.5% (June’s results).

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Vienna Talks are the first serious attempt to end the war in Syria

On Friday 30, it became clear that the war in Syria is not a civil war. It is now a global proxy war, initiated by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to eliminate Arab governments that do not reliably support the Saudi (or Arab League) position. When the international community was threatened by the spread of violence outside the Syrian border, the U.S. and other European countries intervened to force their regional allies to scale back their belligerence. Russia also intervened in support of its traditional allies in the region. These interventions transformed what was at first a regional proxy war into a global proxy war. That escalation occurred because of several historical and geopolitical factors.

Russia, with a long-standing strategic alliance with Syria that goes as far back as the USSR, supported the Syrian government and found itself on the same side as Iran. Iran has had an alliance with Syria since the Iraq-Iran war during which the Gulf States supported Saddam Hussein, who initiated an eight-year old war that killed nearly one million people. The U.S.’s primary regional ally is Saudi Arabia. France and the UK, two countries with billions of dollars in trade and arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates sided with Saudi Arabia as well. Turkey, governed by the AKP since 2002, took the side of the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they share an ideological and sectarian affinity and whose armed militia was crushed in Hama in 1982 by Bashar al-Assad’s father. Jordan, whose massacre of Palestinians in 1970 caused Syria to send an armored division into Jordan, sided with Assad’s opponents. These are just few of the historical and geopolitical reasons behind the strange anti- and pro-Assad alliances. These are self-interested actors, brought together for a single purpose: to overthrow the Assad regime. This was not about defending the rights of the Syrian people or punishing a belligerent authoritarian with blood on his hands—all Arab regimes have blood on their hands. None of these countries on either side really cared about the Syrian people, which is why most of them have failed to take in any Syrian refugees. Even Turkey, which initially opened the door to the families of the rebel fighters, is now pushing them into the sea and driving them into Europe.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why is AKP - led Turkish government punishing Kurds and leftists for ISIL suicide crimes?

When ISIL suicide bombers killed more than 32 people at a cultural center in Suruç, near Kobani, the AKP led government unleashed waves of airstrikes against PKK fighters in southern Turkey and northern Iraq, instead of launching punishing trikes against ISIL. When two suicide bombers targeted a peace coalition activists, mostly Kurds and leftists, killing more than 96 people, Prime Minister Davutoglu, blamed “the Islamic State, Kurdish militant factions, or far-leftist radicals.” 

Just one day after the attack, Turkish warplanes struck PKK targets in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey, killing “some 30-35 PKK guerrillas on Sunday alone.” No reported strikes against ISIL. Which brings us to the obvious question: Why is the AKP government punishing Kurds for crimes committed by ISIL?

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