The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: Syria

A killer twist to the Syrian civil war

by fpman

It is probably worth watching out for developments in the Latakia area in Syria these days. One of the last few strongholds of the Assad regime, it is simultaneously under attack from rebels and developing mixed feelings towards the Syrian leadership that has so far been the unquestionable protector of this Alawite-majority region.

This comes after Suleiman al-Assad, a first cousin once removed of President Bashar al-Assad has, on August 7, killed a Colonel of the Syrian Air Force, Hassan al-Sheikh in what is varyingly described as “a traffic dispute” or “a road rage accident.” Suleiman al-Assad shot Colonel al-Sheikh dead either “because he overtook him at a crossroads” or “because he did not give way in a traffic jam.”

The son of Hilal al-Assad, commander of Latakia’s defence up till his death in battle last year, has thus killed an officer of the force that is still able to give a bit of an edge against rebel forces where it matters.

The killer has by now been arrested. Locals are demanding his execution. Bashar al-Assad promised there would be punishment but will surely have second thoughts as to how he should mediate between the interest of justice (and sane governance, you might add) and the interests of his powerful family.

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Beirut rules?

by fpman

The Islamic State is a puzzling phenomenon in many respects. One thing we just can’t make sense of is how an organization that often goes beyond previously imaginable extremes in its political and military tactics, can get seemingly genuinely very upset about stuff being done to them in return.

Such a moment came yesterday when one IS commander by the name of Abu Ali Shishani (his name tells us he has some connection to Chechnya, though he is a.k.a. Anas Sharkas by his kunya or nom de guerre) filled a video message with complaints about Lebanese authorities that seem to have rounded up wives and children of several IS leaders in the last few days. One of those detained may or may not be a former wife of caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s, a certain Saja al-Dulaimi, and if she is who she is thought to be, she is held there together with her daughter, plus some other wives, including a wife of Abu Ali Shishani’s. (It seems that Saja al-Dulaimi had been a subject of hostage exchange before, when she was held by Syrian government forces in the past along with two sons and a smaller brother.)

In this situation, Abu Ali Shishani called on Sunni Lebanese yesterday to blow up the house around them and let the roof fall on their head, basically. He said:

“I call on you, Sunnis, to rise up in unity. Our wives and men are in prisons. They took my wife and children and had no right to do so.”

Lebanon is a country where many people understand the basic rules of tit-for-tat kidnappings, and Sunni Islamists operating in and from Syrian territory have kidnapped many Lebanese soldiers up to now, not to mention they have even executed some of them. Lebanon is a country where a reluctance to be pragmatic may be punished fast. We would never discount the IS potential to break down the old order in places where they haven’t done it yet but Lebanon may be tough territory for them in this respect.

How an Islamic State media officer views the issue of family

by fpman

The following dialogue is heard in the second part of a documentary shot by Vice News in Islamic State territory recently. It takes place inside a car where, while waiting, the journalist, Medyan Dairieh, is asking questions in Arabic from a representative of the Islamic State, by the name of Abu Mosa, essentially a media officer — or Dairieh’s minder.

Medyan Dairieh: “The war has been going on for a while. Don’t you have recreation time that you spend with the family?”

Abu Mosa: “To be honest, no. In my case, no. In the last few Eid celebrations, I told my children that I’ll not buy any sweets for Eid until the children of Daraa and Homs are able to celebrate, too. I don’t return home for pleasure, I only go when it’s important or I’m sick. I don’t, I don’t go at all.”

Medyan Dairieh: “Does that mean that you live for war all the time?”

Abu Mosa: “Yes. The family, honestly, is the least important thing. There is a higher purpose. No one would defend Muslims if we all sat at home with the family.”

Abu Mosa is no top decision-maker, of course, but he is a representative of a recently declared state (or political entity, to use a less loaded term). While his person may initially make this seem like an off-topic post for this blog, the subject he is talking about, and the similarity of thinking across the Islamic State’s jihadi leadership — given that their whole world view is in effect about demanding and expecting homogeneity of thinking, or the unity of the umma, i.e. the “community of the believers” — makes Abu Mosa’s comments significant on a larger scale.

This is a peculiar case — in reference back to our first post here where we said politicians having family comes with both good and bad sides in terms of political implications. Here the readiness on the part of at least some of the people in question to disregard even the bond to their own families, along with much else, in the name of their “higher purpose,” is… concerning. That, probably, is the scientifically accurate expression of what it is.

By the way, the documentary discussed here has five parts and you find the first of the five here.