Tag Archives: Shiite

TERROR GROUPS GLOBAL REACH

Jan. 27, 2015:  In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Cortinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli. (AP)
Jan. 27, 2015:   In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Corinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli. (AP)

ISIS has claimed it was behind the attack on a leading hotel in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, earlier this week.   The hotel was one of the few remaining western hotels, catering to foreign nationals. An American and a Frenchman were amongst the nine who were killed.

The attack shows that ISIS is now operating in Libya, a long way from home.

The three major terror threats right now are ISIS, AQAP and Boko Haram.

ISIS, having established a rudimentary caliphate over parts of Syria and Iraq, now calls itself IS (Islamic State) reflecting its new status as a country.   It is even negotiating with Jordan, a neighboring country, over the fate of a Jordanian prisoner and a Jordanian pilot captured by IS.   There is the possibility of a proposed exchange of prisoners.   They also hold a Japanese journalist and are threatening to behead him at the time of writing.

AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) staged the Paris attacks. Some terror experts say this is the most dangerous group and the biggest threat to the West, including the United States.   The terror group emanates from Yemen, home of Osama bin Laden.   Yemen’s pro-American government has just fallen, replaced by a group loyal to Iran, a Shi’ite theocratic republic.   This strengthens Iran at the expense of the US.   AQAP is Sunni and will likely continue uninterrupted, safe in its own territory in the splintered nation.

Boko Haram may seem disconnected but operates over an increasingly wide area.   It has the same aims as the other two, the downfall of the West and a rejection of all things western.

In addition to the three groups mentioned, there is also the Taliban, which continues to stage terror attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.   A Taliban attack on a school in December killed 148, mostly students.

Smaller groups like the Nusra Front also operate.

The Economist magazine (page 26, January 17th issue) showed there were 17 significant terrorist attacks by these groups in a one-month period (December 15th – January 13th).   The total number of deaths is hard to determine as statistics from some areas, especially Nigeria, are unreliable.   But a low estimate for the period totaled 528. During this one-month period there were terror attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.   They included suicide bombings and gun attacks.

This is a global conflict, which will affect every nation on earth.

RISE OF ISIS

Bin Laden is dead, Long Live al-Baghdadi
Bin Laden is dead, Long Live al-Baghdadi!

Frontline’s “The Rise of ISIS” (PBS), shown on Tuesday, was a very revealing look at the origins of the terrorist organization, which went from nothing twelve months ago to being the world’s most feared terror group today, a group which has the potential to bring down the West. Although it has its origins in al-Qaeda, it is a far bigger threat. It’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is more successful than Osama bin Laden ever was. He spoke recently to the faithful in a mosque in the conquered city of Mosul, something bin-Laden never did.

The birth of ISIS has its origins in the Sunni-Shia conflict, which the US led Coalition failed to understand from Day One of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In fact, the whole debacle in Iraq and Syria is a classic example of a clash of civilizations, with a great deal of bungling on the western side. Two civilizations clashed – the West and Islam. Neither side understood the other.

Prior to the US invasion, Iraq was led by a ruthless dictator called Saddam Hussein.   Saddam was not a religious man and kept the religious extremists under control. Al-Qaeda did not even exist in Iraq under his rule.

The western invasion changed everything – and the consequences are likely to be with us for decades to come.

Saddam was a Sunni, a minority in Iraq, which has a majority Shia population.

The West saw democracy as the solution to everything. I remember an interview with President George W. Bush who, quoting an author, enthusiastically said that the spread of democracy would end all wars. British Prime Minister Tony Blair felt that democracy in Iraq, strategically located in the Middle East, would spread to other countries in the region, ending all the friction that leads to war.

Inevitably, once democracy was imposed on Iraq by the West, the majority Shia came to power, under the leadership of Anwar al-Maliki. This was a major shift in the balance of power in the region, giving Shi’ite Iran much greater influence in the Middle East.

As “Frontline” showed, it was al-Maliki’s paranoia that set the stage for the triumph of ISIS. Only one day after US troops left the country, he turned on leading Sunnis.

Al-Maliki could not embrace the Sunnis in government. Remembering Saddam’s reign of terror, Maliki was fearful of the Sunnis and feared a return to Sunni domination. It soon became clear that he would send Iraq’s army out to crush Sunni opposition, even when peaceful demonstrations were being held.

Al-Qaeda saw an opportunity to get into Iraq and soon had even moderate Sunnis supporting the organization, which was seen as the protector of Sunni Islam in the country. In February this year, ISIS broke away from al-Qaeda, pursuing a more extreme course. ISIS is sustained by the Shi’ite – Sunni conflict in Iraq. It also operates in Syria, where it has a big base.

Many in the West may see ISIS supporters as “mad,” but there is clearly a method in their madness. They have a dream of establishing a Caliphate across the Muslim world. Extremist Islamic terror groups threaten many countries throughout the Middle East and Africa – the dream could be realized. The latest casualty is Egypt. Over thirty Egyptian troops were attacked and killed just a few days ago. The Egyptian president responded by saying that the terrorists threaten the Egyptian state. The border with Gaza is to be more strictly enforced to keep Hamas fighters out of Egypt. The country is the most populous Arab state. If it falls, others will fall, just like dominoes.

Bible prophecy indicates that the entire region will become part of the “king of the south,” mentioned in Daniel 11. “At the time of the end” (v. 40) is the time period for this. The “king of the south” will push (attack?) against the “king of the north” (an alliance of countries to the north of Jerusalem). The king of the north then has to invade the Middle Eastern countries. Egypt is specifically mentioned, suggesting that Egypt will become a part of this extremist caliphate, just as the president warned could happen.

If ISIS is defeated, which seems unlikely at this point in time, the dream of the Caliphate will endure and another group will simply take over, just as ISIS has replaced al-Qaeda as the main threat in the region.

ISLAMOPHOBIA IS NOT SURPRISING

keep-calm-and-resist-islamophobia

One day last week BBC World Service Radio was promoting a documentary on “Islamophobia.”

Dictionary.com defines Islamophobia as “hatred or fear of Muslims or of their politics or culture.”

Unfortunately for the BBC, the advertized program was broadcast the day after the end of the siege of the Westgate Mall, in Nairobi, Kenya.  It’s highly likely that many listeners are Islamophobic.

It wasn’t just the upscale Nairobi Mall that contributed to a rise in the number of Islamophobes.  While the siege was going on, Islamic militants blew up a Protestant Christian church in Pakistan, killing over 80 people and injuring hundreds, including many children.  The attack on the Mall focused mostly on the rooftop car park where a children’s cooking show was being recorded.  Clearly, children will not be spared!

On the same day as the Mall attack, Iraq suffered one of its worst days of terrorism:

“On 21 September 2013, a series of car and suicide bombings struck the central and northern regions of Iraq, with the largest attack targeting a funeral in Sadr City, a predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood of Baghdad.  The attacks left at least 107 dead and more than 200 others injured.“  (Wikipedia)

Nearly a thousand civilians a month are dying in Iraq as Sunni Muslims target the majority Shi’ite population.

These attacks were carried out by Sunni Muslims affiliated with al-Qaeda.  Al-Shabab is also affiliated with the better-known international terror network.

Is there any wonder that millions of people suffer from Islamophobia?

Al-Shabab (“The Youth” in Arabic) is a militant Islamic group based in Somalia.  “The Shabab has proved impossible to dislodge from its southern Somali redoubts and has promised that the Westgate attack will be followed by others of its kind.”  (“The state of al-Qaeda,” The Economist, September 28th)

American news programs during the siege highlighted the Minneapolis connection.  The twin cities have the highest Somali population in the US.  Second generation Somalis are being recruited to join al-Shabab.  Claims that the Mall attackers included some Americans and one British woman have not been verified.

Typically, following a successful terror attack, Americans reacted blindly, flailing wildly to try to anticipate the next attack.  As a result, the Mall of America, the country’s largest mall, which happens to be in Minneapolis, is jacking up its security.  Al-Qaeda (and its Al-Shabab affiliate) is not dumb – any mall attack in the United States is more likely to be elsewhere.

People with long memories will remember when there were no Somalis in the US, prior to the 1965 change in immigration law.   Any hope of a reversal of the “new” law is not likely – neither party seems inclined to do anything which would have a positive effect in this area of counter-terrorism.  President Obama spoke recently of the need to rid Syria of chemical weapons so as to protect our children – a change in US immigration law would be more effective.

As with the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, “non-Muslims were singled out for execution; hostages were taken to prolong the drama; well-trained fighters were able to hold off security forces for a considerable time; and, as at least six dead Britons bear witness, the killers picked a target with a Western clientele.  Such attacks are easier to plan and execute than blowing up airliners and more glamorous (for the fighters involved) than suicide bombings.  As a result Western intelligence agencies fear that they may become increasingly popular.”  (ibid. The Economist)

In May President Obama declared that al-Qaeda was on the “path to defeat.”  The reality is very different.  The Economist article contained the following disturbing observation made by a counter-terrorism intelligence expert:  “Tactically, we may have defeated the central leadership, but strategically, they are winning.”

Al-Qaeda’s goal remains the same – the establishment of an Islamic caliphate across the Islamic world subject to sharia law.  Their vision allows no place for western influence.

Indeed, a few days after the Mall attack, an agricultural school in northern Nigeria was attacked by Boko Haram.  Dozens of young students were killed while they slept.  Boko Haram means “western education is a sin.”  The movement is another affiliate of al-Qaeda and has staged a number of attacks in Nigeria in recent years.

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are concentrating right now on soft targets in their own backyard.  But if they are to achieve their goal of an Islamic Caliphate and expel non-Muslims they will have to switch their tactics and concentrate more on western countries.

They will be helped in this by second generation Muslims whose parents immigrated to the West in recent decades and whose hatred of the countries that took them in knows no bounds.

When Jesus Christ was asked by His disciples, “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3)  He first warned them of false religion, followed by “wars and rumors of wars.” (verses 4-6)  This is where we are now.

False religion is not new.  What is fairly new is the modern rise of Islam, once again pushing against the West as it has done periodically throughout history.  There will no doubt be more attacks on malls, churches and schools.  At some point, the West will hit back – and then we will see the fulfillment of the prophesied end-time events.

Islamophobia is not surprising.  What is surprising is that there has been no backlash as a result of all the terrorist attacks in recent years.  Now there’s a good program idea for the BBC!

ORWELL, “1984” and US POLITICS

George-Orwell-1984

Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” are at their highest in many decades, following revelations of the US government listening in to our phone conversations in true “Big Brother” fashion.

I pity the federal employee who has been assigned my phone number – he must be bored out of his mind.

I was on a train in England sometime ago, with nowhere to go to escape the woman across from me who clearly was not interested in quietly reading like other well-behaved passengers (i.e. myself).  She rather spent the entire two-and-a-half-hour journey calling her friends.  Her inane chatter almost drove me mad!  Whichever government employee keeps tabs on her might want to switch to tracking me – compared to hers, my life is far more interesting!

In the same week as the revelations hit the headlines, I did think of “1984”, one of the best books of the twentieth century, but it was for a completely different reason.  I’m not going to read the book again.  It’s one of the few novels I read twice but I prefer his “Burmese Days” and think that his most famous book “Animal Farm” was the most influential and perceptive book of the century.

However, “1984” has been on my mind.

The reason is the new de facto alliance between the United States and Al-Qaeda.  Remember Al-Qaeda?  Osama bin Laden?  If you remember, they attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and killed about 3,000 Americans.  The attack led to two major wars that killed even more Americans, plus Brits, French, etc. – not forgetting even more domestic casualties (“collateral damage”) in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you can remember even further back (Americans have notoriously short memories!) you will know that we actually armed Al-Qaeda in their war against the Russians (then the Soviet Union) back in the eighties.  At that time, OBL was a “freedom fighter.”  Then he became “Public Enemy #1;” now, of course, he’s dead.

But his organization lives on and is fighting against the Syrian regime of Bashir al-Assad, who is now “International Enemy #1” (unofficial title).  And so are we.  We fervently want to end his dastardly regime and replace it with another dastardly regime!  Because that’s the way it works in that part of the world.

It gets more complex but I will try and simplify it for you.

Assad is an Alawite, a sect of Shia Islam.  OBL and his not-so-friendly bunch of thugs are Sunnis, as are most Muslims.  Assad is supported by Hizbullah, a Shiite terrorist organization in Lebanon that is in conflict with Israel – and Iran, which is ruled by Shiite nutters who don’t like us; or maybe they do, as they haven’t attacked us yet, whereas the Sunnis have!!!

Assad and the others are also supported by the Russians.  Remember them?  They were our enemies for over forty years during the Cold War.  They are still our enemies but everybody is still hoping they return to democracy (return???  They’ve never been a democracy.  Why should we expect them to embrace democracy now, especially when it’s not working any more in the West?).

This is all very reminiscent of “1984.”  If you remember (and I’m going back 40 years here), there were three major powers and two of them were always in alliance against the other one.  The problem was they kept changing sides.  And when they did history had to be rewritten so that the people thought they had always been at war with the present enemy and in alliance with the other.

Sounds awfully like modern international alliances and wars, doesn’t it?

There’s another lesson from Orwell that’s applicable here.  It’s found in “Animal Farm.”

For those unfamiliar with it, the book is a satire on communism.  At the beginning, the animals rebel against Farmer Jones and take over the farm.  The analogy is with Russia (Farmer Jones represents Czarist Russia; the animals the peasants who took over with the Bolshevik Revolution.)   In time, the pigs start to resemble the Czar.  In the final scene, when the animals look through the farm window, they see the pigs sitting at the table smoking cigars and drinking whisky.

In other words, revolutionary rulers end up being just like those they overthrew.

In the same way, when it comes to the Middle East, successive US Administrations looks like the last presidency and the one before that and the one before that . . .

Nothing changes and nothing is accomplished.

But they keep on having to take sides in every dispute and sometimes going to war.

And all for what?

SYRIA SIMPLIFIED

Syria-3770337          Bashar_al-Assad_(cropped)

The death toll now stands at well over 100,000.  The numbers of refugees runs into the millions as people flee the carnage in their homeland.  The suffering seems endless with no end in sight.  Now the Russians are helping to prolong the civil war, which has gone on for over two years.

So, why doesn’t the West help bring it to an end?  Western countries could easily provide the military hardware that would enable the rebels to gain power in Syria.  A relatively minor role by France and Britain helped bring down President Gaddafi in Libya.

But there’s a catch, or two, or five, or more . . .

For a start, western countries are tired of endless wars in the Middle East.  After years of fighting in Iraq, conflict continues daily in that country.  It’s the same in Afghanistan, where Afghan allies, trained by western troops, regularly turn on the westerners who trained them, killing them.

Then there’s the high cost, an ever-mounting bill that has contributed greatly to current financial problems.

Thirdly, there’s al-Qaeda.  The terrorist movement is involved in helping to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.  There’s no doubt that Assad is a bloody dictator and will stop at nothing, including the use of chemical weapons, to keep himself and his cohorts in power.  But it complicates things when al-Qaeda is the main opposition.  That makes it very difficult for western countries to get involved.

But still, the majority in Syria clearly wants Assad out, which could easily be accomplished in a democracy.  But Syria is not a democracy.  They also have a similar problem to Iraq, but it’s the exact opposite.  In Syria, the majority are Sunnis, while the ruling elite are Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam.  In Iraq, the Sunnis ruled over the majority Shia under Saddam.  Now, following a western style election forced on them, the Shiites are in control and the Sunnis don’t like that, hence the daily bombs that kill and maim hundreds of people.  The country seems headed for a civil war.

The Sunni-Shiite conflict is beyond western comprehension.  Maybe it’s best just to stay out of it.  After all, in hindsight, western intervention in Iraq led to the overthrow of a Sunni government that was not very religious and has now been replaced by a predominantly Shiite government, which has made our old enemy Iran the dominant power in the region.  Iran’s sphere of influence now extends from Afghanistan, through Iran and Iraq, to Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon – an arc that stretches from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean.  Why didn’t we think of that before we got involved?

Now, if we help overthrow Assad in Syria, al-Qaeda will likely take over.  That would weaken Iran but strengthen the terrorist movement that was behind 9/11.  It would exacerbate the Sunni-Shiite divide and who knows what that would lead to?

So the dilemma goes on.

Where does all this leave Israel?  With Syria in turmoil, it’s not likely to be attacked from there.  Meanwhile, Jordan and Egypt have got plenty of  domestic problems.  There’s really only Hezbollah to worry about.  Oh, and Iran with those nuclear weapons.

But if the Israelis or the Americans weaken Iran, then Sunni Islam is strengthened and that means al-Qaeda again and that means more terrorism and who knows what else?

And now Russia is giving the Syrian government more weaponry with which to defeat the rebels.  The Russians can’t afford to see their ally Assad overthrown.  The Iranians don’t want to lose him either.  This triple entente between the three countries is rather reminiscent of the Cold War, supposedly ended two decades ago.  When Israel recently sent planes into Syria on a bombing mission, Israeli PM Netanyahu was immediately summonsed to Moscow, where he was undoubtedly warned to stay out of the Syrian conflict.

It’s all so complicated, there’s no wonder that our television news programs don’t try to explain it.  Besides, none of our journalists are likely to understand the complexities of this religious divide.  At least they have the sense to stay out of it.  Perhaps Washington, London, Paris, and Moscow could follow their example?