by Zia Sarhadi (World, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 10, Rabi' al-Thani, 1420)
That the claimant to sole superpower status should feel threatened by one frail man living somewhere in the barren mountains of Afghanistan is strange indeed. American obsession with Osama bin Laden, the Arab mujahid, borders on paranoia. After Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil, the Taliban foreign minister, announced on July 8 that Shaikh Osama was indeed in Afghanistan under a specially-provided guard, the Americans immediately jumped into action. James Foley, a US State department spokesman, said in Washington on July 9 that the US was prepared to negotiate with the Taliban about Osama’s extradition to face charges relating to his alleged involvement in the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania last year.
This came immediately after the US imposed sanctions on the Taliban adminstration in Kabul. The surreal nature of the sanctions was even admitted by US president Bill Clinton. There is no trade between Afghanistan and the US, or indeed with any other country. The Taliban get their goods by smuggling them across their porous borders with Pakistan and Iran. Besides, the Taliban do not care much about the economic well-being of their people; their concerns are more mundane: the length of men’s beards, the kind of shoes women wear. Ironically, those who are too poor to have shoes at all are not catered for.
Mullah Muhammad Omar, who two days earlier had dismissed US sanctions, must have been tickled pink by Foley’s offer to negotiate. “We don’t care about the American sanctions which were imposed due to the deep differences between the Taliban and the US government,” he said in a telephone statement from Qandahar to the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press news service, on July 7. With impeccable logic, Mullah Omar pointed out: “The US never demanded the expulsion of Osama bin Laden when dealing with the previous Afghan government.” Then he gave his reasons why Washington had imposed sanctions: “The United States has certain designs regarding Afghanistan” which had led to the differences with his militia.
But American concern about Osama is not confined to Afghanistan alone. It has targeted even such friendly States as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, demanding that both prevent their banks and citizens from dealing with him. Earlier this month, the US sent top officials from the National Security Council as well as the Treasury department to Dubai to put pressure on the government to block any alleged financial transactions of Osama’s through the Islamic Bank in Dubai. In essence, the Americans demand that the UAE act as their subcontractor in apprehending Osama and his associates, as well as curtailing their activities, something the US itself has been singularly unsuccessful in doing.
The charge against Qatar is even more serious. Some US officials have alleged in private that the Qatari foreign minister Shaikh Hamed bin Jassim al-Thani warned Ramzy Ahmed Yousef in 1996 that a US FBI team was on its way to arrest him. Yousef is currently serving a long sentence in the US after being convicted on several charges in New York last year. One of his accomplices, Khaled Shaikh Muhammad, is still at large and the US suspect he may be in Qatar.
The Americans’ real concern is that, despite a hysterical propaganda campaign, many wealthy Arabs in the Persian Gulf States still sympathise with Osama and apear to be providing financial as well as other support to him. While the US establishment can brainwash its own people into accepting whatever drivel it dishes out to them, others are not taken in so easily by US propaganda. Besides, American heavy-handedness, especially in its attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan last August, have turned many people against Washington, which is viewed as a ‘rogue’ superpower and a capital of world arrogance. The open licence given to its Zionist ward also rubs salt into the festering Palestinian wound with which Muslims globally instinctively sympathise.
The allegation against the Qatari foreign minister has other implications, He is known to be sympathetic to Islamic causes and has opened Qatar television to free debate. Al-Jazira television has mesmerised people in the entire region where all points of view are aired, not just the official version or US propaganda. This irks the Zionists, who fear that free debate will focus light on their nefarious activities and expose their duplicitous nature.
Muslimedia: July 16-31, 1999