As successful as was the case in Afghanistan when Al-Qaeda managed to lead the road to the fall of the Soviet Union, the organisation’s leaders assume that they can use the same hit and run technique against the United States. The 9/11 attacks were the culmination of Al Qaeda’s stance against the United States. The George W. Bush administration decided to invade Iraq instead of fighting Al-Qaeda, as they declared it responsible for the attacks, thus leaving the organisation to regroup in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the deep waters of Iraq made it impossible for Washington to pursue its ventures in the Middle East, especially when the invasion of Baghdad brought to the forefront the increasing power of Iran which became a daily nightmare for Israel.
The US, which fought an unwinnable war on terror as admitted by most US generals in the field, has finally reaped the rotten fruit of its effortless accumulation of the ‘creative chaos’ in the Middle East. Millions of Egyptians, Tunisians, and Yemenis filled the streets of their countries, and in a mere couple months, Mubarak and Ben Ali were ousted. Yemen, situated on the border of Saudi Arabia, reached a compromise: “to maintain the deep state’s power but change the presidential circle’s faces.” The toughest fight was in Libya, but Qatar facilitated the mission not only by purchasing some token US jets to bomb Tripoli, but also got the needed approval of the Arab League for NATO to intervene in Libya, so Moamar Gaddafy was ousted and killed. Syria’s people fell into line, but Bashar Al- Assad remained stubborn and fought back.
Major countries in the region have thus been in turmoil. The respective states’ tight grips were weakened, the countries’ economies, which were already stagnating, came to a standstill, and demonstrations became the daily routine. On this playground were the liberals, historically weak but holding on dearly to a national-capitalist plan for their countries, and the Muslim Brothers, suppressed yet well-organised and recognised by the US. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) came to lead in Yemen, Libya, Tunis, and Egypt. They were also on their way to lead Syria. However, the MBs were the means, not the target. The Arab Spring and the MBs have been the delicious piece of cheese to bring back to the region the radical Islamists groups created by the CIA in Afghanistan.
Ayman Al-Zawahry, now the de facto Al-Qaeda leader, said that the Arab uprisings were the outcome of his organisation’s steadfast struggle against the US. Since the inception of the so called ‘Arab Spring’, Al-Qaeda has changed its strategy. During the 1990s, Mohamed Al -Zawahry, the leader of Jamaat Islamia, managed to convince Osama Bin Laden to fight the larger enemy rather than the small dictators in the Middle East. The argument was simple: these dictators are supported by the United States, therefore once the head of the snake is taken out, the rest will fall in a domino effect. However, the Egyptian-born leader who spent decades fighting the US in Afghanistan, assuming that Al-Qaeda would enjoy a second victory similar to what they had against the former Soviet Union, changed his mind in the early 2000s. Zawahry believed that the Arab Spring was the outright result of Al-Qaeda’s struggle against the Arab regimes and the US. He claimed that Al-Qaeda’s campaigns gave Muslims throughout these countries the confidence needed to rise against their leaders, arguing that “the annihilation of the Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq acts as strength and support for our people who are uprising against the corrupt and idolatrous tyrants.”
Clearly distressed footwear upon a printed paper US flag. The poverty of the imperlialised standing against the larger enemy (photo: Reuters)
Zawahry believed that the popular revolutions could only succeed because the World Trade Center attacks had undermined US relations with Middle East rulers. Zawahry still claims that “the abandonment of America’s allies one by one is the fall out of its diminishing pride and arrogance after receiving the blows in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania,” adding that the 9/11 attacks “directly weekend the US grip over the Arab regimes.” The scenario is thus clear: Al-Qaeda was the main factor behind the Arab Spring, and anything else should hide behind the shadow of their organisation. Therefore, as the leader who endured years of struggle to make his Arab brothers rise against the tyrants, Zawahry should speak to his constituencies. He should talk to them about the plan of action, the road map, how to handle the second phase of the revolution and what sort of rule should be instated. Despite the fact that the Al-Qaeda was very much at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood who eventually came to rule in Tunis and Egypt, Zawahry, in a very pragmatic tone, initiated soft discourse to deal with them. Al-Qaeda leaders found an opportunity to be part of the new political order in the region due to the Islamic dimension of the new rulers. Al-Qaeda ideologue Attiya Allah Al-Libi, in an unusually humble tone, told his brothers that “Al-Qaeda is only part of this striving and resilient Mojahidi Ummah. We should all know our abilities, and help one another.” Calling upon the young jihadists, Al-Libi told them not to belabour the differences among the many Islamic groups, but rather focus on the construction of Muslim unity.
Ayman Al-Zawahry (photo: blogspot)
Barack Obama has also been working on the same line. Surprisingly, he asked the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to develop their contacts with Al-Qaeda leadership in an attempt to contain them. The instructions were handed over by Essam Al-Hadad, the then de facto minister of foreign affairs as far as the Muslim Brothers were concerned, to the then Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. The latter called Zawahry, and offered him an olive branch.
Currently, Al-Qaeda and its offshoots are not on the run. They gained ground from Iraq eastward to Syria and Lebanon, southward to Yemen, across northern Africa, again southward to Mali and Nigeria, as well as in Somalia and in the Horn of Africa to the east were they conducted their reign of terror. Meanwhile, the international organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, which enjoys global recognition and funding, solicited ample money and political forums to fight the status quo in the region. Both the MBs and radical Islamists are looking to establish the Islamic Caliphate on the ruins of nationalism in most Arab countries, which is very much like what the US is planning to do, save for the title of the ‘Caliphate’.