Tag Archives: Levant

​Chaos theory: ISIS & Western foreign policy

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014.

by Dr. Roslyn Fuller – As ISIS/ISIL cuts a swathe through the Middle East, retroactively transforming Osama Bin Laden into the highbrow arm of modern Islamic terrorism, we’ve quite naturally begun the game of deciding who to blame for its existence.

In fact, Tony Blair showed admirable consistency in sticking to the doctrine of preemptive self-defense by firing off a statement that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant had nothing to do with his policies in Iraq – the moment they made their big break into mainstream television.

This back and forth over responsibility is really at the heart of the matter, but in a far deeper way than we usually get around to discussing.

After all, a good deal of Western foreign policy post-Cold War has revolved around NATO states voluntarily assuming responsibility for issues that were, strictly-speaking, not their responsibility. Someone needs to ‘police the world’, ‘bring the bad guys to book’, exercise their ‘R2P’ (‘responsibility to protect’ – yes, we have descended into text-speak) and ‘nation-build’.

It looks good on paper.

But if you really look at how this policy has played out on the ground, you will notice that far from nation-building, this voluntary ‘assumption of responsibility’ has instead sown a level of chaos and dissension that cannot plausibly be blamed purely on ‘mistakes’ or ‘unforeseeable circumstances’.

Instead, it seems to be the old divide and conquer strategy at work and we probably have keen minds like Richard Perle and Bill Kristol of the neo-conservative think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to thank for this modern take on an old classic. We will return to the thoughtful documents penned and disseminated by PNAC shortly. But first, let’s try to figure out what is really going on beyond the rhetoric when it comes to our ‘responsibilities’ around the world.

I think we can discern a few key trends.

The first trend is that Western countries do engage in what could be termed nation-building activities in a few select, small countries, provided those countries have for one reason or another really made headlines. Think of Timor L’Este (now independent after a mere 30 years of occupation); Rwanda (yes, 800,000 people were killed, but we did give them a tribunal once activists remembered to play the racism card), and Kosovo (presents a somewhat more contested narrative, but it was too close to the EU’s future borders for comfort).

Other troubled nations like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire (another contested narrative) have certainly seen their fortunes improve in recent years, thanks in part to international peacekeeping missions and efforts to facilitate community reconciliation and post-conflict justice.

But those are, in a certain sense, ‘the lucky few’. In most other places, we have chosen to ‘take responsibility’ along more Blair-ish lines, which means that our sense of responsibility tends to come and go with astonishing rapidity. Consider the following:

Somalia

The failed state par excellence. Americans were apparently willing to ‘take responsibility’ for restoring law and order in Somalia until 19 of them were killed. That was too much ‘responsibility’ and Somalia was left minus a government and awash with weapons next to one of the greatest shipping lanes in the world. All things considered, it took Somalis a surprisingly long time to master modern piracy.

A Somali Al-Shebab fighter

Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo

All rocking around on the cusp of failed statehood for decades now; in the case of the DRC ever since Western countries decided to rid the world of Patrice Lumumba back in the ’60s.

Mali

Currently a respectable No. 38 on the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index, but Taureg rebels control an impressive hunk of territory.

Ukraine and Pakistan

Both pretty nearly failed states, run along semi-feudal lines by leaders who are openly oligarchs, whether that be the ‘new money’ of Ukrainian industrialists or the ‘old money’ of tribal leadership in Pakistan.

Libya

Currently rated an uneasy No. 54 on the Failed State Index, down from a comfortable No. 111 in 2010 (on par with South Africa) before we decided to get rid of Gaddafi, only to be instantly stricken with amnesia about the country he ran for 42 years.

Yemen

Despite having the latest technology in drone strikes lavished upon it, Yemen maintains a virtually unbroken record in the top 10 failed states, currently at No. 6.

Syria

Locked in a civil war, which has seen a once secular-oriented nation become the home of armed jihadists, who were permitted to obtain their weapons and cash with remarkable ease. Apparently ‘getting rid of Assad’ was the sum total of our planning abilities on what should happen in Syria.

Egypt

Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows. Spiraling somewhere.

Iraq and Afghanistan

I’m not even sure what the correct term for Iraq and Afghanistan, rated No. 11 and No.7 respectively on the Failed State Index, would be these days. Suffice it to see that after more than a decade of nation-building, we are having difficulty discerning progress on these construction sites, which I’m pretty sure haven’t even gone one day without a work-related accident. Of course, the already abysmal ratings were handed out before ISIS went big last week. (Interesting fact: current ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who, unlike many detainees, truly did have a history of terrorist involvement, was captured by Americans in Iraq in 2004 but released in 2009. You had one job…)

Then there are places like Western Sahara, Transdniester and Palestine, which cannot fail because they do not even count as states. To add to our woes, the UN recently announced that there are more displaced persons today than at any time since the end of WWII.

These are a lot of open problems to have for a world hegemony so bent on nation-building and stability, especially when you consider that its citizens spend something like a trillion dollars annually on ‘defense’.

Members of a newly formed brigade of Iraqi Shiite fighters parade in military fatigues with their weapons on June 24, 2014 in the southern city of Basra as thousands of Shiite volunteers join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Sunni Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities.

When you are forking over that kind of money, you like to see results, and not hear excuses about the world’s instability being ‘also’ rooted in local problems. I can see very well that organizations like ISIS are ‘also’ rooted in local problems. However, I am also fairly certain that if some alien power used its superior resources to bomb us back to the Stone Age and then failed to provide any meaningful replacement infrastructure, that our ‘local’ problems would begin to get uglier too. And the reason is that they would have destroyed the social fabric and rule of law that keeps any place running as well as it does. Create that kind of power vacuum and anything can happen. To expect ‘the locals’ to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and jolly well carry on because we have suddenly lost interest in our overwhelming ‘responsibility’ to them is little short of delusional.

The second trend that I think emerges is closely linked to the first.

It is the deliberate ripping of the social fabric within states that are still relatively stable and prosperous. That this could in any way be connected to the first trend occurred to me while reading ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’, which was written by Richard Perle for Benjamin Netanyahu back in the 1990s. Now – and I do not say this lightly – not only does this document have a title that sounds like its composer was experiencing LARP-withdrawal at the time he wrote it, the text itself resembles the creation of an eight-year-old who was subjected to a crash course on international relations followed by a heavy dose of LSD. There are sudden switches in topic, where the free associative connection is at first less-than-obvious to the sober reader.

One of these switches was an abrupt change from harping on Israel’s alleged need to pursue a no-compromises peace strategy to urging a comprehensive privatization plan on the state. According to this paper, efforts to salvage Israel’s socialist institutions were undermining the legitimacy of the State of Israel and “Israel can become self-reliant only by, in a bold stroke rather than in increments, liberalizing its economy, cutting taxes, re-legislating a free-processing zone, and selling-off public lands and enterprises — moves which will electrify and find support from a broad bipartisan spectrum of key pro-Israeli Congressional leaders, including [then-]Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.”

Why Newt Gingrich’s support was synonymous with self-reliance was left unexplained.

However, like many things that happen on acid, ‘Securing the Realm’ has a weird strain of truth to it, because it combined, albeit clumsily, two separate ways to erode the social fabric. The first was to become much more aggressive externally and seek to crush foreign entities as oppose to negotiate with them, even when those negotiations had yielded results, most notably under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated just one year before ‘Securing the Realm’ was written. The second was to actually work on eroding Israel’s alleged socialism from within by selling off the same public goods, which they under no circumstances would give to Palestinians, to private bidders.

I would argue that we can see both of these strains at work around the world, in that we push aggressive, no compromises foreign policy to its limits (witness Ukraine and Syria) without much thought for the destabilization that this engenders, not to mention its quite extreme effect on our own bank balance.

We are also hard at work undermining our own prosperity. Western countries are the most prosperous on earth. We unequivocally enjoy the highest standard of living. China, India and Brazil are still a long way off the kind of lifestyle most of us are accustomed to. And enjoy that lifestyle partly because we were pretty successful at ripping other people’s wealth off them in the past and partly because we invented a brilliant economic system after WWII which centered on what Richard Perle – aka the Prince of Darkness – would probably designate ‘socialist institutions’.

Western nations may not have fully gotten the knack for doing good in the world, but there was certainly what I would term growing interest and truly altruistic concern for people in other parts of the world among ordinary Western citizens pre-9/11.

Thanks to policies like those the Prince of Darkness so thoughtfully outlined for Netanyahu all those years ago, we have privatized, liberalized and cut taxes to the point that most people in Western nations are now experiencing a deterioration in their own living standards and society is increasingly divided between the haves and have-nots. We are, in other words, tearing up our own social fabric.

What that means is that the place that would have been most able to use its resources to truly stabilize and improve those parts of the globe most in need now not only refuses to do so (which was bad enough), in the future it might be unable to so do. We may, in short, be destabilizing the rest of the world, while simultaneously reducing our own capabilities to ever put it back together.

The natural consequence of being responsible in short, sharp bursts.

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Report : Attack near border with Iraq kills 3 Iranian border guards

TEHRAN, Iran – An Iranian semi-official news agency says an attack near the country’s western border with Iraq has killed three Iranian border guards.

The Fars news agency on Wednesday quoted security official Shahriar Heidari as saying the troops were killed on Tuesday night while patrolling along the border in western Kermanshah province. A border outpost commander was among those killed.

Heidari says an unspecified “terrorist group” was behind the attack. No other details were immediately available.

Iran has boosted border security amid the blitz offensive in neighboring Iraq by Sunni militants from the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The militants have snatched much of northern and western Iraq from Baghdad‘s control.

In the past, sporadic clashes have taken place between Iranian troops and opposition groups in western Iran.

Jordan bolsters defense on Iraq border

A member of the Iraqi security forces takes position during a patrol looking for militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, June 23, 2014.

A member of the Iraqi security forces takes position during a patrol looking for militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, June 23, 2014.

Reuters – Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Jordan beefed up its border defenses with Iraq on Sunday after Sunni gunmen seized territory close to its border in Anbar province and appeared to have also taken control of the only land crossing with its large eastern neighbor, officials and witnesses said.

Two officials said the border crossing almost 575 km (357 miles) from the Iraqi capital and nearly 320 km (199 miles) from Amman was effectively closed after Sunni gunmen took control of the crossing.

A Jordanian minister earlier told Reuters traffic had halted and there were signs of chaos at the crossing that serves as a major artery for passenger and trade flows between the two countries.

“The last traffic was around 7:30 pm (1630 GMT) and border officials are saying the situation is not normal on the other side of the border,” Minister of State for Media and Communication Mohammad al-Momani said.

Earlier, Iraqi Sunni gunmen had seized control of the town of Rutba, just 90 miles (145 km) east of the border with Jordan.

An army source confirmed that army units had been put in a state of alert in recent days along the 181-km (112-mile) border with Iraq, redeploying in some areas as part of steps to ward off “any potential or perceived security threats”.

Truck drivers who arrived in Jordan before traffic halted after crossing the border said Sunni tribal militants were now running and manning checkpoints along large stretches of the Baghad-Amman highway that runs through the crossing.

A security source who requested anonymity said the border crossing on the Iraqi side had fallen earlier in the day to local Sunni tribal gunmen who permitted customs officials to continue to run it administratively until later on Sunday.

U.S. ally Jordan was expected to formally close the border to traffic as soon as the Iraqi government formally announces its loss of control over the crucial trade and passenger crossing, he added.

On Sunday, militants overran a second frontier post on the Syrian border, extending two weeks of swift territorial gains as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pursues the goal of its own caliphate straddling both countries.

ISIL thrust east from a newly captured Iraqi-Syrian border post on Sunday, taking three towns in Iraq’s western Anbar province after seizing the frontier crossing near the town of Qaim on Saturday, witnesses and security sources said. They seized a second, al-Waleed, on Sunday. The gains have helped ISIL secure supply lines to Syria, where it has exploited the chaos of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad to seize territory.

The loss of the Iraqi border crossing with Jordan was not seen as an immediate security threat to the kingdom although some were unnerved by the prospect of al Qaeda-affiliated groups along the border with Iraq, another official said.

It was difficult to see security-conscious Jordan, which has almost cut off any flow of militants across its heavily sealed northern border with Syria, allowing itself to become a launching pad or supply route for Islamist jihadists into Iraq, he added.

Jordan, grappling with the mounting impact of the grinding conflict in neighboring Syria, is one of the closest U.S. allies in the Middle

ISIS ‘execute’ 1,700 Iraqi soldiers, post gruesome pictures (GRAPHIC)

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province.

Radical Sunni militants who have been capturing cities in northwest Iraq claimed on Twitter that they executed 1,700 Iraqi soldiers. The radicals posted graphic photos as evidence.

The photographs, which were posted on the Twitter account associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), came with captions that described their alleged massacre. They did not provide a date or location, but chief military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the killings took place in Salahuddin province, located north of Baghdad.

Some of the images show dozens of captured men in civilian clothes loaded onto trucks, with the captions saying that they were taken to their deaths.

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) transporting dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them.

Another image shows men lying down in a ditch with their arms behind their head. Some of the final photographs show bodies covered in blood with several gunshot wounds.

It is impossible to independently verify the photographs and the number of people killed.

Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, confirmed the photos’ authenticity on Sunday, adding that he is aware of mass executions of captured Iraqi soldiers in areas controlled by ISIS.

Following the analysis of the images by military experts, it was concluded that about 170 soldiers were shot to death by the militants, he told the Associated Press.

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province.

Violence continued to escalate in Iraq on Sunday, with local residents telling to Reuters that ISIS insurgents attacked and took control of the town of Tal Afar, located in northwestern Iraq.

Iraqi Gen. Mohammed al-Quraishi confirmed to CNN that the city fell to Sunni rebels. Tal Afar is located in the Nineveh province and has a population of about 80,000 people, most of whom are Iraqi Turkmen.

Meanwhile, the US announced it will be increasing security at its embassy in Baghdad and moving some of its personnel out of the capital. Less than 100 US Marines and other military personnel are headed to Iraq to reinforce security at the US embassy in Baghdad, Reuters reported, citing a military official.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) also said that a number of embassy staff were withdrawn from Baghdad on Sunday. “The Australian embassy remains open with reduced staffing levels,” DFAT stated. “We are unlikely to be able to provide consular assistance in Iraq at the current time.”

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) standing next to dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them.

Earlier, ISIS insurgents seized Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul in the north of the country as well as Tikrit – the capital of Salahuddin province, where the alleged massacre of soldiers took place.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday that the organization received a number of reports of “summary executions and extrajudicial killings” as ISIL militants raided Iraqi cities. The number of people killed last week may be in the hundreds, she added.

Once an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, ISIS fell out with the global terrorist network. The hyper-fundamentalist group, which is active in Iraq and Syria, gained notoriety for its ruthless tactics which include publicly crucifying and beheading those who violate their strict religious interpretations.

Iraq came under the influence of a Shia-majority government after the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime in 2003. Since the withdrawal of US troops in 2011, sectarian tensions have boiled over, resulting in Sunni insurgents increasingly waging war against the central government.

Saudi Arabia declares Muslim Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’

King Abdullah

King Abdullah

Saudi Arabia has formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.

An interior ministry statement also classified two jihadist groups fighting with the Syrian rebels – the Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – as terrorist groups.

The statement gave Saudis fighting in Syria 15 days to return.

A royal decree issued last month said any citizen found guilty of fighting in conflicts abroad faced a jail sentence.

Hundreds of Saudis are believed to be fighting in Syria, and correspondents say Riyadh fears they could pose a security risk when they return home.

Although the kingdom has supported the Sunni-led rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it has long feared a backlash from radical jihadist groups.

Last month, King Abdullah decreed jail terms of up to 20 years for anyone belonging to “terrorist groups” or fighting abroad. The new law also promised tough sanctions for anyone backing the incriminated organisations.

However, rights group Amnesty International has criticised the legislation, saying it could be used to suppress peaceful political dissent.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia joined the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in withdrawing its ambassadors from Qatar, which it sees as an important supporter of the Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood is already banned in Saudi Arabia, which has long viewed its ideology of populist Islam as a threat.

Analysts say the Brotherhood’s conservative Sunni doctrines are seen as a challenge to the Saudi principle of dynastic rule.

In Egypt, the Brotherhood has been driven underground since the army deposed President Mohammed Morsi, a longtime member of the group.

The military-backed government in Cairo designated the Brotherhood a terrorist group in December.

via BBC News – Saudi Arabia declares Muslim Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’.

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Al Qaida militia retakes town near Turkish border from Free Syrian Army | World Tribune

7675589NICOSIA — Al Qaida has resumed its offensive against Western-backed rebels in Syria.

An Al Qaida militia, deploying surface-to-air missiles, has launched an offensive along the Syrian border with Turkey

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was reported to have captured the Syrian town of Atma after expelling a unit of the Free Syrian Army.

“There was not much of a fight,” a witness said.

Opposition sources said ISIL was being supplied from Islamists in Turkey. They said Al Qaida captured the head of the FSA-aligned Suqur Al Islam, identified as Mustafa Waddah.

The ISIL capture of Atma, deemed a hub for rebel fighters and supplies, on Nov. 21 was said to have represented the latest offensive by Al Qaida in
northern Syria. Atma contains thousands of Syrians who fled fighting in other border areas.

Suqur Al Islam has broken away from other FSA units in a battle for
weapons. In late mid-November, Suqur seized seven trucks laden with arms
sent by the FSA’s Syrian Military Command.

On Nov. 22, seven rebel units declared a merger called the Islamic
Front. The units were identified as the Liwa Al Tawhid, Ahrar Al Sham, Suqur
Al Sham, Al Haq Brigades, Ansar Al Sham, Army of Islam, and the Kurdish
Islamic Front.

The commander of the Islamic Front has been identified as Zahran Aloush.
In a statement, the front named Hassan Aboud the political director, with
Ahmed Issa Al Sheik as head of the Shura Council. Al Sheik was also said to
be the new commander of Liwa Al Tawhid.

“This [Islamic Front] will be an independent, political, military and
social formation,” the front said.

Al Qaida militia retakes town near Turkish border from Free Syrian Army | World Tribune.