In the last 15 years a variety of Islamist Jihadi movements have erupted across the world in response to inequities, e.g. those in Israel, Chechnya, Palestine, Kashmir and against local despots such as those in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other places. There is the probability and some indication that all these diverse movements could come together, albeit loosely, with a shared political platform against the oppressors. Al-Qaida and its affiliates are one example. Such a conglomerate would doubtlessly be significantly be more dangerous that the individual movements themselves.
From an intelligence officer from the security services of one of the western powers or other countries who are potential targets of these people, what would be the best way to deal with this danger? There is the obvious solution, which is long term and perhaps long lasting – remove the inequities that have given rise to these movements and which fuel the resentment and promote recruitment to them.
However this solution would be a non-starter since the political leadership in these countries would regard it as counter to their strategic national interests since in many cases the inequities have been deliberately created by them, as in the case of Israel, or by despots supported by these powers in client states, to safe guard their own national interests.
An alternative would be to somehow find a way to divert the attention of these jihadis from their real objective of trying to address the inequities, which would bring them in conflict with the West and other pro West counties to another objective which would preserve the intensity of the their feelings and keep them engaged up to a point that would degrade their capabilities, but would be harmless or at least less harmful to the West.
What better opportunity to develop an alternative target than to revive the historical Sunni-Shia schism that has existed in Islam for 1400 years but had been dormant and been put on the back burner in the face of other contemporary problems.I do not know whether this is in fact the case or not, but a recent CNN report that shows Jihadis from far away and from some unlikely places as Chile, Europe, USA, Chechnya and Australia are flocking to Iraq to join the ISIS ( Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to fight the true infidels – the Shias, may well substantiate this theory, since absent the war in Syria and Iraq, all these guys would be probably looking for a way to bomb a target in the US, Europe, Russia or other western countries.
So looking at it through an intelligence officer’s lens from one of these countries, ISIS would appear as a godsend which would perhaps give them some time to get a more accurate fix on these guys in their new gathering place so that when and if they return to their home countries they would be dealt with appropriately.
Now the colonial powers have been adept at this game. The infamous Laurence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell, the so called mother of modern Iraq, were members of the UK intelligence services – the Arab Bureau- and were key to the toppling of the Ottoman empire and getting the Arabs “freedom”. This freedom of course was under the direct supervision of monarchs appointed by them who guaranteed that Western national interests would be preserved including a steady stream of low priced oil.
It may be of interest to note that the father of the Kurdish nationalist movement, Mustafa Barzani was brought up in England under the supervision of the UK intelligence services ; likewise the older Pir Sahib Pagara in Sindh, Pakistan to keep the Hurs under check.
In contemporary times we saw another version of this in the Iran- Iraq war of the 1980s and 90s when the west adroitly used Iraq to offset an emerging Iran under Khomeini and the Afghan war in which they promoted and in fact created many of the Jihadis to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was also very surprising to read from a Newsweek report in the eighties that “Hamas” was created by the Mossad and the CIA as a counter to Hezbollah’s increasing influence in the Palestinian independence movement.
So there are numerous examples of this behavior.
It is not surprising to see the Saudis and the Gulf states supporting the extremists Jihadis since their rulers have been direct beneficiaries of the Western presence in the Middle east, since the fall of the Ottomans. However, it is surprising to see the very Turks who have been victims of this game to fall prey to it again and eagerly joining the fight against the Shias in Iraq and Syria. Also a Kurdish rump state in Iraq would only be a beginning towards a greater Kurdistan which will carve out large pieces of Turkey and Iran.
By citing the examples above I do not absolve the political leadership of the Muslim countries and shift the blame on the West. We are primarily responsible for the state of disarray in our countries. Other countries are merely taking advantage of the situation to preserve their own interests.
So I guess we never learn. On a more general point. I do not understand how the Muslim world be a better place if everybody would become a Salafi, Wahabi or Shia and illiteracy, ignorance, malnutrition, high infant mortality, inequality and injustice continue to prevail.
It would seem to me that we cannot go back to the past. We have to look forward and try to solve our current day problems with contemporary instruments such as education, democracy, justice, equality for all and other elements which are not religion specific and are found in all religions and sects.
I leave you with one last question. What are the chances that you would have converted to your present faith / religion / sect were you to have been born in a family that practiced a different faith? Think about this for a moment before embarking on or supporting a mission to eradicate all other faiths/ religions/ sects from the face of the World!