Archive for the ‘Redactie’ Category
By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
As the United States completed its 156th strike against Islamic State targets in Iraq, the world was digesting President Obama’s address to the US nation on Wednesday night, the eve of the grim anniversary of 9/11.
Yesterday’s US airstrikes destroyed 2 Islamic State (IS) machine gun emplacements and a bunker. President Obama meanwhile committed to continue the strikes on IS in Iraq and to extend them to IS targets in Syria. Obama made it clear however that there wouldbe no cooperation with the Assad regime.
Formidable US Weaponry Being Lined Up Against the Islamic State
Obama also committed to more training for the Syrian Opposition and to supply them with more weapons, though urged Congress to pass a bill already stalled before them, giving him $500 million to allow that to happen.
To keep faith with the American public he also said there would be no troops on the ground other than specialist training and intelligence teams to assist the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces and said all US efforts would be backed by a like-minded international task force.
You can read the full text of Obama’s speech and watch the video, HERE:
Al Jazeera has a shorter summary, HERE:
At the same time, his Secretary of State John Kerry has had a meeting in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, signing up 10 Arab nations, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states plus Sunni idealogical rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to a supportive task force supplying military and humanitarian aid as well as trying to stop the flow of fighters and funds to the Jihadists.
In Europe support for the new anti-IS “coalition of the willing” was more patchy, with France saying it would attack IS “if required” in Iraq, but in Syria is was a different proposition.
Germany’s Foreign Minister said they would not take part in airstrikes against IS at all, while the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, got his “wrist slapped” after saying much the same and then Prime Minister David Cameron hastily issuing a statement saying that as yet “nothing had been ruled out”.
Frances Prime Minister, Francois Hollande, arrived in Baghdad this morning, Friday, to meet with the new Iraqi Government, afterwards flying on to Erbil in Kurdistan to deliver 15 tons of humanitarian aid and to consult with Kurdish leaders.
The Opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) broadly welcomed President Obama’s statement to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State but urged him to help eliminate the Assad regime as well.
Predictably, both the Assad regime and Russia objected to Obama’s statements that he will not hestitate to strike in Syria as well as Iraq and his assertion that “we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost”.
Both the Syrian Government and Russia took that to mean that he will not consult them before sending US planes against IS targets within Syria. An adviser to President Assad, Buthaina Shaaban, lamely said, “Terrorism didn’t start in Syria today, it started four years ago,” when the uprising against Assad began and insisted that Syria should be included in any anti-IS coalition.
Alexander Lukashevich, speaking for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said such a move would need an “appropriate decision of the UN Security Council” and without it “such a step would become an act of aggression, a crude violation of the norms of international law”. Syria’s other allies, Iran and China are also being left out in the cold.
While US strikes on IS in Syria would be more tricky than in Iraq where they have Government permission, the US is of course more than capable of dealing with Syrian Government radar and defence systems, just as the Israelis do on a regular basis.
An assessment of the formidable weaponry and technology, including the new F-22 Raptor jets and various drones, available to US forces can be read, HERE:
Even so the task will not be easy. Latest US assessments puts the Islamic State strength at between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters.
Little other news from Iraq, other than Islamic State gunmen have kidnapped another 20 villagers in the northern part of the country because they were suspected of “organising a group of fighters against them”. Last week 50 people from another village were “arrested” for burning an Islamic State flag and fortified position, but were later released.
ASSAD REGIME CONTINUES ITS LETHAL BOMBING CAMPAIGN AGAINST EVERYBODY, INCLUDING WOMEN AND CHILDREN:
In Syria, the Assad regime continued its own campaign against the Islamic State (IS), carrying out 6 airstrikes yesterday, Thursday, on the IS-held town of Al Bab in Aleppo province. As usual, it was civilians who took the brunt of it, rockets killing 11 and wounding 17 when the weapons struck a market.
In the struggle between the more moderate Opposition and IS at Marea, north of Aleppo city 4 Opposition fighters trying to hold the town were killed and 11 of the IS fighters trying to seize it.
Yet More Children Killed by Assad in Douma
At the IS-held village of Ihtaimlat in the northern part of the province, Opposition fighters have been attacking using mortars and heavy machine guns,HERE:
Opposition fighters also shot down a regime aircraft near Quwaires airbase near Aleppo and captured the pilot. He can be seen under interrogation, (Arabic only), HERE:
South of Aleppo city, the Opposition destroyed an armoured cannon on Mount Azzan, a missile defence base. Watch the Assad soldiers ducking into their armoured vehicle nearby as they see the missile coming, HERE:
And on the western side of Aleppo near Zahra, the Opposition have today very accurately taken out this T-72 tank with a B9 cannon, HERE:
In Idlib province on Tuesday, as many as 45 military and religious leaders from the hardline Opposition group Ahrar al-Sham were killed in an explosion at a meeting held in the basement of a building at Ram Hamdan, northeast of Idlib city. Many died of asphyxiation as a result a fire breaking out before they could escape.
The explosion killed the leader of Ahrar Al-Sham, Hassan Aboud, a member of the Islamic Front to which the group belonged.
No-one seems certain which group arranged the bombing, the Islamic State or the Assad regime, but the Abu Ammara Batalion announced yesterday that it had assassinated Assad’s Brigadier-General Haidar Obaida Naqqar in Aleppo yestreday “in retaliation”.
Whether it was the Islamic State or not, the Jihadist group seems to have promoted the impossible, forcing the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front to align with the Kurdish YPG militia in a new “Euphrates Volcano” campaign and joint operations room to fight IS across northern and eastern Syria and especially to drive them out of Manbij and Jarablus.
In the Damascus suburb of Douma, the death toll in a horrific Assad regime airstrike on Thursday has now risen to 42, including 7 children and 2 women. An unspecified number of Opposition fighters were also killed, while firefighters struggled to put out fires in several buildings. Latest unconfirmed reports are saying that after 4 days of bombs and shells, the total of dead today, Friday, in Douma has reached 100.
Violent clashes between Opposition fighters and Assad’s troops in the last 4 days near Dukhaniya on the outskirts of the capital in Eastern Ghouta, have resulted in the reported death of one of the Syrian Army’s operations commanders, Rida Makhlouf, distantly related to the President.
Opposition fighters captured the suburb earlier this week and attacked a number of barriers and checkpoints in the vicinity. Many pro-regime militia were killed in the fighting and up to 40 taken prisoner, including officers. The takeover has been followed by lots of Government shell and rocket fire, including the so-called “elephant rockets”.
Latest reports also suggest that Opposition fighters have captured a number of military points near the Tishreen district not far from the heart of the capital and have additionally blocked the road from Damascus to Quneitra province between Khan As-Shih and Sasa to the south-west of the city, HERE:
There is also a report today, Friday, that the Islamic State and more moderate Opposition brigades have agreed a “non-aggression pact” at Hajar Al-Aswad just south of Damascus. Under the ceasefire deal “the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri [Alawite/Assad] regime.”
ASSAD REGIME COUNTER-ATTACKS IN HAMA, DARAA & QUNEITRA, BUT JOY IN FIJI AFTER UN PEACEKEEPERS RELEASED:
In Hama province, where recently the Opposition were making significant advances, they suffered a reverse when the regime the regime this week, using Hezbollah, Iranian advisers and pro-Assad militias rather than regular troops, re-captured Khattab and Halfaya and parts of Morek and Kafr Zita.
Opposition fighters had moved within 2 to 3 kilometres of Hama Military Airbase and were successfully restricting its operation with mortar fire. Under pressure they have withdrawn and regrouped and are now counter-attacking.
Opposition View of Iran’s Relationship With Assad
Tel Al-Nasiriyah, a hilltop which the Opposition had taken before but which fell to the regime earlier this week, was retaken once again by Opposition fighters yesterday. This video is from the battlefield near Qmhana, also to the north-west of Hama city, HERE:
A major regime counter-attack seems to be underway in Daraa and Quneitra at the moment, 2 southern provinces where Assad has consistently lost ground in recent months (scroll down – see below).
Heavy fighting is going on in north-west Daraa province on the borders of Quneitra as an Assad convoy tries to regain control of Kafr Nasij and Deir Al-Adass, but so far reports suggest that Opposition fighters are holding their own and have already destroyed 2 tanks.
Sensibly, the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) in Quneitra province, after the intervention of the government of Qatar, decided to release all of their 45 Fijian UN peacekeeper hostages unharmed yesterday, much to the joy of Fiji’s 900,000 population far away in the Pacific who celebrated their freedom.
Al-Nusra dropped earlier demands for a prisoner release, aid to specific Opposition areas and a request that the UN drop ANF from their terrorist list. The release of the UN personnel can be seen from a distance, HERE:
In Latakia province, opposition fighters successfully destroyed another regime tank with a TOW anti-tank missile launcher, HERE: , while the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has confirmed that there is “compelling evidence” that chlorine gas was “systemically and repeatedly” used as a weapon against villages in northern Syria this year.
While the report stops short of actually naming the Assad regime, there is effectively no other contender for the attacks on Kafr Zita and surrounding villages in northern Syria earlier this year. You can read more, HERE:
While 96% of Syria’s declared chemical weapons have been destroyed, OPCW has yet to destroy 12 chemical weapons preparation areas and get the Syrian Government to explain a number of inconsistencies in their original declaration.
In Damascus yesterday, Thursday, 7 months after the breakdown of the UN led peace process and the resignation of the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, President Assad met his replacement Staffan de Mistura. Apparently Assad banged on to the new envoy about “defeating terrorism” and got him to repeat it to journalists afterwards without distinguishing between the Islamic State, for example, and genuine resistance to the Syrian Government’s suppressive killing machine.
In Lebanon, which until now has had no official camps for its over 1 million Syrian refugees (25% of their population), the Government has decided to build 2 near the Syrian border. The decision follows rioting and attacks on refugees and unofficial camps which many Lebanese belief house “Islamic State fighters”, who have been accused of beheading Lebanese Army soldiers.
Al Jazeera’s Syria news service has more, here:
The last word, as often before goes to the good citizens of Kanfranbel in Idlib province, who donning their “Grim Reaper” outfits and with great humour put out the commemorative banner below to remember 9/11. For their trouble they were bombed 3 times today, Friday, by Assad’s Air Force.
Kanfranbel Remembers 2 Tragic Anniversaries
“She clings to me wherever I go, and will only sleep in my lap. She knows her mother, her sister and her brother are dead, but she keeps asking when they will come back.” the father says
Days of Palestine, Gaza Strip –In the aftermath of violence and destruction, hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza urgently require psychological counselling and care.
GAZA, State of Palestine, 8 September 2014 – The story of 4-year-old Shima is surely as horrifying as that of any child who lived through the recent conflict in Gaza. Listening to the details recounted by her father, Ibrahim, one can only wonder that she survived the 50 days of intense fighting.
It began on day one, when the town of Beit Hanoun, where Shima lived with her parents and two siblings, came under heavy bombardment.
“I was terrified for the safety of my family,” Ibrahim recalls. “I told them to go immediately to the town centre, where they could stay with relatives. I said I would gather a few important documents and things from our house and follow them.”
It was, as Ibrahim now realises, a fateful decision.
“Half an hour later, I got a call from someone saying that my family had been injured in an air strike. I rushed to the scene to find that my wife and my 14-year-old son, Mohammad, had been killed. Shima and her elder sister, Aseer, were badly injured. Aseer died four hours later in hospital.”
Shima’s wounds were severe, including internal bleeding and damage to her kidneys. She underwent surgery, but when her condition worsened, she was referred to an Israeli hospital, where she spent 15 days.
Meanwhile, the conflict in Gaza raged on. Ibrahim took shelter in a school with other displaced people. During a brief ceasefire, he went to check on the family home, only to find that it had been levelled to the ground.
When Shima returned from hospital, a long healing process still ahead of her, she and her father moved into a small house in the centre of the Gaza City. There the pair had another brush with death when they were nearly crushed by concrete and other debris from a nearby apartment block targeted in an air strike.
A succession of terrible events
Today, Ibrahim and Shima are living in a more remote area of the Gaza Strip, where their story came to the attention of the Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), a UNICEF NGO partner that specialises in helping children suffering from trauma.
“Shima has been through a succession of terrible events,” said Rabee’ Mammoda, a support counsellor working on Shima’s case.
“She witnessed the deaths of her mother and siblings. She suffered serious injuries herself, and then she suffered another traumatising event. Children like her will require long-term care and counselling from professionals to help rebuild their lives,” he said.
Her father says Shima’s symptoms are distressing.
“She clings to me wherever I go, and will only sleep in my lap. She knows her mother, her sister and her brother are dead, but she keeps asking when they will come back.”
Since the start of recent fighting in July, PCDCR’s emergency teams have provided psychosocial support to more than 5,000 children like Shima across Gaza.
According to UNICEF Chief of Child Protection Bruce Grant, these cases represent only a fraction of the needs.
“There are at least 373,000 children in desperate need of psychosocial support, and we have to move fast to help them,” says Grant. “Time is not on our side.”
While the current ceasefire holds, UNICEF and its partners are accelerating work on identifying the families most in need.
Over the next four months, PCDCR, with help from UNICEF, will provide psychosocial support to 35,000 children and 10,000 caregivers through structured activities and one-on-one counselling.
Symptoms of distress commonly exhibited by children include bedwetting, clinging to parents and nightmares.
At least 560 Palestinian children were reported killed during the hostilities in Gaza, and around 2,500 others injured.
UNICEF is seeking to raise US$4.5 million for psychosocial support programmes, as part of a larger appeal of $12.5 million for the whole child protection response plan.
(Source / 13.09.2014)
Cancer patients in Gaza suffer from a shortage of medication due to Israel’s relentless blockade of the Palestinian coastal territory, Press TV reports.
Life keeps worsening for the cancer patients in the besieged enclave as they cannot reach hospitals abroad.
Israel has imposed restrictions on the imports of medication and crucial equipment much needed by a hospital that treats cancer patients in Gaza.
“This division needs to be developed as we still suffer a shortage of 40-percent [in] chemotherapy [medication], the available portion is in limited quantities, in addition to the absence of crucial equipment needed for diagnosis…,” Akram Shurafa, from European Gaza Hospital, told Press TV.
The delays by Israeli authorities in issuing the security clearance for the imports of the drugs jeopardize the lives of cancer patients in Gaza with some patients having lost their lives due to such delays.
The rate of the cancer cases in Gaza has doubled in recent months as around 50 cancer cases are registered each month.
The use of internationally banned weapons by Israel during its recent war on Gaza also intensified the suffering of the patients.
“Israel has used highly destructive weapons in Gaza; and we called for sending investigation and research teams as the number of cancer patients has exceeded hugely [as a result of] the growing environmental pollution,” said Human rights lawyer Salah Abd Alati.
Gaza’s health officials have called on the international community to pressure Israel to lift the blockade.
(Source / 12.09.2014)
A Ministry of Health official has warned of an impending health disaster, as hospital hygiene services providers threaten to engage in a strike over unpaid salaries.
Director General of Administrative Affairs at the health ministry, Ahmed Ali, says, according to Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency, that hygiene services will be seriously affected should the strike takes place:
“If such companies stopped working, diseases in health facilities and hospitals would be spreading out, mainly in surgical operation and intensive care rooms.”
Expressing worries over the potentially volatile situation, he stated, “We cannot allow this to happen. If it did, the patients and medical staff will be at risk of many diseases.”
Ali further pointed out that the Ministry of Health in Ramallah has not compensated companies for their operation expenses of NIS 750,000, monthly, since it first assumed its role in early June of 2014.
He called for the health sector to refrain from political disagreement, as its state of stability directly affects the lives of 1.8 million Gaza residents.
(Source / 10.09.2014)
David Nott (second from left) with colleagues
When fighting brought death and misery to Gaza this summer, British surgeon David Nott performed emergency surgery on those caught up in the violence. He saw operations carried out on hallway floors, and dying children brought in without their parents. He also witnessed the power of the Red Cross to give vital help when it’s needed most.
David knows exactly what conflict and disaster can do to the human body. He has worked during emergencies in Bosnia, Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere. This summer, he travelled to Gaza for three weeks to work for the International Committee of the Red Cross, mainly at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
During lulls in the fighting, the hospital could be extremely quiet. But at other times patients streamed in with shrapnel wounds and injuries from falling buildings. A shortage of space meant they were laid down for surgery on floors and tabletops, sometimes within a couple of feet of each other. About half of those operated on died.
Two operations take place within a few feet of each other
David would ask about the fate of patients who he’d operated on 24 hours before, but find no trace of them. He said: “Some days you had a baby that was brought in dead or dying, and no mother or father there.”
The influx of patients at Al Shifa had a “massive knock-on effect” on other work the hospital would normally carry out, such as delivering babies. Non-urgent surgery was cancelled.
Volunteers under fire
Despite the chaos, the hospital was well stocked with medical supplies. The Red Cross worked throughout the fighting to bring stretchers, bandages, first aid kits, blood, generator fuel and other essential resources to local hospitals.
David praised the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which was working under fire to rescue the wounded and those in need of help. “They were so brave to get all those patients from everywhere. They lost a lot of ambulances, they lost volunteers.”
Working through the night
Safety restrictions meant the surgeon could not travel back to the house he was staying in after 8pm. So sometimes he worked into the night.
“It was awful. There was nowhere to sleep and lots of bombs going off – boom, boom. You’d just sit on a chair in the corner.”
He remembers waking to watch explosions from his window, on a night he said felt like the apocalypse. Colleagues at the hospital predicted Gaza would be completely flattened.
Elsewhere in Gaza, David saw medical facilities that had been damaged by the fighting. His work at Al Aqsa hospital was cut short when shells landed near the building.
A damaged health facility
David returned to the UK last month, but is still in touch with some of his colleagues from the hospital. “We were staying in a house called Residence One. I got an email three days ago saying that the house next to Residence One had been blown up.”
- The conflict has left over 2,000 people dead and forced more than 450,000 from their homes. Water and power networks have been badly damaged. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is still supporting those affected. You can help by giving to the British Red Cross Gaza and Israel Appeal.
(Source / 09.09.2014)
BEIRUT — The dramatic arrival of Da’ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed — and horrified — by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia’s ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, “Don’t the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?”
It appears — even now — that Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite “fire” with Sunni “fire”; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da’ish’s strict Salafist ideology.
Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan — please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s.
Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da’ish (ISIS) — and are beginning to question some aspects of Saudi Arabia’s direction and discourse.
THE SAUDI DUALITY
Saudi Arabia’s internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom’s doctrinal makeup and its historical origins.
One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)
The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz’s subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse — and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export — by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.
But this “cultural revolution” was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him — hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.
The American author and journalist, Steven Coll, has written how this austere and censorious disciple of the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, despised “the decorous, arty, tobacco smoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who travelled across Arabia to pray at Mecca.”
In Abd al-Wahhab’s view, these were not Muslims; they were imposters masquerading as Muslims. Nor, indeed, did he find the behavior of local Bedouin Arabs much better. They aggravated Abd al-Wahhab by their honoring of saints, by their erecting of tombstones, and their “superstition” (e.g. revering graves or places that were deemed particularly imbued with the divine).
All this behavior, Abd al-Wahhab denounced as bida — forbidden by God.
Like Taymiyyah before him, Abd al-Wahhab believed that the period of the Prophet Muhammad’s stay in Medina was the ideal of Muslim society (the “best of times”), to which all Muslims should aspire to emulate (this, essentially, is Salafism).
Taymiyyah had declared war on Shi’ism, Sufism and Greek philosophy. He spoke out, too against visiting the grave of the prophet and the celebration of his birthday, declaring that all such behavior represented mere imitation of the Christian worship of Jesus as God (i.e. idolatry). Abd al-Wahhab assimilated all this earlier teaching, stating that “any doubt or hesitation” on the part of a believer in respect to his or her acknowledging this particular interpretation of Islam should “deprive a man of immunity of his property and his life.”
One of the main tenets of Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine has become the key idea of takfir.Under the takfiri doctrine, Abd al-Wahhab and his followers could deem fellow Muslims infidels should they engage in activities that in any way could be said to encroach on the sovereignty of the absolute Authority (that is, the King). Abd al-Wahhab denounced all Muslims who honored the dead, saints, or angels. He held that such sentiments detracted from the complete subservience one must feel towards God, and only God. Wahhabi Islam thus bans any prayer to saints and dead loved ones, pilgrimages to tombs and special mosques, religious festivals celebrating saints, the honoring of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and even prohibits the use of gravestones when burying the dead.
“Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. “
Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity — a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.
There is nothing here that separates Wahhabism from ISIS. The rift would emerge only later: from the subsequent institutionalization of Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s doctrine of “One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque” — these three pillars being taken respectively to refer to the Saudi king, the absolute authority of official Wahhabism, and its control of “the word” (i.e. the mosque).
It is this rift — the ISIS denial of these three pillars on which the whole of Sunni authority presently rests — makes ISIS, which in all other respects conforms to Wahhabism, a deep threat to Saudi Arabia.
BRIEF HISTORY 1741- 1818
Abd al-Wahhab’s advocacy of these ultra radical views inevitably led to his expulsion from his own town — and in 1741, after some wanderings, he found refuge under the protection of Ibn Saud and his tribe. What Ibn Saud perceived in Abd al-Wahhab’s novel teaching was the means to overturn Arab tradition and convention. It was a path to seizing power.
“Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. “
Ibn Saud’s clan, seizing on Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine, now could do what they always did, which was raiding neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions. Only now they were doing it not within the ambit of Arab tradition, but rather under the banner of jihad. Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of jihad, as it granted those martyred immediate entry into paradise.
In the beginning, they conquered a few local communities and imposed their rule over them. (The conquered inhabitants were given a limited choice: conversion to Wahhabism or death.) By 1790, the Alliance controlled most of the Arabian Peninsula and repeatedly raided Medina, Syria and Iraq.
Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. In 1801, the Allies attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children. Many Shiite shrines were destroyed, including the shrine of Imam Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: “They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein… slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants …”
Osman Ibn Bishr Najdi, the historian of the first Saudi state, wrote that Ibn Saud committed a massacre in Karbala in 1801. He proudly documented that massacre saying, “we took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and we do not apologize for that and say: ‘And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.'”
In 1803, Abdul Aziz then entered the Holy City of Mecca, which surrendered under the impact of terror and panic (the same fate was to befall Medina, too). Abd al-Wahhab’s followers demolished historical monuments and all the tombs and shrines in their midst. By the end, they had destroyed centuries of Islamic architecture near the Grand Mosque.
But in November of 1803, a Shiite assassin killed King Abdul Aziz (taking revenge for the massacre at Karbala). His son, Saud bin Abd al Aziz, succeeded him and continued the conquest of Arabia. Ottoman rulers, however, could no longer just sit back and watch as their empire was devoured piece by piece. In 1812, the Ottoman army, composed of Egyptians, pushed the Alliance out from Medina, Jeddah and Mecca. In 1814, Saud bin Abd al Aziz died of fever. His unfortunate son Abdullah bin Saud, however, was taken by the Ottomans to Istanbul, where he was gruesomely executed (a visitor to Istanbul reported seeing him having been humiliated in the streets of Istanbul for three days, then hanged and beheaded, his severed head fired from a canon, and his heart cut out and impaled on his body).
In 1815, Wahhabi forces were crushed by the Egyptians (acting on the Ottoman’s behalf) in a decisive battle. In 1818, the Ottomans captured and destroyed the Wahhabi capital of Dariyah. The first Saudi state was no more. The few remaining Wahhabis withdrew into the desert to regroup, and there they remained, quiescent for most of the 19th century.
HISTORY RETURNS WITH ISIS
It is not hard to understand how the founding of the Islamic State by ISIS in contemporary Iraq might resonate amongst those who recall this history. Indeed, the ethos of 18th century Wahhabism did not just wither in Nejd, but it roared back into life when the Ottoman Empire collapsed amongst the chaos of World War I.
The Al Saud — in this 20th century renaissance — were led by the laconic and politically astute Abd-al Aziz, who, on uniting the fractious Bedouin tribes, launched the Saudi “Ikhwan” in the spirit of Abd-al Wahhab’s and Ibn Saud’s earlier fighting proselytisers.
The Ikhwan was a reincarnation of the early, fierce, semi-independent vanguard movement of committed armed Wahhabist “moralists” who almost had succeeded in seizing Arabia by the early 1800s. In the same manner as earlier, the Ikhwan again succeeded in capturing Mecca, Medina and Jeddah between 1914 and 1926. Abd-al Aziz, however, began to feel his wider interests to be threatened by the revolutionary “Jacobinism” exhibited by the Ikhwan. The Ikhwan revolted — leading to a civil war that lasted until the 1930s, when the King had them put down: he machine-gunned them.
For this king, (Abd-al Aziz), the simple verities of previous decades were eroding. Oil was being discovered in the peninsular. Britain and America were courting Abd-al Aziz, but still were inclined to support Sharif Husain as the only legitimate ruler of Arabia. The Saudis needed to develop a more sophisticated diplomatic posture.
So Wahhabism was forcefully changed from a movement of revolutionary jihad and theological takfiri purification, to a movement of conservative social, political, theological, and religious da’wa (Islamic call) and to justifying the institution that upholds loyalty to the royal Saudi family and the King’s absolute power.
OIL WEALTH SPREAD WAHHABISM
With the advent of the oil bonanza — as the French scholar, Giles Kepel writes, Saudi goals were to “reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world … to “Wahhabise” Islam, thereby reducing the “multitude of voices within the religion” to a “single creed” — a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were — and continue to be — invested in this manifestation of soft power.
It was this heady mix of billion dollar soft power projection — and the Saudi willingness to manage Sunni Islam both to further America’s interests, as it concomitantly embedded Wahhabism educationally, socially and culturally throughout the lands of Islam — that brought into being a western policy dependency on Saudi Arabia, a dependency that has endured since Abd-al Aziz’s meeting with Roosevelt on a U.S. warship (returning the president from the Yalta Conference) until today.
Westerners looked at the Kingdom and their gaze was taken by the wealth; by the apparent modernization; by the professed leadership of the Islamic world. They chose to presume that the Kingdom was bending to the imperatives of modern life — and that the management of Sunni Islam would bend the Kingdom, too, to modern life.
“On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.”
But the Saudi Ikhwan approach to Islam did not die in the 1930s. It retreated, but it maintained its hold over parts of the system — hence the duality that we observe today in the Saudi attitude towards ISIS.
On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.
ISIS is a “post-Medina” movement: it looks to the actions of the first two Caliphs, rather than the Prophet Muhammad himself, as a source of emulation, and it forcefully denies the Saudis’ claim of authority to rule.
As the Saudi monarchy blossomed in the oil age into an ever more inflated institution, the appeal of the Ikhwan message gained ground (despite King Faisal’s modernization campaign). The “Ikhwan approach” enjoyed — and still enjoys — the support of many prominent men and women and sheikhs. In a sense, Osama bin Laden was precisely the representative of a late flowering of this Ikhwani approach.
Today, ISIS’ undermining of the legitimacy of the King’s legitimacy is not seen to be problematic, but rather a return to the true origins of the Saudi-Wahhab project.
In the collaborative management of the region by the Saudis and the West in pursuit of the many western projects (countering socialism, Ba’athism, Nasserism, Soviet and Iranian influence), western politicians have highlighted their chosen reading of Saudi Arabia (wealth, modernization and influence), but they chose to ignore the Wahhabist impulse.
After all, the more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan — and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.
Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar’s Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS? And why should we be surprised — knowing a little about Wahhabism — that “moderate” insurgents in Syria would become rarer than a mythical unicorn? Why should we have imagined that radical Wahhabism would create moderates? Or why could we imagine that a doctrine of “One leader, One authority, One mosque: submit to it, or be killed” could ever ultimately lead to moderation or tolerance?
Or, perhaps, we never imagined.
(Source / 09.09.2014)
Ashraf Jumaa said 45 children, some of whom underwent amputations in Gaza hospitals, will be treated abroad in Germany.
The trip was organized and paid for by the Union of Palestinian Doctors and Pharmacists in Germany after a visit to the besieged enclave on Sunday.
The union will also reportedly take custody of 300 children orphaned during the Israeli offensive.
Some 90 entire families were killed during the conflict, Jumaa said.
Over 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in Israel’s seven-week assault on the Gaza Strip, with a further 11,000 injured.
Up to 1,000 Palestinians are likely to suffer a permanent disability from their wounds.