17.02.2014 Author: Petr Lvov

United States in the face of a Salafi threat

1111The United States is beginning to pay for its “work” on engaging extremist and radical Islamist groups to overthrow secular regimes in the Arab countries during the so-called “Arab Spring”. As the well-known Russian proverb says – as you sow, so shall you reap.

Showing its fangs, especially in Syria and Iraq, al-Qaeda and its offshoots, as well as such ideologically terrorist organizations as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Dzhabgat en-Nusra, Ansar al-Sunna, etc. so discredited themselves in front of the Americans and Europeans, and even conservative circles of Saudi Arabia, that Washington was forced to renounce any association with them. Moreover, the United States even started encouraging more moderate factions of the Syrian opposition to break ranks with the extremists. This caused a reaction – some fighters, associated with Al-Qaeda, already announced a few days ago that they were preparing some terrorist attacks against the United States and its citizens, in U.S. and British territory. Extremists declared their readiness to commit an attack on the British transport and financial centre, and threatened to arrange terrorist attacks in the United States, for example, to arrange an attack on the White House, reports The Daily Mail. The text threatening attacks on various facilities in the West has been placed on line. According to the above-cited British newspaper, the secret services of the kingdom take these threats very seriously.

In turn, the BBC writes: “Never before the people of British origin fighting in Syria have threatened their own country with the bloody actions.” According to The Daily Mail, Intelligence Committee of the U.S. Congress also has information that members of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda have established a training camp in Syria, where mercenaries from Western countries are being trained. According to this newspaper, in this camp, foreign nationals “study terrorism”, and coming back home, they carry out terrorist operations. As the newspaper The Telegraph announced, recruiters of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda train “British jihadists” not to return to their homeland, but to stage attacks in the UK. This fact was told by an Iraqi intelligence service source. According to the Iraqi secret service agent, having been interviewed by Turkish television on condition of anonymity, mercenaries from European countries and the United States, are becoming followers of an anti-Western ideology. They are trained in the Middle East, and, then, they arrange attacks in their home countries.

Earlier, the Syrian government issued a statement that the proportion of foreigners among militants in the country exceeds 80%. Moreover, mercenaries arrive in the country, not only from the surrounding Arab states, but also from European countries. According to Syrian Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi, overall, militants from 29 countries are fighting in Syria. Meanwhile, in late 2013, the EU coordinator on terrorism recognized that more and more European youths are leaving to fight in Syria, where they battle alongside the rebels. According to representatives of the London International Institute for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, the number of Europeans fighting in Syria is not less than 600 people.

At the same time, the other day information was leaked that the Central Intelligence Agency is preparing an operation using a drone to kill an American citizen – a member of al-Qaeda, who, according to available intelligence data, is preparing terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens abroad, using homemade explosives. The information does not specify the country in which this U.S. citizen had been uncovered.

Of course, the danger of terrorism is being so insistently trumpeted due to the internal factors in American politics: Republicans want to prove that B. Obama’s conclusion that al-Qaeda is almost completely defeated, and thus does not represent a danger for U.S. security, is premature. At recent congressional hearings in February, the legislators, on the basis of reports of the Director of National Intelligence Agency, James R. Clapper and the Head of the Defence Intelligence Agency, Michael T. Flynn, concluded that Al-Qaeda and its regional branches are growing quantitatively and qualitatively. It is necessary to mention that in addition to this terroristic organization’s core – the so-called “Afghans”, there are branches in four regions – Yemen, Somalia, the Maghreb and Syria, as well as their associated groups like the Libyan Ansar al-Sharia and the Egyptian Ansar Bayt al-Muqaddas. During the hearings, the reasons of Al-Qaeda’s “revival” of influence were emphasized: the emergence of vast areas without state supervision, a general weakening of central governments in the Middle East and North Africa, “leaky” boundaries, low level of local security services, and weapons saturation of the above-mentioned areas. Thus, the weapons from the Libyan warehouses, looted during the rebellion against Gaddafi, can be found in the Maghreb. The weapons brought in on the money of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arabian monarchies for the war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad can be found in Syria. In addition, there are sprawling terrorist extremist activities far beyond Al-Qaeda’s “sphere of influence”. For example, there appeared such a phenomenon as the powerful international terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which in its ideology and actions is even more radical than Al-Qaeda. In the U.S.A., there appeared even a new term – “Salafi jihadism”.

There is a tendency today of terrorists to gradually turn into “revolutionaries”, whose goal is the establishment of control over certain areas and even entire regions and the establishment of ultra-conservative Sharia power. This fact leads to a strong rooting of political jihadism. Moreover, Salafi ideology has been massively spreading throughout the Arab and Islamic world thanks to the huge financial support of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates in recent years. Moreover, today there are no attempts being made of banning this ideology as an ideology of radical extremism. Its preachers can be seen daily, not only on local television channels, but also on the most popular Arab channels such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. Salafist literature is freely available in all Muslim countries and Muslim communities even outside the Islamic “Ummah”, including the U.S., EU countries and Russia.

Moreover, in many countries, especially ones in the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf, powerful Islamic charity funds have been created, which collect money from the people. In addition, here we should mention state budget funds being directed at the promotion of Salafi ideology in countries where its penetration is meeting strong resistance. A striking example of this is Syria, where the Syrian Islamic Front, having united the most radical jihadist organizations of the opposition, breaking from the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, promotes Salafi ideas, being sponsored from the above-mentioned funds. The main sponsors of this, at the state level, are Qatar and Kuwait, as well as a number of Saudi Arabian publishers. These are the Wahhabi “headquarters”, consisting of such structures as Idarat Hayat Al-buhus wal wal-Irshad da’wah (organization located in Riyadh), commonly known as Hayat al-Dawa and its branch Dzhamiyat Ihya al-turas in Kuwait, as well as the “Front” in Mecca – Muslim World League (Rabitat al Alam al-Islami).

Still, the fighting units of extremist Islamist organizations constitute the main danger for U.S. security and its citizens. Moreover, they have enough resources to carry out terrorist attacks against the U.S. presence in the Arab world and Afghanistan, as well as to organize individual terrorist acts on the territory of the United States. Thus, Al-Qaeda fighters, including the Talibans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, number more than 25,000 people, with the number of radical militants of all types reaching 100,000. They are divided into approximately 1,500 groups, units and structures, all well-armed, trained and ideologically motivated. In addition, having a certain political will and appropriate instructions “from above”, these “jihad fighters” are quite capable of inflicting serious damage to U.S. national security. The question is – when these “indicators” come from the Salafi Headquarters, what their goals and objectives will be, and where they are located – in the region or in the United States.

The U.S. intelligence agencies should be busy with this, but they obviously do not want to give their superior authorities and the American people a realistic assessment of threats from Salafi radicalism. This might be explained by the apparent importance of Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring monarchies for the West and Washington’s military-political and energy interests in the Gulf and in the Middle East. This is the reason for some in the U.S. to turn a blind eye to Riyadh, its radicalism and extremist policies of its allies. This kind of ‘bury your head ostrich policy’ may lead to the repetition of the September 11, 2001 tragedy.

Petr Lvov, Doctor of Political Sciences, exclusively for the New Eastern Outlook online magazine.