Conflicts Forum Weekly Comment

Conflicts Forum

12 – 19 April

The Muslim Brotherhood has been under attack from all quarters. From Saudi sources: an analysispresenting Hassan Banna (the MB founder), as a mere political operator and pragmatist; and another, noting that the MB have committed the possibly fatal mistake in Egypt of going head-to-head against al-Azhar (the institutional symbol of moderate Sunni Islam) and its influential Sheikh; as well as having alienated the Egyptian intelligence service and the judiciary. Therefore the question can be asked, “who now stands by the MB?”  From another (leftist) perspective entitled the Necessity for Revolutionary Violence, the author argues that the revolutionaries’ quarrel is not with the MB per se, but with the MB ‘betrayal’ of true societal change – through the MB’s acquiescence to maintaining all the neo-colonial power structures in place – with all their attributes of concealed state violence – deployed to preserve entrenched interests. The answer, the author asserts, is to meet neo-colonial structural violence, with revolutionary violence.  From yet another perspective, the MB is facing criticism by several in the Syrian exile opposition for the MB’s manipulation of the opposition political sphere in order to preserve its exclusive control (at least of these externally-constructed opposition entities). These societal and political fractures to which we (Conflicts Forum) referred earlier, are multiplying across the region. The MB however, continues largely undaunted by such criticism, and remains even somewhat defiant and confident in the pursuit of their project.  They perhaps feel themselves to be more vulnerable to, and therefore more accommodating to, Salafist pressures, however.  Some (but not all) in the Brotherhood do make efforts to mitigate the ugly sectarianism prevalent today (by emphasising the political and social sources of conflict – rather than sectarian ones), but even so, find themselves nonetheless obliged to nod toward the prevailing sectarian mood. The focus for all these political and religious fissures, until now, has been Syria, but soon their rays are likely to be converged through the lens of politics onto the combustible matter in Egypt.  Commentatorsspeak in a facile manner of the Egyptian army stepping-in, as if this offers an obvious solution. Maybe. But, for all the avalanche of criticism, the MB remains a powerful, deeply-rooted force (especially in Egypt).  It would be a mistake to underestimate this, or to assume that the MB would simply give way gracefully to an expulsion from power.

The ‘combustion’ within radical Sunni Islam, and its inter-active connections (especially between Syria and Iraq), are well symbolised in the following.  Whilst attention is focussed on Syria, here are the events ofjust one day (15 April) – in Iraq:

     Bloody Monday

Not really in the news:

1.       At least 75 Iraqis were killed and 356 more were wounded in a series of attacks across the country. Only the far south and Iraqi Kurdistan were spared. Many of the attacks were apparently coordinated and occurred at about the same time this morning. They also came a few days ahead of local elections in most provinces. Nineva and Anbar province, both heavily Sunni, had their elections postponed by the Shi’ite-led government.

2.       In Baghdad, the bombings left 30 dead and 92 wounded. Among them, a blast in the Kamaliya neighborhood left four dead and 13 injured; security forces then fired into the air to disperse crowds. Near the airport a pair of bombs killed three people and wounded 16 more. Four people were killed and 15 more were wounded in a bombing at a market and bus station in Umm al-Maalif. In Karrada, another bomb left two dead and 15 injured. A car bomb in Shurta killed two people and wounded nine more. A roadside bomb wounded five policemen in Baladiyat. Two people were killed and nine more were wounded in a blast in Habibiya.

3.       In Kirkuk, at least nine people were killed and 79 more were wounded in a string of six car bombings. The downtown bombs exploded in three different ethnic neighborhoods, suggesting that no particular group was targeted. Those explosions took place in Arab, Kurdish, and Turkmen neighborhoods. The other three blasts hit neighborhoods outside of the city. One bombing targeted the home of a Shi’ite politician. Also, gunmen wounded a doctor last night.

4.       Explosions in Tuz Khormato left six dead and 67 wounded.

5.       In Mosul, gunmen killed a civilian. Two people were wounded in roadside bombings. Gunmen killed a married couple. Security forces killed a bomber. Another blast left no casualties. A soldier was killed in a clash. Three policemen were wounded in a bomb blast.

6.       In Falluja, a suicide car bomber killed two policemen and wounded six more at a checkpoint. Acivilian was shot dead. A sticky bomb killed two civilians. Another bomb south of the city left no casualties.

7.       A car bomb in Mussayab killed four people and wounded 13 more.

8.       Four people were killed and three more were wounded in a Tikrit bombing at political office. Another bombing left 13 policemen wounded.

9.       In Nasariya, a car bomb killed two people and wounded 14 more.

10.   A policeman was killed in Buhriz when a sticky bomb exploded.

11.   Near Ramadi, a bomb targeting a Sunni cleric and leader of anti-government protests killed two bodyguards and wounded at least one more. His cousin was killed in a sticky bomb blast in Falluja.

12.   A policeman was shot dead in Tarmiya.

13.   A bomb in Khalis killed one child and wounded eight more.

14.   Nineteen people were wounded in bombings in Babil province.

15.   In Dowr, 13 people were wounded in a blast there.

16.   Bombs wounded seven people at a political candidate’s home in Salah ad Din province.

17.   In Muqdadiya, a car bomb wounded seven people.

18.   In Tal Abta, a blast killed a policeman and wounded two more.

19.   In Baquba, two policemen were wounded during a bombing. Three people were wounded in a blast.

20.   Gunmen in Sabeen killed a captain and wounded two soldiers.

21.   A young man was gunned down in Shirqat.

22.  On a rural road in Bani Saad, a bomb wounded a civilian.


The “Friends of Syria” (sic) core members are due to meet in Istanbul today. A former diplomat in Istanbul notes: the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks on Wednesday regarding Syria must be counted as one of the strongest ever. His warning against foreign military intervention stressed that in such an eventuality, the tragedy will continue to unfold and the outcome can only be the emergence of al-Qaeda. Lavrov frontally took on the so-called “Friends of Syria” (FOS), whose focus is on regime change. Lavrov said, “If a mechanism is created that isolates one side in the conflict, or is aimed at isolating one side in the conflict, then we simply lose the opportunity for dialogue and a search for paths to a resolution.”  These remarks were ‘targeted’ mainly at the ‘core group’ of the FOS, which is meeting in Istanbul on Friday, where, according to the Turkish hosts, as many as ten foreign ministers would participate, including the United States Secretary of State John Kerry.  In Washington, it seems President Obama (and Secretary Hegel) remain very cautious: said Hagel to senators: “You better be damn sure, as sure as you can be, before you get into something. Because once you’re into it, there isn’t any backing out, whether it’s a no-fly zone, safe zone  … You can’t just say, ‘Well, it’s not going as well as I thought it would go so we’re gonna get out.” In spite of strong lobbying from the interventionist lobby, the President, CF understands, feels that the western interventionist disciples, though loud in calling for a no-fly zone over all or part of Syria, has yet to make the argument for why the use of western air power will improve the general situation, rather than make it worse and more messy.  There are US doubtsalso about whether the further arming of the western-aligned armed opposition will in fact result in it prevailing over the al-Nusra Front, rather than vice versa, or even whether the armed opposition will prevail at all. Secretary Kerry’s visit to Turkey (the third), according to reports (see here) is perhaps more closely tied to the continuing US unease at Turkey’s apparent conviction that it is fine to use the al-Qae’da affiliate, al-Nusra Front, as a tool to overthrow President Assad on the basis of any means to serve the ends.

Finally, an Israeli journalist has been speculating on today’s scheduled meeting of Hamas’ political committee, which is to be held in Doha.  It will constitute the Hamas leadership’s first meeting since Khaled Meshaal won his fourth term as head of its political committee.  Significant decisions are expected to emerge from this meeting, the principal one of which being that of Hamas’ posture towards Israel, and to the West.  The author, noting that earlier meetings were usually held in Damascus – the capital and pivot of the ‘axis of resistance’ and of ‘steadfastness’ queries how the change of location and of ‘atmospherics’ will affect the outcome.  The author notes that, in contrast to Damascus, the ruler of Qatar’s mind and orientation are entirely western.  He asks, now that the Hamas leadership are situate in Doha, can the Bureau, in conjunction with Hamas in Gaza issue a call to “set the region on fire”, or to launch a thirdIntifada?  Would Hamas be able to launch suicide attacks in response to Israeli aggression again?  Can Hamas now make a decision to renew and re-commit to its former close relationship with Iran – and take funding from Tehran?  (No answers to these questions are offered!)


  1. […] on that same Monday in Iraq, a few days before local elections, 75 people were killed and more than 350 were seriously injured in bomb explosions and gun fire in numerous (possibly coordinated) attacks across the country. Here […]

  2. Leen D'hondt wrote:

    what is your opinion on the young moslim men (sometimes minor) in Belgium, Holland and France who leave for Syria to fight with the opposition. they seem to be spoken to by muslim radicals and convinced to fight against “the west”. they leave without a note fot their parents and dissapear.

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