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u/cg_roseen · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

Great write up, and important things to remember going forward, and when addressing criticism of the system.

After reading this, I had some concerns and thoughts about the Federation, myself. I did a little write-up for my own self-reference, but I'm thinking it might be fruitful to share here.

Don't know whether it'd be considered off topic, but I think this kind of discussion is always useful.

Some of it is a little dated now, and perhaps not entirely relevant to this discussion, but here's what I wrote:

>Firstly, I must state that I found the book enlightening and informative. But particular issues have been playing on mind that I feel should be addressed in order to ensure the democratic confederalist system transcends the paradigm of the war itself, and becomes a legitimate entity in some kind of post-war Syria.

>I find it most appropriate to deal with the individual issues separately, as follows:

>The deification of Abdullah Ocalan - Reading the authors’ observations on democratic confederalism, one of my primary concerns was with the seeming deification of Abdullah Ocalan by Kurdish activists and, more significantly, the YPG/J. The personality cult that seems to exist around Ocalan, in Northern Syria, will only feed critics who denounce the Federation as a ‘Kurdish cult’. Holding Ocalan in such high esteem also contradicts democratic confederalist values of equality between people and a rejection of hierarchy. Even though Ocalan’s importance is primarily spiritual, and his thoughts on the dem-con ideology is inseparable from the project, it risks alienating non-Kurdish elements that might otherwise seek a dialogue with the Federation or see the benefits of entering into a similar confederation.

>PKK ties - Continuing on from my concerns about the deification of Ocalan, another significant obstacle to attracting a wider base of support for the Federation comes from its relationship with the PKK. It is inappropriate to label the YPG, or indeed the PYD (or indeed, TEV-DEM) an ‘arm’ or ‘offshoot’ of the PKK. But it is also impossible to deny that without the PKK the Federation would not exist. PKK affiliates (armed and political) provided logistical support to the early revolutionaries, and earlier councils models in Kurdish Turkey inspired the Syrian council system as it is today. Going forward, the ideal would be for the Federation to denounce all ties to the PKK or, failing that, to distinguish between the PKK’s armed and political wings. Though this is highly unlikely, more must be done to promote the Federations distinctly Syrian identity, to defer from criticism from (primarily) Turkey that the PKK and Federation are one in the same.

>Transparency - Another principle of democratic confederalism is transparency with the people. To this end, regular publication of the canton’s demographics and council makeups may help to dispel criticisms that the Federation is ‘Kurd-dominated’ or ‘Kurd-centric’. Furthermore, the Federation should go above and beyond to promote and publicise inclusion of Arabs within the council system. The Democratic Council might also do well to regularly restate its commitment to a unified Syria. This will help to detract criticisms that the Federations backers are separatists. Also linked to this is the need to be more transparent about actions taken against ENKS. Some inclusion of more Islamist-orientated political parties would also help win over some popular support, in this regard. The Federation's highly secular outlook might prove problematic going forward if it excludes genuinely popular, grassroots Islamist movements.

>Disband all military councils west of Euphrates (with exception of Raqah) - In another move to ease western (primarily Turkish) concern over SDF ‘aggression’, disbanding the Jarablus and al-Bab military councils, as a sign of goodwill, might go some way to improving the Federation’s relations with its neighbours.

>Disband/reorganise Asayish - Centre of most scandals within the Federation, the Asayish are difficult to independently oversee and regulate during wartime. Their arbitrary arrests and lack of transparency provide fertile opportunity for political opponents to claim discrimination. Human Rights Watch notes multiple war crimes accusations made against Asayish. In order to rebuild trust between communities and police, Asayish will need to be replaced, and all members re-organised. Those against whom accusations have been made should be handed over to international courts.

>Education boards - One of my main concerns when reading the book, was that education was too loosely regulated. Whilst it may not be a problem at the moment, without a centralised education system, the education system is vulnerable to subjective influence from a number of groups. The book focuses on the reclamation of ‘Kurdish’ education (Kurdish culture, Kurdish language) and brushes over the wishes of the Arab populations. To this end, more must be done to ensure the impartiality of the education system, and prevent it becoming too influenced by parents. In the west, at least, educational autonomy has proved dangerous as common narratives are allowed to creep into historical paradigms (we are taught what is commonly accepted, not what is necessarily true). Without a radical overhaul of the education system, I would feel the introduction of educational boards (who work with the educational committees) to be the best way of ensuring political neutrality prevails in schooling up to the age of 16.

>Economic agreements w/centralised body - To me, the book’s weakest point is in its assessment of the Federation’s economy. What kind of centralised body will take shape in post-war Syria is yet to be seen, but it will undoubtedly need to develop a relationship with the Federation in regards to oil distribution across the country. An area rich in oil, like Jazyra, again must co-ordinate with a centralised organisation in order to ensure the fair distribution of natural resources to as many civilians as possible. In order to ensure this, the Federation - in any future negotiations - must push for regulations, such as price-capping in future sales, in exchange for oil. This way, natural resources are distributed as evenly as possible, with a safeguard against exploitation by outside bodies.

>For all its strengths, the book fails to really look deeply into how successful the system of governance is. Instead, its authors are too preoccupied with saying how wonderful everything is, without giving us a clue as to how the actual civilians view it. Save for some examples of economic co-operatives (TEV-DEM’s spin on kibbutz, I suppose), the book fails to paint a real portrait of life in the Federation’s cities, aside from its descriptions of the governing system. It also fails to look critically at the system, instead painting opposition with one broad stroke - as though it were one big anti-PYD conspiracy.

u/shakuwaku · 12 pointsr/syriancivilwar

You're looking at it too much through a lens of contemporary politics as a gradient, rather than political theory and Islamic philosophy.

If you'd like to read a good introduction to this stuff, I would recommend Albert Hourani's "Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939".

A very very basic summary: For the longest time, Sunni jurisprudence developed in tandem with Arab autocracy. In that philosophy, a ruler was legit to the degree that he enforced peace and war, and ceded the traditional spheres of social justice to the religious authorities. In this context, multiple schools of exegesis developed who interpret Islamic thought: So-called Madhabs. Wahhabism, while superficially similar, is not a form of Salafism but a school of Hanbali interpretation that favors textualism over more flexible modes of exegesis. Saudi Arabia does not like Salafists because they are by nature hard to control. In the early 19th century then, as the West set out to conquer the Islamic world, Arab thinkers came to reinterpret their faith and politics in the light of modernity. These early luminaries, the socalled Islamic Modernists, argued that believers should return to the text and interpret it individually according to their reason and needs. Instead of adhering to old traditions that had brought Arab society to its knees, they were supposed to follow the example of the early Muslisms (thus "Salafists"). This is the birth of Salafism as a modern political ideology. Some of these thinkers included theorists of theocracy such as Rashid Rida, others secular republicans and womens-rights activists like Ali Abdel Raziq. They were nonetheless all Salafists.

(All of these are broad strokes obviously)

The primary foundation of democracy is independent reasoning. Salafism returned the individual and his faith to the center of Islamic politics much like Luther and the Potestants had wrought control of Christianity from the Church.

u/sunbolts · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

I'm sure this is the book I was thinking about:

I haven't read it but I heard it's good. While it goes into a lot of detail regarding Zarqawi and Al Qaeda, it unfortunately peddles the same old "all the tons of Iraqi Baathists who made ISIS" conspiracy theory.

Anyways, it is safe to say it is the greatest exaggeration of the 21st century. Several former officers with no known affiliation with the former Iraqi govt or Baath party being exaggerated to legions of high ranking Baath party members is nothing short of pure sensationalism.

I wouldn't even put those officers close to the most important factor for ISIS's growth either. Nouri Al Maliki's time and authoritarianism, Zarqawi, the US's complete mishandling of Iraq from 2003 to the present, Bashar Al Assad's mishandlings (also speaking of Al Qaeda links, Assad supported Al Qaeda during the Iraq War), and the Syrian civil war are what ISIS grew and thrived from. Not a guy who was removed in 2003 and had spent his 35 years as de facto and de jure leader of Iraq smashing terrorists and jihadists.

When you think about it, the same people who were trumping the Al Qaeda claims still haven't let up to this day. Yellow journalists and some bruised pro-war conservatives are the reason why this current theory even came about in 2014 and into 2015.

Kyle Orton is probably the best example of neo-conservatives who never quite let the Iraq War go and and still trying to justify it. Orton claims that the government's Islamic concessions and reforms (something most other Muslim countries were doing in light of the Islamic revival and which even European countries are doing nowadays too; and do note Iraq today is almost entirely run by Islamist parties) was a deliberate conspiracy to create ISIS. Of course it is nonsense, but people will try to link anything. Orton literally states Saddam gave us ISIS. He's also claimed in another post that ISIS would have came up without the Iraq War or anything else because Saddam created it. Suffice it to say, there is good reason why when anything of Orton's gets posted on this sub, it gets slammed by people of all sorts of factional and political leanings, including American conservatives.

Similar people/journalists/bloggers in other camps and places are also the reason for the cropping of the "Assad made ISIS", "USA made ISIS", "Russia made ISIS", "Gulf countries made ISIS", and for a long time, the most popular conspiracy theory in Iraq was the USA, Israel (sigh), and Gulf countries created ISIS. The Iraqi parody of ISIS "Al Dawlah Al Khrafa" makes fun of this theory.

u/gonzolegend · 173 pointsr/syriancivilwar


The best source I've read is British professor Christopher Davidson's new book Shadow Wars. His area of expertise is on the Gulf monarchies and he has several previous books on them. Would advise reading that for an exhaustive look at the financing of ISIS and Nusra.

Behind closed doors its certainly the view of many leaders in DC.

Hillary Clinton's email leak was overshadowed by the election, but on foreign policy, she spoke about Saudi financing of ISIS in an email to Podesta.

> we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.

Joe Biden speaking at Harvard's JFK School of Government was forced to apologise after saying he spoke with Erdogan privately about Turkey and "other allies" funding Nusra and ISIS.

> The vice president apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria,

Steve Clemons, a great journalist reported that Bandar Bin Sultan, was fired in 2014 from the Syrian portfolio for being responsible for the rise of ISIS.

He also includes an interesting quote from a Qatari official who said:

> Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. But ISIS is another matter. As one senior Qatari official stated, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”

But all this goes way further back. During the US occupation of Iraq and the Iraq insugency, Nir Rosen in his book Aftermath wrote that the Iraq insurgency was largely paid for by the Saudi Association of Muslim Scholars from a large mosque outside Baghdad.

Also of course in New York the current 9/11 lawsuit seems to have complied enough evidence to bring a lawsuit against the Saudi government directly. We wait to see what that reveals.

u/x_TC_x · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

Well, sometimes it results in things of this kind, but yes, it's a kind of 'bi-product' of what I do for living.

EDIT: ...which helped me finally recall the only printed source of reference of SyAAF divisions. Call it self-advertising if you like, but it's the page 37 of the work here.

Back at the time I wrote that manuscript (in 2013), I knew only about two or three of these, designated either the 21st and 22nd, or Northern, Central and Southern. As so often, plenty of additional relevant details came out precisely in reaction to that book, so the picture is even better nowadays.

u/ibnalalkami · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

I disagree with your assessment of the Brotherhood. During my time in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine I spent a lot of time with Ikhwanists - including some of their clerics at Azhar who now rot in jail or worse. The Brotherhood is a huge and diverse organization with many parts genuinely advocating civic democracy. You will disagree, but I think the Sisi coup was a horrific mistake that will come haunt people. So far there is simply nothing to substantiate the notion that Erdogan is anti-democratic. The exiles and old urban CHP elite likes to cry foul at every little thing, but truth is that there is hardly any part of Turkish society that isn't more free and prosperous today than it was before Erdogan came to power. There's a reason a good part of the HDP swing moved to AKP. I have been to South East Turkey (including Cizre, Silopi, Diarbakyr) both in the 90s and very recently. Erdogan will fall when the old Kemalists come up with a genuinely modern party that has a broader base than 70s etatism (and import substition industrialisation) and national chauvinism of the CHP.

I'm not going to spend much time with the conspiratorial nonsense in the link you posted. The Brotherhood suffers a lot of diseases, but it's not this sinister cabal of hateful people. The Ikhwan is - like most movements founded at the time - an attempt at Islamic modernism that has spawned a wide variety of institutions, ideas and practices. They are neither hidden or malicious. The whole "Islamofascism" idea (I also respect Hitchens and consort) betrays a dangerous ignorance of the origins of both fascism and Islamism.
Just to be clear, I despise Hamas (and support the Israeli military in its position) and its associates, but let's be serious here.

If any party in the modern Middle East is explicitly modeled on German fascism it is the Baath and their now allies in the SSNP. Arab nationalism derives almost all its ideas from German right Hegelians (the first time I studied Schelling and Herder was indeed at an Arab university), and all its institutions from national socialism and later the Soviet Union. Early Islamic modernists are similar in this effect in so far as they emulate the nationalists. This is a process many third-world countries went through in their struggle against imperialism, adopting the fascistic notions of self-determination through strength as a form of national emancipatory ideology. Similar trends can be found in India for example, where much of the early independent elite was objectively pro-Hitler.

Back to Syria, Faylaq ash-Sham and many of the former "Shield" formations that merged into various FSA and IF groups are much closer to the Brotherhood than Ahrar which has significant Salafist streams within it.

In the end this all boils down to whether or not certain people may be included in an eventual political process and, in turn, who needs to be suppressed. My position is that in order to stabilize the situation you need to include all parties who do not immediately pose a threat to the international order and who have significance on the ground. That includes at least part of Ahrar. The process is already working with AAS shifting positions on negotiations leading more hard-line elements to split off.

A great book on the Bortherhood in Syria today is Raphael Lefevre's "Ashes of Hama". And the standard work on the origins of modern political ideology in the Middle East is Albert Hourani's "Arab Thought in the Liberal Age, 1789-1939" to be followed by Fouad Ajami's "Arab Predicament".

u/danieloakwood · 7 pointsr/syriancivilwar

Not sure which country you are from, but my understanding of Syria pre-Arab Spring is that it was (other than Saudi Arabia) maybe the most heavily controlled, 'totalitarian' systems of any of them. Lisa Wedeen's Ambiguities of Domination was a great survey of the pre-2012 political control system.

Just a counterpoint to the idea that dissent could possibly be more monitored and quashed than ever before.

u/OmaeWaMoShindeiru · 2 pointsr/syriancivilwar

Read this article to understand why Patrick Cockburn's book isn't reliable:

The article recommends this book for something that is better researched:

u/electric33l · 10 pointsr/syriancivilwar

If you want an actual answer to this question, it is not enough to examine Assad's (and the regime's) conduct since the beginning of the uprising in 2011. You can only get the full picture if you understand the composition and the statecraft of the regime since Assad pere wrested power from his intra-regime opponents in 1970. Some books worth reading are Hinnebusch's excellent primer on the rise of the Ba'ath Party (and later, the Assad clan) to power (Syria: Revolution From Above), Hanna Batatu's classic examination of [Syria's Peasantry, the Descendants of Its Lesser Rural Notables, and Their Politics]
(, Lisa Wedeen on the cultural and ideological methods the regime uses to maintain power (Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria), and Patrick Seale's highly readable book on Hafez al-Assad and his Struggle for the Middle East. A more recent work dealing with the economic underpinnings of the regime (Business Networks in Syria: The Political Economy of Authoritarian Resilience) is also worth your time.

In short, take a good look at the nature of the regime and its policies over the last four decades and decide for yourself whether it is incapable of committing the war crimes it is accused of. You could also go through the many detailed reports human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch have put together alleging regime crimes, most recently their report on the Khan Sheikhoun nerve gas attack and the regime's ongoing use of chemical weapons.

u/theskyisblueatnight · 5 pointsr/syriancivilwar

My information comes from the book below. The authors interview bin laden's family and associates about their lives following the Sept 11th. It also talks about Iran assisting the US in the months after Sept 11th.

Here is a good book review

u/Cuen · 5 pointsr/syriancivilwar

Surat al Bakarah is a prominent verse in the quran. It has nothing to do with this tribe's name.

This books touches upon muhammad baqir being considered the "ancestor" of this Syrian/Iraqi tribe.

u/Poutchika · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

>if Assad wasn't a corrupt as he is - there wouldn't be enough pissed of Syrians to attempt to overthrow him in the first place.

I really suggest you to read "My house in Damascus" by Diana Darke, it was suggested to me by a good friend and it goes to great lengths about how corrupt Syrian society in general is, not specifically the government though that is what the book gravitates around.

>So Assad's corruption has the accumulated of evil of it all

I'll definitely agree that the government (isolating Assad is only a part of the problem) is guilty, but corruption really is only a small problem in comparison.

u/mystikalhereigo · 21 pointsr/syriancivilwar

Different leadership. IS claims to be the true heir to Bin Laden. They claim Zawarhi was corrupt. This goes back to Zarqawi vs Zawarhi. However, Bin Laden didn't like Zarqawi.

Zarqawi was considered to violent. AQ is more pragmatic and slightly less bloodthirsty. AQ doesn't target shia's and usually tries to avoid civilian casualties in general.

9/11 for example was voted down by the AQ Shura council. KSM and Bin Laden went against the Shura council completely. AQ's shura council didn't like the embassy bombings either.

Bin Laden was a narcissist that didn't listen to advice, very similar to Zarqawi.

You should check out this book, its fascinating and covers it all:

u/sigurdz · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

>but not with multiple different books.

You're out of luck then, your only hope at getting a solid basic understanding is reading at the bare minimum a few. I'd suggest reading one focusing on the Islamic State/AQI, one focusing on the Kurdish situation including Turkey and the PKK, one on the civil war (rebels vs regime), and one about the conflict in general.

Couple of recommendations

The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East

Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women's Liberation in the Syrian Kurdistan

The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency

u/rogersII · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

There's more to it - Israel wants to prevent a "Nixon Goes to China" event, meaning the US decides to get along with Iran. Because then Isael would risk playing the role of Taiwan -- kicked to the side -- so they have to act as a spoiler. This book is all about that:

After all, especially in a post-Cold War era, is Israel more of a benefit or a liability to the US?

u/Gorthol · 7 pointsr/syriancivilwar

Which piece is the random blog post by a no name blogger? The War is Boring one? That is hardly a random blog, and the guy who wrote the piece recently released a book on the subject that I plan on reading once it' out on Kindle. He also has a crap ton of other books on ME military subjects.

Edit: Also, if you actually read the TRADOC report, it cites the 125,000 number to a NY Time article from April 2015. Not exactly a reliable or up to date source. I don't know if they're using citation in the public domain to cover up for actual intelligence estimates, but the citation section is overwhelmingly news article and blog posts.

u/man_with_titties · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk. Fisk covered the Lebanon war (one of the first reporters on scene at the Sabra & Shatila massacre), the invasion of Iraq, nd he covers the Syrian war today. He writes for the Independent and lives in Beirut.

u/ersatzy · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

A friend loaned me Out of the Mountains. I totally agree with you that the military isn't the most effective way to fight an urban war, but realistically states have limited options. Either way, it is a grim, though suggested, read.

u/fdeckert · 1 pointr/syriancivilwar

It really doesn't matter what their personal opinions are, the fact is that the fundamental legitimacy of the House of Saud rests on religious grounds and the acquiescence of Wahhabist clerics

>Anti Americanism is basically their state ideology.

Nope. Actually the Iranians repeatedly tried to reach a peace with the US that the NeoCons Israelis opposed and undermined, which only hurt US interests in the end. This was the case for example over the nuclear issue:

>In 2005, Iran offered a deal. We rejected it, refused to talk to Iran directly, and doubled down on sanctions. Ten years later, we settled for much less than what was originally offered.

>While Iran is extremely dogmatic

No, sorry, actually Iran is far more flexible and it was Israel that decided to turn up the conflict with Iran because after the Cold War, Israel was threatened by the liklihood of improved US-Iran ties.

This book is all about that :

Anyway why is accepting Israel a sign of "pragmatism"? Iran also backed Nelson Mandela while the US had labeled him a "terrorist" and while Israel was trying to sell nukes to the racists apartheid pariah regime in S Africa


Lets see, that "non-rational" country of Iran was attacked by US-backed chemical weapons provided to Saddam Hussein, that resulted in 100,000 casualties -- how many 9/11s is that

And that "non-rational" government had every legal right to resort to chemical weapons of its own in self-defense...but refused to do so on moral grounds and accepted the casualties

That "non rational" government also warned Bush that invading Iraq was a bad idea

But Bush decided to listen to the Israelis instead

So who is "non-rational" and "dogmatic"?

u/random_crank · -2 pointsr/syriancivilwar

> US backed off from their regime change ambitions in Syria

ISIS had jack to do with Obama's indifference to the Syrian rebellion.
There weren't even Bashar change ambitions at the beginning - "he's a reformer!!" said Hillary, if you remember - and there was never Ba'athist-rule-change ambition. Obama had already slapped Erdogan in the face in May 2013 "We know what you are doing with the radicals in Syria" and he had refused to do anything but the extremest minimum about the sarin attacks later in the year. The only serious account of the international aspect of the civil war is Philips who argues that the international involvement, e.g. of Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and (above all) Turkey was due precisely to US contraction in the middle east after the apocalyptic Bush-Cheney Iraq War. The various regional powers were basically fighting to take up the space the US had formerly occupied. The US of course entered somewhat to manage this squabbling, but that's about it.