Originally published at Gatestone Institute.
According to the Arabic proverb, “If you honor and respect a noble man, he will become your friend, but if you honor and respect a villain, he will rise up against you.”
One view of diplomacy, deemed misguided by leaders such as Churchill, is to abandon one’s friends and court one’s enemies in the assumption that the friend is yours and will not abandon you. The United States deserted the Shah for the Ayatollah’s Revolutionary Guards; it abandoned Mubarak for the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist Mohamed Morsi, and it has abandoned Iraq and Afghanistan to domestic chaos, growing terrorism and the approaching Islamist takeover.
Now, voices from the West and the Middle East have suggested that the status of the United States may be in jeopardy in countries where it previously had influence, such as Egypt.
The U.S. is withholding funding from the new Sisi regime, which may be the only chance of keeping Egypt from slipping back into the religious autocracy of the Muslim Brotherhood. America explained that its decision to cut funding to Egypt was due to lack of democratic process in Sisi’s advancement to power. Ironically, however, America has weakened the defenses of the world against violent Islamism, which can be defined as a militant political version of Islam, that outspokenly desires to take over the Arab-Muslim countries and turn them into a united base from which to bring Islam to the rest of the world. This goal, according to the Islamists, can be accomplished through irhab, or terrorism, with the eventual aim of converting everyone to Islam, using force if necessary. As it is written in the Noble Qur’an, Al-Anfal 8:60, “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war to strike fear into (the hearts of) the enemies of Allah, and your enemies…” Neutralizing the fight against Islamism in the name of democracy and pluralism sounds like justifying theft and drug dealing in the name of freedom to earn a living.
Neutralizing the fight against religious autocracies and the terrorists they sponsor exposes to attack the right to life, the democratic institutions and the freedom that every citizen of the Western world enjoys, and that others, lately from North Africa, have risked, and often lost, their lives on broken-down boats in the hope of enjoying as well.
In allowing Iran time to become a nuclear power, the United States, as the leading power in the West, and filling the vacuum that other nations could well be hoping to fill, could be in serious danger of losing the last remaining vestiges of its deterrence and influence in the Middle East, especially in the Sunni Arab world, as seen last month by the Saudi refusal to accept its two-year term on the United Nations Security Council.
America’s recent choices seem to have improved Iran’s status both at home and abroad, so that now Iran is demanding, as a regional power, to participate in the Geneva 2 conference to determine the fate of Syria, alongside Russia and the United States. Iran’s request has apparently made Assad newly self-confident; he no longer sees himself as a despised ruler and the murderer of his own people. He says he does not plan to give up power, and, taking advantage of his Iranian patron’s newly-found status and strength, has announced that he intends to run for president again in 2014.
America’s failure to support the Syrian national opposition as the alternative to the Assad regime, according to critics such as Senator John McCain, has enabled gangs of armed Islamists to flock to Syria from all corners of the Arab-Muslim world and take over the revolution. By abandoning the Syrian opposition, he claimed, the West sealed its fate. The opposition’s demands to open safe passages to the besieged civilian enclaves for humanitarian purposes have also not been addressed. The Syrian opposition’s request to turn the Syrian skies into a no-fly zone to stop the aerial bombing of civilians went similarly unanswered.
The Syrian population is being decimated, gradually but persistently destroyed by famine, disease and bombing, eating dead cats and dogs (for which permission has been given by Islamist clerics) and this is even before the cold winter. For some reason, the usually outspoken voice of the people is silent and it is business as usual.
The tragedy appears to be that the intellectuals of the West seem only willing to raise their voices against the “undemocratic” security measures taken by the United States against terrorism.
Ironically, Sunni Arab states are now expecting their greatest regional enemy, Israel, said to be a nuclear power, to protect them from an Iranian attack; and Britain, breaking rank, has already announced that it is easing its own sanctions on the Rhum North Sea gas field, co-owned by British Petroleum and the Iranian Oil Company, and closed by the British government in 2010, thus breaking the ring of sanctions around Iran.
As no Arab country, however, will agree for long to be protected by the Zionist nuclear umbrella — and certainly not to be exposed to the mercies of an Iranian leadership with which it has been warring for centuries — many fear the situation seems headed toward a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has not only declined membership in the UN Security Council, but the Gulf States and Egypt have been looking for allies who can be trusted. So far, it seems, Egypt has found only Russia, which loyally defends Syria and Bashar Assad’s interests as America continues its negotiations with Iran, which is suspected of simply using them to buy time to complete its nuclear program.
Even the Palestinian Authority and Hamas understand which way the wind is blowing and have begun approaching Iran, hat in hand, while they have apparently hinted to Assad and his Iranian sponsor that they might have been hasty in betraying him for Syria’s Islamist opposition. It turns out, however, that the rulers of Tehran are men of long memories, and recently notified Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal that his visit will be postponed.
Critics of those who defend the free world against its adversaries accuse the U.S. government and its security agencies of routinely wiretapping public figures and entire governments, including friendly governments such as Germany; and of conducting drone-executed targeted killings as an accepted form of warfare.
But who, exactly, are the people criticizing the Western world’s actions against terrorism? Are they supporters of Islamic terrorism or rivals of the West who want to keep the democratic peoples from defending themselves? Are they simply folk who repeat slogans without understanding the genuine threats now being posed — whether a nuclear Middle East, starting with Iran, or Russia’s increasing influence in the region? Do they really believe that terrorism can be fought without violence, cleverness and trickery as great as, or greater than, what is used by the terrorists themselves?
Criticism, even if justified, can sabotage a just battle and people’s right to self defense. Criticism of wiretapping, using drones to target terrorist operatives, and detaining and questioning terrorists are constantly repeated. Also repeated are criticism of sanctions against Iran — a country with rulers actively working towards producing a nuclear bomb which they may have every intention of using. Every measure is labelled by critics of self-defense as “collective, disproportionate punishment.”
Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which criticize wars without questioning what freedoms they could lose without them, would like the U.S. overcome terrorism without using its relative advantages — exactly those advantages that are always critical in determining the outcome of any war.
The alternative they propose, and a scenario of abject failure, is to send American infantrymen, carrying 70 pounds of equipment on their backs, to trudge through the snows of Pakistan and Afghanistan. There, they would fight the Taliban face to face on its home ground, in hostile territory where the adversary enjoys the advantages of guerrilla warfare, ease of movement, and the support (both willing and unwilling) of the local population.
As horrific as it is to kill innocent civilians who might happen to be in the path of targeted drones, is it not better for America to destroy the Taliban and Al-Qaeda by using satellite cameras and drones, without losing American lives?
In the war on terrorism the West cannot afford to flip-flop or apologize. Terrorism needs to be struck hard and all the relative advantages need to be used — wiretapping, drones, targeted killings and sanctions — against both terrorist groups and countries that sponsor terrorism, such as Iran.
The U.S. must not, in my opinion, let Iran sense that it is either weak or wavering; an Iranian nuclear bomb will not be weak or wavering. As much as the U.S. and the West do not want war, they may well ask if permitting Iran to complete its nuclear program would only invite a war even more costly in lives and treasure later. Surely democracies that wish to remain free, and free of war, cannot think only about what happens on one’s own watch.
About the Author: Ali Salim is an expert on Islam; he resides in the Middle East.
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