Libya: Whither goest this Nowhere Land?

By Ameen Izzadeen
Libya is fast sliding down a political abyss — with world leaders not knowing whom to contact or who is in control of the country. Foreign governments are in confusion as to the status of the Libyan mission in their countries. Which of the two governments does the Libyan mission represent? Is it the one in Tripoli or the one in Tobruk?
It was only three years ago that the United States cited Libya as an example where it had achieved a regime change without American boots on the ground — at least officially. Following the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and famously flashed a V sign to the world cameras declaring a major foreign policy victory for the United States.
But what has happened in the three years since this vulgar display of US triumphalism that symbolised the use of a sledgehammer to kill a crippled fly – the Pentagon calls it “Shock and Awe and the Israelis call it Gaza – is a regime-change experiment gone awry. Barack Obama playing for the history books as a second term US president apparently wants to be known as a president who brought troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan — and not as the President who put the lives of US soldiers in harm’s way. This policy was in sharp contrast to that of his predecessor George W. Bush, who showed little respect for the United Nations or international law.
Yes, Obama wants to be different. Why shouldn’t he be? After all, the Nobel peace medal awarded to him — not for his achievements in peacemaking, but on a preposterous presumption that he would be a peace builder — adorns his White House corner stand. Unlike Bush, he believes in collective military response – let NATO fight the US war. So when the Arab Spring revolts spread from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya, the Obama administration seized the opportunity and rallied behind the NATO flag to oust Gaddafi even though the Libyan leader had opened up to the West following the 9/11 attacks. This was because the Libyan leader was still unpredictable and had not given up on his grand vision for Africa. Gaddafi was against US military expansionism in Africa and was promoting a common African currency and a development bank. Many transnationals saw him as an impediment to their plunder of African resources. Hence the need for his removal. And the Western governments did it, not by sending troops to Libya, but by arming anti-Gaddafi rebels and providing them air support. The strategy worked. Gaddafi was killed, perhaps in keeping with the wishes of the United States’ West Asian allies. Libya got a new government, a parliamentary democracy, and recognition as a ‘civilised nation’ as opposed to a pariah nation under Gaddafi.
The US cited Libya as a case that bears testimony to its “Smart Power” – a philosophy that, apart from unleashing relentless air attacks on an enemy which is usually a minnow by the US standards, advocated skullduggery to mislead other world powers. In the case of Libya, it was Russia and China that were deceived.
Three years after Clinton’s famous V flash in Tripoli, Libya today is a hellhole of anarchy with two governments, two parliaments and scores of armed groups with areas of control, different ideologies and tribal affiliations. Since the overthrow of Gaddafi, half a dozen governments have come and gone and one prime minister has run away from the country while militants have stormed parliament to dictate who should hold which post and demand more money for their survival.
As the country hurtled towards lawlessness, some rebel groups even tried to sell oil, bypassing the government authority. Adding to the chaos are regional power games, with reports this week claiming that the United Arab Emirates together with Egypt carried out air attacks on Islamic militants in a vain attempt to prevent them from taking control of the Tripoli Airport. More about this later.
The telltale signs of Libya’s slide into chaos were visible within a year of the death of Gaddafi on October 20, 2011. On September 12, 2012, US ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by militants of the Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah. In a futile bid to defend the Smart Power philosophy which the Obama administration touted as a success story that got rid of an evil system to bring about Utopia, Secretary Clinton made the biggest blunder of her political career – a blunder that haunts her White House bid in 2016. She linked the killing of Stevens to the angry Muslim reaction to the YouTube movie “Innocence of Muslims” – a movie that sought to defame the character of the Prophet Muhammad. But subsequent investigations revealed that Stevens died in a deliberate attack on the US consulate in Benghazi by Ansar al-Shariah militants who alleged that the consulate building was being used as a spy centre.
Following this incident, the US and its Western allies tried their best to prop up the Libyan regime and bring about stability in the country. But parliament was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists who were seen as anti-West. Every effort the West took to stabilise Libya only worsened the crisis, with armed groups running the regions making a mockery of the central government’s control of the country.
With Libya’s Islamists becoming a law unto themselves, a renegade military commander and CIA lackey took upon himself the task of bringing order to the country. Of course, General Khalifa Haftar had the blessings of the US and the US-backed government in Tripoli when he began his war against Ansar al-Shariah in Benghazi. But instead of defeating the Islamists, his all-out military campaign codenamed Operation Dignity pushed various Islamist groups with different viewpoints to strike unity under the umbrella group Fajr or Dawn. This they did to ensure that what happened to the Brotherhood in Egypt would not happen to them in Libya.
In another development prior to General Haftar’s misadventure, the Libyan crisis exploded in neighbouring Mali. With weapons freely flowing from Libya, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an organisation fighting to make Azawad (Northern Mali) an independent homeland for the Tuareg people, was on the verge of capturing the capital, Bamako. It was only after French military intervention that the rebels – who were also Islamists — were pushed back.
This week, after months of heavy battles against the Zintan militia allied to Gen. Haftar, Dawn backed by the militia from the Misurata region captured Libya’s international airport in Tripoli. The group is now in control of all major airports in Libya. In the absence of a political leadership, the Libyan military is rudderless, with some officers backing General Haftar and others backing various armed groups based on their ethnic or regional affiliations.
Probably sensing the victory of the Islamists, the United States as early as last month evacuated its diplomats and their families under heavy security escort and moved them to Tunisia across the border, using land transport. Several other Western countries also did the same or kept only the essential staff at their embassies.
Following the capture of the airport and effectively the capital city, Operation Dawn restored the previous Islamic-dominated parliament, which was voted out in June this year in violence ridden elections won by secular and liberal candidates who have come under a loose alliance called the National Forces Alliance. The Islamists’ move has prompted the NFA to convene its parliament in Tobruk, an eastern city 1,000 miles away from Tripoli. Though away from the capital, the NFA still enjoys the West’s support as indicated by Wednesday’s vote in the UN Security Council. The council passed a unanimous resolution to impose sanctions on Islamists and accused them of fuelling Libya’s escalating war.
The crisis in Libya cannot be viewed in isolation. It is in effect an extension of the political chaos in neighbouring Egypt and the cold war between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on the other. While Qatar supported Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government, Saudi Arabia and the UAE financed the coup that ousted the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi Government and brought in military strongman Abdel Fateh al-Sisi as the new Egyptian president.
The Saudi-UAE-Egypt alliance wants to prevent a Brotherhood-friendly Islamist government in Libya. This was probably why UAE aircraft with Egyptian help carried out air attacks on the Islamists. Both the UAE and Egypt have denied reports that they launched the air attacks. The New York Times which broke the story quoting US officials, however, is yet to retract it. The cold war between the Gulf oil kingdoms also manifests itself in other conflicts in the region. Qatar is seen as a supporter of Hamas while the Saudi-UAE-Egypt alliance loathes the Palestinian group which this week interpreted the ceasefire deal with Israel after 51 days of relentless air attack, bombardment and suffering as a moral victory. In Iraq and Syria, too, the Gulf oil kingdoms back different rebel groups.
The crisis in Libya is not only between secularists and Islamists or feuding tribes. It involves regional and big power politics. True Gaddafi was a tyrant, but he was also loved by a section of the Libyans and a vast majority in Africa. In hindsight, Libya under Gaddafi was a much better place to live in than what it is today. This is the case with pre- and post-invasion Iraq. Many Iraqis now say they wish Saddam Hussein had been in power. Whether it is Smart Power or Shock and Awe, the US foreign policy only disturbs world peace and causes chaos wherever Washington intervenes, as the Libyan crisis shows. Don’t they say that capitalism thrives in chaos?
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Ukraine puzzle: Who’s fitting the pieces?

By Ameen Izzadeen
As Ukrainian troops rapidly advance towards the heartland of pro-Moscow rebels, it is becoming clear that Russia is making a rapid retreat from its hardline position and unlikely to intervene to prop up the ailing rebellion.
Probably Russia believes that if it cannot twist the hand of the enemy then it must kiss it. Yes, the Ukrainian crisis has shown Vladimir Putin that his Russia is still not in a militarily, politically or economically strong position to confront the West in a new Cold War setup.
Last week, tension rose to a new high when confrontation between the Russian and Ukrainian troops became inevitable. This happened when Russia decided to send an aid convoy to Eastern Ukraine to help the besieged people there. But Ukraine and its Western backers alleged that that Russia was using the aid convoy as a Trojan horse to send in advanced weapons to the pro-Russian rebels. It was one such weapon, the West alleges, that brought down the Malaysian airline flight MH 17 with 298 passengers and crew last month, though some analysts now point their finger at the Ukrainian military and say this is why the West has lost interest in the investigation into the air tragedy.
Last week as the West feared that Russia would make use of the worsening humanitarian crisis in the war-affected Eastern Ukraine to justify a military intervention, European stock market indices took a nosedive. But Moscow wriggled out of the crisis in the face of warnings from the West that tougher sanctions would be imposed if Russia resorted to military action. The 260-truck aid convoy is still stuck at the border as the Ukrainian forces take the upper hand in the four-month conflict, which, according to the United Nations, has killed an estimated 2,086 people, including civilians and combatants.
Russia’s compromise suggests that it has backed down from its rhetoric that it would not hesitate to send troops to protect ethnic Russians irrespective of whether they lived within or outside Russia.
Ethnic Russians form more than a third of the population in Ukraine’s east where a majority of the people irrespective of ethnicity prefer closer ties with Russia than with the European Union.
With Putin now pussyfooting to intervene directly in Ukraine as the rebels lose stronghold after stronghold in the defence of their self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, questions are being asked whether Russia’s turnaround was a tactical move.
Political realism demands that a nation must demonstrate its power only if it is certain that such demonstration will enable it to enhance its power. Putin is not unaware of this simple logic in power politics, although Russia’s need for intervention in the Ukrainian crisis is overwhelming and crucial for Moscow’s survival as a world power. If Russia takes a hands-off policy in Ukraine, Nato will be on Russia’s border in a matter of years, if not months. This will be a major threat to Russia, a nuclear power.
Prior to the Ukrainian crisis, Putin mistakenly believed that there was an understanding with the West that neither Russia nor the West would mess around in each other’s regions of influence. Russia kept a close watch on countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, taking whatever steps necessary to keep these countries from getting closer to the West, especially the United States. They included military, political and economic measures. Russia intervened militarily in Georgia in 2008. Seen as a move to punish Georgia for trying to become a Nato member, Russia’s military intervention removed South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the direct control of Georgia. South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been recognised as independent states by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.
If this was a military measure by which Russia asserted its authority over its backyard, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation became a political means by which Moscow brought together four key Central Asian states in a security pact which also includes China. On the economic front, Russia promoted a customs union with its immediate neighbours and wanted Ukraine to become part of it. But the wily West, especially the US, spent millions of dollars to engineer a coup against Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Victor Yanukovych in February this year and installed a pro-Western regime in Kiev.
In this power game, the West seeks to create a Russia stripped of its nuclear arsenal and economically dependent on the West.
Against this backdrop, Russia’s compromise appears more a tactical move. But this retreat could be costly and perhaps irreversible, too. The ground situation shows that the pro-Russian rebels’ military defeats have also created political turmoil in the rebel leadership and it is only a matter of weeks before the Ukrainian troops will declare victory and an end to the rebellion.
The resignations of Alexander Borodai, the prime minister of the rebel territory, and Igor Strelkov, the territory’s military commander, have sent shockwaves across the rebellions’ rank and file. But the two leaders who together had formed the rebels’ leadership against Ukrainian troops since the rebellion began in April this year, would not have done so without Russia’s consent or command. They are ethnic Russians and their resignations have fuelled fears that ethnic Russian fighters may abandon the insurgency to make it an all-Ukrainian affair.
Thus some analysts believe that the chaotic situation offers Putin a face-saving exit from the Ukrainian quagmire. Even some rebels, according to a Reuter story, see the command changes following the resignations of the two leaders as an attempt by Moscow to distance itself from the conflict. Reeling under tough Western sanctions, Moscow, of late, has been saying that it is seeking a negotiated settlement to the crisis that was triggered by the February coup. As an initial response to the coup, an angry Russia annexed Crimea, but stopped short of doing the same when pro-Russian people in Ukraine’s Donetsk’s region declared independence following a referendum and expressed willingness to become part of Russia. Instead, Moscow armed and trained the rebels in a calculated confrontation with the West.
Moscow is now taking a different line, giving more weight to diplomacy, as the situation in Eastern Ukraine deteriorates with street-to-street fighting in some key cities, including Lugansk, the fall of which will be seen as a major victory for Kiev in its fight against the rebels. Buoyed by the victories, Ukraine’s nationalist politicians urge the government not to heed Russia’s proposal for a ceasefire. Finish the rebels, irrespective of the war’s humanitarian cost, they urge President Petro Poroshenko. But it will not be that easy.
Putin and Poroshenko will hold face-to-face talks next week at Minsk in Belarus as part of a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at finding a win-win situation or a road map to end the civil war and normalise relations between Russia and a new Ukraine that has decided to economically and militarily align with the West, much to the chagrin of Moscow.
Ahead of the Belarus summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Kiev tomorrow to facilitate a solution, which if it works out, will benefit her country immensely as it was German companies which have been hit hardest by the sanction war between the West and Russia. On Monday, Germany’s Bundesbank warned that global tensions, such as the crisis in Ukraine, were putting “earlier assumptions about the strength of the country’s growth at risk.” Germany depends on Russia for a third of its energy supplies.
Last Sunday, foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Berlin to work out a solution to the Ukrainian crisis. Russia called for greater devolution to the regions as part of a solution but Kiev has insisted that Ukraine would remain a unitary state. “Ukraine is and should remain a unitary, democratic and European state and second, Ukraine should follow a European course…” said Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlov Klimkin. Kiev also urged Russia to stop arming and training the separatists and insisted that the rebels should lay down their weapons before any talks. The rebels say they are ready to talk but refuse to disarm. They also say that Kiev should recognise their independent state.
A diplomatic solution may give Russia some respite and EU countries may be more than happy to lift the sanctions which are hitting them also. But the whole exercise raises a question regarding Russia’s ability to prevent countries in its backyard from drifting towards the West.
Already Russia is feeling the pinch, with Nato reinforcing its East European bases with more troops and equipment. Next month’s Nato summit in Wales will, among other matters, discuss preparations for a war on Russia. Ahead of this summit, US President Barack Obama will visit Baltic states in Russia’s neighbourhood to reaffirm Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to the mutual defence of Nato and its allies.
If Russia abandons Ukraine, countries such as Georgia, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan may be emboldened to strengthen their economic and military ties with the West. Will Russia let itself fall into a situation like a helpless wretch?
Unlikely. Russia may go for a diplomatic solution now, but will not abandon Eastern Ukraine. It will bide its time, awaiting an opportunity to strike back militarily. Nato chiefs see this a strong possibility. If not militarily, Russia can strike economically. This is because Russia still has the ability to choke Ukraine economically – either by blocking gas supplies or by refusing to sell gas at concessionary prices. Already Ukraine owes Russia more than US$ 4.5 billion on account of gas purchases. But gas deals bind the two nations in a symbiotic relationship. Just as Ukraine depends on Russia for much of its energy needs, Russia depends on Ukraine to send its gas and oil to Europe via pipelines. Thus the Ukrainian crisis is much more than meets the eye or the rebellion in Eastern Ukraine.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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In hijacking Islam, whose interest is IS serving?

By Ameen Izzadeen
Islamic State (IS), whose desert juggernaut is sweeping across Iraq and Syria, is neither Islamic nor a state. It is a terror group whose victims are not only the hapless minorities in Iraq but also Muslims and Islam itself.
From womb to tomb, everything that involves people is politicised. Thus it comes as no surprise when religion is used as a political tool by groups such as IS and states such as Israel to achieve demonic objectives. In the name of religion, these groups and states adopt terror as a policy to perpetrate injustice, colonialism, illegal land grabs, and mass killings. They forget that the spirit of religion upholds justice, peace and security and its morals try to humanise politics.
Although little is known about IS or its agenda, the lack of effective early action by the Western powers to check its excesses has given rise to speculation that the group, either knowingly or unknowingly, serves the West’s interests or those of Israel.
The more powerful IS becomes, the more it serves the interests of Israel which seeks to balkanise the Middle East and establish Greater Israel that stretches from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates – a state that will include parts of Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and the whole of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and, of course, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The dream of establishing Greater Israel or Eretz Israel will not be impossible if the Arab world is reduced to bits of mutually hostile Bantustans which will hardly have any military strength or political will to stop Israel’s march toward that goal.
The process of balkanisation of the Arab world began with the “Great Arab betrayal of the Ottoman Empire” one hundred years ago. The Arabs were Ottoman subjects, enjoying regional autonomy. But the Brits manoeuvered the Arabs, just as some hidden hands are manoeuvering IS today. The Arab legions deserted the Ottoman Army and fought alongside the British against the Ottomans during World War I. The Ottomans lost the war and their hold on the Middle East and North Africa, but the Arabs lost the peace. The end of the war saw the implementation of the first phase of the Zionist project of balkanisation of the Arab world, with war victors Britain and France – the facilitators of the World Zionist Movement — creating a half a dozen new states from the conquered Ottoman land.
Today, another major phase of the Zionist’s balkanisation project is taking shape – with not only Iraq, but also Libya, Syria, Lebanon and several other Arab nations in political turmoil and hurtling towards the further splintering of the Arab world.
The Western powers have the wherewithal to go after what they perceive as a threat to their strategic interests. But in the case of IS, they are either silent or take only limited action. In effect, they have allowed IS to go on rampage in Iraq and Syria, making one wonder whether the West sees IS as a useful tool to achieve its strategic goals. Or probably, the West is facilitating the Zionists’ balkanisation project. Even as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed fears about a possible genocide of Iraq’s Yazidi minorities, who are fleeing from the fanatic fighters of IS led by the self-styled Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the United States yesterday tried hard to build up a case for not putting troops on the ground. The Yazidis are a Kurdish speaking ethnic group which follows a religion that is linked to ancient Zoroastrianism and Islamic Sufism. However, IS describes the Yazidis as devil-worshippers.
A Reuter news agency report yesterday said a US mission to evacuate the Yazidis trapped on a mountain was far less likely after a US assessment team sent there on Wednesday found the humanitarian situation not as grave as feared.
In an earlier statement, the White House said even if the US had to send American ground forces to Iraq in an operation to rescue the trapped Yazidis, the troops would not engage in combat with IS.
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the 130 military advisors the US sent to Erbil would not play any combat role.
He noted that US President Barack Obama had repeatedly ruled out “reintroducing US forces into combat on the ground in Iraq.”
Even the US airstrikes early this week on IS targets were not aimed at dealing a crushing blow to the group. Rather they were aimed at preventing al-Baghdadi’s forces from marching towards Baghdad and Erbil (or Arbil), the capital of oil producing Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region which maintains close relations with Israel and the US. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has openly promoted Kurdistan’s independence from Iraq.
President Obama in a statement authorising the airstrikes said the US would take whatever steps were necessary to protect its interests in Erbil and Baghdad. In other words, he permits the IS’s territorial gains provided the group stops short of capturing Erbil and Baghdad. Such a stance indicates that the US endorses the status quo or the likely break-up of Iraq into three small states, while it encourages IS to carry out more carnage. Ironically or otherwise, IS fighters are also helped by US weapons that, against many odds, have fallen into the hands of al-Baghdadi’s soldiers following their battles with Iraqi forces and US-armed Syrian rebels.
Adding to the conundrum is the political chaos in Iraq with the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki going to courts to challenge the presidential action of nominating Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite like Maliki, as the next prime minister. Maliki in a petition to Iraq’s Supreme Court claimed that as the leader of the biggest bloc in the parliament, it was he, not Abadi, whom the president should invite to form a government.
As defence minister, Maliki has appointed loyalists to top positions in the army. Will his army officers stay loyal to him or switch allegiance to Abadi who is backed by not only the US and Iraq’s Kurds and Sunnis, but also by Iran? Maliki has urged the military, which has not recovered from its earlier defeats in battles with IS, to stay out of politics. However, Maliki’s supporters have taken to the streets in a show of strength.
But the confusion that reigns in Iraq only works to the advantage of al-Baghdadi, whose forces are committing acts which are as horrendous and barbaric as Israel’s war crimes in Gaza in recent weeks. Incidentally, we are yet to see a mainstream news report that IS has condemned Israel’s massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza. However, a statement purportedly issued by a spokesman for IS appeared on an Israeli website (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/182751#.U-yGUJvlphg). The IS spokesman had said the time was not right for a confrontation with Israel.
Such vague statements create suspicion about the group’s Islamic credentials and add credibility to the claims that Israel created IS and supports it. Among those who subscribe to such theory is Iran’s Army Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabadi who insists that Israel has dealings with IS, especially with regard to the war in Syria, where other rebels groups, including the battle-hardened al-Qaeda franchise al-Nusra, are disintegrating unable to confront the heavily armed IS.
Meanwhile, the group’s actions that tarnish the image of Islam have drawn the ire of Muslims worldwide. They point out that al-Baghdadi’s actions go contrary to the teachings of Islam. During the early days of Islam some 14 centuries ago, the non-Muslim people of the vast Persian Empire saw the Muslim Caliph as a liberator and invited his army to invade their country to liberate them from the yoke of feudalism and slavery. There was no forced conversion as it went against the teachings of Islam. In sharp contrast to the early caliphs, the self-styled new caliph threatens at gunpoint Iraq’s Yazidis and Christians to convert to Islam. What’s more? They slaughter Muslims on a daily basis in Iraq and Syria. Among those killed by IS in Iraq was a Muslim professor who publicly opposed the group’s persecution of Christians.
The mainstream Western media see little newsworthiness in condemnations that IS draws from Muslims around the world. The group’s actions, especially its threat to the Yazidis and Christians, have been squarely denounced by Imams from Turkey to Indonesia as acts of terror which are un-Islamic and morally repugnant. In Britain, more than 100 Sunni and Shiite religious leaders in a joint statement decreed IS as an illegitimate, vicious group which did not represent Islam in any way.
Yet the group, which controls one third of Iraq and one third of Syria, continues its carnage regardless of these condemnations from across the Muslim world. It earns more than US$ 3 million from oil and gas sales daily and boasts of a currency reserve of US$ 2 billion, while little is known about its 15,000-strong fighting force which has militants from scores of countries. Whatever it is, the group serves the West’s interests in Syria and Israel’s balkanisation programme in Iraq. It is seen as the only group that can eventually topple the Assad regime. So until this objective is achieved, the Western powers may go soft on IS which has hijacked Islam to commit crimes in its name.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Hiroshima, shock and awe and a plan to annex Gaza

By Ameen Izzadeen
The rules of ancient warfare were apparently more humane than the laws that govern modern day warfare. Though we call ourselves civilised laws and truth become the first casualties in times of war, as evident in the Gaza conflict and in wars launched by the United States, or, for that matter, any country.
Till about the 14th century, when two armies met, a tradition known as ‘single combat’ preceded or prevented an all-out war. Single combat is a duel between two champion warriors representing the two opposing armies. Such duels, which took place in no-man’s land, offered the losing side the last opportunity to accept the winning sides’ conditions and avoid an all-out war which was costly in terms of human lives and socio-economic factors.
The Jews know and speak a lot about the single combat story of David and Goliath.
If there had been a single combat prior to the recent Israeli aggression on Gaza, it could have saved more than 1,870 Palestinian lives and 66 Israeli lives. Wishful thinking one may say, but shouldn’t members of the United Nations promote the single combat concept to save civilian lives? Shouldn’t they propose a one-on-one fight when they see preparations for another Israeli attack on Gaza? Well, Israel won’t agree to single-combat on equal terms. Because it knows that the oppressed Palestinian warrior has an advantage; he is morally right and armed with willpower to fight for a just cause. On the contrary, the Israeli warrior, however strong he is physically, will be fighting for an immoral cause.
The Israelis know that even with their hi-tech weapons and protective gear, their soldiers could not crush the morally superior Palestinians fighters. If the Israelis had continued the ground offensive for another week and moved deeper into Palestinian territory, their army would have lost hundreds of soldiers. This probably was one reason why Israel ended its ground offensive and pulled out troops.
“Our fighters fought Israeli soldiers face-to-face and killed them. The Israelis responded by bombing sleeping civilians in their houses. Where is the honour of Israel?” asked Palestinian farmer Abdel-Sattar Ismail, when he was interviewed by Reuters in Beit Hanun, which has been reduced to rubble. A month ago, Beit Hanun was known as Gaza’s land of lemons and oranges.
Gaza today resembles what Hiroshima and Nagasaki looked like 69 Augusts ago, when the United States dropped human history’s first two atomic bombs in a horrendous war crime that remains unpunished. It was only yesterday that a UN tribunal found two Khmer Rouge leaders guilty of committing war crimes in Cambodia in the 1970s. That there has been hardly any attempt to bring the US before a war crimes tribunal for genocide committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki only underscores the immoral political philosophy ‘might is right.’ The failure to haul the US before a war crimes tribunal has encouraged it to commit more war crimes as and when it pleases. The US used chemical weapons – Agent Orange being one such weapon — during the Vietnam War and the people in Vietnam are still suffering from its ill effects. The US killed more than 3,000 civilians during the air attacks that preceded the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Similar air attacks prior to the ground invasion of Iraq in 2003 killed more than 6,000 civilians. The lives of thousands of Pakistani villagers have been snuffed out in never-ending US drone attacks, which have been condemned by human rights activists as war crimes.
Just as partners in crime learn from each other’s criminal tricks, the United States and Israel learn from each other’s experiences. The two countries take cover behind the so-called war on terror to justify violations of international humanitarian law with a culture of impunity. They carry out indiscriminate air attacks on civilian targets and describe civilian deaths as “collateral damage” because they claim that the enemy is using civilians as human shields. But what is reprehensible is that the US shouts foul if other countries cite the same reason for attacks on enemy targets in civilian areas. To eliminate double standards in wars, perhaps, the UN — with help from the US and Israel – should work towards an international treaty that permits the killing of civilians if they are used as human shields. The US and Israel are perhaps the only countries that continue to practise targeted killings, which have been condemned by the world’s human rights community as nothing but extrajudicial killings.
The United States and Israel believe in a military doctrine known as ‘Shock and Awe’. This doctrine –developed by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade of the National Defense University of the United States in 1996 — advocates the use of overwhelming power to paralyse the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight. In this doctrine, there is little concern for civilians who are called collateral damage when they are killed.
In comparison to the single-combat tradition of the past, Shock-and-Awe is a cowardly act. It resembles the action of a person who lacks the courage to face his opponent face-to-face on equal terms. The coward hides behind a well-protected wall at a safe distance and throws a knife at the enemy’s back.
Stabbed in the back, the lone Gaza warrior today stands tall atop the mountain of rubble, his head held high and his will power strong, having fought not only Israel, the world’s tenth most powerful military, but also its staunch backers –the United States and its western and Arab allies.
Not only that; the lone Palestinian warrior — wounded, homeless, jobless, foodless, waterless and electricity-less — also faced another enemy: The truth killers or the Zionist-backed media which have no qualms about showing the Palestinian freedom fighter as a terrorist. They took pains to paint a humanitarian picture of Israel’s criminal acts and showed them as acts needed to ensure the security of the Zionist state.
However, in the social media, the lone Palestinian hero was cheered on by tens of millions of young and educated people. Among his supporters are young Americans. PEW and Gallop polls conducted in the US show that more than 50 per cent of those in the age group of 18-29 saw Israel as an aggressor in the Gaza crisis while only 25 per cent supported Israel. However, the overall results of the two polls show that a large majority of the Americans support Israel or are still incapable of comprehending what is justice.
Little do a majority of the Americans who support Israel realise that they are being dehumanised by the Zionist-controlled media to such a dangerous level that they cannot understand what justice is or are incapable of standing up for justice. They lack the ability to question the Zionist-backed media which give big play to Israel’s lies that Hamas fighters were using civilians as human shields, that Hamas’ rockets threaten Israel’s security, and that Israel launched the war to destroy Hamas’ network of tunnels. Missing in the mainstream media narrative are the facts that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land illegally for the past six decades with US help; that Israel is an oppressor and that the Palestinians are only fighting to liberate their land.
However, with social media becoming a powerful tool in the fight against injustice, such lies nowadays have a short shelf life.
A short letter published in the Guardian and is being widely circulated in the social media exposes the double standards of the Zionists. Written by reader Judi Oshowole the letter says:
“Didn’t the Jews under siege in the Warsaw ghetto dig a network of tunnels? Wasn’t their attempt at resistance and survival a source of pride to Jewish people everywhere? Aren’t there books such as Mila 18 hailing their ingenuity and bravery in building the tunnels and defying the Gestapo attempts to control them? How can Israel now justify all the destruction and deaths because the Palestinians have also dug tunnels after being under siege for seven years? When will the world take on Israel’s hypocrisy and double standards and stop this slaughter?”
With Gaza looking like the Hiroshima of 1945, the question that arises is: Will the 72-hour Egyptian-brokered ceasefire – which expires this morning – be extended? While pressure mounts on Israel to prolong the ceasefire, Hamas sticks to its condition that Israel’s seven-year-long siege of the Gaza strip should end if there is to be a meaningful ceasefire deal.
Will Hamas succeed in winning this demand? Very unlikely, given Israel’s secret agenda which seeks to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip and annex the territory. A glimpse of this plan appeared in the Facebook page of Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline Likud Party. In his message which has got more than 2,000 Facebook likes, he has called for concentration camps in Gaza and ‘the conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters’.
Based on what Feiglin wrote on his Facebook page, the British Daily Mail carried an article. According to this report, Feiglin, in a letter to Netanyahu, has laid out a detailed plan for the destruction of Gaza — which includes shelling of the territory with maximum fire power, shipping its residents who volunteer to be deported to other countries and issuing special blue identity cards – a second class Israeli citizenship – to those who refuse to leave, and exterminating others who resist the annexation by Israel. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2715466/Israeli-official-calls-concentration-camps-Gaza-conquest-entire-Gaza-Strip-annihilation-fighting-forces-supporters.html)
This plan cannot be dismissed as a pipe dream of a maverick politician. The rapidly shrinking Palestinian map shows that this plan is already under way.
This is all the more reason for the people with conscience to double their efforts to support the Palestinian cause and help them achieve a permanent solution. The appeal is made to the people with conscience, especially those in the United States and other Western capitals, because their leaders are playing politics with Palestinian lives while the severely handicapped United Nations has miserably failed in its responsibility to protect the Palestinian civilians, especially the children, more than 400 of whom perished in the Israeli attack on Gaza in the past four weeks.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Zionist Goliath mauls Gaza; support Palestinian David

Gaza under attack
By Ameen Izzadeen
Tens of thousands of people who stand for justice hold demonstrations in various world capitals in support of the Palestinians. But their voices are muted by the roar of the atrocious silence of world leaders who shamelessly encourage Israel’s carnage in Gaza by continuing to extend moral, military and economic aid to the Zionist State.
Supported, perhaps, only by people with a conscience but without much power to stop Israel’s brutal massacre in Gaza, the Palestinians are an abandoned lot.
The Non-Aligned Movement which once championed the Palestinian cause is just a bystander with its members now thinking in terms of their national interests and economic benefits rather than the movement’s founding principles.
The less one talks about the highly politicised United Nations, the better it is.
The good-for-nothing Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) is only good at issuing statements and going back to its slumber to be woken up when the time is ripe for another statement.
The Arab League which includes many oil-producing countries probably sees the Palestinian blood flowing across Gaza as crude oil gushing out of oil fields. The more blood it sees, the happier it is. Some Arab leaders’ deliberate inaction or the unwillingness to act effectively smacks of political opportunism. They would not care, even if all the Palestinians are massacred and Israel demolishes the Masjid ul-Aqsa – Islam’s third holiest shrine – in Jerusalem and takes over the whole of Palestine.
The slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi once described these Arab leaders as women in men’s garb and puppets produced by the British and protected by the Americans. Most Palestinians would not disagree with Gaddafi’s description of the Arab leaders. These Arab leaders lacked the courage of Bolivia’s Evo Morales who on Wednesday declared Israel a terrorist state because it is “not a guarantor of the principles of respect for life and the elementary precepts of rights that govern the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of our international community”.
The Palestinians who are suffering in Gaza wonder whether these Arab leaders are friends of Israel. Egypt allows the Palestinian blood to flow because it wants to punish Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs Gaza. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt’s ‘military’ President Abdel Fatah al-Sisis overthrew in a coup that had the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia. In sharp contrast to Sisi, the Brotherhood government of President Mohammed Morsi stopped an Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2012. Morsi sent his prime minister to Gaza and conveyed a powerful message to Israel that Egypt would not be a bystander if Gaza was attacked. He opened the Rafah border to let the Palestinians receive medical treatment in Egypt and sent food aid to the besieged Palestinians.
In contrast, one of the first acts of Sisi after he overthrew the Morsi government was to close the Hamas office in Cairo, the Rafah border and the network of tunnels, on which the people of Gaza depend for medicine and other vital supplies.
Egypt’s action indicates a measure of complicity in Israel’s crimes. So does Saudi Arabia’s self-imposed indolence which prevents it from standing up for justice for the Palestinians. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab and Islamic states shed crocodile tears for the Palestinians or issue only statements which do not provide a bomb shelter for the people of Gaza to protect themselves against nonstop Israeli shelling and missile attacks. Their position appears to be deliberate and well calculated so much so that it has triggered speculation that the intelligence chiefs of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel are in regular contact during the ongoing Israeli military operation. For public consumption, these pro-US Arab states say that the Palestinian people are their brothers and sisters.
Then what about the so-called champions of human rights? The slaughter in Gaza shows that human rights have become a political tool in the hands of the Western powers. Most of these Western nations protect Israel, however appalling its war crimes are. The Western powers are usually silent when human rights are violated by their allies, especially Israel. But they spring into action and impose penalties when human rights are violated by nations that resist Western global dominance.
What about China and Russia? Should they not come to the aid of the Palestinians? We agree, they cannot supply military aid to the Palestinian people in Gaza. But, at least, they can bring resolutions at the United Nations Security Council, to condemn Israel and shame those who protect Israel. For Russia, Gaza provides an ideal opportunity to hit out at the United States which, together with its European allies, has taken measure after measure to punish Moscow for its support for the rebels in Eastern Ukraine. Yet, Russia and China would not resort to a process of shaming the US and its European allies, probably because they see a political bargain in the sale of their silence.
The world powers care less about international law which asserts the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. The international community is required to intervene urgently even without the approval of the United Nations Security Council when a people who cannot protect themselves are butchered by another group or a state. Israel is the world’s tenth most powerful state and possesses nuclear weapons while the Palestinian people in Gaza are largely unarmed. Hamas which administers Gaza is armed with home-made rockets which since July 8, the day on which Israel began its horror on Gaza, have killed only one Israeli citizen, one Thai worker and an Arab Bedouin. The number of Israel soldiers killed in the 23-day aggression stands as of yesterday at 56. Israel attributes this low civilian casualty figure to the effectiveness of its iron-dome which has intercepted more than 90 per cent of the nearly 3,000 rockets from Gaza.
But Muhammad Al-Daif, General Commander of the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in a statement on Wednesday: “We have opted to confront and kill the enemy’s armed troops and its elite soldiers rather than assault civilians in the neighbouring villages. This is despite the fact that the criminal enemy has been shedding the blood of civilians, perpetrating massacres and razing entire neighbourhoods to the ground levelling houses on top of the heads of their inhabitants whenever more of their soldiers are killed.”
The Palestinian death toll in this battle of the Palestinian David (Dawood) versus the Israeli Goliath (Jaloot) as of last night stands at 1,374 with more than 80 per cent of them being civilians – 59 of the casualties are women — while more than 300 of them are children.
How can the international community let this massacre of children go on? Are not the world powerful nations which condone Israel’s war crimes in Gaza complicit? Even in the case of Wednesday’s carnage at the UN-run shelter, the US was careful not to hurt Israel when it issued a condemnation.
Legal experts say criminal complicity arises if a person or entity aids and abets another person or entity in committing an offence; or having a legal duty to prevent the commission of the offence, a person or entity fails to make an effort he, she or it is legally required to make.
In a 2010 ruling, the Russel Tribunal – an international citizen-based “tribunal of conscience’ founded by philosopher Bertrand Russel – held that the European Union (EU) was an accomplice of Israel in its proven violations of international law.
The tribunal ruled: While the EU and its member states are not the direct perpetrators of these acts, they nevertheless violate international law and the internal legal order of the EU as set down in the EU Treaty either by failing to take the measures that Israel’s conduct requires them to take or by contributing directly or indirectly to such conduct.
When Israeli shells and missiles land in civilian facilities such as schools and UN compounds where tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians have sought refuge, should not the US be held accountable? Some 20 per cent of Israel’s military budget is financed by US military aid. In an act of rewarding the aggressor, the US yesterday said it would restock Israel’s dwindling supplies of ammunition.
When it comes to the Syrian crisis where the besieged regime of President Bashar al-Assad is supported and armed by Russia and Iran, the US and its allies had no qualms about warning the two pro-Syrian states that they are complicit in Syria’s crimes against humanity. These do-gooders rush to invoke the principles of international law only when it suits them.
To hell with international law; forget justice to the Palestinians; what is more important to the US and its allies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt is the protection of the Zionist State that violates almost every humanitarian law.
To deny justice to the Palestinian people, who have no proper government of their own, a military of their own or a currency of their own, these Israel-friendly countries would not mind the label of hypocrite on them or the criticism of double standards or duplicity.
Against this backdrop of being abandoned by almost all, the Gazan people who are suffering without access to drinking water, electricity and sanitary facilities, are advised that they should keep a dog with them whenever Israel pounds the territory. So when the pictures of the dogs that are killed are shown on television, perhaps Sasha and Malia can tell their father, President Barack Obama of the United States, “Daddy please tell the Israelis to stop the war, the dogs are dying.”
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Gaza: Massacre of children by Zionist Pharaohs

By Ameen Izzadeen
For the Zionists, the Palestinians do not exist. If they exist, they are not people; they are things – things to be wiped out. Two years after Israel occupied much of Palestine, Golda Meir, Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister from 1969 to 1974, told Britain’s Sunday Times in an interview published on June 15, 1969: “There was no such thing as Palestinians. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country from them. They did not exist.”
The big lie – that Israel was set up in a land without people for a people without land – continues with the help of an international Zionist network that includes the corporate media, corrupt politicians and pressure lobbies.
Prior to the setting up of Israel, Albert Einstein, the famous Jewish scientist, asked Chaim Weizmann, the leader of the World Zionist Movement: “What of the Arabs, if the Palestine was to be given to the Jews?”
Weizmann replied: “What Arabs? They are hardly of any consequence.”
Quite contrary to this Zionist lie, numerous documents and statements in addition to history and archaeology prove that the Palestinians who are Arab Muslims and Arab Christians have been living in the land in question before the Zionist state of Israel was set up in 1948 for the European Jews such as Ukrainian born Golda Meir and Ben Gurion, the Polish born first prime minister of Israel.
History and archaeology show that long before the Jews set foot on Palestine, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Ammonites, the Moabites and the Edomites had been living there. Their descendents and a large number of Jews, in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D adopted Islam as their religions and Arabic as their language while there have been a substantial number of Arab Christians for the past 20 centuries.
Even the Balfour declaration — a document through which Britain, the world’s biggest coloniser, plunderer of third world resources and land robber, gave the Zionist movement the pledge in 1917 that a Jewish state would be set up in Palestine — recognised the existence of non-Jewish people in Palestine.
“… nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” declared the document prepared by the then foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour, who probably thought Palestine was his grandmother’s ancestral property.
In spite of the evidence, the Zionist propaganda has prevailed in the West: There was no “such thing” as Palestinians. If they exist, they are the bad people, the colonisers of the Jewish land and therefore Israel is justified in weeding out these “absent but present” people.
The Zionists are today doing exactly what the white Europeans – pardon me for using this racist term — did to the Native Americans and what Britain did to Australia’s Aborigines centuries ago. They are all perpetrators of history’s biggest crimes against humanity. Just as the Israelis kill the Palestinians today, the Western colonisers committed genocide on the Native Americans. So they try to cover each other’s nakedness or whitewash each other’s crimes against humanity. No wonder, barring a handful of socialist and right-thinking academics and activists, the West blindly supports Israel’s crimes against humanity. Take Wednesday’s vote at the emergency session of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva for a debate and probe on Israeli war crimes in Gaza. It was passed with 27 voting in favour, one against and 17 abstentions. As expected the United States used the only negative vote while its European allies had a streak of bleeding in their hearts to abstain from the voting.
Besides the US’ negative vote, its continuous use of the veto at the UN Security Council, its come-what-may backing of Israel’s war crimes and its lopsided statements that often blame the Palestinians, have given a fillip to the Zionist state to commit more and more war crimes, which includes the killing of children.
A 22-year-old pregnant Palestinian woman told al-Jazeera, probably the only television channel that gives a balanced coverage of the war, that she had found refuge in a Gaza Church because she feared the Israelis would kill even her child in the womb.
Stone-hearted, these Zionist Nazis refuse to learn a lesson from Jewish history. Some three millennia ago, the Pharaoh ordered the killing of the boy child the Jewish women gave birth to when they were living in slavery in Egypt. Today, the Zionists are the Pharaohs. Nay, they are worse than the Pharaoh, for he killed only the first-born boy child while they kill little boys and girls indiscriminately. They derive a perverted pleasure from killing the Palestinian child whom they regard as tomorrow’s terrorist. Far from it, he is a Palestinian Moses.
As the attack on Gaza by Israel continues for the second week, the death toll has risen to more than 750, with one third of the dead being children. In other words, every 90 minutes, a Palestinian child has been killed by Israeli fire in the past two weeks. The Western world’s silence or inaction to prevent the massacre of Palestinian children was disturbingly quite in contrast to its reaction when Malala Yousafzai was shot and injured by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan 2012.
How can Barack Obama hold on to his Nobel Peace Prize in a manner that he would not part with it when he selectively condemns Hamas for firing rockets at Israel but allows Israel to indiscriminately attack civilian targets and kill children? He knows it iss the US-supplied missiles and aircraft that are being used to kill the Palestinian children, women and the elderly. He is not unaware that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu started this war with the aim of destroying the Palestinian unity government between Hamas led by Khalid Mishal and Fatah led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama also knows that Netanyahu through this war is trying prop up his party’s electoral prospects in the face of criticism even from allies that he is not doing enough to oppress the Palestinians.
Obama is also probably aware that Netanyahu was using the death of the three Israeli teenagers to reignite the process of re-dehumanising the Palestinians ahead of unleashing Israel’s brutal force on Palestinian civilians.
By defending Israel’s war crimes at the UNHRC, Obama is only exposing his country’s hypocrisy with regard to hauling the Sri Lankan government before the same council for committing alleged war crimes during the last stages of the war.
Obama is a slave of Zionist lobbies such as the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). These lobbies fund the campaigns of US presidential candidates and prospective and existing lawmakers, who in return ensure that nearly US$ 4 billion is given annually to Israel as military and economic aid.
The Zionist-controlled corporate media in the West play no less a role in hiding Israel’s crimes. In keeping with the Zionist agenda, the Western corporate media dehumanise and demonise the Palestinians. That the Palestinians are freedom fighters in a struggle to win back their state is rarely or never mentioned in the Zionist-controlled western media. That Hamas, the Palestinian faction which controls the Gaza Strip, had no role in the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teenagers during an excursion in the West Bank early this month finds only a rare mention in the Western media. Also finding no mention in the Western media is the subsequent fatal burning of a Palestinian teenager by Israel settlers. Instead, the Western media harp on the insecurity of Israel, the tenth most powerful military in the world and a nuclear power. They also try to smuggle into their news reporting the Zionist propaganda material that Israel is only acting in self-defence, that Israel carries out hi-tech precision bombing to avoid civilian targets, that Hamas started the war, that Israel’s is the most moral army in the world and that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.
One such pro-Israeli media group, NBC, on the pretext of security concerns, ordered its veteran correspondent Ayman Mohyeddin to leave Gaza after he witnessed and reported in chilling detail Israel’s killing of four Palestinian children playing on a Gaza beach.
The western media underreport the Palestinian suffering. They hardly mention the Palestinians’ legitimate right to fight the occupying force and win back their state. They won’t talk about or show the Palestinian freedom slogans one of which reads, “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bomb my country, starve us all, humiliate us all…. But I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.”
More than 1.8 million Palestinians are living in a 350 square kilometre prison called the Gaza Strip with two gates – one in the north controlled by Israel and the other in the south by Egypt. They cannot even take a boat and escape via sea because the sea is controlled by the Israelis. Tens of thousands of Palestinian people who are displaced by and fleeing from the Israeli bombardment of residential areas, schools and hospitals tried to enter Egypt via the Rafah border crossing. But the pro-Western Egyptian regime of President Abdel Fateh al-Sisi does not see it as a humanitarian necessity to keep it open, because it sees Hamas, a friend of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi, as an enemy of the Egyptian state.
With its anti-Hamas bias, Egypt cannot play the role of honest broker to work out a ceasefire. Last week, it announced a ceasefire without consulting Hamas or the Palestinian unity government. Hamas rightly rejected it and made its conditions known to the world powers for a meaningful ceasefire. The conditions stem from the legitimate aspirations of the besieged people of the Gaza Strip. But the latest moves for a ceasefire with the active participation of the UN and the US manifest an Israeli bias as they come at a time when Israel finds its ground offensive costly in the face of Hamas’ brave resistance.
The Palestinian crisis will not end until the US ends its hypocrisy and holds the scales of justice evenly.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Caliphate: Hysteria or history in the making?

By Ameen Izzadeen
On the first day of Ramadan as Muslims worldwide began their month-long fasting period, the Islamic State (IS) which was until then known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced the formation of a khilafah or caliphate, an Islamic state in territories conquered in Iraq and Syria. The group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself Khalifah or Caliph, urged every Muslim to swear allegiance to him and invited Muslims around the world to migrate to the new state.
Although al-Baghdadi’s declaration is derided by moderates and extremists alike as a lopsided vision of an extremist, the world stopped and took notice of it as has been evident in the debates and discussions it has created in the West.
But as days passed by, the threat perception of the so-called caliphate began to fade. There are no long queues in the new Islamic State for the people and groups to take the oath of allegiance. Neither are any signs of Muslims around the world catching the next flight to migrate to al-Baghdadi’s caliphate. The announcement of a caliphate was apparently too ambitious and too early.
The caliphate was abolished in 1924 when the last Ottoman Caliph, Abdul Medjid was sent into exile after the modern secular Turkey was established on its ruins. The caliphate is a powerful institution, the protection of which is the duty of every Muslim. The Ottoman caliphate was still a formidable force even during its waning stages because Muslims from Xinjiang in China to Sarajevo in Bosnia rushed to its defence with the first call of the Caliph for a holy war. The only time it did not happen was when the Arabs betrayed the caliph at the outset of World War 1. Despite their oath of allegiance to the caliph, the Arab leaders rebelled against him in return for the British promise of an Arab kingdom.
It is no secret that most Muslims dream of the restoration of the caliphate. This is because they feel they are being battered and none of the present day leaders of Islamic countries has the charisma or the vision to unite the Muslim world and the courage to liberate Palestine, which has been under Israeli occupiers for the past six decades. The Muslims believe that the concept of nation state only serves the West to divide and weaken them. The present day Middle Eastern countries, they say, are a result of the Western conspiracy hatched at the 1916 talks between Britain and France. The two European powers shared between them the Arab provinces of the crumbling Ottoman Empire which sided with Germany in the First World War. Today’s Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and several other Arab countries owe their existence to the 1916 Syke-Picot talks – so named after the two British and French diplomats. Their borders were drawn by British foreign office spy Gertrude Bell.
Ever since, no Muslim country has emerged to emulate the glorious days of the caliphates of the Abbasids, the Fatimides and the early Ottomans – the caliphates during which the Muslim world experienced a knowledge revolution that gave the world the zero and algebra, astronomy and Avicenna, Plato and Gazzali, reason and Renaissance.
The Muslims and global movements such as the Hizbut Tahrir yearn for a caliph who will emulate the Khulafa-ur-Rashideen or the rightly-guided caliphs who governed the nascent state in the early years of Islam after the death of Prophet Muhammad. It is “a dream that lives in the depths of every Muslim,” the Islamic State said in a statement.
The first caliphate was established days after the death of the prophet. The first caliph was Abu Bakr Siddiq — the Truthful. The first man to embrace Islam, Abu Bakr was an ascetic, kind hearted, philanthropist and the closest friend of the prophet. Al-Baghdadi shares the name with Islam’s first caliph. But the comparison perhaps ends there, for the new claimant to the caliphate is not seen to be emulating the noble qualities of the first caliph, who was not a terrorist.
Upon assuming the caliphate reluctantly, Abu Bakr made a famous speech that is regarded as the Magna Carta of the Islamic state. He said:
“O people, I have been elected your leader, although I am not better than anyone from among you. If I do any good, give me your support. If I go wrong, set me right. Listen, truth is honesty and untruth is dishonesty. The weak among you are powerful in my eyes, as long as I do not get them their due, Allah willing. The powerful among you are weak in my eyes, as long as I do not take away from them what is due to others, Allah willing. …. Oh people, you must obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. If I disobey Allah and His Messenger, you are free to disobey me.”
Caliph Abu Bakr also codified the Islamic laws of warfare. He advised his soldiers to fear God under all conditions and fight the enemy only after the overtures for peace were rejected. He told them: “Do not mutilate anyone; do not kill the aged, the children and the women. Do not set fire to date palms. Do not cut down fruit trees. Do not slaughter a goat, or a cow or a camel, except for purposes of food. You will come across people who have given up the world and living in monasteries. Leave them alone.”
But al-Baghdadi, who claims to be a descendant of the Prophet’s family, has apparently chosen to ignore Islam’s humanitarianism and its laws on warfare. The ISIS is known to have executed captives and set off bombs in civilian areas in defiance of the teachings of Islam. In interviews following the declaration of the Islamic state, ISIS commanders have said they would destroy Islam’s holiest monument, the Ka’ba in Makkah as many pilgrims have turned it into an object of idol worship. They also dream of conquering Rome. “This is my advice to you. If you hold to it you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills,” al-Baghdadi who now goes by the title and name ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ said in a statement.
Some analysts believe that the declaration of the caliphate is a political stunt or gamble which could eventually lead to the downfall of the Islamic State after its significant success in as short a period as less than two years. Others call it the romanticisation of their astonishing victory, which the Islamic State tries to equate with the victory at the valley of Badr in 624 AD when the prophet and a few hundred poorly armed Muslims in Madina defeated a mighty army from Makkah — and also with the conquest of Iraq in 633 AD and the subsequent defeat of the Sassanid and Byzantine empires during the caliphates of Abu Bakr and his successors Omar, Osman and Ali.
But al-Baghdadi’s caliphate has only drawn rejection from a large majority of the Muslim ummah (nation) and even radical groups have dismissed the declaration as void of legitimacy, divisive, and damaging to their causes that include the war to oust the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria. Even in Palestine’s Gaza Strip which has come under Israel’s airstrikes following the deaths of three Israeli teenagers, there is hardly a whimper in support of al-Baghdadi’s caliphate call.
Azzam Tamimi, an academic who writes on Islamic movements, says it is unlikely anyone except “some frustrated youth” would be receptive to al-Baghdadi’s declaration.
“Such fanatic and desperate movements emerge usually in response to a profound crisis. Yet, their demise is usually rapid because of their tendency to be nihilistic,” Tamimi said. They “fail miserably when it comes to winning over the normal and decent”, he added. (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/baghdadi-vision-new-caliphate-20147184858247981.html)
However, despite the lack of enthusiasm among the world’s Muslims for al-Baghdadi’s caliphate call, the new Islamic State is likely to remain until such time as the United States and its West Asian allies feel it no longer necessary to achieve their geo-strategic goals. As things stand today, Iraq is on the verge of being split into three. Apart from the Islamic State in Sunni areas in Iraq’s West, the Kurds in the north are likely to declare an independent state in weeks or months, leaving the south for the Shiites as the country’s political turmoil continues with the newly elected parliament unable to come to a consensus on appointments to the key posts of Speaker, president and Prime Minister.
The US and its allies probably want to see the creation of a Sunni state carved out of parts of Iraq and Syria as it could be used against the Assad regime or to deal a blow to Iran’s rising power by severing the territorial continuity of the so-called Shiite crescent comprising Iran, Iraq (a Shiite majority country), Syria (a Sunni majority country ruled by a president belonging to the minority Alawite group, a sub sect of Shiite Islam) and Lebanon’s powerful militia group Hezbollah.
The Barak Obama administration’s reluctance to put boots on the ground in Iraq even after Russia has sent pilots and fighter jets to help the beleaguered Iraqi government is seen as a move where the policy of deliberate non-intervention achieves the results of intervention. In other words, the US lets the balkanisation of Iraq happen while making perfunctory statements on a unity government as a solution to the present crisis. It may be a US scheme. It indeed is a long-term project of Israel, whose leaders in recent weeks have spoken in support of the Iraqi Kurds’ call for independence.
But ironically the Balkanisation project has given rise to a movement that seeks to create a mega Islamic state incorporating not only parts of Iraq and Syria, but also Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia, which now shares a border with al-Baghdadi’s Islamic state. But this is where the IS will dig its own grave as the US will not stay idle when Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are threatened and the global supply of oil is disrupted. The developments of the next few weeks or months will indicate whether the Islamic State or the new caliphate is an aberration in Iraq’s history or history in the making.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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