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Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Muslim Brotherhood: Origins, Efficacy and Reach

Posted By Raymond Ibrahim On August 28, 2013

Originally published by World Watch Monitor.
[Note: The following essay, commissioned and written nearly a year ago but only recently published, has, in light of the June 30 Revolution and ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, been slightly updated with additional bracketed text.]
The Muslim Brotherhood is the most important Islamic organization in the world, with tentacles of influence everywhere, both in the Islamic world but also in the West, wherever its purpose—the establishment of a Sharia-enforcing caliphate—can be achieved. The efficacy of this group can be seen in the fact that, less than a century ago, when it was founded, it consisted of very few members; it was violent and eventually crushed and outlawed; today in Egypt, a MB leader, Muhammad Morsi, sits on the throne of the Middle East’s most strategic nation, ironically in the name of democracy, where he is trying to enable the totality of Sharia law in Egypt, even as many resist.
History and Approach
The story of the Muslim Brotherhood, as with many other stories dealing with Islamic importance, begins in Egypt—which still serves as something of a paradigm of the group’s strategies and approach in general. Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949), the son of a mosque imam and Sheikh of the Hanbali school of law, founded the Muslim Brotherhood. Hassan incorporated Sufi views, which tend to be more moderate and which teach, among other things, pragmatism and patience. Of course, in an Islamic context pragmatism and patience can easily take on the form of taqiyya and tawriya—Islamic doctrines that instruct Muslims to deceive when it is perceived to be in Islam’s interest—and may well explain how Banna came to develop the Muslim Brotherhood’s way of operating, to be discussed further below.
A school teacher and imam, Banna was reportedly very charismatic and pivotal to the subsequent growth of the movement, which, when he started it in 1922, consisted of only a handful of members but had burgeoned to half a million in as little as little as ten years. Banna did one thing that not only gave rise and prominence to the Muslim Brotherhood, but all Islamist organizations as well—including al-Qaeda, which is currently headed by Ayman Zawahiri, a onetime Muslim Brotherhood member: he helped politicize Islam at a time when it was seen at best as a personal matter, in much the same way modern-day Westerners view religion.
To understand this, one must understand the history of the Middle East. A few centuries after the chaotic times of the Islamic conquests, Islamic law, or Sharia (etymologically related to the words meaning “way” and “road”) was developed and held sway over Islamic lands, in this case Egypt for centuries. Thus, in this sense, Islam, from a historical point of view, has in fact wholly permeated the politics of Islamic law. For example, courts were all ruled according to Sharia dictates; the caliph, again, according to Sharia, was obligated to wage war, or jihad, on his non-Muslim neighbors; and so forth.
However, a new thing happened in 1798: a Frenchman—an infidel, Napoleon—invaded and conquered Egypt. This heralded a new paradigm—that the infidel West (then and often now seen as Christendom) was stronger, and thus better, than the Islamic world. To appreciate this idea fully, one must first understand that, since the time of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, the veracity of Islam and its Sharia have been tied to its temporal success, its ability to aggrandize and enrich its followers with land and warbooty, including slaves.
When Muhammad was just a “prophet” preaching to the Arabs, he spent a decade with nothing but a handful of followers. But when he styled himself as a warlord, attacking and plundering those who did not accept him as prophet, and thereby acquiring many victories and even more war booty for his growing number of followers, Arabians acquiesced to him and his message. Thus, from the start, the veracity of the prophet was tied to his military and temporal successes. The Islamic conquests, whereby Islam’s invading armies conquered much of the Old World—from India in the east to Spain in the west—were especial proof that the Islamic way, the Sharia, was the right way. The West’s conquest and subsequent colonization shook this paradigm to its core, causing the majority of nominal Muslims to turn to the West and essentially westernize.
Accordingly, in the colonial era, and even when Muslims ruled Egypt, lots of reforms were made, the jizya was abolished, and political Islam lost its influence. Even if Islam was given formal respect, no self-respecting Egyptian would invoke the Sharia as a way to govern people; they adopted and promoted Western forms—in governance, politics, and even dress and culture. In early 20th century Egypt, especially in the cities, the hijab, or female veil, was a rare oddity. Today it is ubiquitous.
To appreciate this great change, consider the following anecdote. A rare video shows President Gamel Abdel Nasser speaking before a large assembly, and explaining to them how back in 1953 he wanted to cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood, and met with its leader. According to Nasser, the very first demand of the Brotherhood leader was for the hijab to return to Egypt, “for every woman walking in the street to wear a headscarf.” The audience erupted in laughter at this, then, ludicrous demand; one person hollered “Let him wear it!” eliciting more laughter and applause. Nasser continued by saying he told the Brotherhood leader that if they enforced the hijab, people would say Egypt had returned to the dark ages (to more laughter), adding that Egyptians should uphold such matters in the privacy of their own homes.
Such was the Egypt that Banna and others inherited. To overcome nearly two centuries of westernization, whereby most Egyptians knew little more about Islam than the five pillars, if that, Banna politicized Islam, making it as it once was. However, he and his followers eventually realized that their message would only resonate if: 1) they took a grass-roots approach to mobilizing Muslims—an approach which inevitably took longer, in this case decades, almost a century, but which as we are seeing has yielded great fruit, and 2) they instituted activism and propaganda, which eventually led to a complex, multi-layered organization, with members from all walks of life, from peasants to professionals . The Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of pre-existing Islamic organizations—politicizing them, Islamizing them, and mobilizing them. Accordingly, many businesses, schools, and other organizations became attached to the Brotherhood, either formally or informally, as they continue to do to this day. Decades of this further fueled by the group’s humanitarian work with laypeople, led to an immense sense of loyalty to the group and always attracted new recruits.
No matter how humanitarian or social, Banna’s message, and the Brotherhood’s, was/is always couched in Islamic terms. Whether talking about colonialism, health-related issues, education, or nationalism, everything was articulated through an Islamic framework, subtly re-Islamizing the average Egyptian’s worldview. Major themes always hammered out included the loss of the caliphate, the weakness of the fragmented Islamic world, and the need to revive the caliphate and enforce Sharia law—the Islamic “way,” which was and is always portrayed as the supreme guide to justice and fair dealing.
It is significant to note that, though several General Guides of the Muslim Brotherhood have come and gone since Banna, the latter’s overall strategy and tactics have generally remained fixed, depending on the vicissitudes of the times, and the MB’s capacities and position vis-à-vis its opponents. To be sure, and perhaps inevitably, the MB, once it became relatively powerful, did engage in terror attacks, especially against the Nasser government, and ended up being outlawed. Banna himself was killed by government forces in 1949.
Due to its popularity, the MB was briefly legalized again, but only as a religious organization, and then banned again in 1954 due to its non-stop insistence that Egypt be governed under Sharia. Egyptian officials were assassinated, with attempts on Nasser’s life as well. The government retaliated swiftly, outlawing the group, imprisoning and torturing thousands of members, while others fled to sympathetic nations, especially Wahhabi Saudi Arabia.
A few of the greatest MB leaders and agitators were also executed at this time. One member who was executed under Gamal in 1966 is of special note: Sayyid Qutb—today known as the “godfather” of modern Islamism. Perhaps no figure has impacted the modern Islamist movement as this man, who wrote prolifically and voluminously especially during his incarceration, producing two “classics” that are today still staples of any serious Islamist or jihadi: (in translation) In the Shade of the Quran (a multi-volume exegesis) and Sign Posts, a short primer that very well captures the phase-by-phase approach of the Muslim Brotherhood, the need to use both prudence and act only according to the reality on the ground, the chances of success. While Qutb stressed the need for stages, he also popularized the jihadi movement by arguing that the Islamic world was not sufficiently Islamic and thus needed a jihadi vanguard to overthrow jahiliyya, or the pre-Islamic state of ignorance the Muslim world was currently in.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, “Three basic themes emerge from Qutb’s writings. First, he claimed that the world was beset with barbarism, licentiousness, and unbelief (a condition he called jahiliyya, the religious term for the period of ignorance prior to the revelations given to the prophet Mohammed). Qutb argued that humans can choose only between Islam and jahiliyya. Second, he warned that more people, including Muslims, were attracted to jahiliyya and its material comforts than to his view of Islam; jahiliyya could therefore triumph over Islam. Third, no middle ground exists in what Qutb conceived as a struggle between God and Satan. All Muslims—as he defined them—therefore must take up arms in this fight. Any Muslim who rejects his ideas is just one more nonbeliever worthy of destruction.”
The influence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Qutb’s writings cannot be underestimated, as they are quoted regularly by modern-day Islamists. Even al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri regularly quotes Qutb in his writings. Due to Qutb’s popularity with terrorists, the Brotherhood’s leadership eventually distanced itself from him, openly advocating instead a nonviolent “reformist” strategy from within, which it has followed ever since. [Until the popular June 30, 2013 revolution that overthrew President Morsi, which prompted the Brotherhood to openly engage in violence and terror, seeing they had been exposed and have nothing to lose.]
Due to the popularity of the MB—those many decades of cultivating Egyptian society were not for nothing—Nasser’s successor, Anwar al-Sadat, released a great many of their number from the prisons and promised to institute Sharia in Egypt, leading to the introduction of the Second Article of the Egyptian Constitution, which made Islamic law (Sharia) the principal source of jurisprudence. (Ironically it is this matter concerning the Constitution and how Islamic it will be that has created a major rift in Egyptian society today, with Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi—and all Islamist factions—pushing for an even greater role for Islam, and portraying as “infidels” and “apostates” all who would resist.)
Even so, Sadat’s gesture to Sharia was not enough: after he signed a peace treaty with Israel, the Brotherhood and other Islamic groups constantly agitated against him and he was shortly thereafter assassinated in 1981. In the Mubarak era the group was once again formally outlawed even as independent members were allowed in parliament. But both containment and appeasement were too late: the revivalist spirit of Islam was in the air; banning or arresting individuals was not enough.
Accordingly, after nearly a century of Islamic activism and propaganda by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian worldview that for some generations had been emulating the West as the path to success has diminished by degrees, decade after decade, slowly becoming more Islamic in orientation. With the 2011 revolt in Egypt, which started with moderates and secularists seeking true democracy, all Islamists were released from the prisons—including Egypt’s current [now deposed] president—and they now dominate the life of the nation. For the first time, then, not only is the Brotherhood fueling society from a grass-roots level, but from a top-down approach.
Goals, Objectives, and Other Islamists
What is the ultimate goal of the Muslim Brotherhood? Although many Islamic groups have developed since the inception of the MB, many of them born of it. Equally significant, by and large, all Sunni Islamic organizations—including al-Qaeda and the Taliban—want the same thing the Brotherhood does: a Sharia-enforcing caliphate. They differ primarily on how this goal is to be achieved.
Consider the MB’s slogan: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”
This credo represents a statement that even the most radical, jihadi Muslim would embrace, for it captures all the essentials of radical and jihadi Islam, the sort of Islam practiced by terrorist organizations. Similarly, the Brotherhood’s English language website describes the “principles of the Muslim Brotherhood” as including firstly the introduction of the Islamic Sharia as “the basis for controlling the affairs of state and society”; and secondly working to unify “Islamic countries and states, mainly among the Arab states, and liberating them from foreign imperialism.” In other words, working to unite the Muslim world under a caliphate which it still openly insists is its ultimate goal. Indeed, not too long ago, Muhammad Badie, the current General Guide of the Brotherhood [arrested August 19, 2013], openly declared that “The Imam [Bana] delineated transitional goals and detailed methods to achieve this greatest objective, starting by reforming the individual, followed by building the family, the society, the government, and then a rightly guided caliphate and finally mastership of the world.”
This idea of “transitional goals” and objectives for every stage is captured very well by the Brotherhood’s vision and is very easily captured by the one word that appears under the Muslim Brotherhood banner of two swords crossed over the Koran, “prepare”—a word taken from Koran 8:60: “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrorize the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.”
In short, the Muslim Brotherhood is dedicated to preparing the way for the coming of the caliphate—which, if history is any indicator, is much more problematic than any one, single Islamic state or terrorist organization: all Islamic conquests of non-Muslim, mostly Christian lands occurred under caliphates, including the Umayyad, Abbasid, and of course, the Turkish Ottoman State.
Having explored some of the history and doctrines of the Muslim Brotherhood, some relevant questions are in order. First, comprehending the motives of the Muslim Brotherhood continues to be difficult for people in the West, whose epistemology for centuries has always separated the realm of religion from the realm of politics. Is the Muslim Brotherhood a political group, or is it a religious group? Such questions plague the West. The fact is, it is both—for in Islam, historically and doctrinally, Islam is politics. The word “sharia” simply means “way”, that is, the Islamic way of conducting affairs. It governs every aspect of the believer’s life (in Islam, all possible acts are classified according to five categories: obligatory, recommended, permissible, not recommended, and forbidden). Muslim authorities are deemed legitimate or illegitimate based primarily on whether they enforce Sharia on society or not. In fact, this has historically been the grievance that the various Islamist and jihadi groups—beginning with the Brotherhood—have had against the ruling governments and regimes of their respective nations—that they have not been enforcing Sharia law in society.
It bears repeating: the overarching goal of all Islamist and jihadi groups the world over is the establishment of “Allah’s rule” on earth. From its inception, this has also been the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal—hence the reason it is heavily involved in politics. The primary disagreement more violent Islamists and jihadis have with the Brotherhood has to do with tactics—not the overall vision which they all share: establishment, enforcement, and then spread of Sharia law. Jihadis have long argued that, by (at least formally) disavowing violence—that is, jihad—and instead participating in politics in order to achieve power and implement Sharia, the Muslim Brotherhood has betrayed the call to jihad. For instance, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda, was also a former Muslim Brotherhood member when he was fifteenyears old. However, he was soon lured by the call to jihad, abandoned the group, and joined more radical groups in Egypt, including Al-Gam’a Al-Islamiyya (the “Islamic Group”) and Islamic Jihad.
Ayman al-Zawahiri is an interesting case in point concerning the tactics of the Brotherhood and its detractors. Many years after he quit the Brotherhood in the late 1960s when he was a teenager, Zawahiri wrote an entire book criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood. Titled Al Hissad Al Murr, or “The Bitter Harvest”, Zawahiri argued that the Brotherhood “takes advantage of the Muslim youths’ fervor by bringing them into the fold only to store them in a refrigerator. Then, they steer their one-time passionate, Islamic zeal for jihad to conferences and elections…. And not only have the Brothers been idle from fulfilling their duty of fighting to the death, but they have gone as far as to describe the infidel governments as legitimate, and have joined ranks with them in the ignorant style of governing, that is, democracies, elections, and parliaments.”
Ironically, however, for all his scathing remarks against them, time has revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy of slowly infiltrating society by a grass-roots approach has been much more effective than Zawahiri’s and al-Qaeda’s jihadi terror [until, that is, fellow Egyptians and Muslims saw them for what they were and overthrew them; in the West, however, subtle infiltration still works better than terrorism and is still the preferred strategy]. The Brotherhood’s patience and perseverance, by playing the political game, co-opting Western language and paradigms, formally disavowing violence and jihad, have turned it into a legitimate player in the eyes of many, to the point that the U.S. government has become supportive of it, even though it was once banned. Yet this does not make the Brotherhood’s goals any less troubling. For instance, in July 2012, Safwat Hegazy, a popular preacher and Brotherhood member [since arrested for incitement to terrorism], boasted that the Brotherhood will be “masters of the world, one of these days.” Likewise, according to Kamil al-Najjar, who left the Muslim Brotherhood and is currently living under threat of death, “They are trying to deceive the people and they have managed to deceive a lot of Western politicians into believing in them. Their only aim is to control the world with Islam. They know they cannot use force to convert the West, so they use deceit.” Even Gamal al-Banna, the brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, had harsh words for the movement his brother founded, saying it totally rejects freedom.
Egypt’s Salafis—who are identical to al-Qaeda and other radical Muslims in that they seek literally to emulate the 7th century Muslim prophet Muhammed and the earliest Muslims, who were quite violent and intolerant—are another case in point. Released from the jails and now in parliaments around the Arab world, following the “Arab Spring”, Salafis represent the al-Qaeda-type Muslims who, while initially contemptuous of the Brotherhood’s political game of patience, have seen the rewards the Brotherhood has nonetheless earned, and thus are also trying to “moderate” their approach, leading to some incongruous moments. Thus, while the Salafi Nour (“Light”) Party ran in Egypt’s elections, engaged in democracy, and otherwise played the political game, they rarely hid the fact that they saw democracy and elections as a contemptible means to one end—Sharia law. Thus, one Salafi cleric appears on video telling Muslims to commit voter fraud if they can to see that an Islamist candidate wins; another portrayed elections as a jihad, saying that whoever dies during voting becomes a martyr. Unlike the Brotherhood, whose members have learned to master the art of taqiyya over the course of decades(dissembling has become almost second nature to them), the Salafis—who share the same ideology as al-Qaeda (that is, that open Islam must be practiced now, with force if necessary) have still not fully learned to play the game, and are simply too honest concerning their designs.
It is perhaps ironic that the Brotherhood’s greatest opponents at the current time are not Western governments or human rights groups but Egyptians themselves, including a great many Muslims. Western analysts—here I speak of those who understand the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood—sometimes forget that, whatever the Brotherhood’s goals are, to a great many of those Egyptians supportive of the group, they see something entirely different. To them, Islam is goodness, and Sharia is justice—so what is so bad about wanting to implement Sharia, as the Brotherhood has long maintained? This is why Muhammad Morsi received slightly more than 50% of Egypt’s vote (and that is with widespread allegations of voter fraud). Many Egyptians, used to the humanitarian side of the Brotherhood—as mentioned, like its Hamas offshoot, the Brotherhood won many people over by its social programs—did not think of an overtly Islamist agenda; or, if they did, to their minds an Islamist agenda meant goodness and justice not wholly unlike in the Western sense (which of course many Muslims are still influenced by).
However, mere months after Morsi became president, he began replacing many key governmental and media positions with Brotherhood members. Worse, he introduced a new Constitution that had a strong Islamist element. Many critics pointed out that the wording was always ambiguous, but in all cases, Sharia was portrayed as the ultimate arbitrator in several aspects. Accordingly, Egyptians rose up against Morsi, in protest after protest—arguing that Egypt is not a “Brotherhood organization” to be run like one. At one point, the forcefulness of the attacks drove him from the presidential palace under the cover of dark. Watching some of the videos of average people in the streets is eye-opening. Many of them say things like “May I have died when I voted for you Morsi!” and much more derogatory statements not fit to publish. The main reason such Egyptians are disgusted with Morsi has less to do with Islamism and more to do with the fact that Egyptians are still suffering economically and socially, in fact even worse than under Mubarak. Accordingly, Morsi is increasingly seen as more interested in empowering his group and the Islamist agenda than he is in the betterment of Egypt—as well captured by the previous Brotherhood’s General Guide who once declared “the hell with Egypt”, indicating that the interests of Egypt are second to the interests of Islam. [The last two paragraphs, written several months ago, have culminated in the June 30 Revolution and ousting of the Brotherhood.]
The Arab Spring
This leads to the questions of the Arab Spring—which was pivotally important for the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood: What was it? Who was behind it? How and why did the Muslim Brotherhood most benefit from it? All evidence indicates that the Muslim Brotherhood had very little to do with the beginnings of the January 25 2011 revolution of Egypt, which saw the ousting of 30-years-long ruler Hosni Mubarak. Indeed, in the early stages, the Muslim Brotherhood leadership forbade young members from participating in the revolt—although many did so anyway. There is even a video of President Muhammad Morsi, in the early stages of the revolution, mocking it, saying “What do you think you’ll achieve?”
The reason for this reticence was, of course, not because of any great love for Mubarak, but rather because the Brotherhood likely thought that Mubarak would ultimately prevail, quash the revolution, and then quietly target all those leaders who participated. The Obama administration seems also to have shared this view, for it originally expressed support for Mubarak during the early days of the protest, though it later abandoned him.
The Egyptian Revolution, which followed the Tunisian revolution, was fundamentally a product of the huge frustration of the average Egyptian, especially regarding the immensely poor economic conditions, where many college graduates could not and cannot get a simple job—certainly not one to enable settling down and starting a family, which, in Egyptian society, is the norm. However, the only group outside the government that was so well organized and prepared to exploit the situation was the Muslim Brotherhood—the primary oppositional group to the government for decades. Many relatively new Egyptian secular parties, for example, complained that presidential and parliamentary elections were conducted too soon after the fall of Mubarak for them to properly mobilize and campaign. But the Brotherhood was ready. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, the idea of Islam as the immediate solution for all of Egypt’s woes had become very popular among especially the less educated Egyptians—who make up the majority of the nation. Nor did the U.S. State Department’s meddling help. As Andrew McCarthy put it, Hillary Clinton did “her part to help the Muslim Brotherhood,” by pressuring the military to surrender power and portraying its delay to proclaim a winner as “clearly troubling”— words better reserved for the Muslim Brotherhood’s anti-democratic tactics.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Reach and Presence
Both formally but especially informally, the Brotherhood’s reach is immense. Two reasons account for this: 1) as the oldest and best organized Muslim organization, it has had ample time and experience to expand, network, and propagate its message around the world and 2) the message it is propagating is usually not seen by Muslims as a “Brotherhood” message but rather an Islamic message, hence its popularity and appeal.
This is an important point that needs to be kept in mind as we explore some of the regions where the Brotherhood is present and influencing society. Because its goals are one and the same with all other Islamists—resurrection of a caliphate and enforcement of Islamic law—it often works in unison with other Islamic organizations, making it especially difficult to determine when an organization is a Brotherhood outfit and when it is simply a likeminded ally. This phenomenon occurs also with jihadi organizations: all too often individual jihadis are in the West conflated with al-Qaeda, under the assumption that all who engage in jihadi activities are al-Qaeda members. Yet often the reality is that there is no affiliation—except, of course, in ideology and tactics. Likewise, although many Islamic organizations maintain close symbolic and ideological ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, they remain largely autonomous.
The heart of the Muslim Brotherhood is also the region it was born: Egypt, which represents the core of the movement. The second layer of presence and influence is the region nearest to Egypt, the Middle East, especially Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, the PA territories, and even throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The third and most recent—and perhaps the most important—region is the West, Europe and North America. Altogether, it is believed that the Brotherhood is present in some 70 countries around the world.
We have already examined the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. As for its next layer of presence and influence, the Middle East, especially those countries closest to Egypt, the following are some of the more important areas where the Brotherhood is known to exist and operate. It is important to note that, as in Egypt, many of these Brotherhood affiliates were founded in direct opposition to the ruling regimes of their respective countries, portrayed as the “moral,” “Islamic” substitute for the “secular,” “westernized,” and, in short, corrupt ruling regimes:
Arabian Peninsula: many Brotherhood members, after being driven out of Egypt in the 1950s and afterwards, found sympathizers and asylum in the Gulf nations. Many of them settled there, influencing those societies, especially by agitating against the authorities. For example, in Saudi Arabia, Brotherhood members formed the Awakening (Sahwa) group, which challenged the legitimacy of the Saudi crown. In nations such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, Brotherhood members exploited the media presence there, most notably Al Jazeera, to influence Muslims both in and beyond the region with the Brotherhood narrative and propaganda. [This has proven especially true after the June 30, 2013 revolution, as Al Jazeera has unabashedly proven that it is the Brotherhood's mouthpiece, distorting and manipulating news for the group's benefit.] Brotherhood members have also, as in Egypt, gained many seats in parliaments throughout the Gulf. For example, in Kuwait, through the Hadas movement; in Yemen through the Islah movement; and in Bahrain through the Minbar party, which, since 2002, has been the largest elected party. Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef denounced the Brotherhood, saying it was guilty of “betrayal of pledges and ingratitude” and was “the source of all problems in the Islamic world”. On the other hand, many Brotherhood members and their descendants who settled in the Peninsula were themselves further radicalized by Saudi Arabia’s ultra-Islamic, Wahhabi worldview, bringing it back with them to Egypt and their other countries of origin. The Salafis seem to be the hybrid result of Egyptian Brotherhood mentality mixed with Saudi Wahhabism. Again, this points to the symbiotic relationship that exists between all Islamic groups, for they are all ultimately rooted in the same immutable sources: the Koran and the teachings of Muhammad, as captured in the Hadith, and relayed in the Sunna.
Iraq: under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Islamic Party—the largest Sunni Islamic political party and a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood—was banned in the 1960s and forced underground for its religious agitations. It reemerged soon after the U.S. toppled Hussein, and has since been a harsh critic of the U.S. while simultaneously taking part in government and in the transitional process.
Iran: although a predominately Shia Muslim country, and the Muslim Brotherhood is Sunni in doctrine, it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood, the modern-day pioneers of political Islam, have influenced the Shia of Iran. For example, Nava Safari, who founded Fada’iyan-e Islam, an Iranian Islamic organization active in Iran in the 1940s and 50s, was highly impressed by the Muslim Brotherhood. From 1945 to 1951 the Fadain assassinated several high level Iranian personalities and officials who they believed to be un-Islamic, including anti-clerical writer Ahmad Kasravi, Premier Haj Ali Razmara, former Premier Abdolhossein Hazhir and Education and Culture Minister Ahmad Zangeneh. Again, it must be stressed that, even within the Sunni-Shia divide, which is very real, much cooperation exists, specifically in the context of resurrecting a caliphate and enforcing Sharia. The prevailing logic is that the greater enemy is the infidel (U.S., Israel, etc.), and that it is beneficial for all Muslims to work together for their subjugation. Then they may resume their internal struggle for overall mastery.
Jordan: the Brotherhood is represented by the Islamic Action Front, which was founded in the 1940s and has deeply influenced segments of society through charity, propaganda, and indoctrination. At various times, and under various leaders, it has vacillated between militancy—often influenced by Palestinian elements—and the Brotherhood’s hallmark approach of patience and perseverance, working with the Hashemite rulers. To be sure, during the 2011 uprisings, the group became much more assertive. Having failed, it has now slipped back into the diplomatic course, calling for internal, peaceful reforms.
In North Africa, west of Egypt, the Brotherhood’s existence has again been positioned in the context of resisting secular/corrupt rulers, this time, the colonial powers themselves. For example, in Algeria, Brotherhood members took part in the nation’s war of independence from France. Due to their calls for Sharia, they were eventually marginalized by the secular FLN party. In Tunisia, the Brotherhood has had a strong impact on that nation’s Islamists, particularly al-Nahda, which was formed in 1989 and was largely inspired by the Brotherhood. Since the Tunisian revolution, al-Nahda has received widespread support, and is the new government’s most influential voice. In Libya, Brotherhood members have been present since at least the 1940s, when King Idris offered them refuge from Egypt. After Colonel Gaddafi seized power, he, like all other Arab leaders, seeing the threat of the Brotherhood, worked hard to eliminate them. However, they maintained a presence there, and most notably were involved in the opposition that overthrew Gaddafi.
PA Territories: Hamas, which maintains a militant, jihadi wing, is a Brotherhood offshoot, founded during the First Intifada in 1987. Like its parent organization, it quickly became popular with the Palestinian people in large part because of its charitable services. And like its parent organization, over the years it has managed to indoctrinate the average Palestinian Muslim through its propaganda. While Hamas is dedicated to the elimination of the state of Israel, in fact this objective ties in very well with the overall objective of the Muslim Brotherhood: the global resurrection of a caliphate. After all, any number of Muslims—including many influential Egyptian Brotherhood members—maintain that the seat of the caliphate must be Jerusalem. Thus, even though an organization like Hamas seems to be engaged in a “different” endeavor—the elimination of Israel—in fact, this objective corresponds very well to Brotherhood objectives, and is seen as just one more necessary phase.
Syria: the Brotherhood has been present there for decades and, after the Ba’th party took over in 1963, it became the main Sunni opposition force against the Alawite Assad clan. Resonating with the Sunni majority of Syria, the Brotherhood in many ways spearheaded a violent revolt against the then President Hafiz Assad. However, it was crushed in the 1982 Hama uprising. Afterwards, the group was largely politically inactive in the country, although it maintained a strong support network there—a perfect example of the difficulties involved in determining who a formal Brotherhood affiliate is, and who simply shares their exact worldview, and thus is a natural ally and affiliate. The ongoing uprisings against Assad have a strong Brotherhood element, especially among the Islamist/Salafi factions. A recent Washington Post article describes the Brotherhood as playing a “dominant” role.
Sudan: the Brotherhood maintains a significant, though informal, presence, and has played an important role in the mass Islamization campaigns the Khartoum regime has carried out, often in the context of genocide. Brotherhood members make up a large part of the current Khartoum regime, following the 1989 coup d’état by General Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The National Islamic Front (originally the Islamic Chart Front) which grew during the 1960s, with Islamic scholar Hasan al-Turabi becoming its Secretary General in 1964, is a Brotherhood offshoot.
As for the third layer of the Muslim Brotherhood—its newest and perhaps most important layer of presence—the West, in Europe, formerly Christendom, and home of the original infidel par excellence, the Brotherhood has made great strides in recent years, growing as it has with the large influx of Muslim immigrants and their offspring in Europe. It operates often under the umbrella of other Muslim organizations, which appear innocuous, such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations, and the European Council for Fatwa and Research. The group is also involved in setting up a vast and sophisticated network of mosques, schools, and Islamic charities.
Russia: the Muslim Brotherhood is banned there.
United States: the Brotherhood is also in America, where, according to one captured document, the Brotherhood “understand their work in America is a grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands so that Allah’s religion [Islam] is victorious over all religions.” Accordingly, the Brotherhood has founded and/or works under the cover of several prominent Muslim organizations in America, including the Council on American-Islam Relations (“CAIR”), the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and the Muslim American Society (MAS).
With lots of funding and organization, and a Western willingness to dialogue with Muslims, the Brotherhood has naturally taken over, and received much legitimacy from European governments, convinced as they are that, by giving the most prominent Muslim organizations much representation, Westerners are demonstrating their “tolerance.”
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The Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized of Muslim organizations; its ultimate goals—establishment of caliphate and enforcement of Sharia—are shared with all Islamists; its tactics of patience and perseverance—and of course dissembling—have proven themselves more effective than violent jihadi tactics; and it is now widely described as a “moderate” organization (indeed, one U.S. official absurdly referred to it as a “largely secular” organization) and it is thus seen as a legitimate player by many Western governments. There is no doubt that the Brotherhood will continue spearheading the Islamist movement around the world, gaining more and more recruits, both formal and informal, as it edges closer to realizing its ultimate goals.

The Islamists Multi-Staged Strategy for Victory Over the West

One of the mistakes that the West makes is that it doesn’t listen to what the Islamists are saying. If only we listened, we could hear their strategy. In November 2011, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the top Muslim Brotherhood theologian and arguably the most influential Sunni cleric in the world, called on Muslims to embrace “gradualism.”
The doctrine of gradualism is successful because we fail to appreciate the ability of the Islamists to be skillful political strategists. Gradualism is an intelligent form of jihad based on pragmatism, patience, long-term planning and self-evaluation.
The Islamists evaluate their performance and recalibrate their strategy accordingly. The West misinterprets this as being “moderate,” when in reality, not all Islamists are as reckless as Al-Qaeda.
“Gradualism in applying the Sharia is a wise requirement to follow,” Qaradawi declared, stating that Mohammed followed it.
The Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have always worked in stages. In December, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badi, outlined six phases:
  1. Sharia over the individual
  2. Sharia over the family;
  3. Sharia over the society;
  4. Sharia over the government;
  5. Resurrection of the Caliphate and finally,
  6. “Mastership of the world.”
The Muslim Brotherhood is in the process of completing the fourth phase in Egypt.
In this stage, the Islamists implement Sharia by describing it as their form of “democracy” and “freedom.” They will argue that each democracy is different and so we must be tolerant of their version. Sheikh Qaradawi explains, “What I am for is a genuine type of democracy, for a society driven by the laws of Sharia that is compatible with the values of freedom, human rights, justice and equity.”
Qaradawi admits that “our democracy is different.” Secular democracy like that in the West does not honor God and is immoral. “Democracy itself also can make what it wants as lawful, or prohibit anything it does not like. In comparison, the Sharia as a political system has limits. If we are to adopt democracy, we should adopt its best features.”
As far back as 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood had drawn up a 12-point strategy to “establish an Islamic government on earth.” It was discovered when the Swiss authorities raided the home of Yousef Nada in 2001 and is referred to as "The Project."
The document says to exercise “flexibility at the local level” and “to reconcile political engagement and the necessity of avoiding isolation on one hand, with permanent education and institutional action on the other.”
It calls for “controlling the local centers of power through institutional action” and to build alliances with other Islamic groups even if there are disagreements. It supports “temporary cooperation” with non-Muslim groups that are anti-Israel and “struggle against colonialism.”
The strategy document says the worldwide Brotherhood must “support movements engaged in jihad across the Muslim world” but “should not look for confrontation with our adversaries, at the local or the global scale, which would be disproportionate and could lead to attacks.”
It talks of constructive “self-criticism” and using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to further its strategy, “since it acts as the keystone of the renaissance of the Arab world today.” In other words, use the conflict to radicalize the masses.
Hamas, a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, also acts in accordance with gradualism. In December, the leader of Hamas stated that it was working towards the “interim objective of liberation of Gaza, the West Bank, or Jerusalem.” The destruction of Israel, or in the Islamists’ words, the “liberation of all Palestine,” follows.
Wherever the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamists operate, there is a phased strategy—even in the United States. The Islamic Circle of North America, one of the most powerful Muslim-American groups in the U.S., explained its five phases in its handbook published in 2010 and it very closely follows what Badie said in Egypt.
The phases are: Educating yourself; Converting your family; Outreach into the community; “establish an Islamic society” on the state level and then a “united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah in accordance with the laws of Sharia.”
An FBI memo written in 1988 likewise documented that a source, apparently within the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., described a six-phased plan.
At the time, the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically the International Institute of Islamic Thought and the North American Islamic Trust, were working on the first phase. It included creating “political action front groups with no traceable ties” so that it can “peacefully get inside the United States government and also American universities.”
The source told the FBI that Brotherhood operatives “claimed success infiltrating the United States government.”
In 2004, the FBI found seized another Brotherhood strategy document that describes its “work in America as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization within.” It describes 5 phases:
  1. The “secret establishment of leadership”
  2. “…gradual appearance on the public scene.” This phase calls for “infiltrating various sectors of government,” “gaining religious institutions,” “gaining public support and sympathy,” and “establishing a shadow government.”
  3. “Escalation phase.” This focuses on “utilizing mass media” and the document says that this stage is “currently in progress.” Unfortunately, we do not know when this was written.
  4. “Open confrontation with the government through…political pressure.” It also calls for “training on the use of weapons domestically” and says that there are “noticeable activities in this regard.” Could this have something to do with the Jamaat ul-Fuqra training camps on American soil?
  5. The final phase: “Seizing power to establish their Islamic Nation under which all parties and Islamic groups are united.”
The Islamists have a comprehensive long-term strategy for victory that’s been around for decades. It’s about time that we made one of our own.

THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD'S "GENERAL STRATEGIC GOAL" FOR NORTH AMERICA

In July 2007, seven key leaders of an Islamic charity known as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) went on trial for charges that they had: (a) provided "material support and resources" to a foreign terrorist organization (namely Hamas); (b) engaged in money laundering; and (c) breached the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which prohibits transactions that threaten American national security. Along with the seven named defendants, the U.S. government released a list of approximately 300 "unindicted co-conspirators" and "joint venturers." During the course of the HLF trial, many incriminating documents were entered into evidence. Perhaps the most significant of these was "An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America," by the Muslim Brotherhood operative Mohamed Akram. Federal investigators found Akram's memo in the home of Ismael Elbarasse, a founder of the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, during a 2004 search. Elbarasse was a member of the Palestine Committee, which the Muslim Brotherhood had created to support Hamas in the United States.

Written sometime in 1987 but not formally published until May 22, 1991, Akram's 18-page document listed the Brotherhood’s 29 likeminded "organizations of our friends" that shared the common goal of dismantling American institutions and turning the U.S. into a Muslim nation. These "friends" were identified by Akram and the Brotherhood as groups that could help convince Muslims "that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands ... so that ... God's religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions."

Akram was well aware that in the U.S., it would be extremely difficult to promote Islam by means of terror attacks. Thus the “grand jihad” that he and his Brotherhood comrades envisioned was not a violent one involving bombings and shootings, but rather a stealth (or “soft”) jihad aiming to impose Islamic law (Sharia) over every region of the earth by incremental, non-confrontational means, such as working to “expand the observant Muslim base”; to “unif[y] and direc[t] Muslims' efforts”; and to “present Islam as a civilization alternative.” At its heart, Akram's document details a plan to conquer and Islamize the United States – not as an ultimate objective, but merely as a stepping stone toward the larger goal of one day creating “the global Islamic state.”

In line with this objective, Akram and the Brotherhood resolved to "settle" Islam and the Islamic movement within the United States, so that the Muslim religion could be "enabled within the souls, minds and the lives of the people of the country.” Akram explained that this could be accomplished “through the establishment of firmly-rooted organizations on whose bases civilization, structure and testimony are built.” He urged Muslim leaders to make “a shift from the collision mentality to the absorption mentality,” meaning that they should abandon any tactics involving defiance or confrontation, and seek instead to implant into the larger society a host of seemingly benign Islamic groups with ostensibly unobjectionable motives; once those groups had gained a measure of public acceptance, they would be in a position to more effectively promote societal transformation by the old Communist technique of “boring from within.”

“The heart and the core” of this strategy, said Akram, was contingent upon these groups' ability to develop “a mastery of the art of 'coalitions.'” That is, by working synergistically they could complement, augment, and amplify one another's efforts. Added Akram: “The big challenge that is ahead of us is how to turn these seeds or 'scattered' elements into comprehensive, stable, 'settled' organizations that are connected with our Movement and which fly in our orbit and take orders from our guidance.” The ultimate objective was not only an enlarged Muslim presence, but also implementation of the Brotherhood objectives of transforming pluralistic societies, particularly America, into Islamic states, and sweeping away Western notions of legal equality, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

Akram and the Brotherhood understood that in order to succeed in this endeavor, they needed to appeal to different strata of the American population in different ways; that whereas some people could be influenced by messages delivered from a religious perspective, others would be more responsive to messages delivered by educators, or bankers, or political figures, or journalists, etc. Thus, Akram's blueprint for the advancement of the Islamic movement stressed the need to form a coalition of groups coming from the worlds of education; religious proselytization; political activism; audio and video production; print media; banking and finance; the physical sciences; the social sciences; professional and business networking; cultural affairs; the publishing and distribution of books; children and teenagers; women's rights; vocational concerns; and jurisprudence.

By promoting the Islamic movement on such a wide variety of fronts, the Brotherhood and its allies could multiply exponentially their influence. Toward that end, the Akram/Brotherhood “Explanatory Memorandum” named the following 29 groups as the organizations they believed could collaborate effectively to destroy America from within – “if they all march according to one plan”:



By setting up these many front groups, the Muslim Brotherhood was emulating the Communist Party tactic of creating interlocking front groups during the Cold War in order to confuse its enemies and make it more difficult to combat.

Concealing Charlton Heston, Denying MLK

By Andrew K. Boyle


It is now fifty years since the Dream speech of Martin Luther King Jr. from the steps of the Lincoln memorial. One story you probably haven't heard about it is that of Charlton Heston and MLK.
It may shock the sensibilities of persons raised on particular American narratives to hear that Charlton Heston, the crazy NRA guy, put down his rifle and took his cold dead hands to the capital in August of '63 to hear at firsthand the sacred words we remember this week.
If history were to give us nothing but a copy of Dr. King's famous speech and a picture collage of the participants of that day, we would see an America of profound beauty. With the wide diversity of attendants and the loud call for this nation to live up to its fundamental declarations of equality and brotherhood, it would be easy to foresee the coming triumph of the American idea over the ignorant prejudices anthropomorphized in dogs and fire hoses of Bull Connor and his ilk.
If you were to give a copy of any current reflections of the events of that day to person pictured sitting in the shadow of the Washington Monument on August 28th 1963, they would be shocked to see what a future America looked like. It would be easy to believe that this republic would have a black president half a century forward, but that this bright historic event would be clouded by deeply divided and hostile America would be a more foreign concept to an attendant of King's speech than the button free, micro pocket-computers everyone in America 2013 would be speaking into.
The late Charlton Heston, one of the famous attendants of '63 is a perfect example of just such a shocking future. In 1963, Mr. Heston was an ascending actor, still building on his his giant twin roles in Ben Hur (1959) and The Ten Commandments (1956). Pictured here that day, Heston would not only become a mega movie star over the next decade, but a famous and loud voice in support of the various Civil and Voting Rights legislations soon to come. In the decades hence, Mr. Heston morphed into a conservative poster boy, famously supporting both Nixon and Reagan, later becoming the undisputed face of the NRA. In America 2013, Heston is no longer a complex and nuanced actor who took very public stances in support of a wide variety of political movements, but is the old gun nut challenging Al Gore to come and take his dramatically upward thrust rifle. In this characterization we lose something fundamental, half a century hence, which pervaded that famous day on the capital mall -- in the long run we not only lose something of King but we also get the wrong America.
The resounding hallmark of Dr. King's speech, in modern speak, was equality. The dream sequence, the only part of his speech most people today recognize and recall, was nothing more than an expression of America at its most inspirational. It was not an equality limited to manifestations of voting procedures, or segregated lunch counters, colored water fountains, unequal schools or castelike seating arrangements on busses, but was an equality which existed before and above the founding of any one people. Not to diminish the actual abuses of bigotry in the south at that time, but the moral authority which gave fire to Dr. King's words that day was the muse of the Declaration, the God-bequeathed and thusly inalienable rights, comprising every man woman and child -- not resultant of their citizenship of America but their inheritance as humans.
It was not a country which was unified by Dr. King on the capital mall that day, as much as it was a fraternity of humanity forged around an undeniably fundamental understanding of the nature of simply being human. It was this fellowship which drew the likes of Charlton Heston to the mall that day. The current events of the South may have drawn his outrage, but the harkening to first principles led him to Washington to take his place among massive crowd. Among the diverse groups of people in attendance, despite many various proposed solutions among the crowd, these disparate peoples found unity not in the hope for legislation to abolish Jim Crow, but in the hope birthed by declaring the humanity of the Negro and granting him a place alongside the other groups already in the melting pot of our republic.
Since that day, the Civil Rights movement has been a hash of legislation, both soothingly good and at times painfully bad, which has tested our democratic institutions and our bonds as Americans. Heston himself would later condemn some portions of the Civil Rights Act he so famously lobbied for as going too far as to establish a system of reverse discrimination antithetical to the legacy of Dr. King. These pushbacks and reconsiderations of legislation long established is the process of self government messily playing out. The spirit of Dr. King purchases great space and grace in which flawed people can deal with the painful legacy of racial abuses in building a world of humanity bound above race and creed. But when the actual events of that day are recast into the language and politics of today, we get the wrong America, one that would be shockingly inconceivable to the crowd on the mall that hot summer of '63.
Today's articles reflecting of the events of that day tell us that defunding of ObamaCare would appall the ghost of the late great reverend. His call for not sliding pay scales downward should an employee happen to be black is today equated with demands from Congress to raise the minimum wage above ten dollars per hour. Opposition to gun control is bizarrely and dishonestly equated with subconscious desires to rearm Bull Connor and his deputies. None of this pays tribute to the human fraternity Dr. King spoke of, and all of it bastardizes his great words, endlessly sacrificing the work of a lifetime at the alter of the upcoming mid-term elections.
By shrouding the details of that day in the politics of today, we lose the details and the heart of the Civil Rights movement. In today's America, Charlton Heston contributed nothing but a Second Amendment defense and a few movies to American history. Dr. King was nothing but a pacifist who lobbied for whatever you wish he would have. In actuality, history tell us these were real men, who had much in common because of their shared inheritance as Americans. Heston was outraged that King was denied a concealed-carry permit by the State of Alabama in the years leading up to the speech. King condemned violence but by all accounts was a supporter of the Second Amendment who was denied that constitutional protection in addition to many others on the basis of his black ancestry. This is but one example in which the late reverend and Moses may have found common ground; but these, like any modern political squabble, were subservient and peripheral to the striving of both men to breath life into the foundational declarations of the nation they both loved. The simplistic characterizations of both men a half century hence obscure the event we remember this week. By concealing Charlton Heston, we deny Martin Luther King Jr. The lives of two great men are reduced -- by extension America is given the space to become the polarized and antagonistic people we are today. We may celebrate Dr. King this week, but alas we do his words on that day few favors.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Meet Saudi Arabia's Bandar bin Sultan: The Puppetmaster Behind The Syrian War

by Tyler Durden

Yesterday the Telegraph's Evans-Pritchard dug up a note that we had posted almost a month ago, relating to the "secret" meeting between Saudi Arabia and Russia, in which Saudi's influential intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan met with Putin and regaled him with gifts, including a multi-billion arms deal and a promise that Saudi is "ready to help Moscow play a bigger role in the Middle East at a time when the United States is disengaging from the region", if only Putin would agree to give up his alliance with Syria's al-Assad and let Syria take over, ostensibly including control of the country's all important natgas transit infrastructure. What was not emphasized by the Telegraph is that Putin laughed at the proposal and brushed aside the Saudi desperation by simply saying "nyet." However, what neither the Telegraph, nor we three weeks ago, picked up on, is what happenedafter Putin put Syria in its place. We now know, and it's a doozy.
Courtesy of As-Safir (translated here), we learn all the gritty details about what really happened at the meeting, instead of just the Syrian motives and the Russian conclusion, and most importantly what happened just as the meeting ended, unsuccessfully (at least to the Saudi). And by that we mean Saudi Arabia's threats toward Russia and Syria.
First, some less well-known observations on who it was that was supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt even as US support was fading fast:
Bandar said that the matter is not limited to the kingdom and that some countries have overstepped the roles drawn for them, such as Qatar and Turkey. He added, “We said so directly to the Qataris and to the TurksWe rejected their unlimited support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. The Turks’ role today has become similar to Pakistan’s role in the Afghan war. We do not favor extremist religious regimes, and we wish to establish moderate regimes in the region. It is worthwhile to pay attention to and to follow up on Egypt’s experience. We will continue to support the [Egyptian] army, and we will support Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi because he is keen on having good relations with us and with you. And we suggest to you to be in contact with him, to support him and to give all the conditions for the success of this experiment. We are ready to hold arms deals with you in exchange for supporting these regimes, especially Egypt.”
So while Saudi was openly supporting the Egyptian coup, which is well-known, it was Turkey and most importantly Qatar, the nation that is funding and arming the Syrian rebels, that were the supporters of the now failed regime. One wonders just how much Egypt will straing Saudi-Qatari relations, in light of their joined interests in Syria.
Second, some better-known observations by Putin on Russia's relationship with Iran:
Regarding Iran, Putin said to Bandar that Iran is a neighbor, that Russia and Iran are bound by relations that go back centuries, and that there are common and tangled interests between them. Putin said, “We support the Iranian quest to obtain nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. And we helped them develop their facilities in this direction. Of course, we will resume negotiations with them as part of the 5P+1 group. I will meet with President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the Central Asia summit and we will discuss a lot of bilateral, regional and international issues. We will inform him that Russia is completely opposed to the UN Security Council imposing new sanctions on Iran. We believe that the sanctions imposed against Iran and Iranians are unfair and that we will not repeat the experience again.”
Then, Putin's position vis-a-vis Turkey, whom he implicitly warns that it is "not immune to Syria's bloodbath."
Regarding the Turkish issue, Putin spoke of his friendship with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan; “Turkey is also a neighboring country with which we have common interests. We are keen to develop our relations in various fields. During the Russian-Turkish meeting, we scrutinized the issues on which we agree and disagree. We found out that we have more converging than diverging views. I have already informed the Turks, and I will reiterate my stance before my friend Erdogan, that what is happening in Syria necessitates a different approach on their part. Turkey will not be immune to Syria’s bloodbath. The Turks ought to be more eager to find a political settlement to the Syrian crisis. We are certain that the political settlement in Syria is inevitable, and therefore they ought to reduce the extent of damage. Our disagreement with them on the Syrian issue does not undermine other understandings between us at the level of economic and investment cooperation. We have recently informed them that we are ready to cooperate with them to build two nuclear reactors. This issue will be on the agenda of the Turkish prime minister during his visit to Moscow in September.”
Of course, there is Syria:
Regarding the Syrian issue, the Russian president responded to Bandar, saying, “Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters. During the Geneva I Conference, we agreed with the Americans on a package of understandings, and they agreed that the Syrian regime will be part of any settlement. Later on, they decided to renege on Geneva I. In all meetings of Russian and American experts, we reiterated our position. In his upcoming meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will stress the importance of making every possible effort to rapidly reach a political settlement to the Syrian crisis so as to prevent further bloodshed.”
Alas, that has failed.
So what are some of the stunning disclosures by the Saudis? First this:
Bandar told Putin, “There are many common values ??and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. ... As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”
It is good of the Saudis to admit they control a terrorist organization that "threatens the security" of the Sochi 2014 Olympic games, and that house of Saud uses "in the face of the Syrian regime." Perhaps the next time there is a bombing in Boston by some Chechen-related terrorists, someone can inquire Saudi Arabia what, if anything, they knew about that.
But the piece de resistance is what happened at the end of the dialogue between the two leaders. It was, in not so many words, a threat by Saudi Arabia aimed squarely at Russia:
As soon as Putin finished his speech, Prince Bandar warned that in light of the course of the talks, things were likely to intensify, especially in the Syrian arena, although he appreciated the Russians’ understanding of Saudi Arabia’s position on Egypt and their readiness to support the Egyptian army despite their fears for Egypt's future.

The head of the Saudi intelligence services said that the dispute over the approach to the Syrian issue leads to the conclusion that “there is no escape from the military option, because it is the only currently available choice given that the political settlement ended in stalemate. We believe that the Geneva II Conference will be very difficult in light of this raging situation.”

At the end of the meeting, the Russian and Saudi sides agreed to continue talks, provided that the current meeting remained under wraps. This was before one of the two sides leaked it via the Russian press.
Since we know all about this, it means no more talks, an implicit warning that the Chechens operating in proximity to Sochi may just become a loose cannon (with Saudi's blessing of course), and that about a month ago "there is no escape from the military option, because it is the only currently available choice given that the political settlement ended in stalemate." Four weeks later, we are on the edge of all out war, which may involve not only the US and Europe, but most certainly Saudi Arabia and Russia which automatically means China as well. Or, as some may call it, the world.
And all of it as preordained by a Saudi prince, and all in the name of perpetuating the hegemony of the petrodollar.
P.S. Russia and Saudi Arabia account for 25% of global oil production.

War Games: The Syrian Military Theater Of Operations In Two Charts

by Tyler Durden

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says that US forces are "ready to go" if the administration decides to strike against alleged Syrian chemical weapon use. As Bloomberg notes in the infographic below, US Navy guided missile destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea are within range of Syrian targets..and the ships have a combined inventory of more than 200 cruise missiles. On the other side, theSyrian Air Defense system is very robust, and as Stratfor notes, with an estimated 54,000 personnel, Syria's air defense network is twice the size of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air force. Here is the Syrian theater of operations...
The US Assets In Place (via Bloomberg)

And Syria's Air Defense Network (via Stratfor)

As the United States weighs a military response to the Syrian regime's reported use of chemical weapons, one of the largest concerns will involve countering Syria's robust air defense network. With an estimated 54,000 personnel, Syria's air defense network is twice the size of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air force and air defense command combined at the start of the NATO campaign in 2011. Syria's Air Defense Command consists of the 24th and 26th anti-aircraft divisions, which comprise thousands of anti-aircraft guns and more than 130 surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries.
The bulk of Syria's SAM weaponry is composed of the SA-2, SA-3, SA-5, SA-6 and SA-8 SAM systems, which were also operated by Gadhafi's forces. However, the Syrians operate these systems in far greater numbers, have devoted significant resources to maintaining and upgrading these missile batteries and have also successfully deployed their SAM systems in a dense and overlapping layout that would complicate operations to suppress enemy air defenses.
Though also a Russian ally, Gadhafi did not have the more advanced Russian air defense systems that the al Assad regime possesses. For example, Iran reportedly financed Syria's acquisition of 50 SA-22 systems first delivered in 2007 -- 10 of which allegedly ended up in Iranian hands. The Syrians are also thought to operate several SA-11 systems, which the Libyans did not have. Syria's defenses against an air campaign are not restricted to the ground. Its air force can contribute dozens of fighter aircraft and interceptors, which any intervention force would also have to contend with.

That Savings Glut vs. Those Low Interest Rates

by 

Five years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, economists are still starkly divided as to its causes. Perhaps this is not too surprising as we are now more than 80 years past the Great Depression with little end in sight to the debate surrounding the causes of that downturn.
Most economists fall into one of two camps when explaining where the imbalances originated that led up to the current crisis. Austrian School economists are in the unique position of being able to reconcile these two camps, even while favoring the first explanation to the second.
The first camp, which includes most Austrian School economists, looks at the imbalances caused by central bank interest rate policy being set “too low for too long.” In this view, artificially low interest rates allowed for erroneous capital investments following the dot-com bust of 2001, and continuing to the present time.
The Federal Reserve’s artificial reduction of interest rates (to use the U.S. as a proxy for the Western world) put in motion two shifts in the economy. The first was the decrease in savings by Americans, and a corresponding consumption-led boom (what Mises called “overconsumption”). The second was the overall decrease in investment and production in the lower stages of the capital structure, with a corresponding increase in investment and production in the higher stages. This shift is what Mises termed “malinvestment.” Note that this shift does not represent an “overinvestment” in capital, as is commonly and erroneously claimed by non-Austrian economists, but rather a temporal shifting of productive activity from stages closer to consumption to those further away.
Specifically, we see malinvestment in the large-scale shift of capital away from manufacturing in favor of higher-order research and development. Overconsumption, on the other hand, is illustrated by the rise of consumer culture embodied by big box stores and a plethora of shopping malls and outlet stores.
In the opposite camp are the economists favoring the “excess savings view” or the “global savings glut hypothesis.” These economists view the crisis as a result of current account surpluses, primarily in Asian countries, that led to financial imbalances in Western economies.
As consumers consumed more but the economy restructured itself away from producing consumer goods, an increase in imports was inevitable. As luck would have it, developing countries — and especially Asian countries — were in the reverse position of the U.S., and years of financial underdevelopment left many of them with immature financial markets. These Asian countries also proved to be low-cost producers of many products. As Americans increased their imports from these countries to feed their own unsustainable consumption-led boom, the net proceeds in these countries had no developed domestic financial markets to invest in.
In response, these funds were channeled back to U.S. financial markets, and in the views of those who favor the saving glut theory, this is was set in motion the unsustainable boom. As time went on, the trade surpluses in Asia resulted in net capital outflows in search of a market to invest in. Western economies that were the recipients of these capital flows witnessed remarkably low interest rates and credit booms with a corresponding buildup of debt.
Thus, in the view of proponents of the savings glut theory, the Federal Reserve was not the cause of lower interest rates, but rather it was a passive observer as interest rates were lowered exogenously from these foreign sources.
Yet proponents of the global savings glut hypothesis must grapple with one unanswered question: What caused citizens of Asian countries to increase their savings rate and destabilize Western economies with their excess capital outflows? One could take the view that savings rates are exogenously determined — e.g., by animal spirits — yet this “explanation” only pushes the problem one step back. What determines these animal spirits?
To find a satisfying answer we must look at the role of monetary policy in determining saving rates.
There is no need to look to animal spirits or any ill-defined exogenous force to explain why developing countries increased their savings so much during the boom and funneled these savings into Western financial markets. The unsustainable boom propagated by Western central banks set this process in motion by creating a disconnect between the consumption demands with the domestic productive capacity of their economies.
Moreover, the current ire directed at the loss of manufacturing in the United States is not the result of “greedy outsourcers” or even “currency manipulators” in Asian countries. The loss of productive capacity in the U.S. is the outcome of a too-low interest rate policy by the Federal Reserve incentivizing entrepreneurs to move their investments to the higher stages of production — those furthest from final consumption — while simultaneously incentivizing consumers to increase their present consumption at the expense of savings.