Talisman Gate

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sounding the Alarm, or Sounding Crazy?

November 1, 2005 Edition > Section: Opinion > Printer-Friendly Version

Sounding the Alarm

November 1, 2005URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/22365

ALERT: The pent-up frustrations of Sunni Islam - slowly simmering for three centuries - are about to burst. Brace yourselves for a decade of mayhem, bloodshed and the near-defeat of all that is civil and civilized. You think Iraq is bad, well, that is just the appetizer for the main entree: the all-out bid to resurrect the Islamic Empire. This is going to be bad, really bad. It may even involve nuclear warfare. Europe and Israel are going to get it almost as bad as the Shias.

History will record that democracy could have been the antidote to this ideological poison, but the dosage administered by the Bush administration was too little, too late. The jihadists will initially carry plenty of Muslim nihilists to their side as they score blitzkrieg raids and form mercurial Sunni triangles, trapezoids, and hexagons that eventually morph into an expansive state with a caliph as its ruler. To defeat this menace, America and much of the world that relies on the region's energy resources will sacrifice a generation of fighting men and pacific civilians. Did I mention that this will be really, really bad?

There is a fine line between being viewed as a crank or a visionary when peddling controversial visions of the future. Predictions often are a foolhardy business, especially if these fall in contravention of the consensus crowd. These days, my friends apologetically qualify me in respectable company as a colorful eccentric.

When I was an impressionable little boy, I watched a movie called "The Man Who Saw Tomorrow." It was narrated by Orson Welles and revolved around the prophesies of Nostradamus. For a young boy, the movie made a compelling argument that the 15th-century French seer got most of the events since his passing right, and then went on to discuss the parts of his prophecies, arranged in quatrains, that had not happened yet. In one of these, a man arises from the East (depicted in the movie as a Muslim) wearing a blue turban to challenge western civilization and engross the world in an apocalyptic war. I remember turning to my father in amazement, and asking, "But who would wear a blue turban?"

Blue turbans were simply not sartorially common throughout the ages in the Middle East, and this question has haunted my superstitious mind ever since. The only Muslims sporting something akin to a blue turban were the Tuareg of Africa's Central Sahara, where a virulent jihadist movement is prevailing. However, a man who had chosen the nom de guerre "Al-Zarqawi" in reference to his home town of Zarqa has emerged over the last three years. Zarqa in Arabic means "The Blue One" and Al-Zarqawi would chromatically infer "The Bluish One." There, I said it and now everyone knows my secret dread: Zarqawi (or the Zarqawi Phenomenon) was prophesied 500 years ago, and the Middle East, and plenty of Europe, is going to go up in smoke.

Okay, so citing the occult is not firming up the credibility of my case. But I wonder what the early signals of Nazism's latent evil looked like, and did anyone - as the aforementioned film suggests - point out that Nostradamus had predicted the ominous rise of Hitler? Here too, "Zarqawism" as a phenomenon - one that emerged on the radical fringe of the jihadist fringe - is building up the region's tolerance for violence, and imbibing Middle Eastern youth with the myth that Islamic fervor can fight a superpower's military to a standstill; Zarqawi is making Uncle Sam yell uncle.

The Mehlis report came out last week, and it was spun - by the Mehlis team itself and by other interested parties - as an indictment of the Syrian regime. The actual evidence cited by Mehlis to prove this claim is flimsy at best. It all revolved around the testimony of two witnesses; one thoroughly discredited to the point where he has been arrested as a probable source of disinformation, and the second witness falls under the category of "too good to be true." The only compelling part of the report was the excellent analysis of the cell phone communications that probably were related to the Hariri murder. But there are two ways to look at this information: either to find any way, even if far-fetched, to pin it on the Syrians, or to look at the political and cultural context within which these communications took place. Based on what came out in the Mehlis report, this conspiracy was plotted and hatched in a Sunni Lebanese bubble, surrounding the northern Lebanese town of Trablous.

Three weeks ago, a mixed Lebanese-Italian troupe of actors tried to bring the aesthetic wonders of the performing arts to those who cannot afford such luxuries in Trablous. It was to be a mobile mime show traversing the congested streets of the impoverished Bab Ar-Ramel neighborhood. A snickering and curious crowd quickly turned into a fire-breathing and furious mob. Somehow, the art of mime was interpreted by onlookers as a "Jewish ritual." The troupe had to escape under cover of the Lebanese security forces as chants of "Allah is great" enveloped them. This is one of the major centers of Sunni Lebanon, and it has been "Zarqawised."

I hear myself repeating the same argument I had disdained several months ago: that if you bring down dictatorships then the void will be filled by crazy Islamists. I have come to believe that Zarqawi's organization views an unstable Syria as the bigger and better base of operations for its strategic goals. Zarqawi's outfit in Iraq was jump-started by recruits and money from the Syrian fundamentalist networks that had survived the Assad regime's clampdown in the early. These radical Syrians are now hoping to recoup their exponential winnings in Iraq and divert jihadist assets to their homeland. There is evidence suggesting that this is exactly what is happening: the foreign fighters in Iraq are heading back to their native lands to metastasize the jihad. These islands of "Zarqawism" are inevitable in the very heart of Syria, and are stepping stones to a larger nightmare.

St. Peter's Mosque?

This pent-up Sunni fury has very little to do with the Iraq war but is rather driven by the sense of impotence in facing a rapidly changing and developing world while the Middle East is caught in a time warp. Thus, the shortcut to glory is to resurrect a romanticized vision of an Islamic Empire. To understand why the Iraq war did not start or enable this movement, one should look at one of its most ambitious goals: conquering Rome. There is a revelation attributed to the Prophet Muhammad that both Byzantium's Constantinople and Italy's Rome would be occupied by victorious Muslim armies. Indeed, such armies managed to turn the seat of the Orthodox Christian faith at Constantinople's St. Sophia into a mosque some 600 years ago, and now the jihadists have plans to add a minaret to St. Peter's, thus forever changing the Vatican skyline. This is what we are dealing with, and it should be taken seriously.

America is the only nation that would have the wherewithal to do something about this impending danger but its political class is too absorbed in vengeful partisan blood-lust for what is perceived to be a failure of policy in Iraq. For the time being, while awaiting doom, I can only hope that I am indeed a quaint eccentric and that Nostradamus got it wrong.

Mr. Kazimi is an Iraqi writer living in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at nibraska@yahoo.com

November 1, 2005 Edition > Section: Opinion >