The recent repackaging of Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate from Jabhat al-Nusra to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham has hoodwinked very few people. The Americans, who blacklisted Nusra back in 2012 and are widely and practically sympathetic to the Syrian Islamist insurrection against the government of President Bashar al-Assad have refused to accept there is anything substantial in the name change besides different labelling.
Taking a step back, the name ‘al-Qaeda’ itself has indefinite and opaque origins but the leaders and individuals who came to personify ‘al-Qaeda’, especially after the atrocities in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, emanated in an Islamist insurgency which had considerable support from the West. Specifically, the Afghan war in the 1980s which pitted the old Soviet Union against Islamist jihadis was where many of al-Qaeda’s future operatives and leaders learned their bombastic trade.
An organisation called the ‘Maktab al-Khidamat’ i.e. the “Service Bureau” was set up to greet, meet and manage the Arab recruits for the insurgency against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Both future leaders of al-Qaeda, the late ‘Sheikh’ Usama bin Laden and current ‘Emir’ Aymen al-Zahrawi were drawn to Afghanistan during this period. Bin Laden was head-hunted by Saudi intelligence after they couldn’t find a minor member of the Saudi royal clan to join the ‘jihad’, while Zahrawi first arrived in Afghanistan as part of an ‘aid convoy.’ More so, it is known thousands from the Arab world were recruited to fight the Soviets and Western media were more than willing to favourably refer to them as ‘Mujahideen’ i.e. Holy Warriors. Continue reading
“By our swindle they were glorified…The more we condemned and despised ourselves, the more we could cynically take pride in them, our creatures…They were our dupes, wholeheartedly fighting the enemy.” T.E. Lawrence, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”
The enemy Thomas Edward Lawrence (a.k.a. “Lawrence of Arabia”) is referring to in the above quote is none other than Turkish Ottoman Empire. The people who were ‘swindled’ and ‘duped’ are the Arabs who were convinced and manipulated to take up arms and rise up in an ‘Arab Revolt’ a hundred years ago, against their Turkish overlords in support of the British Empire’s war effort during World War One.
The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany in November 1914. In the United Kingdom, many thought the war would end quickly and everyone would be home for Christmas because the British populace were weaned on stories of imperialist heroics administering the natives of Asia and Africa a military beating in a surprising short amount of time. Unsurprisingly, millions immediately enrolled to fight Germany to only find that they too were shockingly fighting with the latest military technology. To overcome the stalemate that quickly transpired on the western front i.e. the war in Europe, the British came up with a supremely cunning idea of prioritising the defeat of Germany’s ally, the Ottoman Empire in the hope of hastening a quick and decisive victory. On this basis, the primary and most important military strategy was an attack through the Strait of Dardanelles to capture Istanbul, the seat and capital of the Ottoman Empire.
Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, put the idea forward of a naval expedition to sail through the Strait of Dardanelles and capture Istanbul Continue reading
The covert alliance between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Zionist entity of Israel should be no surprise to any student of British imperialism. The problem is the study of British imperialism has very few students. Indeed, one can peruse any undergraduate or post-graduate university prospectus and rarely find a module in a Politics degree on the British Empire let alone a dedicated degree or Masters degree. Of course if the European led imperialist carnage in the four years between 1914 – 1918 tickles your cerebral cells then it’s not too difficult to find an appropriate institution to teach this subject, but if you would like to delve into how and why the British Empire waged war on mankind for almost four hundred years you’re practically on your own in this endeavour. One must admit, that from the British establishment’s perspective, this is a remarkable achievement.
In late 2014, according to the American journal, “Foreign Affairs”, the Saudi petroleum Minister Ali al-Naimi is reported to have said “His Majesty King Abdullah has always been a model for good relations between Saudi Arabia and other states and the Jewish state is no exception.” Recently, Abdullah’s successor King Salman expressed similar concerns to those of Israel’s to the growing agreement between the United States and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme. This led some to report that Israel and KSA presented a “united front” in their opposition to the nuclear deal. This was not the first time the Zionists and Saudis have found themselves in the same corner in dealing with a common foe. In North Yemen in the 1960’s, the Saudis were financing a British imperialist led mercenary army campaign against revolutionary republicans who had assumed authority after overthrowing the authoritarian, Imam. Gamal Abdul-Nasser’s Egypt militarily backed the republicans, while the British induced the Saudis to support them in financing and arming remaining remnants of the Imam’s supporters to stretch Nasser’s forces. During this campaign, the British organised the Israelis to drop arms for the British proxies in North Yemen, 14 times. The British, in effect, militarily but covertly, brought the Zionists and Saudis together in 1960’s North Yemen against their common foe.
However, one must go back to the 1920’s to fully appreciate the origins of this informal and indirect alliance between KSA and the Zionist entity. Continue reading
As the legacy of Malcolm X became more mainstream, many people from different political backgrounds jumped out of their seats to claim he represented their political trend and their political trend alone. Among the most vocal to claim his legacy are political Islamists. The only way we can assess if Malcolm X became an Islamist or his political trajectory was heading towards that direction is to unpack what he said or did not say after his split with Elijah Muhammad’s ‘Nation of Islam’ (NOI). It goes without saying that for as long as he was a member of the NOI he was the leading advocate of its distinctive cultural, social, economic and political theology and/or ideology.
First of all what do we mean by Islamism and/or radical political Islam? According to the scholar Oliver Roy in a study for the United Nations, Islamism “is the brand of modern political Islamic fundamentalism which claims to recreate a true Islamic society, not simply by imposing sharia, or Islamic law, but by first establishing an Islamic state through political action.” Earlier in the study he had unpacked and defined ‘fundamentalism’ as “a call for the return of all Muslims to the true tenets of Islam (or what is perceived as such): this trend is usually called “salafism” (“the path of the ancestors”).” Individuals who uphold this ideology are referred to as Islamists of one variety or another.
Split with NOI
Malcolm X’s split with the NOI began with a suspension for ninety days following his now famous comment, “chickens coming home to roost” with regard to the assassination of President Kennedy on the 2nd December 1963. The NOI hierarchy had previously sent out instructions Continue reading
In the first decade of this century, amidst the flames of the “War on Terror” which had hitherto taken in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez made a private visit to London to meet Ken Livingstone, the mayor. Two days earlier British Prime Minister, Tony Blair had lectured and rebuked Chavez and Evo Morales, Bolivian President on the need to use the resources of his oil rich country ‘responsibly’.
According to the Guardian, Blair “called on the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, to show some responsibility in the use of their energy resources.”
Responsibility is the act of being responsible and the Oxford English Dictionary defines “responsible” as “having an obligation to do something, or having control over or care for someone.”[i] On the other hand, what Blair actually meant by “responsibility” was not qualified or spelt out. If by chiding Chavez and Morales, Blair is arguing that the two South American leaders are using their respective countries wealth incorrectly, inappropriately and unwisely, what exactly was Blair’s prognosis? Continue reading