The corporate media are constantly referring to ISIS’s ‘slick and far-reaching propaganda capabilities’ and so on, but if it wasn’t for their own dissemination of ISIS-produced propaganda then the group would just be another actor in the Middle East. It is likely due to the mass amount of media coverage they have received in the West that has encouraged other Takfiri groups to align themselves with ISIS, and for Western citizens (like the couple in San Bernadino) to carry out attacks that ISIS supposedly then claim responsibility for. After various terror attacks in the West we are informed by the media that ISIS has claimed responsibility, but this is the same media that has told lie after lie about Syria and acts on behalf of those who would prefer that ISIS rules in Damascus rather than the current state that is an opponent of US imperialism.
I was just re-reading the interview that the German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer gave to RT about the time he spent with ISIS, and the safety precautions it was necessary for him to take:
Jürgen Todenhöfer: I know Syria very well. I love Syria, I’ve been there dozen times, and I like Iraq, I’ve spent a lot of time before the war and during the war, and after the war; and, for example, in Syria, I spoke to all the groups: Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, the FSA, I spoke several times to president Bashar al-Assad, and, suddenly IS became very strong and I wanted to get the information – who are these terrorists? What is making them so strong? Why so many German jihadists go to the so-called Islamic State? So, together with my son, we wrote on Facebook letters to about 80 German jihadists. We got 15 answers, and out of these 15, in the end we had a guy from another, not that known terrorist group, and a guy from IS, and then this IS guy told us he was not allowed to speak with me anymore – I would be called by somebody else who is named by the leadership, and I had somebody from propaganda department, from media department, and so I had the connections – every normal journalist could have done the same.
Sophie Shevardnadze (interviewer): Okay, but, this is really playing with fire – who was that person who actually gave you the safe passage? Because journalists, you know, they get beheaded by ISIS all the time – we see it on YouTube, almost like weekly, so…
JD: I know. Even a friend of mine.
SS: Yes. So why were you sure that they wouldn’t change their mind and just take you hostage? I mean, the safe passage papers were just papers…how could you be sure that they weren’t fake, or they would protect you?
JD: I discussed via Skype with this guy from the media department, sometimes it took 2 hours, 3 hours, about the possibilities, about the guarantees and everything. To be sure, because my son, for example, always said “It’s a trick, they will behead you, they need German hostage!”, I had the impression that they gave the invitation as the Islamic State, as a state, and they wanted to show that if they give a guarantee by the state, they will stick to this guarantee. They have published it, I asked them to publish this guarantee on Twitter, I’ve been waiting some days to see if the real leadership would deny this invitation, they did not deny anything, and so I took the risk. For me, these 6 months when I was thinking “will I com back alive? Will I survive?” were harder than the 10 days in the Islamic State, because there I was sure…
SS: Are you saying that if journalists have actually followed your example and negotiated an official invitation from Islamic State, they would have spared their lives?
JD: Not everybody. Specialists – yes, because we are known as specialists for the Arab world, for the Muslim world, we have written books about it, we have our books translated into Arabic – and they have the feeling that we don’t go to such a country for show, but we try to find out the truth, and that we want to tell the truth. What I think they wanted to show to me…I always had to think – “what do they want?” – they wanted to show that they are really a state.
I remember Todenhöfer being touted as the first journalist to interview the Islamic State; quite a big deal was made about his trip. But then what about the five part documentary that Vice News filmed? Did their journalists, film crew etc have to seek the same assurances? It is almost as if the narrative regarding the group – that they are so scary it is almost impossible to get an interview with them – has been created by the mainstream media in order to drum up support for more military intervention in Syria. The Vice News reporter spent ten days embedded with the group in 2014, and this seems to have been met with little fanfare. An article in the Huffington Post, How Vice News Got Unprecedented Access To The Islamic State, merely says that the journalist Medyan Dairieh used his contacts within Syria to gain access.
There is abundant evidence of ISIS’s awful crimes against the people of Syria and Iraq, but the ‘state’ didn’t appear out of nowhere and are not capable of sustaining themselves. Frequently the media tells us that they make all their millions from selling oil, but never delve into how and who they are selling the oil to (although recently there has been an attempt to pin it all on Bashar al Assad).
Today an article in the Washington Times has said that the US does not target ISIS’s media centres in air strikes due to the civilian casualties it might cause. This is quite obviously nonsense, because the US and allies has bombed buildings belonging to local media in everywhere it has waged war, such as Serbia, Iraq and Libya. In the past the US/NATO has claimed that such buildings were legitimate targets due to the propaganda they produced.
The ISIS entity is almost entirely a creation of the imperialist media. They choose what to show us and what to hide.
Christiane Gruber – associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Michigan – on why Arabs call ISIS ‘Daesh’:
Over the past year, cartoonists across the Middle East have critiqued ISIS with equal amounts of ferocity and fearlessness. From Jordan to Iran, they frequently lambast ISIS—referring to it through its acronym Daesh, which is related to the pejorative Arabic term meaning “to tread under foot”—as destructive of Islam and the world’s cultural heritage, as the growling lapdog of various superpowers, as the ultimate devil and grim reaper of Iraq and as an Oscar-winning sensation obsessed with bloody forms of self-promotion.
Ignored and Unreported, Muslim Cartoonists Are Poking Fun at ISIS http://www.newsweek.com/ignored-and-unreported-muslim-cartoonists-are-poking-fun-isis-332040
To read an extended version of my article:
‘Hillary Clinton is not a Feminist’
please visit CounterPunch:
There is valid reason to reject the notion of HRWs impartiality.
Take for instance HRWs repeated allegations against the Syrian government. While it is wrong to ignore human rights violations of ANY war party the real question is why HRW chooses to attack and denounce the Syrian army in a time when the latter is fighting the “Islamic State” and Al Qaeda (like Syrias Al Nusra Front).
Also, If HRW seriously claims to be concerned regarding Syrian lives it should encourage ANY peace talks that would help ending bloodshed. Instead HRW one-sidedly emphasized on the barrel bombs used by the Syrian army even using a picture of Kobanes destruction by the US airforce to highlight the devastation of rebel-held Aleppo by the Syrian airforce:
In general, HRW trivializes too much:
The Syrian army is – despite being portrayed otherwise by the international mainstream media – not the only party…
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Syrian rebels have been celebrating, having a few days ago captured the city of Idlib after days of intense fighting – causing the government’s forces to withdraw completely in the face of collapse.
The operation was undertaken by the “Fattah Army” coalition of rebel groups, which included al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front. Other factions within the Fattah Army umbrella included Ajnad al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, Jaish al-Sunna, Liwa al-Haqq, and Faynad al-Sham. I can’t say I know much about any of these groups apart from al-Nusra, but having just Googled them, I see they’re all Islamist groups.
A source from within the Syrian military alleges that both Turkey and Jordan helped the militants capture the city, accusing both of planning the operation and supplying the insurgents with advanced communication apparatus. This information is likely to be accurate, as it was recently reported in some Arab media that Turkey was now directly helping the rebels. In February, the Turkish military violated Syrian sovereignty by leading an army convoy into northern Syria to evacuate a historic tomb, and the soldiers who were guarding it. However despite the media stating in their reporting of this incident that ISIS had earlier threatened to destroy the tomb, there had actually been no negative interactions between the two groups, and ISIS and Turkish soldiers had lived side-by-side peacefully for months. In fact Turkey has also allowed ISIS to use its territory to stage attacks, including on Kobane, and there is currently a black flag flying atop a Turkish village along the Turkish-Syrian border. Thus it is most likely that at least Turkey helped with the taking of Idlib.
The al-Nusra Front declared their conquest by tweeting: “Thanks be to God, the city of Idlib has been liberated,” in response to their new victory.
The head of the Free Syrian Army – General Salim Idriss – also seemed to endorse the outcome of Fattah Army’s campaign, as can be seen below.
In a later tweet he then stated that the Nusra Front are only “al-Qaeda affiliated”, and must “defect,” in order to become good little moderates like himself.
Due to the source of amusement and ridicule these comments were to Syria supporters – with Idriss having previously aligned himself and the FSA with the goals of a liberal democracy – the Western-backed opposition, the Syrian National Coalition, ended up releasing a statement announcing that the Twitter account was a hoax, and that Idriss does not use social media in an official capacity. The Idriss account now states that it’s a parody profile.
However it is interesting that the SNC or the “Secretary of Defense in the interim Syrian government” felt the need to distance Idriss from al-Nusra and “extremism and terrorism,” when they themselves hailed the taking of the city, saying that it was an “important victory on the road to the full liberation of Syrian soil from the Assad regime and its allies.” They also made fresh pleas for more assistance from the West.
The statement is also a bit odd because many high-figures within the FSA have openly collaborated with ISIS and al-Nusra, and have been filmed doing so and talking about it. The SNC and their US, British, French and Gulf backers don’t really care about who’s “moderate,” they’re happy for anyone – no matter how ideologically insane – to get the job of removing the Assad government done. All this stuff about moderates is just PR for the domestic audiences.
As for these supposed 5000 “moderates” that the US are going to be sending into Syria each year…anyone who is willing to take up arms against both ISIS and the Syrian Arab Army five years into a civil war has to be a complete nut-job. I’m also pretty sure that whoever’s doing the vetting process isn’t being too strict. Currently it seems like they (the US army) is having trouble finding recruits, having a total of 300 men at last count. However let’s face it, these guys probably aren’t going to fight ISIS at all. Just as the FSA told Theo Padnos – the American journalist who was kidnapped and handed over to al-Nusra by the FSA – they lied to the Americans about working and sharing weapons with al-Nusra, there’s nothing to stop this new group doing the same.
What does need to be said about these fresh recruits is that they could be a Trojan horse for the West to directly wage war on the Syrian government. The Obama administration is currently thinking up legislation that will protect these forces should they come under attack from the SAA, and this may include some US forces working alongside the ‘rebels’. It could also possibly include even more US soldiers being sent in as a result of such an attack. This all seems like laying a trap for Assad, as it essentially means America’s mercenaries are free to attack the Syrian army, but if they attack in retaliation, this will allow the US and its allies to intervene. And obviously, if these guys are causing bloody havoc in their country, the SAA will need to do something about it.
To return to Idlib…
It seems that some ‘revolutionaries’ are no longer satisfied with the way things are now being run there. For example:
Isn’t this to be expected from a city taken over by Islamists? In the government half of Aleppo, nightclubs have started to reopen every night, and there are always people to be found there at 3am. On the rebel-held half of the city, restaurants and cafes are split into male only and family sections – just like in Saudi Arabia. I suspect things are about to get a lot worse in Idlib.
The video below was posted on May 30th:
(It shows Islamists engaging in Takbeers before being interrupted by SAA warplanes overhead, and is quite amusing – in fact it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys!)
I assume the barrel bombs have just begun to fall on Idlib.
Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Iran’s Supreme Leader wrote an open letter to the ‘youth in Europe and North America’, commenting on the way Islam is portrayed in the Western media. Every time a violent act is carried out by Muslims, the press and politicians make a huge fuss about the need for other Muslims to speak out and condemn such atrocities, and all Muslims are blamed by association. Despite Islamic leaders’ continuous denouncement of groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS, their statements are largely ignored by those who demand them, clearly demonstrating the presence of an anti-Muslim agenda.
So naturally, Khamenei’s letter was largely ignored. Although it was published over a month ago, I thought I should still post the text here, as it is an excellent assessment of the distorted and simplistic picture of “Islam” that is presented to us here in the West. I have put Islam in scare quotes here because of the media’s tendency to reduce the 1.7 billion people who live within numerous countries, cultures, languages, religious denominations etc, down to one blanket description: “Islam.”
To learn more about what Khamenei addresses in his letter, I recommend reading the postcolonial literary theorist Edward Said’s text Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine how we see the rest of the World. Astonishingly, the book was first published in 1981, before being updated in 1997. Said passed away in November 2003…I wonder what he would have thought of the West’s hysteria over “Islam” today?
To the Youth in Europe and North America
In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful
The recent events in France and similar ones in some other Western countries have convinced me to directly talk to you about them. I am addressing you, [the youth], not because I overlook your parents, rather it is because the future of your nations and countries will be in your hands; and also I find that the sense of quest for truth is more vigorous and attentive in your hearts.
I don’t address your politicians and statesmen either in this writing because I believe that they have consciously separated the route of politics from the path of righteousness and truth.
I would like to talk to you about Islam, particularly the image that is presented to you as Islam. Many attempts have been made over the past two decades, almost since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, to place this great religion in the seat of a horrifying enemy. The provocation of a feeling of horror and hatred and its utilization has unfortunately a long record in the political history of the West.
Here, I don’t want to deal with the different phobias with which the Western nations have thus far been indoctrinated. A cursory review of recent critical studies of history would bring home to you the fact that the Western governments’ insincere and hypocritical treatment of other nations and cultures has been censured in new historiographies.
The histories of the United States and Europe are ashamed of slavery, embarrassed by the colonial period and chagrined at the oppression of people of color and non-Christians. Your researchers and historians are deeply ashamed of the bloodsheds wrought in the name of religion between the Catholics and Protestants or in the name of nationality and ethnicity during the First and Second World Wars. This approach is admirable.
By mentioning a fraction of this long list, I don’t want to reproach history; rather I would like you to ask your intellectuals as to why the public conscience in the West awakens and comes to its senses after a delay of several decades or centuries. Why should the revision of collective conscience apply to the distant past and not to the current problems? Why is it that attempts are made to prevent public awareness regarding an important issue such as the treatment of Islamic culture and thought?
You know well that humiliation and spreading hatred and illusionary fear of the “other” have been the common base of all those oppressive profiteers. Now, I would like you to ask yourself why the old policy of spreading “phobia” and hatred has targeted Islam and Muslims with an unprecedented intensity. Why does the power structure in the world want Islamic thought to be marginalized and remain latent? What concepts and values in Islam disturb the programs of the super powers and what interests are safeguarded in the shadow of distorting the image of Islam? Hence, my first request is: Study and research the incentives behind this widespread tarnishing of the image of Islam.
My second request is that in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaigns, try to gain a direct and firsthand knowledge of this religion. The right logic requires that you understand the nature and essence of what they are frightening you about and want you to keep away from.
I don’t insist that you accept my reading or any other reading of Islam. What I want to say is: Don’t allow this dynamic and effective reality in today’s world to be introduced to you through resentments and prejudices. Don’t allow them to hypocritically introduce their own recruited terrorists as representatives of Islam.
Receive knowledge of Islam from its primary and original sources. Gain information about Islam through the Qur’an and the life of its great Prophet. I would like to ask you whether you have directly read the Qur’an of the Muslims. Have you studied the teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his humane, ethical doctrines? Have you ever received the message of Islam from any sources other than the media?
Have you ever asked yourself how and on the basis of which values has Islam established the greatest scientific and intellectual civilization of the world and raised the most distinguished scientists and intellectuals throughout several centuries?
I would like you not to allow the derogatory and offensive image-buildings to create an emotional gulf between you and the reality, taking away the possibility of an impartial judgment from you. Today, the communication media have removed the geographical borders. Hence, don’t allow them to besiege you within fabricated and mental borders.
Although no one can individually fill the created gaps, each one of you can construct a bridge of thought and fairness over the gaps to illuminate yourself and your surrounding environment. While this preplanned challenge between Islam and you, the youth, is undesirable, it can raise new questions in your curious and inquiring minds. Attempts to find answers to these questions will provide you with an appropriate opportunity to discover new truths.
Therefore, don’t miss the opportunity to gain proper, correct and unbiased understanding of Islam so that hopefully, due to your sense of responsibility toward the truth, future generations would write the history of this current interaction between Islam and the West with a clearer conscience and lesser resentment.
Seyyed Ali Khamenei
21st Jan. 2015
Additional references and sources on LETTER4U and its contents can be found at: www.letter4u.co.
In the wake of the attack on France’s Charlie Hebdo publication this week, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some Arab media productions satirising ISIS. It seems that many in the West think that all Arabs/Muslims are of one mind, and are unable to mock themselves or their religion. It’s worth pointing out that states such as Iraq, Palestine and Syria suffer at the hands of extremists on a daily basis – no one in this part of the world cares about that, but we demand their condemnation when the rare attack does occur here. The following Onion-style article is from a Lebanese publication; it’s much more nuanced than the crude cartoons of Charlie Hebdo (the original can be viewed here).
ISIS: Coup delayed for ‘Communal Coexistence’
The invasion of Beirut, Lebanon, has been delayed again, according to sources close to Idiot Sycophants of Islamist Saboteurs (ISIS), a self-described “anti-Botox, pro-C4 explosives militia successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Last week, after seizing eastern lands in war-torn Syria and launching lightening attacks across Iraq, ISIS cancelled its initial invasion of Lebanon on account of “crazy traffic, bro.”
ISIS spokesman Saaden Ibn-Jahshein has sought to “reassure the Lebanese public—and all of its communities—that [they] are not far from our thoughts.” In a press conference held on a rugged hill on the outskirts of a Syrian village purportedly under the Assad regime’s control, Ibn-Jahshein promised the Lebanese that their “especially tenuous period of eerie calm” would not persist.
Proclaiming his group’s “enduring desire to invade and occupy Beirut,” he emphasized, however, that ISIS “will invade once the conditions are acceptable. First, we must be assured that Lebanese state institutions and traditional communal leadership positions are restored, fully functional, and running efficiently. Second, we need somebody to help us figure out how to oust non-existent state institutions from power while securing the support of all of your patriarchs, sheikhs, beiks, and khalilyeh yeiks.”
“Our religio-political experts have advised us that we must respect ‘communal coexistence’ for our coup to be legitimate,” explained Ibn-Jahshein. “Apparently, we must overthrow all three of Lebanon’s presidents—Maronite, Sunni, and Shiite; remove all Grade One civil servants; treat Muslim and Christian parliamentarians with equal scorn and disrespect; and somehow locate, apprehend, and neutralize the half-dozen neo-feudal leaders—and their biological and ideological scions—whose influence extends throughout and beyond the formal institutions that we’d just bomb to bits.”
“We do not yet understand the Logic of Lebanon. Your president must be a Maronite; but you can’t seem to find one that knows how to put his pants on properly! Your prime minister must be a Sunni, so long as he answers to a political boss thousands of miles away—one who doesn’t seem to be able to put his pants on properly either. And, then, not that we care about them, you have the Shiites controlling the Speakership of Parliament. Some closet pro-Western lawyer kow-towing to a Party of God that has already claimed all the goddamn virgins in the next life.”
“I mean,” Ibn-Jahshein hissed, scanning an organizational chart of the Lebanese state, prominent political parties, feudal families, local bosses, religious leaders, garden-variety thugs, ambassadors, other foreign participants, and pop-up nongovernmental organizations and consultancies. “Who the fuck do we overthrow around here?”
ISIS security czar Ibn al-Fashal then interjected, reassuring NOW’s Chief Caliphate Correspondent that ISIS was “playing for keeps.”
“You’ll have to excuse Ibn-Jahshein, he’s young and impressionable. ISIS understands that it must purport to preserve and protect Lebanon’s freedom, independence, and sovereignty—so long as those ideals unfold within the context of a pan-Islamic Caliphate stretching from Morocco to the Moon and Mars. ISIS, I should also emphasize, will continue to respect communal coexistence in Lebanon—so long as moderate Sunnis, Christians, Druze, Shiites, atheists, agnostics, and the two or three Jews you’ve trotted out to populate your reconstructed synagogue understand who runs the show.”
“We want to understand Beirut and Lebanon first and, to be frank, our focus groups have yielded some troubling results… Fine, we said, set up a Caliphate. How do we get the business up and running?”
“Well, as you can imagine, views were varied. Out of nowhere, the Greek Orthodox insisted on the financial portfolio. They claimed to care for the Caliphate’s ties with the West and non-Arab Islamic world and reminded us of the ‘old, grand’ Sunni-Orthodox convergence in major Arab metropolises. But closer examination revealed that they are hoping to leverage the Caliphate to recapture influence lost after the establishment of the Maronite-centric Lebanese Republic.”
“The Maronites—not that anybody asked them about a damned thing!—rejected dhimmitude and called for the restoration of their ancient, pre-Islamic, Phoenicianomardaite Empire of Jounieh and Jbeil. They then had the audacity to ask that we, in the alternative, empower a man from the Khazen, Sfeir, or Gemayel families as Co-Caliph of Christians!”
(Hands trembling, Ibn al-Fashal then poured himself a whiskey. “It’s OK,” he whispered. “Taqiyya.”)
“Then Walid Jumblatt waltzed in, jeans and all, handed us copies of the Bible and his old interview in Playboy, and suggested we ‘reconsider our approach to this place.’ Inno, What The Fasouliyah? Who asked you? Seriously. Anyway, after his dog pissed on us, he demanded two vizier positions for the Druze and one vizier position for a ‘friendly Christian’; in turn, he offered us ‘a carefully orchestrated fake submission to your Caliph, who [the Druze] will allow into the Chouf twice a year without sending him back in a wooden box.”
“As soon as we’d negotiated an arrangement with the Druze, the Shiites showed up—Hezbollah, Amal, and the two or three feudal families that have somehow convinced Western powers of their relevance as alternatives—asking for their own courts, tax regimes, inheritance rules, and local chiefs. Fine, we said, manage your own affairs… just leave the Sunnis to us.”
“When the Maronites heard about this, they revoked their previous offer, demanded that the Caliph recognize ‘Little Lebanon’ once again, and promptly trotted out thousands of mountaineers somehow equipped with the latest, shiniest American surplus weaponry. One of their Western-educated attorneys made a particularly sophisticated argument that the prospective enclave could allow Caliphate Citizens to ‘do their business just across the border’ and therefore avoid running afoul of the Quran and Hadith.”
“But then,” continued the ISIS czar, shaking his head, “this proposal caused great consternation among Lebanese Sunnis, who have sought to reprise their role as commercial stewards and protectors of the faith, within reasonable limits. They also have some thoughts on how to redevelop and reconstruct eastern Syria and Western Iraq—something having to do with a special-purpose company empowered with a private sector equivalent of eminent domain. So we said, khallas—”
“Pardon me,” interjected an ISIS apparatchik, poking his head inside the tent.
“The Turkoman communal chief is here to see you about his promised post.”
“Bookrah, el-thawra,” al-Fashal sighed. “Bookrah!”
Anthony Elghossain believes that, if Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, Lebanon is the graveyard of ideas. Tweet him @aelghossain
Promo for Iraqi TV series ‘The Superstitious State’
Clip from Palestinian comedy series ‘Watan ala Watar’
Lebanese show mocks suicide bombers
ISIS parody by Iraqi Kurds
Oh yeah…it might also be worth engaging in some self-reflection, in order to ask ourselves why our official foreign policy for the last 15 years has been to destroy all the secular governments of the Middle East.
“So bad it should be illegal.”