“For whatever reason”
Whether on his twitter feed or in his never ending churning out of repugnant opinion pieces in the guise of objective analysis, ever since Russia stepped up to play a central role in blocking US imperialist designs on Syria, including a potential Libya-type bombing campaign, the empire’s most dedicated Arab-American Shabih Hussein Ibish has been regularly bashing the government of President Vladimir Putin. Writing in the Hariri family-funded website NOW Lebanon, Ibish begins his latest anti-Russia rant (Russia is no ally for the Arabs) by dismissing those Arabs calling for closer ties with Russia “who are, for whatever reason, fed up with United States.” For the Senior Fellow at the American Task Force On Palestine (ATFP), which functions as a two-man, Arab-wing of the pro-Israel lobby, it always begins with the assumption of a virtuous US government, unlike all other governments, in its pursuit of an altruistic foreign policy. This assumption is not to be questioned or challenged lest you be dismissed as “anti-American”, “extremist”, or, at best, “unreasonable” and “ill-informed.” But for the unreasonably reasonable, politically astute Anglophile on the Potomac it’s simply unfathomable why Arabs may be fed up with US foreign policy. After all, US “interventions”, bombings, and invasions are always carried out in the best interest and for the well-being of Arabs.
The strong bilateral Russia-Syria relationship is not a recent development. Extensive ties in the diplomatic, economic, cultural, and military spheres extend back decades into the Soviet Union era. And it’s true that Russia has recently continued to stand by its longtime ally which has helped Syria withstand a vicious neocolonial onslaught. But it’s also equally apparent that the determination of a small, but proud and stubborn country to defend itself and remain the only truly sovereign state in the Arab world pursuing fully independent political and economic policies has also empowered Russia and contributed to its ability to reassert itself more forcefully in the region and on the global stage. The decades-old Russia-Syria alliance which serves the interests of both countries and peoples exposed the inability of the US to maintain complete dominance of the Arab world. It’s this retreat of US power, which events in Syria helped crystallize, that seems to have unhinged the US regime’s most enthusiastic apologist within the Arab-American community.
Here it should be pointed out that there is no political, legal, or moral equivalence between military cooperation and arms sales agreements among legitimate governments of sovereign, independent states, and the arming of illegal groups, including two Al-Qaeda affiliates, to wage a proxy campaign of military subversion within the sovereign territory of a United Nations member state
Arguing against any “Arab-Russian entente” Ibish writes “It’s mind-boggling that any Arabs who profess to feel a sense of moral outrage about the viciousness of the Damascus dictatorship could consider Russia, its primary sponsor, a potential ally of their own.” Ignoring the stale and boring propaganda narrative on Syria, what’s truly mindboggling is Ibish’s attempt to simultaneously invert the very recent collective Arab memory and turn morality on its head. Given the scope & scale of the death and destruction the US has inflicted on the Arab world since the collapse of the Soviet Union, both directly and indirectly, it is astoundingly hypocritical and shameless that it’s deliberately overlooked by someone in the context of invoking a moral appeal. Given such a lack humanity and total lack of a moral compass it’s unsurprising Ibish can’t understand why the Arabs might be “fed up” with the US.
Ibish’s latest pro-empire, anti-Russia diatribe, bizarre & disingenuous given that Russia has not killed a single Arab or invaded, bombed, or attacked a single Arab country, stems from the political exigencies of a career on the margins of Washington officialdom. It also conveniently dovetails with the policies of the ruling families of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states that donate generously to the ATFP. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) which is the third-largest US weapons client and the largest donor to the ATFP comes immediately to mind. The repressive, monarchial statelet contributed almost $150,000 to the ATFP in 2011 and its embassy in Washington DC, along with the embassies of Saudi Arabia and other US client-regimes, sponsored its most recent annual gala in 2013. Perhaps not coincidentally, the GCC is the one Arab region Ibish made sure to specifically mention and to which his piece seems to have been directed when he employed the metaphor of “marriage” to describe what he called the “US-Arab strategic relationship.” Forgive us for continuing with the corny metaphor, but it’s well past time to file for a dissolution of marriage based on irreconcilable differences and decades of domestic violence.
We can start with the first war on Iraq in 1991 which signaled the beginning of the fleeting, unipolar moment, the subsequent decade of genocidal sanctions and the Anglo-American criminal (not unwise) invasion of 2003. US altruism during this period led to the slaughter of at least 2 million people and the destruction of an entire country and society. We could also mention continuing US undergirding of the Zionist colonial regime in Palestine, its support for the occupation and colonization of Arab land, and its complicity in all of Israel’s war crimes & massacres carried out with US weapons and unlimited political, economic, and diplomatic support. It’s also possible to suggest Arabs might be “fed up” with decades of US support for tyrannical Arab regimes labeled “moderate”, not for the moderate repression of their (subjects) citizens, but for their moderation towards Zionism and support for US wars on the Arab world. All this and more can be revisited in all its horrific, gruesome details, but it’s unlikely to sway someone lacking even a modicum of basic human decency and completely detached from the collective Arab memory and consciousness.
Allies and Clients
Ibish appears to have jumped to some hasty conclusions, which events of the last 24 hours have already made apparent, about unfolding events in Ukraine when he writes “But if Russia cannot successfully project its political will across its border into Ukraine, how could anyone expect it to play a decisive role in the Middle East?” Barely able to contain his jubilance because the Kremlin’s “clients were collapsing in Kiev” Ibish forgets to explain why a democratically elected government in Ukraine is a “client” of the Kremlin while tyrannical and absolute Arab Monarchists completely reliant upon and beholden to the US are allies of Washington.
We at ikhras who’ve been repeatedly smeared by Ibish with such lovely epithets as “Arab quasi-Nazis” found his gleeful support for an extreme, right-wing coup that included actual Neo-Nazis especially amusing. Yet it wasn’t all that surprising as colonized Arab minds view themselves and the rest of the world through the ideology and prism of the US ruling class with all of its false assumptions, contradictions, hypocrisy, and absurdities.
One especially delicious contradiction we found in Ibish’s piece is the relishing in Russia’s perceived inability to project its political will across its border into Ukraine while waxing indignant over Russia’s ability to “maintain and protect, at all costs, the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.” Apparently aware of this contradiction, Ibish does point out that Russia is not “entirely ineffective in the Middle East.” The reason Ibish was compelled to include a feeble attempt to reconcile the glaring contradiction is to avoid having to concede it’s not merely Russian support that explains why Syria has withstood the US-backed, GCC-financed onslaught of the last three years. Conceding this point would completely undermine the fabricated narrative of a popular uprising capable of being brutally repressed by a ruthless dictator only with the aiding and abetting of Russia. For someone who’s already written the obituary of the Syrian state and people this precious narrative, no matter how disconnected it may be from the Syrian reality, must be sustained especially with an exclusively US-based, right-wing readership.
Ibish insists “Russia cannot supply the Arabs with what they need”, but we’re never told exactly what purpose the US “weapons systems” he refers to that are sold to “key Arab allies” with their extensive limitations and restrictions have served other than supporting the US weapons manufacturing industry and military service companies. Have massive arms sales to GCC Sheikhdoms, for example, enabled them to defend themselves against the Iranian threat we keep hearing about? The public temper tantrums of semi-literate, oil-Sheikhs in the wake of the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 over its peaceful nuclear program and a ring of US bases around the Arabian Peninsula would indicate otherwise. Aren’t these US weapons losing their shine and collecting dust in desert warehouses as the countries that purchased them remain in a state of maximum insecurity vis-a-vis both their real enemy, Israel, and their imaginary new enemy, Iran? Will US weapons sold to “key Arab allies” ever be used to liberate Palestine or defend any Arab state from an Israeli aggression? And isn’t it Syria, the closest Arab country to Russia with a National Army equipped with Russian weapons, that played an indispensable role in liberating Lebanon through its support for the Lebanese national resistance forces. Moreover, wasn’t it Syria’s continued support for the Lebanese resistance in the 2006 war that made possible the first militarily strategic defeat of Israel? And isn’t Syria as the only Arab member state within the axis-of-resistance also the only Arab country that continues to present even a minimal deterrence to Israel? Recent events in Syria have proven the reliability of Russia as a strategic partner, and as we enter the post-unipolar world, closer ties between Russia and Arab states currently within the US orbit will prove to be, not only beneficial for both sides, but ultimately inevitable.
Putting aside weapons systems and military structures, commercial and economic ties, what Arabs need most is a more equitable distribution of power within the international system. The US regime was and remains as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr described it, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” No region has suffered more from unmitigated US power since the collapse of the Soviet Union than the Arab world, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone has more to benefit from the reemergence of a strong, assertive Russia within a new multipolar landscape than the Arabs.