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28 March 2013


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William R. Cumming

How much of MENA is now occupied by followers of the Salafi Sect of Islam? Approximately of course!

Could you summarize the tenets of Salafi Islam?

No Rush! Point me elsewhere if necessary!



Salafism is a tendency, not a sect. Somebody else can estimate density for you. pl

William R. Cumming

Thanks PL!


This article makes an argument that Syria won't go Islamlist after the foreign Jihadis leave. Since the reason the rebellion is occurring is the unhappiness of the impoverished Sunni majority (approx 50% of Syrians live in dire poverty). Factor in that 50% of the population (composed of Alawite, Shia, Christians, Sunni) live between Aleppo and Damascus. How likely is it the article's scenario will play out?:

"If, on the other hand, the Assad regime falls quickly and is replaced by a legitimate government that receives substantial foreign assistance during the transition and reconstruction period, I would expect two important developments to occur: Syria’s traditional secular nationalism and cosmopolitanism will reaffirm themselves, and this will reduce the influence of those Islamists whose sudden prominence – Presto! Meet the Nusra Front! – is due to their military actions.

The truly fascinating and relevant point across the region these days, especially in North Africa, is not the rise of Islamists, but rather their incompetence and decline in the face of their being held accountable politically by their own people. Syria will follow suit in due course."

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Columnist/2013/Mar-27/211551-no-islamists-will-not-dominate-in-syria.ashx#ixzz2OsFGgrbs
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)



I know Rami Khouri and have no respect whatever for his opinion on this or anything else. He also thought that secularist liberals would dominate Egypt. pl


Some excellent reporting on syria in TIME magazine http://world.time.com/2013/03/26/in-syria-the-rebels-have-begun-to-fight-among-themselves/#ixzz2Ohn4LpYR
The article leads with the conflict between the salafist and the (?) other-than-salafist armed rebel groups - with the attempted assassination of "the commander of the rebel Farouq Brigades" by the salafist Jabhat al-Nusra.
TIME recently had an excellent piece on healthcare. The combination of the two led a friend to wonder if Time has a new editor.


Thanks. Those two paragraphs I quoted do have kind of a neocon vibe, don't they?


In the Army they called it the Reverse Midas: Where everything someone touches turns to shit. Seems we have a major case of it in the Imperial City and with the various policy wonks.

David Habakkuk


Some delusions are recurrent. In 1917, many people in London and Washington thought that the collapse of the Tsarist regime would pave the way for the triumph of moderate liberals.

An interesting piece published in February last year ago by Paul Robinson of the University of Ottowa recalled the realistic analysis of Russian political realities given by one of the last great statesmen of Imperial Russia, Pyotr Stolypin, at the time he was instrumental in the savage suppression of the revolution of 1905-7.

(See http://cips.uottawa.ca/stolypin-and-russias-veto-of-the-syria-resolution/ )

The piece is also interesting, in that it brings out the relationship between the Russian experience of revolutions, and the country’s current policy towards Syria. It may well be, ironically, that it is precisely the grandchildren – and great-grandchildren – of Russian revolutionaries who can most easily appreciate how easy it is to assume that getting rid of a savagely oppressive regime must bring something better – and how prone such hopes are to disappointment.

Interestingly, Professor Robinson is a former officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps, where he served in 1989-94, between doing an undergraduate degree at Oxford and further degrees at Toronto and Oxford.

Clifford Kiracofe

So what would be some consequences, internal and external, of an Islamist takeover of Syria? What would be some realistic scenarios? Would war against Iran be more likely with this part of the road "smoothed"?



Except that Hizbullah's supply and training situation would be complicated I don't think the rise of a Sunni Islamist government in Syria would make much difference for the Iranians. they would remain the same daunting potential rival for Israel that they are now. The notion that thre fall of the Baath government in Syria would result in revolt in Iran is laughable. Lebanon would be profoundly destabilized and the prospect of a renewal of civil war would be severe. pl

Babak Makkinejad

I think you are attributing too benign a motivation to the Western supporters of the anti-government forces in Syria.

Of course no body expects a better government in Syria - certainly not the US, UK, France.

The aim is to wound Iran at any cost - Syria and Syrian people be damned.

Babak Makkinejad

I think it more prudent to consider the alternative: like Franco, Assad prevails and suppresses the rebellion.

Then what?

Certainly Turkey will be blocked from the Levant for a generation or more, Iranians and their allies will be emboldened, and Axis Of Resistance will be seen as a force to be recokened with.

The leaders of US, Arab states, UK, France and others evidently thought that Syria was a chicken ready for its neck to be wrung.

Some chicken.

Some neck.

Neil Richardson

Dear Tyler:

"In the Army they called it the Reverse Midas: Where everything someone touches turns to shit. Seems we have a major case of it in the Imperial City and with the various policy wonks."

And these people (both the neocons and liberal interventionists) double down even when their predictions turn out all wrong. And when the United States either grows too tired of the mess they've created or runs out of money, it's FIDO.

Clifford Kiracofe


Thanks for the insight. Thus, the two key things we really need to watch carefully are the Lebanon situation and possibility of renewed civil war in Syria.

As to the first, I noticed reports that the US Ambassador has been putting all manner of pressure on the Labanese government over the past several months and it seems she promoted the abrupt resignation of the PM to force a new political situation in line with US regional strategy. So right now things appear already to be more tense and less stable in Lebanon.

This present situation seems to set the stage for what you indicate as a possibility for Lebanon. What might a not so good or even worse case look like for Lebanon given the possibility of the demise of the Assad regime?

I noted that Francis has reached out very dramatically to the Orthodox. Are there any possibilties for some joint efforts in the current ME catastrophe in which Christian communities are being decimated? It seems to me this is urgently needed. best, Cliff



I would like to believe as Babak does that Assad's government will prevail, but I doubt it. the unending support of these Sunni fanatics is wearing the Syrian forces down. I meant a renewal of civil war in Lebanon. the Shia and their Christian allies will not easily be put in cages again. The current civil war in Syria will continue until government forces collapse. then there will be a real base for jihadi adventures across the world. BTW, Rami Khouri is just another Arab "intellectual" who lives in his own dreams. pl

William Fitzgerald

I think that the short term consequence would be chaos and unrest in Syria spreading to Lebanon. This would free up Syrian and Lebanese air space for the Israeli Air Force. If it can be assumed that Saudi, Turkish and Kuwaiti air space would also be quietly available, then wouldn't this meet Israeli requirements for an air war against Iran?


Clifford Kiracofe


Thanks again. Yes, the Shia and Christian allies will be very determined and rightly so. The US Embassy is doing everything it can against them, according to recent reports. Longstanding US policy is to place the Saudis in charge of Lebanon.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

I was not meaning to attribute any motivation to the Western supporters of the anti-government forces in Syria, and certainly not to take their humanitarian professions at face value. Broadly speaking, I think you are right – the driving force behind American and British policy in Syria is an obsessive desire to undermine Iran.

My point is simply that one should not undermine the role of ideological blinkers in distorting people’s perceptions – alike among people in Western countries, and among certain kinds of Westernised intellectual in non-Western ones: Rami Khouri I think being a case in point.

One result of this is that hope springs eternal that somehow regimes that people in Washington and London dislike can be eliminated by ‘regime change’, which will bring to power pro-Western liberals.

So the Obama Administration has chosen, as its Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who has described himself as a ‘specialist on democracy, anti-dictator movements, revolutions.’ He stares out of the picture in the Wikipedia entry, with the fixed grin of a congenital idiot. The hope that somehow Vladimir Putin will vanish in a puff of smoke, and pro-Western liberals be voted into power, dies very hard – even though the Russians whom people like McFaul like cannot get anyone to vote for them.

Likewise, American and British policy towards Iran is clearly underpinned by the hope that sufficient pressure will produce a more compliant regime, so the response to the failure of coercive diplomacy is always to escalate the coercion, rather than do the sensible thing and look for a modus vivendi.

If incidentally you want to suggest that the criterion of who is a ‘liberal’ or ‘democrat’ is frequently whether or not they do what people in Washington or London want, I do not think I would disagree with you. But that is a pathology common among those who believe they are the possessors of universal truth.

As to Syria, a critical point is that it has been demonstrated that people in Washington and London cannot deal with Sunni jihadists. The actual threat they pose, ironically, does not lie primarily in their capacity to inflict concrete damage on Western societies. It lies in the way that our propensity to panic makes us grossly exaggerate a serious but hardly existential threat, with the result that we have responded to it, and promise to continue to respond to it, in grossly self-destructive ways.

Particularly given this state of affairs, it is simple lunacy to allow an obsession with Iran to pursue of action which may well result in Syria becoming a jihadist base. And the fact that this is done is at least partly because people in Washington and London – encouraged by the likes of Rami Khouri – manage to persuade themselves that the most probable outcome of their actions can somehow be avoided.

Babak Makkinejad

That was nver an impediment to Israelis.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments with much of which I agree.

I would like to observe one thing:

In the light of current events in Syria, the 2011 events in Libya, and likewise the 2003 events in Iraq - I am led to conclude that only further nuclear proliferation in the ofrm of nuclear-armed states can maintain peace in this world.

Babak Makkinejad

May that day - of fatigue or bankruptcy - come soon.


William R. Cumming

ALL! But in particular Babak and David H. attentione!

I try to follow PL's thought process closely and sometimes fail to get his underlying sense of a situation. But hopefully not often.

But in the case of Syria I would argue that rather than a reasoned approach the US leadership has no really good idea of why we are messing around in Syria and until someone who should know, does know, and does articulate exactly why the US supports the ASSAD overthrow then I remain convinced that the big happy dog with wagging tail is roaming free in the china shop without supervision.

If I am wrong explain exactly why please and who has made sensible arguments for the US role and is on the payroll of the US taxpayer.



"I try to follow PL's thought process closely and sometimes fail to get his underlying sense of a situation. But hopefully not often." Not sure what you mean in this case. US policy towards Syria is a lunacy concocted by the neocons and wilsonians to support their delusion of a US national mission in the world and the "consensus" in Washington that whatever Israel wants is good. the same lunatics think that Iran's government would be weakened by having a Sunni government in Damascus as the Saudis also urge. Basically, this a tale told by idiots.

As for your difficulty in followin my reasoning, i have tried to explain this several times. i am not an economic determinist. you are. That's the difference. pl

William R. Cumming

Thanks PL and since IMO the Neocons are not really in power is it too much to expect those who are to explain a rationale for US policy in Syria?

I assume by you comment you agree with me that no one in power has treated the American people with the dignity of reasoned explanation!

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