World View: Damascus Terror Attack Deals a Blow to Syria ‘Peace Talks’

The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Dozens killed in ISIS attack on a Shia shrine in Damascus Syria
  • Damascus shrine attack deals another blow to the Syria ‘peace talks’ in Geneva

Dozens killed in ISIS attack on a Shia shrine in Damascus Syria

Aftermath of triple suicide bombing in Damascus on Sunday (SANA)
Aftermath of triple suicide bombing in Damascus on Sunday (SANA)

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for a massive series of suicide bomber attacks on Sunday at the historic Shia Sayyida Zeinab shrine in Syria’s capital city Damascus, killing at least 71 people and injuring dozens more.

Two days earlier, a terrorist bombed a Shia mosque in al-Ahsa in eastern Saudi Arabia. Although no one claimed responsibility for the attack, it was similar to attacks by ISIS. The perpetrator was later identified as a Saudi national.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the attack on the Saudi mosque:

The repetition of terror attacks to mosques and Husseiniyehs in eastern Saudi Arabia indicates the worrying security situation in the region and negligence of security forces in fulfilling their responsibility in maintaining public security against terrorists’ attacks.

The Iranian comment, essentially blaming the Saudi government for the bombing attack, reflects the increasing hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia, following the execution by the Saudis of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr after being convicted in court of being a terrorist. ( “4-Jan-16 World View — Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran as violent Shia protests spread around region”)

The tables have turned on Iran with Sunday’s attack in Damascus, in the back yard of Iran’s ally, Bashar al-Assad. Iran’s Foreign Ministry did not issue any statement condemning Bashar al-Assad after the Damascus attack. Instead, Syria’s Ambassador Bashar Jaafari blamed the Saudi government and its alleged links to ISIS for the attack.

The area was heavily protected and was supposed to be safe. After the first suicide bomber exploded, people gathered around to see what had happened, and then two more suicide bombers exploded. The heavily populated area of southern Damascus is a site of pilgrimage for Shias from Iran, Lebanon and other parts of the Muslim world. The Sayyida Zeinab shrine is one of the holiest in Shia Islam, as it houses graves from the time of the Prophet Mohammed. The area is also the stronghold of several Shia militias.

ISIS and other Sunni jihadists say that Shia Islam is an apostasy, and many Sunni jihadist groups have pledged to exterminate the Shias. More attacks on Shia targets are to be expected. Vice News and Gulf News and Al Manar

Damascus shrine attack deals another blow to the Syria ‘peace talks’ in Geneva

A week ago, I wrote “25-Jan-16 World View — Farcical Syria peace process ‘proximity talks’ to begin this week in Geneva”, as the Geneva talks were beginning. The ISIS attack on the historic Damascus shrine deals another blow.

There is a great deal about the Geneva “peace talks” in the last week that can be mocked, but there is also an increasing feeling of anxiety and desperation about what is going on in the Mideast.

On Sunday morning, I heard al-Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara say, “The Mideast is falling apart. This is not an exaggeration. The Mideast is falling apart.” Almost every analyst and politician who expresses any opinion says that they do not expect much from the peace talks, as there have already been several failures in the past.

The Bashar al-Assad regime and the Iranians are making it clear that they have no intention of conceding anything. With the Russian bombing going on, the al-Assad regime is gaining strength on the ground, though not enough to win. Furthermore, the Iranians refer to the al-Assad opposition as all “terrorists,” and suggest that they will not concede anything to terrorists anyway.

This is the attitude that caused ISIS to form in the first place. The Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime started massacring and slaughtering innocent Sunni women and children in 2011 when they were peacefully protesting. This triggered one of the most spectacular events of my lifetime: tens of thousands young Sunni men from countries around the world, from south Asia to Pakistan to the Mideast to northern Africa and up to Russia’s Caucasus region, joined by many young men from Europe and even the U.S., traveled to Syria to fight al-Assad, even leading to the creation of ISIS.

So now, the Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime is still calling anyone who disagrees with them “terrorists,” and it continues its policy of extermination of all Sunnis. This is exactly the attitude that caused ISIS to be created in the first place. And now the Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime is being joined by the Orthodox Christian Vladimir Putin regime from Russia to further inflame the jihadists. As I have said in the past, the Three Satans of our time are Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Iran’s Seyed Ali Khamenei. These Three Satans are entirely to blame for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, creating ISIS, and triggering the flight of millions of refugees to Europe.

So coming back to the Geneva meeting, the drama all week was that the al-Assad opposition “rebel” groups are unable to select negotiators to attend the Geneva negotiations. They point out that the Russians are still bombing and slaughtering entire neighborhoods of innocent people, something was supposed to stop before the negotiations began. They say that they are unable to negotiate with someone whose warplanes are trying to kill them. And indeed, the al-Assad regime has no intention of negotiating with them either.

The opposition groups are under tremendous pressure from the Americans and other Westerners to attend the Geneva “peace talks,” whether they like it or not.

The “peace talks” are futile for many reasons, and the two attacks on Shia shrines over the weekend illustrate one of the major ones. Iran and al-Assad are not going to end their slaughter of innocent Sunnis, but even if they did and there was a so-called political solution, ISIS and other jihadist groups would still be intent on exterminating Shias and attacking the Shia/Alawite Bashar al-Assad regime.

More and more analysts and politicians are anxiously reaching the same conclusion that Marwan Bishara did — that the Mideast is actually falling apart. Al-Jazeera and AFP and Bloomberg

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Damascus, Sayyida Zeinab shrine, Saudi Arabia, Al-Ahsa, Nimr al-Nimr, Bashar Jaafari, Russia, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Marwan Bishara, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, Iran, Seyed Ali Khamenei,
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