Thursday, December 24, 2015

Terrorism, Muslims and the United States

December 24, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

The emergence of ISIS in the Middle East landscape is a mind boggling phenomenon. How Al-Baghdadi and his cohorts could amass such a committed and huge force of heartless crusaders to rampage in the length and breadth of Iraq and Syria, fight the traditional regular armies and entrench doggedly either to kill or to be killed in return.

Thus far the mighty air power of many countries including both USSR and USA has been unsuccessful to dislodge and scatter the ISIS militia which in fact is a worrisome dimension for the world at large. ISIS is causing more destabilization of Iraq and Syria than the previous wars both internal and external.

The sordid fact is that in the Middle East, in the littoral states of Gulf and in the Arab peninsula there have never been a political government established through the will and franchise of the people. By and large these have been tribal dynasties and family dictatorships. 

The Arab spring brought in its wake, significant and formidable transformation in the system of governance or democracy elsewhere but not in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia and Emirates remained unaffected by that historic watershed change. Yemen, Libya Iraq and Syria entered into a phase of civil war that is still raging ferociously. In Iraq and Syria this civil war is between the ISIS and the incumbent regimes.

In an atmosphere of political and social stagnation the dictatorial dynasties like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria and even Egypt draw their strength and legitimacy either from religion or military. These regimes lack legitimacy to rule as these are not born out of the people’s mandate given through ballot. 

Since these family or sectarian based dynasties or military outfits are backed up  by the foreign powers such as Syria by USSR and Iraq by the United State, a third force has emerged with the slogan of establishing an Islamic Emirate in Levant territories similar to that of  Taliban created in Afghanistan for a few years( 1996-2001).

In 2003 the so called Coalition Allies led by the United States eliminated the Iraqi Baathist regime of Saddam Hussain. Since then Iraq has a fragile and sectarian based democratic governments.  In Syria the Alawite government is under a family dictatorship using all brutal means against their people especially the Sunni population. 

Although there has been a simmering civil war going on in Syria, the Arab Spring that swept across the Islamic countries of Sahara and Middle East generated since 2011 a new wave of civil unrest in Syria which is apace now.

Ironically the deadly wars have been thrust upon the people of these lands either by local tyrants or by foreign interventions have shaken these societies upside down. Now the Taliban and Muslims crusaders or jihadists who fought for the west in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union later were treated as terrorists and a new war was started against them in 2001. Thus the heroes became terrorists. 

But woefully the label of terrorism exclusively used for a limited group of Taliban started being used for the entire Muslim world. In the context of Middle East those challenging the autocratic regimes are also being dubbed as terrorists.

In case of such gruesome incidents as in Paris, San Bernardino or 9/11 the label of terrorism should be exclusively used for the specific groups of terrorists who carried out these horrific acts and not for all Muslims. That trend is leading to a clash of civilization based upon religion as predicted by Professor Huntington.

It should be in order if the Western World particularly the United States and politicians should correct this misconception because Muslims have stood by America in Afghanistan in defeating the former Soviet Union: the arch enemy of capitalism or the free world.

At the same time the international power brokers and super powers along with the UNO initiate a process of democratization of the Muslim countries that are still under the domination of family autocracies or the religious outfits or else under the military junta rule. That is going to be the best and a most preferable solution to bridle and nail terrorism.

The United States and its allies and Europe should use their clout and influence to change the regimes and ensure choice of the rulers through a genuine democratic process. We can see that in Tunisia the Arab spring was successful. The people’s uprising was aimed at a genuine cause which was the change of the rulers and a dysfunctional and corrupt government. 

The United Nations would rather move to ban the autocracy in any form and for that objective the Security Council and the world powers should play a decisive role. If the islands of autocracies and ruthless dynasties and dictatorships are dismantled to be replaced by governments chosen by the people, the society and government would be stable and accountable. 

The use of brute force to sustain proxy governments and sham regimes is a recipe for turmoil and chaos as we can witness all over in the Middle East, barring Morocco and Jordan.

The anti Muslim rhetoric and outlook has been there in the west, but of late this has assumed vitriolic proportions. Truthfully merely Muslim bashing and vilifying them en-bloc for isolated and odd incidents like San Bernardino and Paris would be counterproductive and an exercise in futility. 

Rather it would create ill will and tension between 1.6 billion Muslims and the Christian West which would be detrimental to the creation of a world free of terrorism, militancy and hatred. It would be a saner policy to take the peaceful Islamic states along to root out the menace of terrorism and for peaceful world. 
At the same time it is also inevitable to debilitate the radical militants as Taliban and ISIS to pave way for the regime change from autocracy to democracy. In that regard the strategy unfurled by president Obama can be decisively effective and definitely result-oriented. 

He has submitted a Draft resolution to the Congress for permission to go ahead with his anti ISIS plan. President Obama doesn’t want American ground troops in Iraq and Syria because in his reckoning that was what ISIS wants and the America is not going to commit that blunder. 

He wants to break their command and control system, block their channels of funds, recapture the oil refineries under their control and stop sale of oil. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the front runner Democratic presidential candidates have expressed their support for that approach.

About domestic ill will towards the Muslims, Hillary Clinton has asserted that “we must work more closely with Muslim-American communities. Just like Martin, I met with a group of Muslim-Americans this past week to hear from them about what they're doing to try to stop radicalization. They will be our early warning signal. That's why we need to work with them, not demonize them, as the Republicans have been doing
Sanders opined, “I believe in action in which we put together a strong coalition of forces, major powers and the Muslim nations.”

These are the saner voices that goad caution and restraint and not to dub, discriminate or profile the Muslims as terrorists as it would not only be a violation of  the American constitution but would also isolate the United States from the entire Muslim world by way of interaction and adverse impact on  the  mutual trade and cooperation.
Currently USA and Russia are seeking the Security Council’s approval to build up an international coalition for action in Iraq along the same lines that United States had earlier formed twice in Iraq. The first was the Operation Desert Storm built in February 1991 consisting of   34 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait

The second was "shock and awe that led to the invasion of Iraq and collapse of the Ba'athist government, capturing of Terrorism, Muslims and United States in December 2003 and his execution by a military court three years later.Such a coalition was built in Afghanistan in 2001 under the title of “Operation Enduring Freedom” to dislodge Taliban.  

The United States officially withdrew in 2011 from Afghanistan after the fulfillment of the mission but became re-involved in 2014 at the head of a new coalition.

The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog

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