The Legal Principles of Bethlehem & Operation Timber Sycamore: The “Islamist Winter” Pre-Emptively Targets “Arab Life” by Hiring “Arab Barbarians”
“Few would fail to notice the growing common ground between the perpetrators of 9/11 and the official response to it called ‘the war on terror’. Both sides deny the possibility of a middle ground, calling for a war to the finish. Both rally forces in the name of justice but understand justice as revenge. If the perpetrators of 9/11 refuse to distinguish between official America and the American people, target and victim, ‘the war on terror’ has proceeded by dishing out collective punishment, with callous disregard for either ‘collateral damage’ or legitimate grievances”
“The power of sovereignty, however, is not just rooted in inclusive and monopolistic practices. The capacity to decide what qualifies as a ‘normal’ political identity, space, and practice also implies an obverse power—that is, the ability to decide what constitutes the exception. The concept of the ‘state of exception’ is central to understanding how both sovereign power and refugee identity are constituted”
2. Third World Approach to International Law (TWAIL)—A Reflexive Methodology Contouring Subsequent Sections
Islamophobia continues to shape some domestic policies of Western states and provide ideological justification for the wars they wage abroad, ‘Islamophilic’ tendencies in foreign policy have also emerged, especially in responses to the ‘Arab Spring’. Not clearly noted in Western public discourse, this represents a historical continuation of Western support for Islamism common during the Cold War, but is also a shift from the Islamophobic discourse of the post-cold war period, especially since 9/11. While Islamophobic and Islamophilic discourses may appear to be opposites…they represent two sides of the Orientalist logic, continuing to reduce understanding of Middle Eastern societies and politics to a culturalist dimension. Unlike traditional Orientalism, they treat Middle Eastern people as political subjects but approach them as defined by their culture and religion(Arat-Koç 2014, p. 1656, emphases added)
a crisis of culture. That is to say, it is more than a political or social or economic crisis. Of course, it has elements of all of these things, but at its most fundamental, it is a crisis of culture…the implosion of the hybrid civilization that dominated the twentieth century in the Arab world. That hybrid was the defensive, selective adaptation of Islamic traditions to the ways of the West. The idea was that the tradition could be preserved, that its essence could be defended, while making adjustments to modernity as needed. The timeless character of the political, religious, and social traditions of the region could be upheld, even as upgrades were made to accommodate modernity…This hybrid civilization pretended to be revolutionary, but it permitted the survival of those pre-modern traditions that block progress, from authoritarianism and patriarchy to sectarianism and tribalism. This hybrid civilization has now failed, and what we have seen is a collapse, not of a political system, but of a moral universe left behind by time.
4.1. The “Islamist” Winter and Neo-Orientalism after 2011: Adopting the Reductionist Discourse of the Bush Doctrine to Sanction Redemptive Intervention in Arabia
4.2. The Legal Principles of Bethlehem–A Legal Conduit Decriminalizing and Stimulating the Terror of the Bush Doctrine
…whether an armed attack may be regarded as ‘imminent’ will fall to be assessed by reference to all relevant circumstances, including (a) the nature and immediacy of the threat, (b) the probability of an attack, (c) whether the anticipated attack is part of a concerted pattern of continuing armed activity, (d) the likely scale of the attack and the injury, loss, or damage likely to result therefrom in the absence of mitigating action…The absence of specific evidence of where an attack will take place or of the precise nature of an attack does not preclude a conclusion that an armed attack is imminent for purposes of the exercise of a right of self-defense, provided that there is a reasonable and objective basis for concluding that an armed attack is imminent(Bethlehem 2012, pp. 776–77, emphases added).
4.3. The Bethlehem Principles and Operation Timber Sycamore–A Pre-Emptive Mission Legalizing the Death and Displacement of Arabs
The Intelligence Community (IC) knew that AQI had ties to the rebels in Syria; they knew our Gulf and Turkish allies were happy to strengthen Islamic extremists in a bid to oust Assad; and CIA officers in Benghazi (at a minimum) watched as our allies armed rebels using weapons from Libya. And the IC knew that a surging AQI might lead to the collapse of Iraq. That’s not the same thing as creating ISIS. But it does amount to doing little or nothing while our allies had a hand in creating ISIS. All of which ought to raise real questions about why we’re still allied with countries willfully empowering terrorist groups then, and how seriously they plan to fight those terrorist groups now. Because while the CIA may not have deliberately created ISIS, it sure seems to have watched impassively as our allies helped to do so.
the beheadings and other violence practiced by ISIS are not some whimsical, crazed fanaticism, but a very deliberate, considered strategy. The military strategy pursued by ISIS in Iraq, too, is neither spontaneous nor some populist adventure, but rather reflects very professional well-prepared military planning. The seemingly random violence has a precise purpose: Its aim is to strike huge fear; to break the psychology of a people.
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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The spiritual objective of deconstruction (Ar. التفكيك) as demonstrated by Arab falasifa and fuqahā such as Al-Ghazali, Ibn-Tufayl, F.D Al-Razi, and Ibn-Rushd, is the symbiotic relation between Science and Religion thereby “freeing al-haqq and l’écriture from the shackles of reason”. See Almond (2004, p. 10).
It is important to note that the neo-Orientalist imaginaries discussed do not completely align with a “post-colonial” approach reading to deconstruct the legal-history of the Arab world. That is to say, I align with several Arab and non-Arab scholars whose work directly or indirectly highlight, for instance, Edward Said’s own historicism in describing the etiology of orientalism becoming Orientalism with his polemic demonstratively making an a priori statement that the “East” and “West” are naturally (spatially) antagonistic thus (re)constituting and (re)actualizing the criticism of hypostatization brought against the “West”. Arab-Syrian writer Sadiq Jalal al-Azm and renowned Indian scholar Aijaz Ahmed directly engaged in a critique of Said’s work, while the work of other scholars such as Michel Aflaq, Mahdi Amel, Doreen Ingrams, Samar Attar, Fadi A. Bardawil, and Katharine S. Beckett discredit his writings either directly or indirectly, thus, highlighting the issue in making Said’s work an academic referent for a “Western” audience wanting to acquaint themselves with the “mind-set” of Arab epistemology.
While it is beyond the scope of this research article to highlight the importance of Arab-Islamic philosophy benefiting, contesting, and/or ameliorating the works of the Ancients (i.e., Plato, Aristotle, Galen, ect.), it is important to note the reconnaisance between Arab-Islamic philosophical theology and Latin-European philosophical theology (i.e., Anselm, Magnus, Aquinas) during the 10th–13th century. Prominent figures such as Al-Ghazali, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Al-Farabi, Ibn-Sina, Ibn-Tufayl, Ibn-Khaldun, Al-Khawarizmi, Ibn-Rushd, Al Biruni, Al-Qurtabi, Ibn Haytham, and Al-Kindi were extensively translated from Arabic to Latin, French, and English. A novice acquaintance with Arab philosophy and jurisprudent history reveals the extensive philosophical theological cannons accenting the importance of the faculty of reason and its continued nourishment for the constant flourishment of a “society of communities/Ummah”. See Abou El Fadl (2014); Al-Kassimi (2021).
Essentialism, according to Herzfeld (2010, p. 288; emphases added), “appears as both a violation of anthropological relativism and one of the besetting conceptual sins of anthropology. Exemplified by such totalizing ideologies as nationalism and biological determinism, it is also frequently conflated with reification, objectivism, and literalism. All four concepts are forms of reductionism and there is substantive semantic overlap among them. Reification may most usefully be seen as concerned above all with the logical properties of concepts, however, objectivism primarily entails a priori assumptions about the possibility of definitive description, while literalism may be specifically understood as the uncritical, decontextualized application of a referential and abstract semantics. The distinctive mark of essentialism, by contrast, lies in its suppression of temporality: it assumes or attributes an unchanging, primordial ontology to what are the historically contingent products of human or other forms of agency. It is thus also a denial of the relevance of agency itself.”
The philosophical and theological schism between Arab and Latin-European philosophical theology is noticed in the latter’s “non-spiritual” perception of Law thereby making a distinction between law and morality. This is historically and legally demonstrated when we recall the philology ‘moralizing’ sovereign-willed doctrines and missions accenting the Council of Clermont in 1095, Alhambra Decree in 1492, Tordesillas treaty in 1494, and later the Valladolid debate of 1550. By taking into account the desacralized transformations initiated by a Judeo-Christian rationalization of law and morality, we can extrapolate how the economy and geography—during the Renaissance and Enlightenment—became a “natural scientific” milieux. These concurrent moments are linked to a philosophical theology naturalizing a “detachment” between God’s heaven and people’s earth (i.e., divine-will–free-will; legality–morality; theocentric–geo/egocentric). This unnatural naturalism necessarily “secularized” revealed Law by producing an ethos identified as “homo economicus” embodying a protestant ethics prompting the legalization of issues directly negating revealed Law. See Guénon (1924, 1932); Anidjar (2003, 2014); Mignolo (2009); Mamdani (2020); Al-Kassimi (2021).
In the context of the CIA calling the operation Timber Sycamore, the following passage is gripping: “He gave their crops to the grasshopper, the fruit of their labor to the locust. He killed their vines with hailstones and their sycamore-figs with sleet. He abandoned their cattle to the hail and their livestock to bolts of lightning” (Psalm 78–47). The ficus sycomorus is commonly found in the Arab world, including Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Egypt–all overlap with high levels of covert deadly actions conducted by Western intelligence agencies (Dostal 2018, p. 370). More interestingly is the name of the hired death squads in the operation referred to using the acronym of ISIS. In the ancient world of Egyptian and Greco-Roman religion up until the 4th and 5th c. AD, Isis was a worshipped goddess that helped the dead enter afterlife. Also, the New Kingdom of Egypt had an elite paramilitary force serving as desert scouts protecting valuable areas such as the Theban Necropolis or the Valley of the Kings. Therefore, the death squads in ISIS/ISIL can be esoterically perceived as a group of elite mercenaries that seek to purify and/or transform impure dead Arab bodies aiding them in “entering” modern life. I am indebted to Professor J. Dostal for these hermeneutic discursive links.
It should be clear that the combination of the adjective “constructive” with the noun “anarchy” is not random, but deliberate in the sense that it is meant to highlight that Arabia—according to proponents of neo-Orientalism—is not to experience anarchy in the absolute sense of the term per se, but a certain anarchic and chaotic condition that is deliberate, sustained, and controlled in an attempt towards fundamentally changing an existing “old” state and its replacement with a “new ordered” state. The confusion of such hermeneutic language is not unwarranted; combining an adjective with a noun complicates strategic discourses in that it makes agents of violence (i.e., death squads/war-machines) makers of chaos and the consequence of their chaos (i.e., displacement and carnage) also a form of constructive chaos. See also Al-Kassimi (2020, p. 4).
International Relations (IR) is spelled with capital letters when it refers to the (Judeo-Christian) discipline and in lower case when it relates to world events. Stanley Hoffmann (1977) at 54 and 59 refers to this distinction as the “state of the discipline” in contrast to the “state of the world”. It logically follows, then, that IR and IL are synonymous with jus gentium since IL consists of the legal doctrines and principles informing the relationships amongst ‘recognized sovereigns’ in IR.
For a discussion of the concept “Arab comprador” refer to Al-Kassimi (2021, p. 11).
Fictional in the sense that while the terror violence did occur, it is not because the agent of violence is Muslim or Arab. Using Islam and/or Arabness as “historical information” supposedly explaining the cause of chaos and violence informing Arabia is fundamentally the fictional and reductionist aspect of secular-humanist narratives. As matter of fact, death squads were not all genealogically from Arabia but rather came from over 70 countries whether from Europe, Africa, or North/South/Central America. In addition, some were not even Muslim, however, communication centers linked violence and chaos to Islam while emphasizing visual shots generalizing all Arabs as Muslim thus developing the “Islamist figure” which dominated media centers after the Arab uprisings in 2011.
These groups were directly involved in exacerbating sectarian cleavages since they would engage–with legal coverage from recognized sovereign figures–in targeted assassinations and/or destroy places of worship from different religious sects. Other than Blackwater, for instance, the Mehdi Army and Peace Companies funded by Iran were allied with the U.S. army and the Wolf Brigades against local Arab-Iraqi resistance in the wake of conquest in 2003.
On 14 August 2014 in Syria, over a period of three days, death squads executed by hanging, shooting, beheading, or crucifixion over 700 Syrians from the Arab tribe known as Al-Shaitat located in the Deir ez-Zoor governorate. The point to note is not that “ISIS” claimed responsibility, but that members of Al-Shaitat are Muslim, and more importantly, Sunni, thereby demythologizing the idea that ISIS is an “Islamic State” that seeks to “displace” and terrorize “non-Muslims” from Arabia using Sharia (Holmes and Al-Khalidi 2014; Mezzofiore and Limam 2015). Similarly, in Iraq, death squads have systematically emptied cities mostly inhabited by genealogies of historic Arab tribes and clans–across all religious persuasions–such as Dulaim or Jubur in Anbar, Ramadani, and Mosul, or other cities such as Tikrit, Rabia, or Fallujah (Holmes and Al-Khalidi 2014; Mezzofiore and Limam 2015; Sly 2016).
See Gade (2019) and Conradie (2020) for a valuable analysis conceptualizing “anthropocene” from a theological and philosophical perspective. Future research is interested in analyzing the age as caused-by secular-humanist modernity. Here I am thinking about the pyrocene currently engulfing the Orient and Occident.
Please note that parts of this section were adapted from my Doctoral dissertation. Refer to Al-Kassimi (2020).
It is important to note the cultural relativist consequences of naming the terror of ISIS “Islamic”. This could assume that any society informing Arab civilization that existed (i.e., Umayyad, Abbasid, Osmanli, and Mughal) and/or used “Sharia” as its philosophical theological nomos invariably reverts to violence and terror to consolidate power. Secondly, it assumes that ISIS is actually “Islamic” and is following Islamic Jurisprudence. Thirdly, it neglects and negates the importance of Arab-Islamic metaphysical and theological heritage emerging during the Abbasids, Umayyads, Mamluks, and Osmanlis aiding in the development of Latin-European philosophical theology as highlighted in the cultural traffic between the Toledo School of Translators, the Salerno School, or the House of Wisdom.
Here I refer to Thomas Babington Macaulay’s famous minutes known as “Minute Upon Indian Education” of 1835 where he argues the supposed natural inherent inferiority of Arab epistemology, for instance, compared to European civilization.
Martin S. Kramer has in the past and present declared that critics of neo-Orientalism have contaminated Middle Eastern Studies because it is “dirt” that “swept the general field of the humanities and created the faux-academic discipline now known as post-colonialism” (Kramer 2007, p. 63).
These include amongst others: Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Lindsey Graham, David M. Friedman, Jared Kushner, David Horowitz, Phyllis Chesler, Daniel Pipes, Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq (b. 1946), Nabil Khalife, and Wafa Sultan.
While Hezbollah has exercised fundamentalist politics as identified in their brigades located in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, this does not necessarily mean that Hezbollah is a bona fide terrorist organization embodying an “evil shari’a”. Similarly, Taliban is an organic Afghani political and guerilla movement that sought to contest US and Soviet hegemony, its violation—at times—of the rights of Afghani citizens during different historical junctures is not because the movement is “Islamic”. In February 2020, the Doha Agreement between the Taliban and the U.S.—including other EU and Arab powers—was signed and a U.S withdrawal after 14 months was agreed upon. In August 2021, the U.S. initiated its withdrawal from Afghanistan by adopting an “Islamist” narrative mythologizing the cause of violence occurring in Afghanistan (i.e., violation of women rights, freedom of speech, etc.) while completely disregarding the social, political, and economic consequences destroying Afghani society for over two decades since the initiation of a pre-emptive war in 9/11 with the help of local Afghani compradors (i.e., Hamid Karzai, Ashraf Ghani, etc.) and death squads. President Biden stated on 16 August 2021 that “Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland” (Biden 2021). In Biden’s speech, we notice Islamophobic and Islamophilic discourses reaffirming our previous discussion. According to his speech act, after two decades, Afghani’s were incapable of adopting temporal coordinates accenting Western modernity (i.e., democracy and the arts of war) since they are fond of an “Islamist” ideology. This developing topic is the subject of future research.
In January 2020, the UK and three other countries joined the U.S. in blacklisting Hezbollah by identifying the whole movement as a “terrorist” organization (AFP 2020). Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, stated that the Trump administration was “very pleased” with the decision of the UK adding that it had long been seeking such a move from European allies (AFP 2020). Most importantly, he stated that “there is no distinction between Hezbollah’s political arm and its military arm” (AFP 2020).
On 29 February 2020 the U.S. and the Taliban signed a peace deal agreement in Doha, Qatar stating that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in a period of 14 months only if the Taliban can guarantee that Afghani soil will not be used as a launchpad for Al-Qaeda or Islamist combatants. Refer to fn.19.
In Arabic, Mujaheed (مجاهد) is defined as a person engaging in a struggle. However, in modern usage the term has strictly been adopted in a pejorative sense by equating it with terrorism and (un)holy actions.
On 5 February 2003 Colin Powell declared at the UN Security Council that “Our concern is not just about these illicit weapons; it’s the way that these illicit weapons can be connected to terrorists and terrorist organizations...But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants…One of his specialties and one of the specialties of this camp is poisons… the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp, and this camp is located in Northeastern Iraq. We are not surprised that Iraq is harboring Zarqawi and his subordinates. This understanding builds on decades-long experience with respect to ties between Iraq and al Qaeda”. (Chossudovsky 2004, 2015)
At the time of writing, Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi—the nom de guerre of the proclaimed leader of “Islam” and the “Islamic State”–was pronounced once again as deceased. He was replaced with Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi.
Also known as “Bush’s shadow army” (Scahill 2007).
General Kevin Bergner went as far as to state that “Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq...did not exist” (Yates 2007). On 28 December 2019, a lawsuit against U.S. military contractors claims that firms paid “protection money” to private military contractors and terrorist groups. According to Ryan R. Sparacino, a lawyer representing plaintiffs stated that the “Anti-Terrorism Act complaint alleges that eight large multinational corporations, most of which are American, regularly paid ‘protection payments’ to the Taliban (including the Haqqani Network) which were designed to boost the companies’ profits redirecting violence away from their own business interests, We believe plaintiffs bore the consequences”. Over 40% of funds extended by organizations such as USAID, DAI, and Louis Berger from 2007 to 2009 ended up in the pockets of terrorist groups (RT 2019).
Contrary to hegemonic media centers framing Fallujah, Anbar, and Tikrit–amongst other areas–as “Islamist enclaves”, these cities included Arab-Iraqi civilians from all religious persuasions who early on during the U.S conquest of Iraq in 2003 engaged in some of the fiercest resistance.
The recent Israeli operation in Gaza (May 2021)–named Guardian of the Walls–has been largely advanced as a “legal” operation using the principles of Bethlehem. The targeting of civilian buildings housing journalists and media communication centers (i.e., AP and Al-Jazeera on 15 May 2020), including the targeting of sanitary infrastructure and electrical grids directly violating international law and legal conventions (i.e., Vienna, Geneva, etc.) has been decriminalized by assuming Gaza as an enclave of “Arab-Islamists”. The legal discourse espoused by the administration of President Biden and PM Netanyahu, including some EU countries such as France echoed political statements invoking principle 8 justifications such “pre-emptive strike”, “principle of self-defence”, “presumption of threat”, and most disturbingly, targeting centers of knowledge providing “evidence” rather than “information” concerned with both sides (Federman 2021; IMFA 2021; Al-Jazeera 2021; Porterfield 2021). For a demonstrative legal articulation, revert to Edward Price’s–spokesman of US Department of State–press briefing exchange with Matt Lee and Said Arikat on 10 May 2021 where he seems to legally justify Israeli criminal practices by evoking the concept of “state” as meaning ‘civility’, ‘sovereignty’, and ‘rationality’ which according to him is absent in the case of Arab-Palestinians by referencing positivist legal reasoning.
This includes Baghdad, Beirut, Mosul, Damascus, Cairo, Tripoli, and Sana’a.
It should be noted that the Lebanese government was informed by the Greek government that Trader was heading to Lebanon. In a different case concerning the proliferation of large quantities of ammonium nitrate, it should be noted that the country or countries involved in sourcing the ammonium nitrate supposedly involved in the explosion of port Beirut on 4 August 2020 remains under investigation. Lebanese lawyer Wadih Akil has extensively elaborated on the explosion.
It should be noted that the term “salafi” has also become a pejorative equated with terrorism and incompetently referred to as a “sect”. In Arabic, the term salafi is an adjective that designates a person who follows his “predecessors”. Therefore, if a Muslim is a salafi it does not a priori mean he/she are terrorists, it simply designates that he/she revert to a literalist interpretation of Tradition (i.e., sunnah) deliberated by their predecessors (i.e., Salaf). It is also interesting to note that the articulation of salafi in a pejorative manner is used to denote an Arab that is temporally “stuck in the past” by abiding to “traditional” ideas.
NATO French air-force destroyed the La Farge cement factory on 17 October 2019 located in Jalabiyeh northern part of Syria’s Aleppo close to the Turkish border. The factory was vital in extending death-squads cement and other building equipment to build underground tunnels and/or extend arms transportation. It has been reported that the factory gave terrorists over 6 million tons of cement (Meyssan 2019).
The UK Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) chaired by Crispin Blunt initiated an inquiry in July 2015–which was published in September 2016–seeking to analyse Britain’s decision-making in the run-up to its intervention in the Libyan Jamahiriya in 2011. According to Wintour and Elgot (2016), the report is similar to the “Chilcot inquiry which echoed the criticisms widely made against Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq”. The Blunt Report explicitly states in relation to Libya that, “we have seen no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya.” It also adds, “[the] UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence.” The FAC concludes that the British government “failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element.” Echoing Principle 8 of the Bethlehem Principles, David Cameron refused to give evidence to the select committee but was rather content with alleged information. In one of his few reflections on his major military intervention, he blamed the “Libyan people for failing to take their chance of democracy” (Norton 2016; Wintour and Elgot 2016). The result of the French, British and US intervention, the report finds, “was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of Isil [Islamic State] in north Africa”. It continues by stating that through “his decision-making in the national security council, former prime minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy.” Overall, the report reveals that (1) Ghaddafi was not planning to massacre civilians and that this myth was exaggerated by rebels and Western governments; (2) the threat of Islamist extremists, which had a large influence in the uprising, was ignored—and the NATO bombing made this threat even worse, giving ISIS a base in North Africa; (3) France, which initiated the military intervention, was motivated by economic and political interests, not humanitarian ones; (4) the uprising—which was violent, not peaceful—would likely not have been successful were it not for foreign military intervention and aid; (5) foreign media outlets, particularly Qatar’s Al Jazeera and Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya, also spread unsubstantiated rumors about Qaddafi and the Libyan government; and finally, (6) the NATO bombing plunged Libya into a humanitarian disaster, killing thousands of people and displacing hundreds of thousands more, transforming Libya from the African country with the highest standard of living into a war-torn failed state (Norton 2016; Wintour and Elgot 2016).
This is further discussed by Hersh (2016) who reveals that “Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence, we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth”.
He says, “two years before the violence in Syria…I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing an invasion of gunmen to invade Syria” (Ahmed 2015a; Kleib 2019; Raimbaud 2019).
Daniel Ellsberg also confirmed the danger of the memo released in 2012 in that it asserted that “Western powers were supporting extremist Islamic groups in Syria that were opposing Assad…They were not only as they claimed supporting moderate groups, who were losing members to the more extremists’ groups, but that they were directly supporting the extremist groups. And they were predicting that this support would result in an Islamic State organization, an ISIS or ISIL… They were encouraging it, regarding it as a positive development” (Ahmed 2015c; emphases added).
See Chapter V in Al-Kassimi (2020) for an extensive discussion on the carnage and displacement accenting Arabia following 2011 using necropolitics and biopolitics as paradigms of analysis.
According to a study conducted by Susan Moeller at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, since 9/11 a bias has been identified in U.S. newspapers defining the term “Madrassa” in a reductionist manner (Moeller 2007). While the term in Arabic is defined as “student” and/or “school”, communication centers in the U.S. essentialized the term pushing readers “to infer that all schools so-named are anti-American, anti-Western, pro-terrorist centres having less to do with teaching basic literacy and more to do with political indoctrination” (Moeller 2007)
It should be noted that Al-Qaeda fighters present in Libya under the command of Abdel Hakim Belhadj and other Al-Qaeda affiliated death squads were transported to Syria after the great Libyan Jamahiriya was conquered (Forte 2013).
Malhama Tactical is also known as the “BlackWater of Jihad” (Komar et al. 2017).
The use of chemical weapons by death squads in Khan Al-Assal on 19 March 2013, Ghoutta on 21 August 2013, and Douma on 7 April 2018.
Khaled Al-Asaad, a Syrian archaeologist and the head of antiquities at the ancient city of Palmyra for over 40 years—a UNESCO World Heritage Site–was publicly beheaded by death squads on 15 August 2015.
Ian Henderson who worked for 12 years at the OPCW by serving as an inspection team leader and engineering expert assisted in the fact-finding mission (FFM) on the ground in Douma authorized by the international watchdog (Norton 2020). He told a UN Security Council session convened on 20 January 2020 by Russia’s delegation that “OPCW management had rejected his group’s scientific research, dismissed the team, and produced another report that totally contradicted their initial findings. ‘We had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred,’ Henderson said, referring to the FFM team in Douma. The former OPCW inspector added that he had compiled evidence through months of research that “provided further support for the view that there had not been a chemical attack” (Norton 2020).
According to Crooke “the idea of breaking up the large Arab states into ethnic or sectarian enclaves is an old Ben Gurion ‘canard’, and splitting Iraq along sectarian lines has been Vice President Biden’s recipe since the Iraq war…the idea of driving a Sunni ‘wedge’ into the landline linking Iran to Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon became established by Western groupthink in the wake of the 2006 war…in short, the DIA assessment indicated that the ‘wedge’ concept was being given a new life by the desire to pressure Assad in the wake of the 2011 insurgency launched against the Syrian state. ‘Supporting powers’ effectively wanted to inject hydraulic fluid into eastern Syria (radical Salafists) in order to fracture the bridge between Iran and its Arab allies” (as cited in Ahmed 2015c).
While it is beyond the scope of this manuscript to analyze and identify each “Islamist” death squad group involved in Operation Timber Sycamore, it is sufficient to mention Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat Al-Nusra), Ahrar al-Sham, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Khorasan Group, and Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, including Private Military Contractors such as Academi (formerly Blackwater) and Malhama Tactical (Ahmed 2014; Chossudovsky 2016; Komar et al. 2017). These groups were the primary benefactors of the operation who engaged in barbaric acts involving immolation, crucifixion, looting, pillaging, and massacring of Muslims and non-Muslims thereby leading to millions of people in the Arab world, especially Syria, becoming “internally displaced peoples (IDPs)” and/or “refugees”. Also, while most death squads were ethnically and religiously featured in media frames as “Arab rebels” and “Islamic warriors” driven by “Sharia law”, most groups included foreigners that were neither Arab nor Muslim (Pichon 2017; Kleib 2019; Raimbaud 2019). Also, important to note is that while death squads funded by Iran are not identified as “ISIS” such as Saraya al-Jihad, Mehdi Army, Peace Companies, Badr Organization, Kata’ib al-Imam Ali, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and some factions of the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU), their committed atrocities across Syria and Iraq are exactly similar to ISIS.
As of 21 December 2017, the bombing campaign led by CJTP-OIR during Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, for instance, has been dubbed the “heaviest bombing campaign since the War in Vietnam” with over “105,000 bombs and missiles” dropped according to AFCENT commander Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian (Benjamin and Davies 2018). These bombing campaigns not only resulted in most victims being civilians, but reduced several Arab cities to rubble including UNESCO heritage sites (Benjamin and Davies 2018).
The civilizational consequences of the bombing campaign in Yemen–claiming the lives of over 100,000 Arabs as of 2020–is summed up by Dr. Abdulkader Alguneid who reminisces about Mount Sabir in the citadel of Taiz by saying “I’m watching an entire generation lose our history and heritage” (Khalidi 2017; Rodrigues 2019). The city of Taiz–one of many cities and historical sites reduced to rubble and/or nearly so–represents for Yemen “what Notre Dame represents for Europe, or what St Paul’s Cathedral is for the British”. Taiz is a “centrepiece of Yemen’s extraordinarily [Arab] rich heritage and gives a sense of identity and continuity for the exhausted, war-weary people of Yemen” (Rodrigues 2019). The Arab-Islamic scholar and explorer Ibn Battuta called Taiz “one of the most beautiful and extensive cities of Yemen” (Rodrigues 2019).
The city of Sirte in Libya or other Arab historical cities such as Tripoli or Benghazi, whether during the NATO bombing in 2011 or during Operation Inherent Resolve in 2017, were either completely or nearly destroyed (Forte 2013; Al-Kassimi 2018b)
Benjamin and Davies (2018) highlight that since 2003, there has been a minimum of 1.5 million deaths and a maximum of 3.4 million deaths in Iraq alone. The battle to retake Mosul in 2017 using a CJTP-OIR mandate resulted in the deaths of over 40,000 civilians—with several thousand individuals unaccounted for—in less than 5 months including 1 million displaced (Benjamin and Davies 2018; Gonsalves 2017). The bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria resulted in more than 70% of deaths being civilians with around 20% informing death squads.
The war on Syria destroyed around one-third of all Syria’s pre-war housing and civil infrastructure. The destruction of the financial and industrial center Aleppo—also known as the economic capital of Syria—was compared with the Dresden bombing of WWII (Salman and Rabih 2019). Aleppo had a population of around 2 million people and produced over 50% of the manufacturing output of the country. According to a study issued by the Syrian Center for Policy in Research in 2016, the losses of the Syrian economy have reached $255 billion dollars. This means that Aleppo’s share of economic losses could be about 65 billion dollars or more (Sasa 2016). According to Frontier Economics, the Syrian war by 2020 would have costed £1.3 trillion pounds in economic growth–around £3.2 billion pounds a month (Jones 2016).
While it is difficult to quote a precise number of how many persons were involved in death squads who roamed the Arab world since 2011, Al-Qassimi (2019) mentions that according to her sources there was in 2014 Syria alone—at the zenith of the war –anywhere from 150,000 to 200,000 mercenaries on Arab Syrian territory which directly or indirectly received logistical funding from Western intelligence agencies–especially from the CIA through Operation Timber Sycamore.
Similarly, Eldridge Colby in 1927 argues in the British Manual of Military Law—in agreement with American jurist Quincy Wright–during the indiscriminate bombings of Damascus by the colonial mandate that the “rules of international law apply only to warfare between civilized nations, where both parties understand them and are prepared to carry them out. They do not apply in wars with uncivilized States and tribes… the real essence of the matter is that devastation and annihilation is the principal method of warfare that savage tribes know” (Colby 1927, p. 280; emphases added; Wright 1926; Bowden 2007).
For example, reductionist discourses claiming that the British and French mandate were endowed with the “sacred trust of civilizing” post-Ottoman Arabia.
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Al-Kassimi, K. The Legal Principles of Bethlehem & Operation Timber Sycamore: The “Islamist Winter” Pre-Emptively Targets “Arab Life” by Hiring “Arab Barbarians”. Laws 2021, 10, 69. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10030069
Al-Kassimi K. The Legal Principles of Bethlehem & Operation Timber Sycamore: The “Islamist Winter” Pre-Emptively Targets “Arab Life” by Hiring “Arab Barbarians”. Laws. 2021; 10(3):69. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10030069Chicago/Turabian Style
Al-Kassimi, Khaled. 2021. "The Legal Principles of Bethlehem & Operation Timber Sycamore: The “Islamist Winter” Pre-Emptively Targets “Arab Life” by Hiring “Arab Barbarians”" Laws 10, no. 3: 69. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws10030069