(Times of Israel) – One of the witnesses before Congress was an ex-CIA analyst and operations officer Michael Scheuer. In his appearance – which is on YouTube here – he argues that al-Qaeda’s hatred towards the West is driven by western policy and actions in the Middle east, as opposed to a more generalized cultural or religious animosity. If you listen to Scheuer’s testimony, you can see he is not spouting anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist or pro-Palestinian rhetoric. While he is rather eccentric, Scheuer bases his opposition to the American alliance with Israel on the purely Realpolitik argument of the US needing to disentangle itself from ties to both Israel and the Middle East more broadly. In fact, it is worth noting that Scheuer considers the US alliance with the Saudis to be far worse to the US from a policy perspective.
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(WaPo) – The map, from Columbia University’s really exceptional Gulf/2000 Project, shows the different ethnic and linguistic groups of the Levant, the part of the Middle East that’s dominated by Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Each color represents a different group. As you can see, there are a lot of groups swirled together. There are enclaves, and there is overlap.
Ethnic and linguistic breakdowns are just one part of Syria’s complexity, of course. But they are a really important part. The country’s largest group is shown in yellow, signifying ethnic Arabs who follow Sunni Islam, the largest sect of Islam. Shades of brown indicate ethnic Kurds, long oppressed in Syria, who have taken up arms against the regime. There are also Druze, a religious sect, Arab Christians, ethnic Armenians and others.
Syria is run by Alawites, a minority sect of Islam whose members include President Bashar al-Assad and many in his inner circle. They’re indicated in a greyish green, clustered near the Mediterranean coast. Although Alawites make up only 12 percent of the Syrian population, they are playing a crucial role in the war, fighting to prop up Assad’s regime.