Friday, 29 February 2008
2006 Ramzy Baroud
February 28, 2008
Time is running out for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Although both men are still committed to
their risky venture of marginalising Hamas at any cost, the latter’s obduracy
and recent events in Gaza point to the inescapable conclusion — the undertaking
was doomed from the start.
For Olmert the issue demographics remains. He told Israeli daily Ha’aretz in an
interview published in November 2007 that if it didn’t agree to an independent
Palestinian state, Israel would "face a South African-style struggle for equal
voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished".
The Apartheid analogy is of course not a new one. Leading South Africans
themselves were the first to make the comparison, and Israel’s history of
aiding and abetting the infamous Apartheid South African governments is no
But Olmert’s belated rude-awakening aside, it is Mahmoud Abbas who is running
out of options. Unlike Olmert, Abbas has no real, measurable powers. For one,
his popularity amongst his own people has never been high. Past quarrels with
late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat during the early years of
the Palestinian Uprising singled Abbas out at an untrustworthy opportunist.
Late professor Edward Said once called him 'moderately corrupt.’ The formidable
intellectual died before seeing the moderate corruption of Abbas morphing into
a wholesale onslaught on democracy, freedom and every noble principle the
Palestinians ever fought for. I wonder what Said would have said after seeing
the people of Gaza suffering beyond comprehension while Abbas and Olmert meet
in the latter’s Jerusalem residence, exchanging words of praise and vowing
their undying commitment to 'peace’.
A photo released by the Israeli government Press office on February 19 showed
both leaders leaving another futile meeting in Jerusalem, with Olmert — aware
of the cameras flashing all around them — holding an umbrella for the widely
grinning Abbas. The post card-like scenario is of course part of the continuing
charade of peace talks, deadlines and deadline extensions, interrupted by
temporary quarrels, which are sorted out by US envoys before resuming more
But how long can Abbas and Olmert carry on with this charade?
For Olmert, the objective and endgame are clear: stall until a 'solution’ can
be finalised and imposed on the Palestinians. This in turns depends on the
finalisation of the construction of the illegal settlements, the wall and the
network of Jewish-only bypass roads in Occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank.
However, Olmert’s poor standing among the Israeli public and the aforementioned
'demographic threat’ will not make it possible for him to stall indefinitely.
Still, with the US’ record of unconditionally backing Israeli policies, Olmert
will remain in a relatively safe spot, regardless of which major presidential
candidate goes on to claim the White House.
One can hardly say the same about Abbas. His usefulness for Israel, and thus
the US administration, is entirely dependent on his level of 'cooperation’,
which essentially means ensuring Palestinian disunity, fighting Hamas, and
remaining a pawn in the US’ imaginative view of the entire region (whereby
'moderates’ stand united against 'extremists’ and 'rejectionists’).
Yet, unlike other Arab 'moderates’, Abbas lacks all leverage. He 'presides’
over an ever shrinking entity, itself under military occupation. Many of his
people regularly accuse him of 'treason’, or at best, of 'selling out’. On top
of this, his party is falling apart. Mohammed Dahlan is already acting with the
air of presidency. Now based in Egypt, he has been gathering support for
himself amidst scattered talks about his desire to form an alternative party to
Worse yet, Mohamed Nazzal, a visible member of Hamas’ political bureau in
Damascus told Aljazeera.net on February 19 that despite Hamas’ insistence on
the inclusion of Marwan Barghouti (a leading Fatah figure who is greatly
supported by the movement’s youth and strongly disliked by the old guard) in
any future prisoner swaps, Israel has removed the latter’s name from the list,
at Abbas’ behest.
Abbas’ lack of any meaningful political vision is also promoting other members
of his team to speak of political programmes entirely inconsistent with his own
style. Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee
told Reuters in an interview on February 20 — views which he repeated to AFP
and Palestinian radio in Arabic — what Palestinians should consider should
talks continue to falter. "If things are not going in the direction of actually
halting settlement activities, if things are not going in the direction of
continuous and serious negotiations, then we should take the step and announce
our independence unilaterally."
Abbas’ answer was his intent to continue negotiating, and that he was
"optimistic and hopeful."
It’s unclear where from Abbas’ hope originates. He stands on very shaky
grounds, not only in his conditional relationship with Israel, the US and his
own party, at home and abroad, but with Hamas as well. His earlier rhetoric
about Hamas’s ties to Al Qaeda and the 'forces of darkness’ are softening, but
he knows he has no mandate to reach out to his opponents. But it is
increasingly clear to the world that isolating Hamas means the continuation of
Gaza’s mass hunger and suffering. This is so extreme that even Europeans are
reportedly rethinking their stance on Hamas, which the EU had deemed
If Abbas, however, tried to rethink his relations with Hamas, he would be
abandoned by Israel and the US, and might find himself a victim of a calculated
coup led by his party’s strongmen. If he continues with the charade of endless
and futile talks with Israel, the patience of his people would eventually run
out. Considering all of this — Abbas’ shared responsibly for the plight of
Gaza, his anti-democratic legacy and his inability to reunite his faltering
party — the president seems condemned to a lose-lose scenario, one which would
take no less than a miracle to put right.
-Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and
journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A
Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).
Thursday, 21 February 2008
Jamestown Terrorism Focus
February 20, 2008 – Volume 5, Issue 7
By Michael Scheuer
“We will not recognize a state for the Jews, not even one inch of the
land of Palestine … Blood calls for more blood and demolishing calls
for further demolishing” . Osama bin Laden said these words on
December 29, 2007, signaling the accomplishment of his longstanding
goal of acquiring safe haven for al-Qaeda in territory contiguous to
the Levant. They also carried more energy and specificity than any of
the organization’s previous threats toward Israel. Since bin Laden
spoke, the jihadist media have carried instructions for the
Palestinians on how to prepare for al-Qaeda’s arrival, as well as
speeches by several Islamist leaders allied with al-Qaeda indicating
that their organizations—with al-Qaeda—are preparing to come to the
aid of the Palestinians. While there is no imminent threat in any of
this material, it shows that al-Qaeda and its allies intend to
infiltrate the Levant from Iraq and then attack Israel from Jordan,
Lebanon and Gaza over the next few years. One author says that
“undoubtedly, Palestine will be the main destination for al-Qaeda
[fighters after]…the graduation of the largest class in Iraq’s history
of world-class jihad officers” .
Just a month after bin Laden’s statement, an essay written by an al-
Qaeda author using the pseudonym “AsadAl-Jiahd2” and entitled “The
Timing of the Entrance of al-Qaeda Organization in the Palestinian
Territories” appeared on the al-Boraq website . The essay referred
to bin Laden’s late-2007 promise of aid for the Palestinians before
claiming that al-Qaeda has been preparing to engage Israel for a long
time but had not spoken publicly about its planning. He said, however,
that he could now announce that al-Qaeda is engaged in a three-year
period of preparation for operations against Israel which began in
2007 and will “conclude at the end of 2009,” when al-Qaeda will be in
position “for direct confrontation with the Jews in occupied
Palestine.” The author adds that in the post-2009 period, “the attacks
against the Jews will not be limited to occupied Palestine but will
continue to reach all the areas in which Jews have a strong
Telling Palestinians that they must be patient, he said that “the
opening of a branch or a front of al-Qaeda in Palestine cannot happen
overnight” and would not be declared “before the end of the American
elections.” The essay then says that there is preparatory work that
the Palestinians themselves must do to ready al-Qaeda’s passage. The
author explains “the most important advice that needs to be taken into
consideration and applied by the Palestinians for the next three to
four months,” noting that “I will not ask you to perform miracles” at
this stage, but only “simple things” in which you must “remain
• Train in martial arts, how to assemble bombs and how to manufacture
explosives and rockets. In particular, “fighting and scientific
skills” should be taught as quickly as possible to “committed
• Establish methods and routes for bringing muhajirun (foreign
fighters) into Palestine and “protect them at the beginning and
provide them with housing.” The author says this directive is “more
particularly [addressed] to the proud people of Gaza,” where if only
350 mujahideen “could train and prepare and learn the skills of war
and join al-Qaeda, they will strongly shake the Zionist entity.”
• Acquire as many weapons as possible, store them safely and draw
“encrypted maps” of their locations.
• Learn to store essential foods for long periods and identify what
foods are most important in wartime.
• Form small, compartmented groups of no more than five individuals
and meet only once a week. Each group should have a specific task; for
example, to build explosives or to disseminate the messages of al-
Qaeda’s leaders, especially the speeches of Ayman al-Zawahiri and the
videos and lectures of “the beloved al-Zarqawi.”
• Salafist preachers should teach the people in “a lenient and
merciful manner,” and there should be no “fighting with the mujahideen
brothers in Hamas.”
Following the issuance of these instructions, two al-Qaeda-allied
insurgent leaders reinforced bin Laden’s message that military help
and manpower was on the way for the Palestinians. On February 13, a
statement by Fatah al-Islam’s leader in Palestine, Abu Abd al-Rahman
al-Ghazzawi, was published. It declared that the group “has realized
and understood God’s purpose for us and that is the need to offer our
support [to the Palestinians]” . As did AsadAl-Jiahd2, al-Ghazzawi
endorsed bin Laden’s late 2007 pledge of near-term support for the
Palestinians and agreed that the cause of Palestine is central to “the
global jihad,” a cause for all Muslims that “borders and languages
cannot come between.” Al-Ghazzawi also stressed his intention to
“begin our war [against Israel] from Palestine” because the Shiite
Lebanese Hezbollah—whom he calls “the protectors of the Jews, the hizb
(party) of Satan”—has prevented Fatah al-Islam from moving into
southern Lebanon. Faced with this reality, al-Ghawazzi said that he
would bring “immigrants”—foreign fighters—into Palestine. Uniting
supporters already there, these would fight any members of Fatah
(Palestinian National Liberation Movement—not to be confused with
Fatah al-Islam), Hamas or the Shiite who would “restrain us from the
Then, on February 14, the purported leader of the Islamic State in
Iraq, Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi, issued an even stronger indictment of
Israel, declaring that it is a religious state, that there is no
difference between Judaism and Zionism—both are “the core and origin
of corruption”—and that Israel is “a malignant germ that has been
planted in the body of the ummah (Islamic community) that must be
extracted” . Unlike AsadAl-Jiahd2 and al-Ghazzawi, al-Baghdadi
declares that President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization and the
political leadership of Hamas are as much the enemy of Muslims as is
Israel; claiming, for example, that there is “no difference between
Olmert and his criminals and between Abbas and his gang—indeed the
latter deserve more to be fought.” Like the others, he also berates
the Shiite—naming Hezbollah and Iran—and the political leadership of
Hamas, but exempts from condemnation “those sincere people in the al-
Qassim Brigades” of Hamas.
Al-Baghdadi then offers advice to the Palestinians that is much like
that offered by AsadAl-Jiahd2; namely, preach Salafism ever more
broadly and teach the young men a love for jihad; encourage the Hamas
military wing to join hands with al-Qaeda and its allies; prepare to
assist the “immigrant” mujahideen who will arrive from Jordan, Syria
and Lebanon; and devote increasing attention and resources to the
dissemination of jihadist media products. Finally, al-Baghdadi
stresses that “the cause of the al-Aqsa Mosque is an Islamic cause of
interest to every Muslim” and emphasizes the role the mujahideen in
Iraq will play in efforts to free Palestine. “As for the role of the
Islamic state in the Land of the Two Rivers in the liberation of
Palestine,” he declared:
We trust in God and pray to Him and hope that just as the state of Nur
al-Din the martyr [1118-1174] was the foundation stone in the return
of the al-Aqsa Mosque to the nation—and it was later entered by his
student Saladin as a conqueror in the Battle of Hittin, just as the
Caliph Umar entered it—the Islamic state of Iraq will be the
foundation stone for the return of Jerusalem. The Jews and the
Americans realize this, and have sought to prevent us by every means
from achieving this aim. The ferocious campaign against al-Anbar and
the excessive boasting about the weakening of operations there is due
to their knowledge that it is easy to bombard Israel from some of its
While it is impossible to know for sure whether al-Qaeda arranged for
the three messages discussed herein to follow and supplement bin
Laden’s December 2007 statement, the likelihood of coincidence seems
small. Like bin Laden’s message, the three subsequent communications
sharply threaten Israel and Fatah; each draws a clear distinction
between the “traitorous” political leaders of Hamas and the
praiseworthy fighters of al-Qassim Brigades; each stresses the
importance of Iraq and the Levant countries—and the al-Qaeda allies
residing therein—as bases from which military assistance can be sent
to the Palestinians; each implicitly asserts that the Palestinians
cannot defeat Israel by themselves and so need the assistance of
muhajirun; each advises patience, noting that time and clandestine
operations will be needed to insert immigrant fighters and train local
mujahideen; and each focuses on the importance of improving the media
capabilities of the Palestinians to inculcate Salafist doctrine and
military and scientific training among the young. Overall, three
conclusions seem reasonable: (a) al-Qaeda believes it has achieved a
durable strategic victory by gaining safe haven in Iraq contiguous to
the Levant; (b) Israel has assumed a heretofore unprecedented priority
on the target list of al-Qaeda and its allies; and (c) however remote
and dangerous the Pakistani-Afghan border region, bin Laden and his
lieutenants appear quite capable of arranging a coordinated propaganda
campaign over a distance of thousands of miles.
Michael Scheuer served in the CIA for 22 years before resigning in
2004. He served as the Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the
Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999. He is the once anonymous
author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror
and Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the
Future of America. Dr. Scheuer is a Senior Fellow with The Jamestown
1. Osama bin Laden, “The Way to Foil Plots,” al-Sahab Media Production
Organization, December 29, 2007.
2. “The Timing of the Entrance of the al-Qaeda Organization to
Palestine,” al-boraq.info, January 28.
4. Ibid. The assigning of so-called “simple things” for the
Palestinians to prepare for a more intense war against Israel mirrors
exactly the kinds of tasks assigned by bin Laden in 1996 to the Saudi
population to help them prepare for a war against the United States
and the al-Saud regime. See Osama bin Laden, “Declaration of War on
the United States,” al-Islah, September 2, 1996.
5. Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Ghazzawi, “An Announcement and Statement to
the Islamic Nation,” Media Division of Fatah al-Islam, February 13.
6. Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi, “Religion is Sincere Advice,” muslim.net,
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
By SCHEHEREZADE FARAMARZI,
Associated Press Writer
Decades of eluding U.S. and Israeli intelligence won Imad Mughniyeh a mythic
stature in his home village, where even his family knew little of what the
secretive Hezbollah commander was doing.
After his death in a Damascus car bombing last week, his poster hangs on
every lamppost and building corner here.
"My feelings toward him were the same as a fan's for a celebrity, wanting to
get his autograph," said Zaynab, 25, one of Mughniyeh's two sisters.
Mughniyeh, who helped set up the Shiite Hezbollah guerrilla group, was one
of the world's most feared terror masterminds, accused by the West of
killing hundreds in suicide bombings and hijackings in Lebanon and around
He dropped out of sight some 15 years ago — few outside his inner circle
knew where he was or even what he looked like — until Feb. 12, when a car
bomb killed the 45-year-old in the Syrian capital.
But in this Lebanese village, surrounded by hills lush with orange groves
and wild flowers, the mystery surrounding Mughniyeh — known to his
supporters by his nom de guerre of Hajj Radwan — only burnished his image as
a warrior against Israel and its ally, the United States.
"To us, he's holy, a great leader," said 18-year-old Hasan Karam. "When we
were growing up we kept hearing about Hajj Radwan, the hero fighting Israeli
occupation. We used to hear Israel was after him and that he liberated our
lands. But I never met him or knew what he looked like. We didn't even know
— until now — that Hajj Radwan was the same person as Imad Mughniyeh."
Now there's no escaping his image here. A recent photo of Mughniyeh —
stocky, wearing military garb, with a thick gray and black beard — is hung
everywhere in his home village of Tayr Debba, nestled in Hezbollah's
heartland of mainly Shiite south Lebanon.
Over the weekend, thousands came to mourn his death and pay respects to his
"He was like a ghost in hiding," said Badie Zaydan, 52, a high school
teacher in the village.
"The success of the resistance is in its secrecy, even from family members,"
said fellow teacher Yousef Haidar, 42, referring to Hezbollah, the
well-armed and tight-knit guerrilla force backed by Iran.
Even Mughniyeh's mother rarely saw him since 1982, when at the age of 19 he
quit his business administration studies at the American University of
Beirut to help set up Hezbollah after Israel's invasion of Lebanon that
"I encouraged him," his 69-year-old mother said as she received hundreds of
mourners. Mughniyeh's wife, who refused to talk to reporters, sat next to
her, her eyes red and swollen from crying. They had three children, two boys
and a girl.
It was the brief earlier 1978 invasion by Israel — when Mughniyeh was 15 —
that first planted the seeds of armed action in Mughniyeh's mind, said his
mother, who refused to give her first name and goes as Umm Imad, or mother
"That's when he decided to carry the gun and fight Israel," she said.
His mother said she knows little of what he was doing in recent years,
though she said he "lived for a period in Iran." Over the past 15 years,
Mughniyeh is believed to have secretly moved between Lebanon, Iran and
Syria. Unconfirmed reports were widespread that he had undergone plastic
surgery to change his appearance and avoid capture.
Hezbollah and Iran have accused Israel of killing Mughniyeh, and Hezbollah
leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah vowed in a eulogy for the slain militant that
his group would retaliate against Israeli interests anywhere in the world.
Israel has denied any role in the killing.
Eliezer Tsafrir, who was station chief of the Israeli intelligence in
Lebanon in 1983 when Israel occupied the country, said in an interview with
The Associated Press in Israel that Mughniyeh's killing would have been an
extremely complex operation, requiring years of intelligence work. It is
not, he said a "simple task in the middle of a hostile capital."
Syria has not said who it believes was behind the blast.
Western and Israeli intelligence accuse Mughniyeh of involvement in suicide
bombings in the 1980s in Beirut that killed hundreds of American and French
troops, as well as the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy
diver was killed, and bombings in the 1990s against the Israeli Embassy and
a Jewish cultural center in Argentina that killed over 100 people.
Mughniyeh's relatives deny his role in any of those attacks.
"My son is not a terrorist," his mother said. "These are silly allegations
... My son is a fighter."
Mughniyeh's two brothers, Jihad and Fuad, were killed in car bomb explosions
in Beirut in the 1980s and 1990s.
The only time villagers saw Mughniyeh after some 20 years of absence was in
2002, when he attend his uncle's funeral.
"He comforted me saying my father's passing was God's will," said Mahmoud
Mughniyeh, 45, a cousin. He said he couldn't tell whether his fugitive
relative had plastic surgery because he hadn't seen him since the early
Huge black banners cover the outside walls of the Mughniyeh family house, a
one-story building at the end of a green field overlooking a valley that
stretches to the Mediterranean.
"You will continue to haunt them ... you will be victorious," one banner
says. "We shall not cry for you Hajj Imad, but we will resist," says
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Times of India
TORONTO: Former chief of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI) has said "an Iran-like revolution" is
possible in the country if President Pervez Musharraf does
not step down immediately.
"If Musharraf does not step down. We may have to think
(about forcibly removing him) because, after all, the
country is more important," former ISI Chief Hamid Gul has
said in an interview to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
"We don't want the army and people to be clashing on the
streets. That would be a disaster - a civil war or if we
are lucky a revolution, something like the Iranian
revolution (against the Shah in 1979)," he said.
"Pakistan was ripe for such possibilities. As a trained
military man, one is obliged to think of these
possibilities. And one is obliged to act as well," Gul was
quoted as saying by Pakistan International Network.
Asked whether this meant his advocating a coup against
Musharraf, he evasively said: "No, we are the
ex-servicemen, not the serving men. I am saying to link
arms with civil society - with the lawyers, the students.
If we join them, it will have greater pressure on Pervez
Musharraf to get out of office."
"Musharraf is the only impediment. If he goes, the
judiciary can be restored to its original place. This will
bring instant relief to people - the relief is a
psychological phenomenon," the former ISI chief said.
"I hope Musharraf does pay heed to our advice and steps
down. This will be good for him, the army and the nation.
Everything else will fall in place."
Monday, 18 February 2008
Shed prejudice against Islam
Prejudice is poison. Unless purged out of one's mind in early stages, it can
spread like cancer and make one incapable of judging right from wrong. Of many
kinds of prejudices, the worst is to believe that one's own religion is
superior to all others, which may be tolerated but never taken seriously or
accepted as equally valid as one's own. The most misunderstood of the major
religions of today is Islam which, after Christianity, is the second most
widely practised religion in the world. It also gains more converts than any of
the others. Prejudice against Islam was spread in Christiandom from the time
Muslims gained dominance in the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. Christian
crusaders failed in their mission to crush it in its homeland but continued to
vilify its founder Muhammed. The emergence of militant Islamic groups like the
Al-Qaida and the Taliban gave them reasons to do so. The attack on the World
Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001,
provided fresh ammunition to vilifiers of Islam.
The two principal contentions are that Islam was spread by the sword and that
its founder Prophet was not the paradigm of virtue that Muslims make him out to
be. It can be proved by historical evidence that Islam was not forced upon the
people; it was readily accepted by millions because it offered them new values
— equality of mankind as one fraternity and rights to women unheard of during
those times. In countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, Islam was not forced on
the population by Muslim invaders but by Muslim missionaries. Muslims are
extremely sensitive about criticism of their Prophet. A popular adage in
Persian is: Ba khuda diwaana basho, ba Mohammed hoshiar (say what you like
about God, but beware of what you say about Muhammed).
They regard him as the most perfect man that ever trod the earth—a successor of
Adam, Moses, Noah, Abraham and Jesus Christ. He was the last and the seal of
Prophets. If you honestly want to see how Muslims see him, you owe it to
yourselves to take a good look at his life and teachings he claimed had been
revealed to him by God. It would be wrong to judge him by the doings of the
Al-Qaida and the Taliban or the fatwas periodically pronounced by Ayatollahs
and half-baked mullahs. You do not judge Hinduism of the Vedas and Upanishads
by the doings of Hindus who, in the name of Hindutva, destroy mosques, murder
missionaries and nuns, vandalise libraries and works of art. You do not judge
the teachings of the Sikh Gurus by the utterances of Bhindranwale and murders
of innocent people by his hooligans.
Likewise, judge Muhammed by what he taught and stood for and not by what his
so-called followers do under his name. Muhammed was born in Mecca in 570 AD. He
lost both his parents while still a child and was brought up by his grandfather
and uncle. He managed the business of a widow whom he later married. She bore
him six children. He took no other wife till after she died. He was 40 when the
revelations started coming to him while he was in trance.
They proclaimed the new Messiah. Such revelations kept coming off and on, at
times dealing with problems at hand, at others with matters spiritual. They
were memorised or written down by his admirers and became the Koran, which
means recitation. It should be kept in mind that Muhammed was not preaching
ideas of his own creation but only reiterating most of what was in the Judaic
creed. Allah was the Arabic name for God before him. So were Islam (surrender)
and Salam (peace). Mecca was the main market city of the Bedouin tribes. Kaaba,
with a huge courtyard and the monolith, was the black meteorite embedded in it.
Tribes gathered there during two pilgrimages—the bigger Haj and the minor
Umra—offered camels as sacrifice and circumambulated in the Kaaba. He accepted
Judaic traditions regarding food which is halaal (lawful) and haraam
(forbidden, such as pig meat), names of the five daily prayers and circumcision
of male children.
Muhammed only asserted the oneness of God, which did not accept any equals such
as proliferated in the Kaaba in the forms of stone goddesses worshipped by
different tribes. This was unacceptable to God and Muhammed was his human
messenger to remind people of these truths. He never forced people to accept
his faith and indeed quoted Allah's message of freedom and faith. "There must
be no coercion in matters of faith—la ikra f'il deen. Again, if God had so
willed, He would have made you all under one single command; but He willed
otherwise in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed into you.
Vie, then with one another, in doing good works."
As might have been expected, Muhammed's mission roused fierce hostility. Many
attempts were made to assassinate him but he had miraculously escaped.
Ultimately, in 622 AD he was advised to flee from Mecca to Medina. This is
known as Hijrat (emigration) and recognised as the beginning of the Muslim
calendar. Meccans made a few attempts to capture Medina but were repulsed with
slaughter. Muslim armies led by Muhammed died in Medina in 622 AD. The Arabian
peninsula was united as a confederacy of different tribes under the banner of
Islam. Most of the ill-found criticism of Muhammed is directed towards the
number of women he married after the death of his first wife Khadijah.
It has to be seen in the perspective of the Arabian society of the time. Tribes
lived on warring against each other and looting caravans. There were heavy
casualties of males, creating serious gender imbalances. Widows and orphans of
men killed had to be provided homes and sustenance. Otherwise, they took to
prostitution or beggary. Instead, they were given protection by being taken in
marriages. Also, matrimonial alliances were a good way of creating bonds
between different tribes. Muhammed did nothing not acceptable to his people. He
went further. He was the first teacher to proclaim that the best union was a
monogamous marriage, and fixed the outside limit to four, provided a man could
keep all of them equally happy—which was most unlikely.
To make a beginning in clearing your mind of anti-Muslim prejudices, I suggest
you read Karen Armstrong's Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time (Harper Collins).
Armstrong is today's leading writer on comparative religions. She is not a
Friday, 15 February 2008
Which Political Islam is allied with imperialism?
I have received many e-mails from those of you who do not
speak Arabic asking for a summary of my latest article. I
usually provide it out of my own initiative but I must
admit that the assassination of Commander Moghniyeh is
weighing heavy upon our spirits, so my apology for
forgetting it this time. but here you have it:
This summary is related to my Arabic language piece in
reply to an article published by Samir Amin the famous Arab
leftist thinker, which he published in the Monthly Review
under the tittle "Political Islam in the service of
Imperialism". I try to refute some of his arguments and the
tittle of my reply is : Samir Amin Frustrated: which
political Islam is allied with imperialism?"
My arguments in short:
While the left in the world is regrouping and regenerating
itself under various forms (anti-globalisation, Zapatista,
Bolivarian, etc) and it has reviewed several of its
former premises and abandoned in many ways some futile
dogmas; the Arab Left (whether Marxist, or Nationalist) is
still routed and unable of doing the same.
Samir Amin attacks the alliance between sections of the
Left and Political Islam claiming that political Islam can
only be in service of imperialism for the following
1- Political Islam is not secular. This is a strange
argument of Amin, because what antagonism does secularism
and imperialism have? Most imperialist states are secular
so how can being secular or not play a role in determining
the position of any political movement towards imperialism?
Just like being secular is no guarantee for
anti-imperialist positioning, being non-secular is not
related to a pro-imperialist positioning. Add to that the
fact that Amin opts for a restrictive definition of
secularism as being separation of religious thinking and
politics while I define it as separation between religious
institutions and the State. According to my understanding
it is totally conceivable to have an Islamic ideology and
adhere to secularism at the same time, Just like the
Christian Democratic parties in Europe are secular.
2- Amin considers Political Islam to be the carrier of
culturalist policies of belonging and he claims that it
focuses too much upon identity and group loyalty. First of
all again this does not define any relationship whether
positive or negative towards imperialism. Second this is a
common feature among all national liberation movements in
the Third World and not only Political Islam. Why does Amin
not criticize the Zapatistas or the Chavistas, who also
adhere to a cultural version of nationalism along with
socialism. The fact that Islamist movements are developing
a nationalist discourse should be considered a step in the
right direction and not the opposite. This allows Islamist
movements to build bonds of citizenship with their
countrymen even those who do not adhere to the same
religious views, or to the same religion for that matter.
Add to that the fact that denying the peoples of the world
their right to cultural emancipation and identity is a
frightening idea and is more aligned with the imperialist
project of globalization. The fact that Amin considers the
diversity-friendly left to be a retreating left is a matter
of concern to me. It reflects an ancient reflex of the time
when the left oppressed diversity and capitalism was
striving on it. Today it is the left in the world (and the
left in the world today is centered in the South and not in
the West) that is striving on diversity and it is
capitalism that is promoting the unique thought, in that
regard Amin is reactionary just like many segments of the
3- Amin claims that the Islamists approach the conflict
from an angle of clash of civilization, nothing is less
true. Whether it is Hezbollah, or Hamas, or even Al Qaeda
one thing they have in common and that is linking the
linking of their struggle to the act of aggression by
imperialism against their countries and peoples. The clash
of civilization discourse is much underrepresented in
Islamist circles and is often expressed by marginal figures
and streams, while it is more dominant in the West and it
find its way to the highest ranks in politics and
4- Amin considers Political Islam to be allied to
capitalism. It is true that Islamists don't have yet a
completely formed economic theory. But one can not claim
that they are left or right. Both tendencies are
represented in the Islamist camp when it comes to
economics. However, some Islamic principals like Al-Zakat
(tax on capital roots) and rentless economy can be meeting
points with a leftist vision of economy that is also yet to
be reinvented and still being debated. The Islamists are
not less leftist than the social democrats and one can work
towards deepening their awareness of the nature of
5- Amin claims that the governing classes in some pro
imperialist countries like Saudi and Pakistan belong to
Political Islam. Nothing is less true, these classes belong
to Islam and use it to depolitise the masses and not to
politicise them. The Saudi's used Islam in the sixties
against Abdel Nasser and then exiled the Islamists in the
eighties to the Afghani Jihad but eventually clashed with
them in the nineties in both their moderate and Salafi
Jihadi versions. In Pakistan the power circles are formed
by feudal leaders and the Islamist movement in all its
factions have always been in cold or open conflict with the
My conclusion is that Amin is frustrated because of the
fact that Islamism is today leading the struggle in the
Arab world against imperialism. It is not easy to belong to
the Arab Left in our days and we share a lot of Amin' s
frustration. We also share the belief that the best
scenario would be to organize resistance around national
tittles and not sectarian ones because we see our enemy
using sectarianism to weaken resistance. Nevertheless we
should not act upon frustration and wishes but upon facts,
and the facts on the ground are clear. Our task as the Arab
Left is to organize ourselves and claim our role in the
struggle for freedom and change in our countries. The wrong
reaction would be to enclose ourselves in a ghetto and not
to face facts. Islamism can produce resistance and it can
produce collaboration ( Hezbollah and Badr corps are both
belonging to the same ideological school yet one is
resisting and the other collaborating) and the same goes
for a secular ideology or any other ideology. We must ally
ourselves with Political Islam on clear basis of dialogue
and mutual respect and in order to defend our people and
Nation, and we should agree on resolving our differences
through the democratic choice of the people.
Thursday, 14 February 2008
The purported leader of al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq called
in a new posting on a militant Web site on Thursday for
attacks on Israel and proposed that Iraq's territory be a
"launching pad" to seize Jerusalem.
In the 30-minute audiotape, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, said to
head the Islamic State of Iraq, lashed out at Arab and
Palestinian groups — especially the Palestinian Hamas — for
failing to liberate the Palestinians.
He also called on Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam
Brigades, to break away from the group's political
leadership and liberate Jerusalem, or Al-Quds as the city
is called in Arabic.
The new posting came as Israeli security instructed
embassies and Jewish institutions around the world to go on
alert for fear of revenge attacks for a car bomb that
killed a top-wanted terrorist, Imad Mughniyeh, late Tuesday
in the Syrian capital.
Hezbollah has accused Israel of killing the militant, whose
funeral was being held Thursday, but Israel has denied
that. The one-time Hezbollah security chief was the
suspected mastermind of attacks that killed hundreds of
Americans in Lebanon.
The posting also came in the wake of concerns expressed
this week by the director of U.S. national intelligence
that al-Qaida in Iraq is shifting its focus to attacks
elsewhere in the region. Mike McConnell told a U.S. Senate
hearing on Tuesday that the terror network "may deploy
resources to mount attacks outside" Iraq.
The authenticity of Thursday's audiotape could not be
independently verified, but it was distributed by
al-Furqan, one of al-Qaida's media production wings and
posted on more than one Islamic Web site that usually carry
No photo has ever appeared of al-Baghdadi, whom the U.S.
describes as a fictitious character used to give an Iraqi
face to an organization dominated by foreigners. The U.S.
has said that under interrogation, a top al-Qaida member
revealed that al-Baghdadi's speeches are read by an actor.
Al-Baghdadi has often echoed the messages of al-Qaida
leader Osama bin Laden, who in his last audiotape on Dec.
29, assured Palestinians that the terror network will
expand its holy war, or jihad, to Palestine which it
intends to liberate.
In the latest audiotape, al-Baghdadi also threatened
moderate Palestinians, saying that jihad makes "no
distinctions between the infidel Jews and the renegade
Palestinians ... between (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud)
Olmert and his criminals and (Palestinian President
Mahmoud) Abbas and his gang."
He called the state of Israel a "wicked germ sown in the
(Palestinian) nation's body which should be uprooted, even
if the traitors signed thousands of surrender treaties."
Much of the audiotape was devoted to threats against Hamas
political leaders "who betrayed the nation and turned
against the blood of the martyrs," al-Baghdadi said, also
saying that Hamas has been pressuring its military wing not
to stage rocket attacks on Israel but to accept a truce.
Al-Baghdadi called for "opening new fronts to ease the
American and Jewish pressure off the Palestinians while
bolstering the fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan." He urged
every "working Muslim to spare 2 dollars a month, half of
it would go to our Palestinian brothers and the other half
to finance other fronts."
As for attacks on Israel, al-Baghdadi said the "Islamic
state in Iraq will be the cornerstone for the return of
Al-Quds" and added the group was trying to use Iraq's
western province of al-Anbar as a launching pad for
missiles against Israel — the same way the late Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein fired 31 missiles against the
Jewish state in the Gulf War.
"The Jews and the Americans have realized this and tried by
all means to prevent us from achieving this target
including the fierce campaign on al-Anbar, knowing that it
is easy to fire missiles on Israel from some parts there,"
In the vast western Iraqi province, Sunni groups known as
Awakening Councils last year abandoned their support for
al-Qaida and joined the U.S. push to drive the militants
out of al-Anbar, and have been credited with significantly
helping reduce violence in the area.
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
At 6.17pm local time, Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, was
assassinated in a gun and bomb attack in the garrison town of Rawalpindi – the
same town in whose central jail her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged on
the orders of the late military dictator, General Zia Ul-Haq, who had come to
power through a coup which overthrew Mr Bhutto's government.
The assassination of Ms Bhutto has plunged Pakistan deeper still into crisis
and is a severe setback for US imperialism, depriving it as it does of its best
hope for providing a civilian façade to the highly unpopular military
dictatorship in Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto's assassination has been variously blamed on Islamic extremists
and on the Pakistani army itself. Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister
and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), has held the government
responsible for Bhutto's murder as well as the mess Pakistan is in.
"Nobody", he said, "has confidence in Musharraf. Everybody wants him to step
We do not know who killed Ms Bhutto. It could have been sections of the
Pakistani army worried that their opportunities to enrich themselves further
still would be curtailed by having to share power with her. Equally, it could
have been those opposed to Pakistan's military support for the US `war on
terror', working closely with sections of the army who are equally opposed to
supporting the US. Time alone will solve this mystery.
The US, which had supported Musharraf's military rule for nearly eight years,
was persuaded to embark on a course of brokering a deal between Musharraf and
Benazir precisely because the former had lost all legitimacy.
While his regime was failing to live up to US expectations on the front in the
`war against terror' – his only use to the US – the disregard by his regime of
the most basic tenets of bourgeois democracy was proving a source of continued
embarrassment to the self-professed imperialist guardians of democracy.
Musharraf's wholesale sacking of judges, his brutal treatment of the lawyers'
movement for an independent judiciary, the gagging of that part of the media
which refused to toe the government line, the harassment of investigative
journalists, and the mass arrests of the opponents of the regime, while
distracting the government from concentrating on the `fight against terror',
were serving to remove the fig leaf from US imperialism's feigned concern for
democracy, which it claims to be promoting all over the world, including in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the words of Daniel Markey, a former official of the State Department and
presently senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the US opted for
the marriage of convenience between Musharraf and Ms Bhutto because of its
belief that a "progressive, reform-minded, more cosmopolitan party in
government would help the US".
The real problem, however, is that the imperialist war against, and occupation
of, Afghanistan, along with the acceptance by the Musharraf regime of the role
of a US surrogate in the `war on terror', and the turning of the border areas
into a war zone in which the Pakistan army wages war on its own people, have
alienated the Pakistani people, especially in the border areas, from both the
Musharraf regime and the army.
The judiciary, lawyers, independent media and some opposition politicians were,
in their own ways, refuting the official line on Afghanistan and the `war on
terror', and highlighting the disappearance of political prisoners and the
routine practice of torture in Pakistani jails and police stations.
These questions were being aired and debated in the independent media and were
taken up by the judiciary. This is precisely why these sections were targeted
by the military regime, both before and after the declaration of a state of
emergency on 3 November last year.
Musharraf had attempted to justify the state of emergency by asserting that
civil society was impeding the `war on terror', a war, waged by the Pakistani
army on its own people in the border areas in compliance with US diktat, that
has created dissent and disaffection within the Pakistani army, many of whose
soldiers do not want to fight and at every opportunity surrender in large
numbers to their opponents. For exactly the same reason, a number of junior
officers are routinely resorting to early retirement.
And Benazir, by entering at the behest of the US into this unholy alliance with
the Musharraf military dictatorship, managed to alienate, even enrage, sections
of the opponents of the regime to such an extent that they were willing and
able to attack her gatherings with lethal bomb attacks on two occasions within
a period of just over two months.
While she narrowly escaped the first attempt on her life on 18 October in
Karachi, she fell to the bullets and a bomb explosion on 27 December.
`Martyr for democracy'
No matter how tragic and condemnable Ms Bhutto's assassination, the attempts in
the imperialist media to portray her as a heroic martyr for democracy have
little connection with the truth. What made Benazir a target for assassination
was her willingness to cooperate in the US plan to provide a respectable
civilian façade to the Pakistani military regime – not her commitment to the
principles of democracy.
This is well understood both in and outside of Pakistan. The US agenda she went
along with was not a plan to uphold democracy but one to legitimise a
dictatorship fully beholden and subservient to US imperialism.
Musharraf's regime was arm-twisted by the US administration into supporting US
imperialism's `war on terror' following the 11 September events. On 24
September 2006, Musharraf told CBS's 60 Minutes that high-ranking US officials
had threatened to "bomb Pakistan back into the Stone Age" if it failed to fully
cooperate with Washington's war.
The Pakistani regime, finding this argument persuasive indeed, joined forces
with the US, with the army killing hundreds of Pakistani civilians along the
border with Afghanistan.
The actions of the military aroused great anger, particularly in the frontier
areas, while Pakistani participation in the US's `war on terror' has also
aroused dissension within the army and created real hatred for the Musharraf
government, so that Musharraf himself has been the target of several
In agreeing to share power with Musharraf, Ms Bhutto had decided to throw in
her lot with a much-hated and much-despised regime. An article in The
Washington Post of 28 December revealed that Ms Bhutto had agreed that US
planes could bomb targets in the North West Frontier Province, a stronghold of
the opposition to the US's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The deal brokered between Musharraf and Bhutto by the US had two parts. The
General for his part pushed through the sordid National Reconciliation
Ordinance, in consequence of which all corruption cases against politicians
accused of looting the state treasury were withdrawn. Ms Bhutto was the chief
beneficiary of this ordinance, for she fully expected that money laundering and
corruption cases pending against her and her husband in three European Courts
would be dismissed. This appears not to have happened.
She returned the favour by giving full support to US wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, lunching with Dan Gillerman, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, and
vowing to "wipe out terrorism" in Pakistan.
Ms Bhutto's father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been overthrown and hanged by the
Zia Ul-Haq dictatorship with US approval, so she well understood the safety of
shelter under the US-imperialist umbrella. She gave Reconciliation as the
working title of a new book, which she had agreed to write for Harper Collins
for a fee of $500,000.
Many Pakistanis felt a sense of deep revulsion at the pact she had concluded
with Musharraf, and some were obviously angry enough to have tried to
assassinate her on her return to Karachi on 18 October 2007 after several years
of exile abroad.
Musharraf's pre-emptive strike
Following the bombing of Ms Bhutto's motorcade, and facing fierce opposition
from the judiciary, the legal profession, the independent television channels
and unruly investigative journalists, General Musharraf, who had probably all
along been planning drastic measures to prolong his presidency, decided to
stage a pre-emptive strike.
Washington knew of the General's plan in advance, and Ms Bhutto's benefactors
in Washington informed her of the likely turn of events, whereupon this alleged
saviour of Pakistani democracy scurried away to Dubai, where she would have
seen on the television screen the suspension by General Musharraf of the 1973
Constitution and the declaration of a State of Emergency.
For an entire 24 hours, during which Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent member of the
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and President of the Bar Association, was
arrested and placed in solitary confinement, another fierce opponent of the
regime, Imran Khan, arrested and charged with `state terrorism', and lawyers
across the country were being roughed up by the police, there was no response
from Ms Bhutto. At one point she went so far as to criticise the chief justice
for acting too provocatively.
Angry telephone calls from Pakistan obliged her to return. On reaching the VIP
hall at Karachi airport, she was told in no uncertain terms by her party
colleagues that if she failed to denounce the State of Emergency, the PPP would
Outmanoeuvred and abandoned by Musharraf, she had little choice but to go along
with her PPP colleagues. She denounced the Emergency, made contact with the
opposition, tried to call upon the chief justice to show her solidarity but was
not allowed to get close to his residence, and declared her willingness to lead
the struggle to rid Pakistan of the Musharraf dictatorship.
Her colleague Aitzaz Ahsan had reportedly advised her against any deal with
Musharraf – advice she had ignored. The very fact of Ahsan having been proved
correct merely annoyed her, for she had long ago parted company with any
concept of political principles and morality. What motivated her were the twin
aims of getting back into office and making secure the estimated $1.5bn looted
by her and her husband from the state.
She would not agree to Nawaz Sharif's proposal for a boycott of the election so
as to render null and void the whole charade of a General's election.
Bhutto's terms in office
Benazir's two terms as prime minister (1988-90 and 1993-96) were characterised
by her government's complete failure to deliver on its promises to institute
land reforms and provide free education, health services, sanitation and clean
water. During her second administration, she appointed her husband, Asif Ali
Zardari, as Minister for Investment, in which position he became notorious as
`Mr 10 Percent', enabling the couple to amass a huge $1.5bn fortune.
By this time, the PPP had thoroughly degenerated into a family heirloom and an
instrument for money-making. Her government backed the Taliban's rise to power
in Afghanistan, none of which has prevented her backers in Washington and
London from portraying her as a champion of democracy and a resolute fighter
against extremist fundamentalism.
Benazir's role model was none other than Margaret Thatcher, and her government
pushed through the policies advocated by the IMF-WB combine, including
privatisation of state assets. She attempted to gag the press and manipulate
the judiciary, appointing judges on the basis of their loyalty to herself. She
presided over the murder of her brother Murtaza, who had advocated the PPP's
old radical manifesto and berated Zardari as a money-grubbing interloper. She
removed her mother, Nusrat, from the chairmanship of the PPP for merely
suggesting that Murtaza be made the chief minister of the province of Sindh. "I
had no idea I nourished a viper in my breast," said Nusrat of Benazir following
By the time that her second administration was dismissed from office, Benazir
had come to be called `the diva of corruption' and `a gangster in bangles'. By
this time, the former cricketer Imran Khan, Benazir's contemporary at Oxford,
had become one of her strongest critics. Soon after the Bhutto government fell,
he told a rally: "The bowler has taken the first wicket, and you know whose
wicket that was – Asif Ali Zardari, who holds the world championship for
"And the second wicket to fall was that of Benazir Bhutto, the world champion
in telling lies, who has a shawl on her head, prayer beads in her hands, and
thieving in her heart."
When cheers subsided, he added: "Now, if you will let me be the bowler, and you
take the catches, we can bowl them all out and rid Pakistan of this political
mafia." (`Diva of courage and corruption' by Richard Pendelbury, Daily Mail, 28
In view of the above, it is hard to believe that there are progressives who
grieve over the death of "our princess who promised to emancipate the poor" .
Ms Bhutto, like anyone else, must be judged by her conduct, not her promises.
She had plenty of opportunity during two terms as prime minister to live up to
her promises, but she failed most miserably.
This time round, she had been allowed into Pakistan to legitimise a
thinly-disguised military dictatorship carrying out in a most menial way the
agenda of the most reactionary section of the US ruling class, to wit, the
Bhutto's death has driven a coach and horses through US plans in Pakistan; it
must now try either to openly throw its weight behind Musharraf or come to an
understanding with Nawaz Sharif.
The first course is fraught with peril, for it is bound to make the opponents
of the Musharraf regime more determined than ever to overthrow it. As a
consequence, the regime would be obliged to concentrate its efforts in dealing
with such opponents instead of aiding the US `war on terror'.
An understanding with Nawaz Sharif, though not impossible, would be difficult
to achieve, since he has been openly campaigning against Pakistani ties with
the West, demanding that Musharraf step down, and insisting that he will not
serve as a prime minister under Musharraf.
Meanwhile, the elections due to have been held on 8 January have been postponed
until 18 February. Both the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim
League (Nawaz) (PML(N)) are contesting. as the latter was unable to persuade
the former to boycott them.
The PPP, having had the opportunity to elect someone of substance, such as
Aitzaz Ahsan, the defender of C J Chaudhary and the leader of the lawyer's
struggle for judicial independence, has opted for a dynastic solution by
anointing `Mr 10 Percent', the widower of Ms Bhutto, and their son Bilawal as
co-chairpersons. The father will act as the regent while the 19-year old
Bilawal completes his studies at Oxford.
Thus Ms Bhutto, chairperson of the PPP for life, has been succeeded, allegedly
in accordance with her wishes, by the son, who will presumably also don the
mantle of PPP chairperson for life. The chance to evolve a non-dynastic and
less feudal political party and politics has been jettisoned.
It is unlikely that any party will win the forthcoming elections outright.
Should the PPP and the PML(N) emerge as the two largest parties in the next
parliament, and should they refuse to serve under Musharraf, the scene could be
set for a fearful confrontation, which these two political parties could only
hope to win by cooperating with each other and by appealing to the masses of
Pakistan on a platform of opposition to Pakistan's participation in the US's
dirty `war on terror', combined with a set of policies designed to bring at
least a modicum of relief to the overwhelming majority of the 140 million
Pakistanis living in abject poverty and toiling in back-breaking work.
One thing is for certain: the Pakistani masses can no longer be mobilised to
line up behind the US's predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially in
In the 1980s, US backing for the Afghan fundamentalists fighting against a
Soviet-backed regime in Kabul and against the Soviet forces managed to mask the
contradiction between US imperialism and the Pakistani masses. However, since
11 September 2001 and the US-led predatory war against, and occupation of,
Afghanistan, these contradictions have come to the surface and become
While no less fundamentalist and medievalist in their outlook and world view,
their objective situation has transformed the Taliban and other mujahideen
groups from being the tools of imperialism, which they were in the 1980s, into
the instruments of resistance against imperialist war and occupation. As such,
they deserve the support of progressive humanity.
The Pakistani masses sympathise with the Afghan resistance. The brutality of US
imperialism in Afghanistan and of the Pakistani army in the frontier areas is
increasingly serving to enlist the people of that region to become active
supporters of the Afghan resistance. Should the US forces cross into Pakistan
to crush such activity, they would merely be lifting the proverbial rock to
drop it on their own feet. Such a foolish step on their part would serve to fan
the flames of a much wider conflagration, from which US imperialism would be
bound to emerge much weakened.
The fast-unfolding events in that part of the world promise to be very
Monday, 11 February 2008
A Note from the Co-Editor of Al-Moharer
The Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party regards all Arabs as being
part of one nation both in the cultural and spiritual
sense. The different countries, in which they live, make up
a politically and economically united homeland. In the
Party's documents, the Arab homeland means all the Arab
countries. Each of these is a "qotr" when translated, means
country; in the Ba’ath context, it should be read as
province or region.
The adjective "qotri" (provincial, regional) is used when
referring to an individual country. The adjective "qawmi"
(national), is used when referring to all the countries,
which make up one homeland. Thus, the national leadership
deals only with matters concerning the whole homeland. Each
regional directorate deals with matters within its own
country, for example, the Lebanese or Jordanian Regional
The word Ba’ath can be translated as meaning revival,
resurgence or renewal. Hitherto, resurgence seems to be the
meaning which is preferred by Arab intellectuals and
foreign Arab experts.
Dr. Elias Farah is a prominent Arab thinker who was very
close to Michel Aflaq. He is the author of many books and
articles on the subject of Arab Thoughts and Ideology, as
advocated by the Ba’ath Party. Dr. Farah was able to
explain the thoughts of Michel Aflaq and introduce them
both nationally and internationally.
As Michel Aflaq said "Thought is itself a force in history
and a priceless revolutionary one. The simple fact of
inserting the Arab cause in the framework of global theory
is a primary contribution towards enabling the Arab
revolutionary movement to set out on a firm foundation..."
I was honored to know these great men and as a tribute to
them and to the thoughts and ideology they carried, I will
introduce some of their writings to the non-Arabic esteemed
To gauge the measure and the power of Arab revolutionary
ideology and pierce its secret, we need only call to mind
the conflicts which opposed the various ideologies
prevalent in Arab territory throughout the history of the
present Arab struggle, i.e. over the last quarter of a
On the one hand, the total inability of the previous
dominant ideologies to grasp the reality of this particular
phase of history stands revealed. These, in fact, succeeded
in defining neither its essential contradictions nor the
general laws imposed by the struggle, on which the life of
the Nation hinges today. In other words, they proved
incapable of perceiving the meaning of the polemics over
the contemporary Arab experience or of understanding the
bond linking it with the new revolutionary current in the
countries of the Third World; here nations and proletarian
masses —victims of injustice— have associated
class-struggle against exploitation and under-development
with the struggle for national freedom, in the face of
colonialism and fragmentation.
On the other hand, this ideology, to which both a movement
and a party are affiliated, has become the supreme guide
for revolutionary action of the Arab Nation in its
entirety, because it expresses faithfully and precisely the
aspirations of the people and the proletarian Arab masses;
it has, moreover, outlined the path for the Arab struggle
and defined both its line of conduct and its objectives.
Arab revolutionary ideology has at last, after passing
through various stages, reached maturity. It is now
following its natural evolution, which will lead to full
development and renewal and which corresponds to that of
historic reality and thought in the Arab world.
A study of the evolution of Arab revolutionary ideology
cannot be separated from the study of the movement which
has developed and grown under its impetus. This ideology,
while contributing to the success of the Arab revolutionary
movement, was concerned with both the positive and negative
experiments of the movement.
Arab revolutionary ideology crystallized and developed
parallel to the movement's evolution. It was, therefore,
inevitable that it should suffer the consequences of the
crises shaking it. From the very outset, the practical
application of the ideology with its watchwords Unity,
Freedom and Socialism, brought about a crisis which
revealed the backwardness of the Arab revolutionary
movement in relation to its theory. In spite of attempts to
draw the lesson from constant modifications, the movement
was unable to master or amend the situation or change its
This backwardness of theory was the cause of the
deterioration created by the political and economic changes
which took place in certain Arab Regions during the
sixties. Political and economic decisions, which have often
been revised, lost their scientific revolutionary
character; these were stamped by political opportunism and
were devoid of socialist planification and a national
dimension. Changes were, consequently, restricted to a few
Regions, unrelated to the Nation as a whole, and were in
opposition to the teaching of global Arab revolution. These
changes appear as heterogeneous and demagogic
improvisations, unrelated to the revolutionary values on
which Arab revolutionary ideology has always insisted,
remained superficial and even discredited them in the eyes
of the popular masses.
Opportunists and climbers, thinking only of themselves and
the preservation of their own interests, made of power a
counter-revolutionary force, in contradiction with the
interests of the Arab revolution. During the sixties their
role was confined to slowing down the activity of true
militants — those who soldered their destiny to that of the
Arab revolution and the proletarian masses, those who
fought under the flag of Arab revolutionary ideology.
Opportunists who spread confusion were, however, doomed to
fail. They accused Arab revolutionary ideology of being the
cause of their ill-success and taxed it with backwardness,
inefficiency and obsolescence; they accused it of
stagnation and made the doctrine out to be incapable of
renewal. Their desire was to wrench it from its principles
and alienate it from its vocation. They also attributed to
it principles belonging elsewhere.
The state of uneasiness which followed on the failure of
the experiment in unity (and revealed the need to return to
the origins of the ideological crises which had shaken the
Arab revolutionary movement) was accompanied by a feeling
of resignation and, at the same time, by one of hatred for
the movement itself. The latter became the target of
attempts to destroy and defame it and of falsifications
aiming at the annihilation of its strength. In other words,
these maneuvers attacked the movement's ideology. Out of
this state of things, confusion was born between a sincere
desire for genuine renewal on the one hand and, on the
other, attempts, hidden behind a call to resurgence, which
were simply a parody and a deformation of truth.
The Arab revolutionary movement was unable to rise to the
level required by its ideology, but the latter, on the
other hand, was able to hold its ground at the level
required by the particular phase in history. The movement,
in fact, deviated from its own basic theory and failed to
submit it to necessary study and analysis. Its analytical
methods did not enable it to discover the close, reciprocal
bonds which link together Unity, Freedom and Socialism, and
it failed to solder these objectives indissolubly with a
skilful tactical strategy for political struggle. The
movement was kept prisoner by the very genius of its
ideology — of which it was proud and which it continued to
defend — without ever conjugating its efforts to fathom its
real content. The day the movement was forced to go into
action, it encountered a crisis which buffeted it just as
much as its ideology. Those in power, who regarded the Arab
revolutionary movement and its ideology as a means to their
own ends and to ensure success, gave full rein to their
hatred for the movement's ideology "like backward children
who expect their father to provide for all their needs or
like juvenile delinquents who commit crimes to revenge
themselves on their fathers for giving them life".
Some of these offspring became professional liars and
slanderers and tried to avenge themselves in a thousand and
one ways on the ideology which forms the basis of the Arab
revolutionary movement. The most treacherous of these was
lip-service to the ideology, while doing everything
possible to distort, destroy and plot against it.
The aim of our present study is to denounce the
conspiracies being hatched against Arab revolutionary
ideology and which try to deviate it from its vocation,
retard its evolution and veil the contradictions which
exist between Union in theory and its practical application
in the framework of the Arab revolutionary experiment. It
also aims at indicating the healthy, natural way for this
experiment to evolve.
Dr. Elias Farah
Our era is characterized by the accentuated importance of
ideological strife. Many people are convinced that
political action can only reach the level now required if
basically consolidated by an ideological line, i.e. by a
coherent system of thought known as an "ideology", capable
of giving -specific direction to a human group. The word
itself is relatively new. Previous to the Enlightenment
(the century preceding the French Revolution), politics
were defined as an occupation, activity or experience
reserved for those who, at the King's command, carried out
specific functions and conducted affairs of state.
In 1690, a book called "A Treatise concerning the true
original extent and end of Civil Government" by the English
philosopher John Locke, was published in London. Locke was
a fierce opponent of both individual and absolute power and
of the concept of divine right. In this work, he described
the searching of conscience which was sweeping Europe at
the time, and suggested a new ideological, political and
critical orientation, which was the fruit and the
expression of an ideology based on empiric philosophy, as
already set out in his previous work, "An Essay concerning
The philosophic tendency which characterized the
Enlightenment can be resumed in the five words:
1 – Individual
2 – Reason
3 – Nature
4 – Happiness
5 – Evolution
It differed from philosophical thought in the classical
sense. It was not seeking abstract truth and it did not
stop at pure theory, but sought rather the general
direction of an ideology aspiring to realization in various
domains of a profound change in human behavior. The French
men-of-letters, Montesquieu, author of "L'Esprit des Lois"
(Spirit of the Laws) and Rousseau, author of "Le Contrat
Social" (The Social Contract), laid the foundations of an
ideology highlighting the greatness and hegemony of the
People. In the same way, the slogan of the French
Revolution "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" opened the way
to ideological tendencies which were to leave their mark on
the 18th century. It was Napoleon, apparently, in a spirit
of disparagement and contempt, who coined the word
"ideology" to designate theoretical reasoning unrelated to
fact. It was not until the 20th century that the notion of
"ideology" began to clarify and diverge to some extent from
abstract philosophic concepts and metaphysical speculations
and began to define comprehensive ideas on which society
could be based. These ideas take into consideration the
evolution of history and act upon it indirectly through the
political organizations which adopt them.
"The Encyclopedia of the 20th Century", published in 1931,
defines ideology as "a system of ideas taking form in
political or social belief and inspiring the actions of a
government or a particular party". In Lalande's
"Vocabulaire Technique et Critique de la Philosophic" (6th
edition, 1958) the Marxist interpretation of the word
"ideology" is given as "a thought which expresses the vital
interests of a particular social class".
In the Larger Soviet Encyclopedia we find a
Marxist-Leninist definition: - "Ideology is the science
concerned with study of the laws governing natural and
social evolution". This definition corresponds to a
coherent and finalized entity, with which the working class
and communist workers' parties all over the world claim
In his book "Les Ideologies Ne'gro-Africaines
d'Au-jourdhui", published in Paris in 1965, L.V. Thomas
gives a more elaborate series of definitions:
1 - Ideology, in its wider meaning, is a system of ideas to
which a social group is affiliated, and which expresses
just as much the centers of interest as the interests of
2 - Ideology, in its restricted meaning, is "a system of
ideas elaborated with a view to action, expressing a
particular vision of reality and acting as an impetus to
change and transform the actual state of things".
3 - Used derogatorily, ideology is "an unattainable
mythical ideal, either well behind or well in advance of
reality". This is Karl Marx's definition. (Ibid).
In the light of these definitions, ideology appears as a
system of ideas, a vision of the world and of the state of
society, which can serve as a basis for any common action.
It bears no resemblance to individual thought -having
neither its elasticity nor its malleability - because it
constitutes a programme of action. The distance separating
ideology and philosophy is comparable to that which
separates applied and pure science. Ideology is primarily
concerned with political and social science, but is in no
way limited to these fields. We can now make a distinction
between two different types of ideology — between partial
and global ideology and between religious, nationalist,
fascist, democratic, bourgeois, socialist, liberal,
communist and subversive versions.
To tell the truth, ideology, in its accepted definition,
prepares the foundation of a "party".
At the beginning of the 19th century, the concept of
ideology began to take form. In the middle of the 20th
century, parties founded on a particular ideology came into
being. Ideology acts as an intermediary between religion,
philosophy and science on the one hand and society on the
other. No social re-birth can dispense with it, for it
helps to concretize the global image of reality. It enables
us to situate the context of an evolutionary stage within
society and also to place it in relation to global
evolution and the whole of humanity.
The concept of ideology has evolved. Mannheim has
emphasized several aspects of this in his work "Ideology
and Utopia", in dealing with the transition from the phase
of partial to that of global ideology (in other words, to a
global vision of the universe) and presenting ideology as a
subject for study in a new scientific branch —sociological
During the 19th century, Marxism was able to extirpate
ideology from its Utopian frame-work and to confer on it
At a later date, the Third World underwent experiences
enabling it to elaborate ideologies as a result of
reflection and a struggle to evolve sound theory in the
very areas of the world most exposed to injustice, where
the most extreme aspects of fragmentation and
under-development are encountered, thereby constituting the
most favorable conditions for the outbreak of revolution.
These experiences helped to consolidate ideology and added
an even stronger revolutionary content, with a more
sincere, more realistic and more human aspect. Ideology was
no longer a static collection of ideas and prejudices; it
had become a kind of dialectic, an expression of the unity
of theory and practice — of theoretical and practical
Present-Day Societies are Ideological Entities
In so far as they are ideological entities, present-day
societies, by the very evolution and nature of our era, are
characterized by the presence of several ideological
currents — all the more so in countries going through
revolutionary stages. For them revolution is not simply a
political and social phenomenon, but is the bearer of a
civilizing, cultural and intellectual mission. It radically
transforms both the vision and concept of life in relation
to a given society and the values on which it is based.
Revolutionary ideology is born during the period of
transition which prepares society to attain another way of
life — a new way destined to efface the traces of all that
went before. This is the ineluctable issue for any nation
engaging in a fight against colonialism, fragmentation,
under-development and class-exploitation in all its forms.
As Jacques Arnauld reminds us in his book, "Du Colonialisme
au Socialisme", the principal characteristic of major
revolutions is that the renewal of social, economic and
political structures is not for them an end in itself. This
thirst for renewal tends to produce another kind of man,
heralded and introduced by the new ideology. It is for this
reason that all revolutionary movements, regardless of
their tendencies, confer on ideology, unequivocally, the
role of the matrix of history.
Although considering modes of production as the foundation
of all doctrine, dialectical materialism emphasizes the
importance of revolutionary awareness and of the principle
that the individual attains freedom through his recognition
of the laws governing historic and social evolution. In the
same way, schools which believe in the intervention of
matter, instinct, and biology, and behavior, physical and
social environment are in agreement in conferring on
ideology a primary role in human experience today. The
revolutionary character of a transitional phase, during
which radical mutations take place, brings into evidence an
ideology's universal nature; it deepens and spreads because
it reflects the awakening of a global, general awareness.
Ideology is thus a vital necessity, inherent in the very
nature of a transitional phase, and an inspiration to the
revolutionary and popular vanguard. In the measure that
class-structure and vanguard organization incarnate
revolutionary ideology with a maximum of fidelity,
political action and the ideological standpoint adopted
increase in stature and become endowed with a historic,
Ideological frailty and lack of strategic perspectives, on
the contrary, reduce political action to superficial
tactical operations, incapable of an effective impact on
reality. There are many incidents in history to illustrate
this truth. In Russia during the 19th and 20th centuries,
many revolutionaries confined themselves to political
action and partial reforms, having at their disposal
neither strategy nor a well-thought-out revolutionary
ideology and were, in consequence, doomed to failure. They
were content with revolt against standing social and
political frameworks, and this enabled the communist
movement to triumph, because it was in a position to
overthrow traditional dogmas. It even succeeded in freeing
minds and hearts from the sequels of the preceding phase,
and enriching militant action with an integral
revolutionary vision and an organization created within the
framework of a definitive revolutionary strategy.
Theory, Strategy and Practice
Strategy: Strategy is the general political tenet from
which devolves a revolutionary movement aiming at the
realization of essential objectives during a specific
period in history.
Tactics: These are the political policy which corresponds
to a relatively short phase; they trace out the path for
the revolutionary movement and establish its direction.
If they are to assume the ideological and historic aspect
of their mission —in other words, raise policy to the level
of revolutionary action and endow it with a historic
mission— political leaders must not base themselves on
revolutionary ideology alone, but also on scientific
analysis and strategy. They are then in a position to
analyze conditions and a given situation objectively and so
guarantee the success of an undertaking.
Political strategy is a scientific and practical expression
of reality, evolving in the direction which offers the
means to concretize revolutionary ideological data, and to
furnish a scientific explanation of the evolution of social
reality. The ability to control such evolution depends
essentially on political strategy. It follows, therefore,
that any political strategy of a scientific revolutionary
nature must be buttressed by a theory capable of grasping
social evolution in its entirety during a specific phase in
history. It is, therefore, of capital importance for
political strategy to build on a precise ideological
foundation; it can then abandon the confused, empirical
domain of improvisation and rise to the level of
revolutionary, scientific action, taking into account the
march of history and the laws governing social evolution.
The fact of drawing inspiration from a particular ideology
guarantees it from deteriorating into a straight-forward
tactical operation, i.e. an adaptation to conditions not
yet integrated by ideology. The absence of a link between
theory and strategy transforms tactics into strategy — into
a kind of chronic illness, resulting from total submission
to practical necessity, and preventing a vision of social
evolution during a given period of history. Strategy thus
finds itself amputated from its ethics and deprived of its
fundamental values, reduced to maneuvers, opportunism and
On the other hand, the bond uniting political strategy and
revolutionary ideology confers on the revolutionary
movement the aptitude to foresee contradictions, i.e. to
anticipate events and revise alliances before it is too
late. In this way, a revolutionary movement avoids being
left on the fringe of events, avoids blunders and formulae
tending to abolish its revolutionary character. Political
strategy draws, from ideology, its ability to interpret
incomplete phenomena; and thanks to ideology that the whole
is not sacrificed to the part. Theory is enriched, in turn,
by close contact with the evolution of reality in its
relation to political strategy. Mutual interdependence and
interaction between strategy and ideology constitute a
basis on which unity of theory and practice in
revolutionary action can stand firm. From strategy they
draw an inexhaustible source of riches for the benefit of
theory, and a perennial source of discovery for
revolutionary thought, and enable the latter to evolve as a
result of its permanent contact with every-day reality.
They equally enable ideology to follow without interruption
the general, historic evolution of the Nation and the
period. If this interaction, this link between political
strategy and ideology is to bear fruit, a third condition
is absolutely necessary: a revolutionary organization,
combining originality of theory, strategic prudence and
wisdom and organic soundness, must exist. This condition
fulfilled, the party is in a position to put its theory
into practice and control events, to hand on its knowledge
to the masses and benefit from their support. The creation
of the link between strategy and ideology is, therefore, a
vital necessity and a sine qua non in the elaboration of an
"organizational theory", its structure and essential
content drawing inspiration from ideology and its details
conforming to political strategy. This binding link can
only be consolidated when objective conditions are found to
be ripe for large-scale revolutionary action. Then is the
time for the transition to the phase characterized by
strategic and ideological action to take place. Tactics
then adopt a strategy in conformity with the moral and
practical values exacted by theory.
The success of liberation experiments of a national and
social order in the Third World —which constitute, in the
highest sense of the word, the framework of a revolutionary
stage— is to be attributed essentially to the link
connecting theory, strategy and tactics. Nationalist and
socialist movements can only acquire a historic
revolutionary character in the Third World if they fill
their ideological gap. They will have to crystallize a new
revolutionary ideology, capable of forestalling change and
explaining important contradictions. Only in this way can
they eliminate definitively the dregs of traditional and
incomplete revolutionary ideologies, which deal with a
single aspect —among so many others— of the problems of
nations and proletarian masses, who are the victims of
injustice and exploitation in this part of the world.
1 - Barrion: What is Ideology?, translated by As'ad Rizq:
2 - Cf. Introduction to the Political Report of the XXth
National Congress, p. 10
Friday, 8 February 2008
By Andrew Black
On January 29, a lorry laden with 1,400 lbs of explosives and driven by a
member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was detonated in the town of
Thenia, east of Algiers, killing four and wounding an additional 23 people. The
target of the attack was the police barracks in the center of town, and among
the dead was a police officer who has been heralded for preventing the bomber
from detonating at his targeted location (Magharebia, February 1). While this
attack did not result in the high casualty figures seen in AQIM’s previous
suicide attacks, such as the December 11 bombing of the United Nations and
Constitutional Court in Algiers, this attack constitutes yet another in an
unpopular series of suicide bombings conducted by AQIM that have resulted in
casualty figures not seen since Algeria’s civil war. In a subsequent statement
issued by AQIM on January 30, the group claimed responsibility for the attack
and addressed the ideological and societal tension brewing over the group's
continued use of this tactic in Algeria. Despite the unpopularity of suicide
bombings in Algeria and the development of an appealing counter-narrative by
members of the ulema (body of Islamic scholars), it appears AQIM is positioned
to carry on with its suicide bombing campaign, particularly as the group
absorbs fighters returning from Iraq.
The Perspectives of the Debate
The debate over the legitimacy of suicide operations in Algeria was triggered
by AQIM’s April 11 dual bombing in Algiers, an event that stood as the group's
proclamation that it had indeed fallen in line with al-Qaeda’s tactical
doctrine. Immediately following this and subsequent suicide attacks, several
key elements within Algeria displayed their disdain for the new path that the
group’s amir, Abu Mus’ab Abd al-Wadoud, had cut for his group. Still scarred
from a lengthy and profoundly bloody civil war in the 1990s, the general public
has shown an unwillingness to return to a period of high casualty conflict.
However, this ideological schism has been most prominently displayed in the
opposing views of martyrdom posited by AQIM and Islamic jurisprudents both
within and without Algeria.
In late January, five Muslim scholars from Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria
issued scathing fatwas (religious verdicts) condemning AQIM’s use of suicide
bombings (Le Jeune Independent, January 27). Although this was not the first
time members of the ulema had condemned AQIM’s suicide campaign, this event did
pick up on an important trend. The opinions on martyrdom of these five scholars
generally fall in line with the classical view and stand diametrically opposed
to the modern interpretation propagated by al-Qaeda . One scholar in the
group, Shaykh Abu al-Harith Abu al-Hassan, denounced suicide operations as
having "no religious basis or valid pretext, but instead [are based] on the
desires and the ravings of their own architects." Still another scholar, Shaykh
Ali Hassan Abdelhamid, blamed AQIM's use of suicide bombers for "only
increasing the number of Muslims' difficulties." That these men, recognized as
leading experts of Islamic law, condemned the use of suicide operations as
being both illegal and onerous for the general Muslim population might prove
vital in erecting a counter-narrative to undermine the legitimacy of AQIM’s use
of this tactic .
On the other side of this debate is AQIM, supported by leading members of the
global Salafist jihad who have lent their voice to AQIM’s cause .
Repudiating the aforementioned scholars, AQIM's January 30 statement pointedly
sought to attack their credibility by pejoratively labeling them as "Bush's
scholars" and "mouthpieces of the tyrants." Doing so not only undermines the
validity of these condemnatory fatwas, but also exculpates AQIM from incurring
blame for violating Islamic law. Defending its decision to employ suicide
operations, AQIM claimed legitimacy for its actions on the premise of careful
timing and target selection. Referring to the Thenia attack, the AQIM statement
notes how the group limited civilian casualties through precise timing and
targeting of the police barracks:
[The Thenia attack] denies the fabricated and deceitful boasting of the enemy
who claims that the mujahideen are targeting innocent Muslims, for those who
perished today are part of the apostate police force and the choice of the
mujahideen for this target was clear. Also, the precise timing of the operation
is clear proof to those who inquire into the lies of the apostates and the
hypocrites and their allegations and of the truthfulness of the mujahideen
(al-Fajr Center, January 30).
Despite these attempts to assert the legitimacy of its suicide bombing
campaign, it appears that AQIM’s defense cannot mask the fact that these
attacks have been ill received even by many within the organization. In late
July 2007, Abdelkader Ben Messoud, alias Abu Daoud, a leading member of AQIM
who had recently surrendered to the Algiers government under amnesty, depicted
an organization divided against itself as a consequence of al-Wadoud’s
strategic decision to employ suicide bombers. The divisions appear to roughly
comport with those stemming from al-Wadoud’s decision to merge the organization
with al-Qaeda in 2006. Many of the nationalist old guard who oppose suicide
attacks, such as Abu Daoud, feel that the tactic is counterproductive and
inevitably causes an undesirably high number of innocent casualties. This point
was picked up by former members of AQIM who have likened al-Wadoud to the
leaders of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which terrorized Algeria in the early
1990s before AQIM’s predecessor organization—the Salafist Group for Call and
Combat (GSPC)—split from it (Echorouk [Algeria], August 22). This point has
more recently been restated by a group, reportedly born out of former GSPC
members, calling itself the “Protectors of the Salafist Call” (Dar al-Hayat,
June 6, 2007; Echorouk, February 5). It appears, therefore, that a consequence
of the use of suicide attacks has been to create potentially debilitating
acrimony and splintering within the ranks of AQIM.
Counter Narratives and Recruitment
Although the leadership schisms depicted above may prove to be detrimental for
the organization, the criticisms AQIM has endured from Algerian society will
likely have a more potent impact on the group’s sustainability over the long
term. This point is borne out by AQIM’s ability to decentralize its operations,
placing less emphasis on central command and control functions, thus making the
group more resilient to leadership turmoil . Over the long term, the
durability of the group will be determined by its ability to attract new
members and enhance its broad appeal across a constituent element within
This factor also has indirect operational implications with regard to suicide
operations. In order for AQIM to sustain its suicide bombing campaign, there
must continue to be a steady flow and retention of new recruits willing to
martyr themselves for the group’s cause. Reports from this past summer that
noted AQIM’s personnel troubles illuminate this point (see Terrorism Monitor,
September 13, 2007). AQIM’s own statements indicate the importance the group
places on maintaining its broad appeal to those willing to perpetrate these
attacks. For instance, in May 2007, al-Wadoud released a video, entitled “Where
are those who are committed to die?” which included an unabashed call for
volunteers to offer their lives for the group. Many of the attacks AQIM
perpetrates are named after fallen members of the organization, hence lionizing
them as martyrs and enhancing the appeal of committing one’s life to the path
of jihad. However, if public criticism and the growing counter-narrative
discussed above succeed in demonizing AQIM’s activities and alienating the
group from its pool of recruits, the effect would be to diminish AQIM’s ability
to perpetrate suicide bombings. While it would appear that for the time being
such an effect has not been witnessed in Algeria, the prospects for such an
outcome are hopeful.
Past as Prologue?
Despite public and clerical condemnation of the use of suicide operations, it
seems likely at this point that AQIM will continue to escalate its campaign.
Indeed, it appears AQIM is poised to continue its suicide bombing campaign for
the foreseeable future, as seen in the activities of a cell near Algiers that
was responsible for the December 11 bombings. Local media have noted that three
of the bombers were building contractors and one was a computer scientist for
Brown & Root Condor, a joint venture of the Algerian state energy company and a
Halliburton subsidiary (El Khabar [Algeria], February 7). The cell had
reportedly already procured the necessary materiel for a future attack
(al-Watan, January 29). Moreover, this incident highlighted AQIM’s
sophisticated methodology for deploying suicide operatives as well as the
group’s enduring appeal among the educated parts of Algerian society. This
point is made especially salient in light of the recently released records of
foreign fighters entering Iraq through Syria . These captured documents
indicate that a greater number of North Africans are actively engaged in the
Iraqi insurgency than previously thought. With leading figures in the global
jihadist movement already looking to the post-Iraq period (see Terrorism Focus,
January 22), it stands to reason that these individuals will seek to return to
their home countries. Provided they are able and willing to return to the
Maghreb—two assumptions which must not be overlooked—they will carry with them
a wealth of skills and experience in conducting a suicide bombing campaign.
Although the looming specter of returning veterans could have a significant
impact on Maghrebi—and more precisely Algerian—security, the ideological schism
which has developed due to the use of suicide bombers is potentially auspicious
for counter-terrorism efforts. As noted earlier, if the ulema are capable of
undermining the legitimacy and appeal of AQIM’s activities through the
construction of an equally appealing and legitimate counter-narrative, then the
use of suicide operatives will likely diminish. Given the high success rate of
such operations, losing the capacity to implement this tactic would no doubt
hinder AQIM’s lethality and destructiveness.
1. For an excellent depiction of the classical view of martyrdom versus the
contemporary interpretation espoused by al-Qaeda and other jihadis, see David
Cook, Martyrdom in Islam, Cambridge, 2007.
2. The notion of building a narrative to counter the radicalization process has
been discussed by numerous authors. For a summary, see Jeffrey Cozzens,
Identifying entry points of action in counter radicalization, Danish
Institution for International Studies Working Paper, 2006.
3. Abu Yahya al-Libi, a native of Libya and a leading figure in al-Qaeda,
issued a rebuttal in July 2007 to Muslim scholars who had condemned AQIM’s
April 11 suicide bombings in Algiers (see Terrorism Focus, July 31; August 14,
4. For a description of AQIM’s networked operations, see Noureddine Jebnoun, Is
the Maghreb the Next Afghanistan?, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies
Occasional Paper, Georgetown University, December 2007.
5. Joseph Felter, Brian Fishman, Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First
Look at the Sinjar Records, Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy,
West Point, 2007.