David P. Hamilton :
What is to be done in the Middle East (as soon
as pigs fly)

Creating an actual anti-Islamic State alliance would require thinking entirely outside the currently existing conceptual boxes.

flying pig 1

David’s flying pig. Image designated for noncommercial reuse.

By David P. Hamilton | The Rag Blog | November 25, 2015

“In the name of realism, men are quite mad, and precisely what they call utopian is now the condition of human survival.” — C. Wright Mills

The United States has successfully created a hotbed of instability and dysfunction in the Middle East. There are now wars in Iraq, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Turkey/Kurdistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Weapons are now hemorrhaging across the Sahara from Libya into Chad, Mali, and Nigeria, areas of Africa where the U.S. is busy establishing new military bases. There is a welter of conflicting alliances with diverse and contradictory goals, especially in Syria, the current epicenter of conflict.

This conceptual chaos is typified by the U.S. being the member of a coalition to fight the “Islamic State” [ISIS], which includes the principal parties who provided ISIS with its motivating ideology, Wahhabism, and which created, funded and provided weapons to this same Islamic State since its inception, (i.e., the Gulf Sunni dictators in Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and especially Saudi Arabia).

The Syrian government is led by a highly Western and secular ophthalmologist.

Each element of this bogus coalition shares with its alleged enemy, ISIS, the primary goal of overthrowing the Syrian government; a government that is led by a highly Western and secular ophthalmologist who is consistently demonized as a “bloody tyrant” in the mainstream media for fighting back in a civil war that was instigated and fomented by the CIA and those same dictators that are covertly supporting ISIS.

The goal of overthrowing Assad is likewise held by NATO and its allegedly anti-ISIS member, Turkey, which has allowed thousands of foreign fighters to stream across its borders to join IS and which would rather fight the Kurds, one of the few parties actually fighting ISIS, despite the fact that the United States won’t directly provide the Kurds with arms to do so.

The U.S. meanwhile bombs ISIS for a year with apparent purposeful ineffectualness, perhaps limited by the its sharing with IS of the primary goal of overthrowing the Syrian government, and spends tens of millions attempting to build up the Free Syrian Army of “moderates,”which exists largely on paper and sells the weapons the U.S. gives them to ISIS. This only scratches the surface of the insanity of U.S. policy.

Creating an actual anti-IS alliance would require thinking entirely outside the currently existing conceptual boxes, especially on the part of the U.S.

The territory ISIS now controls must be taken back by military means.

There are two separate, but related issues. One is the ISIS attacks in Paris and elsewhere. The other is that ISIS controls territory in Iraq and Syria. The former cannot be entirely resolved by military means. It also requires better integration of the Muslim populations into France and other EU countries. The latter, however, requires a military solution. ISIS is not going to negotiate. The territory it now controls must be taken back by military means and that will require a large ground force.

Simple as it sounds, taking back territory from ISIS requires that any actual anti-ISIS alliance must agree that the primary goal is defeating ISIS. That is not the case with the current anti-ISIS alliance that includes Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Assembling an alliance of those actually willing to fight IS necessarily means that the goal of overthrowing the Assad government in Syria must be dropped. This ideal alliance must include the existing Syrian government. An alliance cannot exist where some say Assad has to go and some say he has to stay.

Overthrowing the Assad government also risks the disintegration of the Syrian state altogether, leaving chaos such as the U.S. and its sycophants “achieved” in Libya and Iraq. The central pillars of this ideal anti-ISIS alliance would be the U.S., Russia, and Iran, and would also include the Kurds independent of Baghdad, the Iraq army, including the Shia militias, the existing Syrian army, including Hezbollah, France and its EU supporters.

It would not include Turkey or the Arab League without some extreme diplomatic coercion, such as threatening Turkey’s exclusion from NATO, terminal rejection of Turkey’s effort to join the EU, sanctions on the sale of oil from the Gulf dictators, refusal to sell them more weapons, and removal of all those lucrative U.S. military bases on their territories. There are means to achieve their acquiescence if there were the will and imagination, but the alliance should not expect it.

It is quite plausible to imagine an army
besieging IS from all sides.

The removal of ISIS from the territory it now holds would not necessarily require actual fighting. It is quite plausible to imagine an army besieging IS from all sides, entirely cutting off its access to the outside world composed of all the suggested alliance members, with at least a quarter-million troops, including what are supposedly the best trained and equipped in the world, from multiple major world powers acting in unison, with all the supporting armor and artillery and with their combined air forces (with complete control of the skies) and navies sitting just offshore loaded with missiles.

ISIS could then be given 72 hours to lay down their weapons and surrender or they would be exterminated by thousands of aerial sorties a day along with naval bombardment against which they would have utterly no defense. The ultimate result of such a combined force taking on ISIS militarily is not in doubt. At most, ISIS has 30,000 to 40,000 lightly-armed troops who would be outnumbered 10 to 1 and outgunned 100 to 1 if not 1000 to 1. They would have no chance of survival but by surrendering to such an ultimatum. The alternative would be certain death in short order.

But once ISIS has been defeated, then the real challenges begin, because this would need, necessarily, to be followed by the end of the Syrian civil war and the creation of three new countries: Kurdistan – created from areas of northern Iraq and Syria; “Sunniland” created from western Iraq and eastern Syria; and, of course, Palestine.

Iraq and Syria are unviable remnants of colonialism and must be reconfigured.

The countries of Iraq and Syria are unviable remnants of colonialism and must be reconfigured. This would leave a diverse and secular Syria in the west (which might as well unite with a similar Lebanon), a Shia-dominated Iraq in the east (a client of Iran), a new Sunni state in the middle (likely an eventual client of Saudi Arabia, but initially governed by Sunnis who joined the anti-ISIS coalition), and a new state for the world’s largest stateless people, the Kurds, along the northern border of Iraq and Syria with its capital in Mosul.

Of course, there can be no lasting peace in the Middle East until Israel is forced to negotiate a just settlement with the Palestinians based on the pre-1967 borders. Since Israel is largely a client state of the U.S., this should not be too difficult if there were the political will on the part of the U.S. to force Israel to negotiate in good faith. The consequences for Israeli non-compliance could be a complete cut off of all U.S. aid, an end to U.S. support in the UN, where Israel would otherwise stand alone, and sanctions on trade, even an economic embargo — like with Cuba.

Thus isolated, Israel would be obliged to rethink their theft of Palestinian lands and diplomatic intransigence. Arguments about needing to protect the existential security of Israel, a country that has over 200 nuclear weapons compared to zero in the hands of their various adversaries, are nonsense. As icing on this cake, Israel must be required to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, submit to inspections of its nuclear weapons facilities, and commit to the goal of a nuclear-free Middle East.

Most of this is political fantasy given the political realities of the U.S. plutocracy.

Certainly, most of this is political fantasy given the political realities of the U.S. plutocracy, with political and economic power so heavily concentrated in the hands of those who profit from war. But from the opposite perspective, the reality is that such measures are going to be required if we seriously want to get rid of ISIS and solve most of the underlying problems that have, thanks largely to U.S. meddling, destabilized the whole region for decades and promise to continue to do so into the foreseeable future, inevitably spreading their bloody consequences to Europe and the U.S.

Solutions that do not include such a broad alliance organized around revised fundamental goals and changes of national boundaries to reflect more commonality of populations are band-aids that will just push the problem down the road for our children and grandchildren to suffer with.

Read more articles by David P. Hamilton on The Rag Blog.

[David P. Hamilton, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin in history and government, was an activist in 1960s-’70s Austin and was a contributor to the original Rag. David and wife Sally spend part of every year in France.]

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8 Responses to David P. Hamilton :
What is to be done in the Middle East (as soon
as pigs fly)

  1. Michael Eisenscher says:

    There are at least three major defects in this line of thinking:
    1. The notion that Bashar al-Assad is simply a blameless noble eye doctor trying to preserve the Syrian state; and
    2. The consequence of this strategy (assuming it ever could be executed) would be the mass extermination, not of ISIS but of the millions of people who happen to still be in the territory ISIS controls; and
    3. That pigs can, or could be taught to fly.

    Perhaps this strategy could be code named the Mary Poppins alternative.

    • Larry Piltz says:

      Funny you should accuse someone ELSE of Mary Poppins thinking. You seem truly oblivious, which I guess is not a sin unless you refuse to educate yourself about the giant omissions in your understanding and thinking.

  2. anonymous says:

    Oh come on, this is truly ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’.

    So, the US is ‘bad’ for (allegedly) destabilizing Assad. So we just hallucinated all of those crowds nonviolently protesting Assad in 2011 that he shot at. He destroyed the nascent ‘moderate’ opposition because they were unarmed and the US was slow off the mark helping them. Assad doesn’t magically become the ‘good guy’ because the US nominally opposes him.

    Then, the US is ‘bad’ for “sponsoring” ISIS, which they didn’t do. Oh, well, they have a strategic relationship with the Gulf states that share a religion with ISIS. Strange bedfellows syndrome on steroids?

    Part of the Vietnam hangover in your thinking is that the US is the aggressor behind every single world conflict, and effectively manipulating every situation great and small.

    Then you overestimate the capability of assembling an imagined international force against ISIS and undertaking a massive military action without further unintended fallout of destabilization, atrocity, and mass homelessness.

    The truth is that despite every bit of great power plotting and scheming, only a ‘conspiracy theorist’ of the most extreme over-determined belief system thinks things don’t sometimes spin out of everyone’s control in a very chaotic world.

    It’s important to shrug off the blame game, which isn’t really productive here; and instead address the incredibly broad common interest nearly all nation-states have in staunching the bleed from the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.

    The most urgent task is resettling refugees within Syrian territory in a safe disarmed place, patrolled by a constabulary militia that is non-abusive to the population, reinforced by a no-fly zone.

    That would be a responsible minimalist use of force to protect vulnerable populations, and would avoid new offensive operations by foreign forces inside Syria.

    Wider intervention could easily escalate into a new World War despite everyone’s intentions (except ISIS, which wants non-Muslim foreigners fighting each other, and Assad, who needs foreign help to prop himself up).

    • David Hamilton says:

      The US/CIA and the Sunni Gulf dictators spent millions funding and arming the Syrian opposition for years before the Darra uprising in March of 2011. That uprising became violent almost immediately, including the ambush and murder of 19 Syrian Army troops.

      • anonymous says:

        Listen and view this, especially the statement about Syrian bombings about six minutes in.


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      • Larry Piltz says:

        David, you’re right about the origins and early timing of the violent Syrian opposition. Unfortunately, most people don’t know (or want to know) how this manufactured rebellion was a setup to further clear the decks for U.S. and Israeli hegemony in the region (and for Saudi Arabia also). This fact about continued and still expanding U.S. imperialism flies right over their heads, and it doesn’t help that their heads are gratuitiously buried in the sands of the region.

  3. bobf says:

    Occupying and partitioning Syria and Iraq on a religiously sectarian basis (using hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and troops of former colonial powers in region) against a religiously sectarian guerrilla-type army would unlikely bring peace to Syria and Iraq. A similar military-oriented strategy against the religiously sectarian Taliban failed to bring peace to Afghanistan, for example. A recent UK Stop The War Coalition statement indicated an alternative way anti-imperialist U.S. anti-war activists might consider responding to proposals for another escalation of the endless U.S./UK/French military intervention in Iraq and Syria:

    “Although opinion polling on this varies, some may well be swayed by the argument that `something must be done’ to stop further killings.

    “It is a good question, but the problem is that military intervention is precisely the wrong answer.

    “To start with, there already is military intervention in Syria. At present the US has been bombing Syria for over a year.

    “Since September, France has been involved alongside them, although other members of a coalition put together last year, including Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have effectively withdrawn from bombing.

    “The bombing has failed in its stated aim, to weaken and defeat Isis. Even by the admission of the US, the group is as strong as it was before the bombing began, despite thousands of Isis supporters having been killed by the attacks. In the month after the bombing began, 8,000 joined Isis alone.

    “In addition, Iraq is already being bombed, including by Britain, with little evidence that this is affecting the strength of Isis.

    “Russia too has been bombing Syria. Whereas that bombing…was met with warnings of it increasing the threat of terrorism for Russia, any suggestion that this might also apply to other countries is met with derision.

    “Yet both Russia and France have now experienced severe terrorist attacks. Are we saying they have no connection to the bombings being carried out?

    “Behind Cameron’s new round of banging the drum for war lies a total failure on the part of most politicians to admit the reasons for the growth of Isis and other groups.

    “Because the inescapable truth is that the `war on terror,’ as it was named after September 11, has not only failed to stop terrorism, it has presided over a massive growth of groups linked to al-Qaida and Isis, in an increasing number of countries, in those years.

    “One major reason for this has been the invasions, wars and occupations which the West has carried out over the past 14 years.

    “In every case, large numbers of civilians have been killed. Many more have been displaced and made refugees, and whole societies have been ruined by the ongoing consequences of war.

    “Every single one of those wars involving our government is still going on — Afghanistan, where the Taliban is strong in many areas and where Isis is also growing — Iraq, and Libya where tens of thousands have been killed by bombing and where the country is embroiled in a civil war.

    “Religious sectarianism and ethnic division has often been fostered, as it was in Iraq under the US occupation.

    “Isis itself is a child of war. Its origin lies in those fighting against Western occupation in Iraq in 2007, and it eventually spread to Syria in 2013 following the civil war there.

    “It was backed by key Saudi figures and Qatar in terms of arms and finance. Turkey, a Nato member and Western ally, has given major logistical support to Isis at various times, and has allowed it to sell oil across the Turkish border, providing a major lifeline.

    “Despite supposedly joining in attacks on Isis, it has been much keener to attack the Kurds in Syria, who actually are fighting Isis on the ground.

    “A good start in dealing with Isis would be for the allies of the Western powers to stop supporting it.

    “In terms of funding and ideology, Isis is close to Saudi Arabia, which is a valued Western ally.

    “It has been bombing Yemen for months, with little complaint from the Western powers, and this week the US agreed a £1.2 billion arms and bombs deal with Saudi Arabia.

    “The British arms industry relies heavily on the desert despotism, flying flags on government buildings at half-mast when the king died, and turning a blind eye to human rights and women’s rights abuses.

    “Instead, we are told that bombing is the only way to deal with Isis. It will further inflame the Middle East, and possibly will lead to a much wider war.

    “After 14 years of war across south Asia and the Middle East, millions are the casualties, including those killed in Paris last week. We have to stop those wars.”

  4. Larry Piltz says:

    “The United States has successfully created a hotbed of instability and dysfunction in the Middle East.”

    What’s extremely flabbergasting to me is that the plainspoken straightforward entirely obvious information contained in David’s above quote is still entirely missing from the daydreaming American mainstream news, that the whole point of the Iraq invasion by the United States was to initiate and achieve this instability, that this forced instability was an international rape instigated by and now being sustained solely for the purposes of furthering American, Israeli, and Saudi hegemony of the region, and that the resulting and ongoing genocides and mass murder aspects of this American policy and its actions will go unacknowledged and unpunished at home and on the world stage.

    What a racket we Americans have going, eh?! And we the giant inert consuming American mass sleepwalking nation goes about its daily business oblivious to the obvious. Like that ever turns out well, right?! The mass American consumer nation will end up being consumed, the proverbial American “Irish” eating their own children.

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