Showing posts with label Military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Military. Show all posts

September 28, 2017

Deir al-Zour is the end of the road in Syria for both, US and Russia, will they collide or reverse course?

    Thursday, September 28, 2017   No comments
By Abdel Bari Atwan
US-backed SDF (yellow) are now face to face with Russia-backed SAA (red)
For the first time since the Syrian crisis began some seven years ago, there is a growing prospect of a military collision taking place between Russia and the United States over the oil and gas fields in and around Deir az-Zour. The US wants these wells to fall into the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) so they can be used to sustain a future Kurdish enclave or state in northern Syria. Russia wants them to revert to the sovereignty of the Syrian state so their revenues can help fund the country’s reconstruction.

April 27, 2017

Government of at least one of Gulf Cooperation Council nations continues to supply Nusra with weapons

    Thursday, April 27, 2017   No comments
Recent investigative reporting has revealed that weapons continue to reach al-Qaeda affiliate groups in Syria. Weapons shipments reached the group formerly known as al-Nusra as recent as April 6, 2017. The report did not name the government that is paying for these weapons. However, the government of...

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December 7, 2016

Is Qatar training Egyptian fighters in Idlib, Syria?

    Wednesday, December 07, 2016   No comments
Qatar’s global media outlet, Aljazeera, reported that 200 Egyptian military officers and experts are now in Syria. The report, is based on a Lebanese source, came days after the Egyptian president, Abdulfattah al-Sisi, in an interview to Portuguese media, said that he supported the Syrian national army in its war on terrorists. This seemingly new position has angered the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who back the Syrian opposition fighters and have been pushing for the removal of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Some sources, however, have also revealed that Qatar is training Egyptian Islamists in Idlib, Syria. This revelation could explain the increased collaboration between the Syrian and Egyptian governments. Egypt, like Syria, has been battling Salafi and other Islamist militants. If these elements are being trained in Syria and supported by Qatar, Egypt will be forced to collaborate with the Syrian and Libyan governments who are facing the same threats. 

Fath al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra front, which is backed by Qatar, controls Idlib, and has released multiple videos showing individuals engaged in war games, with indication that some of these fighters are not training for the war in Syria, which could support the assertion that Idlib is turning into training grounds for fighters from other countries, including Egypt, China, Tunisia, France, and Algeria.

It should be noted also that when al-Julani, the leader of al-Nusra, announced the name change of his group's name into Jabhat Fath al-Sham, sitting next to him was a known Egyptian Salafist, another reason for Egypt to be concerned about the role of Qatar in supporting groups that might pose a security threat to Egypt.

 al-Julani, announcing the name change of al-Nusra Front

October 2, 2015

Syria’s protest movement that gave birth to a World War

    Friday, October 02, 2015   No comments

The peaceful protest movement that started in Syria in 2011 was transformed by foreign governments’ involvement into a civil war fueled by sectarian and ethnic dreams. Now, we can see that Syria is no longer ground for a civil or proxy war, it is scene of a world war. There are two sides in this conflict. Although each side prefers to frame its identify in appealing descriptors like Friends Of Syria, Anti-Terror Coalition, Preservers Of Legitimacy, and Pro-International Law and Order Nations, the two sides are fixated on one man: Bashar al-Assad. From the moment some Syrians began protesting, the US-Saudi coalition jumped on the opportunity and planned to oust Assad no matter the cost. The Russian-Iranian coalition did not want that to happen no matter the cost. Every other claim about Assad's regime abuse of human rights, forcing a wave of refugees, denying his people democracy, committing war crimes, being authoritarian, and  lacking legitimacy are nice sounding slogans needed to disguise the real agenda. After all, any one of these nations that is directly involved in this crisis is guilty of the same offenses: they all have a record of human rights abuses, ill treatment of refugees, subversion of democracy, war crimes, and authoritarian behavior. Some of these governments never held even sham elections to test their actual legitimacy. Now, each side is undertaking military action to support its side achieve the one goal: remove/strengthen Bashar al-Assad. 

Russia's direct military involvement should not surprise anyone: Russia's leaders have been preparing for it for years. Now, parties of this international conflict are well known. On one side, we have the so-called Friends-Of-Syria or Anti-ISIL nations that supported, trained, and equipped the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which metamorphosed after 2012 into ISIL, al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, Jaysh al-Fath, thuwar Suria, and other smaller armed groups. On the other side, we have nations that declared their support for nations' sovereignty, Preservers-Of-Legitimacy (POL), as they want to be called. 

Over time, the coalition of FOS shrunk from nearly 100 nations in 2011, to merely seven nations today: UK, US, France, Germany, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. On Friday Oct. 2, these countries released a joint statement, saying that Russian strikes would “only fuel more extremism.”  But they did not explain why Russian strikes would fuel extremism but strikes carried out by FOS would not. 

February 4, 2012

An education in occupation

    Saturday, February 04, 2012   No comments

Cost of War comments: 
Iraq has a history rich in contributions to various academic fields, and its universities were the envy of the Middle East thirty years ago. In the early years of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the education system in Iraq was well resourced, globally connected, secular and open to women.  University education was free and literacy levels rose from 52 percent in 1977 to 80 percent in 1987.  The near collapse of Iraq’s education system was the culmination of a process of decline that gathered pace with the international sanctions regime of the 1990s, culminating in the war of 2003 and its aftermath.  Iraqi universities were stripped clean not only of cultural artifacts like books but also of the basic infrastructural items that enabled them to function at all. Due to international sanctions following the 1991 Gulf War, foreign bureaucrats blocked requests for education materials and resources. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, museums and university libraries were looted and many of their cultural artifacts and documents destroyed, despite earlier pleas from the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance to protect cultural heritage sites in Iraq. Jerry Bremer’s DeBaathification process, initiated in 2003, led to the removal of half the intellectual leadership in academia regardless of whether or not they truly believed in the Baath party.

Many professors were kidnapped and assassinated during the violence that followed the US invasion.   While the exact number of academics killed is difficult to determine, estimates by journalists range between 160 and 380 by 2006.  Female students have meanwhile become targets of threats and intimidation by fundamentalist militia groups. In just three decades, Iraq’s universities, reputedly the best in the Islamic world, were effectively destroyed. 

In 2004, John Agresto, the US Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Education, assessed the rebuilding needs of devastated Iraqi universities.  He requested from Congress $1.2 billion even though the UN and World Bank had estimated it would take almost $2 billion to “ensure minimal quality standards of teaching and learning.” Nonetheless, Agresto received  $8 million, less than 1 percent of what he had asked for.

Far from the battlefield, American universities have paid a less visible price during the post-9/11 wars. The university system places greater emphasis on military research than it did prior to 9/11 and, as a result, diverts students from careers and researchers from other pressing projects they might pursue. Instead of tackling considerable public health problems such as diabetes and heart disease that kill large numbers of Americans, resources have been skewed towards a preoccupation with bioterrorism (which has killed five Americans since 9/11).

The war in Iraq harmed the Iraqi and American systems in different ways, resulting in the complete degradation of the Iraqi education system and a reallocation of research labor away from important health and other social problems in the United States.

As the last American soldiers left Iraq in December, so, too, did many of the journalists who had covered the war, leaving little in the way of media coverage of post-war Iraq. While there were some notable exceptions -- including two fine articles by MIT's John Tirman that asked how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the US invasion -- overall the American press published few articles on the effects of the occupation, especially the consequences for Iraqis.

An Academic's work provides some insight into the state of Iraqi universities. 

Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist, is a professor of anthropology and sociology at George Mason University. His expertise is in nuclear culture, international security, and the anthropology of science. He has conducted considerable fieldwork in the United States and Russia, where he studied the culture of nuclear weapon scientists and antinuclear activists. Two of his books encapsulate this work--Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (University of California Press, 1996) and People of the Bomb: Portraits of America's Nuclear Complex (University of Minnesota Press, 2004). He also coedited Why America's Top Pundits Are Wrong (University of California Press, 2005) and the sequel, The Insecure American (University of California Press, 2009). Previously, he taught in MIT's Program on Science, Technology, and Society.


November 23, 2011

What can the Egyptians learn from the Tunisian experience?

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The recent wave of violence in Egypt is new evidence that the Arab peoples want real changes, not cosmetic ones. The military leaders in Tunisia acted professionally and within the mandate of any professional military. They acted to protect the people, not a regime or a constitution that was written by an illegitimate regime. The Tunisian military stood on the side of the people and did not involve itself in politics. That institution now stands admired and respected by all Tunisians. The Tunisian people then elected a new body to lead the transition from authoritarian rule to a pluralistic representative one.

In contrast, during the Egyptian uprising, the Egyptian military stood in the middle. It did not shoot at demonstrators but it also treated Mubarak and his regime with deference. Consequently, the ouster of Mubarak did not delegitimize the institutions of the regime. Moreover, the military leaders acted in manner that preserved their privileged status. It was unwilling to transfer power to civilian authorities unless pressured to do so. The pattern of preserving privilege and power has been undeniable. So no one should be surprised today, when the people came back to the streets to demand the one thing they should have asked for the first time they rose up: the election of constituency assembly that will write a new constitution and establish an interim government.

But the post-Mubarak era is being founded on the institutions of an illegitimate regime. That is the fatal contradiction that is preventing Egypt from moving beyond its past. In a sense, the Egyptian revolution was aborted the minute the military assumed power. There is mounting evidence that the military leaders were not truly interested in keeping the peace while politicians tried to chart a new path to representative government. Instead, the military leaders created committees and commissions to amend the corrupt constitution and issue new ordinances and legal instruments that would limit the power and authority of future elected bodies and individuals.

The military leaders need to realize that credibility of their institution depends on their willingness to operate within the limits of the military proper mandate. Civilian rule, not military rule, is the only way forward. A military government cannot gain legitimacy merely by the consent of political parties, whatever their popularity.

In a reaction to the recent wave of protests, the leader of the High Military Council announced that the military could speed up the transfer of power to civilians if the people demand it in a referendum that the military states it is willing to facilitate. This very statement shows that the military leaders are disingenuous. If they have the time and resources to organize a referendum on staying in power, why not organize an election to elect a body that will govern and decide on the transition to representative governance instead? Moreover, if the military thinks that it is possible to hold one round of elections on November 28, why delay other rounds of elections to weeks later? The military leaders do not seem to understand that they lack legitimacy since they inherited power from a deposed ruler. Many Egyptians are now realizing this and they are not willing to allow the status quo to stand.
* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Politics of Appearances. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

August 27, 2003

The destabilizing effects of the Iraq war

    Wednesday, August 27, 2003   No comments

By Ahmed E Souaiaia
August 27, 2003
In one of his most recent remarks, President Bush acknowledged that "terrorists are gathering in Iraq ” and he argued that “the more progress we make in Iraq , the more desperate the terrorists will become."  At first glance, there may appear to be some intelligent logic in that assessment of the situation in that part of the world.  However, when taken into the context of how we arrived where we are now, that statement can only be construed as an alarming admittance of failure and short-sightedness. 
A year ago, around this time, Iraq was bowing to the threat of military action if they did not disarm. Access to suspected banned weapons was granted, Samud missiles were being destroyed, so-called mobile labs were tested, and information gathered by spy satellites and other intelligence means were analyzed. Had the West kept the pressure on the regime under the UN umbrella, the world community could have extracted Saddam’s consent to protect and honor his international commitments to human rights or risk war that will remove him from power.
Four months after the unilateral action undertaken by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, the weapons of mass destruction are nowhere to be found. And the scary part of this is: if this administration was correct in its initial assessment of the existence of such weapons, by now, these weapons may have already fallen in the wrong hands. Alternatively, if these weapons did not exist in the first place, then the premise of sending troops to the killing fields becomes non-existent as well.  Every day a life is lost in that war zone, the administration must face the reality of stopping the loss of the next by doing the right thing, not by spinning it.
This war was premised on disarming Iraq and putting an end to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. While WMD’s are yet to be found in Iraq , the danger of proliferation became more and more real as states who wanted to possess them accelerated their quest. After all, it is only rational that regimes would learn from past experience: compliance with disbarment demands did not guarantee Saddam’s political survival but having a nuclear weapon could as the crisis with North Korea shows. Because of this slow-acting administration, we will see a new race for “weaponizing” and that would include the acquisition of dangerous weapons.
Four months after the launch of this costly war, Saddam had the Qaeda-type militants cornered and limited to the Northern small area controlled in most part by the Kurds. Today, and according to the administration officials and military leaders, al-Qaeda itself, or its representatives, are roaming the streets of Baghdad and killing at will.
Four months ago, the war on terror was taken to the opponents’ backyard with the support and blessings of the world community. This administration inherited an overwhelming post-911 legacy of sympathy that could have propelled the US to an unprecedented moral leadership. Since the launch of the war, it would appear that Bin Laden has recruited more members and affiliates than this administration’s allies. Additionally, the real-estate that was shrinking under the feet of the opponents in Somalia and Afghanistan , miraculously expended to include Iraq and soon, very likely, neighboring states like Saudi Arabia and Jordan . The international outrage over the killing of innocents in New York turned into an outrage against the arrogance and unilateralism of this administration even from historical allies like France as a result of hasty decision to go to war. Never in my imagination, could a state transform itself from the victim that earned the sympathy and support of the entire world into a demonized bully in this short time. This administration blindsided the grieving American public to carry out a counter-productive mission.
Four months ago, the reach of the brutal spy and security personnel trained by Saddam to kill his enemies was shrinking due to the watchful eye of world and the presence of numerous international organizations. This week, the Interim US Administration in Iraq decided to enlist the services of these same elements to fight the resistance; it must be a painful memory-jolt for Iraqis who are asked to believe that old ways are gone with Saddam.
What is most alarming is that this war is indirectly expending the definition of terrorism to levels that would render terrorism legitimate in the eyes of many. It seems that this administration is labeling anyone attacking the US troops in Iraq as a “terrorist”. In doing so, the US runs the risk of blurring the boundaries between terrorism and legitimate resistance.  Just as there is a legal context for the US occupation as defined in international law, resistance movements, misguided as they may, have the legal protection as well. If the administration insists on not making the distinction even in a sensitive situation like this, then it will run the risk of legitimizing terrorism per se.

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