Wonderful Meeting


Wonderful meeting today with Syria's Grand Mufti, Dr. Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, who generously gave me over an hour of his time. This is a man whose immense wisdom and compassion needs to be heard throughout the world, and whose committed ideology of love and peace reflects the fabric of Syria and Syrians themselves, says Eva Bartlett,  Co-founder, and Steering Committee member of the Syria Solidarity Movement International.

**Something I wrote after a Feb 2015 delegation meeting with the honourable Mufti Hassoun:

"Mufti Hassoun calls his Greek Orthodox counterpart, Bishop Luca al-Khoury, his cousin and brother. “Our grandfathers, 1,400 years ago, were one family. My grandfather embraced Islam and his remained Christian.” He maintains that he, as Grand Mufti, serves the Syrian people, period. “In Syria, there are 23 million Christians, and 23 million Muslims. My title is Grand Mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic, not the Mufti of a particular denomination.”

In the media war on Syria, which insists sectarianism—which the Syrian people reject—this declaration is significant: in Syria, the ancient cultural fabric is rich and secular.

Toxic Legacy of the Cold War


Toxic Legacy of the Cold War

US - Saudi Relationship: Toxic Legacy of the Cold War

Iran Review’s Exclusive Interview with Tim Anderson
By: Kourosh Ziabari

As the international powers struggle to keep alive the diminutive chances of a lasting ceasefire in Syria and push the warring parties to refrain from getting involved in further aggression and deepening the hostilities, it’s still a valid, looming question whether the crisis in Syria can be resolved peacefully and within a reasonable timeframe five years after its eruption.

Syria has turned into a battlefield where several proxies with conflicting interests are pitted against each other. The two major global superpowers, the United States and Russia, have approached Syria with an eye on shifting the geopolitical makeup of the Middle East in their own favor and finding foothold in a highly sensitive, strategically imperative region. They certainly prioritize Syria because of its crucial borders with the oil-producing giant Iraq, Turkey – the most immediate EU neighbor to the Middle East and the country’s invaluable energy resources. However, they also have wider implications to take into consideration, and share a common concern: to conquer the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Daesh).

An Australian political scientist believes some regional actors have played a destructive role in the Syrian crisis and fanned the flames of sectarianism in the Arab country already shattered into pieces by the ISIS terrorists and their subsidiaries.

“In 2007, the U.S. military discovered documents showing that around half the Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters were from Saudi Arabia, with the second largest group from North Africa,” said Prof. Tim Anderson in an interview with Iran Review.

“In 2012, just before ISI moved from Iraq into Syria to become ISIS (Daesh), U.S. intelligence – [mostly] the DIA – reported that the creation of a Salafist state by Al-Qaeda in Iraq and allied Salafist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, was exactly what the U.S. and its regional allies wanted, in order to isolate the Syrian regime,” he added.

Prof. Anderson is skeptical of the U.S.-Saudi collaboration in Syria and considers it a “toxic legacy” of the Cold War days: “The relationship between the Al Saud family and Washington is a toxic legacy of the Cold War, passed on by the British, who had learned “divide and rule” from the Romans. The Saudis are a family, not a nation, and it is surprising that their family business is recognized as a state in today’s world.”

Tim Anderson is a Senior Lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Sydney. He studies and writes on development, rights and self-determination in Latin America, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. He has published several chapters and articles in a range of academic books and journals. His most recent books are “Land and Livelihoods in Papua New Guinea” (Australia Scholarly Press, 2015) and “The Dirty War on Syria” (Global Research, 2016). He has visited Syria three times since 2013, initially as a member of Australian delegations in solidarity with Syria.

In the following interview with Iran Review, Prof. Anderson discussed his views on the troubling growth of ISIS, the role of foreign actors in the fomentation of war and unrest in Syria and the possible scenarios for the future of the crisis-stricken Arab nation.

Q: You’ve suggested that the U.S. military intervention in the region was one of the factors leading to the emergence and rise of ISIS. Do you believe the United States intentionally paved the way for the ISIS to grow and become so strong, or was it an inadvertent by-product of the U.S. Mideast policy? Washington is now investing heavily on the diplomatic and military fronts to defeat this militant group. How do you explain that?

A: The evidence is quite clear that the United States created Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which became ISI, then ISIS, over 2005-2006 to generate political violence in Iraq, in a failed attempt to stop Baghdad becoming close to Tehran. Al-Qaeda had not existed in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. In 2007, Seymour Hersh described a “redirection” of the Bush regime, which wanted to use “moderate Sunni states” to contain the influence of Iran. Subsequently, Al Saud began to finance anti-Shiite terrorism in Iraq, helping in what U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the use of “creative destruction” to reshape the region into a U.S.-led New Middle East. In 2007, the U.S. military discovered documents showing that around half of the Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters were from Saudi Arabia, with the second largest group from North Africa. In 2012, just before ISI moved from Iraq into Syria to become ISIS (Daesh), U.S. intelligence – [mostly] the DIA – reported that the creation of a Salafist state by Al-Qaeda in Iraq and allied Salafist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, was exactly what the U.S. and its regional allies wanted, “in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” Chapters 2 and 12 of my book “The Dirty War on Syria” document this.

Q: During an October 2014 question and answer session at Harvard University, the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden bluntly accused the major Washington allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey of pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad” including the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda and “extremist” elements coming from other parts of the world. Biden later on apologized to the three countries for his scathing comments, but partly echoed the private understanding shared by the U.S. leaders that Syria’s neighbors have significantly contributed to the empowerment of ISIS. With such an awareness, couldn’t the Obama administration take effective steps to preclude the growth of ISIS at least through stopping its regional partners from funding and arming this terror gang?

Concerts at Palmyra represent liberation, resilience, revival


The momentous Syrian-Russian liberation of world heritage site Palmyra on March 27, 2016, came and went with zero congratulations from world leaders who are supposedly fighting terrorism. Palmyra is an area that was subject to ten months of Da’esh (ISIS) occupation, slaughters, and destruction.

When a delegation of foreign journalists went to Palmyra post-liberation, although scheduled to join the delegation, the four US media outlets are reported to have cancelled the night before. When a delegation of independent visitors went to Palmyra still not long after, the information in accounts they shared until now remain glaringly-absent from corporate newspapers and channels.

On May 5, the ancient site was newsworthy once again. Just over a month after its liberation by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) backed by the Russian Air Force, Palmyra's Roman Amphitheatre was host to a concert of exceptional musicality and tremendous significance for both Syria and Russia.

Sputnik News reported:

“According to Syrian Culture Minister Issam Khalil, the concert of the Russian world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra in the Syrian city of Palmyra is dedicated to the upcoming Victory Day.”

President Assad a guarantor for the existence of Syria


A top Syrian official said on Wednesday that the opposition has to let go of its “dream” for a transitional government, saying that such a thing amounts to a coup d’etat and “will never be accepted.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said most of the world with the exception of Saudi Arabia and Turkey — two strong backers of insurgents fighting to topple President Bashar Assad — have all but relinquished calls for the Syrian leader to step down, having realized after five years of war that he was fighting against “terrorists” in the country.

“This will not happen, not now, nor tomorrow nor ever,” he said, in response to the opposition’s calls for Assad’s departure.

Mekdad spoke to The Associated Press in Damascus Wednesday, ahead of the resumption of indirect peace talks in Geneva which the U.N. envoy says will focus on a political transition.

Assad recently floated the idea of a national unity government, rejecting a key opposition demand for a transitional ruling body with full powers which major powers agreed on at a Geneva conference in June 2012. Mekdad echoed the rejection Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia’s Reckless Extremism

THE world will soon celebrate the implementation of the landmark agreement that resolves the unnecessary, albeit dangerous, crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. All parties hoped, and continue to believe, that the resolution of the nuclear issue would enable us to focus on the serious challenge of extremism that is ravaging our region — and the world.

In an opinion article published by the New York Times, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran wrote that President Rouhani has repeatedly declared that Iran’s top foreign policy priority is friendship with our neighbors, peace and stability in the region and global cooperation, especially in the fight against extremism.