August 14, 2016

Trump's ISIS Comments Have Greater Resonance In The Middle East; Why Saudis Support ISIS Against Shiites; US-Iran Relations Are Still Stuck In The 1980s Because of Deceitful Right-Wingers

An excerpt from, "Hezbollah Leader Echoes Trump That Obama, Clinton Founded ISIS" By Ben Gittleson, ABC News, August 14, 2016:
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese militant group, used Trump's claim last week that Obama and Clinton were behind the extremist group ISIS's establishment to bolster his criticism of the U.S. administration in a speech in Lebanon on Saturday, according to a transcript posted by the group's media arm. 

"This is not simple speech,” Nasrallah said of Trump's remarks. “This is an American presidential candidate. This was spoken on behalf of the American Republican Party. He has data and documents.” 

Trump said on Wednesday that Obama was "the founder of ISIS" and later expanded the claim to include Clinton. Trump repeated his accusation throughout the next day. He said Friday morning the comment was meant as sarcasm, but later that day qualified that by saying his initial claim was "not that sarcastic."
An excerpt from, "Why Saudi Arabia is Hammering Yemen" By Matt Purple, The National Interest, April 12, 2016:
To understand the war in Yemen, you have to assume the perspective of a Saudi elite and zoom the camera outwards. Once upon a time, the Shia-majority nations of the Middle East were ruled by monarchs and strongmen who were largely unsympathetic to the idea of Shia power—Iraq under the Sunni Saddam Hussein, Bahrain under the Saudi-backed Khalifa dynasty, and Iran under the Pahlavis. Islam was governed as it had been for centuries, with Sunnis wielding power and Shia awaiting the end times. America viewed the Middle East through the lens of regnant Sunnis, and collaborated with many of them, most notably the Saudi royal family.

That’s all changed over the past thirty-five years, first with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which produced an aggressively Islamist Shia government, and then with the American occupation of Iraq, which effectively transferred governance away from the Sunnis. As Iraqi Shia queued up to vote and Iranian pilgrims spilled over the border to visit the holy city of Najaf, the Middle East underwent an awakening that gave real autonomy to Islam’s long-oppressed minority (Shia are only 10–15 percent of the Muslim population). Vali Nasr has expertly chronicled this revolution in his 2007 book The Shia Revival.

That revival triggered a ferocious counterreaction from Sunnis, who streamed into Iraq for a chance to spill the blood of heretical Shia. And while the region’s Sunni states didn’t actively oppose the awakening, they watched the course of events with a good deal of nervousness. In 2004, King Abdullah of Jordan spoke for many when he warned about a “Shia crescent” sprawling across the Middle East, from Bahrain to Iran to Iraq through the Alawite Assad regime in Syria and into Hezbollah-friendly districts of Lebanon. Tehran was on the eastern side of this swath, but it was the political center—Abdullah’s fear was that a Shia crescent would inevitably become an Iranian empire.

So it came as no surprise when the Saudis helped the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain squash a Shia uprising during the Arab Spring, or when many of the Sunni powers leapt behind efforts to depose the Iran-linked Assad regime. Their real aim was blunting Iranian power. This aversion to Iran courses deeply through the remaining Sunni rulers, especially in Saudi Arabia. A New York Times analysis of Saudi Foreign Ministry documents uncovered through Wikileaks found, as the Times put it, “a near obsession with Iran, with diplomats in Africa, Asia and Europe monitoring Iranian activities in minute detail and top government agencies plotting moves to limit the spread of Shiite Islam.” This is why the Saudis often seem reluctant to put their full energies into the war on terrorism. Sunni jihadist groups like Al Qaeda are manageable and often home-brewed nuisances; Iran is an exterior geopolitical threat.

So when the Shiite Houthi rebels captured the Yemeni capital of Sana in late 2014, a shock was sent through the Middle East’s Sunni nervous system. It mattered little that the Houthis were schismatic Zaydi Shia out of step with Iran’s mainstream Twelver Shiism, or that the Iranians warned that Sana shouldn’t be seized, or that the Houthis aren’t an Iranian proxy in the same way that Hezbollah is. The Saudis immediately blamed Iran. They, along with many of the Sunni states, went to war, pulling their militaries away from the campaign against the Islamic State. Once again, fighting Salafist terrorism was dismissed as an American concern.
An excerpt from, "The Strange Bedfellows of U. S.–Iranian Animosity" By Mansour Farhang, LobeLog, August 10, 2016:
A semi-irony of the 37-year-old animosity between Iran and the United States is the repeated convergence of short-term interests between hard-liners in the Iranian theocracy and right-wing political forces in America. The latest example is the dispute over the U. S. government’s $400 million payment to Iran. This money belonged to Iran as part of a $1.7 billion settlement to resolve a disagreement concerning Iran’s pre-revolutionary deposit in U.S. banks for the purchase of arms. After the 1979 hostage-taking at the U. S. embassy in Tehran, Washington froze the funds and the issue was finally resolved in 2015 along with the nuclear agreement.

The first man to refer to the settlement payment as ransom for release of “U.S. spies” was Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the commander of basij (Iran’s militia organization). His purpose was to discredit President Hassan Rouhani and the negotiations that resulted in the nuclear agreement. Virtually every hardline newspaper, website, and Friday prayer leader in Iran “confirmed” Naghdi’s assertion.

Now, six months later, right-wing politicians in America, including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan, have decided to echo Naghdi’s words. Both in Iran and in the US, these men have misrepresented the truth in order to discredit their domestic political rivals.