Why are we Spectators as Terrorists Threaten our Homes?

  • 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.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Guest Commentary

First they came for the Palestinians and I did not act – because I was not a Palestinian.
Then they came for the Lebanese – and I did not act – because I was not a Lebanese.
Then they came for the Syrians and the Iraqis – and I did not act because I was not Syrian or Iraqi.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to defend me.

ISIL, ISIS, IS, who cares what this group of a few thousand sick killers calls itself! Today, this depraved following are celebrating their ‘Caliphate’, stretching from eastern Iraq to Aleppo and led by Iraqi national Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi who is demanding that all Muslims pledge their allegiance to him. This is nothing but sacrilege, smearing the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs – Abu Bakr, Umar bin Al-Khattab, Uthman and Ali bin Abi Taleb Talib – whose wisdom created Islam’s Golden Age. Al-Baghdadi is nothing but a criminal who is ruthlessly using the romanticism associated with a Caliphate to attract new recruits from a global swamp of weak-minded losers out to translate violent video games into real life.

ISIS is the black sheep of the Al Qaeda franchise and so are all the other terrorist gangs in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Lebanon desecrating Islam to grab power, wealth and territory. They may be small in numbers, but together they present the biggest threat to the stability and security of our region.
I’ve been raising this issue with Arab leaderships for years in the fervent hope that they would act to stem this disease before it took root. And now when those blood-stained fanatics are knocking on our doors and infiltrating our shores, they are finally opening their eyes to the danger.

It’s a tragedy that with all the Arab world’s combined military might, air power, intelligence capabilities and influence, we’ve stood back allowing those infidels hiding under the banner of Islam to proliferate and organise sleeper cells in our own countries. It’s beyond belief that mere thousands of sword-touting primitives, who think decapitating, crucifying and torturing is entertainment, can terrorise 500 million Arabs or scare the Maliki Army into running away like rabbits. If someone had predicted this state of affairs a few years ago, I would have laughed in his face.

Some perspective is needed. I believe there’s more to this than meets the eye. As regards Iraq, there’s more than enough blame to go round beginning of course with the US invasion in 2003 that led to one mistake after the other on the part of the US occupier, such as the disbanding of the army, the ousting of Baathists from government positions and the Lebanisation of the political sphere which placed the country in the hands of an Iranian puppet.

Prime Minister Al-Maliki had free rein to implement sectarian policies as soon as he waved goodbye to the last of the coalition forces, leaving the Sunni population oppressed, marginalised, deprived of rights and opportunities – and humiliated. Out of concern for his seat – and no doubt with the blessing of his masters in Tehran – he deliberately weakened the army and air force, which were stuffed with inexperienced Shiites and starved of airplanes, helicopters and equipment.

What’s occurring now is in reaction to this tyrant’s small-minded selfishness. This is a Sunni uprising involving tribes and former Baathists, who not so long ago assisted the government in ousting Al Qaeda, but now sick of broken promises and Iranian interference, they are taking advantage of the firepower wielded by ISIS to take down their enemy in Baghdad. Once ISIS, operating as a mercenary force in Iraq, has served its purpose, Iraq’s Sunnis will send the terrorists packing, just as they did with Al Qaeda and as the Free Syrian Army is doing in Syria by taking on ISIS and another of Al Qaeda’s spawn Jabhat al-Nusra there. ISIS may be bloodthirsty but it’s not nearly as powerful as its effective propaganda machine would have us believe.

Predictably, the Iraq crisis has triggered calls to divide the country into three, which was the plan of neoconservatives advising George W. Bush in 2003, a plan to defang this once powerful Arab country to reshape Israel’s environment that was set-out in a white paper titled “Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. Echoing that was Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent support for an independent Kurdish State – and, by the way, the Kurds are already selling oil that belongs to all Iraqis to Israel. When will the Arab World devise a strategy for securing our realm? With ISIS announcing they’ll soon be expanding into Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, what are we waiting for?

Time for some plain speaking! How was it that the War on Terror became a terrorist incubator, not only in Iraq but elsewhere? Is there a plot to destabilize Arab States to prevent the rise of Arab nationalism, to ensure the longevity of US bases in the area, to keep Israelis sleeping peacefully while all the time keeping control over regional resources? Are we to imagine that the mighty superpower and its western allies are impotent? Should we believe that the US and NATO are too feeble to quash ISIS and its cohorts underfoot like ants if they so willed? Satellites pinpoint their exact locations; drones can send them to hell without risk to pilots. Some are happy to oblige TV reporters with interviews, so I really have to wonder whether they’re being left alive for the express purpose of threatening our existence.

I have no concrete answers but I do know this. We in the GCC must take responsibility for our neighbourhood, beginning with a clear definition of who constitutes an enemy and who is a friend. We should erase the words ‘diplomacy’ and ‘diplomatic courtesy’ from our dictionary when dealing with foreign nations because beneath all their sweet talk are only interests; their interests.

The Arabian Gulf States, faced with the same threats, must remain united and produce a joint agenda on ways of protecting their respective states without having to rely on Western allies that have proved to be unreliable.

I would further ask our leaders not to only rely on advisors on foreign policy, but also to consult with prominent citizens who’ve proved successful in building their country’s future. We must put our heads together to find ways of stopping GCC States from becoming corridors through which terrorists and militias move between Arab countries and places where they hide their funds. We must bolster our respective militaries, improve intelligence sharing, and fund our own research centres specialising in political science and military strategic planning staffed by proven experts in their field; individuals capable of thinking out of the box on how to overcome the challenges before us. We must be empowered by solid information and analyses to make effective decisions serving our interests, instead of being blown around like straws in the wind by gusts from outside.

Lastly, I would strongly urge all Gulf Cooperation Council member states and their Arab allies, such as Egypt and Jordan, to refuse absolutely the division of Iraq into three. And in the event this plan is put into effect, then we must take all necessary political, economic and military measures to halt its implementation. Be ready and alert! Flex your muscles and show your power with military parades and the issuance of real red lines not easily erasable meaningless smudges before it’s too late.

  • 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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