Talisman Gate

Monday, November 20, 2006

Al-Muhajir's Evil Presence

November 20, 2006 Edition > Section: Opinion >

Al-Muhajir's Evil Presence


November 20, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/43815

The bad guys are now celebrating the Democratic Party's sweep of Congress in the belief that the American electorate has pronounced its verdict on the grand visions of the neoconservatives — the fall guys for what is hyperbolically called the "catastrophe in Iraq." The most compelling example of this jubilation has been the audio message released by the current head of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the elusive Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, who read the election results as a victory for his dark cause. At this stage, as the Democrats articulate their plan for Iraq, they need to ponder why evil men are hailing their anti-war talking points.

Middle Eastern autocracies and the American bureaucracies that deal with them share a similar dislike for change in any form. Taking out Saddam Hussein meant bestowing equal rights upon the Shiite and Kurdish underdogs and beginning a democratic experiment — one that would be a model for all the despots in the region and empower other restless minorities, or so the neoconservatives thought. To jihadists such as al-Muhajir, resurgent Shiism and the allure of freedom for Arab and Muslim youth are stumbling blocks to their drive to establish a caliphate, one that is propelled by sectarian hatred and nihilist frustration with the ossified order. The tyrants and terrorists found a convenient echo chamber within American partisan politics in their effort to snuff out the new Iraq and turn it into an embarrassment for President Bush.

Coming in rapid succession, Saddam was sentenced to hang by an Iraqi court in Baghdad, and the neoconservatives are due to be lynched by an angry Washingtonian mob. Draping a noose around Saddam's deserving neck had been the vision of many neoconservatives, but now they must face their own reckoning for tinkering with the status quo in the Middle East. The allegation against them, made by many in Washington, is that the neoconservatives deliberately brought Iraq to ruin by deliberately seeking to liberate it. The role played by the likes of al-Muhajir is conveniently glossed over.

Nevertheless, the Democrats and the antiwar camp must have felt a little queasy when al-Muhajir noisily crashed their post-election partying. His message to the American people was one of commendation for "putting their steps on the right path out of this quagmire" and electing Mr. Bush's opponents and discrediting the "Israel gang"— read, the neoconservatives — around the president.

The Democrats may not as yet have a real plan to fix Iraq, but al-Muhajir is brimming with ideas: Al Qaeda is grooming a caliph to do war against the heretical Persians, turn the Mediterranean into an Islamic lake, kill more American soldiers, and generally win the war on terror for the side of the bad guys.

Beyond the theatrics of denouncing Mr. Bush as "the stupidest president the nation of slaves and drugs [America] had ever known" and threatening to blow up the White House, al-Muhajir's message is important on many practical counts. He positions Al Qaeda as the defender of Sunnis not only in Iraq, but also across the region in facing down the Shiite menace. He warns that Mr. Bush's actions in Afghanistan and Iraq have enabled the Persians, that is to say the Iranians, to expand the writ of the Shiite "heresy" into these traditionally Sunni domains, and beyond, to Syria and Lebanon. Al-Muhajir even takes the rising stardom of Shiite Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to task by referring to him derisively as "Nasr-Al-Lat," literally, the Victory of Lat, with Lat being a pre-Islamic pagan deity, implying that Nasrallah is not a Muslim.

But what is most surprising in al-Muhajir's message is his belief that what he perceives as America's imminent military retreat from Iraq has brought an end to one of the "phases of jihad." This is an occasion for al-Muhajir to herald a new phase: the establishment of the caliphate. Al-Muhajir pledges allegiance to the hitherto unheard of "Abu Omar al-Baghdadi." The glaring hint that he is indeed Al Qaeda's candidate for the job of caliph is al-Muhajir's insistence on highlighting al-Baghdadi's Hashemite pedigree — a traditional must-have for any would-be caliph.

Al-Muhajir also pledges the allegedly 12,000-strong "Army of Al Qaeda" and their 10,000 reservists to fight under al-Baghdadi's banner to the death. Oddly enough, there is no mention of Osama bin Laden, who is not a Hashemite. But probably al-Muhajir sees bin Laden as a relic of the past, just like America's presence in Iraq, and consequently he really doesn't have a role to play in this current phase of the jihad.

And where is the current phase going? To Spain, naturally. For al-Muhajir vows not to rest until he is shaded by the "olive groves of Rumiyyeh," which in this context means the lands of Christendom, or at least the olive growing parts of it.

Al-Muhajir's plans are a timely reminder of what we are up against as the debate over what to do in Iraq gets underway. But it is not only Al Qaeda that sees Iraq as a launching pad for larger designs: The Islamic Army of Iraq, a homegrown insurgent group, issued a communiqué on November 10 claiming to have launched three attacks on the American military in retaliation for Israel's attack on Beit Hanoun in the West Bank. The group states that "the battles in Iraq and Palestine are one" and that the "Cross-worshippers [Christians] had planted [Israel]" in the Middle East, and hence killing Americans is equivalent to killing Israelis. The Islamic Army of Iraq is allegedly negotiating with American officials in Amman, but how far can the talks proceed if the insurgents insist on taking the fight to Israel?

Sadly, what has been lost on the American public is the relationship between cause and effect in Iraq. Graphics in major American newspapers compare electricity output and oil production under Saddam to the current numbers in Iraq to demonstrate a stark degradation in services. What is missing is the "cause" that the likes of al-Muhajir and the Baathists have been "effecting" to achieve those stats. This perception gap is happening because there seems to be a reluctance endemic among American journalists and a comfort-obsessed American public to take a long, hard look at the very nature of the enemy. Most major newspapers chose to keep al-Muhajir away from the main page so as not to crowd the "Iraq is failing" angle.

This evasion of reality has resulted in the bizarre situation, where describing the enemy as evil is somehow not politically correct, even after September 11, the graphic beheadings, and al-Muhajir's words, while tagging the neoconservatives as nefarious is a journalistic standard.

But the enemy is evil nonetheless. There will not be a let-up if you meet the terrorists' demands. Al-Muhajir flaunts his evil for all to hear when he says that "we have not yet quenched our thirst" for American blood. Whether the American public, or the Democrats, choose to hear him or not at this stage is beyond the point: Al-Muhajir plans to make his evil presence felt and soon. And it will be painful — if Al Qaeda's declaration of victory in Iraq is left unchallenged.

Mr. Kazimi can be reached at nibraska@yahoo.com

November 20, 2006 Edition > Section: Opinion >

Monday, November 06, 2006

Something Is Changing

November 6, 2006 Edition > Section: Opinion >

Something Is Changing


November 6, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/42946

Lately, I've been hearing worrisome things about the Iraq Study Group. James Baker, the co-chairman of this congressionally mandated bipartisan body, reportedly is going to recommend some radical strategic changes in America's Iraq policy. But my worries were laid to rest last week when President Bush made it very clear that he is indeed staying the course, even though he put some rhetorical distance between himself and the loaded catchphrase.

According to multiple sources, the Baker report, to be released late November, will counsel burying the "democracy as stability" doctrine for the Middle East and also recommend opening lines of communication with Iraqi insurgents and their cheerleaders in Iran and Syria. Furthermore, the Saudis will be brought in to "fix" Iraq — just as they were asked to step in and fix Lebanon in the early 1990s.

The report, arriving at a politically melodramatic moment for Mr. Bush's political opponents at home, will likely find favor among foreign opponents to Mr. Bush's vision for the Middle East. But Mr. Bush, whose instincts are commonsensical, is likely to send the report back with some pertinent questions scribbled in the margins:

Jim, prove to me that abandoning democracy will result in stability. And how does one go about actually abandoning Iraq's democracy?

Theoretically, there is the "strong man option": An American-backed candidate would replace current Prime Minister al-Maliki by forming an emergency "national unity government." The favored "strong man" is Ayad Allawi, the darling of Mr. Baker's friends in the Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms and in the Central Intelligence Agency. They hoped that Mr. Allawi would succeed through the ballot box, and to this end, the rulers of Abu Dhabi subsidized a portion of his election campaign. Yet Mr. Allawi — whose previous tenure as prime minister was marred by massive corruption and terrorist infiltration into the security arms of the state — failed to pick up enough votes. Since then, Mr. Allawi has attended only a handful of parliamentary sessions, preferring to stay in London where it is said that he is in ailing health.

Then there is the related option of a military coup. The only problem is that no coup can be pulled off without the American military being directly complicit. No Iraqi officer can move a tank 100 meters in any direction without the go-ahead of an American counterpart. Unless, of course, the Americans turn a blind eye to what's happening. But what if the moderates such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani rally regular folk, the same ones who heroically voted twice last year, against a coup? Will the American military fire upon crowds upholding the constitution? Again, this is not a realistic option: There are too many powerful political and societal forces that would fight against a return to one-man rule.

Jim, if we start negotiating with the insurgents and offer them a general amnesty, can they deliver a cease-fire?

The two most dynamic forces behind the insurgency, those Baathists still bound to Saddam Hussein and the hard-core jihadists such as Al Qaeda, will never sit at the table with the Americans. It is they who are conducting the most spectacular and painful of all the violent incidents. Yet they are utterly detached from reality by the fantasy of total victory — they will keep going no matter what. On the contrary, they will interpret America's change of heart as a sign that total victory is near. The Saddamists are dreaming of a return to power, and the jihadists are working toward a caliphate. They rightly believe that America will not bargain on either count, so why should they work toward reaching a compromise when their hoped-for outcomes are perceived as inevitable?

Jim, you've spoken to your Saudi friends, and taken into account what the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Qataris, and others have been saying. But really, why should their opinion matter?

There are four current and emerging power players in the Middle East: Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Others matter foremost in Washington, but they are not significant leaders in the Middle East. Egypt, once a flashy leader, is today a rotting carcass of a state. Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain are too small; they are leaves in the wind. Even the Saudis, with all their money and near-total control over the Arabic media, are failing to prop up their acolytes in tiny Lebanon and save their long-term project there. The same could be said about Syria and its failure to keep Beirut in its orbit. Turkey, Israel, and Iran carry real cultural, economic, and military heft.

Overall, the agendas of most of these countries, both the ones that matter and the ones that don't, are closer to the insurgents than to the Bush administration. They fear a democratic and strong Iraq that is morally allied with America's new vision for the region. They have done much, each in its own way, to undermine this vision. Why would their self-serving advice be valuable in safeguarding America's interests? And do they have what it takes to "fix" Iraq, when they can't fix themselves and defuse their own ticking time bombs?

Jim, if I follow your recommendations, will my political opponents here at home get off my back?

Yeah, right. Backing an oppressive military junta in Baghdad will go down really well with the Bush haters. Their personal antipathy toward the president prevented them from getting on board with the lofty goal of bringing freedom to the Middle East, for heaven's sake! Right now, credible press reports indicate that someone in the American government is negotiating with an insurgent group called the Islamic Army in Iraq, which recently released a jubilant snuff video depicting 27 American soldiers getting shot by a sniper. They go on to claim that they've killed 668 American soldiers during the last year alone. Will the American public stomach negotiations with insurgents who openly gloat that they have American blood on their hands?

But Jim, there is one thing I'd like to know and that is why did Lieutenant Mohammad Hikmet al-Badrani, a young Iraqi Sunni from Mosul, keep firing his weapon when attacked by the insurgents two weeks ago, and why did he give up his life for a new Iraq?

It is easy for journalists to ride the "Iraq is failing" wave and churn out the safe stories that tell us that all is bad. It is much harder for them to make sense of why so many Iraqi policemen and soldiers are fighting back when attacked rather than dropping their weapons and cowering for safety. Something is changing in Iraq, and it is happening despite the serial bungling of Mr. Maliki's government or the incessant predictions of an American withdrawal. It is happening because more and more Iraqis understand what is at stake should those murderous insurgents win.

Would Lieutenant Badrani have cut and run had he been aware of Mr. Baker's wobbly recommendations? I don't think so. And I don't think that Mr. Bush's resolve on this long course ahead will fail either.

Mr. Kazimi can be reached at nibraska@yahoo.com

November 6, 2006 Edition > Section: Opinion >