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Transcript – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogue – December 24, 2019 – Part One. “Gene Sharp Peace Theorizing and the Arab Spring: Tool for Societal Transformation…or the Road to Nowhere?” with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. Tuesday, December 24, 2019.

December 25, 2019

RQ-4 Global Hawk Drone. The world’s largest communications’ drone, the kind the Iranians shot down on June 21, 2019 over Iranian territorial waters


The Smith article is an essential critique of the writings and thoughts of Gene Sharp. For many in the Peace Movement here both Sharp and his theories of non-violence are nothing short of sacred cows. In it Ms. Smith deconstructs Sharp’s work – arguing that his theories dovetail with Washington’s strategy for regime change – which is the opposite of what people think of Sharp. We will elaborate on just how that connection works.


“Gene Sharp Peace Theorizing and the Arab Spring: Tool for Societal Transformation…or the Road to Nowhere?” with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. Tuesday, December 24, 2019. 6 pm Mountain Time.

Jim Nelson: Thanks for tuning into Hemispheres. I’m your host, Jim Nelson and thanks for tuning in to listener sponsored KGNU radio. Thanks for tuning into KGNU Denver, Boulder and of course Ft. Collins.

This evening on Hemispheres we continue the Middle East dialogues. As always joining me in these dialogues are Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince….

With that, let’s start off with the program. Rob, you’re going to start off?

Rob Prince: Yes. Good evening to you Jim, good evening Ibrahim and listeners. We’re in a bit of an unusual situation in that the last two programs we got snowed out. People all over were calling me asking me what happened. Never happened in the ten years of the program…

As it will air on Christmas Eve, this program is prerecorded…also a first…

For starters, we’re dealing with a situation in the Middle East each month which has been both fluid and explosive. What we are trying to do is to capture the best we can the essence of that motion and the direction in which it looks like things are headed.

Just looking at these last few months there have been so many developments; at the outset, before getting into the meat of the program, we want to mention and comment upon a few of them.

1. After claiming to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, the U.S. announced that it will add another 14,000 troops to the region – some of whom have re-entered Syria and taken over Syria’s oil fields

2. The Syrian government offensive against remaining pockets of mercenary militias continues both in the northwest of Syria, Idlib Province, and also in the northeast. In both places the Syrian army continues to make gains.

In the complex shift of forces (Turks in, U.S. out of Syria, US back in, Turks and Russians agreement) the Syrian government has actually gained ground in the northeast, retaking control of areas it had not expected to for a year or two

Those offensives continue.

3. Thirdly we have the situation in Israel where Israeli politics is frozen for the moment until a clear choice of prime minister is made. Netanyahu’s rhetoric – annexing parts of the West Bank, asking for bunker buster bombs to attack Iran – is even more shrill than usual. Israel suffering from what might be called “wounded beast syndrome.”

Looking at the objective conditions, we don’t see as a time that the United States or Israel wants to go to a full scale war in the Middle East. But having said that, it needs to be remembered that we are at a moment where nothing is predictable anymore.

4. And finally, in these last months there are major demonstrations have broken out in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. In all three cases domestic frustration coupled with some form of outside interference. The situations in Lebanon and Iran have quieted down some but in Iraq angry demonstrations continue with hundreds of deaths and more mounting up.

For starters, Ibrahim, would you like to comment on some of these more recent events that we would have programs on and missed because of the snow storms?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: To make a couple of points Rob, first to echo the sentiment you have expressed concerning the United States, Israel – or anybody else – wanting to go to war at this moment. I don’t think that is likely although, as we have discussed, the original plan for encircling Iran, forcing Iran to capitulate to U.S. diktats continues.

All of the American investment in the region with troop concentrations in Afghanistan, northern Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, unfortunately has created a kind of boomerang effect.

Now Iran has proven in these past few months that not only does it have the sophisticated technology to attack these bases, but more critically we have seen their willingness to use them (the downing of theRQ-4 Global Hawk drone) which turned the entire concentration of these U.S. military bases into soft targets for the Iranians. The Americans are deeply concerned. This is why Trump did not order an attack on Iran after Iran downed the most sophisticated communications drone in the U.S. arsenal.

So that is one point.

Concerning the Israelis, they can talk and saber rattle but I don’t believe that after what they went through in 2006 (their abortive invasion of southern Lebanon), the Thirty Three Days War, that they want to try to attack Lebanon with ground troops again.

As a result of the ramifications of that 2006 war, the upper echelons of the Israeli military have repeatedly mentioned that Israeli society is not prepared to face the kind of missile bombardment that could result. So they are not in a position to do anything (meaning attack Lebanon).

Regarding the uprisings in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran…

Iran was able to very quickly put a lid on the whole situation and identify a number of ring leaders. Interrogated, they have confessed to having been trained in Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq, in Turkey and other places by the group attached to the Einstein Institute, with which Gene Sharp has a long association.

We’ll discuss this in depth a little bit later.

But certainly there is ample proof of U.S. interference in the region. Like you Rob, I’m worried about Iraq. Lebanon seemed to have settled down to a degree but the Iraqi situation remains volatile especially now that it has taken a sectarian tone, simply a popular expression against corruption, mismanagement and everything else.

But given all this, what do you want to discuss, Rob?

Rob Prince: There have been a number of articles that have recently appeared that are of interest. We would like to discuss two of them because together they touch on themes that we have been developing in this program for years.

a. As to the first one..

This past summer, a researcher at City University of New York, Marcie Smith by name, published a lengthy and well documented article entitled “Change Agent: Gene Sharp’s Neoliberal Nonviolence (Part One)”. It turns out there have been a number of other critiques of Gene Sharp’s work and thought written recently that we have come across in preparing for this program

Ibrahim – who else has written about it? What are the best articles for our readers?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: There are a number of articles probing Gene Sharp’s work apart from Marcie Smith’s. There is a Wikileaks document exposing famed Serbian activist tied to a kind of shadow C.I.A. network and of his having been trained – once again – by the Albert Einstein Institute, a very well documented paper. There is also another article – there are a number of them – that talks about the history of activist education a the Albert Einstein Institute’s examination of elite cooption of civil disobedience. That’s an extremely useful article for people that want probe the subject more deeply.

And there are a few other articles. In particular I came across one describing the Albert Einstein, U.S. media, C.I.A. roles in destabilizing Iran in particular.

So there are a number of these articles in addition to Ms. Smith’s piece.

Rob Prince: This brings to mind an event that took place in Denver a number of years ago relevant to this.

One of Denver’s long-standing peace organizations, the Denver Committee for Peace and Justice, which essentially deals with struggles in Latin America, had organized a protest picket at a local department store. As I recall, the department store was buying products that had been manufactured by works who were being paid something close to slave labor wages. The protesters were asking consumers to boycott the store. The protest was peaceful, it was outside the store, with people handing out literature, holding their signs.

A number of individuals – people who had not been involved in the event’s planning and had no previous connection to the Denver Committee for Peace and Justice who attached themselves to and “piggy-backed” on this protest. They went inside and destroyed property, trashing the place, and then they left and disappeared.

It turned out they were not even from Colorado, not from the group, but they piggybacked on this demonstration. As a result, the main organizers of the demonstration were arrested, were taken to court and sued by the department store.

Why am I mentioning this local incident?

Because, thinking back on it this was a kind of a test for the hijacking of social movements that we’re seeing taking place now the world over.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: This is repeated right across the Middle East; it’s not just in Colorado. The same sort of thing happened in the recent Iranian protests, uprising about a month or so ago where people demonstrated. There was a genuine reaction to the increase of the price of fuel. Suddenly an outside group of people – in Iran’s case they were identified quickly, agents provocateurs – they moved into the crowd. Their goal was not to be a part of the demonstration but instead to set fire to and destroy government institutions – political institutions, banks, schools, offices, etc…

In Iraq’s case, two people were killed. When those responsible for this were captured, they turned out to be, once again, people that had come into Iraq from abroad to inflame the fire of resistance, and put the blame on the government.

The same thing happened in Lebanon. So this now has become the hall mark for this kind of interference, well trained people coming from the outside.

Rob Prince: We’re going to discuss this kind of thing for most of the program. It’s quite deceptive. A legitimate social movement emerges that challenges power in a particular country, and of course we view it in a favorable light – the causes of the uprisings are almost always just. But if we don’t look more closely there are two elements that we miss:

▸ First of all we don’t see the dynamics. Who, precisely is involved in the protest?
▸ Secondly there is something else: What’s the goal

We’ll come back to all of this over this and the following program. For now I wanted to get back to the first article mentioned earlier, that by Marcie Smith. Let me elaborate its main hypothesis and then briefly describe what State Department specialist, Nicolas Burns, wrote.

The Smith article is an essential critique of the writings and thoughts of Gene Sharp. For many in the Peace Movement here – both Sharp and his theories of non-violence are nothing short of sacred cows. In it Ms. Smith deconstructs Sharp’s work – arguing that his theories dovetail with Washington’s strategy for regime change – which is the opposite of what people think of Sharp. We will elaborate on just how that connection works.

Further, that Sharp in his thinking and actions has been an integral part of Defense and Intelligence departments plans. The institutes and individuals that he was associated with throughout his life cannot be separated from U.S global strategy. The fact that someone as eminent as George Lakoff – Lakoff was mentored by Sharp – was forced to respond to Ms. Smith’s piece suggests that her ideas have merit.

Lakoff’s response was quite weak, in fact I would go so far to call it pathetic.

Marcie Smith’s critique reflects our understanding of U.S. goals in the region. ..Protests without major institutional change are simply ways of reinforcing the status quo…

That’s the first article and we’ll return to it.

b. The second article is Nick Burns’ piece on the on-line version of The Atlantic.

For those of you unfamiliar with Nicolaus Burns… Nick Burns is an intellectual heavy within the State Department. Very bright fellow. He came to University of Denver – Korbel – just before I retired in 2015. Even at that date he was already openly talking about the failure of U.S. policy in Iraq.

On the December 8, 2019 edition, Burns published a lengthy article entitled “An End to Magical Thinking in the Middle East” – a wonderful title – which was re-posted on social media.

What are the article’s main points?

Burns’ paints gloomy overview of US’ flawed strategies in Middle East, drawn
from his vantage point as a distinguished career diplomat. Stark admission that US influence in
ME is in decline. Furthermore that it lacks resources to stage comeback.

His message is straightforward: the United States should conserve frugal resources & prioritize areas of engagement that have direct bearing on US interests. He cautions against exaggerating Russian /Chinese strategic presence in ME. He’s highly critical of US-led axis with Israel-Saudi-Emirati to contain Iran. Argues that US should decouple from Saudis – needless to say would be a historic break. Also, he also visualizes Israel is hurtling toward doom if it pitches for ‘one-state solution’. Warns against Israeli design to annex occupied Jordanian territories.

These are the two articles that we want to discuss in more depth. Together, they reflect on themes that we’ve been talking about for ten years here.

Ibrahim, can you share with the listeners our assessment of Marcie Smith’s critique of Gene Sharp?

End Part One.

To be continued…

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