[Marxism] Fwd: In the Middle East, our enemy's enemy must be our friend - Voices - The Independent

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Apr 12 16:41:05 MDT 2015

On 4/12/15 6:20 PM, Andrew Pollack wrote:
> where's the original Cockburn article?


Since the Independent has a 5 article limit per month (or something like 
that), let me post the entire article:

In the Middle East, our enemy's enemy must be our friend
Al-Qaeda-type movements are gaining ground, and there's only one way to 
stop them

Sunday 12 April 2015

The ghost of Osama bin Laden will have been chuckling this month as he 
watches the movements he inspired conquer swathes of the Middle East. He 
will be particularly gratified to see fighters from Al-Qaeda in the 
Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) storm into Al Mukalla, the capital of Yemen’s 
eastern province of Hadhramaut from which the bin Laden family 
originated before making their fortune in Saudi Arabia.
As happened in Mosul, Iraq last summer when the Iraqi army fled before a 
jihadi attack, Yemeni government soldiers abandoned their bases in Al 
Mukalla leaving US Humvees and other military equipment. Earlier, AQAP 
had seized the central prison in the city and freed 300 prisoners, 
including Khaled Batarfi, one of the most important jihadi leaders in Yemen.

It is a measure of the severity of the multiple crises engulfing the 
region that AQAP, previously said by the United States to be the most 
dangerous branch of al-Qaeda, can capture a provincial capital without 
attracting more than cursory attention in the outside world. How 
different it was on 2 May 2011 when President Obama and much of his 
administration had themselves pictured watching the helicopter raid on 
Abbottabad, Pakistan where bin Laden was killed. The grandstanding gave 
the impression that his death meant that the perpetrators of 9/11 had 
finally been defeated.

Protesters in Washington march near the White House last week Protesters 
in Washington march near the White House last week (AP)
But look at the map today as unitary Muslim states dissolve or weaken 
from the north-west frontier of Pakistan to the north-east corner of 
Nigeria. The beneficiaries are al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda inspired groups 
which are growing in power and influence. The US and its allies 
recognise this, but cannot work out how to prevent it.

“It’s always easier to conduct counter-terrorism when there’s a stable 
government in place,” said the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, 
rather plaintively, last week. “That circumstance obviously doesn’t 
exist in Yemen.”

You can say that again. Mr Carter sounded a little put out that 
“terrorists” have not chosen well-ordered countries such as Denmark or 
Canada in which to base themselves, and are instead operating in 
anarchic places like Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia, where there 
is no government to stop them. Suddenly, the drone war supposedly 
targeting leaders and supporters of al-Qaeda in Yemen, Pakistan and 
Somalia is exposed as the politically convenient irrelevance it always 
was. In fact, it was worse than an irrelevance, because the use of 
drones, and periodic announcements about the great success they were 
having, masked America’s failure to develop an effective policy for 
destroying al-Qaeda in the years since 9/11.

Al Mukalla was not the only victory of an al-Qaeda affiliate in recent 
weeks. In northern Syria, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, 
led an attack force of between 4,000 and 5,000 jihadis to capture the 
provincial capital of Idlib whose Syrian army garrison was overwhelmed. 
Saudi sources revealed that Saudi Arabia and Turkey had both given their 
backing to Jabhat al-Nusra and other extreme jihadis in seizing Idlib.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states seem intent on rebranding Jabhat 
al-Nusra and its clones as wholly different from Islamic State (Isis) 
and therefore acceptable as a potential ally. Al-Nusra may not publicly 
revel in its own atrocities as does Isis, but otherwise it differs 
little from it in ideology and tactics. Created by Isis in 2012, it 
split from the parent movement and fought a bloody inter-rebel civil war 
against it in early 2014, but today there are worrying signs of 
cooperation. According to accounts from the Syrian opposition, it was 
al-Nusra that allowed Isis fighters to take over in recent days most of 
Yarmouk Palestinian camp a few miles from the centre of Damascus.

For all the billions of dollars spent on security since 9/11, the 
tedious searches at airports, the restrictions on civil liberties, 
tolerance of torture – not to mention the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – 
the so-called “war on terror” is being very publicly lost. The heirs of 
9/11 are far stronger than ever. As argued previously in this column, 
there are seven wars going on in Muslim countries between Pakistan and 
Nigeria and in all of them al-Qaeda-type movements are gaining in 
strength or are already strong. It would be astonishing if these 
conflicts did not at some point produce extreme violence in nearby 
countries such as the massacre of Christian students by Somali gunmen in 
Kenya or the killing of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, police and Jewish 
shoppers in Paris. Given that there are 2.8 million Muslims in Britain, 
4.1 million in Germany and 5 million in France, al-Qaeda-type movements 
are bound to find some supporters.

What should be done? The only way of dealing with Isis, al-Qaeda and 
other jihadi movements is in the countries where they flourish. The 
great mistake after 9/11 was for Washington to absolve Saudi Arabia of 
responsibility – though 15 of the 19 hijackers, bin Laden himself, and 
much of the money spent on the operation came from Saudi Arabia – as 
well as Pakistan, which had propelled bin Laden’s hosts, the Taliban, 
into power in Afghanistan.

Once again al-Qaeda-type movements are not being targeted effectively 
despite their many enemies. This failure can best be explained by a 
saying popular a few months ago among western politicians and diplomats 
to explain their policy in Syria and Iraq. This was “the enemy of my 
enemy is not necessarily my friend”.

Few of those who pronounced these glib but shallow words had thought 
them through or appreciated that, if this was indeed the policy of the 
US, Britain and their allies, then there is no way the Isis, Jabhat 
al-Nusra or AQAP can be defeated. In Yemen, the Houthis are the 
strongest military force opposing AQAP, but since we support Saudi 
Arabia in its air campaign against the Houthis we are ensuring a 
situation in which AQAP will be able to expand. Since the Saudis’ stated 
aim is to restore to power President Abd-Rabbu Hadi, who has almost no 
support (those described as his supporters are mostly southern 
secessionists), the chief beneficiary of prolonged war will be AQAP.

In Syria, similarly, “the enemy of our enemy” and the strongest military 
force is the Syrian army, though it shows signs of weakening after four 
years of war. But if we have decided that US air power is not to be used 
against Isis or Jabhat al-Nusra when they are fighting the Syrian army 
because we want to get rid of President Bashar al-Assad, then this is a 
decision that benefits Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra and extreme jihadis. In 
Iraq the situation is less dire because, although there is a pretence of 
not cooperating with the Shia militias, in practice the US had been 
launching air strikes on the same Isis positions these militia are 
attacking on the ground. The reality is that it is only by supporting 
“the enemy of my enemy” that the expansion of al-Qaeda and its 
lookalikes can be beaten back and the movement defeated.

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