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Transcript – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogue – December 24, 2019 – Part Two. “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 26, 2019

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Cairo, Egypt – Demonstrations 2011 – Tyrant Mubarek removed, but the system remained the same. If anything, it is worse today. Classic example both of Gene Sharp tactics…uprising without a vision.

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Basically what you are developing concerning Sharp… for his entire academic career that Gene Sharp is associated with the Defense Department, with U.S. intelligence agencies, NATO at a very, very high level looking at ways during the Cold War to undermine structures/institutions in the Communist countries that would lead to a peaceful collapse of these governments.

On the one hand left activists in the U.S. look upon Gene Sharp as the guru of their movement. On the right, Gene Sharp is considered one of the most important U.S. defense intellectuals of the Cold War, an early neo-liberal theorist supposedly concerned with the inherent violence of centralized state and a vital counselor to anti-socialist forces in the Socialist world.

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Transcript – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogue – December 24, 2019 – Part Two.

“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.

Continued from Part One. In this section, Ibrahim Kazerooni develops in depth Gene Sharp’s lifetime of connections to the centers of U.S. power and U.S. foreign policy makers. 

Ibrahim Kazerooni: To begin with I would like to ask our listeners indulgence because it really requires a tedious reconstruction of Gene Sharp’s history. When we actually put the pieces together his role becomes clear for everyone.

I want to start with the fact that I came across Gene Sharp’s work and the whole subject of non-violent civil disobedience during the courses that I took at the Iliff School of Theology with Dr. Vincent Harding, recently deceased – God bless his soul. He was teaching this. And then there were some other professors at Korbel (University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies) who taught about Gene Sharp’s book, his ideas on civil disobedience and non-violence were included as a part of the resources available for study.

I had a number of conversations with both professors and others that were teaching non-violence regarding whether this is an absolute strategy or it has its own usefulness, or utility, but that is neither here nor there. We parted company each of us “agreeing to disagree.”

I would like also to add that our conversation here (on the radio) is not a critique or questioning, or an effort at undermining non-violence or civil disobedience – we don’t intend to attack that.

Rob Prince: Of course

Ibrahim Kazerooni: What we are trying to do here is to see how Sharp’s ideas, co-opted by the “centers of power” – being the C.I.A. (and other intelligence agencies), the Defense Establishment, etc., are now being used as a manual for regime change in various parts of the world.

The first time I came across a particular sign, an emblem on a placard, of a clinched fist sprayed either on a piece of cloth or cardboard was held by a person in the middle of an uprising was in Egypt in 2005. I was not familiar with this clinched fist and just didn’t think anything about it until later, in 2011. Then in 2011 in Tunis, Libya, Egypt, briefly in Israel, Syria and other places, the same kind of signs, placards appeared once again.

It was at that time that I began to investigate, research to try to discover the source: where is this sign coming from? What does it signify?

After checking around, it turns out that it was an emblem of a group calling itself “Optor”.
Rob Prince: How do you spell that?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: O-T-P-O-R – it means “Resistance” in Serbian.

Rob Prince: from the former Yugoslavia?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes.

It turns out that this particular group, OTPOR, was originally conceived by the American defense establishment to train youth to begin using non-violent resistance to bring down Milosevic in Serbia.

The leadership of this movement were given a training manual for this project which was an abridged version of Gene Sharp’s book regarding how to organize nonviolent resistance published by the Albert Einstein Institute with a huge amount of financial support from various U.S. defense and intelligence organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy.

During the recent uprising in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, I saw the same sign again.

Rob Prince: In all of the cases, OTPOR organizers were on the scene?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: As we unpack this scenario it appears that the original OTPOR members may not have been present but OTPOR now has become an organization which is used all around the world to destabilize certain governmental institutions.

These people will go either to a particular country – say Egypt, Burma or elsewhere – to train locals. Or they will go to neighboring countries. These trainees who come out of these sessions, workshops they go into their own countries and try to imitate or mimic what OTPOR had taught them.

Rob Prince: Where are these workshops taking place, in what countries?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: This will be clarified as I go through and explain how OTPOR works.

For example in the recent case of Iran about 100 people were rounded up, both male and female. About 25 of them were trained by OTPOR members in Sulaimaniya, northern Iraq. Two or three of them were taken from northern Iraq to Syria where they received further training under U.S. military cover, then to Turkey under American cover. Two or three also received further training in Israel under the auspices of this OTPOR workshop.

So OTPOR has now become an institution financed and supported by the U.S. government, the C.I.A. It is associated in part with the Albert Einstein Institute that funds it. OTPOR received a huge amount of funds

But we can’t say much about all this unless we really make it clear that although there is some kind of dichotomy as far as approaches between the Left and the Right.

On the one hand left activists in the U.S. look upon Gene Sharp as the guru of their movement. On the right, Gene Sharp is considered one of the most important U.S. defense intellectuals of the Cold War, an early neo-liberal theorist supposedly concerned with the inherent violence of centralized state and a vital counselor to anti-socialist forces in the Socialist world.

So these two approaches that we have been the Right and the Left creates its own confrontation where you have progressive activist scholars theorizing about the dynamics of elite power structures to facilitate their demise while on the other hand, on the Right, they are using these ideas to expand American Imperialism and to destabilize areas of the world in which regimes unfriendly to the United States are present and in power.

We can’t really say much about it at this stage unless we go back to its origins and understand who Gene Sharp was. Going through various articles and reports…

– In 1957 Gene Sharp was a 29 year old London-based newsletter “Peace News.” The son of an Ohio minister he had previously earned a Masters’ degree for research on Gandhi. He worked for the famous pacifist activist A.J. Muste in New York City.

– He was arrested in 1953 for refusing to go the Korean War.

– Around 1957 Sharp was noticed by a professor at Oslo University, chair of the Philosophy Department there, Arne Naess. At the time, Naess was a researcher for the Norwegian government for NATO. His research centered around insuring Norwegian resistance to Soviet influence. Sharp was invited to go to Norway to work with Naess for three or four years. During those years Sharp is in and out of Norway writing for NATO about how to insure that Norway would be safe from a possible Soviet incursion.

During those years he provided the C.I.A. and the Strategic Air Command with manuals that he had developed during that time.

From Norway he goes to Great Britain and studies, I believe it was, at Oxford.

– In 1960, Thomas Schelling, a Nobel Prize nuclear theorist, recruited 29 year old Gene Sharp to join the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. The “Center” was a bastion of important Cold War, Defense Intelligence and Security establishment thinking. Leading the so-called C.I.A. think tanks at Harvard at the time were Henry Kissinger, future national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, future C.I.A. chief – these were among the major figures.

In such an environment, Sharp held his appointment for thirty years.

There, using Department of Defense funds he developed his core theory of non-violent action, “a method of warfare capable of collapsing the state through theatrical social movement design to dissolve the common will and the buttresses of governments – all without firing a single shot.”

From this post at the C.I.A. at Harvard, Sharp would urge U.S. and NATO defense leaders to use his method against the Soviet Union.

So now we begin to see where his research is moving to.

The C.I.A. funded scholars, directors, staff were a long list of first string Cold Warriors.

Rob Prince: Ibrahim I just want to sum up at this moment. Basically what you are developing concerning Sharp… for his entire academic career that Gene Sharp is associated with the Defense Department, with U.S. intelligence agencies, NATO at a very, very high level looking at ways during the Cold War to undermine structures/institutions in the Communist countries that would lead to a peaceful collapse of these governments.

Is that correct?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes.

What I want to point out is this: unless we understand the womb in which this seed developed, we really can’t connect how it is that institutions like the Albert Einstein Institute, OTPOR and others, now since the 1980s, 1990s and beyond are being used repeatedly one after the other by the Albert Einstein Institute indirectly and directly supported by the U.S. government to destabilize what the United States government identifies as unfriendly regimes.

Rob Prince: So nonviolent social movements can be co-opted and Gene Sharp was intimately involved in this co-option. We’ll talk more about precisely how that co-option worked.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Rob, now that you mention this, as a matter of fact, the government switched its focus towards supporting nonviolent movements in the United States in 1968 as a result of the uprising, the insurgency protest – the civil rights movement, the student movement, the Black Panthers, Crusade for Justice – this many sided insurgency forced the U.S. government to seek an alternative – and that was nonviolence, in a way to neutralize the uprising in the United States.

But then this manifesto, or book or technique is taken from the United States, developed by Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institute with the help of the entire ruling class. We’ve mentioned Robert Bowie, Henry Kissinger, the Rockefeller brothers, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of Strategic Services – without mentioned others – but the fact that he (Sharp) grew up in such an environment …

I would even venture to say that the primary goal of this nonviolent strategy was developed as a weapon against the Soviet Union. The use of it in other environments is secondary. That was the place (the Cold War) where it came into existence and still the umbilical chord between the Albert Einstein Institute with these high level government institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the C.I.A. and others is still there. They don’t deny that they receive funds from these people.

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, let me add something at this point. When the Arab Spring began, I noticed that there were some rather curious figures who were cheer-leading the changes in Tunisia, calling for the ousting of Zine Ben Ali. So for example one of them was Elliot Abrams. Those of you familiar with U.S. intervention in Central America in Nicaragua and El Salvador in particular know that Elliot Abrams was one of the key architects of those criminal actions – trying to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and in fomenting the horrible war that took place in El Salvador both of which were supported by U.S. administrations of that decade (the 1980s).

Yet the same Elliot Abrams is calling for change in Tunisia in 2010-2011. What kind of change is it that Abrams is so enthusiastic about.

To be continued …

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