Assad’s ‘Nuclear Weapon’, the War on ISIS and How JORDAN May Be the Best Hope For the Arab World…

Posted: February 12, 2015 in (All Things) CULTURE, (Politics) CURRENT AFFAIRS
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If the foreign-backed murderers and bandits of ISIL thought executing Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh in such a horrific, inhuman manner was going to frighten the Jordanians into running away, then the entire sick ploy appears to have backfired on them.
On the other hand, they may have been trying to draw Jordan deeper into the conflict. Unlike the U.A.E, which had withdrawn from air-strikes out of fear, a statement from the Jordanian military, read on state TV, was entitled, “This is the beginning and you will get to know the Jordanians”; an apparent warning to the ISIL mercenaries and jihadists. It also said the strikes will continue “until we eliminate them.” The clip also shows members of the Jordanian military writing messages in Arabic across plane-mounted missiles, one of which reads ‘for you, the enemy of Islam’.  

While it is difficult to be anything other than cynical and demoralised when watching international affairs (especially post-9/11), particularly in regard to Iraq and Syria and everything going on around it, even I have to admit that watching how Jordan’s Hashemite monarch (and Star Trek Voyager cameo star: sorry, but it’s such a great fact that I can’t help mentioning it), King Abdullah II, and Jordan itself has reacted to ISIL’s barbarity has been somewhat stirring. I say that because we’re seeing a country and a leadership reacting decisively and unambiguously towards the actions of ISIL; an Islamic country, at that, that is no longer willing to even tolerate ISIL’s existence. And this isn’t some vague, half-hearted statement of disapproval like you might get from the Saudis or the Gulf States, but an absolute, unambiguous declaration of war on Islamic State and denouncement of everything it stands for.

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The fact that this position is being taken by the only remaining Hashemite Kingdom in the Middle East is particularly meaningful given the history of Arabia and the Middle East (which I won’t deviate into here, but have explored more fully in these older posts about the Hashemite royal line and Jordan and about the origins and spread of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia).

Following the disgusting video ISIL released of al-Kasasbeh’s murder, Queen Rania took to the streets, joining thousands of Jordanians in an anti-ISIS march in the country’s capital, while crowds chanted “Death to Daesh” – the derogatory term Arabs use to describe Islamic State militants. Thousands of Jordanians flocked to pay respects in traditional Bedouin style in a part of the country where the influential tribes still form an important pillar of Hashemite rule. Dramatic footage of Jordanian military attacks against ISIL targets were broadcast on state TV. Depending on how this pans out in the long-term, ISIL may have made a worse enemy in Jordan than they’ve ever really faced from the US, France, the UK, the Saudis or any other nation claiming to be fighting against it. An anonymous London-based commenter rather nicely summed up Jordan’s attitude; ‘For a change, here’s a country that treats it’s war dead as a human being with loved ones and not just a statistic.’

Jordan, like pre-war Syria, is a relatively tolerant, progressive society, not subject to Saudi ideology or Wahhabist infiltration; but unlike Syria, it has also maintained positive relations with the US and the West and hasn’t made itself an enemy of Israel, which could be said to place it in a much ‘safer’ long-term position than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Assad’s Syria, both of which were also pluralistic and multi-cultural societies despite not being democratic.

The Saudis have claimed also to be fighting ISIL and have been involved in air-strikes, but one always senses more of a reticence from Saudi Arabia towards ‘Daesh’, partly perhaps because it recognises the influence of its own religious ideologies in ISIL’s medieval manifestos, but possibly also because the Saudi state was almost certainly involved in funding and orchestrating the ultra-violent rebel groups put into Syria, from which the Islamic State militant group emerged (as was Turkey, while the US allies that helped the US to fund and sustain Al-Qaeda are numerous and includes Pakistan). Jordan can be said to have been involved in supporting armed rebellion in Syria too, but possibly to a lesser extent.

Jordan has a great deal to lose from the rise or expansion of ISIL’s ‘caliphate’, not only because it is right on the border of Syria and Iraq, but because it is a stated goal of ISIL to include Jordan in its envisioned caliphate (and to “chop the head off” the king) that would revert the Middle East to some manner of pre World War I borders. King Abdullah of Jordan and the Hashemite society he governs over is ideologically and religiously intolerable to the ISIL version of puritanical, violent Islamism; were ISIL to gain any foothold in Jordan it would be just as intolerant of the Sunni Muslims in Jordan as it has been of Alawites, Shiites and Christians in Syria or others in Iraq. The horrendous way in which al-Kasasbeh was executed demonstrated this utter lack of regard to the people of Jordan, and perhaps more broadly to the people of other Muslim societies.

It illustrated in the most vivid terms a fact that too many people have thus far failed to properly grasp: that ISIL isn’t just a persecutor or enemy of the Middle East’s Christians, Shiites or other non-Sunni sects, but of mainstream Muslims too and, in short, of any societal group that doesn’t fully subscribe to its own puritanical version of totalitarian Islamism.

It does get confusing, however, when we try to understand exactly what’s going on in the Middle East; when there is so much deception, media bias, ulterior political or media agendas in play, the natural result is confusion and uncertainty. There is little doubt that (1) the extremists were funded and supported inside Syria (and Libya before that) by agencies of several international powers, including the US and Saudi Arabia, with Jordan having been to some lesser extent party to that, and (2) that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was born out of that melting-pot and was *allowed* to cross unopposed from Syria into Iraq, therefore serving some sort of agenda beyond merely its own. The US, the Saudis, even Israel, can be seen to have mutual interests served by the creation and success of a hard-line Sunni/Salafist takeover of Iraq and Syria, which (1) plays into the Saudi/Israeli conflict against Iran and the Shiias, (2) prologues America’s ‘war without end’ industry that the ‘War on Terror’  brought into being, and (3) serves to continue the eradication of all moderate, multi-cultural Muslim societies in the Middle East. That latter agenda is demonstrably played out in the devastation of Iraq and Syria both, with both countries’ diverse cultural and religious make-up essentially destroyed by the agents of chaos and murder imported in from the outside.

None of those agendas that have been unfolding in the Middle East can be said to be particularly in the interests of Jordan. We might therefore view Jordan’s support for rebels in Syria as (1) a necessity of its alliance with the US (remember, even Assad and Syria was, just prior to 2011, cooperating somewhat with the US in rendition and torture: sometimes the state of international relations demands cooperation in certain areas, and the US in particular has been in and out of alliances with nations like a game of musical chairs), and (2) as a strategic misjudgement, but one based on protecting its borders from the same kind of spill-over that demonstrably occurred in Iraq. Jordan having been party, to whatever extent, to supporting rebels in Syria (not all of which were overtly extremist or Al-Qaeda-linked from the beginning of the fighting, remember), doesn’t necessarily make them knowingly party to the rise of Islamic State militants. In fact, given how contrary to their interests the rise of ISIL is (unlike the US or the Gulf States), we can assume Jordan wasn’t looking for any of this to unfold.

The point is that Jordan, unlike America, really is in danger from ISIL on its own soil; what happened in Iraq could conceivably happen in Jordan. If that were to happen, it would be a tragedy not just for Jordan but for civilisation; the last ‘moderate’ state (in Sunni terms) would be gone.

It is extremely important to the Middle East and to the world that Jordan preserves itself against all of this madness, being one of the last remaining Islamic societies that is progressive and tolerant. Its survival is paramount to the protection of moderate, enlightened Islam from the spread of the puritanical forces that have eaten away at the Muslim world like a cancer for years. And it is, again, the last remaining Hashemite Kingdom in the Middle East: the child, by direct descent, of the original Arab Revolt. This puritanical cancer that has invaded so much of the Islamic world so far hasn’t infected Jordan the same way it has effected several other societies, partly because Jordan is a Hashemite Kingdom and not a Saudi or Saudi-aligned kingdom with any Wahhabist sympathies.

I wrote a piece some time last year about Jordan and the Hashemites in relation to World War I and the fight for Arab independence; in it I highlighted how the Hashemites, as opposed to their rivals the Sauds, were always a more moderate, civilising force in the Middle East and argued that the family’s cynical sidelining from Arabia itself may have been to the detriment of the region and eventually the world. The puritanical Wahhabi school of Islam that has been propagated from within Saudi Arabia has been a massive cause of extremism and radicalization and the Saudi state itself is a totalitarian, enormously oppressive society. That ideology isn’t merely connected with the Saudi state, it is the ideology the Saudi state was founded on after the First World War; and it was a state created by Western, Colonial, Imperial powers who favoured the House of Saud in Arabia at the expense of the Hashemite royal family.

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Under Hashemite Arab rule, there has never been any space for Wahhabism to flourish. The rulers of Jordan are always chosen from the descendants of Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca before the Saudis were installed into power, and the founder of the Arab Revolt. Although Islamic in culture, the kingdom of Jordan does not promote a state religion; religious freedom existing in harmony for Jordanian citizens is fully guaranteed by the Jordanian monarchy. Jordan has multi-party politics. Political parties contest fewer than a fifth of the seats; the remainder are assigned to independent politicians, while a law enacted in July 2012 placed political parties under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior and forbade the establishment of parties based on religion.

Many express scepticism at the international community’s response to ISIL, including the US-led air-strikes, which many regard as entirely ineffective. But is the strategy merely ineffective or *deliberately* ineffective? It has been reported that ISIL has expanded its territory during the air-strikes, while there have been pathetic stories of US aid-drops falling into ISIL’s territory instead of their intended destinations. You don’t have to be particularly cynical to remain unconvinced that the US or Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have been genuinely trying to destroy ISIL; what we actually see looks more like a very limited campaign played out mostly for show. Jordan, on the other hand, might now be a different matter and it’s the manner of Jordan’s response that leads me to think that the Jordanian government wasn’t knowingly party to the creation of ISIL, even if it was willing to aid Syrian rebels.

Assuming that this isn’t just a short-term display of power, what’s heartening is that with Jordan we have a Sunni Islamic nation standing up and outright declaring ISIL a perversion of the religion and an unambiguous enemy to be wiped out. If Jordan does, as it has indicated, engage in a concerted war against the Islamic State, then it will become only the second nation in the world to engage in war against ISIL/ISIS in a serious way: the first was Syria under Bashar Assad. Assad and Syria still is, of course, engaged in war against ISIL and has been fighting that war almost single-handedly for a long time by now.

With all the frequent talk of the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ that many perceive to be occurring, it might be that Jordan taking a more direct position against ISIL represents a battle for civilisation; for Islamic civilisation specifically, with the more moderate and tolerant face of Islamic society and culture intent now on wiping out the ugly, brutal face of intolerant political Islamism in the Middle East. The fact also is that Jordan isn’t some modern, secular-inclined society either; it is a very tribal, traditional Arab society in key respects, which far pre-dates the Wahhabi-based society of Saudi Arabia and can in some respects be regarded as more in-keeping with the Islamic world of old. Remarkably therefore, I could make the case that Jordan is both a vanguard of old-world Islam *and* a face of the modern, moderate, progressive Islam that could stand against the violent spread of Saudi/Wahhabi-inspired fundamentalism and its various offshoots; which would be a remarkable position for the Kingdom of Jordan to be in.

Jordan is the country I often throw in the face of people who keep taking the ‘Islam is a religion of violence and hate’ line: it isn’t. And there’s something fitting therefore in Jordan – ruled by the family that could’ve, and possibly should’ve, been the rulers of Arabia instead of the Sauds – taking the lead in the fight against ISIL; because it isn’t just a fight against ISIL, but a fight against an ideological cancer. When I see the footage of Jordanians rallying en masse against ISIL and when I see the position being taken by the Jordanian King, I am genuinely heartened by it; but the truth also is that even if al-Kasasbeh’s murder hadn’t been the major trigger for this response, Jordan was going to have to deal with the threat of ISIL sooner or later anyway. Jordan quite simply has to make sure it doesn’t allow what happened to Iraq and Syria to happen to it; because if Jordan falls, the battle against the extremist takeover of the Middle East really is over.

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Unfortunately, until the US, Israel and other international influences and powers stop talking about getting rid of Bashar Assad or ‘regime change’ in Syria, their own policy in regard to ISIL remains suspect and even untenable. So perverse have our various Geo-Political situations and agendas become that what *should* be happening – specifically, Jordan joining forces with Assad’s Syrian regime to fight ISIL and other armed extremists – is unlikely to happen and instead what will probably happen is Jordan, the US and the other involved parties fighting ISIL on one hand but also opposing the existence/continuation of Bashar Assad’s Syrian government at the same time. It’s an almost farcical policy; particularly as many of these so-called ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels being armed and supported by foreign governments are in fact virtually indistinguishable from ISIL fighters in most regards. From the very beginning of the Syrian Civil War, there were Al-Qaeda elements tangled up with the rebel groups, some of them aided from within Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that that situation has changed. An article like this one, for example, illustrates the fact that so-called ‘non-ISIL’ groups involved in the Syria fighting more or less share the same religious fundamentalist views and medieval policies.

If the West is truly interested in destroying Islamist terrorism and militancy, it would be firmly on the side of Assad and the Syrian government: that it isn’t simply demonstrates that even if Jordan is genuinely and fully committed to wiping out ISIL, there are other governments and forces that aren’t.

What I still can’t quite tell from all the various sources of data is whether ISIL is a US-backed project that has now gotten out of control and gone off on its own agenda (the manner of al-Kasasbeh’s death, for example, doesn’t look like something the Jordanians were expecting), or whether everything it is doing is  part of that original agenda (which would frankly be more terrifying). The war-crimes tribunals of the future are going to need to work that question out. The war crimes tribunals of the future, for that matter, are going to be very, very busy.

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In an interview with Literarni Noviny of the Czech Republic, President Assad broke down the Geo-Political situation in simple, concise terms. “The West wants client states ruled by puppets, this is the core issue with the West and it has nothing to do with democracy, freedom, or supporting the people in the region: an example is what happened in Libya and the continuing killing in Syria with Western support. We are one of the countries which best understand this issue because we have been suffering from terrorism for the past four years and we lost thousands of innocent lives in Syria.”

Meanwhile the international conspiracy against Assad and Syria continues into another year; now with the German Der Spiegal claiming Assad is building a secret underground plant to develop nuclear weapons. The allegation cited information from ‘unnamed intelligence sources’; but nuclear weapons experts have expressed doubts about the report, as the site, which is visible on Google Earth, is apparently not a secret, according to the Christian Science Monitor. This isn’t the first attempt at a fake story designed to implicate Assad’s government in some way or another in an effort to justify action being taken against him.

The Syrian state broadcaster called the accusation “part of the conspiracy and media misdirection campaign targeting Syria.”

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