Obama Obama, We Love Osama! The True nature of the Muslim Riots

Today, Sydney Australia was rocked by violent protests as Muslim demonstrators surged through the streets holding signs saying “Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet Muhammad”, and carrying the flag of the Jihadists. Hundreds of protesters battled with police, hurling rocks at them, and injuring at least six officers. The crowd also vandalized property, and assaulted some individuals in the street. Police ended up gassing the crowd and using dogs to disperse the rioters, who vowed to return in greater numbers.

The reason given for the violence was the perceived insult to Islam by the trailer to the film made in America The Innocence of Muslims. Although not even confirmed as legitimate, the film has sparked uprisings around the world, with the most tragic moment being the assault on the American embassy in Libya and the murder of the American ambassador to Libya.

However, let us not fall into the trap of thinking these protests are in any way a legitimate expression of anger against this film. Let us not look at Sydney and claim that the violence was in any way, shape, or form a justified response to oppression. The vast majority of these rioters have never lived under oppression, have never been persecuted for their faith, and have lived in a free and democratic country which has been well known for their policy of openness to immigration and multiculturalism.

This violence is another outbreak of what Samuel Harrington termed the “Clash of Civilizations”. The Muslim world believes, rightly or wrongly, that the West has declared war against them, and against Islam in particular. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been painted as a crusade against Islam. This picture has not been helped by ill advised comments by the previous American administration.

In response to this, the Muslim culture has risen up against the West. They will fight back with everything they can against America and it’s allies, including Australia. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are only a symbol of the festering conflict between East and West; between Christian and Muslim. Groups such as Al Qaeda have been very open in appealing to the religious nature of this war, and they are absolutely correct. This is a fight, not against a government or a geopolitical ideology. It is a fight against a way of life. It is a fight against a culture.

America has been taught time and time again that to the Muslim people, a term I will use in a general sense, it is always seen as a target, no matter if they are allied to them or not. Americans feel hurt and angry that they are attacked in Iraq and Afghanistan after removing despotic regimes from power. They are confused why Libyans slaughter their ambassador after they freed their country. They do not understand why Muslims world wide are attacking their embassies due to an obscure film that the American administration had nothing to do with, and have not supported in any way.

The fact is, the film is meaningless. It is not the cause of this hatred. It is merely an excuse to carry on a campaign of hatred and terror against the West. No matter now much the West has done for these people. No matter now free the country in which they live, to the Muslim community, they will seize control of the nation and impose their own law on the people. And then they will have their revenge for perceived years of oppression in their homelands. Thus, radicals such as Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon in Australia call for Sharia law openly, and state that only a Muslim government of Australia would be legitimate. Siddiq-Conlon is right when he states

“One day Australia will live under sharia; it’s inevitable,” he said. “If they (Australians) don’t accept it, that’s not our problem. We hope, and our objective is to have a peaceful transition, but when you look at history that has never been the case. There’s always been a fight. It is inevitable that one day there will be a struggle for Islam in Australia.”


Later, this charming individual goes on to state that he hates democracy, and calls for the hatred of the worship of any other religion than Islam.

To radicals like Siddiq Conlon, the battle on the streets of Sydney is far more than an isolated outburst against a video. It is a culture war. They are not in Australia to assimilate, they are in Australia to attack the country, the culture, the people, and to take over.

Australians, good natured, trusting, and blissfully ignorant until recently of the affairs of the world, are shocked and stunned by these attacks. While Australians have the reputation of being racist, and indeed can be, they have no idea of how to respond to an attack on their very way of life by people they feel they have given refuge and shelter to.

The protesters in Sydney are not only attacking a culture, they are expressing open support for terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda. In a chant on the street, Muslim men in Sydney shouted “Obama! Obama! We Love Osama!”. In another photo, protesters are holding a flag similar to those used by Al Qaeda.

Until Australia, America, and the UK realize that they cannot negotiate, cannot give in, and cannot placate such hatred, the clash between Muslim and Australian, American, or Briton will become more and more frequent. Immigration from largely Muslim homelands to Australia and Europe especially has created concern among the local population, who feel intimidated by actions such as what happened in Sydney today. In response, increased racism and violence in return occurs, resulting in greater ill will between the two cultures, and thus strengthening a cycle of violence.

However, in a message to Muslims in Australia, I would say: I do not hate you. I sympathize with some of your grievances, however this is not the way to go about addressing them. I do not wish you out of my country. I welcome you to Australia, as long as you abide by Australian law and live as a law abiding citizen.

However, if you attempt to destroy the freedoms I enjoy here, and which are freely offered to you. If you attempt to cause harm or violence to me, my country, or my people, this attempt will be resisted, and I will work to restrict your ability to carry out such attacks. Attacks against this country will result in a blowback to your interests by Australians. If you wish to find freedom in this country, respect the laws of the country, and the country will respect you.

Your actions today in Sydney, and elsewhere around the world, are reprehensible. They show many of you for what you truely are. If you hate this country, if you hate our way of life, if you hate the West so much, I understand that your views will be more warmly received in Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, or Iraq. Please take your views back to these places or others where they will be received.

If a Clash of Civilizations occurs, the West must understand what is at stake, and what must be done to win in this war. Tolerance must exist. Hatred towards Muslims, the Muslim religion, or towards the community in general makes us as bad as the protesters. Our response must be both respectful, but firm. Such behaviour as this should not be allowed, and must be met with swift justice. Not injustice, not vigilantism, but justice through the policing, intelligence, and legal systems of this country.

To Muslims in Australia, remember: What image you give to Australians now, will determine how you are treated by this country.


Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice…

There is the old saying, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As a former manager once told me, “I am quite happy for you to make mistakes; that means you’re being active and learning. But if you make the same mistake again, you have learnt nothing from the first”.

On a geopolitical level, the Western nations seem to have made mistakes again and again, and yet are constantly surprised and amazed at the predictable result. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the US and the UK found themselves again on the front lines of the Cold War. The Place, Afghanistan. The Enemy, Russia, and the Communist backed government of Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the Americans flooded Afghanistan with sophisticated weapons, including MANPAD systems, explosives, and small arms. Along with the arms came money. Millions of dollars were poured into the country through the ISI in Pakistan, all for the purpose of “liberating” the country. Americans such as Charlie Wilson and the Right Wing Christian movement pushed vigorously for increased support to the Afghan Mujahedeen.

Along with weapons and money can support in the form of a public image campaign. American and British movies, from Rambo to James Bond, all portrayed a heroic struggle by a simple yet courageous people against a brutal government.

Support came also, from all over the world. Arab and Muslim fighters flocked to Afghanistan, where they enlisted in the call to Jihad against the infidel Soviets. Along with the droves of fighters came a wealthy Saudi Arabian man who dreamed of using his talents, his money, his connections, and his whole life to advancing the cause of Islam. His name of Usama Bin Laden. Usama, and many others like him, found their true calling in life in the fires of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets. CIA and SAS units were eager to arm and train anybody who would fight against the Soviets. Along with these arms came valuable training in explosives, assassination, sophisticated weapons systems, and other black arts. These lessons were learnt all to well by the young Muslim recruits, who then used them to great effect against the Soviets.


Bin Laden in Afghanistan 1980s

The Americans were successful. Through their proxy armies, they had defeated the Soviet Union, turning Afghanistan into a Russian Vietnam. Indeed, the defeat, and the expense incurred, was instrumental in bringing down an increasingly weak USSR some years later.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Deputy Direction of the CIA Richard Kerr

But as the victory celebrations died down, warlords such as Hekmatyar, Massoud, and other individuals realized that they now had to govern a power vacuum. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, but politics and power do so even more. The weapons and training which had driven out the Soviets now were turned on each other, as the warlords fell to fighting each other for power.

In this vacuum arose a new power. Hailing from the religious schools on the Afghan border with Pakistan, and fired with religious zeal from the Whabbist schools of thought in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban swept into Afghanistan from the east, capturing Kabul, and controlling most of the country except for the northern areas held by Massoud and the Northern Alliance.
Having no love for the West, the Taliban imposed a strict view of Sharia upon the whole country, plunging the country back into the Dark Ages.

Others, though, had a more globalist view of the Jihad they had just won. Men like Bin Laden, Khalim, Basayev, Khattab, and al-Zawahiri were veterans of this war, which imbued them with the confidence to take on the West. After all, they had defeated one Superpower. Why not another one? When Bin Laden formed Al Qaeda in the 1990s in response to what he saw as American aggression towards Muslims and a desecration of Islam, he had a large source of recruits to choose from. Men who had fought with him in Afghanistan found themselves with a set of skills which could be very easily turned against their former benefactors, the United States. The Jihadists built up their experience and skills in Africa, in Afghanistan in support of the Taliban, in Pakistan, in Chechnya, in Palestine, in the Balkans, and in the Philippines. The view of Bin Laden was to leverage the contacts he had made in Afghanistan into a worldwide network to bring the fight to the West. Bin Laden came full circle when he returned to Afghanistan with Al Qaeda. Safe in the country, he established training facilities, to which a new generation of aspiring young men who sought the glories of Jihad flocked.

The reason we have discussed this history is that it bears very serious lessons for American foreign policy today, which are being very quickly forgotten by the current Administration. The Neo Conservative idea under President Bush was that if America only removed dictatorial regimes from power in the Middle East, other regimes would fall like dominos, creating a wave of freedom across the region. America put this theory to the test in Iraq, with a far less than satisfactory result. Rather than embracing freedom and democracy and the American way, Iraqis first turned against the American invaders and then against each other. More than any place on earth, the Middle East cannot have a political vacuum present without some group attempting to fill it. In Iraq, the Americans soon found that they lacked both the support and the political know-how to even consider filling the political vacuum they had created with the destruction of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

As a result, Al Qaeda moved in force into Iraq, carrying on both attacks against American forces, and then against Shiite Muslims in the country. Iran responded by filling the power vacuum with Shiite supporters such as the Madhi Army. These two groups brought Iraq into the verge of Civil War, before the Sunni backed Al Qaeda was pushed out of the country.

America should have learned valuable lessons from both Afghanistan and Iraq. Regime change in the Middle East is often the prelude to anarchy, violence, and greater bloodshed. And dictatorial regimes can be seen as being far superior to the violence which follows their demise. American styled Democracy does not take root easily in the Middle East, as has been seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, and Libya.

Instead, the current American strategy is still to support and fight for regime change. In the case of Libya, this was successful, and a military campaign ousted Gadhafi from power, leading to his death and the formation of a new government. Around the same time, Mubarak fell from power in Egypt, bringing in new “democratic” elections.

The Arab Spring was touted by pundits, activists, and neoconservatives as being an amazing example of “People Power” rising up against oppressive regimes and overcoming them through willpower and the might of the population. It was seen as being a new wave of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Very few voices, in the days of Libya’s revolution, sought to criticize the movements in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen. After all, were not the governments in question corrupt, violent, and despotic? Isn’t the rule by the people the best kind of government?

American writers, bloggers, political scientists, and activists were not the only ones watching and rejoicing at the Arab Spring. Al Qaeda was watching events very carefully also. With the death of Usama Bin Laden, and on the run worldwide, Al Qaeda was in dire need of another safe haven, where they could regroup and plan their comeback. The Arab Spring gave them exactly this. It was a movement which posed serious threats to the secular, despotic governments who had so often waged war against them. In every country which has seen regime change, or attempted regime change, the Governments have waged an often brutal war against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Libya, Egypt, and Syria had all sought to destroy their influence and power. And with these governments now crumbling, Al Qaeda saw the creation of more political vacuums. And as we have seen before, whenever there is a vacuum, the Jihadists are quick to try and take advantage of the opportunity.

In a four part series, we will discuss the impact of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups on the Arab Spring, their current successes in Libya, Syria, and Egypt, and the bleak future it poses for the region as they have seized power. Al Qaeda is back with a safe haven. It now has another battle to fight, it now has another source of recruits for their war, and another battle ground to test their skills in. And ironically, they are now fighting on the same side as an often well meaning but hopelessly ignorant America.


The Fall of the House of Saud

In our previous posts, we have discussed the rise to power of the House of Saud, along with the corruption and internal instability which has arisen along with them.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as caught between the East and West. In the words of Samuel Harrington, the “Clash of Civilizations” has Saudi Arabia caught in between. On one hand, the Saudis desire good relations with America, as their primary support base and protector against other regional competitors. The US has traditionally supplied the Saudi defence forces, supported the Saudi’s politically, and has been a major customer for Saudi oil.
Thus, while hating America when attempting to pander to Islamists, the Saudis need America to survive.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia wishes to establish itself as a legitimate Muslim power in the region. As the keeper of the two holy shrines of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia holds substantial influence in the Muslim world. However, this influence has been severely damaged by accusations, with merit, that the al Saud family are merely American puppets. The failure of Saudi Arabia to confront Israel, and the eagerness of the government to forge ties with America has led many fundamentalist Saudis to see their government as illegitimate.

To the fundamentalists, Saudi Arabia is not only a prize, but it is their divine duty to overthrow what they see as a pro Western and corrupt government. The Prophet was very clear about who should rule in the Arabian peninsula, and it was not a Khafir regime.
Thus, prominant Saudis such as Bin Laden have arisen in opposition to the Royal Family, and have called for attacks upon them. The Saudi counter terrorism strategy has been to historically support such movements outside of the Kingdom. Thus, Saudi money has turned up in the Phillipines, in Chechnya, in Afghanistan, in New York, in Iraq, and latest in Syria. The goal of Saudi Arabia is to attempt to keep radical elements occupied elsewhere, and dependant upon a flow of funds and weapons from the country. In Syria, for example, Saudi Arabia is seeking to both deny Iran a regional ally, to exert influence in the region, and the position themselves as supporters of a popular revolution.

But what is the future of Saudi Arabia? The US support, which has underpinned the majority of the Saudi defence force expenditure, is being slowly withdrawn, as the US found itself stretched thin in two unpopular ground wars in the Middle East and Asia. With the slowdown in the US economy, the country also is beinning to shift its focus from the Middle East to South East Asia to counter Chinese economic expansion.

The US has been working politically for years to develop an alternative to Saudi oil supplies. This alternative seems to have come from increased use of shale gas and oil deposits within the US itself. As Saudi Arabia sees a long term ally start to turn away from them, they have reached out to any aid they can find, including China.

Saudi Arabia is also afraid of terrorist acts within its own borders along with violence caused by Iran in the Shiite minority within the country. During the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia moved quickly to shut down protests both in Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain, which could have spread further amoung a discontented population.

Saudi Arabia is also afraid of regional rivals, including Israel and Iran, which while being mortal enemies, neither have any love for Saudi Arabia. To counter this, Prince Bandar has been tasked by the Family to purchase a number of sophisticated long range missile systems, capable of delivering any warhead up to Nuclear to both Tehran and Tel Aviv. By creating a new version of the MAD system, the Saudis hope that this will deter any threats to the Kingdom.

A greater risk, the author believes, is that of a popular uprising supported by Islamic fundamentalists. Such a movement, if provided with traction, could possibly topple the Royal Family.

In Part IV, we will look at the necessary steps which Saudi Arabia must take in order to survive in the ever changing geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.

Arab Spring or Indian Summer Part 3

Coming back to our discussions previously on the links between Afghanistan and Libya, there are developing a number of disturbing similarities between the two countries, which could result in a similar outcome in Libya as occurred in Afghanistan.

Conflict Breeds a Fanatical Government

Throughout the Middle East, regime change and conflict have often resulted in the rise of fundamentalism to power. Examples include the overthrow of the Shah of Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini resulting in a fundamentalist Iran, and the rise of the Al Qaeda linked Shabab militia in Somalia as a de facto power in the country. The conflict in Afghanistan lead to the rise of the Taliban, and the danger exists that the struggle in Libya may give rise to another fundamentalist regime. To a party which has experienced military victory, the concept of waging a new war against the Infidel is often appealing, and this is a concept shrewdly championed by Al Qaeda.


US Support in both Afghanistan and Libya

The United States has had a long history of enthusiastically supporting a regime or group, either publicly or covertly, only to experience what the CIA would refer to as “Blowback”. Blowback is the situation where a group trained and supported by America turns against their previous benefactors. The most famous example of this was in Afghanistan, where US supplied training and weapons are being used against the US to this day[1]. Particularly frightening were the provision of surface to air missiles such as the US made Stinger and the Soviet Strela to the Afghan mujahedeen. These weapons are seen as being instrumental in turning the tide of the war, but have also fallen into the hands of terrorist cells, creating the nightmare scenario of terrorist attacks on unprotected civilian airliners.

The same strategy is being currently used in Libya, with Saudi Arabia reportedly providing small arms and surface to air missiles to the resistance[2]. Unsurprisingly, numbers of these missiles have already disappeared, potentially to radical Islamic groups[3]. There is a possibility, like Afghanistan, that these weapons provided to the resistance forces may be used in the future in terrorist attacks upon US interests.

Russian SA-7 Missiles Found in Libya

Presence of Al Qaeda

As detailed previously, Al Qaeda has had both a historical presence in Libya, and a continued resolution to stay in the country to affect the outcome of the revolution. As in Afghanistan, there is a risk that they, or their affiliates could be welcomed as supporters and friends by any new government formed.

Lack of Checks and Balances Leading to a Power Vacuum

While brutal and repressive, a regime such as Gaddafi’s acted as a check against Jihadist power in the region. With the destruction of this balance, the rebel government will be left with the task of governing a country they have just conquered. With little political experience due to the outlawing of political parties in Libya, an organised, well funded, and aggressive group could very possibly emerge as a leading player in the new government. Al Qaeda is definitely such a group, and the danger exists that they will be the most agile and adapt at positioning themselves in Libya as a political force. A similar situation occurred in Afghanistan, where the Al Qaeda linked Taliban swept into power to fill the vacuum left by the Soviets and their Afghan allies.

Taking these three points together, there is a danger, if Gaddafi falls, that Libya will turn into a nation awash in weapons, with no clear political government in place, and populated by battle hardened, angry, and disenfranchised individuals who have lost their homes, loved ones, and livelihoods in the war. This provides a fertile recruiting ground for Al Qaeda, just as it did in Afghanistan.

There are a number of dissenting voices to this view however. In an article by David Zucchino, he makes the claim, after interviewing political scientists and rebel fighters in Libya, that there is no significant Al Qaeda presence in Libya and that the people are fighting for democracy, not an Islamic state[4].

The Neo-conservative and pro interventionist Foreign Policy Institute firmly supports the military operations against Libya. In their view, there is little evidence of Islamic extremist influence in Libya. The group goes on to say, “However, regardless of the potential presence of some malign actors in the opposition, it is difficult to imagine that the government that follows the terrorist-supporting, WMD seeking regime of Qaddafi could be much worse[5]”.

The Future of Terrorism in North Africa

 With the links between the end of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and the current situation in Libya established, the question remains, how will Al Qaeda prosper by these opportunities which have been presented to them through the popular revolutions?

In a study done by Yoram Schweitzer and Gilad Stern, they have identified statements by Al Qaeda showing support for any result of the Arab Spring, even if the new government is not necessarily friendly or supportive of the Jihadist movement[6]. In the view of Al Qaeda, any change from the repressive governments of leaders such as Gaddafi is a Godsend. Senior leaders of the terrorist organisation are expecting and waiting for a change from the optimism of the Arab revolution to disillusionment and cynicism as in Egypt, where there are signs of a second revolution forming. It is likely that Al Qaeda will attempt to influence the outcome of any new power formed as a result of the Arab revolution, and failing that, it will bide it’s time, hoping for a second revolution to form[7].

Whatever the outcome of the Arab Spring, the strength of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in North Africa will increase. With the dismantling of the old security services and intelligence agencies in Tunisia and Egypt, many of the veteran terrorist hunters are now either on trial or out of work, and much of their intelligence is either destroyed or ignored. Even if victory is obtained in Libya, the Libyan security services will now be operating from a position of less power, making it easier for Al Qaeda to strengthen their position[8]

It is very tempting to be caught up into the enthusiasm of the Arab Spring in Libya, seeing it as a simple fight for democracy against a ruthless and autocratic government. However, this approach is naive, and fails to consider the equally ruthless and even more cunning and dangerous forces which are actively seeking to hijack the revolution for their own ends[9]. It is very possible that America and the West will find themselves fighting a renewed and energised enemy, one supported by a state apparatus once again.


[1] Bergen, P, Reynolds, A, 2005, “Blowback Revisited”, Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2005, Vol 84, Iss 6 p2

[2]Egypt Said to Arm Libya Rebels,” Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2011,

[3] Scott, D, 2011, “Who Are the Libyan Freedom Fighters and Their Patrons?”, Global Research, Mar 25, 2011, Asia Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 13 No 3

[4] Zucchino, D, 2011, “How Much Does Al-Qaeda Influence the Rebel Leadership in Libya?”, Gulf Times, April 12, 2011, P 2-3

[5] Foreign Policy Initiative, 2011, “FPI Factsheet – The Case for Intervention in Libya”, March 30, 2011

[6] Schweitzer, Y, Stern, G, 2011, “A Golden Opportunity? Al Qaeda and the Uprisings in the Middle East” Strategic Assessment, V 14, No 2, July 2011

[7] Schweitzer, Y, Stern, G, 2011, “A Golden Opportunity? Al Qaeda and the Uprisings in the Middle East” Strategic Assessment, V 14, No 2, July 2011

[8] Schweitzer, Y, Stern, G, 2011, “A Golden Opportunity? Al Qaeda and the Uprisings in the Middle East” Strategic Assessment, V 14, No 2, July 2011

[9] Prucha, N, 2011, “Policy Paper: Eyeballing Libya – Al Qaeda’s New Foothold?” Austrian Institute for International Affairs, April 2011

Arab Spring or Indian Summer part 2

Al Qaeda sees the Islamic revolution in Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Egypt as a heaven sent opportunity. The goal of the Islamic revolution founded by Al Qaeda is to re-establish the Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East, Eurasia, North Africa, and Southern Europe through armed resistance and violence. Until now, this expansion was prevented primarily through secular states with strong leaders who would ruthlessly crush any opposition to their rule. All of these leaders who have fallen or are under attack – Gaddafi, Mubarak, Assad – have traditionally used these tactics against the extremist elements operating in their country[1]. While human rights violations did occur under all of these regimes, and their countries could in no way be seen as democratic or free societies, the tide of jihadist expansion was kept at bay. An example of this is the 1982 attack on Hama in Syria by the Muslim Brotherhood[2]. President Hafiz Al-Assad, Bashar Al-Assad’s father, responded brutally, shelling Hama and launching a full military assault on the city. While the attack has been condemned for the massacre of civilians, the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was destroyed for almost 20 years[3]. Attempts in both Egypt and Libya to overthrow the secular governments in power have been similarly unsuccessful.


With the popular uprisings in all these countries, and the attention of the world focused on the so called “Arab Spring”, leaders of Libya, Egypt, and Syria have found that their well known and tested tactics of repression through military force are now ineffective. Al Qaeda, ever the evolving and changing animal that it is, has been quick to take advantage of the opportunity raised by these Western backed protests. In the Al Qaeda published magazine, Inspire, an entire issue was devoted to the Islamic revolutions, and what they mean to Al Qaeda.

In the opening paragraph, Yahya Ibrahim states that “The biggest barrier between the mujahidin and freeing al-Aqsa were the tyrant rulers. Now that the friends of America and Israel are being mopped out one after the other, our aspirations are great that the path between us and al-Aqsa is clearing up”[4].

The article goes on to state Al Qaeda’s reaction to the popular protests, “It is our opinion that the revolutions that are shaking the thrones of dictators are good for the Muslims, good for the mujahidin and bad for the imperialists of the West and their henchmen in the Muslim world. We are very optimistic and have great expectations of what is to come[5]”.

Later in the magazine, the current leader of Al Qaeda, Dr Ayman al Zawahiri lays out the short and long term approach to be taken in response to the protests[6]. In the short term, Zawahiri states that Al Qaeda will continue to strike at American and Israeli targets, both in the Middle East and overseas. The long term approach is broken down into two aspects. The first step is to be the continued overthrow of secular and Western supported Middle Eastern governments. In a propaganda poster in the newsletter, Al Qaeda identifies the countries of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria, Qatar, Iran, Turkey, Oman, and Lebanon as the next targets. While this list is obviously a fanciful wish-list of regime change by Al Qaeda, it does show the scope of the changes envisioned by the group and its leadership[7].

During the overthrow of governments, Zawahiri is adamant that force and violence is a necessity, and should be embraced by all good Muslims. To Al Qaeda, Libya is the textbook case as to how a revolution should be fought, as a civil war. When the regime has fallen, Al Qaeda will move into the next stage of winning the hearts and minds of the population. With that, Al Qaeda will seek to influence the creation of the new government, to demand the formation of an Islamic state. Once the hearts and minds of the people are won to the Islamic revolution, Al Qaeda will move into the final stage of their plan, which is to heavily recruit fighters to travel to fight overseas in jihad against America and Israel. “As for the second half of the long term plan, it consists of hurrying to the fields of jihad like Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia for jihadi preparation and training…to defeat the enemies of the ummah and repel the Zionist Crusade, and…to prepare for the next stage of the jihad”[8].

Ever since Al Qaeda lost their support base in Afghanistan, the organisation has sought to find further sanctuaries where they can regroup for a heavier attack on what they see as a weakening and demoralised West[9].



[1] Prucha, N, 2011, “Policy Paper: Eyeballing Libya – Al Qaeda’s New Foothold?” Austrian Institute for International Affairs, April 2011

[2] UNHR, 1989, “Destruction of Hama and Hums in Syria”, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, October 1, 1989

[3] Malas, N, 2011, “Brotherhood Raises Syria Profile”, Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2011

[4] Ibrahim, Y, 2011, “From The Editor”, Inspire Magazine, Issue 5, March 2011

[5] Ibrahim, Y, 2011, “From The Editor”, Inspire Magazine, Issue 5, March 2011

[6] Zawahiri, A,  2011, “The Short and Long Term Plans After Protests”, Inspire Magazine, Issue 5, March 2011

[7] Inspire Magazine, Issue 5, March 2011

[8] Zawahiri, A,  2011, “The Short and Long Term Plans After Protests”, Inspire Magazine, Issue 5, March 2011

[9] Friedman, G, 2001, “Al Qaeda’s Search for a New Sanctuary”, STRATFOR, November 28, 2001

Arab Spring or Indian Summer? Part 1

The following essay will be presented in 3 parts. It is a summary of what I have submitted as part of my Masters of Policing, Intelligence, and Counter Terrorism subject. – Note – this was written before the fall of Gaddafi, hence certain outdated references and information below.

Libya : From Bad to Worse?

In the heady days which began in February 2011, it was popular belief that the winds of freedom and political change were sweeping through the formally totalitarian states in Northern Africa and the Gulf States.

Egypt was the first country to experience a people’s revolution, with revolutions following in Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and Libya. It was voiced by some that the people themselves would succeed in accomplishing what the Neocons had dreamed about for years – A democratic shift in the Middle East.

Six months on, however, and the formally giddy revolutions seem to have degenerated into a stalemate. While the Egyptian revolution will be remembered as both the initiator of the revolution, and also the most successful, even it has failed to deliver a democratic government, instead falling into political and religious pitfalls.

In Syria and Libya, however, the revolution by the people has been met with violent repression by the ruling government in power, namely Bashar Al Assad in Syria and strongman Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

In Libya, the revolution quickly turned into a civil war, split by factions and tribal alliances. The question this paper wishes to explore is what is a likely outcome of the revolution for groups such as Al Qaeda, and what will this mean for the balance of power in North Africa and the Middle East? Will the new government, if successful in their struggle, become a radical Takfiri element such as the Taliban[1]? Or will the Revolutionary Government seek to form a democratic (though not necessarily an American democracy) form of government? These are questions which will be explored further. The essay will mainly focus on the efforts by Al Qaeda in the region to influence the course of the popular revolution.

From a western point of view, Libya, like most of the Middle East, has been, and still remains, an enigma. It is difficult to describe Gaddafi’s approach to government in Libya. It is ultimately a mixture of socialism, Arab nationalism, religion, and Gaddafi’s own personal brand of political ideology as laid out in the Jamahiriya[2].

Libya became a closed state to the West after sanctions were placed against Libya in 1996 under the “Iran and Libya Sanctions Act”[3]. Before this, Executive Orders restricted travel and trade with Libya from 1981 onwards, and were strengthened due to terrorist attacks which Libya was alleged to be involved in including the 1986 Berlin nightclub bombing and the downing of PAN AM 103 in 1988[4].

Due to this, many in the West knew nothing about Libya, just as they knew very little regarding Afghanistan until after September 11. This link between Afghanistan and Libya is made due to the fact that there is a distinct possibility, and indeed danger, of a similar situation developing in Libya, as developed at the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1989[5].

It may be argued that there are significant differences between the insurgency in Afghanistan and the insurgency or revolt occurring in Libya, and indeed there are. The Mujahadeen of Afghanistan fought against local government supported primarily by a foreign power which had invaded their land, while the Libyan resistance are fighting against a long standing government which they have lived under for years. The culture of the country and motivations of the revolution may be very different in 2011 Libya than in 1979 Afghanistan, but there also exist certain similarities between the two struggles.

First, both countries are heavily separated based on tribal allegiances and bloodlines, with many feeling deeper loyalty to their clan or tribe than to a state government or the country as a whole[6]. This tribal allegiance is the main reason Gaddafi still remains in power in Libya, through support of a confederation of Western Tribes, including his own, the Qadadfa. It is unlikely that such tribal alliances will be broken in favour of a united and democratic Libya, requiring a power sharing arrangement with rival tribes and groups.

Afghanistan, while administered by a central government, also is comprised of a number of competing tribal factions, who continually war with each other. During the Soviet invasion, most tribal parties laid aside, for the most part, their struggle against each other to focus on defeating the common enemy. After the Soviet withdrawal, the country split into a civil war, with the sides predominantly drawn on tribal lines. The Pashtun tribe based Taliban seized control of the majority of the country, including the capital Kabul, however they were never able to fully defeat other tribal groups such as the Tajik tribes led by Masood who formed the Northern Alliance[7]. This conflict still festers, with violence and assassinations of rival tribal leaders and warlords continuing to this day.

The founder of Al Qaeda, the late Osama Bin Laden, came to Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion to establish support and supply networks for foreign fighters from across the Muslim world to join in what was seen as the righteous jihad against the infidel Communists[8]. Al Qaeda was formed out of these foreign recruits, many of whom went on to join terrorist networks worldwide, where their combat experience was highly prized. The majority of the country fell to the Taliban after the Soviets departed due to a power vacuum being created. Al Qaeda was granted refuge in the country after Osama fled Sudan, and invested heavily in the country.

One strategy of Al Qaeda, ever since the end of the first Afghan war, was to integrate their fighters into any conflict in the Muslim world which involved Muslims, and could be justified under the concept of Jihad[9]. These Al Qaeda affiliates provided training, weapons, funds, and at times military support to their allies in the struggle. Examples of Al Qaeda influence in regional conflicts include operatives in Somalia during the ill-fated Mogadishu raid by American forces, and a significant number of fighters being sent to Bosnia to support the Muslim Croats during the Bosnian-Serbian Wars[10]. In addition, Al Qaeda forces have been involved in the Philippines, Algeria, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Iraq, Chechnya, and other countries[11].

It is no secret that Al Qaeda affiliated fighters have been active in Libya even before the start of the conflict, and have been involved with a number of skirmishes with Gaddafi’s forces. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was formed officially in the early 1990s from former Mujahedeen from the Afghan and Bosnian wars forming the core basis of the group which pledged to overthrow Gaddafi and establish an Islamic state such as in Afghanistan[12].

After several failed attempts to kill Gaddafi, the LIFG was relentlessly attacked by the Libyan army and security services until the remaining members fled the country to Afghanistan or were imprisoned. Defeated and demoralized, the LIFG entered into peace talks with the government, officially renouncing violence in 2008. As a group, the LIFG officially is seen by some analysts as being “defunct as an operational entity, and no longer posing a violent threat to the Libyan regime”[13].

The connection between the LIFG and Al Qaeda has been disputed, due to the LIFG former leadership criticising Al Qaeda and Osama as presenting a negative side of Islam to the world[14]. However, previous statements from the leadership of the LIFG have declared allegiance with Al Qaeda in 2007, leading to the belief that at least some of the members of LIFG have Al Qaeda ties[15].

While the leadership of the LIFG may or may not be officially aligned with Al Qaeda, the remnants of LIFG still remain a fundamentalist Islamic group who subscribes to similar ideology as Al Qaeda. While the LIFG may have been defunct in Libya, their operations shifted to Afghanistan and Iraq, with the LIFG being the second largest source of foreign fighters in Iraq, after Saudi Arabia[16]. In addition, rebel commanders in Libya openly admit that some of their front line fighters against Qadaffai came to Libya from the frontlines of both Iraq and Afghanistan[17].

[1] Elakhal, S, 2011, “The Doctrine of Takfir: A Legitimization of the Principle of Istehlal”, Zawaya, http://zawaya.magharebia.com/en_GB/zawaya/opinion/44  accessed 14/08/11

[2] BBC News, June 27, 2011, “Profile: Muammar Gaddafi”, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12488278 , accessed 14/08/11

[3] Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, 1996, US Department of the Treasury,  http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/iran.aspx  accessed 13/08/2011

[4] BBC News, Oct 15, 2004, “Timeline: Libya Sanctions”, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3336423.stm , accessed 13/08/2011

[5] Shaban, S, Oct 10,2006, “The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan”, PBS Newshour Report, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/asia/afghanistan/soviet.html  accessed 13/08/11

[6] Tawil, C, 2011, “Mapping Qaddafi’s Tribal Allegiances in Libya”, Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 17, April 28,2011

[7] Fox, J, 1995, “Tajiks in Afghanistan”, Asylum Law.org, http://www.asylumlaw.org/docs/afghanistan/mar99_afghanistan_tajiks.pdf  accessed 14/08/11

[8] Janes World Insurgency and Terrorism Report, “Al Qaeda”, December 14, 2010

[9] Janes World Insurgency and Terrorism Report, “Al Qaeda”, December 14, 2010

[10] Pflanz, M., 2009, “Al Qaeda man killed in ‘Black Hawk Down’ Raid”, The Telegraph, 15 Sep, 2009

[11] Rollins, C, 2010, “Al Qaeda and Affiliates: Historical Perspective, Global Presence, and Implications for U.S Policy”,  Congressional Research Service,  Feb 5, 2010

[12] Janes World Insurgency and Terrorism Report, “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group”, January 5, 2011

[13] Janes World Insurgency and Terrorism Report, “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group”, January 5, 2011

[14] Tawil, C., 2009, “Libyan Islamists Back Away from al-Qaeda Merger in

Reconciliation with Qaddafi Regime”, Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 17, June 18, 2009

[15] Global Jihad, 2007, “Libyan Group Joined Al Qaeda”, http://www.globaljihad.net/view_news.asp?id=214 , accessed 13/08/11

[16] Prucha, N, 2011, “Policy Paper: Eyeballing Libya – Al Qaeda’s New Foothold?” Austrian Institute for International Affairs, April 2011

[17] Sawami, P, 2011, “Libyan Commander Admits His Fighters Have al-Qaeda links”, The Telegraph, 25 March, 2011