America’s neocons are now advancing their “regime change” goals in the Mideast by tarring “enemies,” like Syria’s largely secular government, as “Islamist” while shielding “friends” like Saudi Arabia despite its intense religiosity, yet one more double standard, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.
By Paul R. Pillar
Last week I commented on the unhelpful habit of throwing everything Islamist, no matter how extreme or moderate, into a single conceptual bucket and writing off the whole lot as incorrigible adversaries. That habit entails a gross misunderstanding of events and conflicts in the Middle East, and has the more specific harm of aiding extreme groups at the expense of moderate ones.
Shortly afterward Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy presented a piece titled “Islamists Are Not Our Friends,” which illustrates almost in caricatured form some of the misleading attributes of the single-bucket attitude that I was discussing.
Ross’s article probably is not grounded in Islamophobia, although it partly appeals to such sentiment. The piece ostensibly is about how “a fundamental division between Islamists and non-Islamists” is a “new fault line in the Middle East” that provides “a real opportunity for America” and ought to guide U.S. policy toward the region.
In fact it is a contrived effort to draw that line, however squiggly it needs to be, to place what Ross wants us to consider bad guys on one side of the line and good guys on the other side. The reasons for that division do not necessarily have much, if anything, to do with Islamist orientation. Thus anyone who has been unfriendly to Hamas or to its more peaceful ideological confreres in the Muslim Brotherhood are placed on the good side of the line, Iran and those doing business with it are put on the bad side, and so forth.
Ross tries to portray something more orderly by asserting that “what the Islamists all have in common is that they subordinate national identities to an Islamic identity” and that the problem with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was that “it was Islamist before it was Egyptian.” What, exactly, does that mean, with particular reference to the short, unhappy presidency of Mohamed Morsi?
There were several reasons that presidency was both unhappy and short, but trying to push an Islamist-more-than-Egyptian agenda was not one of them. (And never mind that Ross is risking going places he surely would not want to go by making accusations of religious identification trumping national loyalty on matters relevant to U.S. policy toward the Middle East.)
It would make at least as much sense to say that the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was more authoritarian and more in tune with fellow military strongmen than he was Egyptian.
Where Ross’s schema completely breaks down is with some of the biggest and most contorted squiggles in the line he has drawn. He places Saudi Arabia in the “non-Islamist” camp because it has supported el-Sisi in his bashing of the Brotherhood and wasn’t especially supportive of Hamas when Israel was bashing the Gaza Strip.
Saudi Arabia, where the head of state has the title Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the country’s constitution is the Koran, and thieves have their hands amputated, is “non-Islamist”? Remarkable.
Conversely, the Assad regime in Syria, which is one of the most secular regimes in the region notwithstanding the sectarian lines of its base of support, is pointedly excluded from Ross’s “non-Islamist” side of the line because of, he says, Syrian dependence on Iran and Hezbollah. Of course, any such alliances refute the whole idea of a “fundamental division” in the region between Islamists and non-Islamists, but Ross does not seem to notice.
Getting past such tendentious classification schemes, we ought to ask whether there is a more valid basis on which we ought to be concerned about states or influential political movements defining themselves in religious terms. If we are to be not merely Islamophobes but true children of the Enlightenment, our concern ought to be with any attempt, regardless of the particular creed involved, to impose the dogma of revealed religion on public affairs, especially in ways that affect the lives and liberties of those with different beliefs.
Such attempts by Christians, as far as the Middle East is concerned, are to be found these days mainly among dispensationalists in America rather in the dwindling and largely marginalized Christian communities in the Middle East itself.
In a far more strongly situated community, that of Jewish Israelis, the imposition of religious belief on public affairs in ways that affect the lives and liberties of others is quite apparent. Indeed, the demographic, political, and societal trends during Israel’s 66-year history can be described in large part in terms of an increasingly militant right-wing nationalism in which religious dogma and zealotry have come to play major roles.
Self-definition as a Jewish state has been erected as a seemingly all-important basis for relating to Arab neighbors, religion is in effect the basis for different classes of citizenship, and religious zeal is a major driver of the Israeli colonization of conquered territory, which sustains perpetual conflict with, and subjugation of, the Palestinian Arabs.
When religious zealotry involves bloodshed, especially large-scale bloodshed, is when we when ought to be most concerned with its infusion into public affairs. The capacity for zealotry and large-scale application of violence to combine has increased in Israel with the steady increase of religiosity in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and its officer corps.
A prominent exemplar of this trend is Colonel Ofer Winter, commander of the IDF’s Gilati Brigade, who has received attention for the heavily religious content of his instructions to his troops. With his brigade poised near the Gaza Strip before the most recent round of destruction there, Winter said in a letter to his troops that he looked forward to a ground invasion so that he could be in the vanguard of a fight against “the terrorist enemy that dares to curse, blaspheme and scorn the God of Israel.”
After Winter’s brigade did get to join the fight, he said that a mysterious “cloud” appeared and provided cover for his forces, an event he attributed to divine intervention. Quoting from Deuteronomy, he said, “It really was a fulfillment of the verse ‘For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to give you victory.’”
Winter’s brigade was involved in what could be described as a culmination of the synthesis of zealotry and bloodshed. When an Israeli soldier was missing and suspected (incorrectly, as it later turned out) to have been captured alive by Hamas in a battle at Rafah, Winter executed the “Hannibal” directive, an Israeli protocol according to which as much violence as necessary is used to avoid having any Israeli become a prisoner, no matter how many civilians or others are killed and no matter that the captured Israeli soldier himself is killed.
Over the next several hours a relentless barrage of artillery and airstrikes reduced this area of Rafah to rubble, while Israeli forces surrounded the area so that no one could escape it alive. This one Israeli operation killed 190 Palestinians, including 55 children.
There may have been other implementations of the Hannibal directive in the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza; this one is confirmed because Winter himself later spoke openly and proudly about it. Although some secular-minded private citizens in Israel have objected to the heavily religious content of Winter’s leadership, officially there does not appear to be anything but approval for anything he has said or done. He is an exemplar, not a rogue.
In short, an operation officially sanctioned and led in the name of a national god was conducted to slaughter scores of innocents as well as one of the operators’ own countrymen.
We ought to think carefully about this incident and about what Colonel Winter represents when we decide how to conceive of fault lines in the Middle East, what it means to insert religion into politics or to be a religious zealot, exactly what it is we fear or ought to fear about religiosity in public affairs, and which players in the Middle East have most in common with, or in conflict with, our own, Enlightment-infused, one hopes, values.
Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)
How is it that you are unaware of what Gen Wesley Clark revealed?
You can find this on youtube:
General Wesley Clark tells of how Middle East destabilization was planned as far back as 1991
How the Bush Administration Covered Up the Saudi Connection to 9/11
It’s a story of how the White House sought to suppress evidence that would reveal how much it knew of the attack plot.
CIA Anti-Syria Program Finances Wahhabi Headchoppers
UN Designates â€œFree Syrian Armyâ€ Affiliates as Al Qaeda
(4.30 mnt video)
US Key Man in Syria Worked Closely with ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra
Watch Robert Ford, US Amb to Syria, along with One of the key US men in Syria, the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) Col. Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi.
al-Okaidis’ discussions on the relation between the overtly backed FSA –
and the covertly backed Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaeda of Syria & the ISIS is very interesting & revealing to all.
Ross ia a notorious Zionist who deserves much of the credit for allowing Israel get away with theft and murder for so many years. Why should anyone care about his ways of twisting the truth? I find it despicable but totally irrelevant, otherwise.
I’ve pondered for many years the American government’s support for “the Jewish State” of Israel. We send about $3 billion annually in foreign aid to Israel, more than all other foreign aid in sum, and we collaborate closely regarding matters military and diplomatic. But the U.S. Constitution provides in its First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion[.]”
Lee v. Weisman, 505 U. S. 577, 585 (1992), citing Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-613 (1971).
And in Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet,Â 512 U.S. 687Â (1994) the U.S. Supreme Court held that establishment of a Satmar Hasidim Jewish school district violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause).
Notice that the Court there faced a school district that was in effect a Jewish school district, looking past the legal documents establishing the district to see that its borders were deliberately drawn to encompass only Hasadim students.
In that light, check Mr. Obama’s statements here. White House Office of the Press Secretary, Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa (19 May 2011) (transcript).
Associated Press, Obama’s ‘Jewish State’ Reference Jars Palestinians, Fox News (23 May 2011).
Run it through the Weisman analysis: did the President’s statements of U.S. policy: (1) reflect a clearly secular purpose; (2) have a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion; *and* (3) avoid excessive government entanglement with religion?”
All three elements must be answered “yes” in order for the policy to pass muster under the Establishment Clause.
Try it again using the annual Israeli military aid funding. Is not the purpose to maintain a government establishment of religion that discriminates on the basis of religion?
I’ve never found any authority for the notion that the Establishment Clause does not apply in the context of the nation’s conduct of foreign affairs. By its plain language, the Clause sets no geographical boundaries.
Yesterday the US Senate held a ‘ISIS Combat’ hearing. If you listen to Senator John McCain you may in my opinion be getting a glimpse of things to come. I am providing a C-Span video of that hearing. You may watch the whole over 3 hour hearing, but be sure to listen to McCain drill General Dempsey and Secretary Hagel. McCain comes on around the 1 hour spot. You will know when he (McCain) is ready to question Hagel and Dempsey when you see the security guards escort a young code pink lady out of the room. McCain seems flattered by this code pink protester.
here are a couple of articles worth reading
The United States continues to nurture an anti-civilizational neo-fascist regime in Israel, thanks to a lot of smoke being blown up our asses.
The Jewish state knows that it cannot survive in a secular democratic Middle East. That is why Israel covertly supports the Wahhabist monstrosity that is Saudi Arabia’s second largest export.
A “pillar of cloud” (Hebrew: ×¢×ž×•×“ ×¢× ×Ÿ AmÃºd Ê¿AnÃ¡n) was one of the manifestations of the presence of the Lord (×”Ö¹×œÖµ×šÖ° Aá¸ÅnÃ¡y) in the Torah. According to the religious myth of Exodus, the pillar of cloud guided the Hebrew people by day (allegedly during the Eighteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt circa 1543â€“1292 BCE). The pillar of cloud is traditionally paired with the manifestation of the divine presence by night as the pillar of fire, which provided light. This was so they “could travel by day or night”.
The Israeli government evoked the “pillar of cloud” image during Operation Pillar of Defense, an eight-day Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip.
The IDF operation officially was launched on 14 November 2012 with the killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of the Gaza military wing of Hamas.
In 2002, Jabari became the commander and operational head of the military wing of Hamas at the height of the Second Intifada (the armed Palestinian uprising against Israel from 2000â€“2007).
Jabari was in charge of overseeing the imprisonment of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped by Palestinian militants in 2006 outside of the Gaza Strip.
After long years of military activities, Jabari played a leading role in Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in June 2007.
During Operation Cast Lead, a three-week Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip against the Gaza Strip in December 2008, Jabari served as a Palestinian commander.
In October 2011, a prisoners-exchange was arranged, handing back Shalit to Israel in return for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Jabari personally escorted Shalit to the Rafah Crossing with Egypt,
Jabari was instrumental in enforcing ceasefires from the Palestinian side, which included restricting rival militant groups from firing rockets.
Serving as an influential member of the Hamas political leadership, Jabari had come to understand that continuing hostilities with Israel harmed both Hamas and the people of the Gaza Strip. He had worked to prevent on several occasions Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. When such Hamas rocket attacks took place, they were intentionally aimed to land in open spaces.
It has been claimed that Jabari received a draft of a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel only hours prior to his assassination. Israel decided to attack Hamas rather than seek a ceasefire.
The Jewish state has no interest in partners for peace. It requires a continuous supply of enemies, and that is what its military operations are designed to ensure.
Pillar of Defense followed the usual provocation-response script for Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
The Israeli government claimed that the operation began in response to the launch of over 100 rockets at Israel during a 24-hour period, an attack by Gaza militants on an Israeli military patrol jeep within Israeli borders, and an explosion caused by IEDs, which occurred near Israeli soldiers, on the Israeli side of a tunnel passing under the Israeli West Bank barrier. The Israelis stated that the aims of the military operation were to halt rocket attacks against civilian targets originating from the Gaza Strip and to disrupt the capabilities of militant organizations.
The Palestinians accused the IDF of attacks on Gazan civilians in the days leading up to the operation, and blamed the Israeli government for the upsurge in violence. They cited the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the occupation of West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as the reason for rocket attacks.
During the course of the operation, the IDF claimed to have struck more than 1,500 sites in the Gaza Strip, including rocket launchpads, weapon depots, government facilities, and apartment blocks. Gaza officials said 133 Palestinians had been killed in the conflict: 79 militants, 53 civilians, and a policeman. They estimated that 840 Palestinians were wounded. Many families were displaced.
During the operation, Hamas, the al-Qassam Brigades and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) further intensified their rocket attacks on Israeli cities and towns, firing over 1,456 rockets into Israel, and an additional 142 which fell inside Gaza itself. Palestinian militant groups used weapons including Iranian-made Fajr-5, Russian-made Grad rockets, Qassams, and mortars. Tel Aviv was hit for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, and rockets were fired at Jerusalem.
By the end of the operation, six Israelis had been killed, two hundred forty were injured. About 421 rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, another 142 fell on Gaza itself, 875 fell in open areas, and 58 hit urban areas in Israel.
The international response also followed the usual script.
Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other Western countries expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself, or condemned the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. Iran, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, and several other Arab and Muslim countries condemned the Israeli operation. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on the situation, but did not reach a decision.
After days of negotiations between Hamas and Israel, a ceasefire mediated by Egypt was announced on 21 November. Both sides claimed victory. Israel said that it had achieved its aim of crippling Hamas’s rocket-launching ability, while Hamas stated that Israel’s option of invading Gaza had ended.
According to Human Rights Watch, both sides violated the laws of war during the fighting.
You know the story.
A “pillar of cloud” continues to hover over the entire Middle East, engulfing the entire region in chaos. The kishkes (the innermost parts; guts) of that cloud hovers over Tel Aviv.
This is not to believe to the religious myth that Israel is divinely powerful. The Jewish state is grievously insecure, understanding all too well that it would quickly collapse without the continuous massive financial and military aid it receives from outside, primarily from the United States. And for that flood of aid to continue, Israel must have enemies.
Until this “cloud” of delusion is blown away by the clean wind of reality, and Israel is compelled to treat honestly with its neighbors, there will be nothing but perpetual war in the Middle East.
There actually is a “bright line”, that legalese euphemism for the boundary between lawful and unlawful, reasonable and unreasonable, moral and immoral, and in this case, rational and irrational. The line passes between secular civilization and radical zealotry. As I mentioned in a previous comment, we are again being drawn in by “The binLaden Doctrine”, that latest edition of asymmetrical warfare which in our case, relies on predictable American emotionalism and baits our inevitable hypocrisy. Reduced to its essence, we have embraced a strategy which necessitates starting a holy war, then fighting on both sides. We bleed ourselves to death in the process. The political rationalization for this strategy is merely a sop to the American public, which has been frenzied into the notion that our President must “do something”, or appear weak and indecisive. The “bright line” lies between rational, though admittedly religiously motivated Shia, and Radical, anti-civilizational Sunni, with whom we have allied ourselves based on resource requirements. There are many economic alternatives to this failed strategy, but none of them are politically convenient to our “ally”, Israel. At the same time, that radical, anti-civilizational element threatens Russia with destabilization by fomenting revolt among islamic factions on their eastern front. We are aiding them by nurturing an anti-civilizational neo-Nazi regime on their western front. The strategy we have adopted cannot win – COIN doctrine has never produced a victory. It will only delay a decisive outcome until the next administration – one likely to be convinced of his or her invincibility – takes charge of this charade. There is a chance to save civilization, but to do so, America must save itself first. None of the necessary cards to win that game appear to be on the table. As the world’s functional economy gradually drifts eastward, we do everything to hasten that trend, which will ultimately threaten our own currency. Our natural allies in this struggle are the rational actors: Russia, Syria and Iran. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but the alternative is a gradual slide into a New Dark Age. Israel’s de facto theocracy is based on bronze age mythology, and we are following them into an abyss. In the land of culture and enlightenment, Europe, there are already glimmerings of the notion that we are tied to a sinking barge, and their collective ships are also tied to it in an endless storm that promises to swamp us all. I had to read this article twice, because my lunatic neighbor is playing Andrea Bocelli’s signature “Nessun Dorma” over and over again as loud as his stereo will go. I wonder if he realizes that means, “Nobody sleeps”. The Puccini opera is based on a story by the 12th century Persian (Iranian) poet Nizami. Prince Calaf (ring a bell?) faces beheading if Princess Turandot can guess his name. He knows she can’t, and sings the rousing finale, “Vincero, Vincero, Vincero!” Only in the land of art and culture can one word say an entire sentence: “I will win, I will win, I will win!” Americans should probably start losing some sleep, because there no way to win unless we cut loose. It’s not hard to guess the name, unless we’re as blind as Bocelli.
In reading the subject article, what I gathered was that Mr. Ross believes that some in the Middle East align themselves with religion over state while other nations choose the sovereignty of the state over their religion.
Keep in mind that Mr Ross’s argument is ultimately leading towards who he believes we should align ourselves with and who he believes we shouldn’t waste our time with. Yes, he uses the Islamist vs non-Islamist line but he is using that as proof towards his argument. Just like Assad stands to loose a lot to go against the pro-Islamist thinking states, thus included in that camp, he includes Turkey in the non-Islamist thinking states, due to their involvement with Nato and the ramifications of that.
He pointedly explains why he does not include Assad’s regime in the mix… Mr. Ross basically said “Assad may be secular but he won’t bite the hand that feeds him, which is not secular. Thus we can’t negotiate with him”. That idea does not refute his premise in anyway… history has shown many examples of regimes aligning themselves with other regimes if they believe it will get them what they want in the end.
Similar examples can be shown why your argument of hypocrisy within his opinion do not hold water… Saudi Arabia has shown more interest in protecting the state sovereignty even while religion is heavily integrated in their methods, not following religious lines above everything else, within the big picture… again, staying right in line with his arguments.
The gist of his argument is simply saying that within the middle east, those that are currently holding the value of Islam over state concerns simply can’t be “reasoned with” and that argument has credibility; Islamic-first people are not showing any signs of change or care as far as state issues are concerned, so if America hopes to make any impact in whatever way within the middle east, it needs to concentrate its efforts in those that are showing a state-first attitude.
None of that concerns zionism, nor examples that Israel believes in their God any more than how Saudi Arabia treats their prisoners or that they hold the Koran as their constitution. Ultimately nothing in your article has anything to do with hypocrisy, especially when the article you are questioning does not even address Israel or zionism and instead argues in favor of Egypt and Turkey alliances.
It almost appears that you’re labeling Mr. Ross as a hypocrite more to further your view that you disagree with him, which we all have the freedom to do so, with your argument being that (in street language) “the way he divided countries sucks” but with half your article devoted to the idea that Israel is either just as, or even more dangerous in the middle east, this article ends up sounding more like an opinion piece, not investigative journalism.
This all even led the previous person’s comment to sound like she believed you were arguing that Mr. Ross was writing about Israel or zionism, prompting her to show proof of Mr. Ross’s bias yet Mr. Ross never addressed anything remotely close to that subject.
Is Consortium news really an investigative journalism site?
” None of that concerns zionism, ”
says Richie on September 17, 2014-
Almost everything in the Middle East concerns Zionism.
Arab Nationalism has been continually insulted ever since their land was taken away without due process to create Israel.
With the creation of Israel we have had over 60 years of continual bloodshed and killing leading to the disaster we have today .
From the Ross wiki:
During President Jimmy Carter’s administration, Ross worked under Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon. There, he co-authored a study recommending greater U.S. intervention in “the Persian Gulf Region because of our need for Persian Gulf oil and because events in the Persian Gulf affect the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
During the Reagan administration, Ross served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs in the National Security Council and Deputy Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (1982â€“84).
In the administration of President George H. W. Bush, Ross was director of the United States State Department’s Policy Planning Staff ….
In the summer of 1993 President Bill Clinton named Ross Middle East envoy.
(Mr. Ross doesn’t seem to have been part of dumbya’s administration, but he did a lot of cheerleading from the outside)
Ross was a noted supporter of the Iraq war and he signed two Project for a New American Century (PNAC) letters in support of the war in March 2003.
Ross was appointed Special Advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on February 23, 2009. On June 25, 2009 the White House announced that Ross was leaving the State Department to join the National Security Council staff as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, with overall responsibility for the region. The Central Region includes the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia.
Mr. Ross is reported to have been fired in 2011 – possibly because of dreadful hackery regarding a report about imaginary Iranian nukes.
In this piece Mr. Pillar writes about two people: ‘diplomat’ Ross and ‘thug’ Winter. It’s my opinion that Mr. Ross has been a more effective killer than Winter by a factor of hundreds if not thousands.
Dennis Ross has business interests in Israel is a Zionist and served from 1993 to 2001 as the top negotiator for the U.S. between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, headed at that time by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasser Arafat.
Ross also served under President Ronald Reagan in 1981 as the director of Near East and South Asian Affairs for the administration’s national security staff.
Dennis Ross is chairman of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. The Institute writes on its homepage about its mission:
The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI) is an independent think tank incorporated in Israel as a non-profit corporation. The mission of the Institute is to promote the thriving of the Jewish people via professional strategic thinking and planning on issues of primary concern to world Jewry. JPPPI’s work is based on deep commitment to the future of the Jewish people with Israel as its core state.
Does no one dare point out the â€œpossible â€œ BIAS in US Policy resulting from so many Israeli connected advisers ?
The US war against Islam (terrorists) follows the PNAC neocon agenda.
G.W.Bush after â€œconsultationsâ€ with his God â€œbiblicallyâ€ invaded Iraq starting this â€œwar on Islamâ€ and says that history far in the future will appreciate it in time..
This Judeo/Christian agenda to establish Eretz Israel as the Middle East Super Power continues.
World Jews accounting for 0.2 % of the Worldâ€™s population and Israelâ€™s Nuclear Arsenal Israel rules —
Itâ€™s the Samson Option neocon way or nuclear destruction of the planet.
Just who is going to say NO ?
BTW — DNA Science has confounded the Christian evangelicals by proving conclusively that most of the people in the nation of Israel and in World Jewry are not the descendants of Abraham.