Norouz and Islam (or religion)

I have heard people debating whether Islam and Norouz are „compatible“.

Here are my thoughts:

First of all, Norouz is a national celebration of all Iranians independent of ethnicity, dialect or religious belief while Islam is one among several religions.
From a rational point of view there is no „either, or…“ to decide about.
You can be atheist, Zoroastrian, Muslim, Bahai..and celebrate Norouz.

In case of Islam, no matter whether you are a practising pious Muslim or a mainstream Musim there is no reason to not celebrate Norouz. This is because Norouz does not violate any islamic principles. It does not hinder anyone from believing in God, prophet Muhammad or the herafter.

Contrary to a wide spread but wrong understanding of piety Islam is not hostile to being happy or celebrating. Islam does not demand from a Muslim to do nothing else than praying or fasting or reading Quran.

Some calls for banning Norouz because it allegedly contradicts Islam are as absurd as banning TV programs or sports because these activities supposedly distract people from performing their „religious duties“.
This is of course complete nonsense. Norouz´ entire duration is 13 days and even during that period anyone can pray or fast or read Quran as much as he likes.

Religious zealots must be cautious not to alienate people against religion by unnecessary and out of perspective radicalism. They are doing a disservice to religion by placing and portraying it as an antipole to everything that people love.
Don´t blame religion. Blame (some) religious people.

The bizarre „terrorist“ policy of the US

The relationship of the US with and her attitude towards the Taliban is marked by irrationality and inconsistencies.

In the 1990s when Iran backed and supported the Afghan „Northern Alliance“ in their fight against the Taliban, the United States took no anti-Taliban position.
While the Taliban took Kabul in 1996 and went on steadily gaining ground against their adversaries American Petroleum companies secretly met Taliban delegations and US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad downplayed the radicalism of the Taliban.
Northern Alliance´ military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud sought American and European support but got none with only Russia, Iran and India funding and arming his faction. The Taliban, however, received massive man power, monetary and weapons support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both US allies in the region.

In the aftermath of 9/11 The US invaded Afghanistan and drove the Taliban from power, but the Taliban proved to be resurgent. The central governments power never really extended much outside of Kabul. Many areas remain contested and insecure today. 18 years after their „defeat“ the Taliban manage to overrun bases of Afghan special forces or to launch attacks inside Kabul inflicting huge casualties.

It can be rightfully concluded that the US „war on terror“ conducted in Afghanistan since almost two decades continues to be a huge failure, despite having stationed between 15.000 and 130.000 Nato troops there, in addition to more than 300.000 Afghan army soldiers being trained for many years.

Paradoxically the US has blamed Iran for the ongoing debacle in Afghanistan claiming that Iran has been supporting the Taliban. Needless to say that there is no proof for such claims: No Iranian weapons convoys being sighted going from Iran to Taliban areas, no Iranian cargo planes landing in secret Taliban air bases. Nothing. Plus, the Talibans traditional strongholds are far away from the Iranian border and both on the border to and inside of Pakistan, a US ally.

Interesingly some American officials have blamed Iran for holding talks with the Taliban, but at the same time considering it very natural that the US is doing the same very officially.

This grotesque attitude towards the Taliban and the obvious double standard of condemning others for negotiating with an „evil force“ while considering it normal and justified to do it when it serves US interests is in line with American foreign policy elsewhere:

The US has no problem with Israel openly admitting having supported Al Qaeda elements in Syria (Video minute 2:40 and 3:58) and „defends“ Al Qaeda versus Hizbollah by stating that Al Qaeda has not attacked Israel.

The US is also not much bothered by it´s allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates equipping Al Qaeda elements in Yemen with American weapons. These Al Qaeda elements do not any longer fight the „Arab coalition“ but the Houthi rebels.

The same went on for years in Syria where Saudi Arabia and other US allied GCC countries massively supported Syrian insurgent groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda aligned insurgent forces in Syria probably field well over 20.000 fighters, most of them located in the North Western province of Idlib, yet in 4.5 years of military presence in Syria the US airforce hardly ever attacked Al Qaeda. Instead it bombed and killed hundreds of Syrian, Iraqi and even Iranian fighters engaged in fighting Isis in Eastern Syria.

Apparently Al Qaedas sectarianism and terror is only bad when it hits the US, but when Iran, Syria or Russia are affected by Al Qaedas violence the US and it´s partners overtly and/or covertly support Al Qaeda.

 

Western regret over not having supported Syrian rebels in 2011 is silly

As early as in 2012 when even official western reporting increasingly conceded that sectarian jihadists had „hijacked“ the Syrian „revolution“ many „experts“ expressed regret over the earlier non-intervention of western military powers in favor of the Syrian rebels.

The implicit argument that before it´s radicalization the „uprising“ deserved western support is flawed in many instances:

1. Despite often repeated but misleading claims about the „revolution“ having been peaceful „at least for 6 months“ (or one year according to others)  it was always disputed whether not major parts of the uprising were armed, violent and sectarian from the very beginning. Contrary to the former romanticization of the insurgency deadly attacks and systematic ambushes on police and army happened from day one.

2. After the Libya experience it was clear that Russia would not accept a UN resolution allowing western states to go for their much desired „regime change“ under the pretext of „responsibility to protect“.

3. There was never a Syrian opposition with a broad popular support base inside of the country. After the experience with Ahmad Chalabi in Iraq probably even western regime change proponents were suspicious of similar claims by Syrian exile opposition members.

4. There was no truly deployable opposition ground force to bank on. The „Free Syrian Army“ never had any command and control structure, cohesion, unified leadership or infrastructure. It was never more than a name, but a disconnected conglomeration of undisciplined local militias. By contrast, in all the year when various rebel factions tore eachother apart and entered coalitions even with Isis and Al Qaeda (Al Nusrah) just to abandon them or be abandoned, fought and disarmed by former allies, the Syrian army and it´s allies never had any internal fighting.

5. Why should external powers intervene in a civil war, bring about the defeat of the stronger side and empower forces that they don´t know and whose actions they probably cannot predict and contain?

It is very likely that despite much rhetoric about supposedly regretting the lack of earlier action on behalf of the Syrian rebels and against the Syrian government, the army leaderships and secret services of the western powers had serious and legitimate concerns about bringing to power sectarian and highly violent radicals.

Dubious source: „Violations Documentation Center“ (VDC)

Many reports about the war in Syria frequently quote the „Violations Documentation Center“ (VDC), however the information released by the VDC must be treated with much skepticism.

Here some reasons why:

1.
„This source is highly partisan. For example they divide fatalities into two overall groups: “Martyrs” and “Regime Fatalities”.

Martyrs” include ISIS fighters and foreign mercenaries killed by the Syrian Army/Militia or even by the U.S. airstrikes around Kobani. See the VDC screenshot photo 1 showing the ISIS “martyr” killed in Kobani. Photo 2 shows a young girl listed as “regime fatality”…There is little or no evidence provided regarding most of the alleged victims. Photographs and video evidence is provided for a small minority of the cases.“
https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/14/eight-problems-with-amnestys-report-on-aleppo-syria/

2.
„there are good reasons to believe the VDC is listing dead insurgents as civilians, as well as mislabeling dead government soldiers as FSA fighters.”

One example he cited was the listing of a Jaysh al-Islam militant, ‘Hisham Al-Sheikh Bakri’, killed by the SAA in Douma (infested with Jaysh al-Islam terrorists), in February 2015, which al-Masdar News reported. The VDC also listed ‘Hisham Abd al-Aziz al-Shaikh Bakri’, “however this one is listed as an adult male civilian and not a Jaish Al-Islam fighter,”
https://steigan.no/2015/10/deconstructing-the-nato-narrative-on-syria/

3.
If you go to the VDC site and check for adult male civilian deaths it shows (Feb. 16th, 2018) 79.254 deaths, while the total number of civilian deaths is shown as 111.803. So, almost 71% of all civilian deaths are adult males, while we have been hearing that most civilian victims (of course almost all killed by „the regime“) are women, children and elderly…Why is the percentage of adult males so high? Can it be that a sizable portion were NOT civilians?
http://www.vdc-sy.info/index.php/en/martyrs

 

Why is Iran supporting Hezbollah?

Many Iranians are complaining about Iran helping Hezbollah in Lebanon, often emphasizing that there are enough poor and needy people in Iran more worthy of support.

While it´s true that there are indeed many poor people in Iran, we should keep in mind that Irans financial problems are not due to money „wasted“ on funding Hezbollah but mainly to – largely unjustified –  western sanctions. Irans loss from being disconnected from the international payment system and from the extreme sanction based decline of foreign direct investments is in the tens of Billions.

Hezbollah is Irans extended front line with Israel. Without this „artificial border“ Iran would not be able to deter Israel from attacking Iranian facilities by making use of US provided long range bombers.

Thus, when the civil war in Syria broke out and took a clearly sectarian tone by attracting foreign Shia- and Iran-hating Jihadists, both Iran and Hezbollah understood the existential threat. It was no coincidence that Israel immediately supported the „rebellion“ in Syria (while at the same time treating stonethrowing Palestinian youth as „terrorists“).
Irans support for the Syrian government is neither because of the former being led by an Alawite (often wrongly called a „Shia sect“) nor with the purpose of expanding Shia Islam or suppressing Sunnis. If Irans motivations were „sectarian“ then why did the country support Sunni Afghans (Massouds Northern Alliance) and Arabs (Hamas)? Why the support for Sunni Europeans (Bosnians) in the Balcan wars?
Irans support for Syria has three main reasons:
1. During the Iran-Iraq war Syria supported Iran, while all Arab middle east and Gulf states supported Iraq with money and arms, sometimes even with fighters.
2. Syria shares a border with Israel and constitutes another remote front line for Iran in case of a war with Israel.
3. Syria is the only land route to Southern Lebanon. Without an Iran friendly government in Damascus Hezbollah would not last long in any conflict.

The departure of the Syrian army from Lebanon in 2005 marked the rise of Salafi militants in that country. These forces have at times not only attacked Hezbollah but also engaged the Lebanese army.
As early as in the first months of the start of the Syrian war Salafi militants from Lebanon were intruding Syria and attacking the police and armed forces.

Iranian military strategists recognized the threat immediately: A sectarian insurgency enjoying the support of western powers, Israel, Turkey and the Gulf States, getting arms, funds, equipment and training from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the CIA while being romanticized and whitewashed by western and arab mainstream media would overpower the Syrian government. It was only a question of time.

As predictable as the pending fall of the Syrian ally was, it was also clear that the various backers of the insurgency shared one motivation: hatred of Iran and – as far as the Gulf states were concerned  – the Shia.
Iran could not afford to wait and see waves of foreign Jihadis arrive in Syria to not only „liberate“ the country from the „Nusayri infidels“ (derogatory term for Alawites) but in a further step move on to defeat the „Rafidhi“ (derogatory term for Shias) Hezbollah nearby in Lebanon.

What would happen next?
Since 2003 Iraq has been experiencing years of relentless bombings and massacres against the Shia majority (mostly civilians and including Sunnis living among Shias) carried out by radical islamists, many of them Arabs from Gulf countries. To make things worse Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), presumed dead, resurfaced as ISIS and intensified devastating terror attacks and warfare both in Syria and Iraq.
It was not far fetched to assume that after defeating the Syrian army and Hezbollah Syrias sectarian insurgency  would export the emerging „caliphate“ to Iraq to fight and defeat the Shia government. Despite the Shia making up some 70-75% of the Arab Iraqis the fall of the formally Sunni Saddam government was a thorn in Saudi Arabias eyes and continues to be hardly acceptable even 14 years later.

Iran had and has no interest in having hordes of sectarian „Majoos“ (derogatory term for Iranians used by Arabs) hating islamists on its borders. The decision to dispatch Hezbollah to the Syrian battlefields was nothing but the correct anticipation of an upcoming deadly menace to Irans security and territorial integrity.
In Syria Hezbollah continues to suffer casualties but has managed to contribute heavily to the survival of the government and the rolling back of the jihadists. Hezbollah engaged and defeated both Al Qaeda and Isis in Lebanon as well as on Syrian battle fronts. Without Hezbollah fighting Isis near the Iraqi border in eastern Syria the Iraqi army would have a much harder time defeating Isis in Mossul.

Hezbollahs proven capabilities in assymetrical warfare are a major reason why so far Israel has refrained from attacking Iran.
Plus, as mentioned, Hezbollah managed to severely weaken the anti-Iranian, predominantly Salafi insurgency in Syria and choke off any domino effects leading to the reestablishment of an anti-Iranian government in Iraq.

Rashideen convoy (Fua and Kafraya evacuees) bombing – another angle

After the suicide truck bombing of a convoy of waiting buses full of residents from Fua and Kafraya in the rebel-held western Aleppo suburb/outskirt of Rashideen, western mass media hurried to ignore some facts and twist and obfuscate others in order to deflect the rightful blame from the mostly Al Qaeda affiliated rebels.

One „fact“ which was not one according to veteran war reporter and Middle East conflict expert Elijah Magnier was the rebel claim reported and spread by BBC that the suicide vehicle could not have entered Rashideen without (Syrian) government permission, implying that the government (that – unlike the rebels – has never used suicide bombs as weapon) bombed the pro-government victims. In fact, however, the truck driver who blew himself up did NOT come from the government direction AND it is impossible he could have entered that area without being checked by rebels or having at least passed their checkpoints.

Another „proof“ for the rebels innocence was the oppositions pointing to the circumstance that some rebels guarding the convoy died as well.
Assuming this to be true, it does neither prove the rebels innocence nor the governments guilt, however, it clearly shows that the rebels consisting of so many different factions, even different degrees of radicalism within their most radical jihadi factions (former Al Nusra, now HTS; Ahrar al Sham, Jaish al Islam..) cannot control and contain their own forces and thus are highly unreliable as negotiation and deal partners.
While it is indeed very unlikely that Ahrar or al Nusra (HTS) killed their own fighters as deliberate „collateral damage“ of the massacre of Shia children, it is an absolutely realistic scenario that a 3rd party such as Jund al Aqsa, which could have disagreed with letting the „Shia apostates“ go decided to kill as many as possible Fua and Kafraya residents.

This latter aspect of the terror attack is something the almost entirely anti-Assad mass media choose to ignore, because it highlights a dilemma of Syrias opposition at which Assad and his government correctly point since years: There is no unified opposition with a clear, respected and powerful leadership. There is no opposition leadership that could negotiate with the Syrian government, give promises and have the capability to reliably control and enforce the implementation of the mutual agreement.
Why should the Syrian government attend negotiation meetings when the opposition participants are exiles who can exert no power on the field commanders and fighters involved in the daily fighting against the government?

 

Syrien: der Anschlag auf den Flüchtlingskonvoi

Bei dem Anschlag auf einen stehenden Konvoi von mehreren Bussen mit überwiegend schiitischen Flüchtlingen aus den Dörfern Fua und Kafraya in Syrien sind über 100 Menschen getötet worden, darunter ca. 70 Kinder.
Allem Anschein nach – hierfür sprechen sowohl Zeugenaussagen als auch mehrere Videos im Netz- wurde die Bombe durch eine sogenannte SVBIED (Suicidal vehicle borne intergrated explosive device) gezündet, eine von einem Selbstmordattentäter gefahrene mobile Sprengfalle.

Trotz der Umstände und der Identität der allermeisten Opfer berichten die Mainstreammedien systematisch irreführend: Die religiöse Zugehörigkeit der Opfer so wie ihre Loyalität wird nicht erwähnt, und es wird so getan als ob die Frage der Urheberschaft für den Terroranschlag nicht geklärt werden könne, weil sich doch keiner dazu bekannt habe.

Dass islamistische Rebellen – unklar welcher Fraktion – dahinterstecken ist jedoch mehr als eindeutig, wie man an folgenden Fakten bzw. Gegenfragen erkennen kann:
1. Die Opfer sind überwiegend Schiiten. Sie gelten speziell bei den salafistischen Rebellengruppen (Al Nusra Front bzw. inzwischen Hayat Tahrir al Sham, Ahrar al Sham oder Jaish al Islam) als Ungläubige bzw. Apostaten oder Häretiker.
2. Die Opfer sind loyal zur Regierung von Präsident Assad. Sie wurden seit Jahren in der von mehrheitlich islamistischen Rebellen kontrollierten Provinz Idlib belagert, ausgehungert und beschossen.
3. Autobomben so wie speziell SVBIEDs sind das häufigste und tödlichste Mittel der Rebellen. Die syrische Armee und ihre Verbündeten haben noch nie SVBIEDs eingesetzt.
4. Der Anschlag ereignete sich im von Rebellen kontrollierten Bezirk Rashideen westlich von Aleppo. Dort befinden sich weder Soldaten noch Milizionäre, die der Regierung angehören.
5. Bereits in Dezember hatten radikale Rebellen Busse, die für den Abtransport von Menschen aus den oben genannten Dörfern herbeigeschickt worden waren in Brand gesteckt und mindestens einen Fahrer getötet. Die Rebellen liessen sich triumphierend dabei filmen und sagten, dies sei Rache für Ostaleppo.
6. Auch jetzt gibt es Islamistenvideos in welchen Gewalt gegen die Schiiten aus Fua und Kafraya angekündigt wurde.

Jene dreisten Medien, die in ihrer schamlosen Verdrehung von Tatsachen versuchen, die Tat der Regierung Assad in die Schuhe zu schieben, sollen sich überlegen, wie sie überlegt und berichtet hätten, wenn eine „Fassbombe“ einen Konvoi von Sunniten aus der von Regierungstruppen belagerten Stadt Zabadani getroffen hätte:
Man hätte sofort und ohne jeden Zweifel „Assad“ beschuldigt, weil doch die Faktenlage „klar“ sei:
– Die Opfer waren Assad-Gegner
– Sie wurden im Assadgebiet getötet, wo Rebellen doch von aussen gar nicht Zugang hätten
– Die benutzte Waffe sei doch Assad-typisch

Eine weitere Unverschämtheit der Berichterstattung besteht darin, dass fast jeder Artikel 2-3 Rebellen- oder rebennahe Quellen zitiert und lediglich einmal Quellen, die loyal zur syrischen Regierung sind.
Es gibt auch keine 7 jährigen Banas oder andere perfekt in English twitternden Aktivisten, die zumindest neutral sind und von Ort und Stelle berichten.
Interessanterweise hat kein Medium Interesse gezeigt, die Überlebenden zu interviewen und hinsichtlich des Tathergangs und ihres Verdachts bezüglich Täterschaft zu befragen.