Dr. Reuven Berko
Monday, March 25, 2013
The West sobers up to Islamism
Dr. Reuven Berko
The Americans have learned many lessons on Islamism since the U.S. first provided funding and arms to Islamic extremists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. After the defeated Russian army retreated, the Islamic terrorists turned their weapons on the Americans, and under the name al-Qaida reached the Twin Towers in New York.
Israel had a similar experience when in the 1980s it permitted the Mujama al-Islamiya organization to establish itself in the Gaza Strip as a group providing care to the needy, and violently opposed Israel's enemies at the time, the communists and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Mujama al-Islamiya later turned into Hamas, a deadly enemy of Israel.
The Middle East is filled with such examples, also in the political realm. Western officials who pressed Israel and the Palestinian Authority for democratization got Hamas in the Palestinian election in 2006.
Western pressure on Turkey for democratization brought Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamic government into power and led to the arrest of pro-democracy military officers. Similar pressure on Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt for democratization led to Mubarak's downfall and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.
We can expect similar damage to be caused by deficient Western understanding of the processes and norms in our region. The European Union finds it difficult to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization despite Hezbollah's involvement in attacks against Israel on European soil, and the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, among many other incidents.
Despite this, it does appear the West is quietly sobering up about Islamic radicalism. It is hard to ignore the damage caused by Islamic radicalism in the Arab Spring and even in Gaza after Israel's withdrawal.
Inflammatory promises from bearded preachers at mosques stating that "Islam is the solution" don't pay off anymore. Every sheikh who built a career on incitement and terror is now jeopardizing God's status to believers who view God as the exclusive source of solutions to distress.
Under these circumstances, it is no longer sufficient to spout popular incitement against Jews as the source of all evil. The search for funding to revive moribund economies has led Islamists reluctantly to the "hated" Christian West. But Western leaders and investors are deterred by the deterioration in the Arab world.
For Islamic extremists, there is one possibility, which is to prey on the resources of rich Islamic Arab nations. Islamists are now starting to attach themselves to Arab monarchies that are abundant with wealth and stagnated by corruption. This is in preparation for toppling these monarchies under the Islamic dictate of removing "oppressive rule."
The rulers of the monarchies, particularly in the Persian Gulf, are reluctant to move even a part of their resources to extremist and hostile Islamic nations. These monarchies send a miserly flow of financial aid in order to keep the discontents under wraps.
Within this framework, Saudi Arabia aids Egypt and Qatar aids Hamas.
The funding covers aid and weapons to rebels in Syria, including members of the radical Nusrat al-Islam, an alternative name for al-Qaida volunteers who came to Syria. These people operate alongside the Free Syrian Army and are involved in war crimes, bloodshed and terror.
The sobering West now needs to decide whether the rule of Nusrat al-Islam is a desirable alternative to the rule of Bashar Assad.
It is not easy to be an Islamist today. In the past, it was possible to blame every ill on the "imperialist West" and its emissaries "the Zionist Jews occupying Palestine." Now, the situation is much more complicated. No shopkeepers in dusty alleys in Cairo will sell bread in exchange for the slogan "Islam is the solution."
The collapsing Egyptian economy needs Western aid in the form of "crusader" dollars and "Christian" flour. On top of this disaster, the Shiite Iranian threat is casting its eyes on the Arab wealth reserves in the Persian Gulf.
Time is bringing Shiite Iran closer to a nuclear bomb, which is keeping Arabian Peninsula monarchs awake at night. The nightmare is based on Iran's bridgehead in Bahrain, which is majority Shiite. The dependence of the Arab oil states on the protection of the U.S. Navy is growing. The failure of sanctions against Iran and Iran's willingness to renew talks only if the issue of Bahraini Shiites is included represent a blow to those who believe in the feasibility of dialogue with Iran.
It is likely that U.S. President Barack Obama already understands that an Iranian nuclear weapon would primarily endanger American interests in the Middle East. Even Muslims with the most extreme hatred of Israel now understand that an Iranian nuclear weapon wouldn't be meant for the "liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem," but rather for the Iranian Shiite revolution to take control of the Sunni Arab world and its resources.
Syria is now a battlefield between regional and global superpowers. It is clear to Arabs that they are trapped in the grasp of rival powers. On one side, there is anti-American China and Russia, supporting the Shiite axis of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. On the other side, there is the U.S. and its allies, including Turkey, Europe and Israel.
The conflicting interests of these two sides neutralize any effort to stop the slaughter in Syria. As of now, the voices calling for compromise are growing. But as more time passes, the powers will try to equip their respective side with advanced weapons to achieve victory.
But the lessons learned by the Americans in the past have aroused questions in Washington over whether to provide rebels with decisive advanced weaponry. Experience shows that American weapons given to Islamists will bring to power an Islamic authority that will later use those weapons against America.
The fact that war crimes have been committed in Syria without any country raising a finger should be of concern to Israeli citizens.
There is no doubt that if the Syrian hordes could, they would massacre us with even more brutality than they are currently massacring themselves. Israel must be very cautious when making dangerous concessions in exchange for international guarantees.
It is chilling to think there are still those in Israel who take seriously the idea of a binational state or the return of Palestinian refugees to inside Israel. In the Middle East, sectarian massacres are routine. Look at Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and even Egypt.
The silence of Raed Salah, a proliferator of stories about the "Al-Asqa mosque being in danger," over the destruction of mosques in Syria is telling. The destruction of mosques in Syria teaches us what is waiting for Jews around the corner.
Hezbollah, whose fate depends on the survival of the Assad regime, may act in desperation against Israel, if only to aid Assad by creating a common enemy. Hezbollah is now threatening to plunge Israel into darkness.
It was a mistake to let wounded Syrians into Israel. This trickle may become a steady flow of armed refugees.
Israel must prepare for the arrival to its border of well-armed Islamic terrorists from the streets of Damascus.
The Palestinians are now escalating tension over prisoners held by Israel, claiming that Israel is rearresting individuals who were released in the Schalit deal. The Palestinian media is replete with claims of starvation and other lies.The failure of reconciliation talks in Egypt between Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the threat of Hamas taking over Judea and Samaria are not encouraging signs. Obama knows this.