The Right Way to 'Dry Up' the Sources of Terror
13 August 2016
By Eyad Abu Shakra
The terrorist attacks that recently targeted Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, and
before them, those targeting Istanbul-Ataturk Airport in Turkey, Paris and
Brussels – without forgetting the tragedies shaking the Middle East states –
are outrages that underline the world's duty to confront criminal terror
perpetrated under 'Islamic' banners. Verbal condemnations are no longer
acceptable and solid actions are now the only answer.
In the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks in the USA, senior figures
in the G.W. Bush administration called for 'drying up' the sources of terror.
This is absolutely right. There is no alternative other than 'drying up' the
sources of terror, in the sense that terror must be deprived of the social
'incubators' in which it grows and finds protection.
The Bush administration, however, committed two big mistakes during the early
period after the September 11 attacks. The first was to silence the
good-intentioned voices of ordinary Americans who innocently asked ''Why do
they hate us?!'' The extreme Right's ideologues and fixers worked overtime to
discredit this question by claiming that no political stances would or should
justify outrages of that scale.
The second was launching an 'open-ended' war against an undefined 'enemy',
then creating new realities on the ground that only helped the very same
'enemy' find a social 'incubator', although the declared aim of the war was
exactly the opposite!
As regards the first mistake, given the massive shock that overwhelmed
American society in the autumn of 2001, it was understandable that the need
for national solidarity against unprecedented terror outweighed any rational,
serious and democratic debate. Furthermore, some beliefs and interests pushed
for quick 'practical solutions' rather than proper and serious strategic
approaches. The Bush administration, led by the 'Neocons', did not limit its
war to attacking Al-Qaeda (which claimed responsibility for the September 11
attacks) and Taliban (its Afghani ally and defender), but began implement an
'old pre-planned strategy' – totally unrelated to the attacks – aimed at
bringing down 'unfriendly' Middle East regimes, beginning with Saddam
Hussein's Baath regime in Iraq.
In those pre-Obama and pre-JCPOA days, Washington regarded Iran a
terror-sponsoring rogue state. Indeed, Iran had through its local operatives
and puppets planned and executed the infamous hostage taking operations in
Lebanon, including Americans – some of whom were later murdered – as well as
the suicide attack against the US Marines base in Beirut on October 23rd 1983
where 241 Americans were killed. Those operatives and puppets, now known as
Hezbollah, were organized, financed and guided by Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur, who
was then Iran's ambassador in Syria, and later became Iran's Interior
In Iraq, almost immediately after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the
exiled Shi'ite leaders of 'The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq'
(presently known as 'The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq') flocked to
US-occupied Baghdad from Iran. Among these and their militiamen were
ex-fighters on the Iranian side during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) in the
ranks of the 'Badr Brigade' militia. Incidentally, the 'Council' was founded
by the exiled Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Mohammad Baqer Al-Sadr in November 1982 in
Iran, and was granted its official sponsorship as being a part of Tehran's
strategy of 'exporting the (Khomeini/Islamic) revolution'.
Iran's growing influence in Iraq, indeed, 'taking over the country' – as the
British military in southern Iraq soon discovered – was moving hand in hand
with Hezbollah's gradual hegemony in Lebanon, where it imposed its control not
only on Lebanon's political institutions, but also on its security
This became much clearer in the following years at decisive landmarks in the
country's modern history; namely since the autumn of 2004 when the
presidential term of Pres Emile Lahhoud, an ally of Tehran and Damascus, was
unconstitutionally extended. After that several leading opponents of the
Tehran – Damascus axis were assassinated including Lebanon's ex-Prime Minister
Rafiq Hariri (2005). Later, in 2006, Hezbollah fought a war against Israel
that now appears to have been planned by Iran merely to achieve a permanent
ceasefire in south Lebanon and create a de-militarized 'buffer zone' with
Israel that allows Hezbollah to be employed in other regional wars.
Indeed, by 2008, Hezbollah became not only a fully-fledged 'state within a
state', but also bigger and more powerful than the Lebanese state itself while
remaining a partner in its political decision processes and its political and
Then, in March 2011, after the Syrian popular uprising against the Assad
dynastic dictatorship – Iran's only Arab ally during the Iran-Iraq War – the
full truth became clear and fake slogans uncovered, as Hezbollah turned its
attentions away from the Israeli 'Blue line' in order to fight the Syrian
people and abort their uprising.
By this time, Nouri Al-Maliki, Iraq's ex-Prime Minister (2008-2014) and former
pro-Tehran Al-Da'wa Party activist was fully engaged in an Iran-aided and
abetted sectarian war against Sunni Arab Iraqis, antagonizing even their
tribal 'Sahwaat' militias which since 2006 succeeded in preventing Al-Qaeda's
spread in Sunni western Iraq.
It is important to mention here that Al-Qaeda would have never existed in the
that region in the first place had it not been for the 'policies' of hatred,
revenge, spite and sectarian discrimination practiced by Al-Maliki against his
Sunni compatriots. Thus, when 'Iranian political Shi'ism' controlled Iraq at
the expense of the Sunnis, imposed its hegemony over Lebanon, and expanded its
influence militarily in Syria – with Assad's collusion – it was only natural
that a counter-reaction would emerge. This counter-reaction soon took the
shape of a social 'incubator' for desperate and suicidal Sunni extremism,
materializing into ISIS; the same ISIS that has attacked and occupied the city
of Mosul without a fight!
The conditions that 'created' ISIS are what we see and know. And the security
and intelligence 'apparatuses' that have maintained, exploited and benefitted
from ISIS and its crimes know exactly what they are doing, leaving nothing to
This extremist terrorist organization is consciously, or unconsciously,
drawing the maps of grand plan for a new Middle East, and forcing the Muslim
world into endless religious wars with the west, sectarian wars between Sunnis
and Shi'ites, and ethnic wars between Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Iranians.
Eliminating this social 'incubator' of extremism would be impossible without
Arab and international goodwill and deep political understanding of what is
taking place in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Simply declaring war on Sunni Muslims, more precisely Arab Sunni Muslims, will
do nothing but enlarge this 'incubator' and further stoke the fires of
Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with
the newspaper since 1978.