Middle Eastern Perspectives on 9/11

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    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Middle East In Focus

Ten years since that fateful day in September, commentators and editorials have begun reflecting on the significance of the events of 9/11 as well as taking stock of the changes that resulted. Inevitably, much of the analysis takes into account the political shifts in the Arab world as well as the collapse of the global economy.

One of the strongest statements on the eve of the tenth anniversary comes from Mshari Al-Zaydi  in an article Asharq Alawsat. He asks whether “the Al Qaeda decade [is] over. This is the year of the so-called, ‘Arab Spring’, and so Al Qaeda can go to hell! Today we are the children of the ‘Arab Spring,’ we are the supporters of democracy, freedom, equality, and the rights of modern Arab citizens. Do you not see how the Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans, Yemenis, and Syrians revolted for freedom and the modern civil state? Where are Osama Bin Laden, [Ayman] al-Zawahiri, [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi, [Yusuf] al-Ayiri, [Abdel Aziz] al-Muqrin and others? This is what many Arab writers cheered, even some western writers, including those that said that the Arabs and the Muslims, or at least some of them, have now left the column of sympathizing with calls for religious violence.”

Likewise, Yasser Khalil reflects at Khaleej Times on whether 10 years later the terrorists have won or not… “While the terrorists achieved the physical destruction they set out to create, they failed to accomplish their goal of inciting all-out hatred between Muslims and the West. As such, on this 10th anniversary of 9/11, the most fitting legacy would be to reach out to our neighbors and to those who are different from us. Additionally, inter-religious dialogue flourished. Prominent leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths met with one another and expressed the desire for positive coexistence. Such initiatives were a significant step toward global dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Looking at all the events that have taken place over the past decade, it is clear that, though terrorists may have succeeded in committing a crime, they failed to achieve their goal.

In another article at Asharq Alwasat, Amir Taheri writes, “Ten years after the event, people are still debating its ideological provenance. To those who have made a career of blaming every evil on Islam, the 9/11 tragedy was the inevitable fruit of its authors’ faith. To others, the raids might appear more Nietzschean than Islamic: the fruit of hubris and the cult of action. At the time, Al Qaeda presented 9/11 as the second stage of a strategy that, so it claimed, had destroyed one of the two ‘superpowers’ of the modern world, the Soviet Union. In that second stage, it was the turn of the United States, the remaining ‘superpower,’ to collapse. That has not happened and looks unlikely to happen anytime soon. If anything, 9/11 boosted the sense of patriotism among most Americans in the same way that the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor did six decades earlier. In other words, what does not kill me makes me stronger.”

But not all views expressed are equally complimentary of the United States or even go so far as to point the finger at the United States for having overreacted to the threat of terrorism.  Seif Somalya commenting at Arab News on the events believes, “9/11 had profound effect on U.S. politics and the way the U.S. policymakers see the rest of the world. 9/11 resulted in many civil liberties being curtailed or suspended in the name of security and illegal increased surveillance on suspects, which included famous public servants. Now we come to know that as a result of 9/11 many unholy alliances were forged. Most recently we know that MI5, the CIA and Qaddafi’s intelligence services indulged in rendition of suspects who were tortured and eliminated. While those 3,000 innocent lives which were lost in those 9/11 terrorist attacks are being remembered and mourned on its anniversary, nobody seems to talk about the millions who perished and were maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan as a direct consequence of 9/11.”

In an article at Gulf Times, staff writers ask for greater accountability for US leaders in light of recent revelations related to rendition flights, adding, “As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks looms, the dark side of the so-called War on Terror initiated by President George W. Bush and supported by British Prime Minister Tony Blair is back under the spotlight. It should be. When Barack Obama became president, the American public was war-weary and was tormented instead by the global financial crisis. He decided that the time had come to tone down the belligerent rhetoric emanating from Washington. He sought to become conciliatory rather than confrontational. A ‘landmark’ speech in Cairo to address the Muslim world was designed to build bridges demolished by his predecessor, but there is little discernible evidence to suggest a meaningful policy shift.”

From Israel, much of the commentary reflects the country’s own experience before 9/11 and since.  At the Jerusalem Post, Uri Bar-Lev shares his insights on how to fight terror in a post 9/11 world… “Israel is capable of teaching the world a few things in this area, but we cannot lose our sense of proportion. It is not a war between nations, but rather one between values, between culture. There is a need to make the war on terror more effective and efficient. It should be smaller, smarter, more flexible and more sophisticated, rather than enormous, expensive and unwieldy. We need to start preparing for the coming war instead of for the wars we’ve already fought. We are in a new age, one entirely different and more dangerous than the last. We cannot afford to flinch in the face of this new reality. The leader of the free world is the US. Both before 9/11 and after. The US is the seat of power, and all roads pass through it. At the end of the day, the aircraft carrier will turn around and head off in the right direction at full steam.”

Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist writing for the Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth, insists that the world must not forget “Israel’s 9/11. What can be worse than 9/11? What Israelis have experienced in the months immediately before and after the destruction of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. If 3,000 Americans have been killed in a single horrible morning commemorated by the world, Israel has a very different Ground Zero, day after day, one suicide bomber after another. In some ways the terrorism suffered by Israel has been worse than 9/11. September 11 should be remembered forever as a turning point in world history. The Israeli civilians should be honored with the same global sorrow and respect.”

Finally, others have pointed out that it is not clear that the struggle against terrorist organization is due to be over any time soon. Montasir el-Zayat writing for the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm, asks “why jihadists will keep on attacking America?” El-Zayat points out, “It appears that Americans believe Arab nations feel grateful to the US after the success of their peaceful revolutions, which toppled their despotic leaders whose friendship with the US was no secret. Despotic Arab leaders were often allies of the US, followers or even servants of US policies. Peaceful protests may indeed be an appropriate vehicle of change when a nation wants to bring down a despotic regime. However, this method of change may not be fitting when addressing US arrogance, its occupation of Arab and Muslim land and its absolute bias towards Israel at the expense of legitimate Arab rights. The conditions that produced the 9/11 attacks, therefore, remain unchanged and will likely generate other similar attacks in other places in the future. Jihadist movements will also continue to produce copycats of Bin Laden. Al-Qaeda has managed to spread feelings of fear within American society and in the societies of its allies.”


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Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at info@mepc.org.


  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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