2nd December, 2014
By Rev. Chris Okotie
If you wonder why radicalized Muslim youths pose such grave threat to world peace today, you won’t have to look too far. Read through the pages of the mischievous re-interpretation of jihad being propagated by a new generation of extremists, and a recent history of Iran’s Islamic revolution to find an answer to the reason why terrorism is now being used to establish Islamic states around the world.
The progenitor of political Islam, Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini began his quest to rid the Muslim world of the pervasive influence of the
West as symbolized by America, when he took refuge in Southern France where he was forced into exile in the 70s by the then Iranian monarch, the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Although Khomeini was in his 70s and in poor health, that mattered little. From his base in France, the frail, but wily Ayatollah broadcast his revolutionary messages recorded in audio tapes and circulated them in Iran. It proved very effective in stirring the youths into toppling the Shah, a staunch ally of America.
Radical clerics in the other Arab States watched in awe as Khomeini took over Iran from its Western stooge and became inspired to use his template to dislodge their own dictators, using Islamic principles in ways that suit their individual agendas. While Khomeini’s revolution targeted Western interests, particularly America; latter day Islamists or extremist groups target non-Muslims, ethnic groups like the Kurds, western interests and rival muslim groups; they have also resorted to terrorism to execute a global jihadist agenda, no thanks to the eruption of power struggle between Shiites and Sunni politicians in the Middle East.
The collapse of the Arab Spring largely because it was leaderless, fractious and so poorly managed, greatly inspired other Islamists or terrorist groups like ISIS, the Tuareg rebels, Al-Shabab and even Boko Haram, whose mission is to create Islamic caliphates in the volatile regions where they operate.
These terrorist organizations are now fighting conventional armies with some measure of success in Iraq, Syria, Mali, Somalia, Kenya and
Nigeria, because their arsenals are buoyed by arms funnelled from the looted armouries of North Africa, and parts of the Middle East countries they overran. The world is now at war with disparate groups of terrorists and Islamic organizations who are killing people indiscriminately for their selfish interests, not because they are that zealous for Islam as falsely claimed. Why would ISIS or Boko Haram, for instance, be killing Muslims if their motive is to further the cause of Islam?
The West created the present global scourge of terrorism because of its meddlesomeness in Arab affairs. Attempts by America and its allies to checkmate the advance of communism around the world, in the cold war years was the motive for propping up oppressive dictators in the oil-rich Middle East and North African regions (MENA). While the defence of capitalism might have been the underlying motive for America’s support for the Taliban Islamists when they chased the Soviets away from Afghanistan, it was never envisaged that the group would turn out to offer sanctuary for Osama bin Ladin, the arrow head of global terror, from where he launched the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.
The American administrations of President George Bush, (senior and junior), invaded Iraq ostensibly to dislodge Saddam Hussein, because he reportedly harboured weapons of mass destruction. But nothing of such was found after a very costly invasion. Though the late dictator posed a perennial threat to US interests in the Gulf region, with his invasion of Kuwait, the puppet regime the U.S. inaugurated after Saddam’s exit ran a government that alienated the large Sunni population, precipitating the current crisis in that country.
When President Barack Obama came to power, he decided to save a war-weary America from protracted foreign military expeditions. He wisely anchored his foreign policy on leading from behind; which meant the withdrawal of U.S. forces from foreign territories like Afghanistan and Iraq. Obviously, a good policy on paper because of the bitter lessons of Vietnam, but current realities is now forcing a rethink of that policy.
There are now a significant number of non-combatant American troops in Iraq as military advisers, backed by a U.S -led coalition that has continued to launch air strikes to check the advance of ISIS fighters.
However, given the limited success of this operation, it is only a matter of time before America deploys boots on the ground, if ISIS is to be degraded and destroyed, to use Obama’s phrases, as soon as possible.
The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq didn’t anticipate that the unsettled state, still grappling with post-Saddam reconciliation, would yield easily to sectarian violence, such that, its descent into chaos could give rise to the emergence of ISIS. The U.S. intelligence community failed to anticipate the speedy rise of the Islamic State terrorists in the manner we have witnessed. It also did not cross their wildest imaginations that the Arab Awakening could become such a failed project, which ironically, has created worse problems than it attempted to solve.
Hoshni Mubarak is out of power in Egypt, but another retired General, Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi has taken his place. Libya is polarized between armed groups and other militant tribesmen. Syria and Iraq are the battle grounds of ISIS and the embattled President Bashir Al-Assad, who is proving more difficult to remove because of covert support from Russia and Iran. The prognosis seems dire. Only Tunisia offers hope of a stable state in this Arab winter of discontent.
With the brutal slaughter of innocents in the vast areas it controls in northern Iraq and Syria, ISIS would have vanquished the captured territories where it planned to establish its caliphate, if not for the belated air strikes that Obama and the U.S coalition launched to halt their advance. With this bitter experience, it is doubtful if the democratic government the Americans have now installed in Afghanistan would be strong enough to prevent the Taliban from retaking that fragmented state after NATO forces depart finally. The continuation of terror strikes there is instructive, and signals the ugly shape of things to come. In fact, the ISIS experience may ultimately be re-enacted in the Afghanistan/Pakistan axis, despite Obamaâ’s latest plans to put an Intervention Force on standby.
Sadly, the Obama administration and its allies are only just packaging a cohesive plan to defeat ISIS and other extremist groups that have emerged in the aftermath of Western intervention in the MENA region.
Realizing that America cannot win these asymmetric foreign wars, the White House policy makers decided to use drone strikes to destroy terrorists in lands where Western interests are threatened. Though Obamaâ’s desire not to shed American blood abroad inspired the Special Forces that carried out the raid that killed Osama Bin Ladin, the Al-Shabab leaders and some of Al-Queada’s most dangerous commanders, yet global terror seems to be waxing stronger, suggesting that getting rid of the leaders does not necessarily destroy the terrorist organizations they lead.
With the continued beheading of Western aid workers and reporters by ISIS forces in retaliation for the air strikes that frustrate their campaigns, the Obama administration may be forced to lead from the frontline once again, since leading from behind now appears to be unrealistic in winning the latest terror war. After all, only a fool cannot change his mind.
That may have informed the last NATO initiative, championed by Obama, to destroy ISIS outright, through a more vigorous concerted military intervention that involved willing Arab countries. Beyond that, the Americans may have to, once again, put their boots on the ground much
like Operation Desert Storm to finish – off the ISIS forces that their policies created, through the needless war that eliminated Saddam; and their interventions in other nations that birthed this global terror war. The poor leadership that succeeded Saddam, delivered the Iraqi nation into the hands of a savage terror group, which is carrying out the worst form of genocide, never seen since the days of Adolf Hitler.
Now, with both U.S. legislative houses under the control of hostile Republicans, a Russia looking more menacing in eastern Ukraine, and a China which is becoming increasingly assertive, how will Mr. Obama get the strength to tackle these global challenges, mid-way into his
second term? This is not the best of times for a lame-duck president whose approval rating is at an all time low.
•Rev. Okotie is a Nigerian Presidential aspirant and one of the country’s elite gospel preachers.