I just don’t understand the whole Middle East. And whenever I try to, it just seems to get more complex and more confusing. From Al-Monitor (bolding is mine):
Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah is fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq, its chief Hassan Nasrallah revealed for the first time Monday in a speech beamed to supporters.
“We may not have spoken about Iraq before, but we have a limited presence because of the sensitive phase that Iraq is going through,” Nasrallah said, referring to ongoing clashes between Iraq’s army, militias and Kurdish forces against the IS jihadists.
Hezbollah is already fighting in Syria, alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Nasrallah’s speech comes two days after his leading Lebanese opponent, former prime minister Saad Hariri, called on Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria.
“I say to those who call on us to withdraw from Syria, let’s go together to Syria,” said Nasrallah.
“I say, come with us to Iraq, and to any place where we can fight this threat that is threatening our (Muslim) nation and our region,” he added, referring to IS and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front.
Both Sunni jihadist movements control large swathes of Syria, while IS is also present in Libya, where on Monday it claimed the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptian hostages.
Nasrallah condemned the brutal killings as “an awful, heinous crime”, while branding the Al-Nusra Front and IS as having “the same essence, ideology, culture and methodology”.
“The only difference between them was over leadership, but they are essentially one and the same,” said Nasrallah.
“All the takfiri (extremist Sunni) currents must be fought, without distinction.” ‘More crises, more confrontations’ Nasrallah’s speech comes just over a week after Hezbollah, the Syrian army and pro-regime militias launched a major offensive against rebels and their Al-Nusra Front allies in southern Syria.
Nasrallah meanwhile said it made no sense for unnamed Gulf countries — in an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia and Qatar — as well as Jordan to fight IS, while allegedly supporting the Al-Nusra Front.
Hezbollah, like Assad’s regime, brands all those fighting Damascus as “terrorists”. Neither recognises the presence of non-jihadist groups seeking Assad’s ouster.
“How can some countries in the Gulf take part in the (US-led) international coalition against Daesh, while giving money and weapons to the Al-Nusra Front… How is that logical?” he said, using the pejorative Arabic acronym “Daesh” to refer to IS.
In August, a US-led coalition launched strikes against IS positions in Iraq. In September, the campaign was expanded to include targets in Syria.
Nasrallah went on to call on Gulf states that support the Syrian opposition to help pave the way for a political solution to a conflict that has claimed more than 210,000 lives since 2011.
“In Syria, the game is over,” said Nasrallah, in reference to the ongoing fighting.
“The gates to a political solution should be opened,” he said, “and the non-extremist opposition… must enter into a settlement with the regime, because the regime is ready for a settlement.” Nasrallah also warned that “the region is going in the direction of more crises, more confrontations, and new fronts are opening”.
Wasn’t Hezbollah the worst terrorist group on earth, once upon a time? Are they good guys now, or just less bad? How is it possible to find good guys in this, and why do we need to?
Apparently I’m not the only one who finds this baffling. All US warmaking in the region seems to backfire, sooner or later. Glenn Greenwald reports:
When Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003 by U.S. forces, Iraq War advocates boastfully celebrated the event as proof that they were right and used it to mock war opponents (Joe Lieberman and John Kerry, for instance, gleefully exploited the event to demand that Howard Dean admit his war opposition was wrong). When Muammar Gaddafi was forced by NATO bombing in August 2011 to flee Tripoli, advocates of U.S. intervention played the same game (ThinkProgress gleefully exploited the occasion to try to shame those who objected to the illegality of Obama’s waging the war even after Congress voted against its authorization: as though Gadaffi’s fleeing could render legal Obama’s plainly illegal intervention).
Once Gadaffi was brutally killed by a mob, advocates of intervention threw a giddy party for themselves, celebrating their own rightness and righteousness and declaring Libya a model for future Western interventions. Upon Gadaffi’s fleeing, The New York Times, which editorially supported the war, published a front-page article declaring: “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.” While acknowledging that “it would be premature to call the war in Libya a complete success for United States interests,” the paper noted that events had given “Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.”
Leading war advocates such as Anne-Marie Slaughter and Nick Kristof celebrated themselves as humanitarian visionaries and chided war opponents for being blinkered and overly cynical about the virtues of American force. British and French leaders descended upon Libya to strut around like some sort of conquering heroes, while American and Canadian officials held pompous war victory ceremonies. Hillary Clinton was downright sociopathic, gloating and cackling in an interview when told about Gadaffi’s death by mob: “We came, we saw, he died.” Democratic partisans were drowning in similar bravado (“Unlike the all-hat-no-cattle types we are increasingly seeing over there, [Obama] may take his time, but he does seem to get his man”).
From the start, it was glaringly obvious that all of this was, at best, wildly premature. As I wrote the day after Gadaffi fled, the Democratic claims of vindication were redolent in all sorts of ways of war hawk boasting after Saddam was captured, and were just as irrational: “the real toll of this war (including the number of civilian deaths that have occurred and will occur) is still almost entirely unknown, and none of the arguments against the war (least of all the legal ones) are remotely resolved by yesterday’s events.”
Since 2011, Libya has rapidly unraveled in much the way Iraq did following that invasion: swamped by militia rule, factional warfare, economic devastation, and complete lawlessness. And to their eternal shame, most self-proclaimed “humanitarians” who advocated the Libya intervention completely ignored the country once the fun parts — the war victory dances and mocking of war opponents — were over. The feel-good “humanitarianism” of war advocates, as usual, extended only to the cheering from a safe distance as bombs dropped.
The unraveling of Libya is now close to absolute. Yesterday, the same New York Times editorial page that supported the intervention quoted the U.N.’s Libya envoy Bernardino León as observing: “Libya is falling apart. Politically, financially, the economic situation is disastrous.” The NYT editors forgot to mention that they supported the intervention, but did note that “Libya’s unraveling has received comparatively little attention over the past few months.” In other words, the very same NATO countries that dropped bombs on Libya in order to remove its government collectively ignored the aftermath once their self-celebrations were over.
Into the void of Libya’s predictable disintegration has stepped ISIS, among other groups. ISIS yesterday released a new video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, which they carried out in Libya. This, in turn, led to all sorts of dire warnings about how close ISIS now is to Europe — it “established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the southern tip of Italy,” warned AP — which in turn has produced calls for re-intervention in Libya.
Yesterday, the U.S.-supported Egyptian regime bombed targets in Libya. Meanwhile, “Italy warned that ISIS is at Europe’s doorstep as France and Egypt called for the United Nations Security Council to meet over the spiraling crisis in Libya.” It’s only a matter of time before another Western “intervention” in Libya becomes conventional wisdom, with those opposed being accused of harboring sympathy for ISIS (just as opponents of Libya intervention the first time around were accused of being indifferent to Gadaffi’s repression).
What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the West’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the West. It was the invasion of Iraq that ushered in “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and ultimately ISIS. It has been the brutal, civilian-slaughtering drone bombing of Yemen which spawned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in that country. As Hillary Clinton herself acknowledged, the U.S. helped create Al Qaeda itself by arming, recruiting and funding foreign “Mujahideen” to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (“the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago”). And now it is the NATO intervention in Libya which has laid the groundwork for further intervention.
That the U.S. would end up intervening in Libya again as a result of the first intervention was painfully obvious. A primary argument of intervention opponents was that the same destruction sown in Iraq from “regime change” would be sown in Libya, and that the U.S. would end up empowering factions that it would later claim it was “obligated” to fight. In October 2012, as Libya was disintegrating, I wrote:
Rather obviously, this was yet another example of the “Mission Accomplished” banner being waved quite prematurely. How many times does it need be proven that merely killing a dictator does not remotely guarantee an improvement from either the perspective of US interests or the people in the country being invaded? And how many more examples do we need where the US funds and arms a fighting force to do its bidding, only to turn around and find that it now must fight that same force?