As the West takes its interests and forces increasingly into the countries of the Middle East, there is an inevitable backlash from the mostly Islamic populations there, many of which espouse the extreme views of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and others. Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain particularly face a difficult challenge in repelling these groups, as anti-western sentiment there is widespread and growing. This article investigates these issues, and the increasing likelihood of a real civil war in Iraq now that the U.S. troops have left. Such a new civil war will further destabilize the entire region.
The tactics and strategies of terrorist organizations and individuals are changing, as they try to stay ahead of the operating methods of intelligence and security forces to avoid leaking information about their plans and actions. There have been many successful operations against terrorist groups and individuals conducted by government intelligence and security forces, as well as individuals assisting government institutions. However, the war on terrorism has just started, and this is only the beginning of a long fight, which will require even greater efforts, especially from certain governments in the Middle East.
Though there are positive reports about cooperation between governments in the Middle East and those in the West, some Middle Eastern countries are not truly cooperating, because there is a lot of support for the ideas of certain terrorist organizations in those countries, including in some government institutions (i.e. Pakistan). Nonetheless, the fight against terrorism must be maintained, even intensified, and those governments involved must be assisted as much as possible.
How has Al-Qaeda, for example, won so much support in the Islamic world? Why are so many young people willing to support and participate in terrorist ideas and actions? The answers to these questions are not simple. Complex cultural aspects, social economics, and education in some of the Arabic countries all have an influence. The educational centers in some of these countries constitute one of the most important foundations of terrorism. The fundamental principles some teach, of hating all that is non-Muslim, the so-called "non-believers," is poisoning the minds of young people and making them blind to the good qualities of these non-believers. Conversations with numerous youths and many of their parents demonstrated repeatedly that they have been taught in schools which impress that Jews, Christians, and atheists are the real enemies of Islam, and that they are trying to destroy the Islamic principles and rules of life. Any similarities between the Islamic and Christian religions they simply refuse to believe, in favor of repeating their dogmatic principles and statements about the negative way of life of these Christians, and that the ultimate goal of Christianity is to destroy Islam. This approach and attitude apply particularly to students of certain Arabic universities. There are also anti-Christian and anti-Jewish books and brochures in specific Islamic Youth Centers, positively highlighting the Islamic religion and attacking the Christian and Jewish religions. When older leading personalities, such as Imams and senior operatives of terrorist groups manipulate the young with their hatred of almost everything non-Muslim and Western, it is obvious that support for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups will grow.
Furthermore, unemployment adds to the support for terrorist groups. A large number of young unemployed spend their days on the streets, gathering together and complaining about the many expatriates functioning in the private sector. There is resentment among them because they believe the foreigners are taking their jobs. The private sector must understand this problem and help to solve it by being willing to hire young nationals and to provide them with additional training and motivation.
The ideas of al-Qaeda and other radical groups in the Middle East are simply to promote extreme Islamic principles, create hate against Westerners who are mainly non-Muslim, create hate against the national rulers, because they are perceived to support Western interest and betray Islam, and finally to remove the rulers and establish a real Islamic regime.
So how are governments fighting against terrorism? Having first denied that such elements exist in their country, now they admit that there are "deviant groups" in their country. Several governments in the Middle East have increased their commitment to fight terrorism during the past years and to cooperate with Western intelligence and security forces. As an example: of the Saudi Arabian government's list of the twenty-six most wanted, only four are still free. This is a positive development. However, since the publication of that particular list, many other individuals have come forward to fill the leading and operational positions within the al-Qaeda organization in Saudi Arabia, and a number of Saudis have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan to support their brothers at home. During the past several years, the Saudi government has successfully taken weapons and other items, including the discovery of so-called safe houses of al-Qaeda. More than 2,000 pieces, including weapons and ammunition, RDX explosives, rocket propelled grenades, homemade bombs, telecommunication devices, chemicals, passports, and cash. However, security specialists, including some from the government, are convinced that much more of this type of weaponry remains in the hands of terrorists. The smuggling of weapons from mainly Yemen but also Iraq into Saudi Arabia is still a profitable and thus ongoing activity. The biggest problem the Saudi government faces in the fight against terrorism is the disbelief held by a great part of the Saudi population that real Muslims could be terrorists. Moreover, there is considerable support for the ideology of al-Qaeda in the population, and, even worse, within Saudi government institutions as well.
As long as certain authorities within the Arab society openly support terrorist ideology and are not corrected by their government, the problem will remain. It is a justified statement that hatred against the West and non-Muslims exist, and is increasing rapidly. It is a fact too that terrorist attacks will continue, despite all the efforts of well-willing governments.
Many Western companies operating in Arab countries have problems with employees who refuse to return there, while skilled Western manpower is difficult to find because of security concerns. Despite the incentive of large bonuses, the companies still face extreme difficulties. Obviously, these factors will have an input on the economy in the medium-term. This scenario fits well with the strategy of al-Qaeda. Basically, al-Qaeda has three main aims. First, to reduce or remove the influence of the West and Western interest in the region, resulting in a downturn in the economy. Second, most rulers/governments are betraying Islam through its cooperation with the West and its Western interest, which will create a more open demonstration of anti-rulers/government culture, which will most likely be manifested on the streets. The third goal is to oust the rulers/government, and to replace it with an extreme Islamic government to rule the country.
In order to increase anti-rulers/government and anti Western feelings, the al-Qaeda organization has a well-prepared doctrine. This involves the spread of their ideas in schools and Mosques to indoctrinate young people and especially the unemployed. It also requires the recruitment of clerics to their cause to ensure that their ideas are accepted and spread to the population, and the use of mass media such as TV to infiltrate and promote the strategy and recruit young nationals to become actively involved in al-Qaeda operations.
What can be expected in the near future? The answer to this question is not difficult, nor is it positive, but it is realistic. Anti-Western sentiments will grow rapidly, and not the least through the incitement in schools and Mosques. More terrorist attacks, be they towards rulers/government interests, Western interests or Western individuals, will be executed by al-Qaeda and other radical organizations, resulting in a larger exodus of Western expatriates. It is to be expected that these terrorist groups will do everything possible to make future attacks more spectacular than previous ones.
One other aspect that should be considered here is the situation in Iraq. We already can see that Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds do not work together as the Western world would like it to happen. The possibilities of an all-out civil war in Iraq are real. Certain indications are already visible. Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting each other for over twelve centuries, a situation that will not change in the foreseeable future. It is expected that their fight will "re-open" again after the U.S. troops move out. The current Iraqi government will be powerless, and will most probably ask their "brothers" in Iran to assist in restoring the order. When that happens, it will affect the surrounding countries and those effects will definitely not be positive, considering terrorist developments.
It should be realized that Iraq is basically a training area for terrorist operations. Once there is a civil war, numerous so-called insurgents could return to their home country or to any other Arab country to support and increase al-Qaeda activities or associated terrorist groups. It must be recognized that most of these insurgents are deeply motivated, and have a lot of experience in sophisticated bomb making, preparing ambushes, attacks, and so forth. They are well trained and experienced in organizing terrorist cells as well as use of specific communications methods, which are hard to discover or be intercepted by intelligence and security forces.
The governments of the surrounding countries must prepare themselves by modernizing their intelligence-gathering information. They must increase border controls now, not when a civil war starts, and they must be more open and cooperative with the intelligence and security forces of Western countries. Only then can al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups' activities be limited.
In general terms, Pakistan is marked as an alien of the Western fight against terrorism. However, certain governmental institutions, especially a number of members of the Pakistani Intelligence Services, are supporting the Taliban with advice, information, and supplies. Western intelligence and security forces have hard proven facts of these developments. Evaluating subject-related developments during the past three years can only lead to the conclusion that these people are increasing their support for the Taliban. It is obvious that such developments are unacceptable, and that Western governments, especially the United States, should seriously consider stopping their financial and material assistance for Pakistan. These governments should increase their relationship with India, which has proven to be a trustworthy partner of the West, while it will create a situation whereas Pakistan, being afraid of India's influence in the region, will most probably start to control and correct their intelligence services.
The so-called "democratic movements" in these countries will end up causing more hatred towards the Western world and increasing the support for Islamic terrorist organizations. Of course, the people in these countries have the right to stand for democracy and a more open society, less controlled by their rulers and intelligence and security forces. However, these democratic movements are heavily infiltrated and manipulated by Islamic radical/extreme organizations, such as Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. The West should be aware that once the democratic movements are growing and find increasing support of the population, these movements will be used by i.e. Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood as "tools" to create an extreme Islamic regime, living by Sharia Laws. We are currently confronted with such a situation in Egypt and Libya while the current situation in Syria will most likely be following these developments soon. It is obvious that these countries will rapidly increase the anti-Western sentiments in the region, with all consequences thereof.
Besides the aforementioned, there is an even bigger threat as a result of the above. The only real friend of the West in the Middle East, being Israel, will be more and more isolated and surrounded by only enemies. It is the moral and human duty of the Western world, and more specifically the United States, to make it clear to the Middle Eastern countries that Israel is the closest friend in the region and will be supported at all costs. One has to realize that only straight forward and clear language will have its effects on the Arab countries, so let the Western world stop by trying to be "friends" with all parties!
THE threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world.
The only ambitions of the Iranian regime is to establish a world Caliphate using Hezbollah as their forwarded troops, starting in the Middle East and soon joined by the rest of the world. An important phase of this process is the destroying of the State of Israel and its people.
The author, and for sure many others, urges the Western world not to jump in to the trap of the Iranian regime. The Europeans negotiated with the Iranian rulers for many years without any success. Now the United States has demonstrated several times that they are willing to negotiate (again) with the Iranian regime. How in the world do some people in the United States government not recognize the fact that Iran just wants to create more time? One has to recognize that Arabs are "masters" in negotiations. They give a little first and take back more later. It is clear that the Iranian regime wants nuclear weapons, and is working hard to reach that goal as soon as possible. It should not surprise the world that such weapons will be used to attack and destroy Israel. It is a justified statement that Iran currently has enough nuclear material to produce at least two nuclear weapons.
Americans need to wake up: Iran is the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East, as well as democracy and freedom in the rest of the world.
Notwithstanding the fact that this article is just a summary of the terrorist developments in the Middle East, the author hopes that he was able to highlight the most important subject-related issues.
After 23+ years living and working in the Middle East, I returned to the United States. Watching several different T.V. stations and listening to several different radio stations since my entry into the states, I am surprised by how many people in this wonderful country are careful when talking about Muslims and terrorist threats. The so-called "political correctness" is the guideline for many when the subject of Muslims and extremism/terrorism jumps up during a conversation. Are we afraid to tell the truth, or is it that we are afraid of "looking bad" in the eyes of others?
The truth is very simple and has to be recognized and openly mentioned. "There is a Muslim problem in the world!" See what is currently going-on in a great number of Middle Eastern countries. Of course, people want democracy and they do deserve it, but many do not realize that behind the scenes Iran's rulers and the Muslim Brotherhood are orchestrating and manipulating them, which finally could result in a similar rule of living as currently in Iran: the Sharia Law!
John Didden, CHS-III has worked in the intelligence and security arena for forty years, many of which were dedicated to the fight of terrorism, particularly against Baader-Meinhoff, IRA, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood etc. He has over two decades of security experience in the Middle East.