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Washington’s New Boogeyman – “the Axis of Resistance” – What it is, What it isn’t – with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. August 27, 2019 – Transcript – Part Two

August 29, 2019

Iranian trained Iraqi Shi’ite militamen in Najaf, Iraq. Iraq’s paramilitary groups have blamed a series of recent blasts at their weapons depots and bases on the United States and Israel, vowing to defend themselves against any future attack.

Transcript – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogue – August 27, 2019 – Part Two. (Continued from Part One)

Rob Prince: My question is Ibrahim, that these governments that participate in the Axis of Resistance are actually quite different the one from the other in terms of their politics, their vision. They are not united, if you like, ideologically, in the sense that they have a common program.

One of my mother’s classic sayings comes to mind – “You make a plan for life and then life makes a plan for you.”

In the case of the Axis of Resistance, the countries are essentially thrown together because of common interests but they had to learn how to work together in a principled fashion.

Does this ring true?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Sure. For example the relations between Iran and Iraq. The Iraqis would like to be completely independent of Iran, having nothing to do Iran. Culturally yes, they are close, Shia-ism to a degree is a common denominator as a theological principle between them. Sixty percent of Iraqis and the majority of the Iranians are Shia. But apart from that – even the way Shia-ism represents and manifests itself in Iraq is slightly different from the way it is represented in Iran. But the major or common denominator between the two countries is anti-imperialism, anti-United States and anti-diktats of the Western colonial powers in the region.

Take Syria’s relations with both the Iraqis and Iranians as another example. Beyond some notion of Alawite connection to Shiaism (very distant actually) – we need to describe exactly who they are, there is nothing in common (with Iraq and Iran). But it’s the position that they have vis-a-vis the imperial stance of the United States. Hezbollah, Hamas and others likewise. Hezbollah is a Shia organization in Lebanon but Hamas in Palestine is Sunni. Yet both consider themselves to be a part of this Axis of Resistance. When we go to the crux of the matter it is their common opposition to American diktats and the politics of Washington’s regional partners, that is to say Saudi Arabia, Israel, United Arab Emirates and a few of the other Gulf states.

Call it the Axis of Resistance or the Axis of the Alliance or Axis of Refusal or the Rejectionist Axis – whatever it is called, refers to a group of people that in essence the common denominator is an anti-imperialist oriented formation that seek to oppose imperialist tendencies and diktats of the United States in the region.

Call it the Axis of Resistance or the Axis of the Alliance or Axis of Refusal or the Rejectionist Axis – whatever it is called, refers to a group of people that in essence the common denominator is an anti-imperialist oriented formation that seek to oppose imperialist tendencies and diktats of the United States in the region – Ibrahim Kazerooni

Rob Prince: A couple of point here that I want to develop. We used to use in the left another phrase for it, it was referred to as “a united front.” The classic united front was the one that came together to oppose and overthrow German Nazism where groups or countries of different ideologies come together in a principled way around a common program in order to challenge a common enemy.
My sense is that the test of fire for this alliance has been Syria. Added to that, another question to ask you – and that is the positions of Russia and China concerning the Axis of Resistance. They are not really members of this coalition but they cooperate with it, don’t they?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes, if you go back to the Libyan issue (Russian and Chinese vote in the UN Security Council permitting NATO to attack Libya) both Russia and China realized that the United States is going to trick them, walk over them if they don’t make a stand against U.S. Imperialism in the region.

After the Libyan fiasco Russia drew a line in the sand with regard to Syria.

But one thing that I want to state before I go any further in regard to what we discussed just earlier concerns the main issue in the region. In 2006, Condoleezza Rice was correct in stating that the Israeli invasion of Lebanon that year would ultimately lead to a reconfiguration of the Middle East but it didn’t turn out the way she wanted it to be. It changed in a manner that went against United States’ wishes.

Certainly the Middle East is in a process of re-configuring itself but not in a manner that supports U.S. goals, but rather in opposition to U.S. plans.

Once the common denominator became the issue of anti-imperialism, Russia and China found themselves in such a position where their interests are served in maintaining the regional status quo – which means to preserve the state formation as they were constructed before the war in Syria started (in 2011). Their (Russian and Chinese) goal was to preserve the Syrian government rather than to see it broken up into smaller cantons, fragmented and controlled by extremists like Daesh, ISIS and like terrorist groups.

Once the common denominator became the issue of anti-imperialism, Russia and China found themselves in such a position where their interests are served in maintaining the regional status quo – which means to preserve the state formation as they were constructed before the war in Syria started (in 2011). Their (Russian and Chinese) goal was to preserve the Syrian government rather than to see it broken up into smaller cantons, fragmented and controlled by extremists like Daesh, ISIS and like terrorist groups. – Ibrahim Kazerooni

Dash, ISIS and company share an interest with the United States to break down what had become strong centralized states and at the same time, breaking up the Axis of Resistance or the Axis of Opposition.

The best book that I know on the subject is Max Blumenthal’s The Management of Savagry. It deals with how the United States worked right from the beginning with people that were referred to during Reagan’s time as the “mujaheddin” – they later become Daesh, ISIS and like groups in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.

What you said is correct Rob. The United States has admitted – Clinton and others, even (Robert) Ford the former U.S. ambassador to Syria admitted it, even the Israelis have admitted it – that the United States was behind the creation of these terrorist organizations.

The situation has changed slightly from the mujaheddin of Bin Laden of 1979 and 1980. The only difference is that analyzing what happened with Afghanistan, the intermediary state for weapons and training was Pakistan with the financing coming primarily from the Gulf States, primarily Saudi Arabia. The training, supervision and weapons came from the United States.

In the case of Syria it’s exactly the same scenario, the only difference being that the mediator is no longer Pakistan, it’s Turkey and Israel to Syria’s south. The goal was to break Syria into some enclaves, mini-states either de facto or de jure.

Keep in mind how many times (on this program) that we have talked about the Doha Protocols with the various clear statements that the whole idea was the break up Syria into small states. Now we have this open secret being theorized into his own terminology by Kissinger within the context of his Machiavellian understanding of foreign policy that the end justifies the means.

Jim Nelson: Ibrahim, you mentioned the Russia’s red line is Syria. What I have been hearing a lot – especially on MSNBC – but also on CNN – is that Trump has ceded Syria to Russia and that the U.S. is backing out of the Middle East in some respects. These are ex-generals, ex hand picked so-called “experts” . Kissinger seems to be putting a light on something that is not being talked about in the mainstream press.

Rob Prince: All this is an exercise of damage control. The U.S. plans in the region, especially Syria, Iran, have been foiled. Washington is engaging in trying to limit the lost of its influence to the degree possible.

Donald Trump doesn’t have a coherent policy towards the Middle East but if there’s a tendency what he would like to do is to concentrate more on the U.S. competition with China rather than continue to get bogged down in the Middle East.

On the other side of it are the neo-cons, Zionists, Christian Zionists and all that – the Bolton types – who try to find every excuse to keep U.S. military involvement in Syria going at previous levels. So Trump’s hands are tied. This tension is obvious. ISIS is being increasingly isolated, continually defeated on the ground (in Syria). What is U.S. policy? Rather than pull out because the situation is lost, they set up this enclave in Syria’s northeast, try to use the Kurds as a lever, control the trade flows from Iran across Iraq into Syria and the Mediterranean coast by blocking the main access road.

This is a entirely defensive policy. No vision there. Simply stop the Assad government from gaining more ground and shifting the balance of power. It’s basically “let’s stop the other side.”

I want to sketch a couple of thoughts about Russia and Hezbollah in terms of the Axis of Resistance.

Idlib Province, Syria. Green areas – still in the hands of ISIS and allies. Khan Shaikhun (at bottom of green area) – recently liberated.

Russia is a little bit on the outside of this alliance, but still a key ally and player in Syria. Two things are missing from our understanding of Russia’s cooperation with the Axis of Resistance. Ibrahim eluded to Libya and the Russian-Chinese decision on Libya. What are we talking about? What “decision”? At the UN Security Council vote when the United States was pushing for support of a NATO military intervention to essentially give a green light for the overthrow of the Khadaffi government that both Russia and China abstained and did not use their veto. In talking to Russian diplomatic friends whom I knew in the past, what they said was – at least in Russia’s case – that they hoped to get in return for not blocking the NATO operation, closer trade ties with U.S. especially as it concerned the World Trade Organization. This was an example of brazen opportunism on Russia’s part.

Unquestionably their (the Russian) assessment of what transpired in Libya – the overthrow of Khadaffi’s government and the collapse of the Libyan state – was that giving NATO that pass on the Libyan intervention was one of the biggest mistakes that Russia made in its policies towards the Middle East in the modern, post-Communist period. That is how serious they considered the Libyan operation, understanding that it was the Libyan events that opened the door for what followed in Syria.

Unquestionably their (the Russian) assessment of what transpired in Libya – the overthrow of Khadaffi’s government and the collapse of the Libyan state – was that giving NATO that pass on the Libyan intervention was one of the biggest mistakes that Russia made in its policies towards the Middle East in the modern, post-Communist period. That is how serious they considered the Libyan operation, understanding that it was the Libyan events that opened the door for what followed in Syria. – Rob Prince

So yes, when it came to Russian military cooperation with the Assad government, after Libya, a so-called “red-line” was drawn in Syria.

But there is another major point concerning Russian cooperation with the Axis of Resistance in Syria that is not well understood among the American public. Why would Russia be so concerned about what is transpiring in Syria. What difference does it make in Moscow whether the Assad government remains or falls?

One of the ideas that can simply be thrown out the window so to speak is that Russia wants to set up some kind of anti-imperialist, anti-American, pro-Marxist state. That is nonsense. Their main concern has to do the spill over effect of these mercenaries. Had the established a more permanent base in Syria (or Iraq), Syria could have become a base from which terrorist operations could be launched against the Russian periphery (ie, the “stans”) and Russia itself. This is the driving factor in terms of self-serving Russian national interest from the Russian point of view.

Quite frankly, the Chinese have the same concern.

The Chinese are concerned about ISIS (meaning Saudi, Turkish trained) Uighur Islamic militants moving into western China from Syria. And as it has already happened to a certain degree, this is not an idle concern.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: As a matter of fact Rob, the recent liberation by the Syrian army – literally half of Idlib (Province) has been liberated including Khan Sheikhom, a very important city in the area – now when you read the articles and see the pictures coming out of Syria, you see how Syria was turned into the melting pot for any and all ramshackle terrorist organization around the world being made up of people from different nationalities encouraged to come there and fight.

So now we have Chinese, Chechens, Russians, Turks, Kurds, Arabs, – you name it – Africans from Sudan and other places, from Libya and now all of these elements are being trained. Yes, Russia and China are worried.

Why has the Indian government suddenly changed its position vis-a-vis Kashmir? It’s because now Delhi is worried that if the terrorists are pushed out of Syria, so the Afghans go back to Afghanistan, etc.. then where are they going to go? Will they concentrate in Kashmir? So they (China, Russia, India) are all worried and this is the prediction that Bashar el Assad made. He said right from the beginning in 2012 that terrorism would not recognize official geographical boundaries. Once terrorism is fed so to speak\, nurture it going to overflow porous borders and peculate into other lands and destabilize others.

That is exactly what we have, so the Russians have everything to fear, as much as the Iranians, as much as the Chinese or any other nation.

Part Three in the next few days….

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