August 28, 2012

Insomnia's Notes to Self. #1 Syria-Iran

Many thoughts racing through my mind at this very late hour of night, very early hour of morning. For me it's still night...shrouded in Darkness. My thoughts race, like laser beams, I need to make sense of events. I have to make sense of events. I have to, it's imperative.

I will consecrate this post to several Notes to Self, that I shall share out loud on this blog, I need to jot down everything. It does not matter if it does not make sense to you, it will eventually. Hence this post will be regularly updated with my own notes - hopefully all the pieces of the puzzle will fit in the end, as am sure they will.


Just read a very important piece from the Wall Street Journal. Iran officially acknowledges that it will be sending Iranian Revolutionary Guards, plus hundreds of foot soldiers, as well as "civilian" Basijis to reinforce the Assad regime  i.e to fight along his side.

Now, this is in itself is not news to me. Everyone knows that Iranian operatives are fighting in Syria, including Hezbollah men, and of course Iraqi Shiite Militias notably Muqtada Al-Sadr Jaysh Al-Mahdi men.

What is interesting in this piece though, is the other information... You can read it here in its entirety.
I, for my part, will retain certain keys sentences and will build on them as I go along..

I mentioned in one of my posts on Syria that it is in the interest of Iran to have a continuous "civil" war there, provided it has the upper hand. It is not only out of love for Bashar Al-Assad's person, Iran will drop Bashar Al-Assad like a used tissue the minute it can work out someone else that will serve its interests in Syria - in agreement with the Americans, the EU and Russia. However, meanwhile the balance of power in the region is still in favor of Iran, the stalling by the International community and by the US and EU is a good indicator of that Iranian leverage.

I have been following the Syrian crisis closely and even though I don't comment on it often, I have kept my observations strictly to myself. I have noticed a very distinct pattern in the unfolding of the conflict.

The surrounding cities of the capital Damascus are being gradually emptied (see the huge Syrian refugee exodus, 32'000 just this week alone and according to latest rough figures by the UNHCR a total of 200'000 refugees +  since the beginning of the conflict).

The areas in the closest vicinity of Damascus center (apart from Al-Midan) are still relatively intact. In other words the fighting is being kept on the outskirts. I am going to rephrase that - the cleansing is so far being kept at the outskirt of the center of the capital. So far, am presuming that the Assad regime is still counting on its supporters who happen to be mainly in the capital and in certain predominantly Alawite regions like Latakia and Tartous. His supporters are not only Alawites though they do form the bulk, but Christians and Sunnis as well. (we can't deny that fact).

From the way Iran and its militias operate, they first hit (cleanse) the areas outside the capital, or what they consider to be the "weakest links", then move on to the capital if they feel the regime has weakened enough to be overthrown or collapses. It is a classical military tactic but in the case of Syria it serves a two fold purpose. As long as Syria is in a state of civil war and the regime has not collapsed in favor of the opposition, Iran will retain the upper hand.

Hence a continuous state of sectarian war waged upon the Syrians is beneficial to Iran, as it also forces the other countries concerned (namely Turkey - a direct regional competitor to Iran) into a position of defense. Defensive means there's an Offensive by proxy. The proxy being Syria.

So getting back to the article I mentioned above and I shall be quoting from it at great length. Iran to send men, arms and cash in an effort to bolster the Assad regime. According to one commander of the IRGC

--  " Today we are involved in fighting every aspect of a war, a military one in Syria and a cultural one as well," Gen. Salar Abnoush, commander of IRGC's Saheb al-Amr unit, told Iranian volunteer trainees...

--  "As the Arab Spring unfolded in countries including Libya, Egypt and Bahrain, the Islamic Republic cast its own revolution as an inspiration for the uprisings. But Tehran didn't support the protesters in Syria—its closest ally in the region"  

-- "One of Iran's wings will be broken if Assad falls. They are now using all their contacts from Iraq to Lebanon to keep him power"

-- "Syria is managing this situation very well on its own,"... but if the government can't resolve the crisis on its own, then based on their request we will fulfill our mutual defense-security pact."

-- "Syria's crisis tops the agenda at the summit of Non-Aligned Movement nations this week in Tehran. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Thursday that Iran would announce a surprise peace plan for Syria during the five-day conference, which started Sunday."

-- "Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word in all state matters, has appointed Qasim Solaimani, the commander of the elite Quds Forces, to spearhead military cooperation with Mr. Assad and his forces, according to an IRGC member in Tehran with knowledge about deployments to Syria."

-- "Solaimani has convinced Mr. Khamenei that Iran's borders extend beyond geographic frontiers, and fighting for Syria is an integral part of keeping the Shiite Crescent intact," said the IRGC member in Tehran. The so-called Crescent, which came together after Saddam Hussein's fall, includes Shiites from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. (note : Syria is majority Sunni)

-- "Iran is now sending hundreds of rank-and-file members of the IRGC and the basij—a plainclothes volunteer militia answering to the guards—to Damascus, said two people in the IRGC familiar with the movements.
Many of the Iranian troops hail from IRGC units outside Tehran, these people say, particularly from Iran's Azerbaijan and Kurdistan regions where they have experience dealing with ethnic separatist movements "

--" Iran has also started moving military aid and cash to Syria through Iranian companies in Iraq, such as a construction company owned by a former IRGC member now living in Iraq and a tour company servicing pilgrims to holy Shiite sites "

From the few statements made by the Iranian officials tied to the regime several aspects come out very clearly.
- it is a military war in the region by proxy - of course "anti imperialists" will jump and say it is an imperialist war against Iran through Syria. Not so. Wait and read the rest...

- it is a sectarian war waged upon the majority Sunnis of Syria by an Alawite sect derived from Shiism (even if a portion of Sunnis still support Assad)  - hence reference to the "Shia Crescent"

- it is a cultural war as Soleimani rightly said - cultural as in Shiite versus Sunnis but  also as in Persians versus Arabs (trace historical roots - will be tackled in another post)

- as for the "anti-imperialists" I will ask them to re-read the part of how the Iranian arms and cash are flowing through US occupied Iraq to Syria.

Will continue Insha'Allah with more Insomnia's thoughts...

August 16, 2012

A Glimpse into Shi'ite Sectarianism - Iraq & Beyond.

The message of Islam is first and foremost a message of Unicity of the Creator and by correlation Unity of the Creation. In that particular context, the unity of the believers and that of Muslims specifically.
Yet, this unity in Faith is far from being present. The Shia-Sunni Fitna or divide is more than just a thorn in the body of Islam, it is actually a poisoned dagger that pits one brother against the other, and stabs in the back when one is unguarded. Such is the state of the Muslim Umma.

Who started it, when did it start, why did it start ? It is a long story, and I can't in the limited space of this post go into all the historical details, into incidents that took place 1'400 years ago, political incidents to be more precise.

I say political because they were political in nature. Centuries later, they re-surfaced with greater brutality, with greater vindictiveness, taking on the form of political treason and betrayal, the form of organized and systematic ethnic and sectarian cleansing, the form of witch hunts,  imprisonment, torture,  mass arrests, killings, the form of exile, of discrimination  - in short the form of Oppression against non-Shias, and Sunnis in particular. And nothing is more hated in the sight of God, than Oppression.

You must have guessed by now where all of this took and is taking place  -- Iraq of course, where else ?!

The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 carried a specific sectarian agenda, for that agenda to be executed, the Americans heavily relied on, alas, the Shias of Iraq.(some not all - but a good some nonetheless) 

Why the Shias in particular ? Again, a little reading of contemporary history is necessary.

 The Iranian revolution , the Khomeinist revolution to put it more aptly, was not an Islamic revolution per se, but a Shiite revival. The centers of Shiite learning in Najaf and Kerbala in Iraq, were ideologically taken over by the Iranian clergy. This compounded with the Iran-Iraq war plus the first Gulf war, made it that the Shias of Iraq, for the most part, had/have their spiritual/religious guidance from Qum and hence their political loyalties to Tehran. 

One can't understand this facet of Shi'ism unless one understands the primordial role the Shi'ite clergy (including the Ayatollahs) play in mobilizing these allegiances. To make it simpler for the reader, an appropriate analogy would be practicing Catholics and the role of the Pope and Vatican. Except in the case of the Shias of Iraq, the political and the religious are intimately intertwined.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon a blog post written by an Iraqi fellow, who in his own way, addressed the issues I briefly mentioned here, and gave a brief but succinct summary of the historical roots of Shi'ite sectarianism adding his own observations drawn from both personal and other people's experiences mainly in the Iraqi military. By so doing, he dispels a good deal of the fabricated myths that both Americans and Iraqi Shias concocted together regarding the "ruthless oppression" of their sect. 

I shan't say more on the subject and  I greatly encourage you to take the time and read his blog post entitled "The Double Face of Shi'ite Sectarianism" 

August 9, 2012

The Caliph Omar - A recommendation.

This post is a message and an invitation to watch the historical Ramadan series, aired on Arabic TVs all over and which deal with the advent of Islam in 7th century Arabia, and recounts the story of one of the Caliphs - Omar (may God be pleased with him)

The detailed historical research that has gone into making these episodes is priceless.

It starts off BEFORE the advent of the Islamic message as revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace & Blessings be upon him) and covers the Meccan and Hijra (exile /exodus) period to Medina until the prophet's death and after.

 It gives excellent background information on pre-Islamic 7th century Arabia ; on the customs, traditions, belief system, tribal and clan system of the early Arabs...and the rest...

I can't recommend it enough and am pleased to say that MBC the producer of this series have actually subtitled the early episodes into English and will do so for the remaining ones. This is a must for non Arabic speakers interested in Islam and good for the lazy ones who can't be bothered to read about the advent of Islam yet still hold opinions about it.

You can watch them HERE  with the English subtitles. Please bookmark this page and check for future subtitled episodes.