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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 Three

August 30, 2019

Hezbollah members listen to a speech by groups leader, Hassan Nasrallah. August 22, 2019

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

Part One, (Continued from Part Two).

What is China looking for where it wants to extend the Belt and Road to and through the Middle East? It’s looking for regional stability so that it can extend its trade relations.

Jim Nelson: Both of you have mentioned China’s Belt and Road Initiative one section of which passes through the Middle East. Having these mercenaries run amok in the region throws a wrench into the completion of that plan.

Rob Prince: If you look at where China hopes to extend the Belt and Road Initiative – so many of these regions are areas of instability, including the Middle East, including quite frankly as far away from the Chinese mainland as the Cameroon, in West Africa. The Cameroon, the Middle East, Myanmar these are regions of high tension. One has to wonder what’s going on in all these places. There are some analysts that say this is a part of a great global chess game.

What is China looking for where it wants to extend the Belt and Road to and through the Middle East? It’s looking for regional stability so that it can extend its trade relations.

Jim Nelson: Just a little update on the mercenaries in Syria. Trump recommended that they be sent back to their countries of origin, especially those emanating from Europe – to Germany, France or wherever. Have you heard about that?

Rob Prince: No, I haven’t heard that. The last thing I heard our president talking about was nuking hurricanes.

But I did want to talk about Hezbollah because the negative, nasty press it’s gotten in this country, a movement considered on the State Department’s terrorist list, treated here as nothing other than a terrorist organization.

Two very brief stories.

∙ When I was still teaching, I had a student who got some kind of scholarship to spend a summer in Lebanon. He suggested a research project; what should I do it on? Let’s both think about it. The next he comes back, brimming with enthusiasm, telling me that he wanted to do a paper on Hezbollah. This was prior to the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. I responded that it was a great idea, that we don’t hear very much or know very much about Hezbollah here in the USA. A serious study would be useful. I know something about it in a general way, but quite frankly, not that much. So let’s set up a doable research project in which you can learn something about them and their role in Lebanese society. You’ll be there for a couple of months. Do some interviews, find out what is this organization about, what is its social base, its role in Lebanese society and more generally in the region?

When he got to Lebanon and checked in with the U.S. Embassy there as he was required to do for his studies, the first thing he was told was that under no circumstances should he have any contacts with anyone from Hezbollah and that if he was, he would be expelled immediately.

∙ Then there was an earlier trip, one I took to Lebanon in 1981, prior to the 1982 Israeli invasion of that country. At that time, in that region, in the south of Lebanon where Hezbollah is strong today. There was no Hezbollah. At least to my knowledge, it didn’t exist then. There was a Shi’ite mainstream political party, known as Amal. Amal still exists although it has shrunk some and still plays a role in Lebanese politics.

But it’s after the 1982 Israeli invasion during which the south of Lebanon was devastated that Hezbollah essentially rises from the ashes, much more highly organized, more militant and with a broader social base than Amal. It all came together very quickly. What Israel did in Lebanon in 1982, now 37 years ago, was a horrendous slaughter, a savage assault. The numbers of dead were above 25,000, the infrastructure of the country absolutely devastated by Israeli air attacks. In the aftermath the Lebanese fascists, with an Israeli green light perpetrate the Sabre and Chatilla massacres near Beirut.

It was the failure, not just of Amal but Lebanese society and government as a whole, to be able to defend itself that led to the creation of Hezbollah.

The way it is portrayed here by the different administrations going back to its formation is that Hezbollah is essentially the arm of Iran in Lebanon, an extension of Iranian policy and a terrorist organization. What needs to be said unambiguously is that this is utter nonsense. Hezbollah is a Lebanese, indigenous organization and social movement that has grown on its own. Its base of support is “locally grown” and not “an Iranian export.”

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Can I just interject here? That is exactly what brings the various members of the Axis of Resistance together. Hezbollah has a unique experience vis-a-vis the American partner (or puppet) in the region, the Israelis. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon combined with Israel’s lack of respect for Lebanese territorial integrity and Israel’s occupation of Lebanon, led to the creation of Hezbollah.

The American attack, Israeli invasion of Syria led to bringing together Hezbollah and Syria.

The Israeli treatment of Hamas and the Palestinians brings them together with Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

That (American Middle East policy) unique central issue is what brings all of these countries and movements together to resist United States’ influence or imperial desire in the region.

Rob Prince: Ibrahim was in Denver at the time of the 2006 invasion. The term “asymmetrical warfare” is used. It refers to a situation where one side is bigger, stronger than the other, but that the smaller, weaker side has learned how fight back effectively all the same. Israel’s 2006 Lebanese invasion – and Hezbollah’s response – is a classic example..

In fact, the turning point in creating what Condoleezza Rice referred to as “this new Middle East” – while she was playing the piano in Thailand as Lebanon burned – was the 2006 Lebanese war. The destruction of Lebanon, she told the world, was the price to be paid to create the region’s new political chemistry.

But it wasn’t working out as planned. Hezbollah had learned how to fight the Israelis and in 2006 gave Israel its first bloody nose in a long time. Israel had met its military match, and this not be some highly armed, large populated Arab country, the Syrian, Egyptian armies, but by what was essentially a materially poor – if broadly based – but highly trained and disciplined social movement in Lebanon’s south, Hezbollah.

There is another interesting thing about Hezbollah. They have not moved to seize power in Lebanon. There are two movements that I know of internationally that have a strong social base, are politically and militarily sophisticated and could challenge the governments of their country and seize power – one is the rebels in Chiapas Mexico, the other is Hezbollah. Both movements understand that this is neither the time nor place to seize power. There is a friend of mine who talks about revolutions, radical social change and of the need for the math and the music (as he calls the objective and subjective conditions) that are necessary for radical social change.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: With the time remaining we should come back to the main thread of our discussion tonight, turning the whole thing back to where we started this evening. Getting back to the article (Kissinger comments). Even prior to Kissinger talking about “the threat of an Iranian Empire,” in 2016 an Israeli professor, Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, in a conference organized by U.S. Defense Secretary (at the time) Ashton Carter, to talk about the defeat of ISIS, he presented a paper entitled “The Destruction of the Islamic State is a Strategic Mistake.” That was the title of his article so I am not surprised to read that Kissinger is coming up with similar arguments.

But why now Rob?

Rob Prince: That is the important question – getting us back to our main theme.

Not only does this article appear in The Independent – it’s a very short article by the way. Again, the August 7, 2019 edition of The Independent. I found it curious …why now? Why is this kind of article coming out at the present time?

My answer to that is the United States and its allies are losing (in Syria). Because the Axis of Resistance is gaining ground, and seriously so, and with the world watching them, now they have to begin to spin a narrative, needless to say with negative connotations, concerning the opposition, because they, this alliance, has become geopolitical players in the region. Who are these people who are causing Washington and its allies such military set backs? The ideological struggle in the Middle East, along with the balance of power in the region, is shifting.

I expect what will happen is that more articles of this kind will find publication in the coming period; they’ll be like the articles on Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion. It starts off with a few lines from a senior statesman like Kissinger who is basically telling us how he views the Axis of Resistance. That will resonate and spread to other media sources until it becomes – if it hasn’t already – something akin to Washington’s “party line.”

And this is why it is important for us to address this, deconstruct what the Kissingers of the world are telling us and to reconstruct the situation along the lines that informs listeners what is actually going on.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Of course it depends upon which narrative you are going to accept. If you buy into the logic of the Israeli professor (Ephram Inbar), Kissinger or even the former Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon – they all speak of similar things. They always try to present their ideas within the context of the threat of growing Iranian hegemony in the region which they want to block and reverse.

This kind of alliance, this emerging power block, is costing Iran a huge amount of money. Given the current economic crisis they are facing, the Iranians would prefer to spend their money inside the country rather than to secure some kind of regional stability.

If we return to the point raised earlier with regard to China and Russia. Despite the distance that exists between the Middle East and the Chinese border, or the Russian border for that matter, both Russia and China are forward looking, trying to understand how the destabilization of different areas in the Middle East is going to effect them and how to counter it. Iran has every right to be concerned about its frontiers or geographical boundaries being undermined by terrorist organizations whose goal is to ultimately attack or destabilize Iran.

If we return to the point raised earlier with regard to China and Russia. Despite the distance that exists between the Middle East and the Chinese border, or the Russian border for that matter, both Russia and China are forward looking, trying to understand how the destabilization of different areas in the Middle East is going to effect them and how to counter it. Iran has every right to be concerned about its frontiers or geographical boundaries being undermined by terrorist organizations whose goal is to ultimately attack or destabilize Iran. – Ibrahim Kazerooni

If you buy into the logic proposed by Kissinger, you learn nothing. You hear about the threat of growing “Iranian hegemony,” “Iranian control of the region” or sometimes this is put in sectarian language the growth of Shia domination, or some variation on that theme. What is missing in this agreement is that all of this – in the same way that Rob explained with regard to Hezbollah – the same principle applies here.

If American interference in the region did not exist, was not there, this power block would not have come into existence.

Jim Nelson: I’m just following up with the comments both of you have made. Russia doesn’t want the blow-back of these terrorists in Syria piercing their southern borders. Iran’s posture in the region has more to do about creating stability than some kind of regional expansion. Iran is certainly worried about where these ISIS-type groups will go next should Syria fall to them. The same goes for the G-7, or at least most of them. They are also looking for a way to create stability out of the current situation in the Middle East. Same goes for China. It is not hegemony that Iran, Russia and China seek in the Middle East but stability.

Rob Prince: Overall what we are discussing tonight are the consequences of Washington’s failure to create a “new Middle East.” What is the old Middle East? The “Old Middle East” has a date, a specific moment in time – it’s the Sykes-Picot Agreement at the close of World War One that divided the Arab World – sliced it up into zones of (French and British) influence, provided the structures for the creation of Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians (and the Kurds). It is this geography that Washington would like to change, deconstruct.

To change how?

To change in such a manner as to fracture, especially the strong centralized states in the region into smaller, more easily managed, intimidated units – the fracture the modern states of the region to make them smaller. So whether it was Libya, Iraq or Syria that was the goal either de jure or de facto partition.

Why fracture such states into enclaves either legally or informally? In the case of Iraq, the partition is informal; there is still an overarching Iraqi centralized government but much weaker than previously with the regions having to some degree their own economies and policies. In the case of Libya there is still something close to civil war transpiring and the centralized government has all but collapsed. In the case of Syria, Washington tried but failed.

There are certain developments in the Middle East, that once you begin to study the processes, you kind of get it. It’s easier for the United States and its allies to dictate policy to smaller entities than it is to stronger centralized, nationalist governments. That is essentially what Condoleezza Rice’s “new Middle East” was about – dividing the region in such a manner so it would be more easily conquered, controlled, etc. Nothing more.

There are some countries which the United States is not talking about partitioning, Turkey, Saudi Arabia.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Actually Washington has plans to partition Saudi as well. There is a plan b the United States, promoted by the neo-cons to partition Saudi Arabia into five countries. At the same time when there was talk of dividing Iraq into three states that there were also scenarios to divide Saudi Arabia into five countries as well.

But I want to go back to again to the point that we raised with regards to the relationship between the United States and the rise of Middle Eastern extremism – on the one side the rise of Daesh, a Qaeda and others and at the same time the establishment of the Axis of Resistance.

These are developments which are well known in our region. Even Congresswoman (Tulsi) Gabbard, when she went and met with the Syrians, she returned to the United States clearly stating that the root of the problem in the region is the American presence and American interference. That is the fundamental issue. In the Middle East such thinking is an open secret. This being the case, we have to ask why it is that Henry Kissinger fails to mention this..

The end.

One Comment leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    August 30, 2019 7:18 pm

    Hi Guys:

    Good discussion. Today, Haaretz reported Iran as threatening Israel if Israel attacks again. It sounds like a serious threat. Is Iran capable of a serious threat?

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