Saturday, 18 October 2014

Islamism in Egypt – untangling the confusion


Alī ‘Abd al-Rāziq hit the nail in saying; Islam is a religion but not a state, because, in Islam despite what happened in History, Freedom is the first pillar of Islam:
"There is no compulsion in religion," – Holy Quran (Al-Baqarah 2: 256) 
Those who claimed that the verses and other Quranic verses signifying that there is no compulsion in religion are abrogated don't represent real Islam.
Allah says,
“And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed, all of them together. So, will you (O Muhammad) then compel mankind, until they become believers?” (Yunus 10: 99) 
 {And say: "The truth from your Lord (has come in this Qur'an). " Then, whoever wills (to believe), let him believe; and whoever wills (to disbelieve), let him disbelieve.} (Al-Kahf 18: 29)
 Allah also says, 
{God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your]  faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loves those  who are just.} (Al-Mumtahanh 60: 8)
Quranic verses that allow fighting should be read and interpreted within its context. Fighting is permitted only, in self-defense, in defense of freedom, and for those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes, such as Palestinians. 
The Quran says:
{Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God  does not love transgressors.(Al-Baqarah 2: 190)
The Quran says again, 
{If they seek peace, then seek you peace.  And trust in God for He is the One that hears  and knows all things.(Al-Anfal 8: 61)
Finally, the author and every Muslim and non-Muslim should see this Video. I hope somebody would translate into English 

Islamism in Egypt – untangling the confusion

[WITH EDITORIAL CORRECTION] There continues to be confusion about the events of June 30th2013, when thirty three million [*] Egyptians spilled onto the squares and streets of Egyptian cities demanding the removal of President Morsi. Media commentary has tended to focus on matters of legitimacy concerning the latest aspect of the crisis – the cancellation of the results of the ballot box that had taken place 12 months before, and the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood – without at the same time providing a fuller analysis of the events – no less touching on legitimacy – that led up to this momentous occurrence.
If this does not constitute a ‘revolution’ then what does?
It is therefore, I feel, worth providing some clarification. I will start by discussing what happened in Egypt on 30 June 2013, and by posing a simple question: Did the coming out of more than thirty three million Egyptians onto the squares and streets of many Egyptian cities constitute a ‘revolution’ or something else? 
The term ‘revolution’ is generally employed when a very large number of the people adopt practical standpoints brought about by a change or a series of large-scale changes in what is happening on the ground. And this is precisely the point: 
on June 30th 2013 more than half the number of Egyptians eligible to vote and almost three times the number of those who voted for the president, and who made up the crowds calling for his dismissal on that date, had spilled onto the streets of most Egyptian towns calling for Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president, to be removed from office. This manifestation of mass behaviour brought about a hugely influential event that embodied the end of the first period of rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian history, 369 days following their accession to power.
Again one has to ask the question: If this does not constitute a ‘revolution’ then what does? 
Many outside Egypt are unaware that those crowds on June 30th 2013 gathered together after the Muslim Brotherhood president had refused three demands presented by the popular opposition: 
1) that there should be a popular referendum to decide whether he should stay or relinquish his post; 
2) that there should be early presidential elections; or 
3) that he should immediately resign.
There is a woeful lack of understanding of what political Islam actually is
Many outside Egypt also do not know that, prior to June 30th 2013, over 22 million Egyptian signatures had been collected demanding that the Muslim Brotherhood president stand down. There are many, again outside of Egypt, who fail to conceive what would have been the implications of the following scenario:
Following the refusal of three of their demands and the collection of over 20 million Egyptian signatures demanding the sacking of the Muslim Brotherhood president more than 30 million Egyptians spill out onto the squares and onto the streets of most of the towns of Egypt on 30 June 2013 calling for the removal of Muhammad Morsi, subsequent to which the Egyptian army fails to stand side-by-side with the Egyptian crowds.
What then would have happened?
Any understanding of the way things are in Egypt and the mindset, culture, modes of behaviour and history of every Islamist political faction, would tell you that a major confrontation would have taken place in the squares and streets between peaceful citizens demanding the resignation of the Muslim Brotherhood president, and his Islamist supporters whose mentality rests upon pillars of violence. It is my conviction that, had not the Egyptian army decided upon siding with the June 30th revolution, Egyptian towns would have witnessed scenes of massacres with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood president murdering their opponents in nothing other than a violent confrontation between a peaceful majority and a bloodthirsty minority.
 The history of Islamic societies and current events now unfolding in Syria, Yemen and Libya tell us just how bloody these killers are and how little relation they have with modern humane values such as pluralism and respect for the Other, or with relativism, freedom of opinion, with the systems of a modern state or the rights of women and so on.
Afghanistan under the Taleban: contradictions to the modern state
There remains the disaster, the tragedy, inherent in the viewpoint of some that, as a political party, the Muslim Brotherhood is somehow capable of being subsumed into the political life of a modern society. It is, I feel, a point of view that simply reflects a woeful lack of understanding of what political Islam actually is. It also reflects another misconception – the belief held by some that there exist factions and strategic differences between the various currents of political Islam.
 Anyone carrying out a deep study of the political history of Islamic societies or anyone familiar with the culture of the currents of political Islam can only come to two crystal-clear conclusions: firstly, that the multiple currents of political Islam are merely branches and leaves of a tree whose trunk is formed of a single mindset, one that is embodied by the Muslim Brotherhood; secondly, that the strategic goals of each and every trend of political Islam are in fact one and the same: the dismantling of the modern state system and its replacement with the system of an Islamic caliphate, something which ‘Alī ‘Abd al-Rāziq, in his book Islam and the Foundations of Governance (1925)[1], established was nothing more than a mere fantasy.
The multiple currents of political Islam are merely branches and leaves of a tree whose trunk is formed of a single mindset
How can there be a political system in the absence of a mechanism for the rotation of power or the absence of the mechanisms of government? 
As history tells us, the methods adopted by the first four rulers known as the Orthodox caliphs differed widely from each other, while the chosen ruling system in the Umayyad and Abbasid states was one of outright dynastic kingship. 
Every ruler during the eras of the first four caliphs and the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid princes ruled in a different way and, indeed, without any clear underlying system. No conscientious researcher into the political history of Islamic societies or the culture of contemporary currents of political Islam can honestly say that any single one of these trends, were they to accede to power, would preserve the framework and foundations of the modern state. We need only cast an eye over the history of the first, second and third Saudi states, the Taleban state in Afghanistan, the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, the areas that have come under the influence and hegemony of Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the reality of regions under the control of Islamists in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya to understand how egregious the contradiction is between any state directed by believers in political Islam and modern systems of state, law, human rights, and the rights of women.
The 1981 assassination of President Sadat - a tradition bequeathed
It is therefore pointless for us to give any credence to claims made by (for example) the Muslim Brotherhood to believe in the systems of the modern state, its constitutional rules, modern legality and the rights of man simply on the grounds of their say so. It would also be spectacularly futile to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood (for example) have eschewed violence or the killing and assassination of their rivals simply on their word. Since the assassination of the Egyptian Prime Minister in 1945 and 1948, and dozens of other subsequent assassinations – most notably the assassination of President Sadat on October 6th 1981 and the assassinations perpetrated by the Brotherhood today in Egypt – their own history and the unfolding facts on the ground demonstrate that the Muslim Brotherhood have not forsaken violence and murder but rather have bequeathed them to the currents that are spawned from them. 
There can be no doubt that Al Qaeda and Hamas, for example, are really two scions of the mentality and attitudes espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood. There is also no doubt that ISIL and the Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and Iraq are two outgrowths of the Wahhabism that have slipped the leash of Wahhabism’s alliance with the Āl Saʽūd in Saudi Arabia.

[*] Readers are advised that the earlier publication of this article contained an editorial error, whereby the number was given as 'three million'. We are grateful to the author for bringing attention to our error.
[1] Alī ‘Abd al-Rāziq (1888-1966) argued in his work Islam and the Foundations of Government, that Islam is a religion but not a state, and that Muhammad’s role was one of ‘communicator’, rather than sovereign. He noted that Islam does not advocate a specific form of government and that Muslims may therefore agree on any system of government, religious or worldly, so long as it serves the interest and common welfare of their society.  The context of his comments was the increasing voice, following the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate two years earlier, calling for the reinstating of an Arab-speaking caliph, arguing that the office had historically been claimed for political rather than religious ends (Ed.)
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ٍSixty minutes with Naseser Kandi (17-10-2014) A must see

ستون دقيقة مع ناصر قنديل | توب نيوز 17 10 2014


حوار الاخبارية مع وزير الثقافة السوري عصام خليل 17 10 2014


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Editorial Comment:

Earlier today the YPG defense forces announced that Da’ash had retreated from Kobanê, and that they may be close to victory.  (YPG Kobanê Commander: “We are close to victory”)

The YPG have just released an official statement that  Da’ash have returned with reinforcements.

The battle for Kobanê is not over.

ANF – KOBANÊ 17.10.2014

Releasing a statement about the fighting going on in the Kobanê town of West Kurdistan, Rojava, on the 32nd day, YPG (People’s Protection Units) Press Centre reported that ISIS gangs are trying to intensify their attacks with reinforcements brought in from various bases, mainly from Jarablus, Gire Spî (Tal Abyad) and Raqqa.

Remarking that YPG, YPJ and Burkan Al Fırat forces taking part in the defence of Kobanê have also launched attacks against some ISIS positions, YPG noted that: “After the repulsion of their attacks, gangs are now shelling the town centre and the border crossing area.”

YPG Press Centre also reported that clashes erupted at two separate points on the eastern front yesterday afternoon and continued till late night.

The statement said YPG forces have repulsed the attacks gangs launched on the Kaniya Kurda region and the areas liberated by YPG forces the day before, on the northeastern front. “The gangs also launched attacks from two directions around the municipality building at the eastern entrance of the town. The repulsion of these attacks by our fighters forced the gangs to retreat to their positions”, it added.

On the southeastern front which involves the Miştenur Hill as well, YPG forces repulsed the consequent attacks the gangs carried out last night, the statement said.

According to YPG Press Centre, the assault forces of the gangs have been weakened on the southern front where they had been inflicted a heavy blow the day before. Gangs continued to shell the town centre and YPG positions with heavy weaponry from this front throughout last night.

Recalling that a clash broke out between YPG forces and ISIS gangs around the Mala Mustafayê Musa village to the west of Kobanê yesterday afternoon, the statement added that YPG forces launched an attack targeting the gangs deployed in the Arbuş hamlet, again to the west of Kobanê, forcing gangs to flee this area as a result of clashes.

YPG noted that a vehicle of the gangs was destroyed, with militants inside it, near the Menazê village to the southwest of the Kobanê town.

18 gang members were ascertained killed in the last one day of fighting in Kobanê, the statement said, adding that 3 YPG fighters have fallen bravely fighting in the defense of Kobanê.

YPG operation in Serêkaniyê continues

YPG (People’s Protection Units) Press Centre has released a statement providing information about the YPG operation going on in west and southeast Serêkaniyê since 11 October.

The statement said that YPG forces have carried out an attack targeting an ambush group of the gangs on the borderline while on the other hand hitting the ISIS positions in and around the Rawiya region.

YPG said at least 4 gang members have been ascertained killed in YPG attacks.


YPG Kobanê Commander: “We are close to victory”

Editorial Comment:

In the following report we are told that victory is at hand.

According to RT, Da’ash have retreated from the city and the Kurdish fighters are engaged in a thorough sweep and will make a victory announcement once Kobanê is confirmed clear.

Have Da’ash retreated or is this merely a strategy that will permit them to regroup and return with greater force?

ANF – KOBANÊ 17.10.2014

Mehmud Berxwedan, the YPG Kobanê General in Command, has said: “After a one-month resistance we have launched a step-by-step advance towards victory. In the last week in particular Kobanê has become a graveyard for ISIS.”

YPG Kobanê Commander Mahmut Berxwedan spoke to Ronahi TV. He said that, as watched by the world, Kobanê had resisted for 32 days, adding that they were now close to victory.

Berxwedan emphasised that the Kobanê resistance had begun in the villages, where there had been a great resistance from house to house, hamlet to hamlet and from village to village. He added that for 10 to 15 days there had now been resistance on the southern and eastern fronts, adding: “ISIS corpses are in the streets and in every house. We have made a great advance on all three fronts in the last 3 days. Every day we are killing them and seizing their weapons. There is now a clean-up operation going on in Kobanê.”

‘Coalition planes have not hit YPG or civilians’

“Whatever the Turkish press says, the situation of the resistance in Kobanê is apparent”, added YPG Kobanê Commander Mahmud Berxwedan, adding that claims in certain press outlets that coalition planes had hit civilians and YPG positions by mistake were not correct. “Nothing like that has happened,” said Berxwedan, stressing that on the contrary coalition planes had been careful.

Mahmud Berxwedan said that ISIS had calculated that it would capture Kobanê within a few days and had brought forces in accordance with that plan. He added that while ISIS had captured other countries with such a force, it had not been able to take Kobanê in a month. The YPG commander said: “this demonstrates that the resistance here has been unprecedented. They brought weapons they had taken from the Iraqi and Syrian armies, but we are fighting them with our determination, without any arms support from anywhere.”

Berxwedan added that those who wanted Kobanê to fall were victims of their own imagination, saying: “the fall of Kobanê is a fantasy that will never materialise.”

Berxwedan concluded by saying this was all down to the month-long resistance, adding: “Let all the world see, those who did not believe should see. Kobanê is a place of resistance and victory. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, they should come and see the reality in Kobanê.”

Initiative now with YPG in Kobanê

As ISIS attacks on Kobanê enter their 32nd day, the gangs are suffering serious blows at the hands of the YPG. After reaching certain neighbourhoods of the town the gangs are now beginning to falter as they face the YPG resistance.

YPG/YPJ Kobanê commander Meryem Kobanê spoke to ANF, saying that in the last two days in particular things have gone well and that the initiative is now with them. She added that the gangs were trying to overcome their disarray with suicide attacks, but that all these attempts had been prevented by the YPG fighters. She said that despite this, the ISIS gangs were continuing their attacks, and were renewing their military build-up.

Gangs are targeting the border gate

Meryem Kobanê said that clashes were continuing, “but the initiative is now with the YPG. Clashes are now concentrated in the east of the town, on the border. The gangs are trying to reach the Mürşitpınar gate, but our forces are inflicting heavy blows on them.”

She said there had been constant mortar fire on the town from the Miştenur hill and some houses in recent days, and that Miştenur was still under the control of the ISIS gangs.

We have forced the gangs back in the town centre

Meryem Kobanê said there had been significant developments to the west of the town around Tel Shair, adding: “We have liberated the village of Tel Shair and our forces have control of the hill. We have also forced the gangs back a few streets in the centre of town in the area around the town hall and inflicted serious blows on them.”

Initiative is now with the YPG

Meryem Kobanê said that since yesterday the initiative has been with the YPG, adding that they had attacked the hill in the Kanîya Kûrda area where an ISIS flag had been flying, taking it down. However, she added that ISIS gangs were still in the Kanîya Kûrda area and that their operations were continuing against them in order to cleanse the whole town of the gangs.

ISIS gangs attempting suicide attacks to overcome their setbacks

Kobanê recalled that the gangs had attempted several suicide attacks in recent days, saying these attempts were related to the setbacks they had suffered. Kobanê said it would not be possible for the gangs to succeed with these attacks, as the YPG fighters had taken precautions and prevented these attacks with bomb-laden vehicles.

Meryem Kobanê concluded by promising the Kurdish people that: “we will triumph. We have belief and we are determined. We will succeed, no one should have any doubt about that. Kobanê has not fallen and it will not fall.”


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Riyadh using oil as a weapon

The 32nd meeting of the Oil Ministers of Gulf Cooperation Council for the Gulf states in Riyadh on September 24, 2013. (Photo: AFP)
Published Saturday, October 18, 2014
With oil prices hovering around $85 a barrel, all eyes are fixed on the leading states capable of determining market trends. In fact, Brent Crude, used as the pricing benchmark for oil derivatives, dropped by 23 percent compared to its highest price registered last June.

Although this decline could partially be due to the global economic recession, the surplus in supply levels registered since last spring has also played a leading role in the decline of oil prices.
Statistics show that during this period, the international oil supply soared by one to two million barrels a day, reaching its peak last September when the supply of oil increased by 2.8 million barrels as Saudi Arabia slashed its prices to less than $40 a barrel and sold large quantities to its buyers around the world.
After analyzing the market situation, it is fair to say that leading oil producers, especially the United States and Saudi Arabia, are seeking to impose their agenda on other producers including Russian and Iran. And since Riyadh and Texas can afford to bear a relative decline in oil prices, their scheme is devised to undermine Moscow and Tehran in any current negotiations or wars.
But how can Saudi Arabia bear the burden of declining prices? The country can simply rely on its large production capacity and its foreign currency reserve, estimated at about $750 billion.
Saudi Arabia is also not under any sanctions. Instead it maintains strong, even if at times tense, relations with the same country responsible for imposing these sanctions: the United States.
Most importantly, Saudi Arabia’s oil decisions are linked to the political situation on the ground in the Middle East. The kingdom can afford to sacrifice a few billion dollars in order to win a checker or two on the region’s map.
Over the last decade, the United States successfully developed new technologies to extract shale oil which led to a surplus in supply, further promoting President Barack Obama’s [energy] policy which played an important role in curbing US reliance on oil producers, especially in the Middle East.
And contrary to all peak oil theories, “the United States’ shale oil production started to increase in 2009 and escalated in the past five years to reach 8.3 million barrels a day in the first half of [2014]” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The surplus made Washington more comfortable with its energy situation which was no now longer subjected to traditional Texas price indexes. Gradually, new technology has brought the cost of oil extraction down with production now at an estimated cost of $70 a barrel, which means that as long as the prices remain above the $70 mark, production will continue without incurring any losses.
However, oil data is not that encouraging. Starting with Russia, although the country is considered one of the largest energy exporters in the world, it is now facing many challenges which are tightening the grip on its financial and monetary situation.
Most observers agree that economic sanctions imposed on Russia after its so-called “invasion” of Ukraine last summer have affected the foreign currency reserves it had accumulated during the past decade. Today, its foreign currency reserves are estimated at $450 billion, a respectful amount that reflects Russia’s position as a leading energy hub, but does not deny the fact that the Russian ruble had its poorest global performance in the last three months.
The Russian authorities have so far allocated $13 billion to stimulate the economy, and the central bank seems ready to pump more hard currency into the market. Only two days ago, the central bank announced it will offer up to $3.5 billion in currency repurchase agreements within an auction to be held later this month.

Declining oil prices further exasperated the financial situation in Russia which is set to pay hefty sums to cover its public debt this season, like it normally does in the last quarter of every year. However, the country made its economic projections and drafted its budget based on oil prices standing at a minimum of $90 a barrel. It is worth mentioning that Russia relies on raw material to secure half of its annual budget.
Meanwhile, Iran seems relatively less impacted by the price decline since it benefited from the détente sparked by the recent negotiations with the United States and the release of billions of dollars of Iran’s money. The latter rebounded also after having received critical technological tools to rehabilitate some essential sectors, which were suffering due to its estrangement from the West, most prominently the aviation sector.
Recently, growth prospects in Iran have improved to the extent that the International Monetary Fund indicated that the country will get out of its recession this year and that its economy will be more diversified, even if not to the required level.
However, oil prices not only impacted the Russian ruble and Iranian riyal or the economies in both countries, but the price decline also caused major shifts within the US market itself: when oil prices drop, the budgets of small companies are affected, prompting giant institutions to seek acquisitions in order to reinforce their place in the market.
According to Bloomberg data, the recent free fall of oil prices wiped out over $20 billion of the market value of oil-producing companies considered “possible targets” for oil giants.
These oil giants include Chevron, Exxonmobil, and Conocophillips, the same companies that were circulated during and after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when huge oil contracts were being signed. In fact, Chevron is the most influential of these companies with a direct liquidity of $14 billion, nearly double of Exxonmobil’s for example.
Interestingly, the dramatic scenario in the US market further suggests that the targeted companies are the same ones that developed shale oil drilling technologies – a resource that gave the United States leverage in the energy market and reinforced its position in its negotiations with oil producers, including even Saudi Arabia.
US newspapers suggest that these large companies were awaiting such an opportunity, because they could not just buy the technology developed by small companies, but they also had to understand it, which cannot be done without acquisitions.
Any decline in oil prices will have a significant impact on countries and markets from the east to the west. This time, it seems that Washington and Riyadh have coordinated to flood the market and hurt their enemies. Though the coordination may not have been direct or straight forward, but it certainly serves both parties.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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Washington Admits: FSA Equals Fictitious Syrian Army

Finian CUNNINGHAM | 18.10.2014 | 00:00

US President Barack Obama hosted a top-level war council this past week in Washington with the military leaders from 21 countries in attendance – under the official remit of coordinating tactics to defeat the Islamic State extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

The titular American commander-in-chief spoke with the gravitas of a decorated soldier. «This is going to be a long-term campaign and like all military campaigns there will be ups and downs», said Obama to the assembled military chiefs at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington DC.

Obama’s presumed military authority was something of an achievement, considering that he is, by profession, a community activist, a professor of constitutional lawyer, and a former senator. The 53-year-old politician has never served a single day of his life in the US military, let alone seen combat action or having been awarded medals for bravery.

But that’s not the only anomaly that sprung to mind about Obama’s war council in Washington. Together with the usual Western allies of Britain, France, Canada and Australia, there were military top brass from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. 

Yet, all these Middle Eastern «partners» are documented as having deep logistical links with the Islamic State and other related jihadist terror groups marauding in Syria and Iraq. 

Joe Biden, the US vice president, admitted this terror connection between Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab oil monarchies in a public debate at Harvard University earlier this month. Although Biden was later forced into making cringing apologies to the said offender countries, his initial blundering confirms the paradox that the US-led anti-terror coalition is comprised of, well, state-sponsoring terrorists. 

The terror sponsors include the US and Britain, who together spawned the Al Qaeda-linked network in their laboratory of illegal occupation of Iraq from 2003 onwards. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) later mutated into Islamic State (IS, ISIL or ISIS) during the West’s covert war for regime change in Syria, which has been raging since March 2011, with a death toll of nearly 200,000, more than six million people displaced, and half of Syria’s 23 million total population living in dire humanitarian conditions, according to the United Nations. 

The open secret of weapons supplies to extremists from the US, coordinated by its Central Intelligence Agency and routed through Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, is not even a matter of controversy in the Western media. It has already been reported with mundane indifference by mainstream Western media outlets, such as the New York Times and the Daily Telegraph.

A further striking anomaly from Obama’s war council in Washington – scarcely reported in the Western media, not surprisingly – was the complete absence of military representatives from the much-heralded «moderate Syrian rebels».   

Bear in mind that Obama’s strategy for allegedly eradicating the IS extremists is based on two fronts. The first is the coordinated aerial bombardment of militants, involving warplanes from the US, Britain, France, Australia and all of the above Arab states; the second is the purported training of «moderate» Syrian rebels, who will take the fight to the Jihadists on the ground. With the anticipated defeat of IS and related extremist Islamist groups, such as Jabhat al Nusra and Ansar al Sham, the Western-backed «moderate» rebels will then be empowered to pursue their noble rebellion against the «despotic» Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad – or at least so goes the theory.

President Obama has already won the backing of the US Congress to train vetted, moderate Syrian rebels with a budget of $500 million – in a revamp of the Free Syrian Army. The American military training is to take place in undisclosed camps located in Saudi Arabia, as well as now Turkey belatedly offering its territory for that same purpose following top-level negotiations in Ankara last week with US former marines General John Allen.  

Hold on a minute. Congress has approved $500 million to train a new cohort of the supposedly moderate and secular Free Syrian Army; and Saudi Arabia and Turkey are providing bases for that undertaking. But at Obama’s seminal war council on «coordinating» plans there was not one representative from the much-vaunted moderate rebels who are assigned this crucial military role. 

A US official attempted to explain the absence of Syrian rebels at the Washington summit by saying that such a participation was «not ready at this stage, and there is still a lot of training to do». 

In other words, the so-called moderate rebels that the US is touting do not actually exist. It’s therefore less a case of Free Syrian Army and more a case of Fictitious Syrian Army.

This conceptual void has long been pointed out by many observers of the Syrian conflict. The notion of a moderate Free Syrian Army fighting a virtuous fight against a tyrannical regime is but a figment of Western government and media imagination, aimed at giving the Western powers a political and moral cover to indulge in its criminal regime change machinations against Syria.

Many of the supposed FSA brigades are in fact integrated with the extremist networks of IS, al Nusra and Ansar al Sham. Not only fighters, but also weapons and funding are recycled in a revolving-door relationship between these groups. Yes, there have been feuds, but this infighting is borne out of turf wars over criminal booty, not anything to do with ideological ethics. 

However, Western governments and their dutiful media cannot admit this reality because that would leave them open to public vilification. Hence, they have projected the illusion, with Western media assistance, that there is a «moderate» legitimate Syrian opposition, whom the West supports and whom the West is concerned to elevate over «rogue» terror groups.

This fiction was apparent from the resounding absence of any such nominated moderate group at the Washington anti-IS summit. 

It was also confirmed in a subsequent report from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, published Wednesday, the day after Obama’s war council. Under the headline ‘It’s official: US will build new Syrian rebel force to battle Islamic State’ the newspaper reported that «the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists».

Forget about the misnomer of the «old Free Syrian Army». There was never one to begin with. The point to take away is that the US is in effect admitting that there isn’t a force worth talking about. 
McClatchy quotes General John Allen, the US envoy to the anti-IS coalition, as saying: «At this point, there is not formal coordination with the FSA».

It’s worth clipping the following editorial paragraphs from the same McClatchy report:

«For most of the three years of the Syrian conflict, the US ground game hinged on rebel militias that are loosely affiliated under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA.

«Their problems were no secret: a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al Qaida [sic] loyalists of the Nusra Front.

«This time, Allen said, the United States and its allies will work to strengthen the political opposition and make sure it’s tied to «a credible field force» that will have undergone an intense vetting process.
«It’s not going to happen immediately», Allen said. «We’re working to establish the training sites now, and we’ll ultimately go through a vetting process and beginning to bring the trainers and the fighters in to begin to build that force out».

This is a stunning admission, hardly picked up in the Western media. Washington is confirming that there is no such thing as a moderate rebel force in Syria. But what Washington and its fellow state terrorist sponsors are doing is throwing $500 million into a project of creating the semblance of «a credible field force». This creation will then give Western powers and its Arab allies a legitimacy to escalate their criminal covert war for regime change in Syria. 

No wonder Obama warned his war council in Washington that this would be a «long campaign». For the arsonists have become the fireman, the poachers have become gamekeepers, and the deluded have become the therapists.

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-by Tim Anderson, Jun 29, 2013

Attacks on the Syrian Arab Army have come from all sides, most western media claiming it has been ‘brutal’, defends a ‘dictatorship’ or represents an ‘Alawite regime’. While the army has confronted violence with violence, a series of ‘false flag’ accusations have been levelled at it, the most recent over the use of sarin gas.

However, in defence of this army, I ask two questions: one, after two years of foreign backed attacks, mostly from religious-fanatics, how would secular Syria have survived without its national army? and two, what legitimate function does any army have, if not to defend a nation from foreign backed attempts to violently dismantle the state and constitution or, alternatively, to partition the country?

To properly understand the gravity of the attacks on the secular Syrian state we have to appreciate that all violent insurrections in Syria in the post-colonial period have come from the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to impose a form of political Islam, dismantling a secular Arab nationalism established by the Baathist system. The idea of a ‘secular’ uprising is simply a convenient western myth.

Indeed, the major regional competition has been between secular nationalism and political Islam. When Egypt’s Gamel Abdul Nasser was the great hero of the former, the big powers promoted the Saudi monarchy as the Islamic alternative.

In Daraa in March 2011, just as in Hama in February 1982, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood seized its opportunity for violent insurrection. Their opening gambit was the same: rooftop snipers killed police and civilians, the army was drawn in and then blamed for ‘killing civilians’, leading to cries for foreign assistance. In the recent conflict, thousand of foreign fundamentalists have been flocking to Syria (mostly paid by the Saudis and Qatar) precisely because it is seen as a religious, and not a national, conflict.

A 28 March 2011 statement by Muhammad Riyad Al-Shaqfa, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood boss, leaves no doubt that their aim is sectarian, the enemy is ‘the secular regime’ and that ‘we have to make sure that the revolution will be pure Islamic, and with that no other sect would have a share of the credit after its success’.

Amongst current western media clichés is one that the Syrian conflict is becoming ‘increasingly sectarian’. This is linked to simple characterisations of the conflict as one ‘between Sunni and Shia’, or ‘between the majority Sunni community and the Alawite regime’. These clichés are quite misleading.

The Muslim Brotherhood, for historical reasons (mainly its competition with secular Arab nationalism and dependence on Saudi sponsorship) has long represented a particular extremist sect within Sunni Islam. In doctrinal terms this is a salafism which makes use of ‘takfiri’ ideas, by which all other sects can be considered apostates or unbelievers (infidels, kafir) and, for that reason, open to attack. This is an extreme sectarianism which in Syria has given birth to the genocidal, salafi slogan ‘Alawis to the grave, Christians to Beirut’. The FSA has acted on this.

Yet this is not a ‘Sunni’ view. Opinion polls in Syria and around the world show that Sunnis, including conservative Sunnis, are inclined to be tolerant to people of other faiths. A recent Pew Research Centre poll found that, while strong Muslim majorities in many countries support sharia to be ‘the official law of the land’; similarly strong majorities also support freedom of religion for people of other faiths.

Syria’s secular nationalism, enforced by the Baathist regime but reinforced by Shami or Damascene Islam traditions, has nurtured a powerful ecumenicism which sees Christians recognise Ramadan and Muslims recognise Easter. In other words, Syria, on the cross roads of civilisations, has an even stronger tolerant tradition than others.

This is a great problem for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has relied on ‘takfiri’ ideas to advance its political cause. The Brotherhood dominates both the exile ‘opposition’ and the armed groups which make up the ‘Free Syrian Army’, and does have some support amongst the Sunni merchant classes. But it relies on sectarianism. It is the Brotherhood, along with its foreign and Al Qaeda linked allies, that has promoted the idea of the Assad government as ‘an Alawite regime’, murdering Alawi and Shiia civilians, in attempts to incite wider community conflict.

The Brotherhood pretends to represent all Sunnis, or at least ‘real Sunnis’. In practice most Sunnis reject them. The western media reported a series of FSA commanders in Aleppo (an overwhelmingly Sunni city) complaining about lack of support from the local people. ‘I know they hate us’ one told The Guardian, while Time magazine reported another saying: ‘The Aleppans here, all of them, are loyal to the criminal Bashar, they inform on us’. This was later confirmed by a report carried out for NATO which estimated that 70% of the Syrian population backed President Assad, and that much of this support came from secular Sunnis who were horrified by FSA atrocities.

The Syrian state, whatever its other flaws, has certainly represented a strong secular tradition. There are many signs of this. President Bashar al Assad himself is married to a Sunni woman. 

The Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Hassoun, is a strong Sunni supporter of the secular state. Sheikh Mohamad Al Bouti, murdered along with 42 others by an FSA suicide bomber in March 2013, was a senior Sunni Koranic scholar who backed the secular state. The western media tag on these men as being ‘pro-Assad’ rather misses the point.

Syria’s secular tradition is nowhere stronger than in the Syrian Arab Army. Making up about 80% of Syria’s armed forces and with half a million members, half regulars and half conscripts, the army is drawn from all the country’s communities (Sunni, Alawi, Shiia, Christian, Druze, Kurd, Armenian, etc). However they identify as ‘Syrian’ and ‘Arab’ and confront a sectarian enemy which brands itself ‘real Sunnis’.

A key objective of the Brotherhood’s insurrection was always to split the Syrian Arab Army, along sectarian lines. Indeed, a number of army officers did defect, mostly those with family links to the Brotherhood. FSA atrocities against Alawis and Christians (most of which were blamed on the government), must have raised community feelings. However, towards the end of 2011 the FSA-aligned spokesperson in England Rami Abdel Rahman, who calls himself the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said less than 1000 soldiers had deserted.

By mid 2013, more than two years into a bloody conflict, it is quite clear that the army has not fractured on sectarian lines. They have held together as a national force, very clear that they are facing sectarian and often foreign opponents.

The entry of Lebanon’s Hezbollah into the fighting to re-take the town of al-Qusayr hardly represented a sectarian turn in the fighting. Hezbollah, with many allied Shiia communities close to al-Qusayr, was fighting alongside a secular Syrian Arab Army and in defence of the secular Syrian state. Indeed Hezbollah, while Shiia Islamist, also supports a secular (or at least pluralist) state in Lebanon. Through its alliance with Lebanon’s largest Christian group (led by Michel Aoun) it now forms part of the Lebanese government. Hezbollah rejects the salafis’ ‘takfiri’ ideas.

So when commentators claim the Syrian conflict is becoming ‘increasingly sectarian’, they are simply paying more attention to Muslim Brotherhood arguments and ignoring the fact that, across the region, secular nationalism remains an important force.

The ‘elephant in the room’ in this discussion has been the big powers: the USA, Britain, France and Israel, and their collaborators Turkey and the gulf monarchies. The sad reality is that, through their various interventions in the region (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya) these powers have been using the most reactionary sects within Islam to divide the peoples of the region. If this seems to contradict publicly-stated doctrine, Israel defence official Amos Gilad has made it clear that al-Qaeda elements creating chaos in Syria are far preferable to a united Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis.

But this discussion has been about the Syrian Arab Army, criticisms of which seem particularly absurd coming from those western countries whose armies spend much of their time invading and occupying a variety of foreign countries, most of them oil-rich, supposedly for the good of the local populace.

Cynics suggest that arbitrary national boundaries and entities created by the colonial powers have no value. However hundreds of thousands of young Syrians put their lives on the line every day to defend a nation that gives them identity, education and a range of shared institutions. I suggest that deserves some respect.

The Syrian Arab Army has been vilified by those very same regimes that arm the foreign jihadis and the local sectarians. Yet despite the relentless attacks, this army has held together and is showing strong signs of resuming control of their own country, in service of a secular and socially inclusive state. If that is not the legitimate function of a national army, I don’t know what is.


Basma Atassi (2011) ‘Free Syrian Army grows in influence’, Al Jazeera, 16 November, online:

BICOM (2013) ‘Amos Gilad: Al-Qaeda threat not as serious as Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis’, 2 April, online:

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (2012) ‘ ‘The people of Aleppo needed someone to drag them into the revolution’, The Guardian, 28 December, online:

Muhammad Riyad Al-Shaqfa (2011) ‘Muslim Brotherhood Statement about the so-called “Syrian Revolution”’, on The truth About Syria, Muhammad Riyad Al-Shaqfa is the General supervisor for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, statement of 28 March, online 

Pew Research Centre (2013) ‘The World’s Muslims: religion, politics and society’, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, April 30, online:

Tim Anderson (2013) ‘Syria: how the violence began, in Daraa’, OpEdNews, May 13, online:

Tim Anderson (2012) ‘Syria’s ‘false flag’ terrorism, Houla and the United Nations’, OpEdNews, online:

Rania Abouzeid (2012) ‘Aleppo’s Deadly Stalemate: A Visit to Syria’s Divided Metropolis’, Time, 14 November, online:

World Tribune (2013) ‘NATO data: Assad winning the war for Syrians’ hearts and minds’, 31 May, online: