L’effetto Iraq?

Iraq, M.O., Arabia, USA

WSJ 7/12/04

L’effetto Iraq?

Tesi Michael Scott Doran, assistente al Dipartimento di Studi sul M.O. a Princeton:

· vs tesi (Chirac, Musharraf, etc) che guerra Iraq ha rafforzato terrorismo facendo adirare l’opinione pubblica islamica e fornendo reclute per al Qaeda.

· L’antiamericanismo è un alibi per le lotte interne ai paesi arabi,

· ma non è una forza unificante

· Valutare la bilancia di potenza USA / nemici, non la popolarità USA tra gli arabi.

· USA possono permettersi di essere odiati, non possono tollerare una bilancia globale che favorisca al Qaeda e gruppi simili e regimi canaglia che potrebbero rifornirli di armi nucleari. In questa bilancia, molti musulmani che esibiscono il loro antiamericanismo sono o neutrali o attivamente impegnati contro i nemici degli USA.

· Esempio: Sciiti irakeni. Pochi esprimeranno pubblicamente appoggio agli USA. Tuttavia le loro scelte più profonde sono dettate dalla divisione sciiti-sunniti, non dall’opposizione agli USA. Nesun sciita ha sollevato un dito per l’insurrezione sunnita di Falluja. Fuori dell’Iraq certamente l’attacco a Falluja ha fatto arrabbiare molti sunniti, che tuttavia sono fortemente divisi, impelagati in conflitti che poso hanno a che fare con politica USA.

· Esempio: Arabia: il popolare predicatore Salman al-Awad, che negli anni ’90 aveva stretti legami con al Qaeda, ha firmato con altri 25 colleghi una dichiarazione che rendeva un obbligo per i musulmani abili combattere contro gli USA in Iraq. Restava nell’ambiguità se l’obbligo valesse anche per i non irakeni, cosa che permetteva di evitare conseguenze in patria.

· Il giornale riformista al-Watan hapoi rivelato che Awad era ricorso ai servizi segreti per impedire che un suo figlio si unisse alla jihad in Irak. Il padre di un altro ragazzo saudita morto in Iraq ha annunciato l’intenzione di denunciare al-Awad e gli altri 25. Il governo del Kuwait sunnita ha bandito quei religiosi dal suo territorio.

· In realtà i sauditi usano il dibattito sugli USA come pretesto per le proprie battaglie interne, coi tradizionalisti che accusano i riformisti laici di voler “americanizzare” l’Arabia. Quel che conta è che proprio in seguito all’attacco unilaterale di Bush all’Iraq i servizi segreti sauditi hanno arrestato centinaia di militanti, prosciugato i finanziamenti ad al Qaeda e confiscato grandi depositi di armi, scambiando informazioni con i servizi USA.

The Iraq Effect?


December 7, 2004; Page A14

Jacques Chirac and others — including, most recently, Pervez Musharraf — have surmised that the war in Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place. It has, by their argument, enraged Muslim opinion, mobilizing recruits to al Qaeda. They are wrong. Yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah notwithstanding, the real stuff of politics in the Arab world is conflict between Muslims, not America and its policies.

Any serious evaluation of the war on terror must gauge the balance of power between the U.S. and its enemies, not the level of American popularity with the Arab public . It is a fatal miscalculation to treat the war as a zero-sum game, with every mistake by the Bush administration somehow translating into a victory for Osama bin Laden. In order to win the war, America need not be popular. In fact, it can afford to be hated. What it cannot tolerate is a global balance of power that favors al Qaeda, kindred groups, and rogue regimes that might be tempted to supply them with nuclear weapons. In this balance, many Muslims who flaunt their anti-Americanism are either neutral, or actively engaged in the struggle against the enemies of the U.S..

Take Iraq’s Shiites. Few today will openly express their support for Washington. What drives their deepest choices, however, is the Sunni-Shiite split in their country, not their opposition to America. If asked, no doubt many would say that they hate America. This kind of answer makes it easy for pollsters to “prove” that Arab opinion has turned against Mr. Bush. But the animosity of Shiites does not translate into a rush to sign up with bin Laden. Regardless of how they may feel about America in the abstract, they do not sympathize with the insurgency or al Qaeda. How could they? After all, radical Islam teaches that Shiites are a greater danger to Sunnis than Christians or Jews.

No Shiite, therefore, lifted a finger for the Sunni insurgency in Fallujah . Two years ago, the city was a bastion of support for the Baathist regime, which favored Sunnis over Shiites. Recently, it was a haven for Sunni radicals who hate Shiites. If the insurgents were to prevail in Iraq and send the U.S. packing, even the most emotive declaration of hatred for America would not save the Shiites from the tender mercies of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But outside Iraq, Sunnis , not Shiites, are the majority. Watching the U.S. hammer fall on their brethren must surely awaken anger. The battle for Fallujah no doubt enraged a great many of them. But the fact remains that the Sunnis are deeply divided, mired in conflicts that have little to do with U.S. policies.

A controversy brewing in Saudi Arabia is instructive. Several weeks ago, when the U.S. was gearing up for the assault on Fallujah, Salman al-Awdah, a popular preacher who had close ties to al Qaeda in the ’90s, signed, along with 25 colleagues, a declaration that made fighting the U.S. in Iraq an obligation for able-bodied Muslims. This sly document left it an open question as to whether Iraqis and Saudis were equally obliged to fight. The authors of the declaration wanted to have it both ways — to garner the benefits of association with al Qaeda abroad without suffering any consequences at home.

But many Saudis have grown tired of this game, and are working to expose clerics for playing fast and loose with peoples’ lives. The reformist newspaper al-Watan revealed that Mr. al-Awdah subsequently enlisted the aid of the Saudi security services in order to prevent his son Muadh from joining the jihad in Iraq. Muadh, it seems, had decided with some friends to go and fight America. “God permitting,” he said in a message to his family, “we have an appointment with paradise.” In an effort to prevent him from keeping this date, Mr. al-Awdah contacted Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, number two at the Saudi ministry of Inter
ior. The authorities quickly found the young men, and returned them safely to their families.

Mr. Al-Awdah’s frantic call for help revealed two levels of hypocrisy. First, it shattered his carefully crafted image as a courageous fighter for Islam, a man who speaks truth to power. For someone supposedly independent of the regime, he has cozy ties with the Saudi secret police. Second, it unmasked his true feeling about the anti-American jihad: Let Iraqis kill themselves.

Mr. al-Awdah is today less concerned about fueling the jihad than he is about saving his reputation. He is quibbling over the details of al-Watan’s report, claiming defamation and threatening a lawsuit. Al-Watan has responded by saying, in effect: Bring it on. If he dares to do so, Mr. al-Awdah may well find himself with more legal burdens than he cares to shoulder. The father of a Saudi boy who did in fact find his death in Iraq has gone to the media expressing his intention to sue Mr. al-Awdah and the other 25 clerics who issued the fatwa supporting the jihad. And to make matters worse, the government of Kuwait — a predominantly Sunni country — has banned the offending clerics from its soil.

Whatever Saudis may think of U.S. policies, they first and foremost disagree among themselves about the character of their society. In fact, the Saudis use the debate about America as a proxy for their own conflicts, which at base have little if anything to do with the Bush foreign policy. When Mr. al-Awdah called for jihad against the U.S. in Iraq, he was striking a blow against secular reformers — “Americanizers” — in Saudi Arabia. His enemies, for their part, are using the pages of al-Watan to launch a counterattack to advance their domestic agenda.

The very trajectory of Saudi politics over the last 18 months destroys the thesis that the Sunnis are lining up to join al Qaeda. Anti-Americanism may have soared in the kingdom, but al Qaeda’s fortunes have plummeted. After the fall of the Taliban, the greatest blow that al Qaeda has received has been at the hands of the Saudi security services. Since May 2003, a month after Saddam’s fall, they have arrested hundreds of militants, confiscated huge weapons caches, stemmed the flow of money to al Qaeda, and established formal mechanisms for exchanging intelligence with the U.S. All of this took place, it is important to emphasize, after the exercise of President Bush’s much-maligned policies: It is U.S. “unilateralism” that precipitated the open conflict between al Qaeda and the Saudi regime.

A backlash is developing against unbridled anti-Americanism. Those who argue that the Iraq war has been a great boon to al Qaeda are selectively reading the talk coming out of the Arab world, and paying no attention to its actions. Anti-Americanism is a clever alibi, but hardly a unifying force across the great divides of a society.

Mr. Doran is assistant professor at Princeton’s Department of Near Eastern Studies.

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