Fluid Alliances: War on Terror, Yesterday and Today

Within a month of al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th 2001, a so-called ‘War on Terror’ was declared to combat the source of this outrage. Invasions and occupations of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) were promptly executed because the rulers of these countries were considered to be providing support to terrorism.

In the case of Afghanistan, it was obvious the Taliban rulers were providing a refuge for the al-Qaeda leader, bin Laden, and arguably making itself complicit in the attacks on the United States. Whereas Iraq was a supposedly rogue state which potentially could enter an alliance with terrorists like al-Qaeda and supply them with its alleged supply, of what transpired to be, its phantom weapons of destruction.

The United States-British invasion of Iraq in 2003 based on bogus arguments eventually destroyed the Iraqi state, killed hundreds of thousands, created millions of refugees and led to a proliferation of Islamist terrorism. Only nuclear war could have created a better Armageddon. Under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda and its supporters, the decisions taken by George Bush and Tony Blair within the first two years of the ‘War on Terror’ led to more manifestations of Islamist extremism of the al-Qaeda variety, the most recent being ISIS.

Fast-forward fourteen years and the ‘War on Terror’ has dumbfoundingly been turned on its head.

Great Britain and the United States are now well entrenched in a war on the Syrian state and its army. This war is being conducted through proxy militia formations. Amongst these militia groups are local al-Qaeda affiliates and those that share its ideology but not its methods or tactics.

Naturally in wars spanning years, it is inevitable to expect alliances to change and develop depending on circumstance and interests. During World War One, Czarist Russia began the conflict as an ally of the British Empire and the French, by the end of the war and because of the Russian revolution overthrowing the Czarist rule, the British were invading Russia to try and destroy the revolution. In the years leading to World War Two, there were notable pro-German voices in Great Britain as they perceived the Soviet Union to be the main threat to its interests. As late as 1935, Winston Churchill critically praised the leadership of Adolf Hitler,

“I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our right­ful posi­tion among the nations.”

Come the war, cold pragmatism dictated an alliance between Great Britain and the Soviet Union against Hitler’s German expansionism. But no sooner than World War Two ended, the Soviet Union was re-incarnated as the official enemy once again.

In the war currently ravaging Syria many al-Qaeda groups are running amok under different aliases, most famous amongst them are Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam. There is also an Islamist led coalition known as the ‘Army of Conquest’.  These militias as long as they are fighting the Syrian government are commonly referred to as “moderate rebels” in the Western mainstream media. Recently an article in Harpers showed how the United States was indirectly working with al-Qaeda in Syria concluded the following:

“Over the past year, other distinguished figures have voiced support for a closer relationship with Al Qaeda’s rebranded extensions. David Petraeus, another former head of the CIA, has argued for arming at least the “more moderate” parts of Nusra. Robert Ford, a former ambassador to Syria and a vociferous supporter of the rebel cause, called on America to “open channels for dialogue” with Ahrar al-Sham, even if its members had on occasion slaughtered some Alawites and desecrated Christian sites.”

For its part the British government are said to be military training Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia, the main exporter of the ideology behind violent extremism, Wahhabism.

The realpolitik of states can be seen to be personified in the vicissitudes of human rights cause celebre, Moazzam Begg. Imprisoned in Bagram and Guantanamo Bay in the early years of the ‘War on Terror’ for several years, but by 2012 he was travelling to Syria with the full secular blessing of British intelligence. The purpose of his sojourn to Syria was, according to Cerie Bullivant, an official at Begg’s human rights CAGE organisation, to train foreign jihadis. In 2014, he was back in the gaol for six months or so.

However, one constant in the ‘War on Terror’ is the emphasis on ordinary Muslims as the main source of all religious extremism rather than the gruesomely manipulative politics of countries such as the United States, Great Britain and their regional allies.

This is all quite shamelessly a far cry from when the ‘War on Terror’ was declared in 2001 and who knows what the future holds with respect to alliances in the war on the Syrian state. Perchance to say, if ISIS bides its time, it too, in several years will be heralded by the British and American governments as not only “moderate rebels” but “super-moderate rebels.”

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