by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 7, Shawwal, 1433)
Al-Qaeda is often trotted out as a bogey to justify US aggression against others. Al-Qaeda is an American creation and a handy tool. The nexus alliance has become fully exposed in Syria.
As in other aspects of life, disagreements among socio-political or economic entities cannot always be described as competition or hostility. The European Union (EU) disagrees with some of the US methodologies in the Muslim East but it would be inaccurate to deduce from this that the EU is not a strategic partner of US imperialism in the region. In matters of strategic alliances, it is important to see on what matters the members agree and how crucial the points of their agreement or disagreement are in regard to reaching certain strategic goals. In the US, Democrats and Republicans disagree on many issues, but on strategic matters their vision is rooted within the same imperialist/capitalist paradigm.
It is very rare to observe two states, organizations or institutions agree on certain crucial policies without a thought-through and coordinated process. During the Cold War even though the USSR and the US disagreed on many issues, they both carefully calibrated their efforts in regard to containing the Islamic Revolution in Iran, at times directly and at other times indirectly. The USSR and the Western bloc were both supplying Saddam Hussein with weapons against Islamic Iran. While the US support for Saddam is well known, most people do not know that between 1980 and 1988 the USSR provided Saddam with more weapons than any other country in the world. Even though often during the Cold War, the US and USSR were on opposite sides, their animosity toward Islamic civilizational alternative was a much more important issue to both than their own rivalry.
Today, at a superficial level the US is engaged in a war against al-Qaeda and other like-minded groups. However, deeper research and analysis reveals that al-Qaeda leadership and the US are in fact strategic partners. In order to prove this, let us conduct a brief factual analysis of where the interests of the US and its modern-day Khawarij (Wahhabi/al-Qaeda) creation converge.
Reviewing the literature, the intellectual framework and the operational mindset of al-Qaeda leadership that sometimes functions under the designation, Salafis, it becomes evident that their ideological center is the US-backed Saudi regime. In the last 60 years, every US government has declared the Saudi monarchy as its strategic partner. Saudi cooperation with the US on every single strategic issue is well known and needs no elaboration. This, therefore, leads to the pertinent question: why would the Saudi regime allow the so-called anti-US and anti-Israeli “scholars” to operate freely in the kingdom and propagate the thoughts of al-Qaeda that is supposedly the archenemy of Saudi regime’s strategic partner? Muslims and non-Muslims should research the answer to this question thoroughly. When answering this question it must be taken into account that al-Qaeda and its likes have high regard for official Saudi pseudo-scholars like ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Baz who provided his fatwa services for the US forces to occupy the Arabian Peninsula in the early 1990s. Al-Qaeda reveres Shaykh Uthaymeen, whose close ties to the Saudi regime are well known. Uthaymeen’s fatwas are regularly used by al-Qaeda minded groups worldwide to legitimize their attacks against civilians. Al-Qaeda leadership is also silent about the Muslim World League, the Saudi-funded organization that transported 350 of its scholars in September of 1990 from Jeddah to Makkah and Madinah in order for them to confirm that the US forces were not present in the holy sites. After this “observation” they immediately passed a fatwa in favor of US military presence in the Arabian Peninsula.
The so-called anti-US Salafi “scholars” freely operate in a country where anyone daring to propagate any views opposed to the Saudi royal family’s policies, is immediately arrested tortured and/or killed. So how is it that the “great scholars” admired by al-Qaeda reside in, get salaries from the Saudi regime and openly preach “jihad” against Saudi regime’s imperialist protector? How can the so-called Islamic universities based and financed by the Saudi regime teach true Islam if a despotic regime finances them, which itself is sustained in power by the US? Claiming that the Saudi financed institutions back Islamic propagation would mean that the Pharaoh would finance and support the message of Prophet Musa (a) and let him openly preach monotheism in pharaonic Egypt.
To understand the alliance of al-Qaeda’s leadership with the US it would help to briefly consider the strategic global issues where they both take identical positions.
Islamic Awakening: When the mass protests began in the Arab world against the US-backed dictatorships, the regime in Washington kept on clinging to its puppets until it became evident they would be toppled. The Saudi pseudo-scholars took the same approach. Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Clerics led by Mufti Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Shaykh stated that demonstrations are forbidden in Islam. Other takfiri groups ranging from al-Qaeda to the armed groups in Chechnya adopted the same position on this issue. Later, as it became evident that the people’s uprisings cannot be stopped, Saudi officialdom began selectively backing the uprisings in those places where the US did the same. From the very beginning the Saudi pseudo-scholar establishment and the US supported the uprisings in Libya and Syria and much later and to a very limited degree in Egypt, but not in Bahrain, Tunisia or Yemen.
Hamas: Since Hamas’ victory in January 2006 parliamentary elections in Palestine it turned into the main target of attacks by the Saudi-minded clerical establishment ranging from Ayman al-Zawahiri to the Kuwaiti Hamed al-Ali. Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a Jordanian based pseudo-scholar, in his public letter to Shaykh Yunis al-Astal, a senior Hamas religious figure, launched a tirade against Hamas for participating in elections almost declaring Hamas members as apostates. Interestingly, al-Maqdisi has not issued any direct warnings against elections or the monarchies in Jordan or Saudi Arabia. The Jordanian regime skillfully makes sure that Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi retains his pseudo-aura of independence and credibility by jailing him for a few months every now and then. Abu Nur al-Maqdisi, a follower of the Jordanian al-Maqdisi went so far as to launch an armed insurrection against the Islamic administration of Hamas in Gaza claiming to restore “true Islam” in Gaza and somehow “forgetting” that the main beneficiary of such action is Israel. It seems that the “fiqh” of Abu Nur al-Maqdisi and his mentors prioritizes attacks on fellow Muslims living under Zionist occupation facing daily barrage of Israeli bombs instead of resisting occupation. What can be expected from those who learn their “fiqh” from Saudi books financed by petro-dollars and approved by the US?
Islamic Iran, Hizbullah & the Mahdi Army: On matters that have to do with creating divisions among Muslims, Ayman-al-Zawahiri along with the Saudi monarchy are at the forefront in nurturing sectarianism by labeling Shi‘i Muslims as kafir and, therefore, legitimate targets for killing. Instead of building an alliance with the Mahdi Army in resisting US occupation in Iraq (Mahdi Army members trying to enter Fallujah in 2004 to help their compatriots fight US aggression were either killed or turned away by al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda and its affiliates made the murder of Shi‘i Muslims a priority. Studying al-Qaeda’s actions in Iraq it becomes evident that resisting occupation was not one of their primary goals.
In 2006, when Hizbullah was fighting Israel, Saudi appointed Jumu‘ah prayer leaders, graduates of the kingdom’s so called Islamic universities were labeling Hizbullah as the party of Satan. While in rhetoric al-Qaeda minded “scholars” constantly speak of the Muslim Ummah, removing illegitimate governments and fighting to restore khilafah along with the need to remove borders within Muslim countries and bash the modern state system as bid‘ah and against Islam, when Western and Zionist interests are threatened they turn into the staunchest supporters of the Westphalia principles. Protests organized in June 2012 by Ahmed Assir in Lebanon demanding that Hizbullah hand over its weapons to the government is one such example. Regarding Islamic Iran, al-Qaeda is on the same page with the US, treating the Islamic government in Tehran as a major threat.
The above listed general issues are just a few of the many matters on which al-Qaeda’s position concurs with Washington. The issues outlined above are not minor, as any basic rational and academic research would immediately prove that these are extremely important for the survival of US imperialism or, at the very least its hegemony in the Muslim world.
Today the US is conducting an aggressive campaign against the Islamic model of governance and uses distorted versions of the Islamic model to discredit Islam. During the Cold War, the US promoted the most obnoxious and extreme groups within the leftist movements worldwide in order to discredit the entire left camp. The US alliance with the genocidal Khmer Rouge in the 1970s in Cambodia is one such example of this policy. The main instrument of US policy today is the Saudi regime that applies pre-Islamic tribalism under the mask of Islam and enjoys strong US backing. The scheme of marketing the Saudi monarchy as “custodians” of Islam provides the US with ammunition to constantly point at despotic practices of al-Qaeda and their ideologues embedded within the Saudi monarchy to discredit the Islamic model of governance.
One final point about the US-al-Qaeda linkage would be useful. The Council on Foreign Relations, an American rightwing think-tank had this to say about al-Qaeda and the Syrian rebels fighting against the government of Bashar al-Asad, “The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, rebel forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Asad regime’s superior weaponry and professional army. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.” Need one say more about the close links between the US and al-Qaeda?