A Breakthrough in the War on Terror
From the September 4, 2007 Insight
September 5, 2007
by Andrei A. Piontkovsky
A strategic breakthrough occurred, I believe, in summer 2007 in the Fourth World War declared on the West by the Islamic radicals of al Qaeda and kindred organizations. Not everybody seems fully to have appreciated the significance of this, or indeed even to have noticed it.
As recently as December and January, al Qaeda seemed to be on the verge of a historic truimph.
After blowing up the Golden Mosque in Sammara it managed to push Iraq into the abyss of a mutual Sunni-Shiite terror campaign which cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians. American troops found themselves in an increasingly absurd situation between two groups of fanatics who were fighting each other and who both equally hated America. After their victory in the mid-term elections, the Democrats, with broad public support, demanded the withdrawal of troops from Iraq without delay.
I will permit myself a quote from my January column, "Post-Iraq war II" which seems to me to accurately summarize the situation as it was, really not that long ago:
"In Iraq the USA is confronted not by a military but principally by a semantic problem. Two erroneous definitions of victory have led to a psychology of defeat that threatens to turn into a real defeat in the global war against Islamic radicalism. Actually, other than the Kurds, the United States has no ally in Iraq that it is obliged to defend on either moral or pragmatic grounds; and it has no foe that it should destroy other than the organizations of al Qaeda." The Americans really have concentrated in the last six months (since the appointment of General David Petraeus) on the task of destroying al Qaeda's fighters. And a stroke of luck - the kind which alters the course of wars - unexpectedly occured.
The sheikhs of the Sunni tribes in the Anbar province, the centre of Sunni resistance and al-Qaeda's main base in Iraq, have taken a stand against al-Qaeda and asked the Americans for help.
The Islamic "internationalists" had become too much even for these former supporters of Saddam who hate the Americans. They have been alienated by al Qaeda's atrocious cruelty towards civilians, religious fanaticism, imposition of the medieval precepts of the Shariat, expropriation of women for comforting the warriors of Allah, in fact by everything which is justly known as Islamofascism. Al Qaeda's Islamofascism has been rejected by orthodox Sunnis who have no reason at all to feel kindly toward the Americans who removed them from power in a country they had ruled for decades.
This development has, of course, had a considerable impact on the course of the conflict within Iraq but it is too early to say much more than that, and Iraq is doubtless fated to endure many more years of great hardship. In terms of the global context of the Iraq war, however, we can be far more definite. The Islamofascists of al-Qaeda have suffered a fundamental metaphysical defeat. If they are being repudiated by the Sunnis of Iraq, they are going to be rejected by everyone else. They may yet manage to organise spectacular terrorist attacks in the United States or Europe, but they will no longer attract those young people who would have rallied in their thousands, even millions, to their ranks if they had been victorious in Iraq.
They came very close to victory. What would it have cost them to moderate their cruelty and moronic medieval fanaticism at least in respect of their own allies? But then they would have betrayed their very nature and ceased to be true Islamofascists, and as bastards of quite remarkable consistency they could never allow that. In just the same way, the German fascists could not moderate their racist attitude toward the peoples of Ukraine and Russia, and this predetermined the breakthrough in the way the Second World War developed in the severely testing year of 1942.
Al Qaeda had another chance seven to nine months ago, before the Sunnis' patience had been exhausted. The Americans might have withdrawn from Iraq, handing al Qaeda a famous victory in the eyes of the entire Islamic world.
All of progressive mankind, the Democratic U.S. Congress, the press, television, universities, brilliant intellectuals, actors, pop-stars and sex-bombs of America and Europe were demanding the withdrawal of American troops. In eager anticipation, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov exulted, "It is clear that the final resolution of the crisis in Iraq will bring greater clarity to the international situation". Defying all of them stood a solitary individual who was not always good at articulating his thoughts and who found himself occupying the post of President of the United States of America under fairly controversial circumstances.
He could not, of course, know that the Sunnis would rebel against al Qaeda, but for some reason he did know he should not withdraw, and kept stubbornly repeating this to the great annoyance of his highbrow opponents. Was it chance? Perhaps. Or perhaps Providence had deliberately chosen George W. Bush just as he is. His war of choice has been endowed with historic meaning in retrospect. In the beginning there was no al Qaeda in Iraq. Al Qaeda then came to Iraq, and right there is where al Qaeda broke its back. More precisely, Iraq is where it irrevocably lost its brand image, the glowing image of a selfless defender of the oppressed, an avenger mercilessly crushing infidels on behalf of the insulted and humiliated Islamic world.
This is very good news indeed, both for the West and for the Islamic world.
And for Russia, as well.
Andrei Piontkovsky is a visiting fellow with Hudson Institute.