Last week, I wrote about the “circumstantial evidence” the United States hid in a 28 page confidential document because it allegedly insults Saudi Arabia. However, the US, its political leaders and its media outlets carried on in the same vein, plunging Riyadh and its role in the war against terrorism into a sea of suspicion. There is a reason behind this American stance, however, I cannot disclose it as it cannot be verified.
I called for a change of position in the game of suspicion versus intention and proposed that as Saudis, Arabs and Muslims, we should bring to light the supposedly circumstantial evidence upon which our suspicions of the American and Western world’s role in the crafting of international terrorism are based.
You might think that I sound like Donald Trump, the US presidential candidate who accused US President Barack Obama and his own competitor Hillary Clinton of creating ISIS. However, what I’m saying resembles in so many ways the absurd decade-long accusation against Saudi Arabia and what is allegedly hidden in the aforementioned papers.
Turning a blind eye?
During my work as a field journalist in the 1990s, I stumbled upon “circumstantial evidence” which indicated to me that some parties in the US and the West have encouraged the rise of extremist movements or turned a blind eye toward them. This hypothesis can be justified by many reasons: serving Israel’s interest by spreading chaos across the region and ruining the resistance’s image, maintaining the deleterious situation in the Arab world by intimidating its communities and convincing them that if certain pro-West regimes were to fall, they would be replaced by worse regimes allied with enemies. Each of these statements can either be proven or rejected.
Global politics are cold and terrible and many countries have malevolent political agendasJamal Khashoggi
In a similar situation, President Bashar al-Assad has allegedly been encouraged to militarize the revolution or even ask for al-Qaeda’s help. In one of my February 2012 articles, I predicted al-Qaeda’s rise in Syria and noted that to achieve this goal the regime had allegedly been releasing important figures affiliated to al-Qaeda. Indeed, it seems to me that Assad’s efforts came to fruition and enabled him to use indiscriminate violence against his own people in a supposed bid to counter terrorism and combat armed guerilla groups, not peaceful movements advocating democracy. Now, even the free democratic countries are hesitating to help the Syrian people because it seems they are unable to draw a clear line between terrorist groups and moderate ones. It has become clear that both Washington and London have prioritized the war on ISIS over toppling the Syrian regime. Moreover, their troops (most recently, British troops) are more focused on the war against ISIS rather than on protecting civilians who are subject to bombings and killings by the regime and its allies, even when these attacks are using prohibited toxic gases and when the West should be engaged in war to protect the victims.
There is evidence that the rise of terrorism benefits malicious agendas. Global politics are cold and terrible and many countries have malevolent political agendas. Therefore, it seems to be a certainty that in the pre-September 11 period such malevolent agendas were prepared in Washington and London.
A particular case
Among what I see as “circumstantial pieces of evidence,” I remember the case of Sheikh al-Darir Omar Abd el-Rahman, currently imprisoned in the US and suspected of inciting violence. He was arrested after the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. Two years before, he obtained a tourist visa for the US even though he was on a watch list. More absurd is the fact that he got his visa from Khartoum at a time when Egyptian-Sudanese relations were at a low, in addition to his being a wanted man. Any intern or low-ranking employee at the Embassy in Khartoum should have been aware of all this. But he received a visa, arrived in New Jersey and settled there. However, one element of the American apparatus did not want him there. Consequently, this independent element ordered the cancellation of his visa. He submitted a Green Card application and got it within a few weeks, which rarely happens! Then, he left the US and returned at a later date. The administration tried to prevent him from coming back but he was able to enter the country and attain political refugee status. This is a very strange chain of events because this man was neither a rich businessman nor a renowned political activist. Neither was he a highly respected religious figure because everyone knew he was a member of the extremist Islamic school of thought involved in the violence ravaging Egypt. He had also been imprisoned for his involvement in the Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat’s assassination. Back then, Washington wasn’t an ally of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and public opinion didn’t care for this man. Which brings us to this question: Was there any element in the American administration which wanted Omar Abd el-Rahman to stay in the US?
I saw Omar Abd el-Rahman more than a few times in New Jersey and I am still intrigued by the circumstances of our last meeting, held in Los Angeles, which led to a lengthy piece published in al-Hayat newspaper. This last meeting resembled in so many ways the famous Egyptian comedian Adel Imam’s movies on terrorism - men wearing short thobes and women wearing the niqab with children in their arms. Everyone’s answers to my questions were very short, except for the Omar Abd el-Rahman’s. I am still surprised with his answer to my last question: “How did you allow the organization to target a soldier protecting a bank in Asyout? He’s just an employee obeying his employer.” He replied that this soldier was supporting a takfirist government and therefore he deserved the same punishment it was receiving. This interview was conducted before the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda and was published in al-Hayat two decades ago.
There is much more to say about all of this in the light of the encounters I have had with Sayed Nser, Abu Musab, Abu Qatada etc. You can Google these people because I can’t talk about them now. Indeed, I have met them all and I have many confusing details about their lives that either push us to go easy on them or adopt tough positions. I have collected messages and videos of “Al Ansar” used for fatwas and distributed to believers after Friday prayers in a mosque in London. I still have some of these. If you read them, you will find the source of ISIS’ ideology: violence, killings and discrimination. In Acton, in the suburbs of London, Abu Qatada is reported to have shared his teachings with civilians, pushing them to join the rising extremist movement in Europe. They were more like workshops on takfirism and violence. Abu Musab took me and a colleague - also a renowned writer on political Islam, Camil Tawil - to court. He won the case against us because we allegedly revealed his real name in a report published in al-Hayat newspaper, putting his life at risk. He issued fatwas about killing the wives and children of the Algerian army officers then he was able to go from London to Madrid without any constraints while importing the products of Khan al-Khalili for trade purposes. This was all happening at a time when extremist violence was on the rise in Egypt, Algeria and Libya and while the Bosnian war was raging on (leading to recruitment and incitation, despite the delicate circumstances). All these people were free and on the move, why?
As mentioned, I have only suspicions, no evidence. However, I suspect that someone saw some benefit to spreading chaos. Has this stopped? The French Newspaper Le Monde said a resounding “NO” in an article published last month. This report was a dangerous undertaking in investigative journalism and includes an interview with a Syrian Intelligence officer who revealed disturbing details about the alleged collaboration between many Syrian forces opposed to the regime and US intelligence before and during the rise of ISIS. These forces have submitted many detailed plans to stop its spread. But each and every time, the US backed off. For this reason, the famous French journalist Benjamin Barthe entitled one of his articles: “Why aren’t the Americans doing anything?”
I may be wrong, but considering all of the circumstantial evidence, including the history of the hidden 28 page document, details about Abd el-Rahman, Abu Qatada, Abu Musab and “Londonistan” and if we connect the dots among al-Qaeda in Iran, the prisoners freed in Iraq, the fall of Mosul, American assistance to the revolutionaries representing most Syrians and alleged American support to a small Kurdish group accused of terrorism, we might suspect an American conspiracy. Or, we could also conclude that American political knowledge of the Middle East goes no further than that of the writer of the “Tyrant” TV series.
This article was first published in Al-Hayat on Aug. 13, 2016.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi