[Marxism] Will Obama speak at the next ANSWER rally?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 4 05:59:26 MST 2013

Without naming any names, it is fascinating that some of the most 
diehard apologists for the al-Assad dictatorship on the Internet left 
were also some of the most stubborn Obama campaigners back in 2008, 
being sufficiently coy in their backing as to avoid actually coming out 
with Carl Davidson type formulations. A couple of these people were not 
reluctant to tell me privately that they intended o vote for Obama, 
something that came as no surprise to me.

Today’s NY Times reports that the Obama administration intends to make a 
“turn” to the Baathist dictatorship, another thing that comes as no 
surprise to me. American imperialism desires stability above all else 
and what better guarantee of stability is there than the government that 
willingly participated in the extraordinary rendition program run by the 
CIA and that now makes common cause with the Egyptian military?

I just sent off a review of Akbar Ahmed’s “The Thistle and the Drone” to 
Critical Muslim, a journal that I have developed a relationship with. 
Co-edited by Ziauddin Sardar, the author of 27 books including the 
incomparable “Postmodernism and the Other: New Imperialism of Western 
Culture,”, and my FB friend Robin Yassin-Kassab, it gives voice to the 
Arab and Muslim left. They are publishing an article I did on the Jews 
of the Maghreb in a future issue, and have one scheduled on Syria and 
the Western left later on.

I can’t recapitulate the arguments made by Akbar Ahmed but urge 
everybody to read a very important book whose essential point is that 
the “war on terror” directed against al-Qaeda et al is ultimately a war 
against Islamic tribes that are most frequently fighting for cultural 
and economic survival. The Tuaregs are one of the prime examples as are 
the Aceh guerrillas in Indonesia. All of them get amalgamated with 
al-Qaeda irrespective of the truth. In some ways, the amalgam hearkens 
back to the George W. Bush administration whose footsteps Obama is 
following in.

I have long concluded that these “anti-imperialists”, with their 
blood-curdling Islamophobia, are not much different from Christopher 
Hitchens or Paul Berman—hiding under their bed from Sharia law and 
clapping like trained seals every time a Baathist MIG launches a rocket 
against a working class apartment building.

NY Times December 3, 2013
Jihadist Groups Gain in Turmoil Across Middle East

WASHINGTON — Intensifying sectarian and clan violence has presented new 
opportunities for jihadist groups across the Middle East and raised 
concerns among American intelligence and counterterrorism officials that 
militants aligned with Al Qaeda could establish a base in Syria capable 
of threatening Israel and Europe.

The new signs of an energized but fragmented jihadist threat, stretching 
from Mali and Libya in the west to Yemen in the east, have complicated 
the narrative of a weakened Al Qaeda that President Obama offered in May 
in a landmark speech heralding the end of the war on terrorism. The 
leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees, Senator Dianne 
Feinstein of California and Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, 
raised warnings in an interview on CNN on Sunday when they said that 
Americans were “not safer” from terrorist attacks than in 2011.

The concerns are based in part on messages relayed this year by Ayman 
al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s overall leader, indicating that he views Syria — 
where the number of jihadist rebels and foreign fighters is steadily 
rising — as a promising staging ground.

Some analysts and American officials say the chaos there could force the 
Obama administration to take a more active role to stave off potential 
threats among the opposition groups fighting against the government of 
President Bashar al-Assad. But striking at jihadist groups in Syria 
would pose formidable political, military and legal obstacles, and could 
come at the cost of some kind of accommodation — even if only temporary 
or tactical — with Mr. Assad’s brutal but secular government, analysts say.

“We need to start talking to the Assad regime again” about 
counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, said Ryan C. 
Crocker, a veteran diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and 
Afghanistan. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as 
Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his 

It is not clear whether or when the White House would be willing to make 
such an abrupt shift in approach after years of supporting the Syrian 
opposition and calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster. It would certainly 
require delicate negotiations with Middle Eastern allies who were early 
and eager supporters of Syrian rebel groups, notably Saudi Arabia.

One growing source of concern is the number of Muslims from Western 
countries who have gone to fight in Syria and might eventually return 
home and pose a terrorist threat. Analysts say at least 1,200 European 
Muslims have gone to Syria since the start of the war to join the fight, 
and dozens of Americans.

Across the region, a rising tide of Islamist militancy — fueled partly 
by sectarian violence and partly by the collapse of Egypt’s Muslim 
Brotherhood in the face of opposition from the country’s military — has 
contributed to a recent wave of attacks, including deadly bombings in 
Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula as well as the daily carnage in Syria 
and Iraq.

The violence has underscored the continuing disarray across the Middle 
East in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Above all, it is the 
chaos of Syria, where foreign jihadis appear to be building to a 
critical mass and have overwhelmed the Western strategy of support for 
the moderate opposition, that could drive the Obama administration 
toward greater involvement, analysts say.

But it is not at all clear what form that involvement might take. 
American officials are unlikely to open a new front of drone strikes in 
Syria. Other options carry large risks. In early October, American 
commandos carried out raids in Libya and Somalia aimed at capturing 
terrorist suspects. The Libya raid was successful; the one in Somalia 
was not.

To some extent, infighting among the jihadist groups in Syria has 
recently mitigated the threat there, but it is not clear how long that 
will last. Mr. Zawahri sent an envoy, Abu Khalid al-Suri, in an effort 
to resolve disputes between the two main factions, the Nusra Front and 
the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“To the extent that I am concerned about Al Qaeda the brand, it’s that 
it is clearly expanding its affiliates, both in number and in some cases 
in capability,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff, said in an interview. “We’ve got to watch and determine which 
ones are local, which ones are regional, and which ones are global, and 
each requires a different approach.”

Those agendas can easily overlap and change, and one place where that 
appears to be happening is Yemen, the home to Al Qaeda’s most organized 
and threatening affiliate. A series of clashes in the past month between 
Zaydi Muslim militia fighters and hard-line Sunnis in Yemen’s remote 
northwest has led to calls for a wider religious war, and there are 
reports of training camps being established for that purpose, Yemeni 
officials say.

In Yemen, as in Syria, this sectarian dynamic may appear to divert the 
militants’ attention away from the West. But the accompanying 
radicalization and militancy creates “the perfect environment for Al 
Qaeda” in a country where the terrorist group already has a strong 
foothold, said one Yemeni official.

Even as an American drone campaign continues to kill people suspected as 
militants in Yemen, the Qaeda affiliate based there gained at least $20 
million in ransom payments earlier this year from the governments of 
Qatar and Oman, which paid to free two groups of European hostages, 
according to American and Yemeni officials. That is enough to fuel their 
operations for years, the officials said.

A string of recent deadly attacks on Yemeni military targets has also 
made clear that Al Qaeda “has infiltrated our security services” to a 
greater extent, the Yemeni official said. In one of those attacks, a 
band of six jihadists disguised in army uniforms commandeered a military 
post with dozens of soldiers inside and held it for three days, 
repelling repeated efforts to free the men.

In addition to the rising number and deadliness of attacks, there are 
signs of possible cross-pollination among some of the jihadist groups 
around the region. American officials say that the Yemen-based Al Qaeda 
affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has regular contact with 
jihadist groups in Lebanon and in the Sinai Peninsula, where there have 
been near-daily attacks since the Egyptian military ousted the Islamist 
president Mohamed Morsi in July.

Despite extensive Egyptian military efforts to confront them, the Sinai 
militant groups remain strong and have powerful new weapons — including 
surface-to-air missiles that could take down airliners — obtained from 
Libya after its civil war, said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based security 
analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The disarray in Libya, where the weak transitional government is largely 
hostile to the nation’s fractious militias, is also a source of 
increasing concern. Terrorism analysts say southern Libya has become a 
safe haven for a range of jihadists. “All of our regional partners are 
very afraid of the instability they see emanating from southern Libya,” 
said Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Donahue II, the commander of American Army 
forces assigned to Africa.

Other extremist groups are redoubling their efforts across Africa. Last 
month the State Department branded Boko Haram, the homegrown Islamist 
insurgent movement in Nigeria, as a foreign terrorist group. Its attacks 
have left thousands dead in a decade, and in October it ransomed four 
French hostages for a reported payment of over $27 million.

“Whether they are dismayed by the way things played out in Egypt or by 
the growth of Al Qaeda in Syria, the worm has turned in the Middle East 
in the minds of American foreign policy makers,” said William McCants, 
an expert on jihadist movements and a former senior adviser at the State 
Department. “It seems we are back to counterterrorism as a guiding focus 
for American policy.”

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