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Ed Webb

Insurgents Again: The Islamic State's Calculated Reversion to Attrition in the Syria-Ir... - 0 views

  • since losing Mosul, its most sizeable and symbolic territorial possession, the Islamic State has not fought to the last man to maintain control of any other population center.
  • While a loss of morale after the fall of Mosul, the desire by less ideologically driven fighters to save themselves, and the degradation of command and control structures all contributed to some Islamic State fighters fleeing on certain fronts,7 the available evidence suggests the withdrawals were part of calculated strategy by the group to conserve its forces and pivot away from holding territory to pursuing an all-out insurgency
  • despite its supposed significance, Mayedin fell almost abruptly and with little fighting in October 2017. Local sources speaking to Deirezzor24,37 a grassroots organization specializing in documenting violations by both the regime and jihadis, denied the city was retaken by forces loyal to Assad. The regime, uncharacteristically, produced little footage to prove it recaptured a key city. The local skepticism was an indication that the sudden withdrawal from the city was surprising to locals,38 who, along with U.S. officials, had reported that the city had become a center for the group after it came under attack in Raqqa
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  • Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter issued by the Islamic State’s Central Media Department, hinted at a major change of strategy in a series of articles published between September and October 2017 on the topic of dealing with the U.S. air campaign. In a series of two reports in September 2017,42 the newsletter explained that Islamic State militants, having suffered heavy losses, especially in Kobane, were debating how to evade the “precision” of U.S. air forces in the face of ground assaults on multiple fronts. These fronts included the disguising of weaponry and engaging in military deception. The article concluded that it would be a mistake for the Islamic State to continue engaging forces that enjoy air support from the United States or Russia because the function of these forces was not to serve as conventional fighting forces, but mainly to provoke the militants and expose their whereabouts and capabilities for drones and aircraft to strike them. In order to prevent the depletion of its forces by air power, the article pushed for the Islamic State to adopt a counter-strategy in which it would refrain from sustained clashes in urban centers with its enemies as it did formerly
  • In another report, issued in Al-Naba on October 12, 2017,45 the Islamic State suggested that it had again been forced to switch to insurgency tactics like in the spring of 2008 under the leadership of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and his war minister Abu Hamza al-Muhajir. The article related how the group’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq, had been forced to dismantle its fighting units in March 2008 and pursue a different strategy to preserve what was left of its manpower. Providing details never before disclosed, it described how the Islamic State of Iraq had become exhausted and depleted after two years of fierce fighting against U.S. and Iraqi troops to the point that it was no longer able to stand and fight for long. “In early 2008, it became clear that it was impossible to continue to engage in conventional fighting. That was when Abu Omar Al Baghdadi said: ‘We now have no place where we could stand for a quarter of an hour.’”46 The article argued the situation was now comparable and that this justified a switch of approach.
  • The Islamic State’s apparent decision to conserve forces for insurgency in the region stretching from Deir ez-Zor Governorate in Syria to Anbar Province in Iraq makes strategic sense given it has frequently highlighted the area as key to its survival and best suited for the base of a guerrilla war. For the Islamic State, rural- and desert-based insurgency is no less important than urban warfare to deplete its enemies, recruit members, and lay the groundwork for a comeback. The geographic and human terrain of the region provides the jihadis with an area in which they can regroup, run sleeper cells, rebuild finances through extortion, and plot attacks.
  • The Islamic State’s reversion to insurgency tactics increased as it lost more territory. Hit-and-run attacks and notable assassinations returned to newly liberated areas, such as in Salah ad-Din, Diyala, Anbar, and Raqqa,53 although such attacks were rarely accounted for in official and public statements related to progress against the group.
  • Reverting back to the old insurgency and terror tactics enabled the Islamic State to penetrate otherwise well-secured areas. Previous attempts to attack them through conventional fighting units had failed, even while the group was at the height of its power
  • Territorial demise, he made clear, was merely the beginning of a new chapter in which the process of depleting the enemy does not get disrupted but persists in different forms. If and when a new opportunity for another rise presented itself, his logic went, the process of depletion will have laid the groundwork for a deeper influence than the previous round.
  • defeat is the loss of willpower and desire to fight
  • the Islamic State began to talk about the desert as a viable place to launch its post-caliphate insurgency. Its propaganda has since prominently featured desert combat. Through such messages, the group hopes to show it can still inflict damage on government forces in remote areas and on critical highways linking Syria and Jordan to Iraq and to draw parallels to the fact that the last time the organization was deemed defeated in Iraq, in the late 2000s, it came back stronger than ever
  • It appears that a key target for the Islamic State as it reembraces insurgency are Sunnis opposing its worldview. In its recent propaganda, the Islamic State has focused on the role of fellow Sunni collaborators in its demise in the late 2000s and has vowed to keep up the pressure against emerging ones. It is interesting that “Sahwat” was originally restricted to the tribal Awakening Councils68 established in Iraq to fight al-Qa`ida during the 2007 troop surge,69 but the group has since broadened the reference to mean opponents and collaborators from within Sunni communities writ large
  • Headquartered in the desert or hidden in populated areas, the Islamic State aims to run a far-reaching and ceaseless insurgency in rural areas and urban centers to deter and stretch thin its opponents and to abrade any emerging governance and security structures in areas it previously controlled
  • This contiguous terrain in Iraq and Syria is akin to the region along the Afghan-Pakistani border that previous U.S. administrations dubbed “AfPak” and treated as a single theater requiring an integrated approach. The “Syraq” space, which stretches from the areas near the Euphrates and Tigris river valleys in northern and western Iraq to Raqqa and Palmyra, looks set to be to the Islamic State what AfPak has been to the al-Qa`ida and Taliban factions, providing a hospitable environment and strategic sanctuaries. And by conserving fighters rather than fighting to the death in the battles that followed Mosul, the Islamic State still has significant manpower to sustain a campaign of terrorism and insurgency in the area
Jim Franklin

The Associated Press: Bomb kills anti-insurgent cleric in Iraq - 0 views

  • A Sunni cleric known for denouncing insurgents in Iraq was killed Friday by a bomb that ripped apart his car, a police official said, in the second targeted attack on a religious figure in as many weeks.
  • Jamal Humadi was driving home after delivering his Friday sermon in Saqlawiyah, 45 miles (75 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, when a bomb attached to his car exploded, the official said. Two passengers were wounded.
  • calling on worshippers to turn away from the sectarian violence that engulfed the country two years ago.
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  • Last week, Sunni cleric Bashir al-Juheishi was killed by a bomb attached to a car — known as a sticky bomb — in Mosul as he left a mosque there.
  • Insurgents carrying out such targeted attacks are using booby-trapped cans of food and toys, the military spokesman for Baghdad security warned on Friday.
  • Al-Moussawi said troops were also alert to the possibility that insurgents could attempt to mobilize children to carry out attacks, though there have been no recent reports of teens attacking security forces.
  • The military has frequently said it believes al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent groups are recruiting children and women because they can more easily evade security measures.
Ed Webb

Blood Law - By David Rieff | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross is the legally recognized custodian of the laws of war and thus, among its other prerogatives, the arbiter of the semantics of both interstate and internal conflict.
  • At least in theory, an ICRC finding has important legal implications for both sides in the fighting, whereas the declarations of other actors are more expressions of opinion than fact.
  • all sides are clear that their conflict is one for control of the Syrian state, which is about as good a definition of civil war as it is possible to come by.
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  • The debate over when and under what conditions it is legitimate for outside actors to intervene militarily in the internal affairs of countries deemed to be abusing their own populations -- a global argument that, for better or worse, culminated in the adoption of the doctrine of the so-called Responsibility to Protect (R2P) --- has revolved around legally binding definitions as much, if not more, than about moral sentiments
  • the designation of the conflict as a civil war broadens the categories under which both sides can be prosecuted for war crimes under international humanitarian law, since while prosecutions for crimes against humanity can take place whatever the nature of the conflict, the broader category of war crimes can be applied only when a state of war has been found to exist.
  • technically the ICRC's judgment applies to regime and insurgency alike, but in practice its weight is likely to fall most heavily on the government side, not least because the opposition has a "friend in court" in the United States, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
  • As the Libyan case shows, the International Criminal Court is far more likely to prosecute those its powerful members oppose (or, indeed, have overthrown) than those they have supported diplomatically, economically, and militarily. And anyone who does not think the law is as much shaped by political pressure as statute -- whether it is the U.S. Supreme Court judgment on the Affordable Care Act, the German Constitutional Court's current consideration of the legality of Germany's participation in various European financial bailout mechanisms, or the decisions at The Hague of whom to indict and to whom to give a pass -- has probably not been paying attention. With the exception of Russia and Iran, the major world powers as well as important elements of the U.N. Secretariat have either explicitly or implicitly come out for the rebels, and designating what is now taking place (whether or not the ICRC intended to do so) as "civil war" establishes a moral and institutional equivalence between the government and the insurgents that serves to partly legitimize the rebellion and delegitimize the Assad regime.
  • history is not a morality play
Ed Webb

Can ISIS overcome the insurgency resource curse? - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • IS  is also gaining momentum in the struggle to control two natural resources that have defined the history of the Middle East – oil and water.
  • If control of oil has driven economic development in the modern Middle East, control of water has been a fundamental component of civilization itself. For decades, both the Syrian and Iraqi governments focused on hydrology in their bids for socioeconomic development, building a bevy of dams, canals and other infrastructure to control floods, improve agricultural irrigation and generate electricity for their populations. Denying or diverting water, though, was also tantamount to war. During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) Saddam Hussein fretted that Iran would destroy dikes and dams on the upper Tigris River in order to cause flooding in Baghdad. In the early 1990s Syria and Iraq nearly went to war with Turkey over plans to divert part of the Euphrates River, and in 1992 Iraq famously cut off the water to the marshes of southern Mesopotamia in order to destroy the terrain where Shiite insurgents were hiding out. Punishing drought conditions in rural Syria may even have caused social unrest that helped precipitate the beginning of the March 2011 uprising.
  • According to New York Times reporter Thanassis Cambanis, IS  left the staff at the Tabqa Dam unharmed and in place, allowing the facility to continue operations and even selling electricity back to the Syrian government. Similarly, oil fields under IS  control continue to pump. Indeed, IS  has shrewdly managed these resources to help ensure a steady and sustainable stream of revenue. As one IS fighter told the New York Times, while Assad’s loyalists chant “Assad or burn the country,” IS retorts “We will burn Assad and keep the country.” Beside revenue from oil and water, IS  collects a variety of commercial taxes, including on trucks and cellphone towers.
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  • In February 2013, IS took control of the Tabqa Hydroelectric Dam (Syria), once a showcase in Hafez al-Assad’s development plan and a major electricity source for Aleppo. Earlier this spring, IS opened up dikes around Fallujah to impede the Iraqi army as it tried to besiege the stronghold, causing flooding as far away as Najaf and Baghdad. With its recent advances, IS now controls the hydroelectric dam at Mosul, Iraq’s largest, and IS  is poised to take the dam at Haditha, the country’s second largest. With the tables turned, the Iraqi government finds itself considering a preemptive opening of the Haditha floodgates to block IS’s path.
  • Whereas resources like diamonds or drugs motivate rebel forces to take as much as they can as quickly as they can, the need to manage capital and technology-intensive natural resources has actually increased the interdependence between IS and civilians. Already in effective control of significant amounts of oil and water, the Islamic State is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Ed Webb

How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands... - 0 views

  • In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns. These transfers formed a collage of firearms of mixed vintage and type: Kalashnikov assault rifles left over from the Cold War; recently manufactured NATO-standard M16s and M4s from American factories; machine guns of Russian and Western lineage; and sniper rifles, shotguns and pistols of varied provenance and caliber, including a large order of Glock semiautomatic pistols, a type of weapon also regularly offered for sale online in Iraq. Advertisement Continue reading the main story Many of the recipients of these weapons became brave and important battlefield allies. But many more did not. Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses. Knowing what we know about many of these forces, it would have been remarkable for them to retain custody of many of their weapons. It is not surprising that they did not.
  • the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all
  • Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.
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  • In April, after being approached by The New York Times and reviewing data from Armament Research Services, a private arms-investigation consultancy, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as busy arms bazaars, including pages in Syria and Iraq on which firearms with Pentagon origins accounted for a large fraction of the visible trade
  • The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and outright theft in a war where the battlefield is thick with jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda or fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.
  • One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq’s security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.
  • many new arms-trading Facebook pages have since cropped up, including, according to their own descriptions, virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala
  • According to its tally, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11, including improvements to the ammunition plants required to keep the cartridge production going. Most of these planned expenditures were for American forces, and the particulars tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched. More than $4 billion worth of contracts was issued for small arms, including pistols, machines guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles, and more than $11 billion worth was issued for associated equipment, from spare machine-gun barrels to sniper-rifle scopes, according to Overton’s count. A much larger amount — nearly $25 billion — was issued for ammunition or upgrades to ammunition plants to keep those firearms supplied. That last figure aligns with what most any veteran of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan could tell you — American troops have been involved in a dizzying number of gunfights since 2001, burning through mountains of ammunition along the way.
  • The data show large purchases of heavy-machine guns and barrels. This is a wink at the shift in many American units from being foot-mobile to vehicular, as grunts buttoned up within armored trucks and needed turret-mounted firepower to defend themselves — a matériel adaptation forced by ambushes and improvised bombs, the cheaply made weapons that wearied the most expensive military in the world.
  • a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s, commonly called rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless weapons, including the SPG-9. Each of these systems fires high-explosive (and often armor-piercing) projectiles, and each was commonly used by insurgents in attacks. After the opening weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was American or associated with allied and local government units, which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling. Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.
  • a portrait of the Pentagon’s bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other. While fighting two rapidly evolving wars, the American military tried to create and bolster new democracies, governments and political classes; recruit, train and equip security and intelligence forces on short schedule and at outsize scale; repair and secure transportation infrastructure; encourage the spread or restoration of the legal industry and public services; and leave behind something more palatable and sturdy than rule by thugs.
  • The procession of arms purchases and handouts has continued to this day, with others involved, including Iran to its allies in Iraq and various donors to Kurdish fighters. In March, Russia announced that it had given 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Afghanistan, already one of the most Kalashnikov-saturated places on earth. If an analysis from the United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, is to be believed, Afghanistan did not even need them. In 2014 the inspector general reported that after the United States decided to replace the Afghan Army’s Kalashnikovs with NATO-standard weapons (a boon for the rifles’ manufacturer with a much less obvious value for an already amply armed Afghan force), the Afghan Army ended up with a surplus of more than 83,000 Kalashnikovs. The United States never tried to recover the excess it had created, giving the inspector general’s office grounds for long-term worry. “Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons,” it noted, “Sigar is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to civilians.” Write A Comment
  • What to do? If past is precedent, given enough time one of the United States’ solutions will be, once again, to ship in more guns.
Ed Webb

Briton who advised US in Iraq tells how tactics changed after bloody insurgency | World... - 0 views

  • Odierno challenged his soldiers to "understand the causes of instability, to understand the 'why' not just describe the 'what'."It meant we would have to start dealing with people we had been fighting and for any commander that is a very difficult thing to do. We couldn't afford to say: 'We'll only deal with people as long as they haven't got blood on their hands.' We've all got blood on our hands."
  • "By July we started to feel things were changing. We heard it first from the battalions who described how more and more Iraqis were coming forward to give information about 'bad guys', and how insurgents were reaching out to do deals. There were ceasefires everywhere, local agreements, because more and more Iraqis were coming forward wanting to work with us. The intelligence we were getting improved, and the number of Iraqi casualties started to go down."
Ed Webb

The Syrian-Iraqi spat | Marc Lynch - 0 views

  • Why have Syria and Iraq veered from their best relations in many years to their worst crisis virtually overnight?
  • The most common regional politics argument is that Iran wanted to prevent Syria from reconciling with the U.S. and making peace with Israel, and thus pushed the Iraqi government to finger the Syrians (regardless of who was actually responsible).
  • A second, and not necessarily incompatible, hypothesis focuses on Maliki's domestic problems.
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  • Maliki has realized that the violence could bring down his government by exposing his inability to provide security without the U.S. Blaming a convenient target like Syria doesn't threaten any of his important domestic constituencies, deflects attention from any of his own failings, and conveniently sidesteps the need for any domestic political reforms.
  • a potentially very serious development, with possible spillover effects on a wide range of issues beyond the bilateral relationship. It could cast a serious cloud over the push for the resumption of Arab-Israeli peace negotiations -- or it could push Syria to get off the fence and play ball more aggressively with the U.S. and Israel. It could heighten Iraq's Arab isolation, confirming the widespread antipathy among Arab leaders towards Maliki's government and freezing whatever momentum might have existed towards rebuilding Arab ties with Iraq -- or, if resolved through stronger cooperation against insurgents crossing into Iraq, the crisis could create the basis for a stronger and sustainable Iraqi integration into the Arab region. And it could lead to heightened suspicion of the Iranian role -- or, if Iran's call for a meeting of Iraq's neighbors were taken up, become the vehicle for overcoming the regional cold war which Obama's efforts have so fitfully begun to thaw. It's worth American attention.
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    Competing hypotheses discussed - regional politics versus domestic politics, or some combination.
Kate Musgrave

Somali President Urges International Help to Fight Terrorism | Africa | English - 0 views

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    international community addressing terrorism, what qualifies as "terrorism" (note last para.), "homegrown" insurgency, Islamists, talk of stable central government and lack thereof.... sounds like class.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

Al-Qaida growing in strength and numbers in Africa - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
  • northern Mali
  • Born as an Algerian insurgency in the early 1990s, the group was largely defeated and driven into a swath of ungoverned desert land — about the size of France — in northern Mali. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the group reached out to al-Qaida in an effort to survive. AQIM was officially recognized as an al-Qaida affiliate by Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Both the U.S. and the European Union have designated AQIM a terrorist organization. The group has since absorbed some of al-Qaida's techniques for roadside bombs and suicide attacks. Occasionally it has issued videos and statements on jihadi Internet forums. In December 2007, for example, the group attacked the U.N.'s Algerian headquarters, killing 37 people, including 17 U.N. staff members. At the same time, AQIM has increased its recruiting efforts, drawing insurgents from Mauritania, Nigeria and Chad, officials said. The recruits are trained in small arms and roadside bomb construction, officials said, then return to their home countries to plan and execute attacks. The spike in recruiting and training, along with the increase in kidnappings and other crimes, has made the region more insecure and unstable in just a year, several officials said. The militants often partner with local criminals, who kidnap tourists then sell them to AQIM, which then demands ransoms, officials said. Those alliances cement contacts between the criminal groups and AQIM, broadening its reach and membership.
Jim Franklin

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Twin Baghdad blasts kill scores - 0 views

  • At least 132 people have been killed and 520 injured in two car bomb attacks in Baghdad, Iraqi officials say.
  • This is the deadliest attack in Iraq since August 2007 and comes three months after the US handed security control of cities to local forces.
  • Iraq then blamed foreign fighters and accused Syria of involvement, demanding a UN investigation.
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  • Overall, violence has dropped dramatically in Iraq compared to a year ago, but sporadic attacks still continue in several parts of the country.
  • finger of blame is likely to point to insurgents or foreign fighters trying to destabilise the security situation ahead of Iraqi elections in mid-January.
  • The Iraqi authorities said the attackers were suicide bombers.
  • The attacks have drawn comparison with those of 19 August, when truck bombs hit two ministry buildings and killed at least 100 people.
Ed Webb

More than Genocide - Boston Review - 0 views

  • Mass state violence against civilians is not a glitch in the international system; it is baked into statehood itself. The natural right of self-defense plays a foundational role in the self-conception of Western states in particular, the formation of which is inseparable from imperial expansion. Since the Spanish conquest of the Americas starting in the sixteenth century, settlers justified their reprisals against indigenous resistance as defensive “self-preservation.” If they felt their survival was imperiled, colonizers engaged in massive retaliation against “native” peoples, including noncombatants. The “doctrine of double effect” assured them that killing innocents was permissible as a side effect of carrying out a moral end, like self-defense.
  • By the nineteenth century, the Christianizing mission had been augmented by a civilizing one of the “savage” natives. More recently, this colonial ideology has manifested itself in the project of “bringing democracy to the Arab world,” with Israel designated as the “the only democracy in the Middle East,” the proverbial “villa in the jungle.”
  • Without imperial possessions and the lucrative trade in sugar and other commodities predicated on the Atlantic slave trade, European states would not have generated the surpluses necessary to pay for their military establishments and the bureaucratic apparatuses required to sustain them. And while European powers and settlers in their colonies did not set out to exterminate the peoples they conquered, they killed any who resisted, claiming that their hands were forced.
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  • civilian destruction tends to be greatest when security retaliation reaches the level of what I have called “permanent security”—extreme responses by states to security threats, enacted in the name of self-defense. Permanent security actions target entire civilian populations under the logic of ensuring that terrorists and insurgents can never again represent a threat. It is a project, in other words, that seeks to avert future threats by anticipating them today.
  • The historical record shows that, however terrible, violent anticolonial uprisings were invariably smashed with far greater violence than they unleashed. The violence of the “civilized” is far more effective than the violence of the “barbarians” and “savages.”
  • Throughout the five-hundred-year history of Western empires, the security of European colonizers has trumped the security and independence of the colonized.
  • Jabotinsky’s famous “Iron Wall” argument from 1923, in which the Revisionist Zionist leader argued that Palestinian resistance was understandable, inevitable—and anticolonial. Speaking of Palestinians, Jabotinsky wrote that “they feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine, as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico, and their Sioux for their rolling Prairies.” Because Palestinians could not be bought off with material promises, Jabotinsky wanted the British Mandate authorities to enable Zionist colonization until Jews, then a tiny minority of Palestine, reached a majority. “Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population,” he concluded. “Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population—behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.”
  • to ensure that Palestinian militants can never again attack Israel, its armed forces are subjecting two million Palestinians to serial war crimes and mass expulsion
  • If Western states support this solution for Israeli permanent security—as the United States appears to be with its budgeting of refugee support in neighboring countries under the guise of a “humanitarian” gesture—they will be continuing a venerable tradition. During, between, and after both twentieth-century world wars, large-scale population transfers and exchanges took place across the Eurasian continent to radically homogenize empires and nations. Millions of people fled or were expelled or transferred from Turkey, Greece, Austria, Italy, India, Palestine, Central and Eastern Europe. Progressive Europeans reasoned then that long-term peace would be secured if troublesome minorities were removed. This ideology—which the governments of Russia, China, Turkey, India, and Sri Lanka share today—maintains that indigenous and minority populations must submit to their subordination and, if they resist, face subjugation, deportation, or destruction. Antiterrorism operations that kill thousands of civilians are taken to be acceptable responses to terrorist operations that kill far fewer civilians
  • Indigenous and occupied peoples, then, are placed in an impossible position. If they resist with violence, they are violently put down. If they do not, states will overlook the lower-intensity but unrelenting violence to which they are subject
  • Hamas thus reasons that Palestinians have nothing to gain by conforming to a U.S.-led “rules-based international order” that has forgotten about them.
  • When state parties to the UNGC negotiated in 1947 and 1948, they distinguished genocidal intent from military necessity, so that states could wage the kind of wars that Russia and Israel are conducting today and avoid prosecution for genocide. The high legal standard stems from the restrictive UNGC definition of genocide, which was modeled on the Holocaust and requires that a perpetrator intend to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such” (the dolus specialis) in at least one of five prescribed ways (the actus reus). The words “as such” are widely regarded as imposing a stringent intent requirement: an act counts as genocide only if individuals are targeted solely by virtue of their group membership—like Jews during World War II—and not for strategic reasons like suppressing an insurgency.
  • Together, the United States and Russia have killed many millions of civilians in their respective imperial wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Chechnya; so have postcolonial states like Nigeria and Pakistan in fighting secessions. Genocide allegations were leveled in some of these cases in global campaigns like the one we see now, but none stuck, and they are largely forgotten in the annals of mass violence against civilian
  • Adding to the difficulty of establishing genocidal intent is the uncertainty in international humanitarian law about the legality of civilians killed “incidentally” in the course of attacking legitimate military targets. While the majority of international lawyers agree that civilian deaths are acceptable so long as they are not disproportionate in relation to the military advantage sought, others argue that bombing crowded marketplaces and hospitals regardless of military objective is necessarily indiscriminate and thus illegal.
  • They go far in excusing all Israeli conduct in the name of its legitimate self-defense; the US even seems to have demurred on whether the Geneva Conventions are applicable to Palestinian territories. It is thus unsurprising that they have not pressed the Israeli government to explain how cutting off water, food, and power to Gaza—a “war of starvation” as the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor put it—is a legitimate military tactic, one not covered by the UNGC, which declares one genocidal predicate act to be “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” But if so-called humanitarian pauses are occurring to allow in a little, if grossly inadequate, aid, and the “total siege” is lifted after the military defeat of Hamas (should it happen), it will be difficult to argue in a legal context that Israel’s strangling of Gaza was a genocidal act.
  • the “Dahiya Doctrine,” which, they argue, dictates “disproportionate attacks, including against *civilian* structures and infrastructure.” This is clearly illegal.
  • Excessive reprisals, we should recall, are a staple of colonial warfare and state consolidation
  • Since genocide is a synonym for the destruction of peoples, whether the killing and suppression of their culture is motivated by destruction “as such” or by deterrence, the experience is the same: a destructive attack on a people, and not just random civilians. But the UNGC does not reflect the victim’s perspective. It protects the perpetrators: states that seek permanent security.
  • Unless the conditions of permanent insecurity are confronted, permanent security aspirations and practices will haunt Palestinians and Israelis.
Ed Webb

Iraq war costs U.S. more than $2 trillion: study | Reuters - 0 views

  • The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, a study released on Thursday said
  • The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.
  • Excluded were indirect deaths caused by the mass exodus of doctors and a devastated infrastructure, for example, while the costs left out trillions of dollars in interest the United States could pay over the next 40 years.
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  • When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war's death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000
  • The report also examined the burden on U.S. veterans and their families, showing a deep social cost as well as an increase in spending on veterans. The 2011 study found U.S. medical and disability claims for veterans after a decade of war totaled $33 billion. Two years later, that number had risen to $134.7 billion
  • the United States gained little from the war while Iraq was traumatized by it
  • the $212 billion reconstruction effort was largely a failure with most of that money spent on security or lost to waste and fraud
Ed Webb

Welcome to the Syrian Jihad - By Marc Lynch | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • in today's Arab world, there is nothing particularly distinctive about his comments at all. For many months, Arab and Muslim figures of all stripes have been loudly calling for support to the predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels, as have many Arab governments (and the United States and its allies, of course). The Muslim Brotherhood's branches have strongly supported the Syrian opposition -- acquiring too much power along the way, in the minds of some. Egyptian Salafis have described providing arms and funds to the Syrian rebels as "a form of worship" and killing Assad as a religious obligation. As the killing and destruction has escalated, such support for Syria's rebels has rapidly morphed into extreme anti-Shiite and anti-Alawi rhetoric
  • In January 2007, for example, he tried to use his influence to rein in spiraling sectarian rage following the execution of Saddam Hussein. At that time, Qaradawi was only weeks past a controversial appearance at a Doha conference on Sunni-Shiite relations, in which he had made a number of controversial remarks viewed by many as overly provocative toward the Shiite. But at that crucial moment, Qaradawi invited former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani on al-Jazeera to push back against the rabid sectarianism then roiling the Middle East.
  • Qaradawi has long been described as among the most influential clerics in the Sunni world. A savvy political opportunist, he has long been one of the best barometers for the mood of a major swathe of the Arab mainstream, uncannily attuned to shifts in the political mood. He cleverly triangulated Arab politics, adopting populist positions on foreign policy while pushing for democratic reforms across the region and advancing a "centrist" Islamist ideology. In recent years, the Egyptian-born cleric has strongly supported most of the Arab uprisings, including a controversial late February 2011 appeal to Libya's army to kill Muammar al-Qaddafi.  In Egypt, he was welcomed the Friday following Mubarak's fall to lead prayer and deliver a pro-revolutionary speech in Tahrir. But he disappointed many observers by describing Bahrain's uprising as "sectarian," in line with the Arab Gulf country's collective stance intended to delegitimize it.
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  • Team Saudi is now celebrating Qaradawi's capitulation to their own anti-Hezbollah, anti-Shiite prejudices. No words could have been sweeter to Qaradawi's Saudi critics than his recent reversal on Hezbollah: "I defended the so-called Nasrallah and his party, the party of tyranny... in front of clerics in Saudi Arabia. It seems that the clerics of Saudi Arabia were more mature than me."
  • Qaradawi's alignment with the Saudi position has less to do with his theology or his personal views on the Shiites than with his calculation of regional political trends
  • His core doctrine of wasatiyya was always better understood as "centrism" than as "moderation" (whatever that might mean)
  • like it or not, his broad themes -- such as support for "resistance" from Palestine to Iraq, criticism of al Qaeda, calls for democracy, denunciations of most Arab regimes, and conservative social values -- generally seemed to reflect mainstream Arab political views.
  • Like al-Jazeera, Qaradawi's stances now seem to more closely follow Qatari foreign policy, and his influence has waned along with his host station and Qatar itself, which has experienced a regional backlash
  • Qaradawi now finds himself speaking to a narrower, more partisan audience. What does it say about his influence that his preferred candidate in Egypt's presidential election, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader and Islamist reformist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, won less than 20 percent of the vote?
  • Qaradawi can no longer claim to speak to a broadly unified Arab public because such a creature no longer exists
  • The proliferation of media outlets and assertive new voices that define the new Arab public sphere tend to undermine any efforts to claim the center ground
  • Qaradawi has opted to join the bandwagon rather than try to pull Sunni-Shiite relations back toward coexistence. He clearly calculates that anti-Shiite sectarianism in support of the Syrian insurgency is both strategically useful and a political winner.  And those in the Gulf and in the West eager for any opportunity to hurt Iran seem happy to go along
Ed Webb

10 new wars that could be unleashed as a result of the one against ISIS - The Washingto... - 1 views

  • the U.S. strategy for defeating the Islamic State relies on a variety of regional allies and local armed groups who are often bitterly at odds. Though all of them regard the Islamic State as an enemy, most of them regard one another as enemies, too. As they conquer territory from the militants, they are staking out claims to the captured lands in ways that risk bringing them into conflict with others who are also seizing territory. New wars are brewing, for control of the post-Islamic State order.
  • WAR NO. 1: U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces and Turkish-backed Arab forces This is one of the wars that have already started, and it is also one of the more complicated ones.
  • when Turkey intervened in Syria two weeks ago to help Syrian rebels capture Islamic State territory, it was clear that the Kurds were as much of a target as the Islamic State
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  • WAR NO. 2: Turkey and the Syrian Kurds This war would be similar to war No. 1, but bigger
  • WAR NO. 3: Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government The Syrian government also feels threatened by the territorial ambitions of the Kurds. Until recently, they had maintained an uneasy alliance, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad boasted on a number of occasions that his government provides the Kurds with arms. But the relationship has soured since the autonomy declaration by the Kurds, and the two sides have fought brief battles in areas where they both have forces.
  • WAR NO. 4: The United States and Syria This is a war that could have erupted on any number of occasions in the five years since President Obama called for the ouster of Assad.
  • WAR NO. 5: Turkey and Syria The Turkish intervention in Syria has for now been confined to fighting the Islamic State and Kurdish forces. Turkey has also taken steps to mend fences with both Russia and Iran, Assad’s most important allies, who appear to have given a green light to Turkey’s intervention in northern Syria. If Turkey’s fight against the Islamic State goes well, however, the Turkish forces will soon find themselves up against Syrian government front lines around the contested city of Aleppo. That could get messy.
  • WAR NO. 8: Kurds against Kurds
  • Iraqi Kurds moved into areas of Iraq that were once under Iraqi government control. The U.S.-backed Iraqi government says it intends to reclaim these areas once the Islamic State has been fully vanquished. The U.S.-backed Kurds have said they won’t let go of any territory Kurds have shed blood to conquer.
  • WAR NO. 7: Iraqi Kurds and Shiite militias This would take place for reasons similar to war No. 6, except that it has already started to simmer.
  • WAR NO. 6: Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government
  • WAR NO. 9: Sunni Arabs against Shiites and/or Kurds In pursuit of the goal of defeating the Islamic State, towns and villages that are predominantly Sunni are being conquered by forces that are mostly Kurdish or Shiite. Many Sunnis are teaming up with them to help defeat the militants. Many are overwhelmingly relieved when their oppressors are driven out.
  • In the absence of genuine reconciliation, including political solutions that empower Sunnis, a new form of Sunni insurgency could emerge.
  • WAR NO. 10: The remnants of the Islamic State against everyone
Ed Webb

For Putin, Principle vs. Practicality on Syria - www.nytimes.com - Readability - 0 views

  • It is impossible to fully disentangle these reactions from what has been going on inside Russia over the last year, as a decade-long contract between Mr. Putin and his citizens began to fray. Though there is little comparison on the ground between the Arab uprisings and Russia’s unrest — the Russian opposition movement remains small, Moscow-centered and moderate in its tactics — the sudden change has left the government wary of legitimizing any popular dissent. State-controlled news media paint a bleak picture of Arab countries that have seen uprisings, and Russian diplomats have approached new authorities in the Arab world slowly and awkwardly. Meanwhile, Russian leaders fear that rising Islamism in the Arab world will breathe new life into the armed insurgency in the northern Caucasus, which is mostly Sunni.
  • Syria4 has provided Russia with an opportunity to say no — to Western intervention and to the specter of revolution
  • As the body count rises, one of Moscow’s real concerns may be the hardening of Arab public opinion against Russia, said a senior Arab diplomat
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  • Russia’s officials have been forced to accept that “unlike the last four decades, now the Arab street has a voice,”
Ed Webb

Libyans march against militias after attack - 0 views

  • Some 30,000 people filled a broad boulevard as they marched along a lake in central Benghazi on Friday to the gates of the headquarters of Ansar al-Shariah. "No, no, to militias," the crowd chanted, filling a broad boulevard. They carried banners and signs demanding that militias disband and that the government build up police to take their place in keeping security.
  • Residents of another main eastern city, Darna, have also begun to stand up against Ansar al-Shariah and other militias. The anti-militia fervor in Darna is notable because the city, in the mountains along the Mediterranean coast north of Benghazi, has long had a reputation as a stronghold for Islamic extremists. During the Gadhafi era, it was the hotbed of a deadly Islamist insurgency against his regime. A significant number of the Libyan jihadists who travelled to Afghanistan and Iraq during recent wars came from Darna. During the revolt against him last year, Gadhafi's regime warned that Darna would declare itself an Islamic Emirate and ally itself with al-Qaida. But now, the residents are lashing out against Ansar al-Shariah, the main Islamic extremist group in the city. "The killing of the ambassador blew up the situation. It was disastrous," said Ayoub al-Shedwi, a young bearded Muslim preacher in Darna who says he has received multiple death threats because has spoken out against militias on a radio show he hosts. "We felt that the revolution is going in vain."
  • Tribal leaders in Benghazi and Darna announced this week that members of their tribes who are militiamen will no longer have their protection in the face of anti-militia protests. That means the tribe will not avenge them if they are killed.
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  • Militiamen have been blamed for a range of violence in Darna. On the same day Stevens killed in Benghazi, a number of elderly Catholic nuns and a priest who have lived in Darna for decades providing free medical services, were attacked, reportedly beaten or stabbed. There have been 32 killings over the past few months, including the city security chief and assassinations of former officers from Gadhafi's military.
  • "We don't want the flag of al-Qaida raised over heads," he added, referring to Ansar al-Shariah's black banner.
  • "We will talk to them peacefully. We will tell them you are from us and you fought for us" during the civil war against Gadahfi. But "if you say no (to integrating into the) police and army, we will storm your place. It's over."
Ed Webb

New Saudi-supplied missiles boost rebels in south Syria | Reuters - 0 views

  • Rebels in southern Syria have fired newly acquired anti-tank guided missiles supplied by Saudi Arabia in a significant boost to their battle against President Bashar al-Assad, rebel, intelligence and diplomatic sources say.
  • The Saudi-financed missile shipments arrived in the last few weeks through Jordan after months of quiet Saudi pressure to prod Amman to open a supply route.Jordanian officials privately say they are caught between appeasing the Saudis and the danger of reprisals by Assad, who earlier this year warned Amman it "would be playing with fire" if it supported rebels.
  • Rebels in Deraa, the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Assad, have long complained that unlike their comrades in the north, they have been choked of significant arms, with both the West and Jordan wary of arming insurgents so close to Israel.
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  • Middle Eastern security, rebel and diplomatic sources cite the hands-on role of Prince Salman bin Sultan, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah and senior security official. Salman heads an operations room in Amman with allies, regularly meeting and instructing top Syrian operatives.
  • Saudi Arabia's drive to arm rebels with advanced weapons and break the stalemate on the ground was prompted by fear of a Jihadist enclave emerging unless more effective aid was given to bolster the moderate armed opposition who so far still dominate in southern Syria.Riyadh's deeper concern stems from the impact an al Qaeda enclave just 100 km (60 miles) from its own border with Jordan could have on thousands of young disaffected Saudis, according to a Western intelligence operative who monitors Syria.
Ed Webb

New Islamist Bloc Declares Opposition to National Coalition and US Strategy - Syria Com... - 0 views

  • Abdelaziz Salame, the highest political leader of the Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo, has issued a statement online where he claims to speak for 13 different rebel factions. You can see the video or read it in Arabic here. The statement is titled “communiqué number one” – making it slightly ominous right off the bat – and what it purports to do is to gut Western strategy on Syria and put an end to the exiled opposition.
  • All military and civilian forces should unify their ranks in an “Islamic framwork” which is based on “the rule of sharia and making it the sole source of legislation”. The undersigned feel that they can only be represented by those who lived and sacrificed for the revolution. Therefore, they say, they are not represented by the exile groups. They go on to specify that this applies to the National Coalition and the planned exile government of Ahmed Touma, stressing that these groups “do not represent them” and they “do not recognize them”. In closing, the undersigned call on everyone to unite and avoid conflict, and so on, and so on.
  • if the statement proves to accurately represent the groups mentioned and they do not immediately fall apart again, it is a very big deal. It represents the rebellion of a large part of the “mainstream FSA” against its purported political leadership, and openly aligns these factions with more hardline Islamist forces.
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  • The alleged signatories make up a major part of the northern rebel force, plus big chunks also of the Homs and Damascus rebel scene, as well as a bit of it elsewhere. Some of them are among the biggest armed groups in the country, and I’m thinking now mostly of numbers one through five. All together, they control at least a few tens of thousand fighters, and if you trust their own estimates (don’t) it must be way above 50,000 fighters.
  • all of these groups now formally state that they do not recognize the opposition leadership that has been molded and promoted by the USA, Turkey, France, Great Britain, other EU countries, Qatar, and – especially, as of late – Saudi Arabia
  • Bottom line, they were all Islamist anyway. And, of course, they can still mean different things when they talk about sharia.
  • Dozens or hundreds of small and local groups are missing from this alliance, just like they’ve been missing from every other alliance before it. Some really big groups are also not in there, like the Farouq Battalions or the Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigades, both of them quite closely aligned with the SMC and the National Coalition.
  • Most notably, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham – Syria’s most querulous al-Qaida faction – is absent from the list. Given the recent surge in tension between the Islamic State and other factions, that seems significant. Does it mean the new coalition is in fact aimed at isolating the Islamic State, while also upping its own Islamist credentials? Striking a kind of third way between the Western-backed SMC and its al-Qaida rival? Maybe. The question then remains, what should we make of Jabhat al-Nosra being included, which is also an al-Qaida group.
  • the Northern Storm Brigade – which was routed by the Islamic State in its home town of Aazaz just recently – has quickly expressed support for the new coalition. In a statement posted online, they fell over themselves to explain how they’ve always been all about implementing sharia law. This is of course, how shall I put it, not true. The Northern Storm Brigade leaders are, or so the story goes, a bunch of ex-smugglers from Aazaz, with no particularly clear ideological agenda. They’ve allied with the West to the point of hosting John McCain for a photo op – and as we know, he waltzed out of that meeting firmly convinced that the rebels are all proponents of secular democracy. No: the reason that the Northern Storm Brigade has suddenly gone all Islamist is that they desperately seek protection from Tawhid, after being beaten up by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Perhaps they also figure that this alliance might be the only thing big and mean enough to actually crush the Islamic State. Size, money and momentum are the things to look for in Syrian insurgent politics – ideology comes fourth, if even that.
  • There’s always good reason to be cautious about Syria’s notoriously unstable opposition politics. Things like these will shift quicker than you can say يسقط بشار. The wind could easily turn again, signatory groups could drop out, foreign funders could put the squeeze on groups that have not grasped the magnitude of what they just said.
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