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Total number of comments: 12 (since 2014-09-22 19:07:00)

Yasser Tabbaa

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  • A Tale of Two Cities: Muslim Rebels strike back at Hospital in Gov't held West
    • In my experience, east and northeast Aleppo have always had a somewhat transitional population, whose housing stock and social organization reflected its pastoral background. I also noticed during my last visit to Aleppo, in 2010, that these informal settlements, slums if you will, had become considerably expanded due to migration caused by drought in the Euphrates-Khabur region. Even then, women and men dressed in a much more "fundamentalist" manner and there was a palpable atmosphere of hostility, so rare in Syria. Clearly, these social and cultural differences have both been exploited and exacerbated by the Nusra/Daesh takeover of that region. None of this, of course condones its aerial bombardment.

  • Al-Qaeda in Syria Leader: Kill Alawite Minority, Russians; Christians fear West Backs Him
    • The "tolerance" of the Baathist-Assadist state is of course an illusion. Its protection of Christian and Shi'ite minorities and its alliance with sectors of the urban Syrian population is a form of vassalage, largely intended for self-protection. It's possible that in this epoch of extreme sectarianism, which has been accelerated by both the US occupation of Iraq and backward Saudi ideology, such a political arrangement no longer works and that, at least for the foreseeable future, Syria and Iraq will revert to a form of sectarian nationalism that will likely be preceded by bloody redistribution of populations. The Russian intrusion may just delay inevitable.

  • Facing ISIL Propaganda, Russia Denies its Syria Campaign is a "Holy War"
    • Clearly, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch has misspoken: in hoping to raise the morale of Russian soldiers, he has provided fodder for extremist voices to describe Russian intervention as a "Crusade". It also doesn't help that Russia has a history of intervention in Syrian-Lebanese sectarian conflicts, going back to 1860, on behalf of the Orthodox minority. It's not at all surprising that Putin is trying to spin back the narrative, but a main propaganda point has been lost, and I now have greater fears for the Christians of Syria.

  • Syria: Is Bashar al-Assad winning the Diplomatic War? Rebels Fret
    • I, too have often heard from supporters of the Syrian insurrection something along the line that "Assad ... deliberately drove Sunni rebels into the arms of extremists like al-Qaeda and leaving Daesh alone" but have neither seen real evidence for that nor a strategic plan for Assad to put it into effect. Rather, it seemed from the start that rebel forces lacked cohesion, political vision, and especially aversion to violent takeover. The frequent desertion of US-trained "moderate rebels" to Nusra and even Daesh also points to their fundamental Islamist perspective.

  • ISIL vs the Graven Idols of History
    • Most educated Arabs and Muslims I know have little appreciation for ancient artifacts and monuments and even less for the historical or humanistic values they might possess. This is related, as the author writes, to the Orientalist legacy of archeology and museology and the "iconoclasm" of Wahhabi Islam, both resulting in a chasm between the "veneration" of and "indifference" to especially pre-Islamic historical objects. But the nation states over the past century has found ways to accommodate and especially utilize historical artifacts for many purposes, especially for nation building and tourism. Daesh's destruction of museums, shrines, Sufi mosques, and entire historical sites is therefore neither wanton nor necessarily "iconoclasitc" but seems deliberately intended towards the erasure of history, the dismantling of the nation state , and the revival of a brief Golden Age that precedes their idea of the Apocalypse.

  • Is ISIL's 'Shock and Awe' more Awe-ful because One Victim?
    • The analogy between the US in Iraq and Daesh doesn't work. The US declared war on Iraq, on false pretenses, but still it was a declaration. This war was supported by several Arab countries and many Iraqis. I know many Iraqi-Americans who supported this war and intervened with the Bush administration to invade Iraq. There were human casualties--military and civilian--and some were in fact incinerated; but there is no evidence that the US went after civilian targets. Daesh, on the other hand, is a weaponized death cult with links to jihadist Islam. They target the weakest; kill them in the vilest manner; and steal their resources and possessions. Their burning of the Jordanian pilot and the killing of the two Japanese hostages are a form of "shock and awe" but more likely intended as a feeble show of strength following their defeat in Kobane.

  • Angry Jordanian Crowds Rally over ISIL Murder of Pilot, but some blame US, King
    • Once the anger over this atrocity subsides, I suspect that Jordan will choose not to join in any further overt action against ISIS, much like the UAE has already done. It's much too divisive in this polarized climate to hope for Arab Sunnis to fight against Arab Sunnis.

  • Civilization's Advance has depended on "Blasphemy" of Thinkers & Mystics
    • I was struck by two contradictions in this otherwise sincere and thoughtful article. The first one is the often repeated objection that this terrorist act had nothing to do with Islam: "It is important to remember ... that although the two terrorists acted in the name of Islam their vile act had nothing to do with Islam." Yet, Prof. Jahanpour later suggests that some Islamic groups and countries have practiced extreme censorship, ideological indoctrination, and curtailment of some Muslim practices, in particular by Shi'is. I think one could fairly conclude that whereas these recent terrorist acts "had nothing to do with Islam" as scripture or even practice, they were certainly motivated by stringent and exclusive interpretations of the scriptures and supported by groups and nations that promote these interpretations.
      The second point has to do more directly with the potentially adversarial impact of unmitigated free speech. The analogy of shouting fire in a crowded cinema as a form of freedom of expression is flawed by the fact that such an act is unlawful, forbidden by law, as it could directly lead to stampede and death. Free speech, on the other hand, is protected by law and does not necessarily have to be nice, loving, or even true. In fact, I would suggest that our potential for living together in harmony rests squarely on our ability to speak our minds as freely as possible.

  • Paris Terrorist was Radicalized by Bush's Iraq War, Abu Ghraib Torture
    • Juan, the direct causality you propose between the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and the radicalization of these two Algerian-French men seems to me only part of a more complex web of factors. This could include France's, and possibly Europe's, inadequacy in integrating its Muslim immigrants, compared to the US, such that the radicalization you describe is far more prevalent among some European Muslims. Less directly, one could point to the absence of truly progressive and satirical Arab journals (as Roz al-Yusuf used to be) or other venues for satire that could respond to Charlie Hebdo on the same platform. There is now a handful of comedy troupes that have taken on Da'ish and Islamic extemists, and they should be supported; that is, to respond to satire by satire not by killing and terror. There's also the question of personal responsibility (I know, a tricky one!): these two brothers led a life of petty crime before being radicalized by some ignorant cleric who had been radicalized by watching Abu Ghraib torture on TV. I, for one, wish that they and others like him would continue their petty thievery and pot smoking way, if the alternative is what we've witnessed two days ago.

  • Why it Isn't that Important Whether ISIL Leader was Killed
    • Neither ISIS nor al-Qaeda will be defeated in the foreseeable future, but killing their leadership is likely to degrade their capabilities, which might be our best option. The downside, of course, is that such actions will incense their members and supporters and may lead to further recruitment and aid. I don't think negotiation with ISIS is an option and hope we'll never reach that point.

  • The Arab Political Crisis: It isn't a Matter of Civilization and it isn't Unique
    • Juan, Melhem does engage in self-flagellation, but I think you engage a bit too much in polemics. Nearly all the themes that you examine can be looked at differently, from a more internal perspective:
      1. Demography: Why not control population?
      2. Productivity: Why not increase productivity? Why is it that the Arab world started from more-or-less the same platform as SE Asia in terms of productivity and now lags far behind?
      3. Oil Dependence: Why not diversify? The writing has been on the wall for a few decades.
      4. Aridity: Why not implement policies of more efficient and sustainable water use?
      Finally, Melhem write: "The Islamic State, like al Qaeda, is the tumorous creation of an ailing Arab body politic." I agree with that.

  • How Putin Saved Obama, Congress and the European Union from Further Embarrassing themselves on Syria
    • This appears to be neither a Putin gambit nor a game brinkmanship/blinkmanship by either of the two. Rather,according to the recent Obama interview on Rachel Maddow, both Russians and the US confirmed that this Chemical arsenal solution had been under discussion at least since Obama's recent visit to Russia.

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