Saturday, August 06, 2016

Real international politics and apocalyptic rhetoric can be poor matches: Syria version

After the 9/11 attacks, the Republican Party and much of the Democratic Party adopted an apocalyptic, good-vs.-evil narrative about The Terrorists, with whom we are now perpetually at war.

Gareth Porter in Al Qaeda’s Name Game in Syria Consortium News 08/06/2016 gives a current illustration of how Good-vs-Evil dichotomies.

Whether the current organizational umbrella called Al Qaeda still said to be headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri bears much meaningful resemblance to the Al Qaeda of 2001 is a question for which I have no answer.

But the hardbitten "realist" notion that nations have no permanent friends or enemies, only national interests that have to be protected, has an awful lot of truth in it.

Since the United States is backing Islamic extremists in Syria against both the Syrian government and the Islamic extremist group Islamic State, it requires some effort to square the Good-vs-Islamic-Evil narrative with actual policy. Porter writes:

The Nusra Front’s adoption of the new name Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and claim that it has separated itself from Al Qaeda was designed to influence U.S. policy, not to make the group any more independent of Al Qaeda.

The objective of the maneuver was to head off U.S.-Russian military cooperation against the jihadist group, renamed last week, based at least in part on the hope that the U.S. bureaucratic and political elite, who are lining up against a new U.S.-Russian agreement, may block or reverse the Obama administration’s intention to target Al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria.

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