Tag Archives: The Kurds

The Spread of Anarchism and the 1905 Russian Revolution; Global Anarchism’s, No Gods, No Masters and No Peripheries

23 Feb

 

In the latest installment from the “Anarchist Current,” the Afterword to Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I discuss the spread of anarchist ideas and movements at the beginning of the 20th century, and the significance of the 1905 Russian Revolution. I refer to Kropotkin’s perceptive analysis of the significance of the 1905 Russian Revolution, the full text of which can be found here. Before the 1917 Russian Revolution, as the Marxist historian E.J. Hobsbawm himself admitted, “the bulk of the revolutionary left was anarcho-syndicalist, or at least much closer to the ideas and the mood of anarcho-syndicalism than to that of classical marxism.”

 

 

The Spread of Anarchism

Prior to the First World War, anarchism had become an international revolutionary movement, with the largest anarchist movements in countries with anarcho-syndicalist trade union organizations, such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay, or like minded revolutionary syndicalist movements, as in France. In the early 1900s, anarchist ideas were introduced to Japan (Volume One, Selection 102) and China (Volume One, Selections 96-99). Anarchists and syndicalists, despite the efforts of the Marxists and social democrats to exclude the anarchists from the international socialist movement, formed the extreme left wing of the socialist and trade union movements. Anarchist ideas regarding direct action, autonomous social organization, anti-parliamentarianism, expropriation, social revolution and the general strike were gaining more currency, particularly after the 1905 Russian Revolution, and the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

 

 

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 The 1905 Russian Revolution

In January 1905, Czarist troops massacred scores of protesters at a demonstration in St. Petersburg, precipitating a general strike and the formation of the first “soviets,” or workers’ councils in Russia (Voline, 1947: 96-101). Following Russia’s defeat in its war against Japan in February 1905, unrest spread throughout Russia, culminating in a countrywide general strike in October 1905. The Czar was forced to promise constitutional reforms, which he soon reneged upon. Nevertheless, the great general strike of October 1905 made a deep impression on workers and revolutionaries around the world, giving renewed credence to anarchist ideas, for it was the anarchists who had been advocating the general strike as a revolutionary weapon since the time of the First International (Volume One, Selection 27). The Marxist social democrats had been dismissing the general strike as “general nonsense” for years (Joll: 193).

Kropotkin observed that “what exasperated the rulers most” about the general strike “was that the workers offered no opportunity for shooting at them and reestablishing ‘order’ by massacres. A new weapon, more terrible than street warfare, had thus been tested and proved to work admirably” (1905: 280). Despite this practical vindication of anarchist ideas, Malatesta was careful to point out the limitations of the general strike. Instead of “limiting ourselves to looking forward to the general strike as a panacea for all ills,” Malatesta warned, anarchists needed to prepare for the insurrection or civil war which would inevitably follow the workers’ seizure of the means of production. For it is not enough for the workers to halt production; to avoid being forced by their own hunger back to work, the workers need to provide for themselves (Volume One, Selection 60).

 

 

The Anarchist International

 

As the anarchist pacifist Bart de Ligt (1883-1938) put it in the 1930s, “the workers must not strike by going home or into the streets, thus separating themselves from the means of production and giving themselves over to dire poverty but… on the contrary, they must stay on the spot and control these means of production” for their own benefit (Volume One, Selection 120). Maurice Joyeux (1910-1991), following the May-June 1968 events in France, described such action as the “self-managerial” general strike, by which the workers directly take control of the means of production (Volume Two, Selection 61).

No revolutionary group could claim credit for the 1905 Russian Revolution. As Kropotkin noted, the October 1905 general strike “was not the work of any revolutionary organization. It was entirely a workingmen’s affair” (1905: 278). What the anarchists could do was point to the 1905 Russian Revolution as a practical vindication of their ideas, enabling them to reach a much broader audience inspired by these events. Robert Graham

 

 

 

From Chiapas to Rojava: Seas Divide Us, Autonomy Binds Us; Zapatistas: 20 years of reinventing revolution. Ecosocialism, Ecoanarchism

19 Feb

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Power to the people can only be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into the people.

 

Despite being continents apart, the struggles of the Kurds and Zapatistas share a similar purpose: to resist capitalism, liberate women and build autonomy. Petar Stanchev is finishing a degree in Latin American Studies and Human Rights at the University of Essex. He has previously lived and studied in Mexico and has been involved in the Zapatista solidarity movement for four years. 

 

 WORLD REVOLUTION

REVOLUTION; A WORLD WITH OUT CAPITALISM, A SOCIETY WITHOUT STATES!

 

Only six months ago very few people had ever heard of Kobani. But when ISIS launched its futile attack on the town in September 2014, the little Kurdish stronghold quickly became a major focal point in the struggle against the religious extremists. In the months that followed, Kobani was transformed into an international symbol of resistance, compared to both Barcelona and Stalingrad for its role as a bulwark against fascism.

The brave resistance of the People’s and Women’s Defense Units (YPG and YPJ) was praised by a broad spectrum of groups and individuals — from anarchists, leftists and liberals to right-wing conservatives — who expressed sympathy and admiration for the men and women of Kobani in their historical battle against the forces of ISIS.

As a result, the mainstream media was soon forced to break its silence on the plight of the Kurds of Northern Syria, who had declared their autonomy in the summer of 2012. Numerous articles and news stories depicted the “toughness” and determination of the Kurdish fighters, often with a dose of romanticization. Nonetheless, the media attention was often selective and partial. The very essence of the political project in Rojava (Western Kurdistan) went unreported and Western journalists generally preferred to present the resistance in Kobani as an inexplicable exception to the supposed barbarism of the Middle East.

Unsurprisingly, the victorious flag of the YPG/YPJ brandishing the iconic red star was not a pleasing image to the eyes of the Western powers. The autonomous cantons of Rojava represent a homegrown solution to the conflicts in the Middle East, focusing on gender equality, environmental sustainability and horizontal democratic processes including all different ethnic and social groups, while simultaneously resisting the terror from ISIS and rejecting both liberal democracy and capitalist modernity.

Although many in the West preferred to stay silent on the issue, the Kurdish activist and academic Dilar Dirik has rightly claimed that the ideological foundations of the Kurdish movement for democratic autonomy are key to understanding the spirit that has inspired the Kobani resistance.

 

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Enough is Enough!

As the battle for every street and corner of the city intensified, Kobani managed to capture the imagination of the global left — and of left-libertarian groups in particular — as a symbol of resistance. It was not without reason that the Turkish Marxist-Leninist group MLKP, which joined the YPG/YPJ on the battlefield, raised the flag of the Spanish Republic over the ruins of the city on the day of its liberation while calling for the formation of International Brigades, following the example of the Spanish Revolution.

It was not necessarily the battle for Kobani itself, but the libertarian essence of the cantons of Rojava, the implementation of direct democracy at the grassroots, and the participation of women in the autonomous government that gave grounds to such historical comparisons. But Rojava was not just compared to revolutionary Catalonia. Another striking comparison — with the struggle of the Zapatistas for autonomy in the south of Mexico — might in fact be key to understanding the paradigm of the revolution in Kurdistan and what it means for those who believe that another world is possible.

Ever since it first appeared on the scene in the early 1990s, the Zapatista movement has probably been one of the most symbolic and most influential elements of the revolutionary imagination worldwide. In the morning of January 1, 1994, an unknown guerrilla force composed of indigenous Mayas took over the main towns of Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state. The military operation was carried out with strategic brilliance and combined with an innovative use of the internet it resonated around the globe, inspiring international solidarity and the emergence of the Global Justice Movement.

The Zapatistas rebelled against neoliberalism and the social and cultural genocide of the indigenous population of Mexico. Ya Basta!, or ‘Enough is Enough!’, was the battle cry of the rebellion which was the “product of 500 years of oppression,” as the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle stated. The Zapatistas rose up in arms right as global capital was celebrating the presumed end of history, and the idea of social revolution seemed to be a romantic anachronism that belonged to the past. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) was soon forced out of the cities after intense battles with the federal army that lasted for twelve days. However, it turned out that the deep horizontal organization of the indigenous communities could not be eradicated by any state terror or military campaigns.

The masked spokesperson of the rebel army, Subcomandante Marcos, challenged the notion of the historical vanguard and opposed to it the idea of “revolution from below,” a form of social struggle that does not aim to take over state power but rather seeks to abolish it. This conceptualization of autonomy and direct democracy then became central to many of the mass anti-capitalist movements we have seen since — from the protests at Seattle and Genoa to the occupations of Syntagma, Puerta del Sol and Zuccotti Park.

 

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A Shared Historical Trajectory

The roots of the struggle for democratic autonomy in Rojava can be found in the history of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the organization that has been central to the Kurdish liberation movement ever since its creation in 1978. The PKK was established as a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group in Northern Kurdistan (Southeastern Turkey) combining a form of Kurdish nationalism with the struggle for social emancipation. Under the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan it grew into a substantial guerrilla force that managed to withstand the attacks of NATO’s second biggest army in a conflict that claimed the lives of more than 40.000 people over the course of thirty years.

The Turkish state displaced hundreds of thousands and reportedly used torture, assassination and rape against the civilian population. Yet it did not manage to break the Kurdish resistance. Since its inception, the PKK has expanded its influence both in Turkey and in the other parts of Kurdistan. The leading political force in the Rojava revolution — the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — was founded as the PKK’s sister organization in Syria after the former had been banned in the late 1990s. Currently, the two organizations are connected through the Kurdistan Communities’ Union (KCK), the umbrella organization that encompasses various revolutionary and political groups sharing the ideas of the PKK.

The ideology uniting the different civil and revolutionary groups in the KCK is called democratic confederalism and is based on the ideas of the US anarchist Murray Bookchin, who argued in favor of a non-hierarchical society based on social ecology, libertarian municipalism and direct democracy. After Öcalan was captured by the Turkish state in 1999 and sentenced to life imprisonment, he rejected the PKK’s Marxist-Leninist past. Instead, he turned towards Bookchin, leading to a conviction that local and regional autonomy for Kurdish communities is in fact the most viable solution.

Although the Zapatistas are famous for their autonomous self-governance and rejection of the notion of a historical vanguard, the roots of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation were similarly Marxist-Leninist in nature. Just like the PKK, the Zapatistas’ ideas of self-governance and revolution from below were a product of a long historical evolution.

The EZLN was founded in 1983 by a group of urban guerrillas who decided to start a revolutionary cell among the indigenous population in Chiapas, organize a military force and eventually take state power through guerrilla warfare. Soon they realized that their vanguardist ideological dogma was not applicable to the cultural realities of the local communities, and they started learning from the indigenous peoples’ traditions of communal governance. Thus Zapatismo was born as a fusion between Western Marxism and the experience and knowledge of the native American population that has been resisting the colonial Spanish state and the federal Mexican state for five centuries.

This shared ideological trajectory of the two guerrilla organizations demonstrates a historical turn in contemporary understandings of the revolutionary process. The Zapatista uprising and the construction of autonomy in Chiapas marked a break with the traditional strategy of foquismo, inspired predominantly by the Cuban Revolution. The rejection of vanguardism was made very clear in a letter Subcomandante Marcos wrote to the Basque liberation movement ETA, wherein he clearly stated: “I shit on all revolutionary vanguards on this planet.”

In Chiapas, it is not the vanguard that leads the people — it is up to the people themselves to build the revolution from below and sustain it as such. Now this is the logic the PKK has been shifting towards in the last decade under the influence of Murray Bookchin, demonstrating its transformation from a movement for the people into a movement of the people.

 

The Kurds new PKK: unleashing a social revolution in Kurdistan; Bookchin’s specific brand of eco-anarchism, anarchist internationalism, A strategy aimed at greater regional autonomy http://wp.me/p1lJ77-1ni

 

 

Cantons and Caracoles

Probably the most important similarity between the revolutions in Rojava and Chiapas is the social and political re-organization that is taking place in both regions on the basis of the libertarian socialist worldview of the PKK and EZLN.

The Zapatistas’ struggle for autonomy originated from the failure of the peace negotiations with the Mexican government after the uprising in 1994. During the peace negotiations the rebels demanded that the government adhere to the San Andres accords, which gave the indigenous people the right to greater self-determination over education, justice and political organization based on their traditions as well as communal control over land and local resources.

These accords were never implemented by the government and in 2001 President Fox backed an edited version that was passed by Congress but that did not meet the demands of the Zapatistas and the other groups of the indigenous resistance. Two years later, the EZLN created five rebel zones, or Caracoles (“snails” in English), that now serve as administrative centers. The nameCaracoles represented the particular revolutionary temporality of the Zapatistas: “We are doing it ourselves, we learn in the process and we advance. Slowly, but we advance.”

The Caracoles include three levels of autonomous government: the community, the municipality and the Council of Good Government. The first two are based on grassroots assemblies; the Councils of Good Government are elected but with the intention to get as many people as possible to participate in the councils over the years through a principle of rotation. The Caracoles have their own education, healthcare and justice systems, as well as cooperatives producing coffee, creating handicrafts and rearing cattle, among other things.

In some way, the cantons in Rojava resemble the Caracoles. They were proclaimed by the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM) in 2014 and function through the newly established popular assemblies and People’s Councils. Women participate equally in decision-making processes and are represented in all elected positions, which are always shared by a man and a woman.

All ethnic groups are represented in the different councils and its institutions. Healthcare and education are also guaranteed by the system of democratic confederalism. Recently the first Rojavan university, the Mesopotamian Social Sciences Academy, opened its doors with plans to challenge the hierarchical structure of education and to provide a different approach to learning.

Just as is the case with the Zapatistas, the revolution in Rojava envisions itself as a possible solution to the problems of the whole country and the region as a whole. It is not just an expression of separatist tendencies. As a delegation of academics from Europe and North America that visited Rojava recently claimed, this genuinely democratic system points to a different future for the Middle East — a future based on popular participation, the liberation of women and a just peace between different ethnic groups.

 

The Social Revolution Takes Off

 

A Women’s Revolution

Gender has always been central to the Zapatista revolution. Before the dissemination of autonomous forms of organization and the adoption of women’s liberation as central to the struggle, the position of women was marked by exploitation, marginalization, forced marriage, physical violence and discrimination.

This is why Subcomandante Marcos claims that the uprising started not in 1994 but already one year before, with the adoption of the Women’s Revolutionary Law in 1993. This law set the framework for gender equality and justice, guaranteeing the rights to personal autonomy, emancipation and dignity of the women in rebel territory. Today women participate at all levels of government and run their own cooperatives and economic structures to guarantee their economic independence.

Women still form a large part of the ranks of the Zapatista guerrilla force and take high positions in its military command. The takeover of San Cristobal de las Casas, the most important city the EZLN captured in the 1994 uprising, was headed by Comandante Ramona, who was also the first Zapatista to be sent to Mexico City to represent the movement in negotiations with the government.

The mass involvement of indigenous women in the political project of the Zapatistas is easily compared to the participation of women in the defense of Kobani and in the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) more generally.  The bravery and determination of Kurdish women in the war against ISIS is a product of a long tradition of women’s participation in the armed struggle for social liberation in Kurdistan. Women play an important role in the PKK and gender liberation has long taken central place in the Kurdish struggle.

The Rojava revolution has strongly emphasized women’s liberation as indispensable for the liberation of society as a whole. The theoretical framework that puts the dismantling of patriarchy at the center of the struggle is referred to as “jineology” (jîn meaning woman in Kurdish). The application of this concept has resulted in an unprecedented empowerment of women — a remarkable achievement not just in the context of the Middle East but also in comparison to Western liberal feminism.

The women’s assemblies, cooperative structures and women’s militias are the beating heart of the Rojava revolution, which is considered incomplete as long as it does not destroy the patriarchal structures at the basis of capitalist society. As Janet Biehl wrote after her recent visit to Rojava, in the Rojava revolution women fulfill the role that the (male) proletariat fulfilled in the revolutions of the 20th century.

 

 

The Road to Autonomy 

The Ecology of Freedom is probably the most important among Bookchin’s works, and the concept of social ecology developed in this book has been actively adopted by the revolutionaries in Rojava. Bookchin was convinced that “the very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human.” By connecting capitalism, patriarchy and environmental destruction, he identified their combined abolition as the only way forward towards a just society.

A similar holistic approach has been advocated and implemented by the Zapatistas as well. Sustainability has been an important point of reference in Chiapas, especially since the creation of the Caracoles in 2003. The autonomous government has been trying to recuperate ancestral knowledge about sustainable land use and combine it with newer agro-ecological practices. This logic is not only a matter of improving the living conditions in the communities and avoiding the use of agrochemicals, it also constitutes a rejection of the idea that large-scale export-oriented industrial agriculture is superior to the “primitive” way the indigenous people work the land.

The similarities between the system of democratic confederalism that is being developed in Western Kurdistan and the autonomy being constructed in Chiapas go far beyond the few points I have stressed in this article. From slogans such asYa Basta! — adapted in Kurdish as êdî bes e! — to the development of grassroots democracy, communal economic structures and the participation of women, the similar paths of the Kurdish movement and the Zapatistas both demonstrate a decisive break with the vanguardist notion of Marxism-Leninism and a new approach to revolution — emerging from below and aiming at the wholesale liberation of society and its reorganization into a non-hierarchical direction.

Although both movements have received some bitter criticism from the more sectarian elements on the left, the very fact that the only major and successful experiments in revolutionary social change originate from non-Western, marginalized and colonized groups, should be considered a slap in the face of the white and privileged dogmatic “revolutionaries” of the global North who have hardly been successful in challenging oppression in their own countries but who still believe it is their judgment to decide what revolution looks like.

In reality, the struggles in Rojava and Chiapas are powerful examples to the world, demonstrating the vast potential of grassroots self-organization and the importance of communal ties to counter the social atomization wrought by capitalism. Moreover, they are forcing many on the Western left — including some anarchists — to reconsider their colonial mindsets and ideological dogmatism.

A world without capitalism, hierarchy, domination and environmental destruction — or as the Zapatistas would say, a world in which many worlds are possible — has often been depicted as “utopian” and “unrealistic.” Yet this world is not some future mirage that comes to us from the books: it is already being constructed by the Zapatistas and the Kurds, allowing us to re-imagine what radical social change looks like and providing a possible model for our own struggles back home. The red stars that shine over Chiapas and Rojava shed light on the way to liberation. If we need to summarize in one word what brings these two struggles together, it would definitely be autonomy.

 

Ecosocialism, eco-anarchism or Barbarism there is no third way Ω  This is why greens must be red and reds must be green!

 

 

Earth First! We Need a System Change to Stop Climate Change; Capitalism vs. the Climate! The Battle for the Planet is a Class Struggle! Workers and Environmentalists of the world, Unite! http://wp.me/p1lJ77-1qi

 

Onkwehón:werising.wordpress.com An Indigenous Perspective on Third Worldism & Revolution!

 

The Islamic State: A monster US empire and Imperialism created; The Islamist State ISIS – IS! The Big Contradiction: American Bombs Dropping On Extremist Group Funded By U.S. and it’s Allies

19 Aug

“The Islamic fundamentalism of IS is not some kind of barbaric relic from an unenlightened religious past, nor can the ongoing wars in the Middle East be reduced to a simplistic binary narrative. Like European fascism, Islamic fundamentalism is a decidedly modern phenomenon, and wherever we look in modern history, we find that the Western powers have always played a major role in its rise. The Islamic State is no exception”.

 

 

The rise of fundamentalism is a decidedly modern phenomenon in which US imperialism has always played a major role. The Islamic State is no exception. by Jerome Roos on August 18, 2014

 

 WORLD REVOLUTION

THE WORLD AT REVOLUTION..Fighting U.S. Imperialism

 

As the jihadi militants of the Islamist State — IS, formerly known as ISIS — rampage through Syria and Iraq, wantonly beheading infidels and sending hundreds of thousands scurrying for safety, many in the West are still all too eager to reduce the rapidly escalating conflict to a sectarian struggle between Sunnis and Shias, or a broader clash of civilizations between Muslims and everyone else — between Islam and other religions, between Islam and non-believers, or between Islam and the modern world.

But, its own practices and ideological narratives aside, the Islamic fundamentalism of IS is not some kind of barbaric relic from an unenlightened religious past, nor can the ongoing wars in the Middle East be reduced to a simplistic binary narrative. Like European fascism, Islamic fundamentalism is a decidedly modern phenomenon, and wherever we look in modern history, we find that the Western powers have always played a major role in its rise. The Islamic State is no exception.

The jihadists of IS and its antecedent groups initially rose to prominence in the vacuum left by the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. When the US toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, they did not only purge the state apparatus of his Baathist allies, but they purged it of the entire Sunni minority of which Saddam himself had been a part. Most dramatically, large parts of the majority-Sunni army were disbanded, leaving tens of thousands of combat-savvy and frustrated young men without pay and without any meaningful influence on the new Shia-dominated and US-backed political establishment in the country.

As was already obvious to many observers back then, the US invasion thus set the stage for a disastrous backlash. Many of Saddam’s former Sunni soldiers ended up joining the jihadist insurgency against the US occupation, giving Al Qaeda a new foothold in Iraq — a country where it had previously had no real influence to speak of. The bloody sectarian strife that subsequently broke out, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and preparing the ground for further radicalization, was not the cause but the outcome of the destabilization of the Iraqi state at the hands of the occupying forces.

In fact, the link between the US occupation and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq is more direct than most realize. Last week, the New York Times ran a fascinating background article about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Muslim cleric and ruthless leader of IS who just crowned himself Caliph of the Islamic world, which noted that, “at every turn, Mr. Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action.”

 

 

When the US army first detained Baghdadi in Fallujah in early 2004, he was considered little more than a “street thug.” But according to the Hisham al-Hasimini, an Iraqi scholar who studied Baghdadi’s background for Iraq’s intelligence agency, the current IS leader underwent a process of radicalization during his five years’ imprisonment in a US detention facility. “Iraqi to the core,” the Times writes, “his extremist ideology was sharpened and refined in the crucible of the American occupation.”

In subsequent years, Baghdadi surrounded himself with former members of Saddam’s Baathist party, who — despite their lack of credentials as radical Islamists — turned out to be key allies in the establishment of Al Qaeda in Iraq (the immediate antecedent to ISIS) as an insurgent movement and para-state, replete with its own army of jihadists, its own base of taxation (or extortion), its own oil revenues from the fields it managed to capture in Syria (and now Iraq), and increasingly its own public services (like local transport and religious education) in the areas under its control.

But while the world’s morbid fascination with IS stems from its lightning advances and its campaign of brutality in western Iraq last June, it was in Syria — as the world largely looked the other way — that the jihadist group groomed its warrior feathers, gaining a strategic stronghold, mopping up moderate Islamist groups to significantly expand its own numbers, rooting out the Free Syrian Army, besieging the Kurdish resistance, and obtaining various additional sources of income that were to prove crucial in  its further campaigns and its efforts to cement itself as a self-sustaining para-state.

Meanwhile, as it brandished its anti-Shia credentials, ISIS received lavish financial support from one of the United States’ main allies in the region: Saudi Arabia. The other Gulf states — Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates — are also implicated in directly or indirectly financing various extremist groups in Syria, including Jabhat al-Nusra, the official Al Qaeda affiliate in the country and second biggest faction after ISIS. But as one senior Qatari official affirms, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.” Patrick Cockburn, a long-term Middle East correspondent, notes that “Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control.”

Given the United States’ historical support for extremist groups — most notably its sponsoring of the mujahideen in their struggle against communism in Afghanistan, which directly paved the way for the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda — it should not come as a surprise that, this time around, the US has also been directly involved in enabling the rise of ISIS. In fact, it turns out that leading US lawmakers, including Republican Senator John McCain, have been actively pressing their allies to support the Syrian opposition and oust Assad. “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” McCain exclaimed as as recently as February 2014. (Prince Bandar is alleged to be the Saudi point man behind the funding of ISIS.)

 

 

At the same time, another important US ally in the region, Turkey — a NATO member — has been a crucial hub for ISIS by deliberately opening its 500-mile border to allow Syrian rebels to fall back onto Turkish territory and to permit Western jihadists – alienated young Muslim men from Europe, Australia and the US – to join their comrades in Syria. Consistent rumors have been doing the rounds that the head of Turkey’s intelligence services, Hakan Fidan, a key confidante of Prime Minister Erdogan, was personally responsible for the country’s covert support for ISIS.

Greatly strengthened by Gulf financing and an influx of foreign fighters, with Turkey providing a much-needed back-base and thoroughfare, and with the Obama administration actively refusing to support the democratic Syrian resistance, ISIS quickly destroyed and eclipsed the moderate opposition, solidly growing into the main rebel group in Syria and finishing off the last-remaining strongholds of the Syrian revolution — until it deemed itself powerful enough to launch back into Iraq and march right up to Tikrit without encountering any serious resistance.

Now, in one of the greatest ironies of all, the United States finds itself back in Iraq, eleven years after its original invasion, bombing its own tanks, its own artillery pieces, and its own armored personnel vehicles — once provided to the Iraqi army during the eight-year occupation and summarily seized by ISIS as it sacked deserted bases across western Iraq — to stem the advances of an extremist enemy that its own imperial misadventures gave rise to. Once again, the US and its allies have created a monster they can no longer control. Once again, they will go to war to try to eradicate it. And once again, they will probably end up making an even bigger mess in the process.

Jerome Roos is a PhD researcher in International Political Economy at the European University Institute, and founding editor of ROAR Magazine. This article was written as part of his weekly column for TeleSUR English.

 

The Big Contradiction: American Bombs Dropping On Extremist Group Funded By U.S. Allies

An embarrassing fact: the Islamic State’s rise has been fueled by cash from citizens of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
 President Barack Obama recently announced that he authorized the United States military to begin bombing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq, where the radical Islamist group has taken over large swathes of territory. But what Obama didn’t mention in his speeches on why he began military operations again in Iraq is that citizens of U.S. allies, mostly in Gulf Arab states, have helped the rise of ISIS. This is deeply embarrassing to the U.S.

America’s closest allies, like Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan, have played a role in financing the activities of ISIS, which has declared an Islamic “caliphate” stretching across the borders of Syria and Iraq and which has killed those they deem enemies of Islam, like Shiites and Yazidis. Turkey, in particular, gave ISIS an easy way into Syria through the border between the two countries. ISIS transited weapons and fighters from Turkey into Syria to fight in the ongoing civil war there—a civil war that has allowed ISIS to gain valuable battlefield experience.

That U.S. allies play a dual role in the “war on terror” is an old story. In public, they pay lip service to battling extremism, but have not taken bold steps to halt the flow of private financing to extremist groups in Syria and across the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, is adept at playing this game. The Saudis want to use radical Sunnis in their war against Iran and Shiites, but also do not want these extremists to attack their own country, as Patrick Cockburn recently pointed out in the London Review of Books.

Fifteen of the hijackers who flew jetliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001 were from Saudi Arabia. The 9/11 Commission Report said that Saudi Arabia was the main source of financing for Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda has also attacked Saudi Arabia itself. More than a decade later, little has changed. In 2010, State Department cables published by WikiLeaks showed that the U.S. had concluded “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority…Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Today, the vast majority of ISIS’ funding is self-generated. Most of ISIS’ money comes from activities like siphoning oil from Iraq, extorting money, kidnapping ransoms and bank heists like one in Mosul, Iraq in June that gave the organization $420 million. But a portion of its money comes from private financiers in Gulf Arab states. At least one branch of the U.S. government—the Treasury Department—has said as much. In late June, the Associated Press reported that “the U.S. Treasury Department believes money is being raised in Kuwait and Qatar” for ISIS.

Kuwait is a key hub for the financing of ISIS. Weak laws related to the financing of extremist groups abroad have allowed donors there to raise and send money to groups in Syria, where ISIS has become the most effective force fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, much to the chagrin of the West and the rebel groups allied with the U.S. A 2013 report published by the Brookings Institution and authored by journalist Elizabeth Dickinson states that hundreds of millions of dollars from Kuwait have flowed to radical groups in Syria. The money has also transited through other U.S.-allied states, including Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

The Kuwaiti government is not actively encouraging the financing of ISIS or groups like it. The Brookings report says that the government has taken some steps to combat the flow. “But gaps still exist and there is little indication that established funding channels have been affected by government actions,” writes Dickinson, the author of the report. And Saleh Ashour, a Kuwaiti Parliament member, alleged to Dickinson that “the Kuwaiti government could not stop [these donations]…It’s a weak government that we have; they are chicken.”

Another source of private financing is Saudi Arabia. In late June, the Atlantic’s Steve Clemons reported that a senior Qatari official told him that “ISIS has been a Saudi project.” Clemons alleges that a Saudi government official, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, may have supported ISIS as part of a covert strategy in Syria with the aim of trying to overthrow Assad, an enemy of the Saudis. Bandar has since been relieved of his duties in the Saudi government, which is now reportedly wary of ISIS’ rise.

“Like elements of the mujahideen, which benefited from U.S. financial and military support during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and then later turned on the West in the form of al-Qaeda,” wrote Clemons, “ISIS achieved scale and consequence through Saudi support, only to now pose a grave threat to the kingdom and the region.”

Cockburn’s reporting has added more detail to Saudi involvement in ISIS. “The Saudi and Qatari aid was primarily financial, usually through private donations,” wrote Cockburn in August, “which Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, says were central to the Isis takeover of Sunni provinces in northern Iraq: ‘Such things do not happen spontaneously.’” Alex Kane is AlterNet’s New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

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