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August 23, 2014 / 27 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Kurds’

Syrian Rebels Kill 17 Hezbollah Fighters in Direct Hit (Video)

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Syrian opposition media have posted a video that shows a direct rebel strike on a Hezbollah building near Damascus, killing a large but unknown number of the terrorist organization’s fighters.

Hezbollah has been losing popularity in Lebanon following reports of hundreds of casualties since the terrorist group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah sent them to fight along soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bassar al-Assad.

Hezbollah initially claimed its fighters were in Syria to protect Shi’ite religious sites against attacks by Sunni Muslims.

In what appears to have been a separate clash in Damascus on Saturday, at least 15 Hezbollah fighters were killed, and a separate video showed dead soldiers with Hezbollah label patches on their uniforms.

Media  coverage of the destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons has neglected the ongoing civil war that could tear Syria into several warring regions.

Al Qaeda, which has become a major force in the war against the Assad regime, lost control of a major border crossing with Iraq on Saturday when Syrian Kurds captured it after a three-day battle.

In the south, rebels took over the town of Tafas after weeks of heavy  fighting that killed dozens of people, according to, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Arab World War Two: Sunni versus Shia

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports

Domestic fury and fierce civil strife….
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds….
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war….”
William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”

This is not merely coincidental violence. True, the currently self-flagellating West used to have scenes like this but no more. Today, the West is an island of tolerance despite the orgy within it of self-blame and criticism. Meanwhile, other places daily show orgies of violence but neither self-criticism nor full awareness in the outside world of the implications.

Let’s take one little example from the daily situation of places from that vast expanse between Nigeria and Indonesia that coincides with Muslim-majority countries. Yet Muslims are also the main victim from the violence, due to the horror of radical Islamism and whipped-up-into-a-frenzy fanaticism which characterizes Arab World War Two.

In early June, Salafists stirred up hatred at the purported threat from a tiny minority of 30 Shia Muslims living in the village of Zawiyat Abu Muslim near Cairo. Shias are a microscopic portion of Egypt’s population, far less than one percent. Until recently one was barely aware they existed at all. But then until recently the same was true of that 1 percent minority of real Shia Muslims in Syria (along the Lebanese border, the Alawites are about as Shia Muslim as the Catholic pope is Mormon)  which has done so much to prompt the Hizballah offensive in the Syrian civil war.

On June 23, a Muslim holiday, a leading Shia cleric named Hassan Shehata was visiting and spoke at a small religious gathering. A mob of up to 3000 regular people, the neighbors, marched on the house where the Shia were gathered. The guests were beaten up, three petrol bombs set the house on fire, and four Shia were murdered. Five Shia houses in all were burned.

Shehata, an inoffensive and apolitical religious scholar was stabbed to death and dragged through the streets.

Let’s not take any point for granted here:

–The attackers and killers were ordinary villagers.

–The attack was not spontaneous but deliberately organized.

–The Arabic-speaking world is gearing up for a massive Sunni versus Shia bloodbath as well as a Sunni war on Christians. The war on Jews is nothing new and if Israel could not defend itself what happened in that village would be our fate in this modern edition of the European Middle Ages.

Generally, please note, the Christians cannot defend themselves. And Kurds, Druze, the Bahais in Iran also face such potential or actual problems.  In all cases these are wars of extermination or at least expulsion.

–The victims were not engaged in any violent or provocative acts. They were killed because of their religious identity and for no other reason.

–The villagers were proud of what they had done.

–The police did not try to stop the violence even when one Shia was killed in front of them as they stood by.

–The Egyptian government won’t do anything. Nobody who is not a conformist supporter of the dictatorship and in the right group can expect protection. (With occasional exceptions as with a single Muslim preacher brought to court because he burned a Christian Bible a few months ago.

–The government and police are on the side of the murderers.

–The police threw the victims into a pile, adding to the lack of respect for them.

–A Salafist television station and websites praised the killers and accused Shehata of having insulted Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Note that any non-Sunni or in other cases non-Shia can be falsely accused of doing something insulting to Islam and murdered.

–Certainly the government will not denounce this crime and the perpetrators probably won’t be arrested as those who attack churches and Coptic Christians are not arrested. This includes those who carried out the very public attack on the Cairo cathedral last month, during a service itself commemorating the earlier murder of Christians. Al-Azhar, the center of (Sunni) Islam religious authority did do so.

–An important principle in Islamic states is that the actual government, that is by the allegedly moderate Muslim Brotherhood, also unleashes and uses the more militant Salafists to do what they want as long as they don’t challenge the regime.  You cannot just go by government behavior but by the vigilante activity the government permits. The recent upsurge in opposition activity has pushed the Brotherhood and Salafists together. A key point in an Islamist state is that there is no real government protection for the rights of minorities despite the promises based on Islamic texts.
Here’s a Syrian Salafist commander in a typical such claim:

“We have been providing the minorities with their rights ever since the establishment of the state of Islam, since the beginning of the Caliphate in the days of the Prophet Muhammad, and in the days of the Righteous Caliphs, and to this day. Throughout history, nobody has suffered injustice under the state of Islam – the state of truth and justice.”

Only now in recent years, that lie about minorities has been extended to Shia.

–Every day such crimes are committed by pogroms and terror attacks, especially right now in Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria.  Indeed, terrorism against Israel is a militarily sophisticated type of pogrom, complete with the frequent rationalization of Palestinian governments. (And this is an issue that the American elite thinks is on the verge of solution, especially if there are one-sided Israeli concessions?)

–Violence in Iraq on a Sunni-Shia basis (mostly Sunnis attacking Shia) is at a high point. Imagine what things will be like when a Sunni Islamist ruled Syria   hates and tries to foment unrest in s Shia-ruled Iraq which will no doubt push Baghdad toward the waiting arms of Iran! Two American “clients” at war backed by two anti-American backed alliances!

–Since this is such explosive stuff, the Western mass media and institutions put the main emphasis on playing it down on the off-chance that…what? Western citizens will go burn down houses and stab their Muslim neighbors? They assume that their audiences must be kept in ignorance lest they turn to prejudice and hatred. Even admitting that the contemporary American track record is better than the Middle East skirts the supposed edge of racism. Heaven forbid that Western civilization regard itself, at least today, as more advanced.

–The proper response would be to sympathize with the victims against the murderers and point out that, just as Germans oppressed other Germans during the Nazi era, sympathy and support should go to the victims against the political criminals and not to minimize the threat lest sausage shops or Lutheran churches be attacked.

–Iran condemned the attacks on Shias, saying it was contrary to Islam. But of course the whole central narrative of Islam is based on Sunni persecution of  Shia. Of course, don’t try to find a Sunni mosque in Tehran, and Iran’s ally, Syria, is treating Sunnis far more ruthlessly than the norm in Egypt. Have no doubt about the intensity of this conflict. Egypt and Iran may well eventually find a proxy war. In fact, they are now doing so in Syria.

–A high-ranking Hamas leader even said that overthrowing the Syrian regime is a higher priority than staging  jihad in Palestine. Of course, the Sunnis know that overthrowing Assad is a step forward on the jihad against Israel but he isn’t supposed to say that. Still, it reveals the depth of hatred and antagonism toward the fellow Arabs and Muslims.

As a new report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center puts it:

The depth of the Sunni-Shi’ite schism can be seen in all the major arenas where regional conflicts are being waged. It is reflected in Hezbollah’s growing involvement in the fighting in Syria, the spilling over of the Syrian civil war into Lebanon, record-breaking sectarian violence in Iraq, and the aggressive stance taken by the Persian Gulf states towards Iran and Hezbollah. Thus, the Sunni-Shi’ite schism is emerging as one of the most influential factors shaping the Middle East in a time of regional upheaval.”

You can read about the modern history of the Sunni-Shia relationship in that report. It points out the new parallels with anti-Jewish thinking among Sunnis including the creation of a forged “The Protocols of the Clerics of Qom” which matches The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

The Shia, for their part, reciprocate with their own hatred. How distant seem the days when Iran’s ambition to lead the Muslim Middle East seems credible or the Arab-Israeli conflict seemed central to the region!

As the report cited above continued:

“The meaning of that escalation is that, ideologically speaking, the fight against the Shi’a (and its representatives, Iran and Hezbollah) takes precedence over the fight against the West and Israel—although it does not mean that the fight will necessarily be backed by actual on-the-ground efforts. This coincides with the political and social reality brought about by the regional upheaval: a widening of the fundamental fault lines that run through the Arab and Muslim world.”

Here’s my article on a recent report from a Muslim Brotherhood think tank that confirms this analysis.

Yes, that is the fruit of the “Arab Spring.” Not as the Western sorcerer’s apprentices’ expected love, peace, and democracy but the rise of Islamism and the Sunni-Shia war.

This does not mean–as the brilliant young analyst Phillip Smyth points out–that the Shia Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Sunni al-Qaida won’t soon be competing over how many Americans each group can kill in Syria. It does mean, however, that things have really changed in the region.

Forget the dreams of a new era of peace and democracy. The next several decades—and that’s the optimistic version—will be full of Zawiyat Abu Muslim’s writ large. Anyone who is sensible will avoid the wreckage and send out the lifeboats.

Note: Arab World War One was the nationalist era’s equivalent of today’s battle,what Malcolm Kerr called the Arab Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s between the radical nationalists and the more conservative traditionalist forces.

Opportunities and Risks Ahead for Turkey

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington on May 16 comes at a pivotal time when the Middle East is riddled with extraordinary conflicts that have the potential of exploding into a regional war. The time is also ripe for creating a geopolitical realignment that could eventually usher in stability and progress.

Turkey can and in fact should play a constructive role, provided that the Erdogan government takes a hard look at the opportunities that exist to contribute to building a structure of peace and stability. The Erdogan government, however, must also consider the risks entailed should it remain stuck in grandiose old thinking.

The Turkish government managed over the past few years to create the perception that Turkey’s rise has been based on a sound foreign policy doctrine of “zero problems with neighbors” along with solid economic development policies, while continuing social and political reforms consistent with Islamic values.

A close look at the reality, however, suggests a somewhat different picture that raises serious concerns among Turkey’s friends and quiet jubilation among its enemies.

According to the Human Rights Watch 2011 World Report, the government increasingly breaches what it has committed itself to, including unjustified prosecutions for alleged speech crimes, the arbitrary use of terrorism laws, prolonged pretrial detention (especially of journalists and editors), and the systematic intimidation of any individual or party that objects to, or opposes, government policy.

The government also reversed course with the Kurds, carrying out a clampdown on the legal pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), arresting Kurdish notables and intellectuals for links with the PKK, and until recently resuming the old policy of massive retaliations against PKK attacks.

On Turkish foreign policy, if one takes a look at the situation country by country, the picture looks surprisingly different than “zero problems with neighbors.” There is hardly any neighboring country with which Turkey does not have some kind of problem.

Now is the time for Ankara to take some corrective domestic and foreign policy measures consistent with what the country has and continues to aspire for but fails to realize.

As the Turkish Parliament is writing a new constitution, there is no better time to seek political equilibrium and enshrine human rights in all aspects, especially the rights of the Kurds. Now that the PKK has agreed to abandon violent resistance in favor of a negotiated settlement, the government can institutionalize such reforms without losing face.

The Kurds and other minorities should enjoy equal rights to speak their language and live their culture with no reservations or discrimination, which is the essence of democratic governance.

Turkey’s failure to reconcile the hundred-year old dispute over the Armenian genocide continues to poison its relations not only with Armenia but also with the United States, which takes a strong supportive position on the Armenian grievances.

It is time to end the conflict with Armenia as the one hundredth anniversary is near (2014) and is bound to reignite a major controversy within and outside Turkey. Instead of taking such a categorical stance refuting the entire the issue of the Armenian genocide, Turkish leaders should take heed of what both the Old Testament and the Quran preach: “The children should not be held responsible for the sins of their fathers.”

Turkey, in this regard, should express deep regrets about the Armenian genocide during World War I for the tragic events that occurred a century ago. This may not go far enough with the Armenians, but it offers a good beginning that may lead to reconciliation.

The discord with Greece over Cyprus has only worsened with the dispute over gas exploration near Turkish territorial waters. Turkey must find a solution to the Cyprus conflict; not doing so will further strain its relations with Greece. Realpolitik must trump nationalism which can serve national interests; otherwise it will only harden over time and further limit any room for a negotiated settlement.

Although Turkey and Iran enjoy strong trade relations, Ankara still has not made up its mind about Tehran’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Their bilateral relations are strained by Ankara’s decision to host a base for a NATO missile defense system and the conflict over Syria’s future.

Moreover, Turkey must come to terms with the fact that Tehran’s and Ankara’s national interests do not coincide and that the two countries are on a collision course. Syria has become the battleground between Sunnis and Shiites and thus the emerging political order in post-Assad Syria will have a great impact on their overall ambitions.

Palestinian Statehood Bid, Syrian Spillover into Turkey, and Kurds in Iraq

Friday, November 30th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai discusses the desire for the PLO to achieve de facto statehood in the UN by becoming an observer state. Yishai moves on to discuss how the instability in Syria has begun to spill into Turkey and also how the relationship between the Kurds and Iraqis has not improved by providing audio from PBS.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Justice for the Kurds?

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Much ink has been spilled about the desirability or even the inevitability of a separate State for Palestinians, whose identity stems from the middle of the 20th century, but what has been much less discussed by the international community — and for the most part ignored — is a similar claim by the Kurds, a people with a truly separate ethnic identity as well as a long history.

A Palestinian state would encompass 5 to 6 million people, the separate identity of whom stems only from the middle of the last century. Until that time those living in the area of Palestine did not consider themselves Palestinians, but as part of the Pan-Arab or Pan-Islamist movement. A Palestinian identity was not regarded as distinct from the identities of other Arabs who inhabited adjacent regions. The concept of such a separate identity arose, among other reasons, partly as a response to the Zionist movement and the establishment in 1948 of Israel, which until then was called Palestine: all citizens, including Jews, had on their passports that their country of origin was Palestine. There is now a demand for a Palestinian state separate from that of other Arabs.

The Kurds, on the other hand, are a frequently forgotten people, numbering over 35 million, who have a distinct identity and who have been pleading, fighting and dying for an independent state of their own since the 19th century.

The Arab League with its 22 members, along with Turkey, and many countries and groups in the international community have passionately advocated that part of the disputed land in the formerly Palestine area become a Palestinian state. The same individuals and groups, however, have opposed the creation of a Kurdish non-Arab state, on territory it claims as its own, and with it is unwilling to cooperate in sharing, even as they discount Israel’s claims – from 1800 BCE, up to the Balfour Delaration, the British White Paper and UN Resolution 242 — to all or part of what they want as Judenrein [with no Jews] Palestinian land.

By any reasonable and objective historical and cultural criteria, however, the claim of the Kurds for political sovereignty is infinitely stronger than that of Palestinians. In contrast to the Palestinians, the Kurds have few friends in the international community. Kurdish nationalism emerged a century earlier than did Palestinian nationalism. Collectively the Kurds, who are not Arabs, live in an area usually referred to as “Kurdistan,” despite its uncertain borders. The Kurds make up a significant ethnic group that speaks its own language, part of the Indo-European language group.

During the late 19th century the Kurds made demands, mounting uprisings, and pressed for political autonomy in the areas in which they lived or independence free of any control by the Ottoman Empire or Persian authorities, each of which ruled Kurdish areas. Although the uprisings for an independent state in 1880 were particularly fierce, the Ottomans and the armies of Qajar Persia suppressed them.

After World War I, the Treaty of Sèvres in August 1920, the peace treaty between the Ottoman Empire and the victorious Allies of the war, dissolved the Empire and replaced it with a number of new nation-states — Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Turkey — but not by a Kurdish state. The newly created Turkey renounced all rights over Arab Asia and North Africa. Two Articles in the Treaty were relevant to the issue of the Kurds. Article 62 of the Treaty suggested the creation of an autonomous region for Kurds in the new Turkey. Article 64 proposed the later possibility of an independent Kurdish state “inhabiting that part of Kurdistan which has hitherto been included in the Mosul vilayet(of the Ottoman Empire).”

However, the Treaty of Lausanne, signed in July 1923 and put into effect in August 1924, ended the continuing state of war between Turkey and a number of the victorious Allies. Between the time the two treaties were signed, the monarchy in Turkey had been overthrown and a republic establish under Kemal Ataturk. The new Treaty defined the borders of the modern Turkish state and ignored the earlier proposal for a Kurdish state. Political machinations, particularly by the British who were concerned with the threat of Communist Russia, led to decisions by which the territorial integrity of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey were heightened to counteract that threat.

Syrian Homework for Hillary

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Speaking at the UN last week US Secretary of State Clinton declared, “It is time for the international community to . . . send a clear message of support to the people of Syria.” And after the failed Security Council vote vetoed by Russia and China, she reiterated that the world must “support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.”

Mrs. Clinton speaks of the “Syrian people” as if it was a homogeneous national group. Her ignorance was further demonstrated when speaking to reporters on Sunday. “The international community has a duty to halt continuing bloodshed,” she said, “and promote a political transition that would see Mr. Assad step down.” Can she really believe Bashar al-Assad will simply agree to resign?

If one is to develop a coherent and attainable goal-oriented Syrian policy, one must first understand the various groupings and allegiances at play.

The “Syrian people” is a composite of religious and ethnic groups who have been historically opposed to one another. Sunni Muslims comprise two thirds of the population; 12% are Alawites; 9% are Kurds; 10% are various Christian sects; and the remaining groups include Druze, Turkmens and Circassians.

The Sunni majority includes the Muslim Brotherhood. The Sunni elite lost power to the Alawite dominated secular nationalist Syrian Ba’ath Party in a 1963 coup. This led to violent unrest which the Muslim Brotherhood later developed into open revolt.

In 1980, after a failed assassination attempt against President Hafez al-Assad, he came down on them hard. In 1982, the city of Hama, a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, was destroyed by regular Syrian army forces, including tanks and artillery, killing an estimated 20,000 people. The revolt was quelled and the Alawite al-Assad family continued to rule.

But the dispute is far older. The Sunni majority view the Alawite minority as heretics. The Alawites, or Alawi as they called themselves because of their adherence to Ali (Mohammad’s cousin and son-in-law), were originally called by the Sunnis the “Nusayri” after the Shi’ite Ibn Nusayr in the 9th century, indicating their break with Islam. After 1920 and the onset of French rule in Syria, the persecuted Alawites ingratiated themselves to the new rulers.

The French encouraged the Alawites to join the French-commanded Syrian army and dominate the officer corps as a counterweight to the hostile Sunni majority. This set the stage for the Alawite dominance of the Ba’ath Party and the 1963 takeover of the Syrian government.

The Kurds comprise the majority of the Jazira province, and are affiliated with major Kurdish populations in neighboring Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Historically, the Kurds once ruled their own land, known as Kurdistan, which included eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and northern Syria. Today, the Kurds are persecuted by the current ruling regimes in their respective countries.

It would behoove Mrs. Clinton and other world leaders to acknowledge the mosaic that is the “Syrian people”, so that the tumult that the country is facing now can be avoided in the future

Turkey Officials say Israel Aiding Kurdish Rebel Group

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Turkish intelligence officials have accused Israel of aiding the Kurdish rebel group PKK, claiming that Israeli drones gathered data that assisted the group in establishing training sites on the Turkey-Syria border.

According to a report drafted by Turkish intelligence officials and obtained by Turkish daily Today’s Zaman, PKK training bases “[w]ere set up in areas that are known to be weakspots for the Turkish military, after they obtained intelligence collected by the drones.”

The intelligence report also claimed that a senior PKK member visited Israel several times in recent years.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/turkey-officials-say-israel-aiding-kurdish-rebel-group/2012/01/18/

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