The multiple indications that war and/or a major attack regarding syria is imminent are all around. The critical point is that this was always where things were going to end up if the US and Team Obama pursued the policy they did – benign neglect mixed with aggression on the part of quite undemocratic, frankly sinister allies in the region.
We know that the neo-liberalcon position that things would always end up here was RIGHT but for the WRONG reason: they advocated a stupid war very very early on and said if there was not war early things would end badly.
We also know some “liberal” thinkers/tankers were really wrong about predicting/advocating for a “controlled collapse.” It was NEVER likely.
If this got extended and pushed, then a final confrontation was all that would happen.
So now Obama finally must decide if he wants a huge war in the middle east, with ripple effects and possibly major consequences beyond.
He cant wiggle out of this one.
Indeed, that leads to the core problem: Obama’s team does not have the courage to avoid a war by altering their negotiating position. For sure they are now sending messages to Assad and Russia that an attack is imminent and it is time to agree to most of the US-backed demands. They will NOT soften their demands – surely not after the declaration of chemical weapons use.
This will not offer a feasible framework for talks and de-escalation, quite simply.
Obama should really consider what Hizbullah SEEMS to have been able to achieve on the ground: IN A FEW SHORT DAYS, they changed the pace and facts on the ground – CHANGED THE WHOLE discourse in fact.
This move has been nothing short of extraordinary.
It may provoke the US, and this may lead to disaster all around, but tactically what Hizbullah achieved was certainly parallel to what other “small” powers like it greatest foe Israel used to achieve – before the decline evident on the 2006 war.
Be very very careful Obama: the people itching for war are not the fighters in it.
I spoke at LSE just a day before Haytham Manna in October – his speech was truly excellent.
Now from Reuters, which is an indication of how unserious and poisoned the diplomatic effort will be – and why more war is in the offing… if you think Haytham is like this, then, no hope for a negotiated solution:
“…Moscow has had several rounds of talks with Hassan Abdel Azim and his National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, which rebels say is little more than a front for Assad. The group’s leader outside Syria, Haytham Manna, did not respond to a request for comment.”
Middle East Politics Conference in Tunis June 15 & 16, Featuring International Crisis Group
OVERVIEW: Join Mideastwire.com and the Tunis Dauphine Institute on June 15 & 16 in Tunis for the beginning of this Summer’s Arabic and Politics Exchange featuring the International Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa staff.
During the opening weekend, participants will engage in consecutive sessions led by more than a dozen ICG analysts and senior staff, covering the topics that ICG regularly analyses in MENA through its policy reports, commentary and alerts.
ICG country experts will be led by Robert Malley, the director of MENA programs.
COSTS: For those participants who do not wish to attend the different modules of the full Exchange (www.thebeirutexchange.com), conference admission is $350/Exchange Alumni $250. (Note that accommodation and meals are not included in the conference price although we can assist in arranging hotel stays near to the conference center, here, at the Tunis Dauphine Institute.)
June 15 – Morning 1
-Opening Session: Mutations of the Arab Spring (Robert Malley)
-Session 2: North Africa’s Trying Transitions: Libya and Tunisia (Claudia Gazzini and Michael Ayari)
-Session 3: Iran (Ali Vaez)
-Session 4: Syria/Lebanon (Noah Bonsey)
-Session 5: Egypt (Yasser El-Shimy, Issandr El-Amrani)
-Session 6: Yemen (April Alley)
July 16 – Morning 2
-Session 7: The New Sectarianism (Joost Hiltermann)
-Session 8: Israel/Palestine (Rob Blecher, Azmi Keshawi)
-Session 9: Iraq (Maria Fantappie)
-Session 10: US Media and the Middle East (Kimberly Abbott)
-Closing Session: Professionalisation Workshop (Rob Malley, Rob Blecher, Issandr El-Amrani, Joost Hiltermann)
For more information or to reserve a place, contact email@example.com or Nicholas Noe at: +21627411584
Is there any country in or around MENA that is not actively engaged in local wahhabis sending people to fight in Syria?
Text of report by Bosnian Serb state-owned daily Glas Srpske, on 25 May, by Goran Maunaga: “Ex-Mujahedin – Connection to Holy War”
Sarajevo – Several former members of the El-Mujahedin unit who have both Syrian and B-H citizenships are engaged in providing organizational and logistic support for the recruitment of B-H nationals to fight in Syria, Glas Srpske has learned from a source close to the investigation.
“One of them is Aiman Awad, former head of the intelligence and security division of the El-Mujahedin unit, who currently leads the Ensarije movement and the Portal citizens’ association and lives in Zenica. The other is Imad al-Misri, regional head of the “Muslim Brothers,” who lives in Travnik and Sarajevo,” the source says.
He goes on to say that Syrians were the most numerous in the El-Mujahedin unit and that it is they who obtained the largest number of B-H citizenships that were later revoked.
“In organizing the dispatch of fighters to Syria they cooperate with Abid Podbicanin, a Novi Pazar-based Wahhabi, and Muhidin Halilovic, a Wahhabi from northern B-H. All this is being done in collaboration with Nusret Imamovic, leader of the Wahhabi community in Gornja Maoca,” the source says.
He adds that the largest number of “B-H fighters” departed for Syria from Sarajevo and its surroundings, the Zenica-Doboj and Central Bosnia cantons….
How the US lost control of the “control collapse” scenario in Syria by “leading violence from behind”
During those crucial first six months of the Syria crisis when Assad had not reached any “point of no return” in terms of violence (though horrible, it had not been pointed to as a political reason for totally obstructing negotiations), US officials – including many that I met or knew personally – were very very happy to see Assad, Hizbullah etc having serious domestic problems over the Syria rebellion.
There was a dominant thought in DC that this would cause either the downfall of Assad – great – or would hurt him such that he would accept previously unacceptable demands by the US and Israel. So instead of immediately drawing Assad in closer – and Mubarakizing him and his regime steadily , in a patient strategy that would eventually allow his regime to be swept away with much less of the current violence… I wrote about this subject in May 2011 here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-noe/a-third-way-on-syria-is-possible_b_868383.html – the US and others aided and abetted their local allies to press violence and refused to offer any serious carrots to Assad.
They said those first six months essentially: change and submit to our conditions or die. And please dear reader, as a matter of analysis, do set aside the public overtures by Qatar and other states that seemed “easy” or reasonable for the Assad regime to accept: In the end, the only power and word that really mattered in a tough, unpredictable and bad faith negotiating situation where Syria was facing a serious challenge were US gauantees and US carrots.
These were never on the table, quite simply, in a credible, much less a public, manner.
With no serious US-LED effort to bring Assad in closer on offer, there was no reasonable calculation seductive enough for the regime to change its behavoir.
Given this incentive structure and the narrow (often stupid and always violent) regime thinking which we all know, the obvious dynamic by the regime was to go in deeper, harder and more violent. This stupid and frankly immoral (though immoral for me from an opposite angle) original strategy by the US of “take it or leave it” and we are going to step back and let pressure and violence build, and we expect your brutal forces to act with more brutality and thereby create wedges and weaknesses in your structure to our delight – failed massively.
Bottom line: Assad and the regime and their allies were always going to fight this thing to the bitter end if pressed that way either through force or the absence of a meaningful alternative, and this was going to be a disaster for all. Knowing this early on, the US and its allies should have made immediate moves to bring Assad in closer, split the resistance axis through meaningful concessions to Assad (i.e. NOT try to get concessions from the far weaker power now pressed domestically by unrest!) and thereby implement a medium term strategy of Mubarakizing the regime (as I wrote in the link above). This would have certainly delayed democracy for Syrians, and would have been politically hard, but we can now see it would have meant less dead syrians, less ruined lives and NOT the major regional war which is almost upon us all.
This translated today from Mideastwire.com.
I think it is probably mostly accurate! [A NOTE ON THIS POST - I do not necessarily think that hizbullah's analysis of the situation was actually true to the facts on the ground. The point is that it seems likely they BELIEVED this was the strategic window they were facing.]
“…According to the available data made available for the party, the radical groups were going to establish a Syrian “border strip” under its control and with a dimension extending into Ersal and Wadi Khaled after controlling the villages inhabited by the Lebanese there and displacing their inhabitants… Similarly, the party was closely following on the attempts of the armed groups to control the Damascus Airport and the roads leading to it… The party made a connection between all these givens and was thus able to complete the puzzle and to highlight the picture of the offensive plan aimed at gradually pressuring and cornering the Resistance by seizing the land and air outlets representing its vital lung. Thus, the party realized that hesitation can do no good and that it must move from just reacting into acting. It thus took the initiative of acting in Al-Qusayr…”
Many important points from Narallah’s speech. Hopefully will have some time for thoughts on bolded points and more tomorrow.
I see this speech as the final salvo in Nasrallah’s appeal to reason to his base (and beyond). He has set the field well for establishing Hizbullah’s two year relationship to the syria crisis as a reasoned and careful approach (whether this is true or not is a totally different issue – I happen to believe there is SOME truth in how he cast matters…. SOME only). He left his constituents with the clear sense – I think – that they tried, they tried their best…. but the other side wanted total victory and total war.
His appeal at the end – that the enemies of Hizbullah never really understood them and therefore continually made bad calculations – rings particularly true when you look at Hizbullah’s perception in Israel and the US.
I can say from experience that many US officials I met over the last two years really got this one very very wrong when it came to understanding how Hizbullah was going to act and perceive matters.
Now everyone will have to deal with the terrible consequences it seems.
Nasrallah has effectively lined up his people for war – ideologically, intellectually and spiritually.
Hizbullah, he claimed, has done its best according to shariah even, to avoid this next stage. But great powers wanted conflict, brought in the takfiris and now there is compelling national threat and a compelling rationale for hizbullah cadres falling across the border, and likely soon, within Lebanon and southwards (one suspects).
“…I will now move to the second file. Undoubtedly, the talk about it is very sensitive and very delicate, and places us in front of a completely new phase; yes, a completely new phase. Brothers and sisters, what is happening in Syria is very important and very crucial for Lebanon, and for our present and future. As I said at the beginning, let us now not try to deceive ourselves, bury our heads in the sand, or deal with the events in Syria as though we were living in Djibouti. No, we are here, on the border.
God willing, we are brave enough to speak, and we are brave enough to act. Therefore, let us speak today with the required frankness at a critical historic moment. Let me begin with a very quick reminder.
From the beginning of the events, we had a clear political stand. We said the popular demands for reform were right. We said that this [Syrian] regime has important and positive points, especially regarding the issue of resistance, and that it has negative points and shortcomings. We said what was required was reform. The road to reform is political dialogue. We said nobody must aim guns or bullets at each other, neither by the regime nor by the opposition. We also know what Syria means to Lebanon, the region, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the resistance movements, and the Palestine question.
Despite our moderate capabilities as a party, we and I personally have good and major relations with our brothers on the regional level. From the first day, I have worked with President Bashar al-Asad and with other personalities and parties in the opposition to arrive early at a political dialogue and a political settlement. I bear witness that President Al-Asad accepted, but the opposition refused. To everyone who asks about the issue from the sharia and religious point of view, the current Syrian leadership has consistently accepted from the early stages to sit at the negotiating table to arrive at a political settlement. It accepted to introduce substantive reforms into the regime. However, the opposition continues to reject dialogue up to this day. It rejected it from the first day on the hope that the regime would fall within a few months. It built on certain data, and imagined that those supported by America, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Europe, oil! Arab countries, Turkey, etcetera, will definitely prevail within a few months or a few weeks. That was a misjudgement.
In any case, events developed over the past two years and it was quickly evident that an axis was being formed from all the nations I have just mentioned. That axis is led by America. The first and foremost decisionmaker in that axis is the United States of America. The British, French, Italians, Germans, Arabs, Turks, and all others work for the Americans. All of us know that this axis is implicitly supported by Israel. This is because America’s sole project in the region is Israel. There is no other American project in the region except for the Israeli project.
Al-Qa’idah and takfiri organizations were involved in this project. They were paid money and offered facilities from all over the world. Nobody should try to convince us that those tens of thousands of takfiri fighters, those who have extremist thought and who reject anything but themselves, came to Syria stealthily. The truth is that those were given entry visas, were offered facilities, and doors were opened to them to get into Syria. A world media, political, diplomatic, economic, and financial war was launched on Syria, where tens of thousands of fighters were financed and armed from all over the world. The tens of thousands of fighters did not annoy the so-called friends of Syria in Amman two days ago. However, the intervention of a small group of Hezbollah in Lebanon was considered a foreign intervention. We had not intervened throughout the past period, until a few months ago. I want to be honest with you. We conti! nued to work with all parties. We tried to convince them that Syria will be destroyed and will be lost and that there is no solution except through dialogue. We employed all our relations with Islamic and national forces and with states. Yet, there was no response.
The other axis is determined to continue with the battle to the end. There is no talk about dialogue. They have no alternative but the toppling of the regime, no matter what and irrespective of the price. I know that reasonable proposals and appropriate and reasonable settlements have been offered for two years. Those were implicitly accepted by the Syrian leadership. They are still secret up to now. Those settlements were proposed to regional countries and were rejected. That was because those states cannot tolerate the survival of this regime in anyway whatsoever. Let Syria be destroyed. What matters for them is the removal of this regime. That continued to be the case until we arrived in the past few months at the following analysis: There were changes in Syria. What is the real outcome of the past two years? There is an opposition abroad. We do not accuse all of them. There are people who do not have connections and who have logic and vision. They demand r! ights and they are open to dialogue. This is their normal right and we respect this right. This is part of the Syrian opposition. The other part is different, brothers.
The other part consists of employees for the CIA, the Pentagon, and for various intelligence services. They cannot decide for themselves. This is as far as the external opposition is concerned. On the ground, there are territories which the state has vacated or from which the state has been evicted. These territories have become under the control of the armed groups. Does the external opposition have an influence on these groups? Do those who will go for the discussions in Geneva have an influence on those armed groups?
The West, the Arabs, the intelligence services, the mass media, and me and you know the following fact: We know that the biggest force and dominant trend among the armed groups in control on the ground is the takfiri trend. Those abroad do not have any influence on any of those groups. Nobody has an influence on them. At any rate, I mentioned previously that they were brought to be fought with, and they will later pay the price. They will pay the price of any settlement in Syria. The Western nations seem to be perplexed about this quick shift among the Syrian armed groups. How can they justify to their peoples and public opinion giving arms to people of this type? This colour has begun to become dominant over the domestic armed opposition. It is financed and armed by a number of Arab and regional states. These Arab states want to get rid of the regime and of these groups as well. They facilitate their departure from their own countries, but they are mindless o! f the day when they return to their countries, having gained combat experience, greater voracity for slitting throats and killing, and greater readiness for all forms of confrontation. Leave this for later.
This is how we see things today. This is what is on ground today. Brothers and sisters, and all those who are listening to us in the Arab and Islamic world: The issue is no longer an issue of people rebelling against a regime. It is no longer an issue of reforms. The man is ready for reforms and calls for dialogue. Rather, the issue has become something completely different.
I will now clearly discuss our vision, on which we build our action and conduct regarding what is taking place in Syria. We consider the takfiri groups’ control over Syria or certain Syrian governorates, especially those adjacent to the Lebanese border, poses a serious threat to Lebanon and to all the Lebanese people, not just Hezbollah. I will talk without prevarication. These groups do not only pose a threat to Hezbollah or the Shi’is in Lebanon, but rather a threat to Lebanon, the Lebanese people, the Lebanese state, the Lebanese resistance, and the coexistence in Lebanon. I have proof. I am not accusing those groups unjustly. If those groups manage to specifically control the governorates adjacent to the Lebanese border, then they will pose a threat to the Lebanese, both Muslims and Christians.
“You — I mean they not you — do not understand this resistance, the masses of this resistance, the environment of this resistance, or the culture of this resistance. You have not understood it during the past 30 years and you will never understand it because you always understand things wrongly and calculate things wrongly. Therefore, you get wrong results. Wrong beginnings lead to wrong results.
“Dear brothers and sisters, we are facing a completely new phase that started a few weeks ago; it is the phase of fortifying the resistance and protecting its back, and fortifying Lebanon and protecting its back, and this is everybody’s responsibility. I do not ask anybody to share responsibility with us, but everyone should shoulder his responsibility, and we do not want to rely on anybody. We are the people of this battle as we were in all previous battles. We are its men and we are the makers of its victories, God willing…”