The terrorist attacks that recently targeted Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, and before them, those targeting Istanbul-Ataturk Airport in Turkey, Paris and Brussels – without forgetting the tragedies shaking the Middle East states – are outrages that underline the world’s duty to confront criminal terror perpetrated under ‘Islamic’ banners. Verbal condemnations are no longer acceptable and solid actions are now the only answer.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the US, senior figures in the Bush administration called for ‘drying up’ the sources of terror. This is absolutely right. There is no alternative other than ‘drying up’ the sources of terror, in the sense that terror must be deprived of the social ‘incubators’ in which it grows and finds protection.
The Bush administration, however, committed two big mistakes during the early period after the September 11 attacks. The first was to silence the good-intentioned voices of ordinary American who innocently asked “Why do they hate us?!” The extreme Right’s ideologues and fixers worked overtime to discredit this question by claiming that no political stances would or should justify outrages of that scale.
The second was launching an ‘open-ended’ war against an undefined ‘enemy’, then creating new realities on the ground that only helped the very same ‘enemy’ find a social ‘incubator’, although the declared aim of the war was exactly the opposite!
As regards the first mistake, given the massive shock that overwhelmed American society in the autumn of 2001, it was understandable that the need for national solidarity against unprecedented terror outweighed any rational, serious and democratic debate. Furthermore, some beliefs and interests pushed for quick ‘practical solutions’ rather than proper and serious strategic approaches. The Bush administration, led by the ‘Neocons’, did not limit its war to attacking Al-Qaeda (which claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks) and Taliban (its Afghani ally and defender), but began implement an ‘old pre-planned strategy’ – totally unrelated to the attacks – aimed at bringing down ‘unfriendly’ Middle East regimes, beginning with Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime in Iraq.
In those pre-Obama and pre-JCPOA days, Washington regarded Iran a terror-sponsoring rogue state. Indeed, Iran had through its local operatives and puppets planned and executed the infamous hostage taking operations in Lebanon, including Americans – some of whom were later murdered – as well as the suicide attack against the US Marines base in Beirut on October 23rd 1983 where 241 Americans were killed. Those operatives and puppets, now known as Hezbollah, were organized, financed and guided by Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur, who was then Iran’s ambassador in Syria, and later became Iran’s Interior Minister.
In Iraq, almost immediately after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the exiled Shi’ite leaders of ‘The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq’ (presently known as ‘The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq’) flocked to US-occupied Baghdad from Iran. Among these and their militiamen were ex-fighters on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) in the ranks of the ‘Badr Brigade’ militia. Incidentally, the ‘Council’ was founded by the exiled Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Mohammad Baqer Al-Sadr in November 1982 in Iran, and was granted its official sponsorship as being a part of Tehran’s strategy of ‘exporting the (Khomeini/Islamic) revolution’.
Iran’s growing influence in Iraq, indeed, ‘taking over the country’ – as the British military in southern Iraq soon discovered – was moving hand in hand with Hezbollah’s gradual hegemony in Lebanon, where it imposed its control not only on Lebanon’s political institutions, but also on its security institutions.
This became much clearer in the following years at decisive landmarks in the country’s modern history; namely since the autumn of 2004 when the presidential term of Pres Emile Lahhoud, an ally of Tehran and Damascus, was unconstitutionally extended. After that several leading opponents of the Tehran – Damascus axis were assassinated including Lebanon’s ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (2005). Later, in 2006, Hezbollah fought a war against Israel that now appears to have been planned by Iran merely to achieve a permanent ceasefire in south Lebanon and create a de-militarized ‘buffer zone’ with Israel that allows Hezbollah to be employed in other regional wars.
Indeed, by 2008, Hezbollah became not only a fully-fledged ‘state within a state’, but also bigger and more powerful than the Lebanese state itself while remaining a partner in its political decision processes and its political and security institutions.
Simply declaring war on Sunni Muslims will do nothing but further stoke the fires of extremismEyad Aby Shakra
Then, in March 2011, after the Syrian popular uprising against the Assad dynastic dictatorship – Iran’s only Arab ally during the Iran-Iraq War – the full truth became clear and fake slogans uncovered, as Hezbollah turned its attentions away from the Israeli ‘Blue line’ in order to fight the Syrian people and abort their uprising.
By this time, Nouri Al-Maliki, Iraq’s ex-Prime Minister (2008-2014) and former pro-Tehran Al-Da’wa Party activist was fully engaged in an Iran-aided and abetted sectarian war against Sunni Arab Iraqis, antagonizing even their tribal ‘Sahwaat’ militias which since 2006 succeeded in preventing Al-Qaeda’s spread in Sunni western Iraq.
It is important to mention here that Al-Qaeda would have never existed in the that region in the first place had it not been for the ‘policies’ of hatred, revenge, spite and sectarian discrimination practiced by Al-Maliki against his Sunni compatriots. Thus, when ‘Iranian political Shi’ism’ controlled Iraq at the expense of the Sunnis, imposed its hegemony over Lebanon, and expanded its influence militarily in Syria – with Assad’s collusion – it was only natural that a counter-reaction would emerge. This counter-reaction soon took the shape of a social ‘incubator’ for desperate and suicidal Sunni extremism, materializing into ISIS; the same ISIS that has attacked and occupied the city of Mosul without a fight!
The conditions that ‘created’ ISIS are what we see and know. And the security and intelligence ‘apparatuses’ that have maintained, exploited and benefitted from ISIS and its crimes know exactly what they are doing, leaving nothing to chance.
This extremist terrorist organization is consciously, or unconsciously, drawing the maps of grand plan for a new Middle East, and forcing the Muslim world into endless religious wars with the west, sectarian wars between Sunnis and Shiites, and ethnic wars between Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Iranians.
Eliminating this social ‘incubator’ of extremism would be impossible without Arab and international goodwill and deep political understanding of what is taking place in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Simply declaring war on Sunni Muslims, more precisely Arab Sunni Muslims, will do nothing but enlarge this ‘incubator’ and further stoke the fires of extremism.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 17, 2016.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949