Why Obama underestimated ISIL in Syria and Iraq

By Juan Cole

President Obama admitted on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday that the US had underestimated the military potential of ISIL.

Obama understands that a generational struggle is going on in the Middle East, but some of his comments in the interview seemed to me to show insufficient appreciation for the true nature of the generational crisis — something that I have just written a book about:

The book is “The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East (Simon & Schuster)


At one point in the interview, Obama lays out what he thinks the underlying problems are:

“They have now created an environment in which young men are more concerned whether they’re Shiite or Sunni, rather than whether they are getting a good education or whether they are able to, you know, have a good job. Many of them are poor. Many of them are illiterate and are therefore more subject to these kinds of ideological appeals. And, you know, the beginning of the solution for the entire Middle East is going to be a transformation in how these countries teach their youth. What our military operations can do is to just check and roll back these networks as they appear and make sure that the time and space is provided for a new way of doing things to begin to take root.”

This point of view is just old-fashioned modernization theory, and I think it puts the cart before the horse. It depicts Iraqi and Syrian youth as putting sectarian considerations before ones of rational economic well-being. I don’t believe this is an accurate characterization of what has happened. That Obama sees these Arab young men as merely acting irrationally, and that he doesn’t seem to understand the profound crisis of joblessness behind the turmoil, helps explain why ISIL surprised him and his intelligence officials.

The fact is that in Syria, the 2011 revolution was initially precisely about “jobs.” Syrian young men were forced off their farms in droves in the zeroes because of a long-term drought that was likely caused by global warming, i.e. by people burning gas and oil for decades before, throughout the world. The now unemployed young farmers went to cities like Homs, Hama and Deraa, where they settled in slums circling the city. They hoped to get construction work and day labor, but the 2008 global financial crash hurt that prospect. The first demonstrations against the regime were by day laborers in the slums around these cities.

In the old days of the 1970s, the ruling Baath Party in Syria had been very good at irrigation works, and Sunni and Christian farmers in Deraa and its hinterland were the strongest Baathists (Arab nationalists and socialists). Deraa even produced a high-ranking general in the regime. But by the zeroes, international pressure to privatize and introduce market mechanisms had turned the attentions of the high Baath functionaries toward making themselves billionaires, not expending resources for poor rural Sunni farmers. Family members of the ruling al-Assads gained control of the credit card business, telcos, and many other lucrative new businesses, enriching themselves beyond their wildest dreams. It so happened that many of them derived from the Alawite Shiite minority, but it wasn’t their religious ethnicity that angered the protesters.

So these Syrian youth were demanding jobs, jobs that had been taken from them by carbon-spewing Americans and Chinese, and by a corrupt Neoliberalism. Only when the regime dealt with the 2011 protests by drawing up tanks and firing on peaceful protesters, and by stationing snipers on rooftops, did the protesters gradually take up arms. As the conflict turned into civil war, paramilitary and political forces often began appealing to sectarian identity as a way of mobilizing people, getting them to fight or to be afraid of the Other. Over time people began outbidding one another in sectarian brutality as guerrilla groups competed for popularity among urban populations being barrel-bombed by the regime (increasingly coded as an Alawite “Shiite” regime).

This growing religious extremism was fueled by the Wahhabi states of Qatar and Saudi Arabia — US allies going back to the Cold War when all were afraid of workers and the Left– which sent in money to the most puritanical of the guerrilla groups, while the secular and leftist moderates languished without much monetary support. Saudi Arabia’s ideal model is fanatical puritanical religion that is unthinkingly loyal to the Saudi monarchy and the Arab Establishment. Riyadh keeps being surprised when the extremists it promotes tend to turn populist and revolutionary instead of quietist. It is the same surprise the US keeps getting when it spreads “market forces” that create ever greater extremes of wealth and then the ungrateful immiserated workers and unemployed rise up against the Neoliberal Establishment. Ideologies that are tame at the Center are often radical when adopted on the peripheries.

The origins of the conflict weren’t in sectarianism as Obama alleged. Those identity politics came later. The origins of the conflict in many ways were just sketched by Naomi Klein in her book, This Changes Everything, about how Neoliberal forms of capitalism aren’t good at dealing with climate change.

Nor are Syrian youth particularly poorly educated, certainly compared to their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. The French had been studiedly uninterested in making sure all the Syrians they colonized (1920-1940s) got an education. But one thing nationalist governments are good at is spreading education. The internets say that “Literacy rate; youth total (% of people ages 15-24) in Syria was last measured at 94.43 in 2009, according to the World Bank.” Of course, being literate is not the same thing as having an analytical education. Syria was isolated and under US economic sanctions, which harmed education as it harmed other sectors. Obama must know this, but does not mention it.

Likewise, Obama seems unaware that long before Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister in Iraq in 2006, the United States had cooperated with hard line Shiites in imposing severe unemployment on the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. Right from 2003, “debaathification,” the dissolution of the Iraqi Army, and the deliberate destruction of state factories, all policies of the US government, threw over half of Sunni Arabs out of work. The discontents of Sunni Arabs in the first instance were this US-imposed unemployment and downward mobility. Al-Maliki merely continued the punitive policies of Paul Bremer in this regard.

Unlike in Syria, in Iraq the educational achievements of nationalist governments were reversed in the 1990s by very severe US and international sanctions, causing literacy rates actually to fall. These same sanctions destroyed the Iraq middle classes and denied the country chlorine for water purification, leading to the deaths of some 500,000 Iraqi children in the 1990s. As with Syria, Iraqis did not begin by fighting over sectarian identity, but were mobilized by politicians and paramilitaries into those identities over time once the US invasion caused a political vacuum and groups sought to step into it.

Obama gets it right that ISIL is a political problem, not primarily a military one. But he gets it wrong that it is rooted in primordial identity politics. It was the US that destroyed the Arab Left during the Cold War and after, and which created the conditions under which the religious Right provided peoples’ politics.

Nor can Obama’s air and drone strikes in Syria actually hold at bay the forces unleashed by Neoliberalism and fossil fuel-driven climate change, as he asserts. Rather, they will likely further polarize these populations and make ISIL popular. Imperialism, having created many of the problems of the modern Middle East, isn’t usually the answer to them.

36 Responses

  1. good article. A question. You say the US destroyed the Arab left. Any reference to a book that could prove this statement? Thanks

  2. It is hard to know what Mr. Obama really believes, and what is simply the political line he wants to spin. In any event, I wish that Mr. Obama listened to you instead of the neocons.

    • One more bit about “what Obama believes.” Beyond what Dr. Cole cites from the CBS interview, there’s this:

      “Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled. But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…

      President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world. And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us.

      President Obama: That’s the deal.

      Steve Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90 percent.

      President Obama: Steve, when as issue … when there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge and making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America. ” link to cbsnews.com

      It’s a complicated statement, but really? Haiti? HAITI? This Haiti? link to fourwinds10.net And THIS Haiti? link to wrongkindofgreen.org “Rebuilding?” Really?

      Expletives deleted.

  3. Dear Juan Cole
    Thank you for the clearest, not to mention bravest, assessment of ISIL roots and motivations …. President Obama & company would do well to ground policy decisions in your wise analysis

  4. An article today by a psychologist about how

    “Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us
    An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities”

    the last paragraph
    “There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.”

    link to theguardian.com

  5. “That Obama sees these Arab young men as merely acting irrationally, and that he doesn’t seem to understand the PROFOUND CRISIS OF JOBLESSNESS behind the turmoil, helps explain why ISIL surprised him and his intelligence officials.”

    Obama doesn’t even understand let alone is even aware of the “profound crisis of joblessness” right here in the U.S. Why would he understand it anywhere else?

    After all Barack Herbert Obama Hoover knows that austerity can not fail it can only be failed.

  6. To give credit where credit may not be due, I don’t think Obama speaks his mind, or relies on his own knowledge of circumstances when he makes decisions, especially concerning international relations, and actions.

    Basically he just garnishes the standard exceptionalism cliches that have run our foreign, aka military violence and intimidation, policy. The notions of bombing for economic, educational, and social improvement can’t make real sense to anyone who thinks beyond the cliches, even Harvard Law School graduates.

    In this piece Prof Cole lays out the reality of what we are warring against, and the near inevitability of our failure. Obama, the good captain, has chosen to go down with the ship, as he tries to kick the crap out of the icebergs.

  7. “Both Sunni and Shia states are threatened by the IS. We must find a way, through imaginative and adept diplomacy, to so triangulate these relationships that both Iran and her clients, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states that feel threatened by Iran, come to rely on the power of out-of-area countries like the US and the UK to reassure them about each other and against their common foe.” link to standard.co.uk

    And is this not precisely the crux of the matter and the meaning of the implication: the sustained reliance by the region on an external, ‘levitating’ organizational military power, perhaps one patterned on NATO but with, at least incipiently, Anglo-American (and perhaps later Israeli-Saudi as well) control and command. Will ISIS and the looming danger of yet unborn ISISes be the form taken by the path that leads to the market-statal, indeed supra-statal ‘domestication’ of the region for the global neoliberal order? Is ISIS, as suggests Australia’s highest ranking military General David Morrison, citing Clinton foreign policy strategist Philip Bobbitt’s concept of the ‘long war,’ a perhaps teologically necessary phase and facet in the ulimate constitutional reorganization of the region along market-statal, post-nationalist, hegemonically supra-statal lines? link to brisbanetimes.com.au

  8. Let’s not forget how the Dubya administration, their warmongering supporters, Congress and a gullible majority of the American people “misunderestimated” the consequences of the war they began in 2003.

  9. Professor Cole I hear what you’re saying, and I understand that the West in general, and the U.S. In particular are complicit in what has happened in the ME. I’m well aware that since the dawn of the American Republic that we have been, for lack of a better word, mucking around in the ME.

    We have rarely if ever gotten our relations with that part of the world right. From viewing them as millions of people to convert to Christianity to seeing them as some monolithic culture as portrayed in the Arabian Nights, or noble beings akin to our native Americans we have rarely treated them as equals.

    Having said that I see nothing that justifies the savagery of the latest group, ISIS/ISIL the extreme barbarism of this group, and the Messianic nature of its leadership speaks to something that is far beyond it’s the West’s fault.

    Since it is the West’s fault we are prepared to and will take our anger with the West and its proxy governments out on average Arab citizens who did nothing to create the conditions that led to the rise of ISIS. So they engage in an orgy of killing and torture of innocent citizens. They act like sociopaths and psychopaths, and they are drawing the same type people around the world.

    You have called these youths literate mostly, but I question what does that mean? Literate to me means that one is capable of critical, reasoned thought. How can anyone look at this group and conclude this so-called Caliph with a self-announced leader is a better person govern than anything currently in existence.

    In my view the current explanations fall far short. What is the unifying principle that causes individuals to engage in wanton murder, rape, and torture of innocent individuals. Do they actually believe that they are engaging in these brutal acts in the name of Allah? How is that possible?

    Does anyone believe that if we did nothing they would turn into a decent state with respect for the rule of law? Color me skeptical that the effects I’m seeing now can be laid at the feet of the West. There has to be other facts bearing on this problem that has nothing to do with the West.

    • So you take a little kid and you deprive him of food until he’s crying with hunger (sanctions), you deprive his family of medications and he watches his big sister die of a simple infection (sanctions), and his little brother die of dirty water (sanctions), and his father leaves (Gulf War) and never returns (Highway of Death), and the little kid experiences the terror of plummeting bombs while hiding under a table (Shock & Awe), and his cousin gets raped and killed by American soldiers (101 Airborne Division), and his remaining relatives lose their jobs (DeBa’athification), and his great aunt has miscarriage after miscarriage (depleted uranium poisoning), and he never learns to read because all the schools are closed (Iraq War), and his best friend is killed by a car bomb (Iraq War), and his next best friend is shot by American soldiers at a checkpoint (Iraq War)–and, after all these years of positive reinforcement and exemplary role models, he grows up to be a man who tortures and beheads people. Baffling. I simply can’t understand it!

      • Not necessarily agreeing with the original commentator, but his argument doesn’t deserve such sarcasm. Its not all Western imperialism, when the East has its own demons, and the fighters are not all Iraqis nor all 90’s or 2000’s children.

        There is clearly a component of mental trauma and politics, but the reply doesn’t exactly explain the foreign and local middle class Sunni radicalized jihadists and the popularity of fundamentalist extremist violence, as compared to their non-Sunni counterparts globally, including oppressed populations in the same Eastern region or living far away in the West, who have just as many grievances if not worse.

  10. Thanks for the good post, but you (and Obama) managed not to mention the tremendous destruction of basic Iraq infrastructure by the US military under Bush, not to mention ethnic cleansings, that as a national stressor was piled on top of the instant loss of jobs and disbanding of the Iraq military that was part of the Bush/Rumsfeld/Bremer catastrophe. That’s a little like arguing that the population despondency rate of New Orleanians is not due to religions differences but rather lack of jobs or opportunity, without mentioning the total infrastructure losses and recapitalization necessary post Katrina. What you are really saying is that, along with Assad on Syria and Israel on Palestinians, the US is currently a top world leader, perhaps THE world leader in downward mobility of its foreign policy recipients while preaching freedom to the faithful and less than attentive back home. Obama is merely fumbling once again, live on tv, for a workable sound bite to paper over the cognitive dissonance between the myth of a benign US and the trail of destruction it actually leaves behind wherever it goes to help out. I couldn’t say this without the commonalities of government razed neighborhoods in Syria, Gazans live as a fish in the barrel tv series, and if the US had actually repaired all the damage it caused in Iraq, which of course never happened and amounted only to a PR line to compliant US media, albeit a lucrative profit center for the jackals of war. Generational conflict is real, but ISIS, and probably Al Qaeda, could not have come into being with the power they exerted without US contributions in the creation of a social petri dish ideally tuned for radical extra-government entities.

    The person who observed at the time that attacking the 250,000 or so people in Fallujah to kill a few thousand ‘rebels’ would be like a proportionately sized armored division attacking Los Angeles to finally weed out the Crips and Bloods.
    Even though Bush et all were responsible for the deaths of more Iraqi’s in five years than Hussein killed in 25, Americans today just can’t accept the reality that Iraq under Hussien was a first world country with things like streets, buildings, sewers, education, health care, water, electricity, and no large groups of armed religious radicals.

    • Well, it was really more of a second world country, i.e., Soviet Bloc. Which hasn’t always made the masses happy either. And there was a large group of armed religious radicals, the Shia in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, who took Iran’s side against Saddam Hussein and rebelled against him in 1991.

  11. Obama believes ISIL is a political problem but one with a military solution, U.S. bombs and the buildup of moderate Syrian forces. Obama’s national security advisor, Tony Blinken was on Fox News this weekend claiming that moderate rebel forces would be used against ISIS first AND then used to “transition” Assad out of power.

    In other words, regime changing Assad is next on the agenda.

    ISIL will be relentlessly bomb until they are either destroyed or more likely, no longer have the military power to be a real player in Syria or Iraq.

  12. The Administration (and many others in the US involved in determining international policy) appears startlingly ignorant about the countries it interacts with in more or less therole of “savior.” (See also Mexico) Similarly, Obama doesn’t seem to realize that he’s running an empire whose wealth was in many instances ill-gotten and which continues to be responsible for huge non-military damages to air, jobs, resources, etc. etc. How could someone who spent part of his childhood in the Philippines and whose family is healthily mixed in a number of ways be so tone-deaf?

    • He knows it was ill-gotten. In the past he mentioned Iran and other countries had grievances against the US and he got slagged for it by the GOP and the media, while all us on the “left” did nothing useful for him, like offset the Tea Party in the 2010 midterms. Politicians adapt to reward those who will help them stay in power, even if it’s an America full of greedy lying cowards.

  13. There is a much more chilling application to the word ‘generational’ in US foreign policy. When the US military does another pinpoint strike and kills a few extra people, as is admittedly the norm, the ripple is intercepted by the Atlantic and US media and hardly a pulse remains as it hits American shores. But like any leader, Mr. Obama included, targeted leaders of ISIS, IS, and all the other acronyms we attack are usually surrounded by not by the hoi polloi, but by important people who often are just trying to get along with the nearest strongman. When those non-IS people get fragmented the ripple is a lot bigger, and lasts a lot longer. Because America on the move looking for work and the big payoff no longer has a cultural core of family, church, locale adherences and loyalties anything like other nations who are less ‘advanced’, especially in the mid-east, it can no longer comprehend the magnitude and effects of loss of important locals. This disjunct is odd considering what the death of a single American can be built up into when US media gets hold of a juicy story, but it is unfortunately true. American compassion has a lot of strong limitations, and those prevent acceptance of the fact that the grief and suffering of those collateral dead dudes we disregard live on in the emotions of people we say we are helping as hatred and distrust of America the land of the free.

    Mr. Obama and his military have determined some collateral damage body count numbers that are acceptable to them. But those numbers are hardly acceptable to those we are pinpointedly attacking. Those who approve of necessary extraneous deaths need to answer whether they are ready to drop their long held empathy, high regard, and frequent worship of past Americans who stood up to a foreign power. Current US policy is ensuring generations of distrust and hatred and one must wonder why we keep doing the same thing over and over.

    The clock is ticking on Obama and the US government, and the countdown is not on the topics most in evidence in US media or the lips of politicians.

    link to theguardian.com

    • Glenn Greenwald’s article on the Khorasan fake terror plot is quite a read. Greenwald explains in detail how and why this terrorist group became the media’s newest star BAD GUY group and why they disappeared just as quickly.

      Like Greenwald says in the article, “THE KHORASAN GROUP” even sounds like a SCARY name.

  14. A neoliberal union of fragmented and downsized Arab and ‘post-Iranian’ states constellated around the principal regional satellites of American hegemony: Israel and Saudi Arabia? In other words, a Nato and EU-like military and politico-economic Middle Eastern superstructure as imposed ‘teleological finish line’ of a CIA-midwifed Thirty Years War-type socially and constitutionally reorganizing process? Former Czech president Vaclav Klaus speaks of something similar, to be sure, when he says: ‘I’m not just criticising the EU arrangements — at the same time I’m very critical of global governance and the shift to transnationalism. A week ago I was in Hong Kong and I criticised the naive opening up of countries without keeping or maintaining the anchoring of the nation state. Doing this leads either to anarchy, or to global governance. My vision for Europe is a Europe of sovereign nation states, definitely. But we have already gone well beyond simply economic integration. The EU is a post-democratic and post-political system.’ link to spectator.co.uk

  15. Sectarianism was not the reason for the protests against Assad, but it came into play not long after the fighting began. Juan Cole downplayed the role of sectatianism for quite a while. The strong position of ISIL in Syria was a suprise to Juan Cole as well as to Obama. He thought the revolution would remain in the hands of people committed to democracy. That”s what I recall of his writings at the time. His analysis is great. But there are always additional factors that can tilt things in an unexpected direction.

  16. I just don’t understand what the endgame is for the “Islamic State”. After they’ve plundered, murdered and destroyed, how exactly are they planning on governing? Which one of the gangsters will be the head of treasury or the interior or decide what the fishing rights will be? This group doesn’t seem to be thinking very far ahead of the fun they’re having.

  17. Well, the theorizing is fine–unobjectionable–but the question today is what do we do now? I cannot imagine, whatever the case argued above, allowing a radical caliphate to emerge from the detritus of whose ever mistake Iraq and Syria have been.

    Then, he loathes going back into Iraq full force–:boots on the ground per se. I not only understand that given his Presidency, but I think it is a good idea to not do so. Other than the usual reasons, i think if we go in there again like before, we will make all Iraqis eternal dependents.

    Finally, what he says has to be “political” which by definition has nothing to do with truth. It is a matter of balancing between competing truths and interests which means no one gets what they want–not all. And on that basis, it is a cinch to be theoretically critical of him on some basis of truth.

    He is after all a President who has been stonewalled by an anti-Obama (largely racist) ideology no less who needs GOP support to at least attempt to contain the problem at the moment. Of course for the GOP he’s not doing enough–they’re all buying more shares of Halliburton hoping for better days of all out war in the Middle East.

    This being the case, you really don’t expect the President of the United States to recite Naomi Klein and Juan Cole as he stands on the stump to go to limited war and say it will be alright –which is what Presidents all tend to do? So, he relies on cliches that by definition are easily understood because it would be ridiculous of him to get up there and accuse capitalism and recite all these other left-wing ideologies in order to garner support to contain ISIL as he says.

    In other words, what you say is fine for academic sport but politically neither the tyranny of the left or right will do.

    • Interesting question, what “we” ought to do now. Already answered by the “we” that rule “us:” Bomb stuff, missile stuff, slowly boil the frog by incremental loads of “boots” to kick in more doors, take more “us” casualties, up the ante, move the window, use NGO and GO fronts that pretend to be about “democratization” as long as that has no tiny element of “social justice” in it, no actual benefits for the ordinary people who actually create the Real Wealth the Masters feed on. And “them” Rulers, what are their plans and goals, again? Gee, I wonder — so seductive, the end-point vision of one person, corporate or individual, completing the Reagan Dream of the “ownership society,” owning everything and renting it back to the rest of us, who in addition to creating all that wealth are expected to eat or repair all the externality-bred damage and horror so the Lords and Ladies can disport in pleasure and comfort all the days of their consequence-free, impunity-girded lives.

      What “we” ought to be doing is less of more of the same, and some actual addressing and ameliorating of the Same Old Imperial Shi_t that keeps the fires stoked under the pot of oil “we” are cooking in. But the power is all in using sh_t up, leveraging the externalities of combustion and conflict that the “Halliburton Lockheed Martin Boeing RAND Orcs” feed and grow on. What’s being done now, on a darkling plain with its confused alarms and false flags and other detritus of struggle and flight, is in no service to the most of “us,” just aggrandizement of the Increasingly Few. You got detailed suggestions? Bombing from afar ain’t gonna do it, and “our” World’s Greatest Military does not e4ven have to pretend to be able to “win” this or any 4th generation conflict in all its complexity — just keep procuring and using up…

  18. By the way ISIS has shades of Ikhwan.
    link to dailymail.co.uk

    Obama has had accurate intelligence about ISIS since BEFORE the 2012 election, says administration insider
    link to mintpressnews.com
    How The West Created ISIS
    … with a little help from our friends.
    link to thetimes.co.uk
    Time to tell the Saudis some home truths
    Saudi Arabia’s wealth should not buy our silence. Its funding of jihadists threatens our security

    link to theamericanconservative.com

    Obama Bombs Blind
    Why Americans are still in the dark over the 9/11 Commission’s view of the Saudis.
    link to theatlantic.com
    ‘Thank God for the Saudis’: ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback
    link to democracynow.org
    Iran-Contra Redux? Prince Bandar Heads Secret Saudi-CIA Effort to Aid Syrian Rebels, Topple Assad
    link to thedailybeast.com
    America’s Allies Are Funding ISIS
    The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now threatening Baghdad, was funded for years by wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, three U.S. allies that have dual agendas in the war on terror.
    U.S lawmakers encouraged officials in Riyadh to arm Syrian rebels. Now that strategy may have created a monster in the Middle East.
    link to wnd.com
    Secret Jordan base was site of covert aid to insurgents targeting Assad

    Other articles elsewhere have mentioned the Jordan camp.
    link to counterpunch.org
    A Time Bomb?
    Jordan is America’s ‘Habibi’
    link to english.al-akhbar.com

    Airbridge transporting jihadis from Jordan to Turkey
    link to aina.org
    Why is Turkey Supporting Islamic State Fighters in Iraq?
    By David L. Phillips
    Posted 2014-08-13 18:20 GMT
    link to dailymail.co.uk
    Growing number of Turks turning to ‘family-friendly’ ISIS:

  19. Generally liberals and secularists are the first and easy targets mostly in history globally. US sponsorship of right-wing extremism continues.

    Agree with most of what the Professor says, like the job and political marginalization. However identity politics was always around, that there was friction, since the European imperialism of Britain and France. Which was reminded by ISIL. But, yes, not the reason for the Syrian protests when wealthy Syrian Sunnis were part of the corrupt system. Iraq’s dictatorship was a whole other thing and also a horrific example of Western imperialism.

    Al Maliki didn’t have to continue detrimental US policies, like union busting, the same way he didn’t have continue the military pact with the US. But he was a piece of work.

    I honestly believe had the complication of Al Qaeda type bombings not played after the deliberate US strangling noose and then wrecking ball, there would have been less marginalization and more nationalist Iraqi Arab unity between Sunnis and Shias (despite being a magnet for non-Iraqi political/militant opportunists), regardless if they were pro or anti-US.

  20. The Middle East has no chance of becoming stable until the Civil War in Syria ends. That won’t happen until Assad is no longer in power.With ISIS controlling such a large area in Syria and Iraq and Assad in power, Middle East instability will continue to grow. ISIS must be defeated first.

    What happens if Lebanon and Jordan blow up? Where does it end? At some point, larger states (United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey) have to take steps that promote stability.


    • p.s. I failed to mention the biggest problem of all in the Middle East–Israel and the Palestinians , especially with Bibi Netanyahu running the show.

  21. I think the war in Syria is a proxy war between the Wahabi sunis of Saudi Arabia plus Qatar against the Shies of Wilayet Al-Faqeeh in Iran.
    This Sunni Shie war has been going on since Ali-Ibn-Aby-Taleb was elected Khalifah 1400 years ago. This war has been going on for many years. It sleeps for a while and then it flares up when one side thinks the victory is close at hand. And neither side has been able to eliminate the other.

    For Iran it is much easier to fight the Sunni Muslims especially the Saudi Wahabys in Syria than to fight them in the Arabian gulf. In the Gulf there is the oil for all of them and the money from that is what finances the war. Also there are a lot of US war ships and airplanes in the gulf. Don’t forget the big US military bases in Qatar and Bahrain. And for the Saudis they know Iran is much more powerful than what they can handle, that is why it is easier for both sides to fight the war away from their own territory. And it happens that Al-Assad is a Shie, so is the Hisb Allah and Iran has been supporting both for a long time. The Saudis always have been promoting and encouraging the Sunni Jihad when it is convenient for them. Remember the Jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Who sent Osama and his followers there? it was the Saudi Wahabys and unfortunately those Sunni Fanatics will not stop until they die and go to Al-Janah to get their 72 virgins.
    Don’t forget that Turkey is governed by a Muslim party also which happens to be Sunni.

    I can understand that some of the Arab Nationalists still want to believe that the Syrian regime is the only one in the Arab world that is still in the rejectionist front. I used to think that too, but look what they are doing to their towns and cities. There is no rejectionist front, The Israelis can destroy any Arab army in days if they wish. Al-Assad is doing to his people like what Sadam did to the Kurds in Halabja and the Shies in the south after they were encouraged to rebel against Sadam by the Americans. What is going on in Syria now is the traditional Sunni Shie war with one exception; instead of the swords they are using more lethal modern weapons.
    Finally I don’t know what will happen next. Russia is supporting Al-Assad and the US is encouraging Qatar and Saudi Arabia to continue supporting their side.

  22. “Only when the regime dealt with the 2011 protests by drawing up tanks and firing on peaceful protesters, and by stationing snipers on rooftops, did the protesters gradually take up arms.”

    This may not be true. The regime claims they were attacked first and that could be the case. Outside provocateurs could have entered Syria and made such an attack in a successful attempt to start a civil war. Where else have we seen “stationing snipers on rooftops” and shooting protestors? Ukraine, where such an incident was used to justify the original coup. Those snipers now appear to be from the right sector or western-sponsored mercenaries.

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