Dangerous liaisons: an investigative report!

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The ‘Arab Spring’ is known for the recent upheavals, impacting the political direction of the Middle East. Obviously, this had a direct bearing upon the British foreign policy…which, unfortunately, the mainstream media had for their own reasons, preferred to ignore. The principal features of the policy included traditional British collusion with radical Islamic actors, to promote oil and other commercial and strategic interests.

Indeed, the British policy has a long history, that has contributed not only to the rise of radical Islam itself but also to that of international fanaticism (terrorism), which the British government’s new National Security Strategy, has identified as the country’s biggest threat.

The intelligence agencies say they have prevented twelve terrorist plots in Britain over the past decade, and claim there are 2,000 known terrorist suspects organized in 200 networks.

Counter terrorism officials in the UK, have also warned of a ‘huge and spectacular’, shooting and hostage-taking raids, involving gunmen with bombs. The extent of this threat is all too easily exaggerated for political purposes – the former director of MI 5, Stella Rimington, has, for example, accused the government of ‘frightening’ their people, in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties. Britain, along with many other countries, clearly does face a threat from radical Islamic groups.

The July 2005 London bombings, which killed 52 people, constituted the first ‘successful’ attack by Islamists in Britain, and the British courts have convicted over 80 individuals who planned to kill British citizens in acts of terrorism. Meanwhile, Britain’s most senior military figure has called the threat posed by Islamist extremism ‘the struggle of our generation —perhaps Britain’s own, Thirty Years War’.

The fact that they got to this point, has been the subject of much speculation as to how ‘homegrown’ British citizens could turn to terrorist violence, and be prepared to blow themselves up. Right-wing commentators typically blame liberal culture, arguing that laws have not been tough enough to clamp down on extremism, or perhaps, that multi-culturalism has made it impossible to challenge people of a different faith.

The government has been widely attacked since 7/7 for failing to clamp down on a number of Islamist radicals in Britain—most notoriously, Abu Hamza, the former preacher at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, who was allowed to openly encourage numerous young Muslims to espouse violent fanatics, in a sacred call for ‘jihad’. For others, and many on the political Left, the terrorist threat had been fuelled by British military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and Whitehall’s siding with Israel, in the ongoing conflict in ‘occupied’ Palestine.

These are surely the major factors: in April 2005, for example, the British Joint Intelligence Committee had stated, in a report (leaked the following year), that the Iraq conflict had aggravated the threat from international terrorism, and would continue to have an impact in the long term. It had reinforced the determination of jihadists, who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not. This followed a joint Home Office/Foreign Office report, called ‘Young Muslims and Extremism’, which was also leaked. This report had stated that there was a perceived ‘double standard’ among many Muslims in Britain, who had believed that the British foreign policy, in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Chechnya was ‘against the religion of Islam’.

However, there is a missing link in this narrative, and Britain’s contribution to the rise of the terrorist threat goes well beyond the impacts that her wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have had on some individuals. The more important story is that British governments, both Labour and Conservative, have, in pursuing the so-called national interests abroad, intrigued for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organizations.

They have acted in connivance, even worked alongside them, and sometimes trained and financed them, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives. Being unable to impose their will unilaterally, coupled with the absence of local allies, previous British Governments have done so, in often desperate attempts to maintain Britain’s global power. This was carried out in the face of increasing weakness in key regions of the world. Therefore, the story is intimately hooked to that of Britain’s imperial decline and their attempt to maintain influence in the world.

With some of these radical Islamic forces, Britain has been in a permanent, strategic alliance to secure fundamental, long-term foreign policy goals; with others, it has been a temporary marriage of convenience to achieve specific short-term outcomes. The US has been indicated by some analysts, to have nurtured Osama Bin Laden and al Qaida, but Britain’s part in fostering Islamist terrorism is invariably left out of these accounts, and the ‘true’ history has never been told. Yet this collusion has had more impact on the rise of the fanatics (or, terrorists) threat, than either Britain’s liberal culture or the inspiration for jihadism, that was provided after the occupation of Iraq.

The closest that the mainstream media have got to this story, was in the period immediately after 7/7, when sporadic reports revealed links between the British security services and Islamist militants living in London. Some of these individuals were reportedly working as British agents or informers while being involved in terrorism overseas. Some were apparently being protected by the British security services while being wanted by foreign governments. This is significant, though only portrays a small part of a much bigger picture that concerns Britain’s foreign policy.

Whitehall has been colluding with two sets of Islamist actors which have strong connections with each other. In the first group are the major state sponsors of Islamist terrorism, the two most important of which are key British allies with whom London has long-standing, strategic partnerships -– Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Foreign policy planners have routinely collaborated, covertly so, with the Saudis and the Pakistanis in their own foreign policy. However, today, both states are seen as key allies in what was until recently described as the ‘War on Terror’. Yet the extent of Riyadh’s and Islamabad’s nurturing of radical Islam around the world dwarfs that of other countries. Notably so, against the ‘official’ enemies, such as Iran or Syria.

Following the oil price boom of 1973, Saudi Arabia, particularly after the oil price upward spiral, had propelled itself, to a position of global influence. The Saudis were the key source of billions of dollars that have flowed to the radical Islamic cause, including terrorist groups, around the world. A good case can be made that al-Qaida is partly a creature of Britain’s Saudi ally, given the direct links between Saudi intelligence and Bin Laden, from the early years of the anti-Soviet jihad, in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Thatcher was on a visit to Pakistan in October 1981 and, after visiting some of the many hundreds of thousands of Afghans gathered in refugee camps there, had been taken by Pakistani leader General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq through the Khyber Pass to see the Afghan border. While there, the leaders approached a border crossing and reportedly shook hands with the surprised guards on the Afghan side. “We had better leave while they’re friendly,” Thatcher was quoted as saying.

Pakistan had been a sponsor of various terrorist groups since General Zia ul-Haq seized power in a military coup in 1977-– military support brought some groups into being, after which they were nurtured with arms and training. The 7/7 bombers and many other would-be British terrorists may be attributed partly as the product of subsequent decades of official Pakistani patronage of these groups. And today it is the Pakistan-based networks which pose the largest threat to Britain and which are at the center of global terrorism, has become perhaps even more important than al-Qaida. All this continued despite the Western media’s focus on Bin Laden. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are conceptual, British creations: Saudi Arabia was bloodily forged in the 1920s with British arms and diplomatic support, while Pakistan was garnered off from India in 1947, with the help of British planners!

These countries, while being very different in many ways, share a fundamental lack of legitimacy other than as ‘Muslim states’. The price paid by the world for their patronage of particularly extreme versions of Islam – and British support of them – has been immense, indeed. Given their alliance with Britain, it is no surprise that British leaders have not called for Islamabad and Riyadh to be bombed alongside Kabul and Baghdad. It is pertinent to understand clearly, that the War on Terror does not exist. Visibly, there is no such war at all……rather a conflict with enemies, specially designated by the two western capitals, Washington and London. This fact had left much of the real global terrorist infrastructure intact, posing further dangers to the British and world public.

The second group of Islamist actors with whom Britain had colluded, included the ‘extremist movements and organizations’. Among the most influential of the movements that appear throughout this book is the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 and has developed into an influential worldwide network, and the Jamaat-i-Islami (Islamic Party), founded in British India in 1941. This organization had become a major political and ideological force in Pakistan. Britain had also covertly worked alongside the Darul Islam (House of Islam) movement in Indonesia, that had provided important ideological reinforcements to the development of terrorism in that country.

Though Britain had mainly collaborated with Sunni movements while promoting its foreign policy, it had also at times, not been averse to colluding with Shia forces, such as with Iranian Shia radicals in the 1950s, before and after the Islamic revolution in Iran in the year 1979.

Surprisingly, Britain has also worked in covert operations and wars, with a variety of outright jihadist terrorist groups……sometimes linked to the movements, mentioned above. These groups have promoted the most reactionary of religious and political agendas and routinely committed atrocities against civilians. The collision of this type began in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when Britain, along with the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, covertly supported the resistance to defeat the Soviet occupation of the country.


-To be Continued

Nazarul Islam

Nazarul Islam

The author is a former Educator, based in Chicago (USA).

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