Monthly political analysis on nations in
economic or political transition
Are we losing ‘the War on Terror’?
When President George.W.Bush spoke to the nation and the world in the immediate aftermath of 9/11/2001, he declared war, not on another nation, but on a concept and those who adhered to it. The target was the idea, actuality and sheer geographical spread, of religious terrorism.
This declaration provoked by the mass murder of 9/11 in the US, the 1998 destruction of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; the Oct 12th 2000 attack in the port of Aden on USS Cole, went way beyond taking a justifiable revenge on Al Qaida, as it has turned out. This war talk was largely incorporated as the point and purpose of the worldwide hunt for terrorists, not just Al Qaida, which term has become interchangeable with other species of Islamic militants, jihadists, even Islamicists. In short, those who violently promote their religion, in this case a specific branch of Islam- the majority Sunni - and have the worldwide objective of uniting all of (historical) Islam by force, ceding all authority once more under a law-giving Caliph.
But the concept of war historically applies to nation states. Those under conventional attack have known where to defend and how to retaliate, but not anymore. It may well be that a new era has arrived in the world where the old-fashioned nation-state war is no longer viable, given the awesome growth and ubiquity of remotely directed destructive force from new weapons systems.
The face of war might already have changed with the times.
Since the first Iraq war of 1991 there has hardly been a conventional large scale land battle between armies (in the 2nd Iraq war of 2003, the Iraqi army was pulverised from the air, against which they had no answer); nor since Korea in the 1950’s an air battle; and no large scale naval engagement since the fight to the death in the Pacific between aircraft carriers, a lifetime ago in the1940’s of WWII.
Any sober review of the Bush ‘war on terror’ taken twelve years later here in 2013, could reasonably conclude that the war he declared is being lost, in that not only does Al Qaeda survive, it has expanded (*see below) and several other similar fundamentalist terrorist groups have emerged. Certainly Osama bin Laden was recently caught and summarily executed, but the story around that commando raid, implied that he had little contact with his people, and depended entirely on messages given and received, via a trusted courier who came at uneven periods for that purpose.
So whilst the end of Osama bin Laden spelled out a major victory in terms of morale, all the evidence indicates that others were already directing the activities of al Qaeda, indeed it had long before been announced that the Egyptian, Dr Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama’s long time deputy, was now the chief. Certainly, he it was who last year ordered, via their web site, all Al Qaeda adherents not already engaged, to go urgently to Syria to play a decisive role in that civil war.
Islamic terrorism has greatly increased, numerous offshoots, franchises or ‘copycat’ groups with the same ambitious objectives:- the unification of all Islam within historic frontiers, under an Imam who would preside over this resurgence.
It is the 21st C’s equivalent of the ‘Mahdi’ phenomenon that has arisen periodically in history, latterly in the 19th C, causing for several years a great stir in Egypt and the Sudan, but historically other ‘Mahdis’ emerged in history before that.
Looking at this month’s newnations country reports alone, we find events in 10 of this month’s 19 reports that (with the exception of Afghanistan) almost certainly would not have appeared in pre-9/11 times.
Now terrorism is the common currency of bad news in much of the Moslem world, its neighbours and beyond.
So how should the rest of the world proceed against the terrorist menace?
There is a fundamental problem here in that in many places, Afghanistan; the Russian Federation; and elsewhere, the Islamic struggle is also a fight for political independence, but not for Democracy, rather for the purpose of creating a Theocracy!
To survive this onslaught of terror, nation states must co-operate like they have never done before.
Both the US and Russia have a giant stake in co-operating, so why not use this as the common ground on which to build a reset that actually might last? That is a great opportunity for the new Secretary of State. After all, Russia and the USA are not competing any longer as they were during the Cold War. The US should just accept that Russia is not a democracy and live with it, just as they do with numerous other undemocratic countries that they have normal relations with. Russia remains a very important country of 300 million citizens, busy with its own reconstruction.
Unlike the US homeland, Islamic terrorists are already there within Russian territory. With the downgrading of action in Afghanistan, for many Islamic fighters the sprawling Russian Federation is the next target. Our monthly reports continue to track Islamic militant groups forming up, fighting and slowly moving through the Central Asian FSU republics, headed north.
There is no merit in unnecessarily being bad friends. US citizens rejected that when they voted Obama in as President and not Mitt Romney, who had in his campaign voiced ‘the unreconstructed cold-war warrior view’ of “Russia being the greatest foreign policy threat that the US faced.”
The cold war was over more than twenty years ago. Better by far for all of their citizens and for the world in general, for these giants to develop a friendship as allies against the common threat, as they so successfully did in WWII.
As our March 1st monthly reports tell, out of the nineteen countries reported here, all of the following are experiencing outcrops or at least some degree of Islamic terrorism:
Syria: a conflict made to measure for Al Q. fighting no-holds barred, against an ‘heretical’ Shi-ite enemy (the government). Al Q. even with very different objectives, ludicrously finds itself on the same side in this as the presumed ‘good guys’, the US and its European allies! There are numerous problems with the Syrian rebel politicians and no question that, as of now, even if the rebels were to succeed militarily, which continues to look rather unlikely, they are quite unprepared to rule politically, still being in a shambolic state.
Qatar seems to be making an inordinate amount of interference in promoting its candidates, which our report clarifies, but the Emir of Qatar is very much in the Sunni purist camp which strives to defeat the schismatics in his religion, of any persuasion.
It seems certain now that the Asad government are prepared to negotiate, but will fight on indefinitely if necessary.
That is fact number one. Negotiation is the obvious way forward since neither side looks capable of an outright military solution and the outside world’s interest should be to stop the fighting and the human suffering of a civil war - the big question for President Asad is to negotiate with whoever is it that can represent the Syrian rebels?
Libya: whose revolution against an infamous dictator, is now being held to ransom by the Islamicists and others who won’t disarm and accept central authority.
Egypt: where Salafists and Moslem Brethren have taken ownership of the popular revolution against an Army dictatorship, and made it an Islamic one;
Iraq: where al Qaeda, previously unknown there, came in hot on the heels of the US invasion and have ever since ceaselessly continued their large scale murdering ways, once on US troops, now mainly on Shi’ite Iraqi civilians.
Afghanistan: where Al Q fight alongside the Taleban who nurtured them at the time of the 9/11 attack, but there are signs that some units are moving out of Afghanistan, heading north though central Asia towards southern Russia. It seems more likely now that the Taleban will engage in negotiations.
India where Lashkar-e-Taiba - responsible for the 26/11/ mass murder of civilians in central Mumbai, continue to menace. They are re-grouping in Afghanistan;
Pakistan: a nation with virtually no functioning government, numerous religious extremists, almost anarchical with multiple crises, yet nuclear-armed!
Kazakhstan: the 9th largest nation on earth, a dictatorship, unwillingly hosting emergent Islamic terrorist group, Jund-al-Khalifa, based they say on the Afghan/Pakistani frontier, now described as a threat to the country’s security. [it has just emerged as we report, that back in 1993, Qadaffi of Libya unsuccessfully attempted to buy Kazakhstan’s post-soviet nuclear arsenal!]
Tajikistan: six arrests reported of suspected ‘Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’ members seeking to establish a Moslem Caliphate in Central Asia.
Kyrgyzstan said to be “…a breeding ground for Islamic extremists threatening Russia’s southern borders”.
Russia who have a permanent low intensity war in the Caucasus and some southern culturally ‘Moslem’ republics of the Federation.
Belarus: Europe’s last remaining dictatorship is as usual depressing reading.
Iran: In this context we had hopes that
the new US Secretary of State with a one-off opportunity of a new
beginning, might be able to think ‘outside the box’ particularly
where Iran is concerned. This month, our report tells that senior
Iranian names, ahead of their upcoming election, are openly saying
that if elected, they would halt the drive for nuclear independence.
This week’s US-Iranian meeting in Kazakhstan seems to have been more
positive than those previously. It is important to understand first
that Iran is not facing the collapse of their economy, as many in
the west had hoped, and that it is politically capable of resolving
these issues, if agreement can be found.
What a triumph it would be for Secretary John Kerry, if this could happen on his watch. He would of course expect to be attacked by Israel (and therefore many US Republicans), whose instincts are to employ US muscle in crushing Iran but the US of Obama we believe, surely will not allow Israel nor any other nation to determine their foreign policy.
Turkey: A major player in the Syria context, this report also looks at the ramifications of PM Erdogan’s approach in the upcoming election. This includes his objective in changing the constitution to award the Presidency more power, ahead of his presumed priority for himself to occupy that position. Next year he will have to surrender the Prime Minister’s office and clearly he has more on his wide ranging agenda still to do.
Saudi Arabia this issue looks at the mutaween, the religious police “a powerful force virtually above the law.” An insight into living in a theocracy!
Iraq reports tension is escalating in their complex story now involving the oil majors and the power struggles with the Kurdish regional government. But Iraq is facing several confrontations and it remains highly combustible.
North Korea: the DPRK is seemingly pleased with itself having performed a successful nuclear test on Feb 12th –the most powerful to date This more or less coincided with a new president in South Korea, a woman who is committed in trying for a reset with the North, to build what she called “Trustpolitik.” Good luck with that. Meanwhile the North’s central News Agency was gabbling on about “further glorifying the country as a matchless Nuclear weapons state”!
The face of war has changed irrevocably, yet If North Korea should ever be attacked, they no more have a defence against overwhelming airpower than they did in the Korean War of 1950 -1953. But they have well indoctrinated troops in large numbers, conditioned to believe in their cause, no different in that sense from the Islamic warriors who are the phenomenon of our times.
Following along with Obama’s reported ‘Pivot to the East,’ we include in this issue four Asean members:-
Philippines where the Church has been attacking the MP’s who successfully supported the legalising of Birth control –long overdue in this island state where millions of its overlarge population have to go abroad to have any chance of getting work – hence the popular Filippina nurses, teachers and housekeepers to be found in most advanced countries in the world, and the Filippino seamen who crew a large proportion of the world’s merchant shipping. Hitherto the ninety nine Bishops (and thirty two honorary bishops), the priests and friars have acted as a privileged class, which is changing under the new President Aquino. Yet the bishops have just succeeded in collectively prosecuting a well-known Filippino who has been sloganizing against the church being involved in politics – a crime! and who will now, as a result, do jailtime!
Taiwan: We describe the manoeuvring within the cabinet and the elected members of the KMT. Amongst others, the PM Sean Chen lost his position for disagreeing on some key policy issue with the Party boss, President Ma Ying-Jeou, who is not prepared to be challenged from within his own party. A man said to be more compliant, Jiang Yi-huah becomes the new PM.
Vietnam: The nation is anxiously trying to find its way back economically, and interestingly one UN agency, UNCTAD, believes that Vietnam is well positioned to pick up from China as a hub for low-cost manufacturing.
*For information about the growth of Al Qaeda
see our Special reports:-
18th Jan 2012: "Al Qaeda, AQIM and AQAP in the wake of the Arab Spring"
19th Sept 2012: "Radical Islamism in Black Africa"
Clive Lindley - Publisher
All Country Updated reports