by Akhmet Makhmoudov (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 9, Muharram, 1436)
The US uses a number of tools in its arsenal to advance its agenda in the Middle East. Soft power is one of them.
The Western media is awash with stories about US military and political strategy in its most recently launched campaign to re-occupy the Muslim East under its self-created pretext called ISIS. All current discussion on US strategy in Syria and Iraq revolves around Washington’s hard-power objectives. It is the soft-power objectives of the US that must be analyzed in order to gain in-depth understanding of its tangible goals. We will bring forth certain soft-power aspects of Washington’s policies in Iraq and Syria in order to present a broader picture of its tangible and non-tangible objectives.
Looking at the reality, US economic, military and political positions in the Muslim East are much weaker than five years ago and its position in the region will never be the same again. Closer look at the US economic, military and political data reveals the real state of affairs. The US is an empire in decline with a failed model of governance.
In April 2014, domestic and international media outlets reported on a joint study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities. It was titled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens.” The Washington Times pointed out that “researchers compared 1,800 different US policies that were put in place by politicians between 1981 and 2002 to the type of policies preferred by the average and wealthy American, or special interest groups.” The in-depth study came to the conclusion that ordinary Americans had always felt but were never able to articulate properly that the US is an oligarchy. Similar factual studies can be found on the US economy and its shrinking military power. We will, therefore, not spend time and space proving the obvious.
The untenable nature of US policies in Syria and Iraq is evident. Even the half-literate US government-linked think tanks admit that in the long term the US strategy is doomed to fail. The US establishment also knows this. It is simply pursuing a tactic reminiscent of all collapsing empires, namely, “if not us (the US) then no one will rule the Muslim East, even its own people.”
Washington is deliberately pursuing a policy of chaos in the Muslim East in order to present its neo-colonial dominance as a better option. Washington hopes that a day will soon come when the people of the Muslim East will beg the US to return to the region in full force in order to “free” them from unruly militias and despotic warlords. Basic observation of Washington’s political lexicon and its global media apparatus clearly reveal the narrative Western elites are subtly trying to push.
Western regimes led by the US are aware of the fact that it is the Islamic model of governance that people of the region want. Electoral victory of Islamic parties in the post-Islamic Awakening (aka the Arab Spring) period is one of the undeniable key indicators of the fact that Islamic model of governance is the main option people are willing to consider. This fact is publicly acknowledged even by Western power centers. In order to discredit the only governing model that can compete with Western hedonistic/secular model, the US and its modern day Khawarij allies in the region, aka Aal Saud, have facilitated the rise of ISIS and other takfiri terrorist outfits so that people in the region would lose hope in self-government. This is an old trick in the book of imperialism. A similar trick was pulled in Afghanistan; the world has not forgotten the fact that Osama bin Laden’s activities in the 1980s in Afghanistan were facilitated by the CIA.
Oil, geo-politics and money are the secondary reasons for Washington’s policies in the Muslim world. Its main goal is to gain ideological supremacy. If this were not the case, the first place the US Air Force would target would be Riyadh, the intellectual nest of al-Qaeda and ISIS types and the official dogma of the Saudi/Najdi “scholarship.” It is the official Saudi “scholars” that constantly spit out “fatwas” justifying the murder of innocent people similar to 9/11 yet successive US regimes have been the staunchest backers of the House of Saud. Why? Washington needs the narrow minded, primitive, and literalist “Islam” to be presented as the alternative to its own oppressive yet operationally sophisticated hedonistic/secular model. The ISIS/Saudi “vision” and methodology automatically pushes people toward the operationally sophisticated hedonistic/secular model.
The above outlined strategy is being implemented quite well. There is only one major obstacle in its path: Islamic Republic of Iran. Islamic Iran is the most serious challenge for the West because despite all its administrative and managerial weaknesses, the Islamic governing model is working. It is struggling to function as would any other under such immense external pressure, but it is functioning nonetheless. The Islamic system in Iran is not perfect. It is these natural imperfections that every state and most humans have that the Western soft-power institutions are trying to hype-up, exaggerate and constantly focus on when discussing Islamic Iran in order to dishearten the Muslim masses and generate cynicism in the Muslim world.
No practicing Muslim who is aware of Islamic principles and guidelines would ever claim that a Muslim who commits muharramat — sins and mistakes — is a non-Muslim, because most humans commit sins and apart from certain specific sins, most muharramat do not make one a kafir or a munafiq. Yet, some Muslims are quick to indulge in allegations of takfir against Islamic organizations and entities that are composed of imperfect people like themselves. It is this phenomenon that the Western powers are actively cultivating in order to undermine all Islamic movements.
In the Muslim East today the above outlined tactic is pursued using two types of ideological trends: dogmatically aggressive secularists and the takfiri groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. These two ideological trends greatly facilitated by foreign powers act as a self-destructive mechanism for the Muslim Ummah. In order to defeat both of these trends in the realm of soft-power, the global Islamic movement should increase its openness to constructive criticism and instill the Qur’anic idea of divine trial through failure. While the first recommendation is easy to grasp, the second needs some elaboration.
In the Qur’an Allah (swt) always talks about the eternal reward to those who continue pursuing His agenda even when they encounter trials and tribulations that may lead to failure. The global Islamic movement must develop Qur’anic-based methods to explain to the Muslim masses that difficulty in establishing a genuine functioning Islamic state and government is not an Islamically legitimate reason to abandon pursuit of the establishment of the Islamic state and government. While work is being done in this direction, the contemporary situation demands from the Islamic movement the development of more sophisticated means of teaching this crucial concept to the Muslim masses.