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Geopolitics November 30, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Good point made by Michael McDowell in the SBP this weekend. Lamenting the situation in Syria he argues that the US ‘foolishly… convinced themselves that the so-called Arab Spring offered the opportunity to assist burgeoning democrats to oust strongman autocrats throughout the Middle East and replace them with benign, inclusive pluralist regimes’. That hasn’t worked so well.

But he makes a further excellent point:

The State Department convinced itself of one particular piece of madness – that it was perfectly legitimate to depose autocrats who claimed, on the flimsiest of grounds, to be presidents elected by their people but entirely illegitimate to foster or help any resistance to any Arab monarchs who serve Western purposes.

The mad rule of thumb meant that the West vigorously backed monarchies led by kings, sultans and emirs in Saudi, Morocco, Water, Jordan, Bahrain and the other Gulf states – some more despotic than others. At the same time , inconvenient and troublesome non-monarchical heads of states were fair game for removal and regime change – in Iraq Tunisia Syria, Libya, Yemen and Egypt.

And he notes a further contradiction.

It is strange that the western democracies are most relaxed with regimes formally based one monarchic autocrat and most hostile to autocrat c regimes with democratic sounding trappings such as the Ba’athist republics. Democracy is only to be imposed on states that purport to have democratic forms. They are somehow the greater threats to the wester interest. Monarchs are more easily manipulated.

And there we have it. In a sense the West, or rather elements of it, while trying to play – most obviously for economic gain in terms of petroleum and also financial backing, was played itself. There’s a revolting cynicism about the whole process. Families imposed or assisted by European states initially have gathered around them legitimations (however specious) that somehow protect them. Others have not. No one is arguing that the latter were fantastic, often their brutality equalled that of the monarchies. And yet, the latter have been protected from enemies internal and external, whereas others…

Small wonder that these contradictions have come back in such force to cause such trouble and across the globe.


1. yourcousin - November 30, 2016

This is true, but all too often leftists rally around folks like Assad, Sisi or Gaddafi instead of saying those monarchs in Qatar and Saudi Arabia should go as well.


dublinstreams - November 30, 2016

what leftists rallied round those recently?


Joe - November 30, 2016

Well the Workers’ Party of Ireland rally around Assad or, at least the LookLeft facebook page does.
Don’t think any leftists rally around Sisi (he’s the Egyptian general/dictator, right?). But I certainly heard a lot of liberals (and people across the political spectrum) supporting the overthrow of the democratically-elected Morsi at the time. I think that support was because they didn’t like the religious etc policies of the devout Muslim, Morsi.
Don’t know who on the left here in Ireland spoke for Gaddafi as such at the time (as opposed to against Western military intervention), except some strange folks/grouplet who sort of dressed up in military fatigues and dark glasses and organised a pro-Gadaffi protest…

And in fairness, it’s the Left in general who point out and condemn the badness of all those pro-Western dictatorships in Saudi and those other places. Whereas the Right and the mainstream don’t rock any boats with them cos business is business.


dublinstreams - November 30, 2016

I was asking yourcousin as he was the one who threw the accusation out there, but so far we got 1 guy and his facebok page…


yourcousin - November 30, 2016

And that’s my point. Saying “boo” to western intervention when a dictator is murdering his own people is taking a side. And reserving critique for the west when gas attacks, purposeful targeting of hospitals, aid columns, starving whole populations, barrel bombs etc are happening regularly is taking a side. That’s my point. I don’t support the Saudis and I don’t agree with American support for them or the Qataris. But I can call that bullshit and turn around and say that Assad’s actions are inexcusable and he must go.

I mean I get we all live under capitalism, but I see no reason that we shouldn’t work to expand the cage floor.


dublinstreams - November 30, 2016

we protest most those things that are done in our name by our countries and allies, maybe its its in the thought processes of leftists to blame the state for things, and rightist just can’t see that.


yourcousin - November 30, 2016

Was that a general comment or a focused one?


dublinstreams - November 30, 2016



yourcousin - November 30, 2016

Okay I’ll be more direct. Are you calling me a “rightist”?


dublinstreams - November 30, 2016



RosencrantzisDead - December 1, 2016

My understanding of the WP position is they support the Syrian Communist Party’s call for the national sovereignty of Syria to be respected. Similar calls have been made by the YPG previously.

I have tried to get a handle on Syria but I have failed. It is a mess. It is not a civil war in the classic sense – union vs confederates etc. – rather a series of conflicts between groups with differing agendas. Some of these agendas overlap for a time. I admit I have found it hard to keep track of which groups sides with who.

First, you have the Syrian Government vs Rebels. This conflict is the most controversial and it turns on the composition of the rebel groups. The line from the US and the UK is that there are ‘moderates’ among the rebels. Cameron said 70000 moderates. The meaning of ‘moderate’ seems to be relative in the sense that Ed Gein was a ‘moderate’ killer compared to Ted Bundy. Take this quote from this BBC article(quoting only official US sources):

“Originally the argument was, ‘We don’t know them very well’,” Ford recalled. “When we got to know them better, it was: ‘They don’t have very good backgrounds’.”
Most of the rebels, he said, weren’t “ideologically pure”, not in the way US officials wanted. “In wars like that, there is no black and white,” he said.

Some claim the Free Syrian Army is/was a myth and the US have been (intentionally or not) arming fundamentalist groups. There is good reason to believe that whatever moderates were around have been overwhelmed by fundamentalists, who are by and large more experienced and organised fighters.

The next conflict is against Daesh. Nominally, everyone is against them. In reality, things are more complicated. There is talk of a significant overlap between Daesh and the rebels. The rebels may also oppose Daesh but only because they cleave to a different kind of fundamentalism. Daesh is opposed by the US, but US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the sources of much of its funding. Another US ally, Turkey, is assisting Daesh in wiping out the Kurds/YPG, who they say are really the PKK. The Syrian government is fighting Daesh along with Russia; they claim that the rebels are really Daesh and groups of fundamentalists. Alongside the Syrian Government in this struggle is Iran, Hezbollah and Iraq (US ‘partner’/ally).

The YPG/SDF is fighting with Daesh and the Turks. They had some sort of working alliance with the Syrian government, Russia and the US. The Bob Crow Brigade denied via their twitter account they were supported by the US. Twitter blocked them shortly afterward. Recently, YPG/SDF have stated the Russians and the Syrian government have bombed their positions. There is some confusion on who is supporting whom: we have CIA-backed rebels fighting Pentagon-backed rebels.

As to Assad going, the question falls to what replaces him or the current government. It is paramount that an Afghanistan situation is avoided where you have disparate groups unable to form a government, allowing a set of unified extremists to step in. Going on past experience, the US should not be involved in picking a leader, recalling the disasters with Ahmed Chalabi and Hamid Karzai. At this point, there does not appear to be anyone primed to take the position.

Apologies for the long post, just putting up some thoughts.


Joe - December 1, 2016

Thanks RiD. It is a mess for sure. A horrific, bloody mess. Assad is a mass murderer – I wouldn’t support supporting him as a better option than mass murderers who are fighting against him.
The mess you describe reminds me of the cartoon that did the rounds during the Lebanese civil war. It was titled ‘Easy Reference Guide to the militias in the Lebanon Civil War’. There were about twenty boxes with cartoons of a heavily armed soldier, each slightly differently heavily-armed than the next. Under each box was a caption describing him such as “Saddam-backed Marounite Christian”, “Saudi-backed Sunni Mourabitoun”, “Shia Amal” and so on. The point was that to your average Lebanese civilian, they were all the same – soldiers who could kill the fuck out of you.

So yes, I’m a bleeding heart sandal-wearing liberal whose solution to the Syrian slaughter is to ask them all can they not just stop and get along with each other.


2. dublinstreams - November 30, 2016

2015 State flags at half mast following the death of King Abdullah http://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0123/675039-saudi-arabia/


3. dublinstreams - December 1, 2016

IT:: Religious delegation from Syria in Ireland to campaign against EU sanctions http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/religious-delegation-from-syria-in-ireland-to-campaign-against-eu-sanctions-1.2885737#.WD8YT_DEMh4.twitter including a Muslim cleric Syrian government supporter Iman who threatened to unleash sucide bombers in Europe if the west attack Syria, getting both a hearing and criticism at oireachtas committee today. h/t TI


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