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Changing America’s values: Terrorism’s most prominent victories

February 2, 2017 at 7:29 pm

The most prevalent beliefs about terrorism, embodied by Al-Qaeda, Daesh and their branches, are still the beliefs that they are seeking to establish an Islamic State or Caliphate, or at the very least impose sharia law.

The other most prevalent belief is that these goals cannot be achieved, neither by means of ideological weight nor by means of bloody force. The Iranian model of a state described as an Islamic state became prevalent by means of oppression and intimidation, as well as the use of Soviet, Chinese and North Korean methods to crush the people and kill their ambitions. Iran has used doctrinal incitement and its militias to create a pattern of foreign “conquests” based on penetrating societies and attacking the foundations of religious and ethnic co-existence, as well as the dispossession of governments, terminating armies, annihilating security and violating constitutions and laws.

As for the “Caliphate” declared by Daesh, which stems from Al-Qaeda, which, in turn, originates from the “Afghan-Arab” experience, it seems to be inspired by the Taliban experience and the government it imposed on Afghanistan before it was eliminated by the US along with a large international coalition. It is likely that Daesh’s “state” will suffer the same fate, despite the fact that there are remnants from Taliban, and there will probably be remnants of Daesh in Syria and Iraq, just as the remnants of Al-Qaeda exist in Yemen, Pakistan, Iran and Somalia after being expelled from Afghanistan.

The Iranian and Daesh models may converge or diverge and may cooperate or ally. The difference between them is that Iran is a state and Daesh is just an organisation, and that states can use organisations, but organisations cannot us states. Instead, they conflict when the state sees that its ability to use the organisation is on the verge of ending, which is what has happened in Mosul.

In addition to this, the state of Iran has recently had contact with a past archenemy, i.e. the Taliban, and it did not hesitate to use the Al-Qaeda remnants it hosts as channels of communication with Daesh in order to enable and guide the organisation nor did it rule out the means of co-existence with Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front), which emerged after publically pledging allegiance to the leader of Al-Qaeda. This is because both Jabhat Al-Sham and Daesh are considered two means to abort any solution to the Syrian crisis and the spearhead for the Iran-Assad resistance to the Russian-Turkish arrangements in Syria.

The most prominent similarity between these four parties (the Iranian and Syrian governments and Daesh and Al-Nusra) is that they use terrorist as a means of continuing to destroy Syria and control its existence and future as a unified state, apart from Russia’s intentions and projects. Iran is repeating the same scenario in Iraq with the People’s Mobilisation Forces and Daesh, even in light of the American role.

The Iranian and the Daesh-Qaeda models are similar in their open hostility towards America and in their rhetoric, which may differ in linguistics, but boil down to the same message, i.e. “upholding Islam and Muslims” and “defeating America”. However, these goals have so far achieved the opposite of what they had set out to do. This is why the Syrians, Iraqis and most of the Arab nations have the impression that there is a collective collusion, or at the very least, mutual interests made available by the emergence and spread of Daesh, which, along with its expansion and business, remain a mystery. The organisation was a motivation for America to come closer to the Syrian arena, which the Obama administration was cautious in dealing with. It was then an official justification for Russia’s direct intervention, which is gradually turning into a long stay in Syria. Before all of this, Iran contributed to the organisation’s creation and expansion and then built its alliance with the Bashar Al-Assad regime based on their war against the “takfirists” as an alternative and complement to its war against the “cosmic conspiracy”.

These two parties, along with European and Arab parties, reduced the Syrian issue to being a showdown between Al-Assad and Daesh. Someone with a state, in the name of which he murders with the use of chemical weapons and eliminates the people by means of massacres and besieging and destroying cities after starving its people remains more acceptable in the eyes of the international community than an organisation which claims to have a “state” and carry out beheadings, sets fire to its prisoners and bombs buildings. The truth is the organisation’s acts in every phase has shown that it has fought the resistance more than it fought the regime, and even followed the tactics used by the armed factions to seize control of areas. This supported the justification adopted by Russia recently when it reminded Al-Assad that it saved him and Syria from falling into the hands of terrorists. Never before have “state terrorism” and “non-state groups’” terrorism found a suitable environment in which they could harmonise as they are in Syria. They have also never found a mutual “enemy” to exercise all means of brutality before they found the Syrian people.

Daesh is certainly on the verge of being defeated in Iraq and it may meet the same fate in Al-Raqqa in a few months’ time, but terrorism is guaranteed to remain in Syria in the form of Al-Assad’s regime as long as foreign forces continue to back him and terrorism will remain in Iraq in the form of Iran’s domination and the People’s Mobilisation Force’s militias. However, terrorism had achieved one of its most important victories some time ago in the form of making the only superpower in the world lose its sense of reason, which is one of the reasons for the loss of America’s prestige and the so-called “eclipse of the West”. This is also one of the reasons Donald Trump is trying to restore “America’s greatness”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was the last to talk about the factors of decline. In her speech before members of the Republican party in Philadelphia on the eve of her meeting with Trump, she said that the “eclipse of the West” and “the rise of the Asian economies like China” occurred in coincidence with the financial crisis and its fall out, as well as a loss of confidence in the West following 9/11, the military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.” She said America and Britain could restore their leadership of the world provided that they do not “return to the failed policies of the past” and that “the days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.”

Al-Qaeda’s terrorism in 2001 was the most important test that challenged America on its own turf and provoked George W Bush and his administration. It seemed logical for him to deal with this terrorism like President Franklin Roosevelt did with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, i.e. by going to where Al-Qaeda was located in order to punish it and erase it off the face of the earth.

However, Afghanistan seemed to be an easy and available target and it was insufficient or disproportionate to the level of revenge America wanted. When America added another target, i.e. Iraq, its imbalance began domestically and even within the communities of allied nations abroad. Apart from the justifications and fabrications concocted to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the years that followed showed that the superpower was drowning in what mostly seemed to be a random path and in an unequal struggle with a terrorist organisation in which neither side achieved a decisive victory.

There is no doubt that what occurred after 9/11 weakened Al-Qaeda and caused it great losses, but it is an organisation and not a state, so it is not responsible for a nation, country, or borders, nor does it busy itself with counting its dead. Surely, when it planned its attacks, it did not calculate its results, which later exceeded its expectations, nor did it outline its goals. Even if it had done so, the organisation would not have been able to envision what it achieved, either due to Washington’s mistakes during the occupation, not only in Iraq but in the region in general, or due to the mistakes of the withdrawal in late 2011 and the policies that followed, which proved the continued imbalance in America’s performance. Such imbalance reached the extent of the Obama administration’s regression and led to worse results than the results caused by the George W Bush administration’s recklessness.

Although Obama was recently reminded that killing Osama Bin Laden was one of his most important achievements, it is clear that 16 years later, after the terrorist attacks, the two wars, the financial crisis, the continued rise of China, and the return of Russia to the forefront, the American society is in a completely different state of mind. America is no longer the America that the world knows and this paved the way for Donald Trump’s presidency. He is devoid of any values or responsibilities and is trying to overcome the “failed policies” and forget them; however, he remains committed to the ongoing conflict with terrorism and has vowed to eliminate it. Every time America cranks up the force against terrorism, new beginnings are written for it.

Translated from Arabi21, 2 February 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.