The concept of segmentation does not imply structural dimensions per se. Segmentation, as it is technically understood, involves a unit-whole formed by unit-parts. Nevertheless, when it is related to an organisational system, a segmentary system assumes segmentary structural implications insofar as other certain elements are involved, such as structural relativity, genealogical segmentation or the massive-effects of a complementary opposition—the fission and fusion features of the segmentary systems.
These elements, together with other political values and principles, are in-depth considered in this paper with the aim of attempting to explain the plausible causal nexus between segmentary systems and political conflict.
A Case Study: The Nuer
In the endeavour of considering the elements that confer structural implications to a segmentary system, it might permit a substantive focus of attention the fact of centring on a segmentary tribe with a substantial background of ethnographic inferences and a very net model: the Nuer of the Southern Sudan (see Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People).
As an attempted overview, the Nuer is a Nilotic—inhabitants of the river Nile—tribe that includes around 500,000 individualsand has a particular physical and linguistic similarity with their neighbours the Dinka. Nuer are segmented. In other words, the interrelation of territorial segments within their political system, and the relations of other systems to this system, is formed by groups that are part of a segmentary system—the idea of segmentation is not a causal model able to predict what will happen next but just an intelligible framework for grasping the forms of options available in such a system. Moreover, Nuer are not centralised in power terms and have a sort of an ordered anarchy with no government. This is to say, Nuer, as well as Dinka, are divided into a number of tribes with no central organisation that have an internal logic which requires a very substantial study of its structure in order to be grasped and entitled under such term of ordered anarchy—this will be seen below. Regarding Nuer political segments, the most significant one in terms of magnitude is the tribe. Tribe members have an obligation to unite in warfare against intruders/outsiders and a right for compensation. Continuing, tribes are divided into tribal segments called sections; concretely, into primary and secondary sections forming the largest groups, and further tertiary sections, which are characterised by closer ties among its members as they are composed by villages, and these villages by domestic groups counting with kinships and domestic clans. For a clearer diagrammatic representation:
Segmentary Distribution of Tribal Sections of Nuer Tribes
Source: Author’s representation.
Notes to the figure:elements ‘2’ account with the same structure as those labelled ‘1’.
There exists an institution of blood-feud that, following the aforesaid Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography, contributes to maintain the equilibrium among political forces of different segments and groups with the help of a mediator, the leopard-skin chief. This blood-feud has sometimes structural implications in sparking off warfare (see Dresch’s essay ‘The Significance of the Course Events Take in Segmentary Systems’) that we will see below. Regarding kinship, Nuer are agnatic in terms of lineage—Nuer trace their descent solely through males to a common ancestor. The clan is thus the Nuer largest group of lineages—diverging branches of a common ancestor—and it is further divided into segments from the largest to the smallest one: maximal lineages, major lineages, minor lineages and minimal lineages. The importance of the blood-feud and the collective identity at each level determined by agnation are key features for understanding the political equilibrium in segmentary systems, as it is in-depth approached below. In relation to age, Nuer account with an age-set system. Age-sets are age-based groups that are non-cyclical but progressive. Individuals became a member of a set by the ritual of initiation and pass through positions of relative seniority until reaching the senior set. Such sets do not have a corporate function but they act jointly in small communities. In terms of social hierarchy, Nuer are not ranked. There are no classes or rankings as Nuer consider themselves as equal and they disregard wealth or other comparative features.
Followed by such attempted summary of the Nuer tribe, let us consider some of its segmentary elements able to imply structural implications for explaining determinant drivers of political conflict.
Each Nuer tribe has a unique territory in which they inhabit and a common sentiment for their members. The smaller the tribal segment the stronger the sentiment of unity and the more salient the intimacy of their social ties and contiguous their contact. There does exist a linkage between tribal divisions and lineages that crystallises its mode of segmentation. A tribal segment spreads around a lineage of the dominant clan of the tribe, which derives the strength of their interrelations insofar as smaller segments are closer genealogically and greater segments are more spread genealogically. Regarding their political values, there exist a sentiment and an organisation of unity against adjacent segments, larger segments and foreign tribes. This principle might seem highly important if we consider its structural dimensions in tailoring political conflict. Thus, same-order segments unite for war in case of conflict of one of their same-order tribal members. This results in a cumulative structure of higher-order segments of the same tribe to fight other segments of other tribes or tribes. For instance, under a hypothetical tribal distribution of order such as in (FIG. 2), if:
Hypothetical Distribution of Tribal Segments of Nuer
Source: Author’s representation.
From this diagrammatic representation might seem to follow a plausible case of conflict among Nuer. If a section seeks asylum in a warfare among other section under the statement of lineage ties, the protecting section might go into conflict with the other part if such part is, at the same time, genealogically tied with it. For instance, in the aforesaid Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography, he describes this conflict between the Leng and the Nyarkwac. The latter were split into the Yol and the Thiang, both of them descendants of a common ancestor with the Leng. The Thiang, exhausted, sought asylum among the Leng and this fact caused a reaction by the Yol connoting on a warfare against the Leng. This event was twofold: the Leng had a moral obligation to give asylum to the Thiang because of kinship ties and the Yol had a subsequent ‘right’ of directing a war against the Leng because of neglecting their own kinship ties.
It is important to highlight the fact that political membership is relative in the Nuer political structure. Hence, members of the section , in (FIG.2), might recognise themselves as members of if they are talking among themselves or to members of . However, they would be entitled as if they talk with members of . This is due to the relativity principle of the political structure of Nuer. The raison d’être of this principle is that tribal sections and segments have political membership solely in relation to other groups. Thus, tribal segments are political groups in relation to other segments of the same kind and only form a tribe in relation to another Nuer tribe or adjacent foreign tribe. From this, it seems to follow that political values of Nuer are relative—to other sections—and are in an equilibrium with forces of fission and fusion. (This fission/fusion feature of segmentary systems is plausibly caused in the case of Nuer due to a possible adaptive response of Nuer to Dinka. Dinka were already in the territory and Nuer were intruders. Hence, Nuer needed to fuse as well as to segment in order to gain territories for their peoples.) Indeed, groups tend to split into opposed parts—this can be seen in seasonal turns of Nuer segments, that are of different directions as Nuer tend to be opposed among segments because of this fission/fusion principle of their political system—but also fuse as they are part of the same segmentary system and such equilibrium might cogently contribute to determine political conflict. Certainly, this tendency to fusion and split is characterised as the dynamics of segmentary political systems (see Kuper’s essay ‘The Segmentary Lineage: An Organisation of Predatory Expansion’).
The blood-feud is an institution that also operates in maintaining the equilibrium of political conflict. It provides a compensation for homicide. Blood-feuds are a tribal institution or mechanism to obtain reparation for injury. For extension, then fear of incurring blood-feud is a guarantee for the individual to keep save. Although there is no law regarding the existence of an impartial authority who judges an event and has some sort of enforcement to impose a sanction, this institution maintains the equilibrium of ‘justice’ among sections of the tribe. Nevertheless, its effectiveness is more linked with smaller sections than those of greater magnitude. The fact that a group of a tribe attempts to avenge a homicide made by a member of another tribal group can result in an intertribal war rather than in a blood-feud state. When people of different villages fight, they prefer to seek the mediator leopard-skin chief, as they are aware that the aggressiveness of fighting with spears might cause to spill loads of blood and, as they are genealogically closer to one another than larger segments, they try to keep violence within limits.
The leopard-skin chief can be seen as an alternative procedure for a settlement of blood-feuds who can help to provide the alternative of paying in cattle as a compensation for death after the killer seeks asylum in his house. However, Nuer is proud and always want a body in compensation. Although the leopard-skin chief settles the blood-feud after the cattle compensation and overt hostilities are not frequently visible, for Nuer the blood-feud never ends. Their enmity lasts forever so does the chance for the blood-feud to be reopened, which contributes to a great extent in sowing the seeds for political conflict. However, chances for hostilities drawn from blood-feuds in provoking warfare are more likely to occur among primary, secondary and tertiary sections. The rationale behind such statement lies in the closer ties that smaller groups share. For instance, if the murderer is closely related with the dead man, then the feud is quickly paid and ended as there are many kinship and affinity ties involved. In contrast, when such ties are not that close and blood-feuds occur among different larger groups, a greater chance for it to break out an intertribal war might increase. (Incidentally, honour is very important for Nuer as can be seen in disputes between two men of different villages in which the honour of the whole village is at stake which adds substantial sensitivity to sparking off warfare.) Indeed, blood-feud compensations between secondary sections are not even expected and they certainly result in a general fight. Here, again, it can be seen the fission/fusion segmentary principle in relation to the relativeness notion of groups—inasmuch they politically-unite for war because of lineage reasons in case of same-order group blood-feuds.
Other disputes different than homicide might contribute to boost political conflict. For instance, adultery, steal cattle, etc., can be easily compensated; though there is no authority that controls such mechanism. Through a conventional redress, disputes habitually settle in harmony; however, if they are not eventually settled, they might result in violence as Nuer are sensitive to conflict in case that they are insulted or wronged. Thus, structural fusion might occur in cases that does not hold a settlement, which might further connote a major political conflict, unless kinship or a high difference of age make them change their minds.
The Nuer structural principles are drawn from their political values: unity for war against adjacent segments of the same order, and those of larger sections, and the whole unity against foreign tribes. Unity for war is linked with lineage, as it is illustrated by the case of the Leng vs. the Nyarkwac. Also, this draws attention to the lack of political control; fact that makes more intense the chance for political conflict to occur. Relativeness in segmentation plays a critical role; Nuer tend to fuse and segment for warfare at the same time that they maintain a co-existence between their group and tribal identity. This fission/fusion element of sectional/segmental divisions of Nuer are to be grasped as the force that equilibrates the two contradictory and supplementary drivers for political conflict and dynamics of change.
The blood-feud is an institution that operates as a means of obtaining reparation for injury. Blood-feuds can be understood as potential factors to create a permanent state of hostility among lineages and whole tribal sections that might further sow the seeds for sparking off a political conflict in cases that intertribal blood avenges result in intertribal warfare.
Plausibly, such segmentary structure drawn from lineage ties crystallised through the relative identities form a mechanism that consolidates such quasi-political, large-scale systems in the absence of a higher-level tribal organisation exerting some kind of power. However, such absence of a political control might certainly contribute to disturb the equilibrium of forces that interact in the segmentary system, connoting a greater chance for political conflict to happen. In addition, the fact that Nuer have a strong sense of personal dignity and honour, are always at once prepared to fight if they are wronged or insulted and are easily aroused to violence might contribute to increase the chance for political conflict to happen as they are an ordered anarchy in a non-headed kinship state.
Assad’s Army and Intelligence Services: Feudalization or Structurization?
Authors: Anton Mardasov* & Kirill Semenov
2017 marked a turning point in the Syrian conflict. With the full support of Russia and Iran, the Bashar al-Assad regime was able to neutralize the “domestic threat” completely. Throughout 2017, Damascus used the situation to carry out “outlying” operations, manipulating the ceasefire agreements and other accords reached as part of the Astana Peace Process. As soon as a relative calm would settle in a given “de-escalation zone” [in the opinion of the present authors, quotation marks are necessary in this case, as they indicate the real nature of these four zones], the regime would start transferring the available forces to other areas. First to eastern Syria in order to break the blockade of Deir ez-Zor and establish control over adjacent areas, which undoubtedly accelerated the downfall of the “Caliphate,” then to Idlib Governorate. And then, taking advantage of the agreements reached between Russia and Turkey on the division of spheres of influence in this “de-escalation zone,” to East Ghouta. Now Damascus has the initiative in terms of launching an offensive and a significant advantage over opposition groups.
The State of Affairs
As early as the beginning of 2017, the Syrian opposition demonstrated its ability to consolidate efforts and respond to the regime’s offensive manoeuvres. One such example is the way it managed to reduce “tension” in East Ghouta by carrying out distracting operations of its own in Daraa and Hama. However, the Syrian opposition became irreversibly fragmented after the process to form the de-escalation zones began, accompanied by the establishment of an external protectorate over these zones. As a result, most of the opposition factions in Greater Idlib now operate exclusively in the interests of Turkey, and the Amman Agreement between Jordan, Russia and the United States regarding the southwest de-escalation zone has succeeded in taking the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front out of the game. External actors have played a decisive role in the outcome of the confrontation between Damascus and the internal opposition, cutting off aid to opposition factions and effectively splitting them into isolated fragments.
That being said, until February 2018 (when the Russia–Turkey agreement made it possible to wrap up the active operation in Idlib and focus forces on East Ghouta), all the efforts of the elite units of the 4th Armoured Division, as well as the Syrian Republican Guard and other regular units of the Syrian Arab Army, to repel opposition forces in East Ghouta’s Jobar and Ayn Tarma ended with the withdrawal of government-sponsored troops after significant losses. The operation in Harasta ended with the encirclement of a Republican Guard battalion and the deaths of five colonels and brigadier generals. The same thing happened during an operation in Daraa in the south of the country.
Despite the active support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian Special Forces and the Shiite “Expeditionary Corps” led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and various Iraqi factions, the government forces still suffered significant strikes from the heavily outnumbered Islamic State. One such event took place in Homs and Deir ez-Zor in September–October 2017, when Islamic State units managed to cut off almost all the supply routes to pro-Assad troops operating along the Euphrates. The only thing that prevented the terrorists from building on their successes was the lack of numbers on the part of Islamic State (very few detachments are left) and the haphazard band-aid approach adopted by Russian specialists on the issue.
Thus, Damascus’ victories over its opponents can, for the most part, be put down to favourable circumstances and external support, rather than to the regime’s strengthening of its forces or increasing its combat effectiveness, despite the great efforts Russia has expended to train Syria’s military personnel and provide its regular units with up-to-date military technology.
Counting on the fact that these manipulations have successfully paralyzed the opposition to the point that pro-government forces will now be able to deal with current challenges does not eliminate the need to have a national military structure – without the growing Shiite International.
At present, the armed forces that Bashar al-Assad relies on continue to be an assortment of groupings, all of which depend on Damascus to varying degrees. There is no unity within the army in terms of readiness to unquestioningly carry out the directives of its leadership. There is a complicated system of approvals for the use of “elite” sections of the Syrian Arab Army in specific operations. This even applies to its most elite components: the 4th Armoured Division, the Syrian Republican Guard, Suheil al-Hassan’s “Tiger Forces” and individual units of other sections – for example, the “Deir Al-Qalamoun” unit of the 3rd Armoured Division and the “Saif Al-Mahdi” unit of the 4th Armoured Division, among others. At the same time, the combat effectiveness of the Syrian Arab Army’s combat manoeuvre units leaves much to be desired, and attempts are made to avoid moving them to regions far away from their areas of permanent deployment.
Various paramilitary groupings that do not answer directly to the Syrian Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the state security organs continue to play an important role, including the so-called National Defence Forces, the Local Defence Forces, foreign (primarily Shiite) groups, and other units created by them in Syrian territory, made up of Syrian nationals. There are at least twice as many fighters in the irregular army formations as in the Syrian Arab Army itself.
The Syrian crisis has made it possible for political institutions to acquire their own military formations. The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party still has active squadrons, some of which are part of the 5th Corps. Eagles of the Whirlwind is the military wing of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. And the Syrian Resistance is a left-wing paramilitary group led by Mihrac Ural, who is considered a terrorist in Turkey.
The formation of various paramilitary structures – military wings of mafia-like clans, private military companies, regional and tribal militias and militarized political organizations – has undermined the stability of the regime. These forces do not simply support Damascus. From the very beginning, they have attempted take root in government institutions and/or take control of various sources of income. It is no secret that various Shabiha detachments currently operating under the aegis of the National Defence Forces control the checkpoints, which in practice means that they have access to corrupt schemes, including the opportunity to send radical opposition fighters into the Turkish zones of influence. A number of figures associated with the pro-Iranian Syrian group Liwa al-Baqir (the Baqir Brigade, part of the Local Defence Forces) have their own fleet of minibuses and continue to operate transport businesses.
Given that Damascus is in dire need of local groupings in order to maintain stability and security, these militias will probably continue to exist after victory is declared. All the more given that all armed militia groups were legalized in 2013 and given permission to carry out their “activities” by the Ministry of Interior.
The incorporation of the National and Local Defence Forces into state structures was predetermined by the fact that both the Syrian special services and the army were unprepared for an uprising, and the vacuum thus created was filled by paramilitary groups. Iran also took advantage of this by helping set up various paramilitary structures and thus establishing a multi-echeloned presence in Syria.
Worthy of separate note is the Fifth Corps of Volunteers, an autonomous military structure that was created with the direct participation of Russian military advisers. According to some reports, the corps itself is also led by Russian generals. The corps can hardly be regarded as a regular military formation. It consists of various subdivisions made up of volunteers and is financed by a number of non-government sources. It also contains certain pro-government Syrian forces that existed before the corps was set up, including those financed by private individuals (the “Sea Commandos”) or set up with the participation of Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah (Liwa Dir’ al-Watan). At the same time, the inclusion of defectors and objectors from among the Sunni population in the Fifth Corps was apparently supposed to break the stereotype about the sectarian foundation of the pro-government forces and the auxiliary nature of the Sunnis’ participation in the war. However, the experiment has yet to bear fruit. The most combat-ready units of the Fifth Corps – the so-called ISIS Hunters – are again “sectarian militias” (as far as Syria’s Sunni majority is concerned). Such groups are made up primarily of Syrian Christians and Alawites (for example, the aforementioned “Sea Commandos”) or Shiites (Liwa Dir’ al-Watan, with the participation of Lebanese fighters). Work of this kind is likely to continue: according to some reports, work on the establishment of a 6th Corps is already under way.
Sooner or later the Syrian armed forces will surely face the challenge of transition to a peaceful life. In this context, it is important to understand what will happen to the large number of paramilitary formations and militias. The Iraqi leadership is attempting to solve this very same problem at home, having initiated a procedure to integrate soldiers of the militia group “Khashd ash-Shaabi” into the country’s armed forces. The experience gained during the creation of the 5th Corps, as well as its predecessor (the 4th Corps) can be used to help integrate certain paramilitary structures into the Syrian Arab Army and the Ministry of Interior.
It is also possible at the initial stage to revive the three corps of the Syrian Arab Army that formally existed before, turning them into territorial commands. All the regular and paramilitary units could be placed under their control on a territorial basis, thus becoming parts of the regular forces, identified by numbers instead of names. This is a necessary step, because many of these structures simply refuse to dissolve themselves, as in the case in Iraq. However, their existence should be legalized and their activities brought into line with military regulations.
Another problem is how to overcome the increasingly “sectarian” nature of military forces in Syria. All or most of the combat-ready units are made up primarily of national and religious minorities. Sunnis play a secondary role, mainly serving in auxiliary, “second echelon” groupings. Attracting Sunnis who have fought or lived in opposition territories, earning their trust and ensuring that they carry out their duties in a diligent manner will also be a key issue.
A Necessary but Unrealistic Scenario
If we distance ourselves from the propaganda and frankly dilettantish stereotypes about the Syrian opposition, then the best option for establishing an ethnic and confessional balance would be to unite the opposition groups and pro-government forces into a single structure. This is the kind of renewal of the armed forces that the UN documents envision. It is hardly possible, for example, to incorporate the insurgent factions that have, with Turkey’s support, united to form the Syrian National Army (SNA, which operates exclusively in Northern Aleppo) into existing Syrian Arab Army units and divisions. The leadership of the opposition factions will not agree to this, bearing in mind what happened in Tajikistan (where the opposition was liquidated after its divisions were incorporated into government units). One possibility is to form about five to seven separate corps and divisional units from opposition forces and establish a single military council involving the Syrian National Army and the Syrian Arab Army.
However, neither Damascus nor Tehran, nor indeed Moscow, is interested in such a scenario. Although it is far easier for the Russian side to play along with the Syrian regime, which seeks to eliminate the Syrian opposition once and for all by military means, that goal would serve only to strengthen the positions of Iran and Syria. Moscow has had a significantly more difficult time than expected positioning itself as a moderator in the conflict and maintaining effective working relations with the opposition groups that participated in the Astana Peace Process and signed agreements with the Russian military in Cairo and Geneva. Integrating the opposition into military and political structures that are aligned with the current regime could serve as a natural counterweight to the influence of Iran and preserve a certain balance of power that is beneficial to Moscow. The big question now is: to what extent will Moscow be able to maintain control over its “client,” given that Tehran is clearly benefitting from the situation?
Reform of the Military Intelligence Services
Against the backdrop of the Islamic State’s transition to clandestine activities in Iraq and Syria (which is common for the group) and various other challenges, the role of the Syrian intelligence services is acquiring greater significance. Their activities today little resemble the standards adopted in the sphere. Opportunities to carry out covert intelligence work have been greatly reduced, and the grassroots tools of state governance have been destroyed. The Syrian intelligence services were not even able to prevent terrorist attacks on the National Security Council building.
At present, the Syrian intelligence services do not seem to have an analogue anywhere in the Middle East. Four independent security structures operate within the Syrian Arab Army. These structures are divided into “military,” which includes military intelligence and aerial reconnaissance (Air Force reconnaissance) and “political” (civilian units formally subordinate to the Interior Ministry), which includes the main security department and the department for managing political security. All of these structures answer directly to the president. However, the system of intelligence services in Syria reflects the complexity of relations and confrontations among various groups of influence in the country’s ruling elite. The system is constructed in such a way that the individual intelligence services effectively work against each other, which makes it impossible for any single “branch” to become significantly stronger than the others.
Air Force reconnaissance was conceived as the intelligence structure “closest” to the heart of former president Hafez al-Assad, who was a fighter pilot himself. As a result, it effectively turned into an independent state security agency, with its own external intelligence and counterintelligence divisions, and even a department for combatting anti-government activities. During the Civil War, the Air Force reconnaissance formed an entire “pleiad” of special forces units to carry out operations using heavy machinery. The other three “branches” took similar steps in order to prevent any one of the intelligence agencies from becoming significantly stronger than the rest.
It would appear that the simplest solution for transforming the Syrian intelligence services with the goal of optimizing their activities would, first of all, be to merge Air Force reconnaissance and military intelligence into a single organ of the General Staff of the Syrian Arab Army, and strip these structures of the ability to carry out political investigations. As for the political security structures, it would be practical for one of them to focus exclusively on external intelligence activities, while the second could be engaged in counterintelligence and anti-terror activities. In other words, Syrian intelligence services would be brought up to global standards.
It is also imperative to create border security forces to control Syria’s eastern frontiers first and foremost, but also the entire border, as a kind of unified system with its own social and infrastructural characteristics. While Hafez al-Assad paid special attention to the country’s tribes, granting their leaders various privileges and taking their views into consideration in political life, his son Bashar all but forgot about them, which combined with drought in the regions and the misallocation of resources created the conditions for social upheaval. The years spent under the control of radical groups transformed the tribal social fabric even more. At present, the regime relies primarily on the Suqur al-Furat militia, which contains members of the Al-Shaitat tribe, to carry out its activities in the eastern part of the country. The tribe attempted a revolt against the Islamic State rule in 2014 but was defeated in a gruesome fashion. Damascus used this as a pretext to organize a military training programme for the tribe’s members and announced an amnesty for them.
If Damascus is unable to hold a constructive dialogue with the Sunni tribes, then there is a risk that the Islamic State will emerge once again in one form or another as a result of the joint efforts of independent Sunni groups and radicals (operatives, preachers, etc.), who will be able to remain in the country. It is all the more important to deal with the cadres who are familiar with the local terrain in the east of the country could help prevent smuggling, with which both Damascus and Baghdad have well-documented issues.
*Anton Mardasov, Military Observer Head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Institute of Innovative Development
First published in our partner RIAC
Russia Says U.S. Trains Jihadists to Do Chemical Attacks Blamed Against Assad
On March 17th, Russia’s Minister of Defense (equivalent to America’s Secretary of Defense) announced, through Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy: “We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in southern Syria. Early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the southern de-escalation zone to the city of Deraa, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed. They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs.”
He also said:
“The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria. We’re registering the signs of the preparations for the possible strikes. Strike groups of the cruise missile carriers have been formed in the east of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea.”
He went on to add that in the most jihadist-friendly province, Idlib, another such “false flag” attack is being prepared by Al Qaeda in Syria, called there, “Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in coordination with the White Helmets,” which is a group financed by the U.S. and UK Governments to rescue victims of bombings by Syria’s Government and its ally Russia.
This would hardly be the first example of such attacks. For example, on 14 January 2014, MIT’s Theodore Postol and the former U.N. Weapons Inspector Richard Lloyd co-authored a detailed technical study and analysis, regarding “the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013” (which was the most-famous sarin-attack, in East Ghouta), saying that “the US Government’s Interpretation of the Technical Intelligence It Gathered Prior to and After the August 21 Attack CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT,” and documenting that the rocket had actually — and clearly — been fired from an area that even the U.S. Government’s own maps showed to be under the control of the ‘rebels’, whom the U.S. Government supported, and definitely not of the Syrian Government, whom those ‘rebels’ were trying to overthrow. (That was the incident in which U.S. President Barack Obama announced to the world his “red line” and then said that the Government headed by Bashar al-Assad had crossed it and that this justified a U.S. invasion, but Seymour Hersh said that it had become blocked by the UK/s intelligence lab at Porton Down, by their finding that the sarin which had been used in this attack wasn’t of a type that the Syrian Government had in its arsenals.) There have been several such “false-flag” attacks, in order to get the public to support invading Syria. However, the main way that the U.S. and its allies try to overthrow Assad and his Government is to arm and protect Al Qaeda in Syria, which leads the various jihadist groups there (other than ISIS).
From Radical Ecology to Ecoterrorism
The schools of thought of contemporary eco-terrorism are many, but those that use an antagonist theoretical-practical approach can be identified in deep ecology, feminist ecology, Marxist ecology, primitivism, degrowth ecology, the Slow Food movement, ecology, animalism (which together with vegetarianism is a logical consequence of radical ecology) and, finally, eco-terrorism. In this sense – beyond the often demagogic rhetoric – eco-terrorism does not differ from the above-mentioned schools of thought because of its ethical-philosophical assumptions but rather by the operative procedures through which its antagonism is carried out. Therefore, an ideological community exists, whether implicit or explicit, in the main schools of thoughts of ecology and eco-terrorism. These schools of thought, however, can be associated with the idea of radical ecology.
Definition of radical ecology
While continuing to take the complexity of current ecology into account, the expression “radical” is used to indicate extremely antagonist ecology, from Pinochot’s utilitarian conservationism, which was deeply anthropocentric and aimed to rationalize the use of nature toward a lasting economic exploitation, to Haeckel’s neo-Darwinian approach, Tanskey’s view, Lotka’s trophic-network ecology, and finally, Odum’s thermodynamic approach. Firstly, radical ecology comprises the holistic preservationism of Thoreau, Emerson, and Leopold, ecofeminism, political ecology, deep ecology, primitivism, social ecology, the degrowth movement, the Slow Food movement, eco-regionalism, animalism, and eco-terrorism. Secondly, although the list of the organizations is not complete, it is important to underline that the several “-isms” do not exclude the possibility of profitable contaminations among the different schools of thought. Thirdly, the epistemological, political and philosophical features shared by the above-mentioned schools of thought can be identified as follows:
- they all support a structural modification of the current economic system and are against the supranational institutions that control global capitalism, in particular, the IMF, the WTO, and the World Bank;
- they are in favor of the anti-globalization movement, and know its limits and potentials;
- they share an eco-centric, bio-centric, anti-anthropocentric, holistic and sometimes organicistic perception of natural reality;
- they are against a mechanistic vision of reality such as Bacon’s and Descartes’, and are in favor of legal extensionism;
- they support a relevant extension of representative democracy or a radical exceeding of it in favor of an anarchic, neo-tribal society, or a participatory democracy;
- they share and develop apocalyptical and radical scenes of current society’s environmental and economic condition;
- they advocate a change in the ethic of western civilization through an eco-pacifist reorientation carried out by counter-information;
- they are against military institutions and share a typical interpretation of irenic pacifism;
- they are against the use of biotechnologies in agriculture and the civil and military use of nuclear energy;
- several members of radical ecology share a new interpretation of nature according to neo-romantic or oriental philosophies (such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Zen philosophy);
- many scholars and activists belonging to radical ecology embrace animalistic and vegetarian views which they deem deeply coherent with an ecocentric vision of nature.
- Finally, several exponents of radical ecology refer to 1968 culture, and to underground American and tribal cultures.
In short, regarding the operative procedures carried out by the several schools of thought or radical ecology, we should point out the difference between non-violent and terroristic ones. There are three levels of antagonist procedure: a) non-violent practice strictly antagonist toward political and legal institutions; b) non-violent practice with an entryist political logic toward national and supranational political institutions; c) publically terroristic practice. We should, nevertheless, underline the differences between positions a) and b) both of which are well-organized and opposing: the first clearly condemns the use of terroristic procedures, the second supports terrorist procedures – but without putting them into practice – and is therefore ambiguous.
The historical predecessors of radical ecology
According to Livorsi, the genesis of radical ecology can be easily traced from a historical point of view to the philosophical and religious interpretation of Bachofen and the Marxist psychoanalysis of Reich as well. The author of the “Canticle of the Sun” (“Cantico del Frate Sole”) not only asserts the sanctification of the world by God – in other words, the sun, the moon, and the animal world – but also refers to Mother Earth, anticipating the modern concept of “Gaia” . Moreover the heterodox pantheism of Saint Francis implies a brotherhood between human beings and creatures according to an ecocentric and egalitarian view. The French philosopher Rousseau, in his “Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men” (“Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les homes”), emphasized the goodness of the state of nature and the existential authenticity of the human being in this pre-civilized context, while condemning in the meantime private property and therefore civilization determined by technique. Moreover, unlike civilized society, tribal society conducted an ecocentric, egalitarian and communal style of life. Bachofen, in his reinterpretation of the history of civilization, emphasized the existence of a gynocratic, anti-patriarchal view in pre-Achaean society in which there was no private life, there was sexual freedom, nature was accepted as a living organism, and above all, the modus vivendi was built on egalitarian pacifism.
In short, regarding Reich, the rise of patriarchy brought about the triumph of capitalism, the closed family, and sexual repression. The natural and erotic man who struggles for a libertarian socialism has reemerged only rarely in history, such as in the Paris Commune in 1871, for example.
Definition of Terrorism and Eco-Terrorism
According to Pisano, terrorism can be defined as a non-conventional form of conflict because it lies outside both democratic, organized and civil dispute and the traditional battlefield of war regulated by international law. Terrorism is characterized by three elements: a) physical and psychic criminal violence, b) political, religious political or social political movement, and c) the use of illegal structure. Traditional terrorism, as Pisano explains, together with neo-terrorism, coexist both as a threat and as a concrete aggression. Neo-terrorism is performed by dynamic and polymorphous schemes that can intertwine while preserving their methodological and operational autonomy at the same time. Pisano indicates ecologic terrorism, narco-terrorism, the NRBC, and cyber-terrorism as the most important.
Ecologic terrorism (the topic of our research) is based on lay and/or religious ideological ideas and from an organizational point of view is carried out alternatively by cellular organizations with no hierarchies and by binary structures that are cellular and propagandistic at the same time. Ecologic terrorism furthers its antagonism through several operative procedures: 1) obstructive human barriers (lock box), 2) machinery sabotage, 3) arson and explosive detonation, 4) legal instruments focused on reporting abuse by police, 5) assemblage and road blocks, 6) intrusion within military installations or scientific and university institutions, 7) wide use of misinformation through media, internet and magazines, and 8) instigation to tax evasion. The enemies or targets to strike are several in number as well: 1) national and supranational capitalism, 2) the state, which defends its interests and consolidates its power, 3) national and supranational military institutions, and 4) scientific and university laboratories.
In a nutshell, eco-terrorism presents two fundamental trends: animal (such as ALF, ARM or JD) and environmental (e.g. Earth First!). In conclusion, Pisano suggests that the dangers of eco-terrorism are linked to the potential strengthening of its organizational power, creation of operative or ideological ties with traditional terrorism, and the consolidation of its relations with the anti-globalization movement.
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