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American Resistance To Empire

CIA’s Man In Libya, Gen. Haftar, Backed By Russia, Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia

Russia Has Bought-In To the Libyan War, Siding w/Gen. Khalifa Haftar

Putin Has A Bold Plan for Libya…Restore the Qaddafi Govt, Muammar’s Son, Saif al-Islam

Russia + Saudi Arabia + Qatar, Except When In Syria

Khalifa Haftar: Libyan CIA Asset  ;  Is General Khalifa Hifter The CIA’s Man In Libya?  ;  The Libyan Bedlam: General Hifter, the CIA and the Unfinished Coup

Imperial Plan To Use Civil War As Gas and Oil Valve

In the Middle East, a new military crescent is in the making

Counter-revolutionary [they are “mercenaries“–ed.] forces are seeking to resurrect the military dictatorship model the Arab Spring dismantled.

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In early April, renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar launched a military operation against the Libyan UN-recognised government in Tripoli [File: Reuters/Esam Omran al-Fetori]
In early April, renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar launched a military operation against the Libyan UN-recognised government in Tripoli [File: Reuters/Esam Omran al-Fetori]

With the breakout of the Arab Spring more than eight years ago, pro-democracy activists in the Arab world and elsewhere were hopeful that the tide of democratic change might have finally reached its shores. Many who had criticised the likes of American scholar Samuel Huntington, who saw democracy as an alien concept to Middle Eastern culture, felt vindicated.

The euphoria of the Arab Spring did not last long, however. In Syria, Libya and Yemen, civil wars erupted, subduing any hopes for a peaceful democratic transition. In Bahrain, fearing Iranian interference, a Saudi-led military intervention quickly put down popular protests. In Morocco, the February protest movement was smothered by a combination of political manoeuvres by King Mohammed VI and a security crackdown. And in Egypt, the military establishment spearheaded a counter-revolution and eventually staged a coup against the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, which installed General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the country’s new military ruler.

These developments have been seen by many as yet another indication that the Arab world is intrinsically undemocratic . The rise of organisations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has validated the perceived need for a strongman rule. The political choice of Arab nations has been seemingly reduced to “SISI or ISIS”.

With this logic in mind, regional and world powers have sponsored the return of military dictatorships to the region, with the hope that they would clean up the Arab Spring “mess” and restore order. In particular, they are seeking to create a new “military crescent” in North Africa that encompasses Sudan, Egypt, Libya and Algeria.

But just as the military rule established in the 1950s and 1960s eventually crumbled, this new push to militarise Arab politics is also bound to fail.

The US hope for the ‘enlightened’ Arab military ruler

Western powers have long been supporters of military rule in the Arab world, the United States being one of its earliest and most eager proponents.

In the late 1940s, modernisation theories popular within US political circles regarded the conservative ruling elites as a major hurdle towards the establishment of modern states and societies in the Arab world. At the same time, as Washington gradually emerged as a world power, its interests started to clash with those of its ally, the British empire, particularly in the Middle East.

The US viewed Arab conservative regimes as an extension of British – and in some cases French – colonialism, which it sought to dismantle. It considered takeovers led by Arab military forces – which tended to be more modernised than other state institutions in the Arab world – as a viable solution.

By the 1940s there was also already a model for the region to follow: the Young Turks’ revolution and the subsequent rule of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which rapidly modernised the newly created Turkish republic.

The US political elite was convinced that Ataturk-like military leaders were better equipped to start a modernisation process from the top, change, forcibly if necessary, the conservative culture of Middle Eastern countries, and expel the Europeans from the region.

In 1949, the CIA assisted the military coup in Syria against the first democratically-elected government of Shukri al-Quwatli. In 1952, the US welcomed the coup against the British-backed Egyptian monarchy led by Gamal Abdel Nasser.

This US strategy faltered a bit after the Suez War of 1956 when the Soviet Union entered the scene in the Middle East and opened another front in the intensifying Cold War, but ultimately, Washington continued to favour military rule in the region over the next few decades.

Arab military rulers did engage in the modernisation of their countries but also created police states and dysfunctional economies in which people had neither bread, nor freedom. Poverty, repression, despair, inequality, and marginalisation led to radicalisation and violence.

It took the US some 60 years to admit the link between authoritarianism and extremism. Four years after the 9/11 attacks, in June 2005, then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, gave a speech in Cairo, in which she said: “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East – and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”

Yet, when the people of the region took to the streets in peaceful protests a few years later, demanding freedom and democracy, Washington did not extend its support. In 2011, the US and European countries once again demonstrated their deep conviction that their interests in the Middle East are served best by autocratic leaders and that they see the democratic aspirations of the Arab people as a threat.

A new military crescent

But they are not alone in this belief. Regional players Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates too felt threatened by the popular uprisings in the Middle East and for many years now, they have been leading the counter-revolutionary forces in the region to re-establish military rule. Ironically, the two GCC states weren’t always supporters of Arab military strongmen.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, was a fierce opponent of military rule in the region, as army officers toppled one conservative monarchy after the other in the 1950s and 1960s.

Witnessing the dismal fate of royal families in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, the House of Saud worried about its own security and took measures not only to weaken and fragment its own armed forces, but also to ally with anti-revolutionary powers in the region (including Iran under Pahlavi rule).

Today, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, like their US and European allies, see their interests better served by military dictatorships in the region. Thus, after funding the military coup in Egypt in 2013, they are now hoping for military rule to extend to Algeria, Sudan and Libya.

In recent months, Algerian and Sudanese people rebelled against their long-term leaders, Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar al-Bashir and managed to topple them. But in both countries, the military has sought to take advantage of the situation. In Sudan, military generals stepped in and took control of the country and in Algeria, the military from behind the scenes has been trying hard to engineer a transition that secures its interests.

Meanwhile, in Libya, renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar launched a major military offensive on the capital Tripoli, seeking to unseat the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and derail efforts to spearhead a political transition through general elections.

In all three countries, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have stood by the military generals seeking state capture, and so have the US and a number of European countries. In the case of Libya, US President Donald Trump expressed direct support for Haftar, while France has been accused of directly supporting his military operation.

There seems to be a concerted effort to establish a crescent of military-ruled countries from Sudan in northeast Africa to Algeria in the northwest through Egypt and Libya to ward off popular upheaval and keep “Islamist” forces in check. It is based on the misguided belief that military strongmen such as el-Sisi in Egypt, Haftar in Libya or even Bashar al-Assad in Syria can provide security and stability in the region.

But the truth is – as all uprisings since 2011 have demonstrated – the stability, which they promise, is a mere illusion. The fact that popular movements calling for democratisation in the Arab world continue to sweep through the region despite the tragic outcomes in countries like Syria, Yemen, Egypt and Libya, demonstrates that authoritarian rule and brutality are the main sources of instability and insecurity. They have led to the rise of a new wave of extremist groups, more violent and more radical than before.

The Middle East will not achieve stability until this vicious circle of despotism, violence and extremism is broken. Establishing a military crescent in North Africa is not the right solution for the region.

Change can be delayed but cannot be stopped. In Algeria and Sudan, the military establishment has the unique opportunity to learn from past mistakes, resist foreign influence and make the right choice: hand over power to the civilian population and prevent another Syria from happening.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suspected mastermind Zahran Hashim spent time in south India, says top military source

The Indian Art of Turning Jihadis Into Anti-Jihadis and the War On Pakistan

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Sri Lanka Easter blasts: Suspected mastermind Zahran Hashim spent time in south India, says top military source

Investigators identified Zahran Hashim as the leader of the National Thowheed Jamaath, which they said executed the highly coordinated blasts.

Zahran Hashim, believed to have masterminded the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, spent “substantial” time in “south India,” a top Sri Lankan military source said on Friday.

Investigators identified Hashim as the leader of the National Thowheed Jamaath, which they said executed the highly coordinated blasts on Sunday. Over 250 people, including 45 children and 40 foreign nationals, were killed in the deadly explosions. Two days later, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks and subsequently released an image of eight suspected bombers. The man seen standing at the centre is believed to be Hashim. The other jihadists had covered their faces with a scarf.

Sri Lankan investigators, however, have identified nine suicide bombers, including a woman. “We are looking into the IS angle. We also suspect that some of those radical youth were indoctrinated and trained in India, possibly Tamil Nadu,” the senior official said, on condition of anonymity.

Indian officials would not comment that Hashim travelled to India but pointed to evidence of virtual links he maintained with youth believed to be of Indian origin. More than 100 followers of Hashim’s Facebook page are being investigated, said an official, who asked not to be named. The first hints of Hashim’s doctrinal videos, to likely radicalise youth, emerged when Indian authorities interrogated seven members of a group whose leader, officials found, was a follower of Hashim. The men were IS sympathisers and arrested in September 2018 in Coimbatore, on suspicion that they were plotting the assassination of certain political and religious leaders in India, the official said.

‘Hashim, a Shangri-La bomber’

Sri Lankan authorities, who have so far not named any of the nine suicide bombers or suspects officially, on Friday confirmed Hashim was one of the two suicide bombers who carried out the explosions at hotel Shangri-La, on Colombo’s sea-facing Galle Road. He led the radical Islamist group in Kattankudy, in Batticaloa district of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, and was known for espousing extremist religious ideas, often to the discomfort of many within the community.

An image grab taken from a press release issued on April 23, 2019 by the Islamic State group’s propaganda agency Amaq, allegedly shows eight men it said carried out a string of deadly suicide bomb blasts on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. The man in the centre is believed to be Zahran Hashim, who was identified by the Sri Lankan police as the leader of the Islamist National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) group, which Colombo has blamed for the attacks.

An image grab taken from a press release issued on April 23, 2019 by the Islamic State group’s propaganda agency Amaq, allegedly shows eight men it said carried out a string of deadly suicide bomb blasts on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. The man in the centre is believed to be Zahran Hashim, who was identified by the Sri Lankan police as the leader of the Islamist National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) group, which Colombo has blamed for the attacks.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Earlier this week, locals told The Hindu that Zahran had left the town two years ago after a fierce disagreement with the Moulavi (religious scholar) on the practice of Islam. He was absconding since then, community leaders said.

Heightened searches

Following Sunday’s brutal attacks, inarguably the biggest atrocity the island has seen in its post-civil war decade, police and the armed forces have arrested at least 75 persons for their alleged role in the bombings. A list of 139 youth has been drawn up and security forces are desperate to eliminate any persistent threat, official sources said. Police on Thursday released photographs of a few suspects — including one wrong photograph for which they later regretted — and sought the help of the public to nab them.

President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday vowed to “meet the challenge and defeat terrorism” in the country. Investigations into war-time rights abuse allegations had weakened the country’s security apparatus and made it vulnerable to terror attacks, he said, apparently referring to military officials facing trial for alleged abduction and murder.

Speaking to local editors and Colombo-based foreign journalists, Mr. Sirisena said a major search operation, including a door-to-door check, was underway. Acknowledging a “serious lapse” in intelligence sharing – despite “a friendly country” providing a “highly descriptive warning” on April 4. He squarely blamed the Defence Secretary and the Inspector General of Police for it. Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday, although he told Reuters “there had been no failure on his part”.

President Sirisena further said that the planned attack could have been a response to his campaign against illicit drugs. “There is a nexus between international terrorism and international drug trade,” he said.

Have Buddhist Militants Successfully Implicated Islamists In Anti-Catholic Sri Lankan Bombings?

[The Easter Sri Lanka Bombing is turning out to be one of those paradoxical events, which tend to confuse observers more with each bit of explanation offered to unravel the contradictions between the forensic evidence and the police arrests being made in the case.

The Easter bombings were allegedly Islamic attacks made against Catholic churches and upscale hotels, even though Sri Lanka has no history of “radical Islamists” or militant Islamist attacks

The alleged Islamic attackers were identified as elements of an Islamic anti-Buddhist outfit (“National Thowheeth Jama’ath”) which had previously only attacked Buddhist icons.

It has been reported that the leader of this Nat. Th. Jama. was one of the suicide bombers…if the leader of the cell is dead, who will lead the anticipated revolution?

Sinhala-Buddhist extremism is the predominant militant/political force on the island, now that the Tamil uprising is truly finished.  Both Christians and Muslims have been targeted by Buddhist terrorism in the recent past, so it would be reasonable to assume that the Buddhists have either managed to infiltrate the Thowheeth movement, or to imitate the Thowheeth enough to implicate them in the “ISIS” hysteria.  Finding a large ISIS flag at the Sri Lankan bomb factory was enough to convince the world that this was Islamic holy war.

Even though ISIS has taken credit for the attack (they claim all big visible attacks), even announcing the bombers’ IDs on their video statement, does not answer reports that 2-3 of the suicide-bombers were women.  Knowing ISIS’s M.O. (claiming any attack gathering publicity), understanding the principle of “false-flag” attacks (direct responsibility towards the victims), and seeing reports on previous Sri-Lankan religious harmony between Muslim and Christian ( Sri Lanka’s Christians and Muslims Weren’t Enemies), my mind sees Buddhist, NOT ISLAMIC, terrorism.–ed.]

In Sri Lanka’s anti-Muslim violence, an echo of post-war Sinhala triumphalism

What explains the rioting that has led to the declaration of an emergency in the island nation? Once the LTTE had been defeated, it was almost as though Sinhala-Buddhist extremism needed a new enemy.

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Sri Lanka’s army soldiers stand guard a road after a clash between two communities in Digana, central district of Kandy. (Photo: Reuters)

The Sri Lankan government has imposed an island-wide emergency in the wake of anti-Muslim violence in Kandy, a city in the central highlands, on March 4-5, and in Ampara, a district with a near equal population of Muslims and Sinhala-Buddhists on the country’s eastern coast, on February 26. In Kandy, two mosques, shops and other buildings were set on fire, and two mosques and shops were vandalised in Ampara. In Kandy, a Buddhist man succumbed on March 4 to injuries after an altercation a few days earlier with a group of Muslim men, and a Muslim man’s body was found in a building that was the target of arson in Kandy on Tuesday. A Sinhala-Buddhist extremist group is suspected to be behind the violence.

The incidents of the last few days are the latest in a series of violent episodes targeting the Muslim community that Sri Lanka has witnessed in the post-war years. (According to the 2011 Census, Muslims are slightly more than 9% of Sri Lanka’s 20.3 million population; Sinhala Buddhists are 75%, and Tamils 11%.)

They are a direct fallout of the triumphalism and majoritarianism that took hold in sections of the Sinhala Buddhist majority community after the military defeat of the LTTE, encouraged by the Mahinda Rajapakse regime as it went about tightening its political grip on the country. Since then, a raft of groups openly professing hatred for Muslims, as well as Christians, has come up, some of them using social media to spread their venom. Among them are the Bodu Bala Sena, Sinhala Ravaya, Sinhale, and Mahason Balaya. The first and foremost of these, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), was formed in 2012, and enjoyed the patronage of the Rajapakse clan.

Rajapakse’s defeat in the presidential election led to a de-escalation of Buddhist-Muslim tensions. But the incidents began occurring again towards the end of 2016, when some Muslims, who had been displaced from northern Sri Lanka during the war, began going back to reclaim their lands in villages in Mannar district in the Vanni, bordering a national sanctuary called Wilpattu, and close to the Sinhala majority areas of the northwestern province of Puttalam and north-central province of Anuradhapura.

Sri Lanka declares state of emergency for 10 days after Buddhist-Muslim clash
Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force and Police officers stand guard near a burnt house after a clash between two communities in Digana, central district of Kandy, Sri Lanka March 6, 2018. (Reuters Photo)

There were several incidents through April and May 2017 across Sri Lanka. Around the same time, the Buddhist outfits began a campaign against the arrival of a group of Rohingya in Colombo. On September 28 last year, a monk led an attack on a UN-maintained safehouse for the Rohingya in the Colombo suburb of Mt Lavinia. The Rohingya group had been taken into custody by the Navy after they attempted to land on the Sri Lankan coast, and they were ordered to be kept in the safehouse under UN protection. The group that attacked the safehouse alleged the Rohingya had killed Buddhists in Myanmar. In November, Buddhists and Muslims clashed on the streets of Gintota in Galle.

The Buddhist-Muslim tensions of the last few years have surfaced nearly a century after the only such incident in the 20th century in 1915, at the time of a Sinhala Buddhist revival around the perceived marginalisation of the community under colonial rule. After independence, political leaders starting with SWRD Bandaranike harvested Sinhala-Buddhism. The rest is well-documented history. From the 1956 “Sinhala only” Act to the 1983 anti-Tamil riots, Sri Lanka had gone from being an inspiration for Lee Kwan Yew to South Asia’s ethnic cauldron within three decades. As Tamil separatism grew, morphing from a political movement to militancy and terrorism, the Muslims of Sri Lanka found themselves in constantly changing situations.

The language of Sri Lanka’s Muslims is Tamil. The majority of Muslims, most of whom are businessmen or traders, still live in the East, which was part of the LTTE’s Eelam vision. Until 1990, the Muslims believed they had common cause with Tamil political aspirations. But that year, a newly resurgent LTTE following the IPKF’s departure from Sri Lanka, drove out nearly 100,000 Muslims from their northern citadel of Jaffna and other parts of northern Sri Lanka under its control. The eviction took place overnight — people left behind their houses, lands, shops, and possessions, becoming a new set of internally displaced people in Sri Lanka’s conflict.

That was when the Sri Lankan Muslim found a new political consciousness, and within a decade of its formation, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was seen by Sinhala political parties as a “kingmaker” party. Winning seats in Parliament from the predominantly Muslim areas of Ampara; from Batticaloa, where Muslims are the second biggest community after the majority Hindu Tamils; from Trincomalee up the eastern coast, where they are one-third of the population (Tamils and Sinhalese are also one-third each); as well as a few from Kandy and other areas, the community was in the thick of national politics. It has always sided with the ruling party, and is even now part of the coalition government.

Once the war against the LTTE was over, it was almost as if Sinhala-Buddhist extremism, which conflates religion with territory and language, needed a new enemy. Muslims have emerged as that enemy, the rise of Islamist terrorism providing a convenient handle with which to demonise the community.

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist extremism has found an ally in Myanmar’s hardline Buddhist monks. Both countries practise the Theravada variant of Buddhism. In September 2014, ahead of the presidential election, the BBS invited Ashin Wirathu, a monk from Mandalay in Myanmar and the leader of a virulently anti-Muslim group called 969, known for his toxic speeches. At a rally in Colombo, he said he would join hands with the BBS to “protect” Buddhists. Though he has not made a return visit since, extremist Buddhists in Sri Lanka have clearly taken inspiration from the anti-Rohingya movement in Myanmar. Coincidence or not, the first clashes against the Rohingya in Myanmar erupted in 2012, around the time that BBS was formed in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Troops Raid “Safe House,” Find Bomb-Making Factory, 15 Dead Men, Women, Children Found Inside

Huge amounts of bomb-making material, including thousands of ball bearings, plastic explosives, chemicals and trigger devices which could be made into suicide vests have been discovered in a house in Sri Lanka, sparking fears the Easter Sunday bombings could have been just the start of a massive terror campaign.

The stockpile, discovered in a home in the town of Sammanthurai, 200 miles (325km) from Colombo appears to confirm more horrific attacks were being planned.

The discovery of a so-called Islamic State flag also gives the strongest indication yet that the group responsible for the nine bombings on Sunday is linked to the international terror organisation.

The discoveries came after a shootout at the home between police and suspects.

Some of the bomb making materials discovered.
Some of the bomb making materials discovered. Credit: APTN 

The grim discoveries come just hours after Sunday Masses were cancelled until further notice.

The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said church officials had seen a leaked security document describing Catholic churches and other denominations as major targets for attackers.

He also asked the faithful to stay at home for their own safety.

“We don’t want repetitions,” said the cardinal in cancelling the services.

Cardinal Ranjith also appealed for financial support to rebuild the lives of affected people and reconstruct the churches targeted in the so-called Islamic State-claimed suicide bombings, which killed over 250 people on Sunday.

Authorities in the island nation downgraded the death toll from the previously stated 359.

The announcement comes one day after the Foreign Office warned people not to travel to Sri Lanka “unless absolutely necessary” and the US Embassy in Sri Lanka warned people to stay away from places of worship this weekend over concerns about possible further attacks.

A Sri Lankan Army soldier stands guard in front St Anthony’s Church
A Sri Lankan Army soldier stands guard in front St Anthony’s Church. Credit: Manish Swarup/AP 

On Friday, authorities urged Muslims not to hold congregational prayers over fears they might be targeted.

However, several mosques did hold prayers under the protection of security forces.

Police are also providing patrols to protect Muslims who are fearful of reprisal attacks in the wake of the atrocity.

Local militants with ties to the so-called Islamic State group conducted a series of suicide bombings on Easter Sunday at churches and luxury hotels in and around Colombo and in the distant seaside village of Batticaloa, as well as three related bombings.

Sri Lanka has remained on edge since the deadly attacks as authorities have pursued suspects with possible access to explosives.

The archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said there will be no Sunday Masses.
The archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said there will be no Sunday Masses. Credit: AP

The Easter Sunday attacks have been blamed on National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ), a local radical jihadist group whose leader, Mohamed Zahran, killed himself in a suicide bombing at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

Police also said they had arrested the second in command of the group.

NTJ have not claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Damage at St Sebastian's Church, which was targeted on Easter Sunday.
Damage at St Sebastian’s Church, which was targeted on Easter Sunday. Credit: AP 

Australia’s Prime Minister said it had been confirmed that the Sri Lanka attackers were supported by the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the massacre.

The group has distributed a video of Zahran and others pledging allegiance to the withered caliphate.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters that about 140 people had been identified as having links to the Islamic State group, and that the government has the capability “to completely control” IS activities in the country.

“We will completely control this and create a free and peaceful environment for people to live,” he said.

Police said investigators had determined that the attackers’ military training was provided by someone they called “Army Mohideen,” and that weapons training had taken place overseas and at some locations in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province.

Police also said they arrested the operator of a copper factory who had helped Mohideen make improvised explosive devices and purchase empty cartridges sold by the Sri Lankan military as scrap copper.

Mr Sirisena blamed Sri Lanka’s defense secretary, who resigned Thursday, and police chief, who he said would soon step down, for failing to share information from international intelligence agencies about the plot.

Muslim men gather to pray at a mosque in Colombo on Friday despite warnings of an attack
Muslim men gather to pray at a mosque in Colombo on Friday despite warnings of an attack. Credit: AP

Almost a week has passed since the Easter Sunday terror bombings and tensions are still running high in Sri Lanka.

Shops that should be open remain with their shutters down and streets that would normally be packed appear deserted.

Security warnings of potentially more attacks have spread fear and road blocks remain in place as police stop and search motorists and motorbike riders around the capital Colombo.

Security officials are still hunting for suspects and explosives that are unaccounted for.

What Doesn’t Cause Islamist Terrorism

What Doesn’t Cause Islamist Terrorism

The suicide bombers in Sri Lanka were affluent and well educated. That should tell us something about the war on terror.

Aftermath of terrorist attack in Sri Lanka / Getty

In 2015, then-State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf suggested that potential terrorists would not join the Islamic State if they had better job opportunities. “We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium- to longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs,” Harf said on MSNBC. “We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”

Harf is actually right—well, in the narrow sense that combatting Islamist terrorist groups is about more than military strikes. She is woefully—and dangerously—wrong, however, about more jobs being a solution. Yet the view she articulated is not hers alone. Her former boss, Barack Obama, similarly claimed that “extremely poor societies … provide optimal breeding grounds for disease, terrorism, and conflict.” Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security’s program on “countering violent extremism,” or CVE, which the Obama administration established to counter radicalization within vulnerable communities, adheres to the same belief. How? CVE treats jihadists like members of street gangs or the mafia—as disgruntled, perhaps defenseless individuals who traveled down a dark path but can return to the light. And creating a better quality of life—a decent job, a reliable income, more responsibilities—is key to that return. In many cases, this framework would, for example, help gangsters who grew up poor with few opportunities. Not so much for the people who join ISIS.

Recent events show why this approach is misguided for Islamist terrorists. On Wednesday, Sri Lankan authorities revealed that most of the suicide bombers who murdered more than 350 people in coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday were affluent and well educated. “They’re quite well educated people,” Ruwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s state minister of defense, said of the attackers, adding that many came from “middle class” backgrounds. “We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the U.K. and then later on did his post-graduate in Australia before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka.”

Two of the brothers who carried out the bombings came from one of the wealthiest Muslim families in the capital, a family that, according to a neighbor, was “very well connected, very rich, politically connected as well.” The Daily Mail reports they are “the sons of millionaire spice trader Yoonus Ibrahim and were privately educated in Colombo.” Another terrorist had a law degree, and two others were married—not the hopeless loners that one often imagines as suicide bombers.

And yet, the attackers’ “thinking is that Islam can be the only religion in this country,” according to Wijewardene. Indeed, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, although authorities are still investigating whether the terrorists had any links to the group, and whether the group had provided training or financing. Regardless, it is clear that the bombings were a coordinated act of Islamist terrorism.

How could people with comfortable lives and strong formal educations do something so heinous? Finding the answer warrants its own book, or 50, but the fact that affluent, well-educated people turned to extremism should not be surprising. Studies have shown that those with seemingly nothing to lose are often not the ones who become jihadists. In 2016, for example, the World Bank found that foreign recruits to ISIS are well-educated and relatively wealthy individuals. Even more striking, the report found that those aspiring to become suicide bombers ranked among the more educated. “These individuals are far from being uneducated or illiterate,” the report states. “Most claim to have attended secondary school and a large fraction have gone on to study at university.”

Months before the report was published, disaffected members of ISIS released a cache of 22,000 documents that included basic information of nearly 4,000 foreign recruits who joined the terrorist group between 2013 and 2014. According to the data, 69 percent of recruits received at least a secondary level education, while 15 percent left school before high school and less than 2 percent are illiterate.

In other words, as the World Bank put it, “poverty is not a driver of radicalization into violent extremism.” Nor is poor education.

Several other studies have echoed the same findings: that a reduction in poverty or an increase in formal education will not reduce terrorism. Put differently, terrorists are not poor, hopeless people who need jobs to become upstanding citizens.

Jihadists are motivated by an ideology, or a theology, indoctrinated to believe in Islamic supremacy and fundamentalism. To be clear, individuals need a cognitive opening, for lack of a better term, to embrace this ideology. Perhaps they feel like outcasts and want to be part of something “important”—there are several personal and psychological factors that can create such an opening. Indeed, many of the foreign fighters from Europe who traveled to join ISIS in the Middle East were not particularly knowledgeable of Islam. But many opened their minds to a poisonous ideology that took root and grew, like a virus. That is the problem with treating Islamists like regular street gangsters: it misses the importance of Islamism, the ideology that animates their violence.

So the United States obviously needs to counter this Islamist ideology, and not just kill Islamists on the battlefield. Many experts and commentators have already made this point, but apparently not enough times. Plenty of people in Washington have still not embraced this idea, to make the war on terror, or the war on Islamist extremism—whatever your term of choice—fundamentally a war of ideas. That means creating a comprehensive strategy to wage an ideological battle, which means working with the Muslim community and foreign, Muslim leaders who denounce extremism in the name of their religion. But that also means not encouraging leaders to drive their people toward that same extremism with brutal authoritarianism.

In 2014, the former chief of the Australian army, Peter Leahy, warned his country that it is engaged in a century-long war against radical Islam. That is the mindset that the entire Western world needs to have. And while the war extends far beyond the battlefield, giving the jihadists more job opportunities is probably not going to achieve victory.

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What democracy? 70% of ‘not free’ countries get US military aid

The ‘War on Terror’: The Globalization of Perpetual War

At TomDispatch.com, Tom Engelhardt has a revealing article on the truly global nature of America’s war on terror, accompanied by a unique map put together by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. The map reveals that America’s war on terror has spread to 76 countries, as shown below:

This metastasizing of “counterterror” efforts is truly paradoxical: the more the U.S. military works to stop terror, the more terror spreads. “Progress” is measured only by the growth of efforts to stem terror networks in more and more countries. But the notion of “progress” is absurd: That 76 countries are involved in some way in this war on terror is a sign of regress, not progress. After 16 years and a few trillion dollars, you’d think terror networks and efforts to eradicate them would be decreasing, not increasing. But the war on terror has become its own cancer, or, in social-media-speak, it’s gone viral, infecting more and more regions.

A metaphor I like to use is from Charles Darwin. Consider the face of nature – or of terrorism – as a series of tightly interlinked wedges. Now, consider the U.S. military and its kinetic strikes (as well as weapons sales and military assistance) as hammer blows. Those hammer blows disturb and contort the face of nature, fracturing it in unpredictable ways, propagating faults and creating conditions for further disturbances.

By hammering away at the complex ecologies of regions, the U.S. is feeding and complicating terrorism with its own violence. Yet new fracture lines are cited as evidence of the further growth of terrorism, thus necessitating more hammer blows (and yet more military spending). And the cycle of violence repeats as well as grows.

A sensible approach: Stop hammering away with missiles and bombs and drones. Stop feeding the terrorist wolf with more blood and violence.

But the U.S. government is caught up in a seemingly endless cycle of violence and war, as Engelhardt notes here:

Let me repeat this mantra: once, almost seventeen years ago, there was one [country, Afghanistan, the U.S. targeted]; now, the count is 76 and rising. Meanwhile, great cities have been turned into rubble; tens of millions of human beings have been displaced from their homes; refugees by the millions continue to cross borders, unsettling ever more lands; terror groups have become brand names across significant parts of the planet; and our American world continues to bemilitarized.

This should be thought of as an entirely new kind of perpetual global war. So take one more look at that map. Click on it and then enlarge it to consider the map in full-screen mode. It’s important to try to imagine what’s been happening visually, since we’re facing a new kind of disaster, a planetary militarization of a sort we’ve never truly seen before. No matter the “successes” in Washington’s war, ranging from that invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to the taking of Baghdad in 2003 to the recent destruction of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq (or most of it anyway, since at this moment American planes are still dropping bombs and firing missiles in parts of Syria), the conflicts only seem to morph and tumble on.

A new kind of perpetual global war: Engelhardt nails it. To end it, we need to stop feeding it. But as the map above indicates, it seems likely that U.S. hammer blows will continue and even accelerate, with results as violently unpredictable as they are counterproductive.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

Pregnant Wife of One Sri Lankan Terrorist Brother Kills Self +3 Sons +3 Cops, To Avoid Capture

[SEE: Sri Lanka: ‘Family of hate’ behind terror attacks are wealthy brothers and wife]

Fatima Ibrahim 

Inshaf Ahmed Ibrahim

Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim

Sri Lanka blasts: Fatima Ibrahim identified as one of the suicide bombers; wife of SL millionaire blew self up with unborn child

Fatima Ibrahim, the wife of Sri Lankan millionaire businessman-turned-Islamic State suicide bomber Inshaf Ahmed Ibrahim blew herself up with her unborn child, as well as three young sons, when police raided the family home on Sunday night, Indian intelligence sources have told Firstpost. Three police officials were also killed in the explosion.

Ibrahim — along with his brother Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim — left the family’s three-storey luxury home in Dematagoda and blew themselves up at the Cinnamon Grand and Shangri-La hotels’ breakfast buffets, as part of a wave of attacks on hotels and churches in which more than 359 people were killed

 Sri Lanka blasts: Fatima Ibrahim identified as one of the suicide bombers; wife of SL millionaire blew self up with unborn child

A series of bomb blasts rocked Sri Lanka on Sunday. Reuters

Fatima, the intelligence sources said, is believed to have been present amid a group of veiled suicide bombers swearing allegiance to the Islamic State, whose images were released by the jihadist organisation on Tuesday night. She can be seen, the sources said, on the right hand side of the frame, standing behind her husband.

Both brothers are sons of Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim, a millionaire spice-trader who contested elections on Left-leaning Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna party. Ibrahim counted Minister for Industry and Commerce Rishath Bathiudeen among his close friends, and had often been seen at former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s receptions.

In an interview to The Mirror, Inshaf Ibrahim’s brother-in-law, jeweller Ashkhan Alawdeen, said the businessman-bomber had left home on Friday, saying he was going to Zambia for a business trip.

The parting with his sister, Alawdeen said, was unsual: “When he said goodbye he held her head and said, ‘be strong’.”

“She thought it was a bit strange at the time but didn’t think anything of it.”

“My brother-in-law is a psychopath,” Alawdeen told The Mirror, “He deserves to be punished in hell.”

Inshaf Ibrahim owned Colossus Copper, a manufacturing facility in an industrial estate east of Colombo. The factory, investigators believe, was used to fabricate the suicide vests used in the attack, supplying bolts and screws that filled the devices.

Nine Sri Lankans at the factory, including the manager, were arrested shortly before midnight on Sunday. They worked alongside Indians and Bangladeshi migrant workers.