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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Alawites’

Syrian Rebel Commander Eats the Heart of his Enemy

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Human Rights Watch has published its review of graphic evidence that appears to show a commander of the Syrian opposition “Independent Omar al-Farouq” brigade mutilating the corpse of a pro-government fighter. The figure in the video cuts the heart and liver out of the body and uses sectarian language to insult Alawites. The same brigade was implicated in April 2013 in the cross-border indiscriminate shelling of the Lebanese Shi’a villages of al-Qasr and Hawsh al-Sayyed.

According to Human Rights Watch, “it is not known whether the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade operates within the command structure of the Free Syrian Army. But the opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army leadership should take all possible steps to hold those responsible for war crimes accountable and prevent such abuses by anyone under their command.”

The organization then recommends that any party with the power to do so should do all it can to keep weapons from reaching the brigade.

But is this one outfit so different from the rest? The longer the civil war in Syria continues, the clearer it is becoming that both sides are equally monstrous in their disregard for civilian lives.

 

Human Rights Watch repeated its call to the United Nations Security Council to refer the Syria situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“One important way to stop Syria’s daily horrors, from beheadings to mutilations to executions, is to strip all sides from their sense of impunity,” said Nadim Houry, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch. “These atrocities are shocking but so is the obstruction of some Security Council members that still do not support an ICC referral for all sides.”

In the video obtained by Human Rights Watch, a man identified by the person filming the incident as Abu Sakkar is filmed cutting the chest of a dead uniformed fighter, and removing the heart and liver from the corpse. The person filming the incident then comments, while “Abu Sakkar” is cutting out the corpse’s liver: “God Bless you, Abu Sakkar, you look like you are drawing [carving] a heart of love on him.” After Abu Sakkar completes the cutting out of the corpse’s heart and liver, he is filmed holding the heart and liver in his hands and speaks into the camera:

I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs – we will eat your heart and livers! Takbir! God is Great! Oh my heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them!

At the end of the video, after that statement, the man called Abu Sakkar is filmed putting the corpse’s heart into his mouth, as if he is taking a bite out of it. Because of the extremely graphic and disturbing nature of the video, Human Rights Watch has decided not to publicly release the footage, although an edited and blurred version is available on the internet (see below).

HRW writes that by comparing frames of the mutilation video to other videos showing what appears to be the same man participating in the shelling that indiscriminately hit Lebanese Shi’a villages and talking about killed Hezbollah fighters, Human Rights Watch believes the person in the video to be Commander Abu Sakkar.

Journalists and other commanders have said that Abu Sakkar is the nom de guerre of a former commander from the mainstream al-Farouq Brigade from the Baba Amr district of Homs, in Syria.

When asked about the video, Maj. Gen. Salim Idriss, Chief of Staff for the Supreme Military Council of the opposition, told TIME Magazine that “such violence is unacceptable, and no soldier under the council’s command would be allowed to get away with such actions.” However, opposition forces have not set up proper accountability mechanisms for abuses committed by their members.

“It is not enough for Syria’s opposition to condemn such behavior or blame it on violence by the government,” Houry said. “The opposition forces need to act firmly to stop such abuses.”

Warning: Extremely graphic images!


Nasrallah Admits Hezbollah Fighting the Rebels in Syria

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Hezbollah fighters are aiding President Bashar Assad’s troops in Syria to combat the rebellion, Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Lebanese terrorist movement admitted Tuesday, AFP reports.

“A large number of [rebels] were preparing to capture villages inhabited by Lebanese,” Nasrallah argued, saying it was “normal to offer every possible and necessary aid to help the Syrian army, the [pro-government militia] popular committees and the Lebanese.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Nasrallah acknowledged that Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria, but dismissed reports that as many as 500 had died. “Lebanon is a small country; who could hide these numbers of martyrs?” Nasrallah asked.

Nasrallah, who is an Iranian agent—both Iran’s leadership and the Hezbollah are Siite—is also a close ally of Assad, whose regime is comprised of the minority idol worshiping sect Alawis or Alawites. Both sects, Shiites and Alawites, are sworn, historic enemies of the Sunnis, the majority Muslim sect.

Sunnis believe that Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad’s wife Aisha, was Muhammad’s rightful successor and that the method of choosing or electing leaders (Shura) endorsed by the Quran is the consensus of the Ummah (the Muslim community).

Shiites believe that Muhammad divinely ordained his cousin and son-in-law Ali (the father of his grandsons Hasan ibn Ali and Hussein ibn Ali) in accordance with the command of God to be the next caliph making Ali and his direct descendants Muhammad’s successors. Ali was married to Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter.

Sounds like a very good reason to kill a lot of folks.

The Syrian rebels that have been accusing Hezbollah of fighting alongside Assad’s troops for many months now, are denying that rebel fighters target Shiites because of their sect. But no one believes them. In fact, the prevailing view is that the carnage we have seen in Syria over the past two years is mild compared to the slaughter of Shiites and Alawites that will take place as soon as the rebels win the civil war (probably with American support).

Nasrallah insisted that the fighting in the central Qusayr region close to the Lebanese border was “not over.” He also warned that the threatened destruction of Sayyed Zainab, a major Shiite shrine south of Damascus, could have “serious repercussions.”

And so on.

The True Conflict of the Middle East

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been largely replaced by the Sunni Muslim-Shia Muslim conflict as the Middle East’s featured battle. While the Arab-Israeli conflict will remain largely, though not always, one of words, the Sunni-Shia battle involves multiple fronts and serious bloodshed.

Shia Muslims are a majority in Iran and Bahrain; the largest single group in Lebanon; and significant minorities in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. While the ruling Alawite minority in Syria is not Shia, it has identified with that bloc.

The main conflict in this confrontation is in Syria, where a Sunni rebellion is likely to triumph and produce a strongly anti-Shia regime. A great deal of blood has been shed in Iraq, though there the Shia have triumphed politically.

The tension is already spreading to Lebanon, ruled largely by Shia Hizballah. In Bahrain, where a small Sunni minority rules a restive Shia majority, the government has just outlawed Hizballah as a terrorist, subversive group, even while European states have refused to do so.

By Islamizing politics to a greater degree, the victories of the (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood group have deepened the Sunni-Shia battle. And, of course, on the other side, Iran, as leader of the Shia bloc, has been doing so, too, though its ambition was to be the leader of all Middle East Muslims.

Yet also, especially when it comes to Iran, the Sunni Muslim bloc is also very much an Arab one as well. Many Sunnis, especially the more militantly Islamist ones, look at Shias—and especially at Iranian Persians—as inferior people as well as heretical in terms of Islam. I don’t want to overstate that point but it is a very real factor.

This picture is clarified by a recent report by the Cordoba Foundation, a research center based in the U.K. and close to the Muslim Brotherhood. The name, after the Spanish city where Islamic religion and culture flourished before the Christian reconquest in the fifteenth century, may seem chosen to denote multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence. But, of course, it was picked to suggest the Islamic empire at its peak and the continued claim to every country it once ruled, including Spain.

The report is entitled Arab and Muslim National Security: Debating the Iranian Dimension and summarizes discussions among “a group of prominent and influential Islamic figures,” though no names of participants are included. The focus was to define and warn about the Shia and Iranian threat to the Sunnis and Arabs.

In the report, Iran is identified as the aggressor against the Sunni Muslim (Arab) world, pushing “its political influence through religious sectarianism.” Implicitly the discussion rejects the idea that either “the Palestinian issue” or unity as Muslims overrides the Iranian national security threat.

One concern is that of demography. “Such demographic pockets [that is, non-Sunni Muslims and non-Arabs] in some Arab countries pose a threat to society regardless of how small they are.”

Remarkably, the paper states that Iraq’s population changes “have distanced it from the Arab order.” In other words, because there are more Shia Muslims and non-Arab Kurds in Iraq, it is out of phase with other Arab states and might look toward either Tehran or Washington.

Another demographic concern is Iran’s alleged effort to convert non-Muslim Alevis in Turkey (they say they are Muslim but they aren’t really); Syrian Alawites (same story), and Yemeni Shia Muslims (of a different sect) to Iran-style Shia Islam (Twelver Shiism).

Iran has also succeeded, the paper continues, “in securing strategic victories, such as its gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen, and the eastern parts of Saudi Arabia. Actually, though these are pretty limited gains in each case.

Syria, where the pro-Iran regime is likely to be replaced by a Sunni, Muslim Brotherhood one, is a setback for Iran. And by overthrowing Syria’s regime, the sponsor of Hizballah, that will cut Iran’s sponsorship of Lebanese Shia (Hizballah), “almost thirty years of hard work totally wasted.” That’s overstated but it contains some basic truth.

The paper also states, accurately, “Although Islamic movements in the Arab world may seem on the surface to be homogeneous and inspired by the same intellectual sources, there is lack of coordination and total chaos.” As an example it cites the Sunni Islamist movement in Iraq which faces: “Serious challenges from expanding Turkish economic interests, Iranian cultural and sectarian influence, and Kurdish expansionism.” It then asks whether the Iranian and local Shia or the Iraqi Kurds are the bigger threat.

What is Really ‘Broken’ In Syria?

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Among the many noteworthy aspects of President Barack Obama’s recent tour of the Middle East was a comment on March 22, during a press conference with Jordanian King Abdullah II. Obama said, “Something has been broken in Syria, and it’s not going to be put back together perfectly, immediately, anytime soon – even after Assad leaves.”

Although the characterization of Syria’s condition was accurate, Syria has been “broken” for a longer time than most Weste­rners seem to think. A religious fissure in Syrian society – a tear that has now widened into a civil war and filled up with blood, bodies, and ruins – dates at least to 1970. That was the year Hafez Al-Assad (1930-2000), father of the current dictator, Bashar Al-Assad, who are both members of the Alawite religious minority, seized power within the Syrian wing of the Ba’ath party, which had ruled the country since a coup in 1963.

Supporting both Al-Assads, and serving as their main subordinates and followers, were – and are – other members of the Alawite denomination, which some consider Muslim and others do not. The world was slow to recognize in the Syrian civil conflict, commencing in 2011, a sectarian confrontation. The Syrian war pits the Alawites, who are typically counted as about 11% of the country’s population of 22.5 million, against the Sunni Muslims, who total around 75%. There is also a small Alawite presence in Lebanon, which is vulnerable to involvement in the Syrian contest.

When Hafez Al-Assad became dictator of Syria, Alawites had already infiltrated the Syrian army on a wide scale, a pattern that began under the French mandate controlling Syria from 1920 to 1946. Hafez Al-Assad installed still more Alawites as Ba’athist leaders, at the summits of military elite and state administration in Syria – an Alawite ascendancy maintained by Bashar Al-Assad. Between the Alawites and the Sunni Arabs stand small communities of Sunni Kurds and Turkmens, Christians, Druze (an esoteric faith derived from Shia Islam), other variants of traditional Shi’ism, and even a microscopic Jewish contingent. While favoring the Alawite minority, the Al-Assad regime pursued, under both father and son, a policy of public secularism. This included protection of the marginal creeds, as a bulwark against the overwhelming Sunni multitude.

Even though the Alawites are typically described as an “offshoot of Shia Islam,” from their emergence in the 9th century until the 20th century, their identification with an Islam of any kind has been denied by Muslim rulers and theologians.

Rejection of their claim as Muslims was, and is, based above all on their worship, as God, of Ali Ibn Abi Talib – the fourth caliph who succeeded Muhammad (and three others from among Muhammad’s companions). Ali, assassinated in 661 CE, was a cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, and is considered by Shias to have possessed divine knowledge – one of the core differences between Shias and Sunnis, who refuse any such an assumption about Ali.

All Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, accept Ali as a righteous leader of the Muslims. The Alawites, however, have taken their devotion to Ali so far as to believe that Ali was the creator of the world, of humanity, of Muhammad of a third member of the “Alawite trinity,” Salman Al-Farsi, a companion of Muhammad and the first translator of the Koran out of Arabic, into his native Persian. Ali, as the Alawites conceive him, was the final manifestation of God.

The notion that Ali was God and created Muhammad, has been treated by Sunnis and, until the late 20th century, conventional Shia Muslims, as a departure from Islam, if not a tradition with which Islam was never directly involved. The Alawite sect has been said by foreign scholars to have roots in, and reflections of, ancient Phoenician practices, Persian religious movements derived from Zoroastrianism, and even Christianity.

Through the centuries, several important Sunni fatwas [Islamic clerical judgments] proclaimed that the Alawites were not Muslim. These fatwas include three issued by Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), an ultra-fundamentalist Sunni, considered the leading forerunner of Wahhabism, the state religion in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda frequently praises Ibn Taymiyya a a source of inspiration. Ibn Taymiyya’s knowledge of the Alawites, however, was imperfect, according to Yvette Talhamy of the University of Haifa, who summarized 650 years of fatwas made against Alawaites in a 2010 article in Middle East Studies, “The Fatwas and the Nusayri/Alawits of Syria.” In 1516 and in the 1820s, high Ottoman Sunni clerics issued even more fatwas against the Alawites which justified repression of the minority.

Next on the Israeli-Turkish Agenda: Sending Assad to Jordan

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Last year, I wrote that if diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel returned to normal, there was no doubt that the first thing the leaders of both countries would do is sit down to discuss Syria. So, if someone asks what happens next between Turkey and Israel, the answer is quite simple: Syria.

Above all, Turkey and Israel feel the most threatened considering the all too real possibility of a radical Islamic groups taking control of the country and another despotic regime coming on the scene in the Middle East.

However, it is not right to merely watch the bloodshed from a distance and be reluctant to take a stance against cruelty, just because of the fear of radicalism and the possibility of Syria becoming an attractive base for terrorist groups.

Israel and Turkey are the two neighboring countries that will not allow a fanatic and totalitarian regime to reign in the region. Similarly, they are the two countries that serve as protectors of democracy and secularism. Having this common stance, they should cooperate to usher Bashar Assad out of power and to move him and his family to a secure country such as Jordan. Turkey and Israel are the ideal regional countries to resolve this issue.

It goes without saying that despite the fact that Assad has all but lost control of the country, it is still essential that he step down in order for the bloodshed to end and for things to calm down. Given the current situation, it is highly probable that Assad feels under a great deal of pressure and that his life is in very real danger, much like the late Colonel Qaddafi.

The sordid end of Muammar Qaddafi no doubt is in President Assad’s thoughts. That is why Turkey and Israel should work together to take Assad—of his own volition and with his family—from Syria to Jordan, since Jordan has already agreed to his settlement on its soil. Provided that the Russian government is informed, Israeli and Turkish jets and helicopters can take him out of Syria. He should be allowed to bring a legitimate amount of his possessions and personal wealth out with him, enough for his needs, and provided a comfortable place in Jordan to live out the rest of his days. It would be very good that Turkey and Israel ensure the safety of Assad and his wife and children.

Assad’s fall will not end the clashes in Syria, since far too much blood has been spilled and the ones whose family members have been killed will doubtlessly seek to avenge themselves on the supporters of the regime. Additionally, the conflict between various ethnic groups and minorities are also expected to intensify unless a new government takes command of the situation through peaceful means. The slaughter of non-Muslims would be a terrible disgrace and utterly immoral. Turkey must declare its opposition to such a thing.

Neither non-Muslims nor Alawites should be harmed in the slightest way; nobody must seek to do such a thing. But if there are people who have been involved in murder, they must be put on trial. They should be arrested, but they must not be treated like animals, of course. Dragging people on the ground, beating and torturing them is immoral. They should be tried for their crimes, detained under normal conditions, and be given whatever sentence is fitting in a legitimate, lawful way. Another slaughter would be utterly wrong, and neither Turkey nor Israel or Russia should support summary executions.

Israel, Turkey and Russia must also take special protective precautions regarding Syrian Alawites and Christians. Naturally, Syria is likely to adopt a Muslim worldview, but there is absolutely no need for slaughter or any similar disgrace. The Syrians must quietly install a democratic government. It is also important for Turkey, Israel and Russia to issue a statement that the current opposition cannot act outside the boundaries of International Law.

The new government should be a representation of all individuals—regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sect or ideology—and guarantee that no one will face coercion again. Thus, a temporary government can be set up through common agreement among Turkey, Israel, Russia, and other nations, until free and fair elections can be held. Of course, the establishment of a democratic government through free elections by the citizens of Syria must be the primary aim, but it will be easier to create these conditions if Turkey, Israel and Russia become involved as guarantors.

The question is what kind of a leader should emerge after Assad’s fall. The leader of a democratic government to be established in Syria must embrace the Alawites and the Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and others. In other words, he must be a leader who embraces all faiths and all sects; he must state that he will love and embrace them all. He must make people feel that he will only act against the despots, tyrants, killers and the state within a state inside Syria, and even then only by the most scrupulous and legal means.

Assad is currently killing Sunnis, but it would be a disaster if the next leader takes action against Alawites in revenge. Such killings of Alawites, Christians or other minorities would be a catastrophe. The person who emerges must guarantee the full rights of all religions and minority populations. It is imperative that he make it clear that he is not a despot and that he declare his democratic intentions in a clear, coherent and reassuring manner.

With that, God willing, peace will take hold in Syria and life can begin to return to normal for the people of Syria and the entire region.

Obama Training Radical Islamists in Syria

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

In a new development, the Obama Administration is apparently not only arming (indirectly, technically) but now training Syrian rebels. We know that the weapons are going to radical Islamists–both Muslim Brotherhood and smaller groups.

We don’t know which groups are now being trained militarily by the CIA in Jordan. It has been suggested that these are only Syrian army defectors who are thus likely not to be from radical Islamist groups including the Brotherhood. But is that selectivity certain? Finding out who is receiving this military training–which they are sure to use for other purposes in future–should be a priority in the national debate and in questions from Congress.

What might be happening is this: Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood; the Saudis who hate the Brotherhood are backing the smaller Salafi groups; and Jordan which is terrified by the Islamists is supporting the Free Syrian Army which is run by ex-army officers.

Such is the nature of U.S. policy that it goes along with all three rather than directs the process toward a specific goal. The State Department is trying to find people who are relatively moderate while also able to have links to the Brotherhood.

You can imagine how tough that is to achieve. What a mess. In the 1980s the United States was convulsed by a scandal because the Reagan Administration was providing arms–through Saudi Arabia–and training to the pro-American Contra group in Nicaragua that were fighting against the Marxist regime there. It was alleged that the Contras participated in some torture and killing of civilians. Well, today the Obama Administration is conducting the same strategy–with Saudi and Qatari help–in Syria, with much more likelihood of atrocities by those it is helping. On top of that, those being helped are largely anti-American and radical Islamist. Yet there is no serious concern being raised.

Largely due to the local situation but reinforced by U.S. policy, radical Islamists will one day rule Syria. What will follow will not be real democracy but another Islamist dictatorial state. Islamist militias armed with U.S. weapons and that new regime might well use U.S. weapons and training to kill Christians and Alawites; enforce second-class status on women; and intimidate moderates as well as to attack Israel. While the mass media has widely reported the U.S. role in arming the rebels and is now picking up the training story, virtually nowhere is the significance of this policy and its escalation analyzed.

As I have repeatedly explained, the issue regarding Syria is not whether the United States should help more—it is already helping to supply arms indirectly through Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—but to whom the arms and help flow. In principle, the Syrian opposition is fighting against a terrible dictatorship (see my book, The Truth About Syria for details, available free here). Yet for all practical purposes, it is dominated by radical Islamist militias (except for the Kurds who are faced with local rule by a radical Marxist militia).

The reality, then, is that the United States is helping arm and perhaps helping to train radical Islamist guerrillas who want a Sharia state in Syria, who believe Israel should be wiped off the map, and who may soon be murdering and oppressing Christians and other groups in Syria itself.

Shouldn’t this be an issue–one day it might be a scandal–that’s widely discussed in Congress and the mass media? There might be a way around this, as is being hinted, if the Americans, British, and French are only training former Syrian army soldiers, relatively few of whom would be in Islamist groups. The excuse would then be that only regular soldiers are qualified for the training but that would also be designed to keep out Islamists. This would be a better approach though it still has dangers.

This brings us to the second problem: the Islamists are getting more international military help than the moderates.

While the nominal Syrian opposition leadership backed by the United States is better than before (up until recently the Obama Administration openly backed the Brotherhood-dominated Syrian National Council!) it is powerless on the ground. The guys with guns—fully automatic weapons by the way with large magazines—are a nightmare.

EU Ready to Train Syrian Rebels, Proxy War Full On

Monday, March 4th, 2013

The European Union may be preparing to provide weapons training to the rebels fighting Syrian president Bashar Assad, Spiegel reports. Although a statement issued by the organization last week only discussed “technical assistance,” it appears that tha the U.K. and France are ready to provide more “hands-on help,” This as the idea of arming the rebels is gaining popularity.

It should be noted that over the past two years there hasn’t seemed to exist a discernable difference in the degree of cruelty and lack of concern for human life between the two sides. It should also be noted that, by bolstering the Suni rebels, the Western powers would be sentencing the Alawites, Assad’s minority ethnic group, to mass annihilation.

In many ways, the civil war in Syria is turning out to be a war fought between proxies, in which the government forces are supported by Iran and Russia, and now the rebels are picking up the support of the West.

Vietnam revisited?

Officially, the statement released by the European Union regarding sanctions against Syria referred only to supplying rebel fighters with “non-lethal military equipment” and “technical assistance for the protection of civilians.”

But Spiegel has learned that this assistance also includes weapons training for rebel troops in their battles against soldiers loyal to Assad. The EU expects that Britain and France will deploy military consultants to support the rebels. But sources within the German government said that Berlin has no plans to send experts.

The U.S. has also announced recently that it would begin supplying non-lethal supplies to opposition forces for the first time.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Sunday that Britain did not rule out providing arms to Syrian rebels in the future.

Despite Germany’s reluctance to get involved in Syria, there are influential voices there calling for sending weapons to the Syrian opposition. Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, has spoken out in favor of arming the rebels.

“The bitter lesson of the Bosnian war is that the policy of not delivering weapons to either side neither curbs nor curtails the conflict,” he told Spiegel. “It is high time that Germany and its partners discuss supporting Syrian rebels with equipment up to and including weapons.”

Ischinger cited the need to protect the Syrian population as well as the strategic interests of Germany and the West. “All we have done so far is lay a foundation for ensuring that we have no friends in post-Assad Syria,” he said.

Ischinger was not concerned with the possibility that the arms would end up in the wrong hands. “If the West supplies arms itself, it has more chance of influencing how they are used,” he argued.

Famous last words?

More than 70,000 Syrians—most of them civilians—have been killed over the past two years. Hundreds of thousands have fled across the borders to Jordan and Turkey, and even more fleeing to shelters within Syria. The EU has so far offered some €200 million in humanitarian relief.

Last Sunday, in an interview with the British Sunday Times, Assad slammed the West for helping his enemies, objecting most strongly to Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that the U.S. would provide medical supplies and other non-lethal aid directly to the rebels, in addition to $60 million in assistance.

Assad said he is ready for dialogue with rebels and militants, but only if they surrender their weapons.

So that’s never.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/eu-ready-to-train-syrian-rebels-proxy-war-full-on/2013/03/04/

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