More Expert Voices on Political Islamists and the Dangers of Current Policy

More Expert Voices on Political Islamists and the Dangers of Current Policy

 There is a lot of sensible analysis out there by experts and practitioners on the dangers of continuing the current failed policies in the Middle East — if you look hard enough.  Below are snippets from Gary Kamiya and Alistair Crooke.

Gary Kamiya is consistently producing the most thoughtful analysis on the region at  In a piece entitled “Leave the Muslim world alone,” Kamiya had this to say:

It is long past time for America to grasp that Bush”s decision to pound the Muslim world into submission — not just in Iraq, but in Lebanon and in Palestine — is not the solution, it is the problem. We have turned an entire region, and the adherents of one of the three largest religions in the world, against America and everything that it represents, including democracy. As if in a nightmare, our actions have multiplied the demons of apocalyptic religious terrorism they were intended to destroy.


Jihadists need their American boogeyman as much as Bush needs his Islamist boogeyman…

It is not possible to surgically separate the jihadists, who are our real enemy, from the nationalists and anti-Americans, who make up the bulk of the region”s population. Most Arabs and Muslims despise the jihadists. But by attacking the Muslim world, we have turned them into anti-American heroes.

What holds true for jihadists is doubly true for complex militant organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. Most of the world”s Muslims see these groups, which Bush and his neocon brain trust lumps in with al-Qaida, as legitimate national liberation or resistance movements, and are enraged that the U.S. has tried to starve or bomb them into submission. American support for Israel”s war on Lebanon last summer greatly weakened our already abysmal standing in the region, and strengthened al-Qaida and its ilk.

By conflating jihadists with militant, religiously oriented national liberation movements like Hamas, Bush has not only undercut the support we might otherwise have received from Arab populations for police operations against genuine jihadists, he has helped to create toxic new forms of anti-Western extremism. Indeed, the most damaging result of Bush”s crudely undifferentiated “war on terror” may be that he has succeeded in creating the dangerous, mixed-up jihadist-nationalist boogeyman that he set out to destroy. If al-Qaida-like groups manage to get a foothold in Lebanon or Gaza — and there are ominous signs that they are — the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the world”s most dangerous and intractable problem, may become completely unsolvable.

After we leave Iraq, as we inevitably will, we need to do three things to fight the “war on terror” effectively. First, we need to ratchet down our apocalyptic and moralistic rhetoric and recognize the jihadist enemy”s true, relatively modest dimensions. This ain”t no Soviet Union we”re fighting here — it”s a bunch of guys in caves. Second, we need to use military force as a last resort. As Iraq has shown, occupation and war create more jihadis than they capture or kill. Instead, we need to use intelligence and police forces to break up jihadist terror networks. Finally, we need to address both the Arab/Muslim world”s self-created pathologies and its legitimate grievances, both of which contribute to jihadism. War supporters make much of the pathologies, but have almost nothing to say about the grievances — chief among them the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the greatest source of Arab/Muslim rage against America.

In the London Review of Books, Crooke suggests that current US-led international policy is “attempting to ensure Fatah’s continued hold on power, they risk schism, renewed violence, and a fracturing of the Palestinian body politic for years to come.”

Alistair Crooke is a former special Mid-East adviser to European Union High Representative, Javier Solana and former staff member on President Clinton”s Fact Finding Committee, led by Senator Mitchell into the causes of the intifada.  Having direct experience of conflict over a period of 30 years including in Ireland, South Africa, and Afghanistan, hehas facilitated various Israeli-Palestinian ceasefires during 2001-2003, including mediating in the negotiations that led to the ceasefire declared by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in June 2003. 

Further on in his article, he takes a fascinating look at the internal dynamics inside Islamist groups:

The problem for Hamas is that its constituency – the rank and file – and the wider Islamist movement have now embarked on a period of introspection. What is apparent – and this can be ascertained on any number of Islamist websites – is that the mainstream Islamist strategy of pursuing an electoral path to reform is now being questioned. This will have an impact well beyond Palestine – most obviously in Egypt and Jordan. Three events have triggered this reassessment: the sanctions imposed on the Hamas government; last summer’s US-backed war to destroy Hizbullah in Lebanon; and the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt…

At issue in these discussions is whether moderate Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah will manage to retain their influence over this process of radicalisation; and whether they will survive as a cohesive, disciplined political bloc. Sunni Islamist movements are increasingly concerned at the spread of small Salafist groups that verge on the nihilistic in their disdain for political ideology and in their belief that to set fire to the remnants of colonial power is in itself enough to raise the revolutionary consciousness they hope for. Salafist groups are beginning to make inroads in Gaza, as they have already done in Iraq, Lebanon and North Africa.

Both pieces are worth reading in their entirety.