Month: July 2014

Reviving the Syrian revolution, Defusing the Middle East

By Ethan Abbott – @eth_abbott
Roy Murray Contributed to this article 

Prior to the beginning of the crisis in Syria, in January 2011, Assad gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal. During this interview, he described the events that were unfolding in the Arab World at the time as a “new era” in the Middle East that would force Arab rulers to accommodate their people’s rising political and economic aspirations. Mr. Assad talked in length about desperation in Arab societies. Yet he did not make the slightest mention of the “conspiracy” that was brewing against them. Soon, it was February 2011, and protests erupted in central Damascus after a policeman was caught beating a citizen. Over two thousand Damascenes chanted: “The Syrian people cannot be humiliated”. They refrained from mentioning the regime or the president at that time. Pronto, the Interior Minister at that time appeared amongst the crowds and promised to punish the policeman responsible; he sweet-talked the Damascenes, quickly deflating the tension.

Not long after that, protests erupted in Daraa after reports emerged that the intelligence services (“mukhabarat”) had arrested children accused of writing anti-regime graffiti. In the aftermath, officials did not follow the same technique as their counterparts in Damascus. Rather, the Intelligence head decided to intimidate the locals who appealed to him. Discontent grew into unrest, and the events started to spiral out of control. Assad needed to intervene by the end of March 2011 – The scale of the tensions was such that only the President himself was able to deflate them. Assad made (more…)

Can the Islamic State Survive? What Can the US Do?

By Matthias Baun Brubaker Christensen – @matthias1981
Originally published on Syria Comment on July 22nd, 2014

Islamic state: a lion and a fox?

The Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham) emerged out of the ashes of two conflicts. It was born as a result of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then used the power vacuum created by the civil war in Syria to create a base out of which it could create the foundations for an emerging state. However, how likely are they to succeed in their goal of establishing a functioning state? In answering this question, it is crucial to understand their strategy: do they only operate based on ideological fervor, or does their strategy contain elements of realism? Machiavelli taught us that a successful prince should learn to be both a fox and a lion, does IS have the ability to act as both?

Machiavelli’s recommendations for Princes

The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Machiavelli, The Prince.

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“Neo-Terrorism”: The mutation of Al-Qaeda into the Islamic State

By Roy Murray @sykes_picot
Elijah J Magnier @Ejmalrai, AL RAI Chief International Correspondent, contributed to this report.

One of the suboptimal habits of humans is to compare different things, expect them to behave similarly, and treat them the way we are ‘used to’. So, when the “Islamic State” (IS) debacle began, the world’s intelligences agencies did what they were used to – tracking jihadists back home. Since Al-Qaeda attacked the western home front, IS must have similar ambitions. They attempted to identify the jihadists, tracked their footsteps to the conflict, then they waited back home, ready to pounce on them with decades of counter terrorism experience. The hysteria grew, with ever more resources ploughed into it, augmented by vast media accounts of the threat the “Islamic State” (IS) of Sheikh Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi poses to our ‘home front’.

It became a dangerous addiction which distracted us from the real “neo-terrorism” threat. By tracking Baghdadi’s returning jihadists, the west is effectively acting as his military police, locking up his deserters – after all, jihad is a lifelong adventure. He couldn’t care less.  In fact, our actions morphed into a powerful propaganda tool for the ‘terrorist extraordinaire’ –   feeding his propaganda narrative that Muslims were being oppressed around the world, and must rise up against their “tyrants” and establish a great Islamic State. Focusing on the home front, The West left him alone in the Middle East, free to stir chaos, establish, and expand his ‘Caliphate’. With just 10,000 of his Jihadists and other allies, (more…)