The Road to Damascus: How the Syria War was Won

The Road to Damascus: How the Syria War was Won

October 18, 2019

by Pepe Escobar : posted with permission and crossposted with Consortium News

What is happening in Syria, following yet another Russia-brokered deal, is a massive geopolitical game-changer. I’ve tried to summarize it in a single paragraph this way:

“It’s a quadruple win. The U.S. performs a face saving withdrawal, which Trump can sell as avoiding a conflict with NATO ally Turkey. Turkey has the guarantee – by the Russians – that the Syrian Army will be in control of the Turkish-Syrian border. Russia prevents a war escalation and keeps the Russia-Iran-Turkey peace process alive.  And Syria will eventually regain control of the entire northeast.”

Syria may be the biggest defeat for the CIA since Vietnam.

Yet that hardly begins to tell the whole story.

Allow me to briefly sketch in broad historical strokes how we got here.

It began with an intuition I felt last month at the tri-border point of Lebanon, Syria and Occupied Palestine; followed by a subsequent series of conversations in Beirut with first-class Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian, Russian, French and Italian analysts; all resting on my travels in Syria since the 1990s; with a mix of selected bibliography in French available at Antoine’s in Beirut thrown in.

The Vilayets

Let’s start in the 19thcentury when Syria consisted of six vilayets — Ottoman provinces — without counting Mount Lebanon, which had a special status since 1861 to the benefit of Maronite Christians and Jerusalem, which was a sanjak (administrative division) of Istanbul.

The vilayets did not define the extremely complex Syrian identity: for instance, Armenians were the majority in the vilayet of Maras, Kurds in Diyarbakir – both now part of Turkey in southern Anatolia – and the vilayets of Aleppo and Damascus were both Sunni Arab.

Nineteenth century Ottoman Syria was the epitome of cosmopolitanism. There were no interior borders or walls. Everything was inter-dependent.

Ethnic groups in the Balkans and Asia Minor, early 20th Century, Historical Atlas, 1911.

Then the Europeans, profiting from World War I, intervened. France got the Syrian-Lebanese littoral, and later the vilayets of Maras and Mosul (today in Iraq). Palestine was separated from Cham (the “Levant”), to be internationalized. The vilayet of Damascus was cut in half: France got the north, the Brits got the south. Separation between Syria and the mostly Christian Lebanese lands came later.

There was always the complex question of the Syria-Iraq border. Since antiquity, the Euphrates acted as a barrier, for instance between the Cham of the Umayyads and their fierce competitors on the other side of the river, the Mesopotamian Abbasids.

James Barr, in his splendid “A Line in the Sand,” notes, correctly, that the Sykes-Picot agreement imposed on the Middle East the European conception of territory: their “line in the sand” codified a delimited separation between nation-states. The problem is, there were no nation-states in region in the early 20thcentury.

The birth of Syria as we know it was a work in progress, involving the Europeans, the Hashemite dynasty, nationalist Syrians invested in building a Greater Syria including Lebanon, and the Maronites of Mount Lebanon. An important factor is that few in the region lamented losing dependence on Hashemite Medina, and except the Turks, the loss of the vilayet of Mosul in what became Iraq after World War I.

In 1925, Sunnis became the de facto prominent power in Syria, as the French unified Aleppo and Damascus. During the 1920s France also established the borders of eastern Syria. And the Treaty of Lausanne, in 1923, forced the Turks to give up all Ottoman holdings but didn’t keep them out of the game.

Turkish borders according to the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923.

The Turks soon started to encroach on the French mandate, and began blocking the dream of Kurdish autonomy. France in the end gave in: the Turkish-Syrian border would parallel the route of the fabled Bagdadbahn — the Berlin-Baghdad railway.

In the 1930s France gave in even more: the sanjak of Alexandretta (today’s Iskenderun, in Hatay province, Turkey), was finally annexed by Turkey in 1939 when only 40 percent of the population was Turkish.

The annexation led to the exile of tens of thousands of Armenians. It was a tremendous blow for Syrian nationalists. And it was a disaster for Aleppo, which lost its corridor to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish forces under entered Alexandretta on July 5, 1938.

To the eastern steppes, Syria was all about Bedouin tribes. To the north, it was all about the Turkish-Kurdish clash. And to the south, the border was a mirage in the desert, only drawn with the advent of Transjordan. Only the western front, with Lebanon, was established, and consolidated after WWII.

This emergent Syria — out of conflicting Turkish, French, British and myriad local interests —obviously could not, and did not, please any community. Still, the heart of the nation configured what was described as “useful Syria.” No less than 60 percent of the nation was — and remains — practically void. Yet, geopolitically, that translates into “strategic depth” — the heart of the matter in the current war.

From Hafez to Bashar

Starting in 1963, the Baath party, secular and nationalist, took over Syria, finally consolidating its power in 1970 with Hafez al-Assad, who instead of just relying on his Alawite minority, built a humongous, hyper-centralized state machinery mixed with a police state. The key actors who refused to play the game were the Muslim Brotherhood, all the way to being massacred during the hardcore 1982 Hama repression.

Secularism and a police state: that’s how the fragile Syrian mosaic was preserved. But already in the 1970s major fractures were emerging: between major cities and a very poor periphery; between the “useful” west and the Bedouin east; between Arabs and Kurds. But the urban elites never repudiated the iron will of Damascus: cronyism, after all, was quite profitable.

Damascus interfered heavily with the Lebanese civil war since 1976 at the invitation of the Arab League as a “peacekeeping force.” In Hafez al-Assad’s logic, stressing the Arab identity of Lebanon was essential to recover Greater Syria. But Syrian control over Lebanon started to unravel in 2005, after the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, very close to Saudi Arabia, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) eventually left.

Bashar al-Assad had taken power in 2000. Unlike his father, he bet on the Alawites to run the state machinery, preventing the possibility of a coup but completely alienating himself from the poor, Syrian on the street.

What the West defined as the Arab Spring, began in Syria in March 2011; it was a revolt against the Alawites as much  as a revolt against Damascus. Totally instrumentalized by the foreign interests, the revolt sprang up in extremely poor, dejected Sunni peripheries: Deraa in the south, the deserted east, and the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo.

Protest in Damascus, April 24, 2011. (syriana2011/Flickr)

What was not understood in the West is that this “beggars banquet” was not against the Syrian nation, but against a “regime.” Jabhat al-Nusra, in a P.R. exercise, even broke its official link with al-Qaeda and changed its denomination to Fatah al-Cham and then Hayat Tahrir al-Cham (“Organization for the Liberation of the Levant”). Only ISIS/Daesh said they were fighting for the end of Sykes-Picot.

By 2014, the perpetually moving battlefield was more or less established: Damascus against both Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS/Daesh, with a wobbly role for the Kurds in the northeast, obsessed in preserving the cantons of Afrin, Kobane and Qamichli.

But the key point is that each katiba (“combat group”), each neighborhood, each village, and in fact each combatant was in-and-out of allegiances non-stop. That yielded a dizzying nebulae of jihadis, criminals, mercenaries, some linked to al-Qaeda, some to Daesh, some trained by the Americans, some just making a quick buck.

For instance Salafis — lavishly financed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — especially Jaish al-Islam, even struck alliances with the PYD Kurds in Syria and the jihadis of Hayat Tahrir al-Cham (the remixed, 30,000-strong  al-Qaeda in Syria). Meanwhile, the PYD Kurds (an emanation of the Turkish Kurds’ PKK, which Ankara consider “terrorists”) profited from this unholy mess — plus a deliberate ambiguity by Damascus – to try to create their autonomous Rojava.

A demonstration in the city of Afrin in support of the YPG against the Turkish invasion of Afrin, Jan. 19, 2018. (Voice of America Kurdish, Wikimedia Commons)

That Turkish Strategic Depth

Turkey was all in. Turbo-charged by the neo-Ottoman politics of former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the logic was to reconquer parts of the Ottoman empire, and get rid of Assad because he had helped PKK Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

Davutoglu’s Strategik Derinlik (“Strategic Depth’), published in 2001, had been a smash hit in Turkey, reclaiming the glory of eight centuries of an sprawling empire, compared to puny 911 kilometers of borders fixed by the French and the Kemalists. Bilad al Cham, the Ottoman province congregating Lebanon, historical Palestine, Jordan and Syria, remained a powerful magnet in both the Syrian and Turkish unconscious.

No wonder Turkey’s Recep Erdogan was fired up: in 2012 he even boasted he was getting ready to pray in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, post-regime change, of course. He has been gunning for a safe zone inside the Syrian border — actually a Turkish enclave — since 2014. To get it, he has used a whole bag of nasty players — from militias close to the Muslim Brotherhood to hardcore Turkmen gangs.

With the establishment of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), for the first time Turkey allowed foreign weaponized groups to operate on its own territory. A training camp was set up in 2011 in the sanjakof Alexandretta. The Syrian National Council was also created in Istanbul – a bunch of non-entities from the diaspora who had not been in Syria for decades.

Ankara enabled a de facto Jihad Highway — with people from Central Asia, Caucasus, Maghreb, Pakistan, Xinjiang, all points north in Europe being smuggled back and forth at will. In 2015, Ankara, Riyadh and Doha set up the dreaded Jaish al-Fath (“Army of Conquest”), which included Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda).

At the same time, Ankara maintained an extremely ambiguous relationship with ISIS/Daesh, buying its smuggled oil, treating jihadis in Turkish hospitals, and paying zero attention to jihad intel collected and developed on Turkish territory. For at least five years, the MIT — Turkish intelligence – provided political and logistic background to the Syrian opposition while weaponizing a galaxy of Salafis. After all, Ankara believed that ISIS/Daesh only existed because of the “evil” deployed by the Assad regime.

The Russian Factor

Russian President Vladiimir Putin meeting with President of Turkey Recep Erdogan; Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov standing in background, Ankara, Dec. 1, 2014 Ankara. (Kremlin)

The first major game-changer was the spectacular Russian entrance in the summer of 2015. Vladimir Putin had asked the U.S. to join in the fight against the Islamic State as the Soviet Union allied against Hitler, negating the American idea that this was Russia’s bid to restore its imperial glory. But the American plan instead, under Barack Obama, was single-minded: betting on a rag-tag Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a mix of Kurds and Sunni Arabs, supported by air power and U.S. Special Forces, north of the Euphrates, to smash ISIS/Daesh all the way to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

Raqqa, bombed to rubble by the Pentagon, may have been taken by the SDF, but Deir ez-Zor was taken by Damascus’s Syrian Arab Army. The ultimate American aim was to consistently keep the north of the Euphrates under U.S. power, via their proxies, the SDF and the Kurdish PYD/YPG. That American dream is now over, lamented by imperial Democrats and Republicans alike.

The CIA will be after Trump’s scalp till Kingdom Come.

Kurdish Dream Over

Talk about a cultural misunderstanding. As much as the Syrian Kurds believed U.S. protection amounted to an endorsement of their independence dreams, Americans never seemed to understand that throughout the “Greater Middle East” you cannot buy a tribe. At best, you can rent them. And they use you according to their interests. I’ve seen it from Afghanistan to Iraq’s Anbar province.

The Kurdish dream of a contiguous, autonomous territory from Qamichli to Manbij is over. Sunni Arabs living in this perimeter will resist any Kurdish attempt at dominance.

The Syrian PYD was founded in 2005 by PKK militants. In 2011, Syrians from the PKK came from Qandil – the PKK base in northern Iraq – to build the YPG militia for the PYD. In predominantly Arab zones, Syrian Kurds are in charge of governing because for them Arabs are seen as a bunch of barbarians, incapable of building their “democratic, socialist, ecological and multi-communitarian” society.

Kurdish PKK guerillas In Kirkuk, Iraq. (Kurdishstruggle via Flickr)

One can imagine how conservative Sunni Arab tribal leaders hate their guts. There’s no way these tribal leaders will ever support the Kurds against the SAA or the Turkish army; after all these Arab tribal leaders spent a lot of time in Damascus seeking support from Bashar al-Assad.  And now the Kurds themselves have accepted that support in the face of the Trukish incursion, greenlighted by Trump.

East of Deir ez-Zor, the PYD/YPG already had to say goodbye to the region that is responsible for 50 percent of Syria’s oil production. Damascus and the SAA now have the upper hand. What’s left for the PYD/YPG is to resign themselves to Damascus’s and Russian protection against Turkey, and the chance of exercising sovereignty in exclusively Kurdish territories.

Ignorance of the West

The West, with typical Orientalist haughtiness, never understood that Alawites, Christians, Ismailis and Druze in Syria would always privilege Damascus for protection compared to an “opposition” monopolized by hardcore Islamists, if not jihadis.  The West also did not understand that the government in Damascus, for survival, could always count on formidable Baath party networks plus the dreaded mukhabarat — the intel services.

Rebuilding Syria

The reconstruction of Syria may cost as much as $200 billion. Damascus has already made it very clear that the U.S. and the EU are not welcome. China will be in the forefront, along with Russia and Iran; this will be a project strictly following the Eurasia integration playbook — with the Chinese aiming to revive Syria’s strategic positioning in the Ancient Silk Road.

As for Erdogan, distrusted by virtually everyone, and a tad less neo-Ottoman than in the recent past, he now seems to have finally understood that Bashar al-Assad “won’t go,” and he must live with it. Ankara is bound to remain imvolved with Tehran and Moscow, in finding a comprehensive, constitutional solution for the Syrian tragedy through the former “Astana process”, later developed in Ankara.

The war may not have been totally won, of course. But against all odds, it’s clear a unified, sovereign Syrian nation is bound to prevail over every perverted strand of geopolitical molotov cocktails concocted in sinister NATO/GCC labs. History will eventually tell us that, as an example to the whole Global South, this will remain the ultimate game-changer.

 

أميركا التي لا تحارب

سبتمبر 28, 2019

توفيق شومان

يسأل العلامة ول ديورانت كاتب قصة الحضارة و قصة الفلسفة : مَن هي أميركا؟

يسأل ديورانت ويجيب: أميركا هي الحصان ورجل الأعمال.

الحصان في المفهوم العام هو رمز الفروسية، إلا أنه في المفهوم الأميركي وسيلة الكاوبوي ، ولا داعي لتفصيل رمزية رجل الأعمال.

جاء دونالد ترامب إلى البيت الأبيض كـ رجل أعمال ، يمتهن عقد الصفقات وإجادتها مثلما قال وأسهب في حملته الانتخابية وبعد تنصيبه رئيساً.

هذا يعيد الأمور إلى فلسفة وصول ترامب إلى رأس الإدارة الأميركية وعلاقتها بصلب الفلسفة العملية ، او النفعية أو البراغماتية، وهي فلسفة أميركية خالصة ومحضة، وإن نشأ بعض جذورها في القارة الأوروبية.

يكتب مؤسس الفلسفة البراغماتية الأميركي تشارلز بيرس 1839ـ1914 مقالة في العام 1878 تحت عنوان كيف نجعل أفكارنا واضحة؟ ، ويذهب إلى إجابة مضمونها بأن الفكرة الواضحة هي الفكرة القابلة للتطبيق والمعبّرة عن آثار حسية.

بعد تشارلز بيرس، يأتي مواطنه وليم جيمس 1842ـ 1910 ليقول إن معنى الحقيقة في قيمتها العملية، وأي بحث عن معنى آخر ضرب من العبث، وأما الأميركي الآخر جون ديوي 1859ـ1952 الذي يكتمل به الثلاثي الفلسفي البراغماتي فيرى أن الأفكار تجارب، وأي فكرة لا قيمة لها اذا تجرّدت من نتائجها العملية.

ما علاقة الفلسفة بالحرب؟

علاقة الفلسفة بالحرب، أن الحديث يدور حول فلسفة أميركية نفعية وحول حرب يمكن أن تكون نفعية ويمكن ألا تكون. وبمعنى آخر، يدور الحديث عن الحرب كفعل أو فكرة تحقق الغاية النفعية للولايات المتحدة أو لا تحققها.

والسؤال المطروح حيال ذلك:

ما الحروب التي خاضتها الولايات المتحدة؟

هذا يفرض العودة إلى عقارب الحروب في القرن العشرين وفي أوراقها التالي:

شغلت الولايات المتحدة مقاعد المتفرّجين في بداية الحرب العالمية الأولى، فمشهد الحرب ومسرحها كان في أوروبا، وفيما ذهب الأميركيون إلى ما يمكن تسميته بـ النفعية العليا خلال السنوات الثلاث الأولى للحرب وعملوا على تزويد الأوروبيين المتقاتلين بالسلاح والملابس والدواء والغذاء. مما أدى إلى نهضة اقتصادية أميركية لا سابق لها، وهذا ما أثار حفيظة ألمانيا، فراحت تهاجم السفن التجارية الأميركية في العام 1917 وتحثّ المكسيك للدخول في الحرب واعدة إياها بإعادة ولايات أميركية جنوبية إلى سيادتها.

كان الأوروبيون يتحاربون والأميركيون يتاجرون في الحرب.

ودخل الأميركيون الحرب في لحظاتها الأخيرة.

لم يختلف الأمر كثيراً في الحرب العالمية الثانية، فالمصانع الأميركية للسلاح والألبسة والدواء والغذاء، ارتفع إنتاجها إلى مستويات أدهشت الأميركيين أنفسهم، إذ باتوا المصدّرين الأوائل إلى أطراف الحرب، فتوسّع رأس المال وتضخّمت المصانع.

هنا جاء الهجوم الياباني على بيرل هاربور في العام 1941، أي بعد ثلاث سنوات من اشتعال الحرب العالمية الثانية، وكان من شأن هذا الهجوم أن يغيّر مجرى الحرب.

مرة ثانية:

كان العالم، شرقاً وغرباً، يتقاتل في الحرب العالمية الثانية وكان الأميركيون يتاجرون في الحرب.

ينتفعون منها.

يكنزون الأرباح والذهب والفضة.

انتهت الحرب العالمية الثانية وقرعت الحرب الكورية 1950ـ1953 طبولها، وهي حرب أميركية ـ صينية بالدرجة الأولى، وخلاصة الحرب يفسّرها أحد أهم الخبراء الأميركيين في الشؤون الصينية، هـ. ج. كريل، في كتابه المعروف الفكر الصيني من كونفوشيوس إلى ماو ، حيث يقول: كان ثمة تصورات خاطئة لدى الخبراء العسكريين في شؤون الشرق الأقصى، فقد كانوا يتصورون أن الصيني لا يحارب .

هذا خطأ في التصورات.

ربما يضاهي خطأ ألمانيا في الحرب العالمية الأولى

ويوازي خطأ اليابان في الحرب العالمية الثانية. ويساوي خطأ الزعيم النازي ادولف هتلر حين هاجم الاتحاد السوفياتي في الحرب الثانية أيضاً، فانقلب ظهر المجن عليه.

ويوازن خطأ نابوليون بونابرت حين غزا روسيا في العام 1812، فأصابه ما أصاب براقش، فجنى على نفسه وأسدل الستار المأساوي على حروب التوسع النابوليونية.

خطأ في التصورات قد يؤدي الى حرب.

ذاك موجز الحرب الكورية.

ماذا عن حرب فيتنام؟

هي نظرية الدومينو التي كشف عنها الرئيس الأميركي دوايت ايزنهاور في العام 1954، وموجزها يكمن في التصور الأميركي القائل بأن سقوط فيتنام في قبضة الشيوعية، سيؤدي إلى قيام أنظمة رفيقة في كمبوديا ولاوس وتايلند والفيلبين وأندونيسيا واليابان وأوستراليا.

هذه النظرية ما فتئت محل نقاش حارّ في الولايات المتحدة وعما إذا كات مدرجة في سياق التصورات والحسابات الخاطئة أم أنها كانت أمراً محتوماً لا فرار منه، خصوصاً بعد استعار المواجهة مع الرايات الحمراء التي طرقت أبواب القارة الأميركية مع فيديل كاسترو وتشي غيفارا، وما نجم عن ذلك، من تداعيات كان في طليعتها غزوة خليج الخنازير في العام 1961 و أزمة الصواريخ الكوبية في العام 1962.

الجدل حول نظرية الدومينو ما زال قائماً.

والإجابة غير قاطعة لغاية الآن.

ولكن ماذا عن الحروب الأميركية الأخرى في أواخر القرن العشرين ومطلع القرن الحالي؟

بعد حرب فيتنام، انخرطت الولايات المتحدة في حروب الوكالة ، والتي تعني الارتكاز على حلفاء محليين لمواجهة الخصوم أو الأعداء. وهكذا كان أمرها مع حرب أفغانستان الأولى إثر الاجتياح السوفياتي في العام 1979، فراحت تقاتل بـ غيرها ، وهي الحال نفسها في أفريقيا وأميركا اللاتينية.

المشهد عينه، سوف يبرز في حروب أميركية لاحقة. فخلال حرب افغانستان الثانية في العام 2001، كانت ركيزة الحرب الأميركية قائمة على الحلفاء المحليين . وهذا ينطبق على العراق في العام 2003، وعلى ليبيا في العام 2011، مع فارق بين الحربين الأفغانية والعراقية وبين الحرب الليبية، أن الولايات المتحدة اعتمدت في افغانستان والعراق مبدأ القيادة من الأمام ، وفي ليبيا القيادة من الخلف .

ثمة دروس فائقة الأهمية في الحروب الأفغانية والعراقية والليبية خلاصتها وإجمالها في التالي:

ـ خاضت الولايات المتحدة حربها الأفغانية بوجه دولة ممزقة.

ـ خاضت الولايات المتحدة حربها العراقية بوجه دولة محطّمة.

ـ خاضت الولايات المتحدة حربها الليبية بوجه دولة مشرذمة.

عملياً، كان العدو ضعيفاً ، وكأن الولايات المتحدة كانت تبحث عن حرب مع الفراغ، ولذلك كان إسقاط الأنظمة القائمة سهلاً.

الحرب السهلة لأجل النصر السهل.

ذاك عنوان قد يكون مناسباً لحروب الولايات المتحدة في دول الإقليم، وبصرف النظر عن التعقيدات والمآلات التي تلت مقدمات تلك الحروب ومفاصلها الأولى، فما بعد المقدمات والمفاصل حديث آخر.

هل يمكن الخروج بقراءة عامة لحروب الولايات المتحدة؟

لنلاحظ التالي:

ـ في الحربين العالميتين الأولى والثانية لجأت الولايات المتحدة إلى مبدأ الانتظار ، ولم تدخل الحربين إلا بعدما تهالك وتآكل المتحاربون، وهو مبدأ يشكل ذروة النفعية.

ـ في الحرب الكورية، تورّط الأميركيّون في التصورات الخاطئة.

ـ حول الحرب الفيتنامية ما زال الأميركيون يتجادلون حول الخطأ والضرورة.

ـ في حروب افغانستان والعراق وليبيا اعتمد الأميركيون مبدأ الاستناد إلى الركيزة المحلية.

ـ في حروب أفغانستان والعراق وليبيا استغل الأميركيون واقع الأنظمة الهشة.

ـ في الحربين العالميتين الأولى والثانية وفي حرب أفغانستان الثانية، كانت مبررات الحروب الأميركية: قصف الغواصات الألمانية للسفن التجارية الأميركية ـ الهجوم الياباني على قاعدة بيرل هاربور العسكرية ـ تفجيرات تنظيم القاعدة في واشنطن ونيويورك، أي وقوع الولايات المتحدة تحت مرمى الاستهداف المباشر.

ـ في حرب العراق 1991، اعتبر الأميركيون احتلال الكويت عبثاً بالجغرفيا السياسية وخرائطها.

أي حالة تنطبق على ايران؟

ولا حالة.

ولا مبرر.

ولا نفعية ولا منفعة.

وفي تفصيل هذه الحالات ، يمكن القول إن الأميركيين لا يمكنهم اعتماد مبدأ الانتظار ليدخلوا الحرب مع ايران في لحظاتها الأخيرة، كما في الحربين الأولى والثانية، فإيران ليست في حالة حرب مع أي دولة، كما لا يمكن للأميركيين خوض حرب مع إيران بالوكالة، فلا وجود لقوى محلية إيرانية تشكل ركيزة للحرب، ولا توجد قوى اقليمية يمكن أن تشكل الركيزة المفقودة، وفوق ذلك فإيران دولة متماسكة وليست دولة هشّة على ما كانت عليه حالات افغانستان والعراق وليبيا.

يبقى التصوّر الخاطئ.

هل يمكن ان يخطئ الأميركيون بتصوراتهم؟

هذا احتمال ضعيف، بل هو أضعف الاحتمالات، وفي القياس النفعي يفرض السؤال نفسه: ماذا يجني دونالد ترامب من الحرب مع إيران؟

لا شيء مضمون سوى أن النفوذ الأميركي في الخليج سيكون محل سؤال استراتيجي كبير، وهل يبقى على حاله ام تنقلب أحواله سلباً وتراجعاً؟

إذا لماذا الحرب والنتائج غير مضمونة؟

تحت طيات هذا السؤال ربما يعيد الإيرانيون قراءة أمثالهم القديمة.

ربما واحد منهم يردّد المثل الإيراني القديم:

لا تقتل الأفعى بيدك

اقتلها بيد عدوك.

فعلاً لم يحدث هذا منذ ألف عام

 

يوليو 25, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– في كلام سابق للأمين العام لحزب الله السيد حسن نصرالله إشارة اعتبرها مرشد الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران الإمام علي الخامنئي بصيص أمل عن اقتراب موعد تحرير القدس من الاحتلال، وفقاً لما وصفه نصرالله بالاستدلال بالمنطق واقع المعادلات والتوازنات، رابطاً أمله الشخصي بالصلاة في القدس بمعادلة الحياة والموت التي لا يمكن التحكم بها، رغم وقوع توقعاته لتحرير القدس ضمن المدى المنطقي لما يمكنه من أن يكون شاهداً على التحرير، وفي كلام لاحق لمستشار الإمام الخامنئي الدكتور علي ولايتي، المعروف بمكانته في الملفات الاستراتيجية في فريق الإمام الخامنئي، إشارة إلى أن إسقاط الطائرة الأميركية الإلكترونية العملاقة واحتجاز ناقلة النفط البريطانية، أحداث تمثل منعطفاً في تاريخ العالم الإسلامي.

– بالعودة إلى التاريخ تبدو منطقة الساحل الشرقي للبحر المتوسط وعمقها الآسيوي، كميدان جغرافي للمواجهات التاريخية بين الغرب والشرق، مسرحاً لتسجيل انتصارات الغرب وهيمنته واستعراضاته العسكرية، وفرض مصالحه الاقتصادية منذ خمسة قرون على الأقل عندما بدأت الإمبراطورية العثمانية تقدّم التنازلات للدول الأوروبية في جنوب السلطنة، لضمان مصالحها في بلدان الشمال، وصولاً لتفكك السلطنة مع الحرب العالمية الأولى وما تبعها من ترسيخ للهيمنة الغربية، لكن حتى مراحل صعود السلطنة العثمانية لم تشهد ردعاً للصولات والجولات الغربية نحو شرق المتوسط، فخلالها نشأ ما عُرف بعهد القناصل، وتنامي الإرساليات، ونشوء النسخ البدائية للوكالات التجارية.

– آخر ما يكتبه التاريخ عن يد الشرق العليا في شرق المتوسط كان في تمكّن شعوب المنطقة من مواجهة حملات الفرنجة التي سُمّيت بالحروب الصليبية واتخذت الدين شعاراً لها لحشد المشاركة في التعبئة لقواتها تحت شعار الذهاب إلى القدس، بينما سحقت في طريقها إلى فلسطين كل الكنائس الشرقية وقتلت الآلاف من قساوستها ورهبانها، ودمّرت ممتلكاتها، وقتلت عشرات الآلاف من رعاياها، واللافت أن حروب الفرنجة نجحت يومها خلال الفترة الممتدة من نهاية القرن الحادي عشر إلى نهاية القرن الثاني عشر ببناء مستوطنات في فلسطين ونجحت بوضع يدها على القدس، بصورة لا تختلف كثيراً عن واقع كيان الاحتلال اليوم، وبقيت الأساطيل الغربية ومحاولات تأمين طريق بري بحملات مستديمة، هي مصدر الحماية الذي يشكل مصدر قوة هذا الكيان الاستيطاني الناشئ يومها.

– مع تحرير القدس في نهاية القرن الثاني عشر، وجعلها متاحة لكل المؤمنين لممارسة عباداتهم وشعائرهم الدينية، انتهت عملياً الحروب الكبرى وبقيت مناوشات استمرت تحت مسمّى حملات صليبية، لكنها لم تقدر أن تغير الواقع الجديد، حتى نشوء كيان الاحتلال منتصف القرن العشرين، لكن اللافت بالقياس التاريخي أنه منذ نشأة هذا الكيان القائم على اغتصاب فلسطين، للمرة الأولى يبدو محاصراً بصواريخ قوى المقاومة ومقاتليها من كل الجهات عاجزاً عن خوض حرب، وتبدو الأساطيل البحرية والجوية والبرية لنجدته عاجزة عن تشكيل توازن ردع في المنطقة. وهذا هو مغزى ما تمثله حوادث إسقاط الطائرة الأميركية واحتجاز الناقلة البريطانية.

– منذ ألف عام لم يحدث مثيل لذلك، رغم ما تلقته الأساطيل الغازية لنابليون بونابرت على سواحل مصر أو أسوار عكا، ورغم حروب المواجهة التي خاضها جمال عبد الناصر في مواجهة العدوان الثلاثي، فقد بقي في كل حالة منها مجال للإعداد لجولة مقبلة، حيث كان احتياط الغرب القوي ينتقل من ضفة إلى ضفة، كما هو حال الأفول الفرنسي لحساب بريطانيا والأفول البريطاني لحساب أميركا. وهذا مغزى القول اليوم إنه منعطف تاريخي، وبصيص أمل.

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Taking a Minute to Walk in Iran’s Shoes

Iran Feature photo

Feature photo | Mourners carry flag-draped caskets in a funeral procession for 150 soldiers whose remains were recently recovered. The soldiers were killed during the war with then-US-backed-Iraq in the 1980s, Tehran, Iran, June 27, 2019. Vahid Salemi | AP

If one can learn anything from the modern history of Iran, it’s that great powers will sell — and have sold — them out at a moment’s notice.

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Iran has seen its fair share of the damage imperialism has inflicted on the world — joint Russian and British control over Iran during the Qajar era, then the killing of one fifth of the Iranian population between 1917-19 (as documented in Barry Rubin’s The Middle East: A Guide to Politics, Economics, Society and Culture, p. 508) from famine brought on by the confiscating of foodstuff by occupying British forces that had violated Iran’s neutrality in World War I. This was followed in WWII by a coup that ousted Reza Shah, the then-king of Iran, also at a time when Iran had declared neutrality, in a British coup that put his son Mohammad Reza Shah on the throne of the kingdom. We need not mention the joint American-British coup, in which hundreds were killed, that toppled the popular Mosaddegh government because of its nationalization of the Iranian oil industry (which would have damaged American and British interests in Iranian oil).

The only time Iran saw an actual democratic movement succeed in giving power to the people that foreign powers were not able to abort was with the Islamic Revolution of 1979; and, even after that, the AmericansEuropeans, and even Arab countries of the Persian Gulf aided Saddam Hussein in a war he instigated against Iran — providing him with arms and chemical weapons, as well as intelligence.



A lesson in wariness

Taking these historical events (and many more instances) into account, it is no wonder that Iranians would be very wary of any moves made by the United States and other global powers, namely those with a colonial track record. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or Iran Nuclear Deal) could have very well marked a paradigm shift in relations with Iran, but instead, the Europeans did not abide by their commitments, and the Americans just up-and-left the agreement as soon as Trump got around to Iran. Not only that but, instead of abiding by their commitments, they’re trying to milk even more out of the deal — promising they’ll abide by their commitments if Iran offers more to an already done deal. What this means is they are being asked to add concessions in their ballistic missile program, much to the benefit of Arab Persian Gulf monarchies that are on a trend of increased militarization.

Trump's War On Iran. (Image: Carlos Latuff For MintPress News)

Credit | Carlos Latuff

Which brings us to the region’s latest round of tensions.

Given the already-stated facts, one has to understand, first and foremost, that Iran is dealing with a number of countries that have a history of falsifying facts, not standing by their agreements, and going into war in order to secure their own economic interests at the expense of other peoples. One must not forget the Indian famine in WWII, caused by food being exported from India to Britain, killing more than 20 million Indians, in reference to which Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

Living in such a flammable neighborhood — where the United States and its allies recently occupied its neighbors to the east and west and built military bases — and with such historical baggage, it’s not far-fetched that Iran, being the region’s most stable country, would rather rely on deterrence and defensive capabilities to secure itself than give concessions that could damage its security to powers that can hardly be trusted to keep their own word, as their own history suggests.

 

A wise decision

Iran made a wise decision in its downing of the RQ-4 drone. Usually, the shooting down of military surveillance drones does not lead to military escalation, though it does lead to an increase in tension. By doing so, Tehran was successful in warning any aggressor — be it the United States or any other country, for that matter — that it is not willing to compromise on matters of security or national pride (though the U.S. claims the drone was flying above international waters — 8000 miles away from U.S. soil — the debris has since been recovered by Iranian authorities in Iranian waters).

Iran US Drone

An Iranian general looks at debris from a U.S. military drone shot down by Iran’s air defense system, June 21, 2019. Meghdad Madadi | Tasnim via AP

The wisdom of this decision is that Iran delivered the intended message without causing any escalation — which doubtless would have been the outcome if it had downed a manned military plane that was also in its sites in the vicinity of the drone. It was a message that Trump had clearly received, and for which he expressed appreciation to Iranian authorities (although why he would bother to thank Iran if it was attacking a plane flying over “international waters” as he said is truly baffling).

In addition to that — although it had the legal right to shoot down the drone for flying over its airspace, which extends to 12 nautical miles from its borders — Iran also has the right to demand identification from any aircraft flying close to its territory. For more perspective, U.S. Air Defense Identification Zones extend 200 miles from the U.S. border and, as testified to by a former U.S. Air Force navigator, any unidentified drone flying that close to the U.S. border would most likely be shot down. The shooting down of this unidentified drone, even supposing the U.S.’s version of events were true, is perfectly warranted on Iran’s part, and does not allow the U.S. any measure of retaliation in “self-defense,” because no lives were lost in its downing.

Moreover, Iran clearly showed other countries what it was able to achieve independently through its reliance on its own capabilities. It downed the world’s leading military power’s aircraft for infringing on its airspace, and did so without hesitation because it sees itself as truly “sovereign.” Although the U.S. may threaten Iran with its military might and its presence in the region, Iran’s ballistic missile program has allowed it to turn that very strength into a weakness by having American bases, and 25,000 American troops, within targeting range.

A war with Iran would devastate the region. A war with Iran, Hezbollah, the Popular Mobilization Forces, and Ansarullah is in the interest of no one, and God only knows what other surprises Iran might have in store for conspiring Arab monarchies. The smart move would be to repair the JCPOA in order to avoid further escalation in the region.

Karim Sharara is a Lebanese PhD student who’s lived in Tehran since 2013 studying political science at the University of Tehran with a focus on Iranian affairs. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

Trump’s Annihilation Threat to Iran and WWI Déjà Vu

Finian Cunningham
May 22, 2019

The erratic US president has gone from wishing for peace with Iran to, a few days later, making a veiled threat of nuclear annihilation against the Islamic Republic.

Donald Trump got on his twitter pulpit at the weekend, warning about the “official end of Iran”.

The configuration of military power in the Persian Gulf, the heightening of tensions between the US and Iran, and the unhinged aggressive rhetoric all make a tinderbox situation.

At times, the protagonists have each said they don’t want war. But just like the slippery slope towards the First World War (1914-18), the eruption of hostilities can take on a logic of its own.

Paradoxically, assurances last week from President Trump and his top diplomat Mike Pompeo that the US “is not fundamentally seeking a war with Iran” are not in fact all that reassuring.

Neither, it must be said, are assurances from the Iranian leadership that they also do not want war with the US. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said there was “no appetite for war”. That may be so, but it’s no guarantee there won’t be one, especially because the circumstances are so precarious.

In the run-up to the First World War, European leaders were similarly adamant that war could be avoided. They thought their rationality and modernity would spare them from catastrophe. Nevertheless, the Europeans quickly plunged into a conflagration through a chain reaction beyond their control.

What bodes particularly grave today is the erratic and incendiary nature of Trump’s rhetoric. At the end of last week he was telling media that “he hoped” there would not be war with Iran. Indeed, he even alluded to the possibility of future diplomatic talks with Tehran. Then, over the weekend, Trump flipped as always and tweeted that if Iran threatened the US “it will be the official end of Iran”.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” tweeted the US Commander-in-Chief.

It’s not clear what set him off. Maybe reports of rocket attacks on the American embassy in Baghdad, fingering Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. Or maybe someone overcooked his hamburger.

There can be no doubt that Trump was invoking the use of nuclear weapons against Iran if any war were to break out. What else to deduce from the words “the official end of Iran”?

A senior Republican Senator, Tom Cotton, who is an arch war hawk on Iran, also appeared to endorse nuclear strikes if any conflict were to arise. He told Fox News that the US could defeat Iran with just two strikes, cryptically calling them “the first strike and the last strike”. That again leaves little doubt that nuclear annihilation is on the mind of Washington politicians with regard to prosecuting a war with Iran.

Such thinking is, of course, despicable. To contemplate the genocidal destruction of another nation demonstrates the barbarity and iniquity of American rulers. But we should not be surprised by such depravity. After all, the Americans are the only people who ever used atomic weapons when they dropped two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, killing over 200,000 civilians. Washington has always reserved the infernal “right” to use nuclear force preemptively to “defend its vital interests”.

During the Cold War decades, US strategists had drawn up plans to launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks on both the Soviet Union and China, knowing full well that millions of innocents would be obliterated.

Trump has previously warned North Korea with nuclear destruction, bragging about “a fury like the world has never seen before”. He even made a similar threat of annihilation against North Korea while addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2017. The arrogant criminality knows no bounds. Imagine, before the UN in brazen violation of its founding charter outlawing aggression, Trump actually seemed to relish genocide. (He has since gone on to embrace North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with diplomacy, but the psychotic American power could revert to barbarous aggression at any time, if talks don’t appease its dictates.)

Trump’s latest rhetorical broadside against Iran is as provocative as it gets. To crow about wiping out an entire nation is all but declaring war. It’s one tweet away from sparking a conflagration. It’s insane and criminal. Why has Twitter not shut down Trump’s account?

To return to our First World War analogy, that horrendous event, resulting in up to 20 million deaths and the arrival of industrial-scale killing, was largely opposed by the public at the time. Political, military and imperial leaders went to war in spite of assurances beforehand there would be no war. It was like the nations stumbled into a conflagration.

However, it wasn’t entirely unprecedented. What made the violence inevitable was the configuration of military forces and international tensions had been put in place over several years like a powder keg. One spark – the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 – led to a chain reaction of disaster.

That’s why vows from this American president that he doesn’t want war are rather disconcerting. The complacency is alarming. The Trump administration has done everything possible to lay down an explosive fuse in the Persian Gulf. From trashing the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, to ratcheting up economic terrorism through illegal sanctions, from sending aircraft carrier naval armada and B-52 bombers, to hinting at nuclear annihilation.

Washington is fully culpable for the explosive configuration. For Trump and other American politicians to talk about “not wanting war” is ludicrous naivety or duplicity.

Rockets fired at the American embassy in Baghdad, or Yemeni drones attacking Saudi oil infrastructure, or suspicious sabotage of tankers in the Persian Gulf. The sparks are flying at the powder keg.

The repetition of history is not inevitable. But Washington has surely done its fiendish utmost to make history repeat – a century after the First World War.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War

Part I

July 3, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of when the United States’ first military assault against Afghanistan with the CIA-backed Mujahideen began. It would be a mistake to treat the present-day conflict as being separate from the U.S. intervention that began in 1979 against the then-government of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not always known as the chaotic, ‘failed state’ overrun by warlords as it is now; this phenomenon is a product of that U.S.-led regime change operation. The article below, originally published on March 30, 2019, summarizes and analyzes the events that transpired during and after the Cold War years as they relate to this often misunderstood, if not overlooked, aspect of the long war against Afghanistan. 

When it comes to war-torn Afghanistan and the role played by the United States and its NATO allies, what comes first to mind for most is the ‘War on Terror’ campaign launched in 2001 by George W. Bush almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks. And understandably so, considering that the United States and its allies established a direct “boots-on-the-ground” military presence in the country that year. Not only that, but during the Bush-Cheney years, there was an aggressive propaganda campaign being played out across U.S. media outlets which used women’s rights as one of the pretexts for the continued occupation. The irony of this, however, is not lost on those who understand that the conflict in Afghanistan has a long history which, much like Syria, stretches as far back as the Cold War era — especially when it was the United States that provided support for the Mujahideen in destabilizing the country and stripping away the modernizing, progressive economic and social gains, including Afghan women’s emancipation, which the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) had fought for. With the overthrow of the independent Soviet-aligned PDPA government, the Taliban emerged as a powerful faction of the Mujahideen; the U.S. would develop a working relationship with the Taliban in 1995. The war was never truly about women’s rights or other humanitarian concerns, as Stephen Gowans explains:

“Further evidence of Washington’s supreme indifference to the rights of women abroad is evidenced by the role it played in undermining a progressive government in Afghanistan that sought to release women from the grip of traditional Islamic anti-women practices. In the 1980s, Kabul was “a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city’s university. Afghan women held government jobs.” There were female members of parliament, and women drove cars, and travelled and went on dates, without needing to ask a male guardian for permission. That this is no longer true is largely due to a secret decision made in the summer of 1979 by then US president Jimmy Carter and his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to draw “the Russians into the Afghan trap” and give “to the USSR its Vietnam War” by bankrolling and organizing Islamic fundamentalist terrorists to fight a new government in Kabul led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.

The goal of the PDPA was to liberate Afghanistan from its backwardness. In the 1970s, only 12 percent of adults were literate. Life expectancy was 42 years and infant mortality the highest in the world. Half the population suffered from TB and one-quarter from malaria.”

Moreover, and contrary to the commonly held belief that the conflict in Afghanistan started in 2001, it would be more accurate to say that the war started in 1979. As a matter of fact, the Carter Administration’s 1979 decision to overthrow the PDPA and destabilize Afghanistan is at the root of why the country is in the state that it continues to be in today.

Afghan women during the PDPA era vs. Afghan women today.

The Cold War – a new phase in the age of imperialism

The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan’s military welcome their Soviet counterparts

The 1979 to 1989 period of the Mujahideen onslaught is often referred to as the ‘Soviet-Afghan War’ because of the Soviet army’s heavy involvement. Although it is true that they were heavily involved, it is not an entirely accurate descriptor because it completely ignores the fact that it was a war that was actually crafted, instigated, and led by the United States. In what was also known then as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the years from 1978 to 1992 are inextricably linked with Soviet history — but not because it was a Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan and that the West had to intervene to stop it, as U.S. imperialist propaganda would have us believe. The Carter administration had already begun the planning, recruitment, and training for the Mujahideen in 1978 and had launched the attack on Afghanistan months before the Soviet army militarily intervened near the end of 1979. Also, the “Afghan trap” alone did not cause the dismantling of the Soviet Union; however, it was related. But more on that when we look at the Gorbachev years. Nevertheless, the destruction of Afghanistan was declared as a final blow to the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution was celebrated as “the victory of capitalism over communism” by the United States. To begin to understand the conflict in Afghanistan, it is important to examine the context in which it began: the Cold War.

In the early 1900s, Vladimir Lenin observed that capitalism had entered into its globalist phase and that the age of imperialism had begun; this means that capitalism must expand beyond national borders, and that there is an internal logic to Empire-building and imperialist wars of aggression. Lenin defines imperialism as such:

“the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”

It should be clear that imperialism is not just merely the imposition of a country’s will on the rest of the world (although that is certainly a part of it). More precisely: it is a result of capital accumulation and is a process of empire-building and maintenance, which comes with holding back development worldwide and keeping the global masses impoverished; it is the international exercise of domination guided by economic interests. Thus, imperialism is less of a cultural phenomenon, and more so an economic one.

Lenin also theorized that imperialism and the cycle of World Wars were the products of competing national capitals between the advanced nations. As he wrote in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, World War I was about the competition between major imperialist powers — such as the competing capitals of Great Britain and Germany — over the control of and the split of plunder from colonies. Thus, finance capital was the driving force behind the exploitation and colonization of the oppressed nations; these antagonisms would eventually lead to a series of world wars as Lenin had predicted. During the First World War, the goals of the two imperial blocs of power were the acquisition, preservation, and expansion of territories considered to be strategic points and of great importance to their national economies. And during the Great Depression, protectionist measures were taken up by Britain, the United States, and France to restrict the emerging industrial nations — Germany, Italy, and Japan, also known as the Axis states — from access to more colonies and territories, thereby restricting them from access to raw materials and markets in the lead up to World War II. In particular, the two advanced capitalist industrialized powers of Germany and Japan, in their efforts to conquer new territory, threatened the economic space of Britain, the U.S., and France and threatened to take their territories, colonies, and semi-colonies by force — with Germany launching a series of aggressions in most of Europe, and Japan in Asia. WWII was, in many ways, a re-ignition of the inter-imperialist rivalry between the Anglo-French bloc and the German bloc, but with modern artillery and the significant use of aerial assaults. It was also a period of the second stage of the crisis of capitalism which saw the rise of Fascism as a reaction to Communism, with the Axis states threatening to establish a world-dominating fascist regime. For the time being, WWII would be the last we would see of world wars.

At the end of WWII, two rival global powers emerged: the United States and the Soviet Union; the Cold War was a manifestation of their ideological conflict. The Cold War era was a new phase for international capital as it saw the advent of nuclear weapons and the beginning stages of proxy warfare. It was a time when the imperialist nations, regardless of which side they were on during WWII, found a common interest in stopping the spread of Communism and seeking the destruction of the Soviet Union. By extension, these anti-communist attacks would be aimed at the Soviet-allied nations as well. This would increase the number of client states with puppet governments acting in accordance with U.S. interests who would join the NATO bloc with the ultimate aim of isolating the Soviet Union. It should also be noted that the end of WWII marked the end of competing national capitals such that now, financial capital exists globally and can move instantaneously, with Washington being the world dominating force that holds a monopoly over the global markets. Those countries who have actively resisted against the U.S. Empire and have not accepted U.S. capital into their countries are threatened with sanctions and military intervention — such as the independent sovereign nations of Syria and North Korea who are, to this day, still challenging U.S. hegemony. Afghanistan under the PDPA was one such country which stood up to U.S. imperialism and thus became a target for regime change.

In addition to implementing land reforms, women’s rights, and egalitarian and collectivist economic policies, the PDPA sought to put an end to opium poppy cultivation. The British Empire planted the first opium poppy fields in Afghanistan during the 1800s when the country was still under the feudal landholding system; up until the king was deposed in 1973, the opium trade was a lucrative business and the Afghan poppy fields produced more than 70 percent of opium needed for the world’s heroin supply. These reforms in 1978 would eventually attract opposition from the United States, which had already embarked on its anti-communist crusade, providing backing to reactionary forces dedicated to fighting against various post-colonial progressive governments, many of which were a part of the ‘Soviet Bloc’ — such as the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua who mounted violent opposition to the Sandinista government. Despite having gained independence on its own merits, Afghanistan under the PDPA — much like other Soviet-allied, postcolonial successes such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Syria, Libya, and North Korea — was seen as a “Soviet satellite” that needed to be brought back under colonial domination, and whose commodities needed to be put under the exclusive control and possession of the United States. Not only that, but it was considered a strategic point of interest that could be used to enclose upon the Soviet Union.

In order to undermine the then-newly formed and popular PDPA government, the Carter administration and the CIA began the imperialist intervention by providing training, financial support, and weapons to Sunni extremists (the Mujahideen) who started committing acts of terrorism against schools and teachers in rural areas. With the assistance of the Saudi and Pakistani militaries, the CIA gathered together ousted feudal landlords, reactionary tribal chiefs, sectarian Sunni clerics, and cartel drug lords to form a coalition to destabilize Afghanistan. On September 1979, Noor Mohammed Taraki — the first PDPA leader and President of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan — was assassinated during the events of the CIA-backed coup, which was quickly stopped by the Afghan army. However, by late 1979, the PDPA was becoming overwhelmed by the large-scale military intervention by U.S. proxy forces — a combination of foreign mercenaries and Afghan Ancien Régime-sympathizers — and so they decided to make a request to the USSR to deploy a contingent of troops for assistance. The Soviet intervention provided some much-needed relief for the PDPA forces — if only for the next ten years, for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia “upped the ante” by pouring about $40 billion into the war and recruiting and arming around 100,000 more foreign mercenaries. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev would call on the Soviet troops to be withdrawn, and the PDPA was eventually defeated with the fall of Kabul in April 1992. Chaos ensued as the Mujahideen fell into infighting with the formation of rival factions competing for territorial space and also wreaking havoc across cities, looting, terrorizing civilians, hosting mass executions in football stadiums, ethnically-cleansing non-Pashtun minorities, and committing mass rapes against Afghan women and girls. Soon afterwards in 1995, one of the warring factions, the Taliban, consolidated power with backing from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. On September 28, 1996 the last PDPA Presidential leader, Mohammad Najibullah, was abducted from his local UN compound (where he had been granted sanctuary), tortured, and brutally murdered by Taliban soldiers; they strung his mutilated body from a light pole for public display.

A renewed opium trade, and the economic roots of Empire-building

U.S. troops guarding an opium poppy field in Afghanistan.

After the fall of Kabul in 1992, but some time before the Taliban came to power, the reactionary tribal chiefs had taken over the Afghan countryside and ordered farmers to begin planting opium poppy, which had been outlawed by the Taraki government. Prior to that, the Pakistani ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) set up hundreds of heroin laboratories at the behest of the CIA so that by 1981, the Pakistani-Afghan border became the largest producer of heroin in the world. Alfred McCoy confirms in his study, “Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade”:

“Once the heroin left these labs in Pakistan’s northwest frontier, the Sicilian Mafia imported the drugs into the U.S., where they soon captured sixty percent of the U.S. heroin market. That is to say, sixty percent of the U.S. heroin supply came indirectly from a CIA operation. During the decade of this operation, the 1980s, the substantial DEA contingent in Islamabad made no arrests and participated in no seizures, allowing the syndicates a de facto free hand to export heroin.”

It is apparent that by putting an end to the cultivation of opium poppy, in addition to using the country’s resources to modernize and uplift its own population, the independent nationalist government of the PDPA was seen as a threat to U.S. interests that needed to be eliminated. A major objective of the U.S.-led Mujahideen — or any kind of U.S. military-led action for that matter — against Afghanistan had always been to restore and secure the opium trade. After all, it was during the 1970s that drug trafficking served as the CIA’s primary source of funding for paramilitary forces against anti-imperialist governments and liberation movements in the Global South, in addition to protecting U.S. assets abroad. Also, the CIA’s international drug trafficking ties go as far back as 1949, which is the year when Washington’s long war on the Korean Peninsula began. The move by the PDPA to eradicate opium-poppy harvesting and put an end to the exploitation brought about by the drug cartels was seen as “going too far” by U.S. imperialists. A significantly large loss in opium production would mean a huge loss in profits for Wall Street and major international banks, which have a vested interest in the drug trade. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that money-laundering made up 2-5% of the world economy’s GDP and that a large percentage of the annual money-laundering, which was worth 590 billion to 1.5 trillion dollars, had direct links to the drug trade. The profits generated from the drug trade are often placed in American-British-controlled offshore banks.

The rationale behind the PDPA’s campaign to eradicate the opium poppy harvest was based not only on practical health reasons, but also on the role played by narcotics in the history of colonialism in Asia. Historically, cartel drug lords enabled imperialist nations, served bourgeois interests, and used cheap exploited slave labour. Oftentimes, the peasants who toiled in these poppy fields would find themselves becoming addicted to heroin in addition to being, quite literally, worked to death. Cartels are understood to be monopolistic alliances in which partners agree on the conditions of sale and terms of payment and divide the markets amongst themselves by fixing the prices and the quantity of goods to be produced. Now, concerning the role of cartels in ‘late-stage capitalism’, Lenin wrote:

“Monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicates and trusts first divided the home market among themselves and obtained more or less complete possession of the industry of their own country. But under capitalism the home market is inevitably bound up with the foreign market. Capitalism long ago created a world market. As the export of capital increased, and as the foreign and colonial connections and “spheres of influence” of the big monopolist associations expanded in all ways, things “naturally” gravitated towards an international agreement among these associations, and towards the formation of international cartels.

This is a new stage of world concentration of capital and production, incomparably higher than the preceding stages.”

International cartels, especially drug cartels, are symptoms of how capital has expanded globally and has adapted to create a global wealth divide based on the territorial division of the world, the scramble for colonies, and “the struggle for spheres of influence.” More specifically, international cartels serve as stewards for the imperialist nations in the plundering of the oppressed or colonized nations. Hence the mass campaigns to help end addictions and to crack down on drug traffickers which were not only implemented in Afghanistan under the PDPA, but in Revolutionary China in 1949 and by other anti-imperialist movements as well. Of course, the opium traffickers and their organized crime associates in Afghanistan saw the campaign against opium poppy cultivation, among other progressive reforms, as an affront; this made them ideal recruits for the Mujahideen.

But why the “breakdown” in the relationship between the U.S. and the Taliban from the early 2000s and onwards? Keep in mind that, again, the members of the Taliban were amongst the various factions that made up the Mujahideen whose partnership with the United States extends as far back as the late 1970s; and it was clear that the U.S. was aware that it was working with Islamic fundamentalists. The human rights abuses committed by the Taliban while in power were well-documented before their relations with the U.S. soured by the year 2000. What made these relations turn sour was the fact that the Taliban had decided to drastically reduce the opium poppy cultivation. This led to the direct U.S. military intervention of 2001 in Afghanistan and the subsequent overthrow of the Taliban; the U.S. used the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a pretext even if there was no proof that the Taliban had a hand in them or had been in contact with Osama bin Laden at all during that time. The U.S. would soon replace the Taliban with another faction of the Mujahideen that was more compliant with the rules that the imperialists had set out. In other words, the Taliban were ousted not necessarily because they posed a significant challenge to U.S. hegemony as the PDPA had, or because of their treatment of women — nor were they hiding Osama bin Laden; it was because they had become more of liabilities than assets. It is yet another case of the Empire discarding its puppets when they have outlived their usefulness due to incompetence and being unable to “follow the rules properly” — not unlike the U.S. removal of military dictator Manuel Noriega who was staunchly pro-American and who, in collaboration with fellow CIA asset and notorious cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, previously sold drugs for the CIA to help finance the anti-communist campaign in Central America.

George W. Bush visits Hamid Karzai, who participated in the Mujahideen in the past and led the puppet government that replaced the Taliban.

By 2002, and as a result of the 2001 intervention, the lucrative opium poppy production had seen a huge boom once again. In 2014, Afghanistan’s opium poppy production made up 90% of the world’s heroin supply, leading to a decrease in opium prices. And according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the opium production in Afghanistan increased by 43% to 4,800 metric tons in 2016.

Although the United States has always been one of the top producers of oil in the world, another reason for establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was to gain control over its vast untapped oil reserves, which the U.S. had known about prior to 9/11. Oil is yet another lucrative commodity, and ensuring that Afghanistan had a compliant government that would acquiesce to its demands was important for the U.S. in this aspect as well. Naturally, the nationalist government of the PDPA was also seen as a threat to the profit-making interests of U.S. oil companies, and any nation that was an independent oil producer (or merely a potential independent oil producer, in Afghanistan’s case) was seen as an annoying competitor by the United States. However, Afghanistan would not begin its first commercial oil production until 2013, partly because of the ongoing geopolitical instability, but also because opium production continues to dominate the economy. Plus, it is likely that neither the monarchy nor the PDPA realized that there existed such vast untapped oil reserves since there were very limited volumes of oil (compared to the higher volumes of natural gas) being produced from 1957 to 1989, and which stopped as soon as the Soviet troops left. Later, reassessments were made during the 1990s; hence the U.S. ‘discovery’ of the untapped petroleum potential. But, when intensive negotiations between U.S.-based oil company Unocal and the Taliban went unresolved in 1998 due to a dispute over a pipeline deal that the latter wanted to strike with a competing Argentine company, it would lead to growing tensions between the U.S. and the Taliban. The reason for the dispute was that Unocal wanted to have primary control over the pipeline located between Afghanistan and Pakistan that crossed into the Indian Ocean. From this point on, the U.S. was starting to see the Taliban as a liability in its prerogative of establishing political and economic dominance over Central and West Asia.

In either case, oil and other “strategic” raw materials such as opium are essential for the U.S. to maintain its global monopolistic power. It is here that we see a manifestation of the economic roots of empire-building.

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Continued in Part 2.

Originally published by LLCO.org on March 30, 2019. For the full-length article and bibliography, click here.

Janelle Velinais a Toronto-based political analyst, writer, and an editor and frequent contributor for New-Power.org andLLCO.org. She also has a blog at geopoliticaloutlook.blogspot.com.

All images in this article are from the author; featured image: Brzezinski visits Osama bin Laden and other Mujahideen fighters during training.

Shadow of Sarajevo 1914 Hangs Over Trump’s Golan Coup

Martin Sieff
April 26, 2019
Trump and Netanyahu still congratulate themselves on getting the United States to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. They should not.

It looked like an absurd petty vanity in 1908 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire formally annexed the obscure Balkan provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Six years later that move set off the greatest war in human history and destroyed the old empire forever.

The Israelis have just made the same mistake in getting the United States under President Donald Trump to recognize their annexation of the Golan Heights.

Israel took control of the Golan Heights on June 11, 1967 after a fiercely fought war over the territory with Syria. Israeli settlements in the northern Jordan Valley directly below the Golan had been repeatedly shelled during the previous two decades of fragile peace. The Israelis were therefore determined to keep control of the Golan area to prevent a future invasion by Syria and its allies into northern Israel. That nearly happened in the 1973 Yom Kippur War or War of Ramadan when hugely outnumbered Israeli screening forces were taken by surprise by the Syrians and only held them off in ferocious tank battles that are still closely studied today by war colleges all around the world.

That experience left the Israelis more determined than ever to hold on to the Golan territories and the Syrians more determined than ever to regain them.

Right wing nationalist Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin proved willing – eventually – to give up all of the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt in the 1977-79 peace process with then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. But Begin proved implacable in his refusal to consider a similar bargain with President Hafez Assad, Syria’s leader for 30 years. In December 1981, Begin unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights.

Ironically, Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s guiding strategic genius for three decades from his assumption of command as Army Chief of Staff in 1964 to his assassination while serving as prime minister in 1995, was prepared to consider returning the Golan to Syria before he was gunned down, shot in the back by Yigael Amir, a young Israeli religious-nationalist fanatic and student at Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious center of higher education Bar-Ilan University.

For the previous two decades, Rabin, during his long terms as Israeli defense minister had actually come to a remarkable quiet understanding with Assad. Both men quietly respected each other and they both loathed and distrusted Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat. As a result, they proved highly effective in keeping the peace.

Clashes between Syrian and Israeli ground forces during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 were carefully kept extremely limited in scope on both sides. And apart from that brief conflict, not a single Israeli or Syrian soldier was killed in action along their joint border during all the years Rabin and Assad senior held power.

As long as Rabin and Hafez Assad both lived there was a surprising amount of stability and peace between Tel Aviv and Damascus. That condition at first continued following the passing of both men. Assad died in office in 2000 and was succeeded by his son Bashir who still rules Syria now.

But today we see a very different situation. The US and Israeli obsession with toppling Bashir Assad and ending his close ties with Iran and Hezbollah led to the catastrophic Western support of extreme Islamists, ludicrously presented as democratic forces in the Arab Spring of 2011. The US government driven by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and supported by the United Kingdom and France as well as Israel believed Assad could be quickly toppled – which indeed proved to be the fate of Libya’s veteran leader Muammar Qadafi.

But Bashir Assad proved to be made of sterner stuff. The half of Syria forced from his government’s control did not experience some golden age. Most of it fell into the merciless hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The ancient Assyrian Christian and other minority communities of Syria who had been protected by the Assad governments were virtually annihilated in those terrible years. The Assad government fought back. Backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, it survived and has reestablished itself. The United States and its allies refuse to recognize these realities. Trump’s move to boost Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s standing by legally recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan plunges both countries further into dangerous delusion.

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