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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘shia’

American Muslims Attacked During Hajj

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

American Muslims who traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform what they understand to be their obligation according to the Pillars of Islam were attacked by other Muslims wielding knives and other weapons.

This year’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the hajj, took place last week, Oct. 13-18. More than 10,000 American Muslims are believed to have participated in their pilgrimage.  For several who went on the trip from Detroit, the experience was traumatic.

A group of Shia Muslims traveled with Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of Dearborn. Qazwini is the head of the largest mosque in metropolitan Detroit.

One of the many prescribed rituals that is part of the hajj is to travel to the Saudi Arabian city of Mina, 3 miles east of Mecca, where the pilgrims throw a prescribed number of pebbles at Shaitan (“Satan”), represented by three stone walls.

Hundreds of thousands of tents are set up in Mina, in order to accommodate the pilgrims.

After the Detroit Shias entered a tent in Mina reserved for Australian, American and European hajj participants, the violence began.

The American Muslims recounted being approached by a large group of people they later learned were Lebanese Sunni Salafist Muslims. According to an account in the Detroit Free Press,

The Salafis asked one of the Shia men if he was Shia, recalled Seyed Mothafar Al-Qazwini, a nephew of Imam Al-Qazwini. “He responded ‘yes.’ He was immediately attacked by three men, one grabbing him in a choke hold, the others punching him in the face.”

Al-Qazwini said the leader of the Salafis then shouted “Kill them all. Kill the Shia.”

In addition to the physical violence, the American victims reported the perpetrators screaming that they were going to rape all the Shia women who did not leave the tent in 15 minutes.

The Sunnis also referenced a 7th century battle in Karbala, Iraq between Sunni and Shia Muslims in which a Shia leader and family members were murdered by Sunnis.

“We will make this day like the day of Karbala. We will kill all your men and take your women as captives,” the Detroit Imam reported.

“During the attack, the men reportedly shouted “Our [holy pilgrimage] will be complete once we have killed you, ripped out your hearts and eaten them, and [then] raped your women,” according to a report in the Washington Times.

Al-Qazwini complained about the disinterest showed by the Saudi police in the complaints filed by his group.  He also said that a video of the incident taken on his phone by a member of the group was erased by the Saudi police.

State Department officials told a Detroit journalist that the hajj and interior ministries in Saudi Arabia “have confirmed that they are investigating” the incident.

Will Hezbollah Terrorism Save Israel from Delusional Peace with PA?

Monday, August 5th, 2013

“All of Palestine, from the sea to the river, must return to its people,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in Beirut Friday night in a rousing and inciting speech against the American-led “peace process.”

“No one in the world, no king, prince, sayyid, leader, president or state has the right to give up a single grain of sand of Palestine’s land,” he stated adamantly.

Supporters of Israel “want us Shia to exit the Arab-Israeli conflict and to get Iran out of the conflict,” Nasrallah declared in his public speech in 11 months.

“Call us infidels, call us terrorists, call us criminals, say what you want, try and kill us anywhere, target us any way you want, we are the Shia of Ali and we shall not abandon Palestine.”

His speech came one week after the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, under the guiding if not manipulative hand of the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama has out-maneuvered Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into accepting a process that has an end goal of forcing Israel to accept virtually all of chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ demands, with the probable exclusion of allowing the immigration of several million foreign Arabs claiming Israel as home.

Nasrallah’s threatening speech indicates Israel may be in the macabre situation of Hezbollah terrorist attacks thwarting a so-called peace agreement that would leave Israel dependent on written promises to act as a security from a new armed Arab state within Israel’s current borders.

A deal between Israel and the PA would make the United States a renewed power in the Middle East and would pose a direct threat to Hezbollah.

“Americans and Qataris have tried to push the compass away from this priority (Israel) by inventing other enemies” to incite Muslims against Shi’ite, Nasrallah said in his speech,

“There are a lot of terms being used deliberately against the Shia, and the side standing behind this language hopes that the Shias will curse and insult our Sunni colleagues,” he said. “But the two groups are on the same side, they are both fasting during Ramadan.”

Nasrallah spoke Friday on International Quds ([Jerusalem] Day, devoting a large part of his speeches to his harshest-ever descriptions of Israel and echoing remarks once made by former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel is “a cancerous growth” that must be eliminated, according to Nasrallah.

“The only solution is to destroy it without giving it the opportunity to surrender,” he added, For good measure, he tossed in the United States as a prop for his declared war on any American-led agreement between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

“We say to America, Israel, Great Britain and their regional tools, we say to every enemy and friend … we in Hezbollah will not abandon Palestine and the people of Palestine,” Nasrallah stated.

The ‘Arab Spring’ Culminating in a Bloody ‘Sushi’

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Among scholars of the Middle East, the term “sushi” is used as shorthand for the expression, “Sunni-Shi’a.” Anyone interested in the history of Islam knows that the seeds of the Sunni-Shi’a conflict were planted the moment Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, closed his eyes forever, in the year 632 CE, without leaving a mechanism for choosing a successor to lead the nation. The conflict that developed as a result, has become an open, bloody battle over the years, and it has been a thread in the fabric of Islamic history throughout all of its 1400 years. This conflict is being expressed on many levels: personal, familial, political and religious. The battle between the two factions of Islam is “for the whole pot,” and it continues to this very day.

In modern times, attempts have been made to bridge over the conflict and to find common ground between the factions of Islam, in order to create a sense of calm between the factions, on the basis of which it will be possible to manage states such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where the two factions live side by side, Shi’ites and Sunnis.

Even the Egyptian Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is the Mufti (religious arbiter) of the Emirate of Qatar, has spoken and written about the need to find a way to “bring the schools of thought closer together,” as if Shi’a is another legitimate school of thought, in addition to the four Sunni schools: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali. In the good, old days, they used to call the Shi’a faction the “Jafari school,” after one of the fathers of Shi’a.

The rapprochement year between the Sunni and Shi’a was 2006, following the Second Lebanon War, when Hezbollah managed to create the impression that it had won a “divine victory” over Israel. After all, Hasan Nasrallah had survived despite 33 days of heavy Israeli attacks, some of which were aimed at him personally. Hezbollah was compared favorably with the armies of the Arab countries, which had failed in all of their attempts to destroy the state of Israel, and were defeated by Israel’s army in only six days in 1967.

As a result of the Second Lebanon War, Hasan Nasrallah declared in every public arena—especially on his al-Manar (“the beacon”) television channel—that the victory belongs to the whole Arab and Islamic nation, creating for himself the image of being the only leader in the Middle East doing the right thing, ignoring the objections of the infidel West and its paltry servants, meaning most of the rulers of the Arab states. Bashar Assad declared that Hezbollah’s way is the only way to fight and the only method that can defeat the Zionist enemy.

During the war, in the summer of 2006, great crowds across the the Middle East erupted in emotional demonstrations where pictures of Hasan Nasrallah were held high, and those who wanted to make a point also carried pictures of Bashar Assad, the great supporter of Hezbollah. It was convenient for everyone—including religious figures such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi—to ignore the fact that Hezbollah was a Shi’ite group, backed by Iran, because if the Sunni Hamas movement ended up in the same boat as Hezbollah, what evil could possibly have sprung from the Lebanese “al-Muqawama wal-mumana’a” (“Resistance and Defense”) movement, which supports all of the “liberation movements” regardless of religious sect?

The al-Jazeera channel, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood movement, embraced Hezbollah and dedicated many hours of positive programming to it, and in many Islamic societies—including Israel’s—more than a few people crossed over from the Sunni side of Islam to the Shi’a. Only a small group of Saudi religious authorities were not overcome by the waves of sympathy for Hezbollah. They always had a jaundiced view of the Shi’ite dominance of Lebanon, as well as its influence on the collective Arab discourse.

But enthusiasm for Hezbollah has not survived the storm buffeting the Middle East ever since December 2010, known romantically in the media as “the Arab Spring,” as if presently in the Middle East the birds are chirping, the trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, the butterflies are fluttering, people are smiling and there is an air of rising optimism.

Who’s More Dangerous: Sunni or Shia Islamists?

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

There is a passionate, but somewhat academic debate, over the following issue: Which is the greater threat, the Sunni Muslim Islamists (Egypt, Tunisia, Gaza Strip, and perhaps soon to be Syria) or the Shia Muslim Islamists (Iran, Lebanon, at the moment still Syria)?

I would say the answer would be the Iran-led Shia bloc. But two reservations: the margin isn’t that big and it also depends on the specific place and situation.

To begin with, Iran is still the greatest strategic threat in the region. It is moving as fast as it can toward nuclear weapons and it is still the main sponsor of terrorism. At the moment, it is still, too, the most likely state that would initiate an anti-Western war, though that possibility is smaller than often believed. It has lots of money.

What has gone largely unnoticed is that it is almost the middle of 2013 and the Obama Administration has barely begun negotiations with Iran that will probably drag on without success for a year or more. In addition, after Iran’s June elections, which will presumably pick a radical who is less obviously extremist than current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the U.S. government and mass media will probably proclaim a new era of Iranian moderation.

Iran is also the main backer of Islamist revolution in Bahrain (where it has failed); Lebanon (where its Hizballah clients are the strongest force); and Syria (where its regime ally is in serious trouble).

One final point is that Tehran is having some success in drawing the Iraqi (Shia) government into its orbit. Baghdad is certainly cooperating with Iran on defending the Syrian regime, though one should not exaggerate how much Iraq is in Iran’s pocket. At any rate, nobody would want the Iraqi regime to be overthrown by the al Qaeda terrorist opposition.

So a strong case can be made that Iran is the greatest threat in the region.

On the other hand, however, a Great Wall of Sunnism has been built to prevent the extension of Iranian influence except for Lebanon. The Sunni bloc contains few Shia Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood, the even more radical Salafists, and other Sunni Muslims (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, for example) have said that the Shias are a worse threat than Israel.

Perhaps the fear of Iran provides some common cause with the West. But this is also a scary proposition since the Obama Administration’s promotion of Sunni Islamism (Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and even Turkey) could use this point as an excuse. Perhaps America could be said to be building a united front against Iran, but at what price? Turning over much of the Arab world to repressive, anti-American, and anti-Semitic Sunni Islamism as Christians flee?

There is also another weakness of Sunni Islamism, however, that also makes it seem relatively less threatening. In contrast to Iran, the Sunni Islamists do not have a wealthy patron comparable to Iran. They can depend on money from Qatar and to some extent from Libya, but they have fewer resources. Sometimes the Saudis will help Sunni Islamists, but only if they tone down their warlike and anti-Western actions. There is no big banker for Sunni Islamist destabilization of the Middle East.

Equally, they do not have a reliable source of arms, in contrast to the Shia who have Iran and also at times Russia. True, in Syria the Sunni rebels have U.S. backing to get weaponry and arms from Libya and elsewhere paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Yet Syria is an exceptional case. The Saudis are not going to finance the Muslim Brotherhood and its ambitions. Bahrain has declared Shia Hizballah to be a terrorist group even while the European Union refuses to do so.

So arguably one could say that the Shia Islamists and Iran are a bigger danger. But a second danger is a U.S. or Western policy to promote Sunni Islamism as a way to counter the Shia, a strategy that has intensified regional dangers and the suffering of Arab peoples. Then, too, there’s the fact that al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamist organization, and the al Qaeda forces are getting stronger in Syria.

One would have to be very foolish to want to see Sunni Islamism make further gains, to overthrow the monarchies in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, or Bahrain, as well as the Algerian regime. One would also have to be foolish–but here the Obama Administration is so–to want to see Muslim Brotherhood regimes succeed in Egypt, Tunisia, the Gaza Strip, and Syria.

Why Russia Supports Iran

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Recently, PM Netanyahu traveled to the Kremlin to try to talk Russian President Vladimir Putin out of sending advanced weapons, including the S-300 air defense system, to Syria.

Although I wasn’t there, my guess was that Netanyahu said something like, “don’t do this, because if you do we will have to bomb them.” In particular, the S-300 would make it much harder for Israel to interdict arms transfers to Hizballah, or prevent possible chemical attacks against Israel by Syrian rebels or Hizballah, if they should get control of some of Assad’s arsenal.

According to American officials, Netanyahu’s arguments were not successful:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-minute trip to Russia on Tuesday apparently did not change the Russians’ intentions to also deliver the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria. According to the [Wall St.] Journal, U.S. officials believe that Russia is moving more quickly than previously thought to deliver S-300 surface-to-air defense systems to Syria. U.S. officials told the paper that the S-300 system, which is capable of shooting down guided missiles and could make it more risky for any warplanes to enter Syrian airspace, could leave Russia for Syrian port of Tartus by the end of May.

Together, the S-300 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system, and the Yakhont anti-ship system, would pose a formidable threat to any outside intervention in Syria, based on the international Libya model. The anti-ship missiles would be a serious threat to the Israeli navy, as well as the facilities above Israel’s newfound underwater gas reserves. The S-300 could threaten Israeli military and civilian aircraft flying Israeli airspace, and not just over Lebanese and Syrian airspace.

Providing weapons like this to the unstable Syrian regime (or even a stable one) is remarkably irresponsible; but then, this is Putin. My guess is that Putin countered with threats of his own if Israel interferes with Russian actions.

Dore Gold explains which weapons Israel considers “game changers” that it cannot permit to fall into the hands of Hizballah:

a. Chemical weapons.

b. Iranian surface-to-surface missiles equipped with heavy warheads, like the Fateh 110, which has a highly destructive 600 kg. warhead as compared to the 30 kg. warhead on Hizballah’s Katyusha rockets that it launched against Israel in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

c. Long-range anti-aircraft missiles, like the Russian-manufactured SA-17, which can limit the freedom of action of the Israeli Air Force if deployed by Hizballah in southern Lebanon. The SA-17 uses a mobile launcher. Israeli diplomacy has been especially concerned with the Russian sale of even more robust S-300 anti-aircraft missiles by Russia to Syria, though there are no indications that Hizballah is a potential recipient of this system.

d. Long-range anti-ship missiles, like the Russian supersonic Yakhont cruise missile, that has a range of 300 km. and can strike at Israeli offshore gas rigs in the Eastern Mediterranean. Russia recently sent a shipment of the missiles which will be added to an initial inventory of 72 missiles received first in 2011.

If Iran manages to prop up Assad at the price of turning Syria into a wholly-owned satrapy, then I’m not sure that it would be much better than if Hizballah itself had the weapons, from an Israeli point of view. Israel’s deterrence will be markedly weakened if the decision to use such weapons is taken out of the hands of a semi-autonomous Syrian regime and placed in Iran.

What motivates the Russians?

I think they have decided correctly that control of the Muslim Middle East hangs in the balance, with the main players in the struggle being Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunni elements, and Turkey. I think they have decided that the “strong horse” is Iran and the Shiites. In addition, Russia faces challenges from Sunni Islamists within Russia itself and in Muslim states bordering it.

Russia has also always been unhappy with a Western-aligned nuclear power like Israel so close by. In fact some historians have suggested that the Soviets provoked Syria and Egypt to make war on Israel in 1967 in order to justify a strike on Israel’s nuclear facility in Dimona. Israel is also shaping up to be a future rival to Russian domination of the natural gas supply to Europe. An Iranian victory — and incidentally the end of the Jewish state — would be just fine for them.

Ugly? You bet. The forces opposing the Iran-Russia axis include the hostile and economically devastated Egypt, the super-extreme Sunni Salafists (some allied with al-Qaeda), the neo-Ottoman Islamist Turkish regime, Saudi Arabia — and the United States, which may or may not still be a formidable military power, but certainly does not appear to have the resolve to confront Iran, not to mention Russia.

But Israel has survived, even thrived, against similar odds before.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

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.

The War of Ideologies in the Arab World

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

If one were to ask an Arab what has happened to the Arab countries, and why the terrorism and extremism we see today did not exist in the 1950s and 1960s, the answer would probably point to the frustrations and struggles of dual identities: Arab nationalism and Islamism. After the collapse of Arab nationalism, Islamist movements and ideologies emerged to fill the void. The two developments that exposed the dangerous turn to extremism the Islamist movements had taken were the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the recent Arab uprisings, called the “Arab Spring.”

From the events of 2001 until the latest Arab upheavals, the West has pursued support for a moderate Islam in the region, to eliminate terrorism. Concepts such as a “new Middle East” and support for democracies rather than tyrants became prominent rhetorically. But do leaders in the West realize how rivalries and distrust persist among Muslims, between Muslims, and against other, non-Muslim minorities? Do the values of a moderate and pluralist Islam exist today or have they disappeared completely? If they exist, how can the West support such examples of moderate Islam?

Suspicion among Muslims and toward non-Muslim minorities has a long history, but has become aggravated especially now. Sunnis do not trust Shias and Islamists are suspicious of liberals, and tension is mutual, as each group reacts to the other. Many who do not belong to Islamist parties and who represent minority groups in Egypt and Tunisia are terrified of the Muslim Brotherhood and their more extreme counterparts, the so-called “Salafis” (imitators of the Saudi Wahhabis). An Islamist state could not be expected to guarantee liberty for everyone. Shias, for their part, are anxious about the power of political Sunnism and its impact on them.

Extremist and terrorist ideological networks are present throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The recent terrorist attack on Algeria, in which foreign hostages from Japan, Philippines, Romania, Britain and the United States were killed, is connected to the terrorist invasion of nearby northern Mali. Absence of security, arms smuggling from a collapsed Libya, and rising instability are aggravated, not resolved, by Islamists in power around the region. The horrible situation in Syria, with continued fighting between the regime and armed groups, is a breeding ground for terrorism. Lack of security and stability have spread in Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon no less than Tunisia and Egypt.

This shift to extremism in the Arab world did not happen overnight. After the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire beginning in the nineteenth century, Pan-Arabism came forward with a vision of resistance to outside rule through a “new” social order, conceived along Islamic lines. Some Egyptian and the Syrian representatives of pan-Arab nationalism believed in an authoritarian state that would unify the heterogeneous Arabs into a single nation and creed. Pan-Arab nationalism was secular, and was crystallised as a political movement in the 20th century by a Syrian Christian, Michel Aflaq, who founded the Ba’ath (“Renaissance”) Party in Damascus in 1940. Aflaq, a Christian, said that Islam could not be dissociated from an Arab nationalist identity, but that the state must be separate from religious institutions. As cited by Kanan Makiya in his 1998 book Republic of Fear, Aflaq wrote, “We wish that a full awakening of Arab Christians takes place, so that they can see in Islam a nationalist education for themselves.”

When Gamal Abd Al-Nasser took power in Egypt in 1952, the country became the spiritual home of Arab nationalism. But enthusiasm for this identity did not liberate the Arab nation from foreign hegemony; nor did it generate the freedom, development and democracy that the people and especially the youth desired. Arab leaders in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, as extreme ultranationalists, disregarded the principles of freedom and democracy. One of the main causes of the decline of nationalist ideology seems to have been the 1967 Arab defeat in the Egyptian-led war against Israel.

The failure of, and disappointment in, nationalism allowed Islamists to gain new ground. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Muslim thought was occupied by the critical, philosophical views of reformers such as the Iranian Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (1839-97), the Egyptians Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) and Ali Abderraziq (1888-1966) as well as others who favored adoption of Western cultural achievements while preserving Islamic belief.

Obama Picks up too Late on the Threat from Syrian Rebels

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

While far too late, the Obama administration may be adopting a sensible policy on Syria. The strategy, however, is unlikely to succeed. Oh, and there is also a very important clue—I think the key to the puzzle—about what really happened in Benghazi.

Let’s begin with Syria. As U.S. officials became increasingly worried about the visible Islamist domination of the Syrian opposition—which their own policies had helped promote—they have realized the horrible situation of creating still another radical Islamist regime. (Note: This column has been warning of this very point for years.)

So the response is to try to do two things. The first is to train, with Jordanian cooperation, a more moderate force of Free Syrian Army (FSA) units. The idea is to help the non-Islamists compete more effectively with the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist, and especially al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra group) affiliated units.

The second is supposedly to create a buffer zone along Syria’s borders with Jordan and perhaps later Israel and even Iraq in order to avoid the conflict spilling over—i.e., cross-border jihad terror attacks—to those countries. According to the Washington Post:

The last thing anyone wants to see is al-Qaeda gaining a foothold in southern Syria next to Israel. That is a doomsday scenario,” said a U.S. diplomat in Jordan who was not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.

Someone has also figured out that it isn’t a great idea to have a border with Iraq controlled by Syrian Sunni Muslim terrorist Islamists allied with the Sunni terrorists in Iraq who killed so many Americans. Well, might someone not have thought about that a year or two ago? Because, while nothing could have been more obvious there was no step taken to prevent this situation happening.

I should point out an important distinction. The problem is not merely al-Qaeda gaining a foothold but also other Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood doing so. That, however, is not how the Obama administration thinks. For it, al-Qaeda is evil; the other Salafists somewhat bad; and the Muslim Brotherhood good.

What are the problems here? As so often happens with Western-formulated clever ideas to deal with the Middle East, there are lots of them:

–The United States has stood aside or even helped arm the Islamists through Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. So now the Islamist forces are far stronger than the non-Islamists. That cannot be reversed at this point.

–Might this buffer zone plan be laying the basis for a second Syrian civil war in which the Islamists band together against the FSA? In other words, here is this buffer zone that is backed by the West (imperialism!) to “protect” Israel (the Zionists!), Jordan (traitorous Muslims!), and Iraq (Shia heretics!)

–The training is limited and the FSA is badly divided among different commanders, defected Syrian army officers, and local warlords. The Brotherhood militia is united and disciplined. The result will be worse than Afghanistan because the Islamists would have both the government and the stronger military forces.

–A situation is being set up in which a future Muslim Brotherhood regime in Syria can blackmail the United States. Either it will force Washington to accept whatever it does (including potential massacres) by threatening to unleash Salafist forces on its borders or it will actually create confrontations.

–Why isn’t the United States working full-time to stop the arms flows to the Islamists by pressuring the Saudis and Qataris (perhaps the point of Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip but hardly effective) and to rein in Turkey’s enthusiasm for a Syrian Islamist regime?

Speaking of Turkey, now we see the reason for the attempted Israel-Turkey rapprochement, because on top of everything else there will be a Kurdish-ruled zone not run by moderates but by the Syrian affiliate of the radical PKK, which is at war with Turkey.

–These proposed buffer zones would not receive Western air support or international forces. Israel has the experience of maintaining a buffer zone in southern Lebanon for years by supporting a militia group. It succeeded for a long time by sending in Israeli troops covertly and taking casualties. In the end, rightly or wrongly, the effort was given up. Now Hizballah—the equivalent though not the friend of the Syrian Salafists—is sitting on the border and already one war has been fought. It should be noted that Israel has by far the most defensible border with Syria.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/obama-picks-up-too-late-on-the-threat-from-syrian-rebels/2013/04/08/

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