How the Establishment Undermines American Democracy

How the Establishment Undermines American Democracy

How the Establishment Undermines American Democracy

There is a growing consensus among many observers in Washington that the national security agencies have become completely politicized over the past seventeen years and are now pursuing selfish agendas that actually endanger what remains of American democracy. Up until recently it has been habitual to refer to such activity as the Deep State, which is perhaps equivalent to the Establishment in that it includes financial services, the media, major foundations and constituencies, as well as lobbying groups, but we are now witnessing an evolutionary process in which the national security regime is exercising power independently.

In a devastating critique former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer John Kiriakou has described how the Democratic Party, as part of its frenzied effort to bring down President Donald Trump, has embraced a whole group of former intelligence and law enforcement officers who appear to be on the same side in seeking a more responsible and accountable executive branch but who are in reality pursuing their own agenda.

Formerly intelligence and law enforcement agencies acted under the direction of the White House but without any political bias. Transitions from Democratic to Republican administrations were consequently seamless for the employees of CIA, FBI, DIA and the NSA, but this has changed. In the 2016 election a line-up of retired senior officers from those organizations openly supported the Clinton campaign and even went so far as to construct elaborate conspiracy theories regarding Trump and his associates, including the claim that Donald Trump is actually an agent of Russia.

The desire to discredit and ultimately delegitimize Trump even involved some active duty senior officers, including John Brennan, Director of CIA, who exploited Agency relationships with foreign intelligence services to develop information on Trump, and James Comey of the FBI who initiated an investigation of Trump’s associates. Both were involved in the later surfacing of the notorious Steele Dossier, a collection of fact mixed with fiction that sought to destroy the Trump presidency even before it began.

Kiriakou cites recent activity by Brennan as well as former NSA and CIA head Michael Hayden as well as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, all of whom have been politically active. The three men appear frequently on television as self-described “senior statesmen,” but, as Kiriakou observes they are “…monsters who have ignored the Constitution…and international law. They have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.” They together with lesser figures like George Tenet, Jose Rodriguez, Michael Morell and John McLaughlin authorized technical spying on nearly everyone, torture, rendition of suspects so they could be tortured by others, random killing of “profiled” foreigners and targeted killing of American citizens. Brennan was in charge of a “kill list” for President Barack Obama.

Former Reagan Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts meanwhile asks why liberal international organizations like Amnesty International are fundraising to oppose Trump when the real threat to a better and safer world and country is coming from the largely unaccountable “security agencies, the police, the neoconservatives, the presstitute media and the Republican and Democratic Parties?”

Antiwar activist Justin Raimondo also picks up the gauntlet, describing how the national security agencies and the Democratic Party have joined forces to create a totally false narrative that could lead to nuclear war. They and the media appear to truly believe that “…the country has been taken over by Vladimir Putin and the Russian State…Trump is an instrument in their hands, and the independence of the United States has been fatally compromised: the president and his top aides are taking their orders from the Kremlin.” He concludes that “Our intelligence agencies are at war with the executive branch of government…to reverse the [2016] election results.” Raimondo believes that Trump is being particularly targeted because his unpredictability and populism threaten the wealth and power of the elites and he notes “If you think they’ve ruled out assassination you’re being naïve.”

Raimondo believes that something like a civil war is coming, with the war party Establishment fighting to defend its privileged global order while many other Americans seek a return to normal nationhood with all that implies. If true, the next few years will see a major internal conflict that will determine what kind of country the United States will be.

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SYRIAN SOCIAL NATIONALIST PARTY, ARAB NATIONALISM AND CONFLICT IN SYRIA

South Front

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

This analysis was originally released by SouthFront in October 2017

The traditional societies of the Middle East have always been notable for their ethnic and religious diversity. Today, however, the Middle East is on the cusp of a deep schism along ethnic and religious lines. This situation has brought several Muslim Arab states to the brink of collapse, is provoking new difficult to resolve conflicts, and continues to undermine the secular aspect of Arab nationalism to the benefit of strengthening its Islamic component, the replacement of nationalism as such with ultra-religious extremism and ethnic separatism.

An Iraqi Army M1A1M Abrams battle tank destroyed by Kurdish Peshmerga forces during the recently sparked Arab-Kurdish tensions in northern Iraq:

The current range of conflicts, which revolve around the struggle for power and territory, showed their destructive potential. The difficulty in resolving such conflicts is due to their roots in history, which further complicate the search for peace. There is also another, no less important, problem. Most of the current Arab states’ political organizations are based on the principle of nationalism. This is the principle that was used to form the post-Ottoman independent states. Their multi-religious and multi-ethnic nature was also the aftermath of the rather arbitrary drawing of borders during the colonial period.

The Evolution of Arab Nationalism

By the end of the late ‘30s and early ‘40s of the 20th Century, the influence of Islam on Arab nationalist movement began to grow. This was to a large extent due to a deep disappointment on the part of a sizable proportion of liberal secular Arab elites in the “civilizing” mission of the secular and enlightened West. As a result of Middle East policies of Western powers, Arabs were not able to establish a single state. Their lands were arbitrarily divided between Great Britain and France, the newly founded states became colonial dependencies. Simultaneously, Western powers actively supported the creation of a national Jewish nucleus in the Palestine, which only worsened the already tense situation.

After WW2, this process continued, receiving its expression in the concept of urub, or the spirit of Arab national consciousness, in order to strengthen the ties between Arab nationalism and Islam. The struggle over the future course of political development that raged in Arab states in the 1950s and ‘60s in the context of establishing independent states and modern societies brought to power secular Arab nationalists (Ba’athists, Naserites), who tried to pursue development using socialist ideas.

In spite of that, the Islamist trend within Arab nationalism did not vanish but merely receded. Even the most progressive and secular Arab leaders were forced to seek legitimacy in adherence to Islam and respect the interests of religiously active parts of society when forming own base of support.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad (portrait) wave Baath Party flags during a pro-government rally in Damascus. FILE IMAGE: Louai Beshara – AFP

The lack of a charismatic mainstream leader with regional appeal capable of offering a pan-Arab model of secular development respecting the interests of the Arab Muslim majority, the rights and desires of national and religious minorities, and attract regional elites and the broad masses, caused Arab leaders to encounter problems in the early 21st century. The long-serving leaders were  concerned continuity of their political course, in order to guarantee their own interests were preserved. Young Arab leaders inherited power from their fathers. This was achieved through intra-elite compromise, achieved not so much through free agreement or a democratic choice, but rather through clever intrigues and strong-arm tactics used to neutralize possible competition. Therefore the young leaders were forced to mostly worry about forming their own governing team, balancing between various power centers and regularly proving their legitimacy and the ability to govern the state to both domestic and international actors.

In the 1990s and early ‘00s, economic problems and the desire to demonstrate pro-democracy leanings led some Arab leaders to strengthen own legitimacy through elections. But the main winners of this liberalization were Islamist political movements, whose adherence to Western democratic norms was dubious.

As an alternative to hereditary power transfer, a whole range of moderate Islamic movements (for example, Tunisian An-Nahda Islamic party led by Rached Ghannouchi) entered the fray with the aim of democratizing Islam. They called for a “democratic Islamic state” within the existing borders. They also favored renouncing violence as a means of political struggle, condemned terrorism, supported the principle of open parliamentary elections, questioned the idea of divinity of authority, supported democratic power transition procedures, and also spoke in favor of expanding the role of women in the traditional Islamic society while in general actively promoting human rights.

But here the reformers of Islam ran into a problem. There were and are too few supporters of democratic Islam in the strongly traditional Arab society. And one can readily say the society is not ready for them. Can one seriously view the ideologues of moderate Islam the pioneers of democracy in the Arab world? Can a democratic Islamic state ensure political and religious pluralism, which is one of the fundamental aspects of democracy? How does one reconcile the norms of Sharia with human rights in the way they are understood in the West? To what extent can women’s rights be expanded? They could not answer these questions, and therefore the political fray was joined by supporters of Islamic fundamentalism who called for a return to the sources of Islam and build a modern society on this foundation.

Modern Islamic fundamentalism was formed as a reaction to such secular ideologies as liberalism, Marxism, and nationalism. For Muslim fundamentalists, an Islamic state was an ideological state, expanding its authority into every aspect of human life. It would control social, political, economic, and even cultural interactions. Sovereignty in such a state belongs to God, which in practical terms means Sharia law. Fundamentalists spoke in favor of democratic elections not for the sake of establishing democracy or individual freedoms, but in order to establish the rule of Islam. And when fundamentalist theorists touched upon the question of democracy, they were not talking about its compatibility or incompatibility with Islam, but about how difficult it was to reconcile Western democratic principles with Islamic governance that could only be based on the revealed laws of Islam—Sharia.

But even here there were problems. Principles of “pure Islam” adhered to by Wahhabites and Salafites were most applicable to the environment of early Middle Ages. When one had to overcome tribal conflicts and built a centralized state. The assumption of power in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood did not resolve societal problems, but rather made them worse. ISIS implementation of Islamic state ideas in Iraq and Syria showed how savage the application of Islamic norms can be in the context of 21st Century. The only example of successful functioning of a theocratic state is Iran. But here the overwhelming majority of population are adherents of Shia Islam which is based on the principle of vilayat al-fakih. This principle assumes that the leadership over the Shia is to a certain extent centralized and is being implemented by authoritative and competent Shia clerics whose authority is beyond doubt.

Given the proliferation of ideas and Islamic movements, the question of how (and whether) one can reconcile secular Arab nationalism with Islam, in order to develop the basis for a new national ideology, gains in importance. Or perhaps might it not be better to reject the idea of Arab national state with Islamic leanings?

It may be now is the time for concepts based on national, religious, and territorial principles, which could found the basis of a new political system capable of neutralizing obsolete medieval vestiges of Islam, unify states whose borders were drawn by Western powers without considering local issues, ensure justice among various ethnic and religious groups, stabilize international relations in the region.

One of such movements which might be ready to solve above-mentioned problems is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Party History and Program

The idea of a Syrian nation within clearly defined borders is not new. In the 19t century the proponents of a Syrian state included Butrus al-Bustani, who believed that a unified Syrian nation ought to form an autonomy within the Ottoman Empire that required reform. His follower Henri Lammens, a prominent Arabist of the late 19th-early 20thcenturies, claimed that Greater Syria existed already in ancient times in the Fertile Crescent. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the establishment of an Arab state became a very real possibility. But the intervention by Western powers in the affairs of former vassals of the Porte and the Sykes-Picot delineation of spheres of responsibility ended plans for creating such a state.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Antoun Saadeh

But the idea did not die, and in 1932 the Lebanese journalist and Christian Antoun Saadeh created the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). It was founded as an anti-colonial and liberation organization. Saadeh rejected language and religion as defining characteristics of the new nation, and instead clamed nations are formed through joint developments of peoples inhabiting a certain geographic area.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SOURCE: Stratfor.com

The Syrian national state, as imagined by the party founder, should cover the Fertile Crescent and the area of current Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Sinai, south-east Turkey (Alexandretta and Cilicia), parts of the Zagros mountains on Lebanese territory, and regions in Saudi Arabia’s north.

According to Saleh, “the aim of the SSNP is a Syrian social renaissance which will accomplish unification and breathe life into the Syrian nation, organizing a movement seeking full independence of the Syrian nation and defense of its sovereignty, creating a new social order to protect its interests and increase its standard of living, seeking to form the Arab Front.”

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

A map of Greater Syria. SOURCE: theweichertreport.com

Its main principles are separation of mosque and state, keeping the clerics from involvement in political and legal processes, removing religious barriers, removing feudal relics from social life, transforming the agrarian economy into an industrial one, protection of worker rights, of national and state interests, and the establishment of strong, effective military.

When it comes to relations with Jews, SSNP is strictly anti-Zonist, since Saadeh believed Jews were unable and unwilling to assimilate. He also criticized assertions that the Jews could be a foundation for a national state. According to SSNP Jews were not a nation because they were a heterogeneous mixture of nations.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SSNP flag. Click to see the full-size image

The party emblem is whirlwind (Arabic “Zawba’a), which according to party members is a fusion of Christian cross and Islamic half-moon. Emblem arms represent freedom, duty, discipline, power. The black backdrop reflects the dark past as part of Ottoman Empire, colonialism, national and religious fragmentation, and backwardness.

Here one needs a caveat to clarify the party’s name and its emblem. There is no similarity between it and the NSDAP. SSNP was formed long before NSDAP. Saadeh visited Axis powers during WW2 and was arrested by French colonial authorities, but released after they couldn’t find evidence of collaboration, and Nazi leaders said they had no dealings with him. He was also in favor of French colonial authorities over Nazi rule.

The creation of Israel in 1948 and its militant, aggressive policies pursued with Western approval caused worry in Arab states. Israel’s actions caused as an attempt to meddle in Arab matters using Jewish hands, and once again redraw the borders. Arab leaders’ incompetence caused their defeat in the 1947-48 war. Saadeh criticized their actions, and in 1949 SSNPR attempted a coup in Lebanon which failed. As a result of collusion between Lebanese and Syrian governments, and with active British intelligence support, Saadeh was executed. The party was delegalized. Prior to the start of the civil war, SSNP attempted another coup in 1961, fought against Arab nationalists. The civil war the party viewed as the consequence of dividing the Syrian nation into separate states. Until the end of the war, SSNP fought alongside Hezbollah against Israeli occupiers and their Lebanese supporters. Only in the early ‘90s did the party become legalized and, starting in 1992, it participates in Lebanese parliamentary elections.

In Syria itself, SSNP was a significant force since independence. But ideological disagreements with the ruling Ba’ath Party and the Syrian Communist Party led to SSNP leaving Syria’s political arena.

Current Situation

In the spring of 2005, SSPN was partly legalized in Syria and allowed an observer in the National Progressive Front which is headed by Ba’ath.

The party viewed the start of anti-government demonstrations as yet another effort to fracture the country along ethno-religious lines. It organized demonstrations in support of the current government. On February 26, 2012 the majority of Syrians supported a referendum that amended the constitution by removing Ba’ath Party from the post of the leading political force, equalizing its status with other parties. This allowed SSNP to fully participate in political struggles. Between March 2012 and May 2014 the party was part of the opposition Ba’ath National Front For Change and Liberation. But in May its leader stated SSNP would leave the National front and support Bashar Assad in presidential elections.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Ali Haidar

The current leader of SSNP in Syria is Ali Haidar, who also the Minister of National Reconciliation in Syria’s government. The party secretary is Joseph Sweid. He also has a ministerial portfolio. In Lebanon, SSNP is headed by Ali Halil Qanso who is also the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs

The party currently is the most numerous political force in Syria, after the ruling Ba’ath, with over 100,000 members. In 2012 elections the party won 4 out of 250 seats in Syria’s parliament, in 2009 Lebanese elections it won 2 seats out of 128.

Here is what Ali Haidar said in an interview with the Al-Mayadin TV channel concerning the civil war in Syria. “Throughout the war, the US headed the anti-Syrian campaign and tried to destroy Syria’s national existence using terrorist groups such as ISIS and an-Nusra. US airstrikes on ISIS terrorists on one hand, and sponsoring and training “opposition” fighters simply amount to replacing uncontrollable terrorism with US-controlled one.” In his view, US regional strategy has not changed. They seek to change Middle East’s political structure to guarantee Israel’s security and legalize its existence. As to reconciliation, Haidar said that it’s not a political tactic but the fate of all Syrians, the result of governmental effort on the national level, even though in some regions of Syria it is encountering resistance due to the presence of foreign mercenaries.

Armed formations and their role in the Syrian war

SSNP’s armed formation is the Nusur al-Zawba’a (Eagles of the Whirlwind). It was formed during the Lebanese civil war in 1974. The main motivating factor for SSNP member participation in the war was the ongoing war against Wahhabism and Israel which supports it, in order to preserve the multicultural and multi-religious Syria. Since 2014, Eagles of the Whirlwind are considered the most effective pro-government force, after the SAA.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size map

Eagles’ strength is eastimated at 6-8 thousand. They operate in Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Sweida, Deraa, Deir-ez-Zor, Idlib, Latakia, Jobar, Damascus, East and West Ghouta provinces. They are armed mainly with small arms and improvised armored vehicles. This is due to them fighting mainly in urban confines, where rapid movement is required, every  house is a fortress, and tanks are an easy and sluggish target.

Eagles differ from other formations in that they don’t have a single commander. Each unit has its own commander and each region its administrator. Their names are unknown, only their pseudonyms.

The heaviest fighting experienced by SSNP units took place in northern Latakia, in Salma, Ghamam, and Deir Hanna. This region was strategically important since it is adjacent to Turkey and provides supply and reinforcement routes for an-Nusra. Moreover, controlling this region blocks militant movement into the province and also opens a route for government forces into Idlib.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

Another region where Eagles were active is the al-Ghab plain. This plain runs along western coastal mountains, and is in close proximity to Hama province capital. Controlling the plain creates a buffer zone which is crucial to ensure the security of coastal regions. Next to al-Ghab there are several cities with mainly Christian population, Mahardah and al-Suqaylabiya. Mahardah, in particular was the site of heavy fighting since the start of the war. Since 2015, Islamists launched attacks here nearly every day. The approaches to the city were nominally held by SAA’s 11thDivision. But in the 6 years of war, the unit had practically ceased to exist. The division had under 500 soldiers and officers in March-April 2017. SSNP was able to field about 1500 fighters from among local inhabitants, and only their presence allowed the SAA to hold this important sector.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

The Homs province includes the mostly Christian city of Sadad, which was also a test for SSNP fighters. An-Nusra first took Sadad in October 2013. According to Human Rights Watch, 46 inhabitants, including 14 women and 2 children, were murdered, some of the bodies were dropped into a well, and churches were looted. After intensive clashes, the SAA ejected Islamists from Sadad on October 28, 2013.

Two years later, in October-November 1015, ISIS appeared on Sadad outskirts after capturing nearby Muheen. The city was defended by local population, SAA, and 500 Christian fighters. They were helped by 200 SSNP fighters. Fighting together, they were able to stop ISIS advance.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

The Sadad visit by Syrian Orthodox Church Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II was an important event. He met with the fighters to raise their morale and take part in funeral rites. The defense of the city is significant because it is one of the few remaining Syrian cities with predominantly Christian population, fighting against a huge number of jihadists.

SSNP units are recruited from among Orthodox Lebanese and Syrian Christians. At first, most of the recruits came from Lebanon, then their number decreased as the number of Syrians grew. One should not think, however, the Eagles consist only of Christians. Muslims and Christians are fighting side by side. This was evident in Sadad fighting, where SSNP units contained many Muslim volunteers. This fact is yet more evidence of the level of support the idea of Syrian state has among its adherents, and SSNP does nto segregate along religious lines.

At present time, due to the large-scale government offensive, Eagles units maintain order in cities liberated from the militants.

The party’s future in Syria’s political life

In order to determine SSNP’s role in Syria’s and Middle East’s political life, one must deal with several difficult to answer questions.

SSNP’s strong aspects. Spring 2011 demonstrations were caused by external factors but also the internal political stagnation. The Ba’ath party has been in power since the early ‘60s. Sooner or later the war will end and Syria will have to make a choice—what political forces will govern the country? Secular and radical Islam have shown its true nature, and there is no return to it. USSR collapsed over 25 years ago. Without its support, there is also no future for a return of socialist parties in the Middle East. Therefore SSNP has a good chance to gain power and show its abilities. By Middle East standards, SSNP is a political veteran. It has a clearly defined program, which it follows. There is an advanced ideology with a future, which is important when no other political force can offer anything new. Seeking dialogue with the ruling party (Ba’ath in Syria) means that in extreme conditions SSNP will not seek confrontatios and is ready to aid its former rival. Participating in the war against Islamic and international terrorism, in deed and not word, gives the party considerable weight and popular support.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

Weak aspects. Since its start, the party has been underground. This is reflected in its low level of participation in legislative activity in Syria and Lebanon, as mentioned earlier. Apart these two countries and Jordan, where SSNP has been active since 2013, the party has no significant presence elsewhere.

Political democratization in post-imperial nation-states, first secular and then religious, meant the transfer of power into the hands of the majority. The question of religious or national minorities was addressed in different ways by various countries but, as a rule, these approaches tended to rely on force. Some nations had to emigrate, others took up arms. Given progressive state weakness and near-universal drive for autonomy, one can draw the conclusion the region is continuing its process of tribalization. Overcoming the remnants of clan and tribal systems and the minorities’ desire for own sovereign states will be very difficult for SSNP. This is further complicated by the persecution of Christians and their mass exodus from Lebanon in the past and Syria right now. But the local Christians were the most opposed to any forms of violence, and represented the intellectual and entrepreneurial elite. They made the party into what it is today: ready for dialogue, to offer a new path of development, to defend own country with force of arms.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SOURCE: RIA

There are also external factors which cloud the future of SSNP. How will regional powers, like Turkey or Israel, react to the appearance of a new actor, the Greater Syria? Will they allow it to appear at all? Will the leaders of countries in SSNP zone of interest be willing to give up own power, population, and territory?

Internal and external factors make SSNP’s future extremely uncertain. The idea of establishing a state on the basis of the common aspects of the people populating the region is still ahead of its time. But even if SSNP fails for some reason, it will represent a big step toward creating a new-model Arab state.

Conclusion

Unlimited nationalism as foundation of state system has sparked a trend toward anarchy and therefore can no longer be used as an effective means of political organization and preserving societal stability. Arab leaders who survived Arab Spring find it difficult to ensure own legitimacy, internal stability, and good relations with more powerful neighbors. Some have left the stage peacefully. Some were forcibly removed. Others are fighting to remain in power. Wars, coups, mass unrest, and outflow of refugees are boosting the trend toward anarchy and threaten not only the Middle East but the whole world. The recent history of Middle Eastern countries contains many examples of struggle between and cross-pollination among religious (pan-Islam, Islamic Modernism) and secular (Pan-Arabism, Arab Nationalism) currents. This trend to a certain extend determined the evolution of the Arab political thought and helped to, up to a certain point, adapt to the ideas borrowed from the West. But as noted above, they were unable to avert the fracturing of the Middle East and address the conflict among ethnic and religious groups. This fracturing is made worse by the arbitrary nature of borders of countries which qualify as Arab. These states control the territory they do largely due to powerful external pressure, and not as a result of internal processes. It means the current system suffers from a delay-fuse bomb planted under it. It may be now is the time to implement new political ideas and to establish a state based on a historic sense of community among people living in a certain area, irrespective of their language, religion, or nationality.

Putin’s Syrian withdrawal announcement: an analysis

December 12, 2017

Putin’s Syrian withdrawal announcement: neither a full Russian withdrawal nor victory in Syria

by Alexander Mercouris (cross-posted with The Duran by special agreement with the author)

At a time when President Putin is undertaking a tour of the Middle East it would have been politically speaking extremely unwise for him not to have made a stop-over to meet the Russian troops at the Khmeimim air base whom Putin himself sent to Syria.

A failure to do so might have conveyed the impression that Putin takes these troops for granted, an impression which Putin is far too good a politician to want to give.

No Soviet leader – not Brezhnev or Gorbachev – ever visited the Soviet troops sent by the USSR to Afghanistan in the 1980s.

That however was at a time when the USSR did not have competitive elections.  With Russia due to hold Presidential elections in March Putin cannot afford to appear as indifferent to the Russian troops in Syria as the Soviet leaders were towards the Soviet troops they had sent to Afghanistan.

Doing so would make a very bad impression, not just amongst the troops themselves but also across the whole Russian military and with the troops’ families.

With Russia’s military – including Russia’s military families – constituting one of Putin’s strongest electoral constituencies, needlessly annoying them is not a mistake Putin is going to make just three months before he stands for re-election as Russia’s President.

That this was the reason for Putin’s visit to Khmeimim air base and for his making his withdrawal announcement is shown by what he said to the troops when he was there.

In order to show this I will reproduce these comments here in full as the Kremlin’s website reports them

The most important thing for a military person – and we are very much aware of this – is the defence of our Fatherland, our people. This is not just the purpose of military service, but also the purpose of life for those who have devoted themselves to serving their people.

At the same time, a soldier is truly tested for loyalty to the Fatherland in a military operation fraught with huge risks to life and health. Here, in Syria, far from home, you are doing exactly that – you are protecting our country.

By helping the people of Syria to maintain their statehood, to fight off attacks by terrorists, you have inflicted a devastating blow to those who have directly, brazenly and openly threatened our country.

We will never forget the sacrifices and losses incurred in the struggle against terrorism both here in Syria and in Russia. However, it will not make us fold our hands and retreat. This is not in our peoples’ nature.

On the contrary, this memory will continue to motivate us to eradicate this absolute evil – terrorism – whatever face it hides behind.

Yes, the threat of terrorism around the world is still very high. However, the task of combating the armed groups here in Syria, the goal that needed to be addressed with the help of the large-scale use of the armed forces, has been largely resolved – and brilliantly resolved. Congratulations!

Our Armed Forces and our defence contractors have shown the growing power of the Russian Army and Navy, and the high combat capability of the various military units.

Pilots, sailors, members of special forces, reconnaissance, troop-control and logistic support units, military police, medical personnel, field engineers and advisers working in the battle units of the Syrian Army have displayed the best qualities of Russian soldiers, such as courage, heroism, combat cohesion, determination, as well as excellent training and professionalism.

The Homeland is proud of you. I am convinced that you will always faithfully serve the Fatherland, defend and uphold our national interests, our country and its people.

Syria has been preserved as a sovereign and independent state. Refugees are returning to their homes. Favourable conditions have been created for a political settlement under the UN. The Russian Centre for the reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria continues to operate in line with international agreements.

The two bases, in Tartous and Khmeimim, will continue to operate on a permanent basis. If the terrorists raise their heads again, we will deal unprecedented strikes unlike anything they have seen.

In just over two years, the Russian Armed Forces and the Syrian Army have defeated the most combat-ready group of international terrorists. In this connection, I have decided to redeploy most of the Russian military contingent from the Syrian Arab Republic to Russia.

You are returning victorious to your homes, your families, parents, wives, children and friends.

I hereby order the Defence Minister and the General Chief of Staff to start redeploying units of the Russian army group to their permanent bases.

The Homeland is waiting for you, friends. Godspeed! Thank you for your service.

The key point is that Russia’s deployment to Syria was a controversial step in Russia, including amongst Russia’s military.

As The Saker for one has repeatedly and correctly pointed out the Russian military unlike the US military is not structured to intervene constantly abroad but is overwhelmingly focused on a single mission, which is the defence of the Russian homeland ie. of Russia itself.

The Saker summed it up perfectly with these words written in an article which can be found here

The legal purpose of the Russian Armed Forces.

The Federal Law N61-F3 “On Defense”, Section IV, Article 10, Para 2 clearly states that the mission of the Russian Armed Forces is to

repel aggression against the Russian Federation, the armed defence of the integrity and inviolability of the territory of the Russian Federation, and to carry out tasks in accordance with international treaties of the Russian Federation“. 

That’s it.  Defend the territory of Russia or to carry out tasks in accordance to ratified treaties.  These are the sole functions of the Russian Armed Forces.

The Russian Constitution, Chapter IV, Article 80, Para 2 clearly states that

The President of the Russian Federation shall be guarantor of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, of the rights and freedoms of man and citizen. According to the rules fixed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, he shall adopt measures to protect the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, its independence and state integrity, ensure coordinated functioning and interaction of all the bodies of state power“.

Now, for an American used to having, on average, about one new war every year, this might seem mind boggling, but the Russian Federation has absolutely no desire to become an “anti-USA” and get involved in constant military operations abroad.  Not only that, but the laws of the Russian Federation specifically forbid this.

Russia is not the world’s policeman, she does not have a network of 700-1000 bases worldwide (depending on your definition of ‘base’) but an army specifically designed to operate within 1000km or less from the Russian border and the President does not have the legal mandate to use the Russian armed forces to solve foreign crises.

Deployment of Russian troops relatively far from the Russian homeland to a place like Syria is for the Russian military a considerable departure from its normal role, and is something which has to be explained carefully if it is to attract support.

Putin has succeeded in doing this because he has explained carefully to the Russian military and to the Russian people that this deployment is actually in defence of Russia itself, since the Jihadist terrorist groups Russia is fighting in Syria are a threat to Russia.

The Russians have had to fight a bitter war against Jihadism on their own territory in the northern Caucasus during the 1990s and the 2000s, and have also suffered sustained Jihadi terrorist attacks on their main cities on a scale that no Western country – not even the US – has experienced.

No Russian wants to go through that again, so it was not difficult to persuade most Russians that preventing the establishment of a Jihadi enclave in Syria which might become a springboard for a Jihadist terrorist offensive against Russia was for Russia an urgent security interest.

Maybe the intervention in Syria also serves other purposes, though I personally doubt it.  However it is important to stress that this was the reason Putin gave to justify the intervention to the Russian military and to the Russian people, and why they agreed to support it.

However though most Russians – including critically the great majority of Russians serving in the military – have understood and accepted the need for the Syrian intervention and have supported it, it most definitely is not a war which the Russian people have enthusiastically embraced, and which they wish to see perpetuated indefinitely.

A comparison of Russian attitudes towards the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria illustrates the point.

Whilst there is no shortage of men in Russia who are willing to go and fight as volunteers to protect the Russian speaking people of the Donbass – regarded by all Russians as their kith and kin – there has been no similar flood of volunteers signing up to fight the Jihadis in Syria.

On the contrary most Russians – including those who serve in the military – want to see the war in Syria ended as soon as possible, and the troops once their mission is successfully accomplished quickly brought home.

Putin understands this completely, and this explains many of the things he said in his address to the troops at Khmeimim air base.

Thus the address begins with an acknowledgement that for Russian soldiers

…..the most important thing….is the defence of our fatherland, our people.

(bold italics added)

Compare those words with The Saker’s words quoted above.

The address then went on to repeat that this is a war carried out in defence of Russia

By helping the people of Syria to maintain their statehood, to fight off attacks by terrorists, you have inflicted a devastating blow to those who have directly, brazenly and openly threatened our country.

(bold italics added)

Note that flowery language of the sort beloved by US or Western leaders about defending things such as ‘values’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ appear nowhere in Putin’s address.  Not only does Putin have no time for such language but the Russian troops he was addressing have no time for it either.

Having then congratulated the troops on their victory Putin then went on to fulfil what the troops and their families consider to be the explicit promise which was made to them when they were sent to Syria: that at the earliest possible opportunity they would be brought home

You are returning victorious to your homes, your families, parents, wives, children and friends.

I hereby order the Defence Minister and the General Chief of Staff to start redeploying units of the Russian army group to their permanent bases.

The Homeland is waiting for you, friends. Godspeed! Thank you for your service.

(bold italics added)

Given that the war in Syria is now visibly winding down, politically speaking it would have been risky for Putin on the eve of an election to have done otherwise.

If all this explains the reasons for Putin’s visit to Khmeimim air base and his withdrawal announcement, it is nonetheless in no sense the end of the affair.

The war in Syria is not over and it is not won.  Though ISIS’s back has been broken, it is still a force under arms in rural Deir Ezzor where it has recently taken the offensive against the US’s Kurdish allies.

In addition hundreds of ISIS fighters are still roaming free in the desert regions of central Syria even if they no longer control any important towns there.  These bands of fighters still pose a significant security threat, and will continue to do so for some time.

Further west Syria’s Idlib province remains under Jihadi control.

Worse still, there is now growing evidence that ISIS is trying to redeploy as many of its fighters as it can from central and eastern Syria to Idlib province.

With the Syrian military as always heavily over-stretched and still not in full control of much of the countryside it seems that this apparently planned redeployment of ISIS fighters from central and eastern Syria to Idlib province is not only taking place, but that it is actually meeting with some success.

Recently there have been reports of bitter fighting in Idlib province between Al-Qaeda – previously in undisputed control of the province – and the ISIS fighters who are being redeployed there from central and eastern Syria.  Moreover it seems that with Al-Qaeda severely weakened because of the massive losses it suffered last year in the Great Battle of Aleppo, it is ISIS which is gaining the upper hand in this fighting.

Whilst it is probably still alarmist to say that ISIS’s caliphate which has been driven out of Raqqa, central Syria and Deir Ezzor is now in the process of reconstituting itself in Idlib, the possibility that something like that might happen is certainly there, and the Russians cannot be unaware of it.

Elsewhere there are still significant pockets of Jihadi resistance in south western Syria, especially in the Golan Heights and near Damascus, whilst the Syrian government still faces a serious problem with the US-backed Kurds who currently control around a fifth of Syria’s territory in the north.

Last but not least there are still thousands of US troops in Syria, uninvited and potentially dangerous, with no one outside the Pentagon and CENTCOM knowing exactly how many of them there are.

Though victory in Syria is therefore now in sight, it is premature to declare it, as Putin did in his comments to the troops in Khmeimim air base.

As it happens Putin’s comments show that he knows this perfectly well.  How else to explain comments like this?

We will never forget the sacrifices and losses incurred in the struggle against terrorism both here in Syria and in Russia. However, it will not make us fold our hands and retreat. This is not in our peoples’ nature.

On the contrary, this memory will continue to motivate us to eradicate this absolute evil – terrorism – whatever face it hides behind…..

The two bases, in Tartous and Khmeimim, will continue to operate on a permanent basis. If the terrorists raise their heads again, we will deal unprecedented strikes unlike anything they have seen.

(bold italics added)

Those familiar with the history of the Syrian war know that we have been here before.

In March 2016, shortly after the Russians negotiated a cessation of hostilities agreement in Syria with the US, Putin announced a very similar draw down of Russian troops from Syria.

In the event within weeks it had become clear that the cessation of hostilities agreement with the US was a dead letter.  After a short break Jihadi attacks on Syrian military positions resumed, and the Russians were obliged to reverse their drawn down and escalate again their air campaign.  The Great Battle of Aleppo and the struggle against ISIS in Palmyra, central Syria and Deir Ezzor followed.

With both Al-Qaeda and ISIS routed conditions for a drawn down are more favourable this time.  However Putin’s comments show that the Russians stand ready to reverse the drawn down if the need arises, just as they did before.

As for peace in Syria, that will only be achieved when fighting in Syria finally stops, with all the Jihadis there having been either killed or forced to lay down their arms, and with all of Syria’s territory which was previously under Jihadi or Kurdish control once more returned to the control of the Syrian government in Damascus.

Only then will it be possible to declare victory in Syria.

SYRIAN SOCIAL NATIONALIST PARTY, ARAB NATIONALISM AND CONFLICT IN SYRIA

South Front

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

The traditional societies of the Middle East have always been notable for their ethnic and religious diversity. Today, however, the Middle East is on the cusp of a deep schism along ethnic and religious lines. This situation has brought several Muslim Arab states to the brink of collapse, is provoking new difficult to resolve conflicts, and continues to undermine the secular aspect of Arab nationalism to the benefit of strengthening its Islamic component, the replacement of nationalism as such with ultra-religious extremism and ethnic separatism.

An Iraqi Army M1A1M Abrams battle tank destroyed by Kurdish Peshmerga forces during the recently sparked Arab-Kurdish tensions in northern Iraq:

The current range of conflicts, which revolve around the struggle for power and territory, showed their destructive potential. The difficulty in resolving such conflicts is due to their roots in history, which further complicate the search for peace. There is also another, no less important, problem. Most of the current Arab states’ political organizations are based on the principle of nationalism. This is the principle that was used to form the post-Ottoman independent states. Their multi-religious and multi-ethnic nature was also the aftermath of the rather arbitrary drawing of borders during the colonial period.

The Evolution of Arab Nationalism

By the end of the late ‘30s and early ‘40s of the 20th Century, the influence of Islam on Arab nationalist movement began to grow. This was to a large extent due to a deep disappointment on the part of a sizable proportion of liberal secular Arab elites in the “civilizing” mission of the secular and enlightened West. As a result of Middle East policies of Western powers, Arabs were not able to establish a single state. Their lands were arbitrarily divided between Great Britain and France, the newly founded states became colonial dependencies. Simultaneously, Western powers actively supported the creation of a national Jewish nucleus in the Palestine, which only worsened the already tense situation.

After WW2, this process continued, receiving its expression in the concept of urub, or the spirit of Arab national consciousness, in order to strengthen the ties between Arab nationalism and Islam. The struggle over the future course of political development that raged in Arab states in the 1950s and ‘60s in the context of establishing independent states and modern societies brought to power secular Arab nationalists (Ba’athists, Naserites), who tried to pursue development using socialist ideas.

In spite of that, the Islamist trend within Arab nationalism did not vanish but merely receded. Even the most progressive and secular Arab leaders were forced to seek legitimacy in adherence to Islam and respect the interests of religiously active parts of society when forming own base of support.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad (portrait) wave Baath Party flags during a pro-government rally in Damascus. FILE IMAGE: Louai Beshara – AFP

The lack of a charismatic mainstream leader with regional appeal capable of offering a pan-Arab model of secular development respecting the interests of the Arab Muslim majority, the rights and desires of national and religious minorities, and attract regional elites and the broad masses, caused Arab leaders to encounter problems in the early 21st century. The long-serving leaders were  concerned continuity of their political course, in order to guarantee their own interests were preserved. Young Arab leaders inherited power from their fathers. This was achieved through intra-elite compromise, achieved not so much through free agreement or a democratic choice, but rather through clever intrigues and strong-arm tactics used to neutralize possible competition. Therefore the young leaders were forced to mostly worry about forming their own governing team, balancing between various power centers and regularly proving their legitimacy and the ability to govern the state to both domestic and international actors.

In the 1990s and early ‘00s, economic problems and the desire to demonstrate pro-democracy leanings led some Arab leaders to strengthen own legitimacy through elections. But the main winners of this liberalization were Islamist political movements, whose adherence to Western democratic norms was dubious.

As an alternative to hereditary power transfer, a whole range of moderate Islamic movements (for example, Tunisian An-Nahda Islamic party led by Rached Ghannouchi) entered the fray with the aim of democratizing Islam. They called for a “democratic Islamic state” within the existing borders. They also favored renouncing violence as a means of political struggle, condemned terrorism, supported the principle of open parliamentary elections, questioned the idea of divinity of authority, supported democratic power transition procedures, and also spoke in favor of expanding the role of women in the traditional Islamic society while in general actively promoting human rights.

But here the reformers of Islam ran into a problem. There were and are too few supporters of democratic Islam in the strongly traditional Arab society. And one can readily say the society is not ready for them. Can one seriously view the ideologues of moderate Islam the pioneers of democracy in the Arab world? Can a democratic Islamic state ensure political and religious pluralism, which is one of the fundamental aspects of democracy? How does one reconcile the norms of Sharia with human rights in the way they are understood in the West? To what extent can women’s rights be expanded? They could not answer these questions, and therefore the political fray was joined by supporters of Islamic fundamentalism who called for a return to the sources of Islam and build a modern society on this foundation.

Modern Islamic fundamentalism was formed as a reaction to such secular ideologies as liberalism, Marxism, and nationalism. For Muslim fundamentalists, an Islamic state was an ideological state, expanding its authority into every aspect of human life. It would control social, political, economic, and even cultural interactions. Sovereignty in such a state belongs to God, which in practical terms means Sharia law. Fundamentalists spoke in favor of democratic elections not for the sake of establishing democracy or individual freedoms, but in order to establish the rule of Islam. And when fundamentalist theorists touched upon the question of democracy, they were not talking about its compatibility or incompatibility with Islam, but about how difficult it was to reconcile Western democratic principles with Islamic governance that could only be based on the revealed laws of Islam—Sharia.

But even here there were problems. Principles of “pure Islam” adhered to by Wahhabites and Salafites were most applicable to the environment of early Middle Ages. When one had to overcome tribal conflicts and built a centralized state. The assumption of power in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood did not resolve societal problems, but rather made them worse. ISIS implementation of Islamic state ideas in Iraq and Syria showed how savage the application of Islamic norms can be in the context of 21st Century. The only example of successful functioning of a theocratic state is Iran. But here the overwhelming majority of population are adherents of Shia Islam which is based on the principle of vilayat al-fakih. This principle assumes that the leadership over the Shia is to a certain extent centralized and is being implemented by authoritative and competent Shia clerics whose authority is beyond doubt.

Given the proliferation of ideas and Islamic movements, the question of how (and whether) one can reconcile secular Arab nationalism with Islam, in order to develop the basis for a new national ideology, gains in importance. Or perhaps might it not be better to reject the idea of Arab national state with Islamic leanings?

It may be now is the time for concepts based on national, religious, and territorial principles, which could found the basis of a new political system capable of neutralizing obsolete medieval vestiges of Islam, unify states whose borders were drawn by Western powers without considering local issues, ensure justice among various ethnic and religious groups, stabilize international relations in the region.

One of such movements which might be ready to solve above-mentioned problems is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Party History and Program

The idea of a Syrian nation within clearly defined borders is not new. In the 19t century the proponents of a Syrian state included Butrus al-Bustani, who believed that a unified Syrian nation ought to form an autonomy within the Ottoman Empire that required reform. His follower Henri Lammens, a prominent Arabist of the late 19th-early 20thcenturies, claimed that Greater Syria existed already in ancient times in the Fertile Crescent. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the establishment of an Arab state became a very real possibility. But the intervention by Western powers in the affairs of former vassals of the Porte and the Sykes-Picot delineation of spheres of responsibility ended plans for creating such a state.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Antoun Saadeh

But the idea did not die, and in 1932 the Lebanese journalist and Christian Antoun Saadeh created the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). It was founded as an anti-colonial and liberation organization. Saadeh rejected language and religion as defining characteristics of the new nation, and instead clamed nations are formed through joint developments of peoples inhabiting a certain geographic area.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SOURCE: Stratfor.com

The Syrian national state, as imagined by the party founder, should cover the Fertile Crescent and the area of current Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Sinai, south-east Turkey (Alexandretta and Cilicia), parts of the Zagros mountains on Lebanese territory, and regions in Saudi Arabia’s north.

According to Saleh, “the aim of the SSNP is a Syrian social renaissance which will accomplish unification and breathe life into the Syrian nation, organizing a movement seeking full independence of the Syrian nation and defense of its sovereignty, creating a new social order to protect its interests and increase its standard of living, seeking to form the Arab Front.”

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

A map of Greater Syria. SOURCE: theweichertreport.com

Its main principles are separation of mosque and state, keeping the clerics from involvement in political and legal processes, removing religious barriers, removing feudal relics from social life, transforming the agrarian economy into an industrial one, protection of worker rights, of national and state interests, and the establishment of strong, effective military.

When it comes to relations with Jews, SSNP is strictly anti-Zonist, since Saadeh believed Jews were unable and unwilling to assimilate. He also criticized assertions that the Jews could be a foundation for a national state. According to SSNP Jews were not a nation because they were a heterogeneous mixture of nations.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SSNP flag. Click to see the full-size image

The party emblem is whirlwind (Arabic “Zawba’a), which according to party members is a fusion of Christian cross and Islamic half-moon. Emblem arms represent freedom, duty, discipline, power. The black backdrop reflects the dark past as part of Ottoman Empire, colonialism, national and religious fragmentation, and backwardness.

Here one needs a caveat to clarify the party’s name and its emblem. There is no similarity between it and the NSDAP. SSNP was formed long before NSDAP. Saadeh visited Axis powers during WW2 and was arrested by French colonial authorities, but released after they couldn’t find evidence of collaboration, and Nazi leaders said they had no dealings with him. He was also in favor of French colonial authorities over Nazi rule.

The creation of Israel in 1948 and its militant, aggressive policies pursued with Western approval caused worry in Arab states. Israel’s actions caused as an attempt to meddle in Arab matters using Jewish hands, and once again redraw the borders. Arab leaders’ incompetence caused their defeat in the 1947-48 war. Saadeh criticized their actions, and in 1949 SSNPR attempted a coup in Lebanon which failed. As a result of collusion between Lebanese and Syrian governments, and with active British intelligence support, Saadeh was executed. The party was delegalized. Prior to the start of the civil war, SSNP attempted another coup in 1961, fought against Arab nationalists. The civil war the party viewed as the consequence of dividing the Syrian nation into separate states. Until the end of the war, SSNP fought alongside Hezbollah against Israeli occupiers and their Lebanese supporters. Only in the early ‘90s did the party become legalized and, starting in 1992, it participates in Lebanese parliamentary elections.

In Syria itself, SSNP was a significant force since independence. But ideological disagreements with the ruling Ba’ath Party and the Syrian Communist Party led to SSNP leaving Syria’s political arena.

Current Situation

In the spring of 2005, SSPN was partly legalized in Syria and allowed an observer in the National Progressive Front which is headed by Ba’ath.

The party viewed the start of anti-government demonstrations as yet another effort to fracture the country along ethno-religious lines. It organized demonstrations in support of the current government. On February 26, 2012 the majority of Syrians supported a referendum that amended the constitution by removing Ba’ath Party from the post of the leading political force, equalizing its status with other parties. This allowed SSNP to fully participate in political struggles. Between March 2012 and May 2014 the party was part of the opposition Ba’ath National Front For Change and Liberation. But in May its leader stated SSNP would leave the National front and support Bashar Assad in presidential elections.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Ali Haidar

The current leader of SSNP in Syria is Ali Haidar, who also the Minister of National Reconciliation in Syria’s government. The party secretary is Joseph Sweid. He also has a ministerial portfolio. In Lebanon, SSNP is headed by Ali Halil Qanso who is also the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs

The party currently is the most numerous political force in Syria, after the ruling Ba’ath, with over 100,000 members. In 2012 elections the party won 4 out of 250 seats in Syria’s parliament, in 2009 Lebanese elections it won 2 seats out of 128.

Here is what Ali Haidar said in an interview with the Al-Mayadin TV channel concerning the civil war in Syria. “Throughout the war, the US headed the anti-Syrian campaign and tried to destroy Syria’s national existence using terrorist groups such as ISIS and an-Nusra. US airstrikes on ISIS terrorists on one hand, and sponsoring and training “opposition” fighters simply amount to replacing uncontrollable terrorism with US-controlled one.” In his view, US regional strategy has not changed. They seek to change Middle East’s political structure to guarantee Israel’s security and legalize its existence. As to reconciliation, Haidar said that it’s not a political tactic but the fate of all Syrians, the result of governmental effort on the national level, even though in some regions of Syria it is encountering resistance due to the presence of foreign mercenaries.

Armed formations and their role in the Syrian war

SSNP’s armed formation is the Nusur al-Zawba’a (Eagles of the Whirlwind). It was formed during the Lebanese civil war in 1974. The main motivating factor for SSNP member participation in the war was the ongoing war against Wahhabism and Israel which supports it, in order to preserve the multicultural and multi-religious Syria. Since 2014, Eagles of the Whirlwind are considered the most effective pro-government force, after the SAA.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size map

Eagles’ strength is eastimated at 6-8 thousand. They operate in Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Sweida, Deraa, Deir-ez-Zor, Idlib, Latakia, Jobar, Damascus, East and West Ghouta provinces. They are armed mainly with small arms and improvised armored vehicles. This is due to them fighting mainly in urban confines, where rapid movement is required, every  house is a fortress, and tanks are an easy and sluggish target.

Eagles differ from other formations in that they don’t have a single commander. Each unit has its own commander and each region its administrator. Their names are unknown, only their pseudonyms.

The heaviest fighting experienced by SSNP units took place in northern Latakia, in Salma, Ghamam, and Deir Hanna. This region was strategically important since it is adjacent to Turkey and provides supply and reinforcement routes for an-Nusra. Moreover, controlling this region blocks militant movement into the province and also opens a route for government forces into Idlib.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

Another region where Eagles were active is the al-Ghab plain. This plain runs along western coastal mountains, and is in close proximity to Hama province capital. Controlling the plain creates a buffer zone which is crucial to ensure the security of coastal regions. Next to al-Ghab there are several cities with mainly Christian population, Mahardah and al-Suqaylabiya. Mahardah, in particular was the site of heavy fighting since the start of the war. Since 2015, Islamists launched attacks here nearly every day. The approaches to the city were nominally held by SAA’s 11thDivision. But in the 6 years of war, the unit had practically ceased to exist. The division had under 500 soldiers and officers in March-April 2017. SSNP was able to field about 1500 fighters from among local inhabitants, and only their presence allowed the SAA to hold this important sector.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

The Homs province includes the mostly Christian city of Sadad, which was also a test for SSNP fighters. An-Nusra first took Sadad in October 2013. According to Human Rights Watch, 46 inhabitants, including 14 women and 2 children, were murdered, some of the bodies were dropped into a well, and churches were looted. After intensive clashes, the SAA ejected Islamists from Sadad on October 28, 2013.

Two years later, in October-November 1015, ISIS appeared on Sadad outskirts after capturing nearby Muheen. The city was defended by local population, SAA, and 500 Christian fighters. They were helped by 200 SSNP fighters. Fighting together, they were able to stop ISIS advance.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

The Sadad visit by Syrian Orthodox Church Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II was an important event. He met with the fighters to raise their morale and take part in funeral rites. The defense of the city is significant because it is one of the few remaining Syrian cities with predominantly Christian population, fighting against a huge number of jihadists.

SSNP units are recruited from among Orthodox Lebanese and Syrian Christians. At first, most of the recruits came from Lebanon, then their number decreased as the number of Syrians grew. One should not think, however, the Eagles consist only of Christians. Muslims and Christians are fighting side by side. This was evident in Sadad fighting, where SSNP units contained many Muslim volunteers. This fact is yet more evidence of the level of support the idea of Syrian state has among its adherents, and SSNP does nto segregate along religious lines.

At present time, due to the large-scale government offensive, Eagles units maintain order in cities liberated from the militants.

The party’s future in Syria’s political life

In order to determine SSNP’s role in Syria’s and Middle East’s political life, one must deal with several difficult to answer questions.

SSNP’s strong aspects. Spring 2011 demonstrations were caused by external factors but also the internal political stagnation. The Ba’ath party has been in power since the early ‘60s. Sooner or later the war will end and Syria will have to make a choice—what political forces will govern the country? Secular and radical Islam have shown its true nature, and there is no return to it. USSR collapsed over 25 years ago. Without its support, there is also no future for a return of socialist parties in the Middle East. Therefore SSNP has a good chance to gain power and show its abilities. By Middle East standards, SSNP is a political veteran. It has a clearly defined program, which it follows. There is an advanced ideology with a future, which is important when no other political force can offer anything new. Seeking dialogue with the ruling party (Ba’ath in Syria) means that in extreme conditions SSNP will not seek confrontatios and is ready to aid its former rival. Participating in the war against Islamic and international terrorism, in deed and not word, gives the party considerable weight and popular support.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

Weak aspects. Since its start, the party has been underground. This is reflected in its low level of participation in legislative activity in Syria and Lebanon, as mentioned earlier. Apart these two countries and Jordan, where SSNP has been active since 2013, the party has no significant presence elsewhere.

Political democratization in post-imperial nation-states, first secular and then religious, meant the transfer of power into the hands of the majority. The question of religious or national minorities was addressed in different ways by various countries but, as a rule, these approaches tended to rely on force. Some nations had to emigrate, others took up arms. Given progressive state weakness and near-universal drive for autonomy, one can draw the conclusion the region is continuing its process of tribalization. Overcoming the remnants of clan and tribal systems and the minorities’ desire for own sovereign states will be very difficult for SSNP. This is further complicated by the persecution of Christians and their mass exodus from Lebanon in the past and Syria right now. But the local Christians were the most opposed to any forms of violence, and represented the intellectual and entrepreneurial elite. They made the party into what it is today: ready for dialogue, to offer a new path of development, to defend own country with force of arms.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SOURCE: RIA

There are also external factors which cloud the future of SSNP. How will regional powers, like Turkey or Israel, react to the appearance of a new actor, the Greater Syria? Will they allow it to appear at all? Will the leaders of countries in SSNP zone of interest be willing to give up own power, population, and territory?

Internal and external factors make SSNP’s future extremely uncertain. The idea of establishing a state on the basis of the common aspects of the people populating the region is still ahead of its time. But even if SSNP fails for some reason, it will represent a big step toward creating a new-model Arab state.

Conclusion

Unlimited nationalism as foundation of state system has sparked a trend toward anarchy and therefore can no longer be used as an effective means of political organization and preserving societal stability. Arab leaders who survived Arab Spring find it difficult to ensure own legitimacy, internal stability, and good relations with more powerful neighbors. Some have left the stage peacefully. Some were forcibly removed. Others are fighting to remain in power. Wars, coups, mass unrest, and outflow of refugees are boosting the trend toward anarchy and threaten not only the Middle East but the whole world. The recent history of Middle Eastern countries contains many examples of struggle between and cross-pollination among religious (pan-Islam, Islamic Modernism) and secular (Pan-Arabism, Arab Nationalism) currents. This trend to a certain extend determined the evolution of the Arab political thought and helped to, up to a certain point, adapt to the ideas borrowed from the West. But as noted above, they were unable to avert the fracturing of the Middle East and address the conflict among ethnic and religious groups. This fracturing is made worse by the arbitrary nature of borders of countries which qualify as Arab. These states control the territory they do largely due to powerful external pressure, and not as a result of internal processes. It means the current system suffers from a delay-fuse bomb planted under it. It may be now is the time to implement new political ideas and to establish a state based on a historic sense of community among people living in a certain area, irrespective of their language, religion, or nationality.

“طلال سلمان: حول “الربيع العربي

They are not riddles: The release of the detainee Maatouq The emergence of Abu Mustafa into public The Sub – elections in Deir Al Zour ليست ألغازاً: تحرير الأسير معتوق إطلالة أبو مصطفى انتخابات فرعية في دير الزور

They are not riddles: The release of the detainee Maatouq The emergence of Abu Mustafa into public The Sub – elections in Deir Al Zour

سبتمبر 24, 2017

Written by Nasser Kandil,

The Americans and their allies endeavored to trade with the understanding accomplished by Hezbollah with ISIS after a clear victory on the militants of ISIS in the barrens of Lebanon and Syria. This understanding depended on transferring the remaining militants and their families along with their  individual weapons to Deir Al Zour in exchange of revealing the fate of the Lebanese kidnapped soldiers and liberating the martyrs’ bodies and a detainee who belongs Hezbollah. The Americans and their groups in Iraq and Lebanon accompanied with the satellite channels and newspapers funded and operated by Saudi Arabia hastened to distort the image of Hezbollah and the clarity of its victory and accusing it with the seriousness in fighting ISIS which the victories and the blood of the martyrs prove. The Americans have waged a war of disrupting the understanding by hindering the bus of the militants of ISIS in the desert, but Hezbollah did not get embarrassed, on the contrary it defended its understanding, showing the ethics of wars and the concept and the strategy of the positive psychological warfare in order to dismantle ISIS and to prepare for the surrender of ISIS’s militants in its next battles, it has perfected the use of the campaign which was waged against it to show how Hezbollah deals,  its fighting value, its military features and in preparation for the surrender of ISIS’s soldiers whenever they are besieged by its fighters, being confident that they will not be treated brutally as they treat their victims.

In the last stages of the understanding, the arrival of the convoy to its destination, and the release of the resistant detainee Ahmed Maatouq all the balances of forces which surround the war in Syria have been brought. The Americans as Hezbollah have made every effort, but this time the word of America was versus the word of Hezbollah and the war was in its peak at the borders of the Euphrates towards Deir Al Zour, till Jacob Amirdor said that Israel fought in 2006 to push Hezbollah to beyond Litani, it is two kilometers away from the borders from the side of khardali. Now Hezbollah is on the borders of the Euphrates expanding hundreds of kilometers, so within days the war of Deir Al Zour has been resolved, and the Americans announced that they stopped following-up the convoy which belongs to ISIS depending on a Russian request, that convoy continued its way and reached its destination, thus Hezbollah was able to liberate its resistant detainee. Therefore, it was proven that the word of Hezbollah was the influential, moreover America which tried to trade to undermine the understanding and did everything possible to disable its Implications has turned into a partner in implementing it in favor of Hezbollah, as it is a partner that offers the participation to liberate the detainees of Hezbollah on the day of exchange after the war of July to ensure the arrival of the martyr Samir Al-Kuntar liberated to Lebanon. These are the real balances of forces in the region for those who know the meaning of reading politics and strategies.

*****

The leader of Hezbollah Al Hajj Abu Mustafa has made a rare TV interview from Deir Al Zour after raising the siege, he emerged as a political and high intellectual leader, he chose his expressions very accurately. He talked within minutes what is enough to draw the course of the war in Syria and the path of Hezbollah in it. He said that emerging to media is a translation of the equation “we will be where we should be” into “we will be as we should be” When it is needed to emerge publically we emerge and vice versa. He said that the military steps are decided by the Syrian leadership and we carry out what the leadership demands. He added that the decision of the Secretary-general of Hezbollah of emerging to public is in order to show this axis of resistance in its strategic victory and in all its aspects from Russia, Iran, Iraq Syria, and Lebanon, where Palestine is the cause, giving every part of this axis a meaningful feature, Abu Mustafa read a written text and repeated sentences which he said twice, he was a distinctive leader in his performance, but many times he spoke fluently without a text, so the smoothness of the expression was an honesty and a credibility to a leader as his indication to the symbolism of the five pillars of the axis of resistance “friendly Russia, Iran is the Islam, Iraq is the Arabism, Syria of Al-Assad , and the resistant Lebanon”, with these pillars the resistance is wining by its morals, culture, courage, and faith.

*****

Few days ago immediately after the liberation of Deir Al Zour the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad issued a republican decree in which he determined the date of the sub-elections in Deir Al Zour on the thirtieth of September for a vacancy of a parliamentary seat, while the Lebanese officials are escaping from holding anticipating sub-elections for months and years. Between the security situations of Syria especially Deir Al Zour and the situations of Lebanon, we know the meaning of the existence of a country and the appropriate conditions for holding elections, and how the men in powers are. So those who say that the elections in Syria are blocked, their problem is not in the appropriate security and administrable conditions but the blocking, and those who are afraid to hold them on their account, will lose more when the date is postponed, so hasten to do so today, it is better than tomorrow or is not as bad as tomorrow.

*****

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

 

ليست ألغازاً: تحرير الأسير معتوق إطلالة أبو مصطفى انتخابات فرعية في دير الزور

سبتمبر 15, 2017

ناصر قنديل

– جهد الأميركيون وحلفاؤهم للمتاجرة بالتفاهم الذي أنجزه حزب الله مع داعش بعد نصر واضح على مسلحي التنظيم في جرود لبنان وسورية، يقضي بنقل ما تبقى من المسلحين وعائلاتهم بأسلحتهم الفردية إلى محافظة دير الزور مقابل كشف مصير العسكريين اللبنانيين المخطوفين وتحرير جثامين شهداء وأسير لحزب الله، واستنفر الأميركيون جماعاتهم من العراق ولبنان والقنوات الفضائية والصحف المموّلة والمشغلة من السعودية لتشويه صورة حزب الله ونقاء نصره، واتهامه بجدية حربه على داعش التي تتحدّث عنها الانتصارات ودماء الشهداء. وخاض الأميركيون حرب تعطيل التفاهم بحجز قافلة مسلحي داعش في الصحراء، فلم يُصَب حزب الله بالإحراج بل خرج مدافعاً عن تفاهمه مقدّماً فيه أطروحة في أخلاقيات الحرب وفي منهج واستراتيجية حرب نفسية إيجابية لتفكيك داعش والتمهيد لمسار استسلام مسلحيها في معاركه المقبلة، وأحسن استثمار الحملة ضده لتنقلب وجهاً من وجوه الدعاية للحزب وقيمه القتالية ومناقبيته العسكرية، وتمهيداً لاستسلام عناصر داعش، كلما حوصروا من مقاتليه، واثقين أنهم لن يعامَلوا بالوحشية التي عاملوا بها هم كل مَن وقع بين أيديهم.

– استُحضرت في آخر فصول التفاهم، ببلوغ القافلة مكان وصولها النهائي وتحرير الأسير المقاوم أحمد معتوق، كلُّ موازين القوى المحيطة بالحرب في سورية وعليها، فرمى الأميركيون بثقلهم ورمى حزب الله بثقله. وكانت الأمور هذه المرة كلمة أميركا مقابل كلمة حزب الله، والحرب في ذروتها على ضفاف الفرات ونحو دير الزور، حتى قال يعقوب عميردور إن إسرائيل قاتلت عام 2006 لتدفع حزب الله إلى وراء الليطاني وهو يبعد كيلومترين عن الحدود من جهة المطلة الخردلي، وها هو حزب الله على ضفاف الفرات يتوسّع مئات الكيلومترات، وخلال أيام حُسمت حرب دير الزور، فأعلن الأميركيون أنهم بطلب روسي أوقفوا متابعة القافلة الخاصة بداعش، فأكملت مسيرها ووصلت نقطة النهاية وحرّر حزب الله أسيره المقاوم معتوق. وكسر الإرادات هنا يقول إن كلمة حزب الله خرجت هي العليا، لا بل إن أميركا التي تاجرت للنيل من التفاهم وبذلت كل ما تستطيع لتعطيل مفاعيله، تحوّلت شريكاً في تنفيذه لحساب حزب الله، كما لو أنها شريك يقدم المساهمة لتحرير أسرى حزب الله يوم التبادل بعد حرب تموز، لضمان وصول الشهيد سمير القنطار محرراً إلى لبنان، هذه هي موازين القوى الحقيقية في المنطقة لمن يعرف معنى قراءة السياسة والاستراتيجيات.

– أطل القيادي في حزب الله الحاج أبو مصطفى في لقاء تلفزيوني نادر الحدوث، من دير الزور بعد فك الحصار عنها، فظهر قائداً سياسياً وفكرياً عالي الثقافة دقيق الاختيار في التعابير، قال بدقائق ما يكفي لرسم مسار الحرب في سورية ومسيرة حزب الله فيها، فقال إن الإطلالة على الإعلام ترجمة لمعادلة نكون حيث يجب أن نكون بمعادلة نكون كيف يجب أن نكون، فعندما يقتضي الظهور علناً نظهر علناً وعندما يقتضي أن لا نظهر فلا نظهر، وقال إن الخطوات العسكرية تقررها القيادة السورية ونحن ننفّذ ما تطلبه القيادة. وقال إن قرار الأمين العام لحزب الله بالظهور العلني ليظهر محور المقاومة في هذا النصر الاستراتيجي بتجلياته كلها، ومعه روسيا الصديقة، من إيران الإسلام إلى عراق العروبة وسورية الأسد إلى لبنان المقاومة ففلسطين القضية، مانحاً كل ركن في المحور صفة ملازمة ذات مغزى.

رأ أبو مصطفى في بعض كلامه نصاً مكتوباً وكرّر جملاً قالها مرتين، فكان قائداً مميزاً في الأداء، لكنه تدفق مرات بلا نص فكانت سلاسة التعبير صدقاً ومصداقية لقائد، مثل ترميزه لخماسية أوصاف أركان محور المقاومة، بهؤلاء تنتصر مقاومة رصيدها أخلاق وثقافة وشجاعة وإيمان.

– أصدر الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد قبل أيام وفور تحرير دير الزور مرسوماً جمهورياً يحدّد موعد الانتخابات الفرعية في دير الزور عن مقعد نيابي شاغر في الثلاثين من شهر أيلول الحالي، بينما يتهرّب بعض المسؤولين اللبنانيين من إجراء انتخابات فرعية منتظرة منذ شهور وسنين، ويحاولون تهريب الانتخابات كلها منذ سنين ويكرّرون المحاولة اليوم، وبين حال سورية الأمنية، وخصوصاً دير الزور وحال لبنان تكمن العبرة في الحديث عن معنى وجود الدولة، وعن ظروف مناسبة لإجراء الانتخابات، والأهم كيف يكون رجال الدولة، وللذين يقولون إن الانتخابات في سورية معلّبة، ولذلك لا يهابون إجراءها جواب بسيط، إن مشكلتكم إذن انتظار تعليب الانتخابات وليست الظروف الأمنية والإدارية المناسبة، أو الجواب إذا كانت في سورية ممكنة الإجراء ومعلبة، فلتكن عندكم ممكنة الإجراء ولا تعلّبوها، أما للخائفين من إجرائها على حساباتهم وأوزانها، فالجواب أنكم ستخسرون كلما تأجّل الموعد مزيداً من الحجم والوزن، فزمن هزائم مشروعكم سيتجلى أكثر وأكثر، فسارعوا إليها اليوم أفضل من الغد أو أقل سوءاً، واعملوا بالقول المأثور، «إن هبتَ أمراً فقَعْ فيه، فإن شدّة توقيه أعظم مما تخاف منه».

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The Lucy Stein Gang Rides Into Moscow

September 18, 2017

by Israel Shamir for the Unz Review

The Lucy Stein Gang Rides Into Moscow

Can the Putin Fans League win municipal elections in New York City? Not bloody likely, you’ll murmur, and probably justifiably so. However, in the municipal elections last week, pro-American forces captured one third of the seats in Moscow. A great shock, slightly mitigated by the media silence that accompanied both the election and its results.

As a rule, I do not dwell much on internal Russian politics (as opposed to foreign relations). They are parochial, obscure and not democratic. That is true for internal politics in every country I am aware of, but in Russia, they aren’t even competitive. Kremlin wiseguys try and fix the results with all the subtleness of Democratic primaries under Ms Debbie Wasserman Schultz. This time they had a seemingly brilliant idea: wouldn’t it be nice if few people would turn up at the election booths? Only those requested to vote? So they had zero publicity, zero announcements, zero TV coverage. People were vaguely aware of the municipal elections but the affair was so low profile that very few cared to attend: slightly over ten per cent of the electorate. The cynical subterfuge flopped badly.

In Moscow (which is the only place in Russia that counts) the three main opposition parties, the Communists and the Nationalists, as well as Kremlin-friendly Socialists, were been decimated. Their votes had been snatched by pro-Western liberals, self-described as “those of good genes”, “the fair-faced ones”, “handshake-worthy”; all these epithets vaguely connected in Russian mind with prosperous Jewishness, of sorts, or with Jewified Soviet nomenclature. The best-known names include Ms Lucy Stein, a young Jewish journalist of some notoriety – she installed plaster copies of her breasts and filmed a staged act of a little boy being roughly treated by Putin’s police. Another one is Mr Maxim Katz, a young Jewish activist – he organized the delivery of flowers to the place of the opposition leader Mr Nemtsov’s assassination, allegedly with some profit for himself.

These youngsters (in their early twenties) have been led by Mr Dmitry Gudkov, a Russian Parliament Member and a son of a Russian Parliament Member. This sounds like the House of Lords, but Gudkov the Senior is an ex-KGB colonel, an oligarch and the owner of a bailiff business, rather than a hereditary peer. Gudkov’s people made a loose coalition with Yabloko (Apple, in Russian), a liberal party of some prominence in the Yeltsin years. They are against Putin’s policies, for the restoration of the Crimea to the Ukraine and for an alliance with the liberal West.

While other parties didn’t give a hoot, the liberals cared to come to the neglected elections, and they delivered their voters to the booths. For that purpose, they imported American technology, and one of Sanders’ operatives, a Russian-born Mr Vitali Shklyarov, who had come to set up what they called “a political Uber”, a web app for fielding candidates and getting voters. In addition, they vastly overspent their competitors.

Democracy in action? Forsooth! This was a clear-cut example of real (as opposed to imaginary) interference in foreign elections. While endless FBI probes have never produced any tangible proof of Russian interference in the US elections, and the Facebook investigation “revealed that it had sold as much as $150,000 in political ads to pro-Kremlin entities between 2015 and 2017”, the US interference in recent Moscow elections had been vast, powerful and effective. The pro-American forces spent over sixty million dollar in Moscow alone by very conservative estimates, and probably much more. And the funds came from abroad.

The very idea of Russian interference in the US elections had been flattering but silly. The Russians are not in the same league, in speaking of political technologies. The Americans are much more masterful, being trained in a competitive environment. The Russians’ only chance to have fair elections is adopting another American technology, namely the active fight against foreign interference. The Kremlin could and should investigate the path of every US buck to the Stein-Katz Gang, and deal with it as harshly as Americans are dealing with imaginary Russian interference. But would they? I doubt it. The wiseguys who mismanaged elections for Kremlin will do all they can to kill the story. No important Russian media carried it, by direct orders from Kremlin.

We have proof to back up our claims of the US interference in the Russian elections: a confession made by the coordinator for Open Russia, a political body created by Mr Michael Khodorkovsky. This oligarch, once the richest man in Russia, did nine years in a Russian jail for massive tax evasion, white-collar crimes, organized crime and conspiracy for murder, as brutal and ruthless a shark as ever swam murky waters of Russian business and politics.

Mr Khodorkovsky had been an American agent of influence for many years. Since being pardoned by President Putin, he moved abroad and became the focal point for the US-led clandestine campaign for regime change in Russia. Together with other exiled (and wanted) oligarchs, Tel Aviv-based Mr Nevzlinand London-based Mr Chichvarkin, Mr Khodorkovsky funnels money to Russia’s pro-Western opposition.

His coordinator Ms Maria Baronova had been quite close to Mr Khodorkovsky but parted with him some time ago. In her Facebook blog she admits that “Gudkov and Katz are a secret project of M. B. Khodorkovsky” while other elements of the opposition are a public project of Mr Khodorkovsky. In other words, the whole campaign has been organized from Washington, or perhaps from Langley.

As we learned from Wikileaks-published State Department cables, this is the current trend of CIA for orchestrating regime change: instead of sending money directly to the opposition with a courier, they employ oligarchs as go-between. This mode has been used in Syria since 2006, as well as in Lebanon, and now is being applied in Moscow.

The winners of the recent municipal elections in Moscow weren’t just the “fair-faced” children of nomenclature, but appointees of the US deep state. They did it using American know-how and American money. This is the real and very successful interference, and the organisers got away with it.

The Russian post-Soviet political system as organized by Putin’s wiseguys should share the blame. The Communists, Nationalists of Mr Zhirinovsky and Socialists of Mr Mironov have been tamed and house-broken so efficiently that they lost their balls, their will power, their desire for victory – and their voters, as well. People stopped to care about them. The ruling party United Russia isn’t better; it is a toothless clone of the toothless CPSU, the late Soviet Union Communist Party that was dismantled by Gorbachev and Yeltsin without a single objection from millions of card-carrying members. It is a party of people who want to have power and its privileges.

The Ukraine had been ruled by a similar Party of the Regions. Led by Mr Victor Yanukovych, the party fell to pieces after the coup, its members deserting the sinking ship as fast as they could. United Russia will also run away in a case of trouble; they will helplessly watch Mr Khodorkovsky enter the gates of the Kremlin and probably applaud him. The United Russia’s 70% of vote is no guarantee of support for Mr Putin’s independent course. It would be better for Putin to rely upon smaller but more reliable and devoted cadres. Lenin used to say, ‘a small anchovy is better than a big cockroach’.

(This is true for other countries, too, as Mr Trump and Mr Corbyn discovered: their big parties just aren’t reliable. A small and reliable party of their dedicated supporters would be a better bet.)

The Kremlin spokesmen comfort themselves and others by stressing very limited powers of the elected deputies. By law, they may deal with municipal questions only. However, it is not unusual for such bodies to reach for more power in a revolutionary situation. In France, in 1789, the elected parliament was intended to be an advisory to the monarch, but very soon it assumed all the powers and chopped off the king’s head. In the USSR, in 1991, the Russian Federation parliament had very few rights being subservient to the Soviet parliament, but it assumed rights and broke up the USSR.

Forget about Mr Navalny. Perhaps we should get used to the idea that the next president of Russia will be called Maxim Katz, and Lucy Stern his Foreign Minister. That is, unless Mr Putin will do a better job at the forthcoming Presidential elections.

Israel Shamir can be reached at adam@israelshamir.net

This article was first published at The Unz Review.

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