Mon Sep 25, 2017 | 11:48
Al-Qaeda no successor to Arab dictators
Sat, 23 Apr 2011 17:13:13 GMT
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Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, outside Sana'a University, April 23, 2011.
It might still be hard for many in Western countries to believe that the United States had the main role in the formation of al-Qaeda.

It was decided during the term of then President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s that the abilities of some Afghans and “Jihad-” seeking Arab youth could be used against the Soviet “infidels.”

The strategy was implemented with the help of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The fall in oil prices in the 1980s also struck a heavy blow to the economy of the Soviet Union. The withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan and the collapse of the Soviet Union turned a page in the international arena.

Following the collapse of the Communist system in Afghanistan, the forces, which had fought the Red Army with the financial and political support of the West, became a new problem for their old allies. The majority of them contributed to the formation of, or actually joined, the Taliban. The Arab Afghans also had plans to form their own organization. If the US published its confidential documents, the level of Washington's cooperation with individuals such as Osama bin Laden would come to light.

After the Afghan civil war, the Taliban managed to topple a government with uncoordinated parties while al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack on the twin towers in New York. These two groups and their affiliates were the main target of the US war on terrorism.

Al-Qaeda took advantage of the Muslim nations' dissatisfaction with US policies. After the US-led invasion, the core of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was destroyed. However, its thoughts spread through the Middle East societies, especially in those which had Salafi cultures as their governments had a major role in reviving thoughts which labeled others as “blasphemous.”

After Afghanistan, al-Qaeda found another outlet in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, with his Salafi thoughts, killed those whom he considered against his religion. Similar groups were formed in Lebanon, North Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia. Saudi Arabia and Yemen are still the biggest place for the spread of al-Qaeda-related thoughts.

It gradually became known that intelligence organizations were creating their own al-Qaedas for their own benefit. These organizations were turning into tools in the hands of governments to do their biddings in the name of al-Qaeda.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that al-Qaeda's thoughts attracted many in the Middle East and Africa. At a time when the US supported Arab dictators, there was no way for Salafis to confront the US but through al-Qaeda. They had to either obey their US-backed governments or turn to al-Qaeda -- the only organization that fought the US. There were only two options: the dominant governments or al-Qaeda.

There were groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, or Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine which had found a third way. But sectarian sensitivities prevented Salafis from following Hezbollah. Moreover, the West continued to express animosity towards organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

During all this time, there was a century-old organization in Arab and some Islamic countries which was the cradle of many Salafi groups. The Muslim Brotherhood had a lot of supporters from Turkey to Syria, Jordan and North Africa. Hamas has become an exception in resorting to arms, while most Brotherhood members prioritize the evolution of society over seizing power, which makes them moderate compared to al-Qaeda. The growing of al-Qaeda took place at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood -- voluntarily or involuntarily -- had become marginalized by rulers such as Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak.

The recent uprisings in the Arab world have raised concerns in the West that the fall of dictators in countries such as Libya and Yemen might bolster al-Qaeda. This is one of the reasons behind the US support of Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen or Washington's refusal to get involved in an all-out war against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt show the Muslim Brotherhood pose no short-term danger to the West. Its leaders in Tunisia and Egypt say they have no intention of seizing power and that they respect political pluralism and opposing ideas. The Islamic societies of Arab countries have more tendency towards Islamic leaders than secular groups. The people had no goal but freedom in both Tunisia and Egypt. It is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is part, not all, of the active political force.

In light of the popular revolutions in Arab countries, the Muslim Brotherhood can gain the social base held by al-Qaeda by reassuring that al-Qaeda, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are not the successors of the Arab dictators.

HJL/AKM/HGH
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