Sunday, December 09, 2012

In The End, Was 9/11 (2001) A Failure Or Success For Islamists -- Or Both?

In Ayman Zawahiri and Egypt: A Trip Through Time, Raymond Ibrahim writes about current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's and his overriding objective transforming Egypt into an Islamist state in accordance with Sharia law.

In the course of his extensive examination of Zawahiri's history and philosophy, Ibrahim touches upon the topic of "Zawahiri's 'Mistake'?" -- the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 2001. Specifically, Ibrahim addresses: was 9/11 a blunder for Islamists, or an unexpected success:
It is for all these reasons that many of Egypt's Islamists, beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood, saw al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks, partially masterminded by Zawahiri, as a severe setback to their movement. The attacks awoke the U.S. and the West, setting off the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and also giving many Arab regimes—including Mubarak's—free reign to suppress all Islamists. Those regimes happily took advantage. As al-Zayyat, Zawahiri's biographer, wrote:
"The poorly conceived decision to launch the attacks of September 11created many victims of a war of which they did not choose to be a part…. Bin Laden and Zawahiri's behavior [9/11] was met with a lot of criticism from many Islamists in Egypt and abroad…. In the post-September 11 world, no countries can afford to be accused of harboring the enemies of the United States. No one ever imagined that a Western European country would extradite Islamists who live on its lands. Before that, Islamists had always thought that arriving in a European city and applying for political asylum was enough to acquire permanent resident status. After September 11, 2001, everything changed…. Even the Muslim Brotherhood was affected by the American campaign, which targeted everything Islamic."
In retrospect, the "mistake of 9/11″ may have indirectly helped empower Islamists: by bringing unwanted Western attention to the Middle East, it also made popular the argument that democracy would solve all the ills of the Middle East. Many Western observers who previously had little knowledge of the Islamic world, were surprised to discover post 9/11 that dictatorial regimes ran the Muslim world. This led to the simplistic argument that Islamists were simply lashing out because they were suppressed. Failing to understand that these dictatorships were the only thing between full-blown Islamist regimes like Iran, many deemed democracy a panacea, beginning with U.S. President George W. Bush, who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, partially to "spread" and in the name of democracy.

With the so-called "Arab spring" that began in 2011, the Obama administration has followed this logic more aggressively by throwing the U.S.'s longtime allies like Egypt's Mubarak, under the bus in the name of democracy—a democracy that has been dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which, as has been mentioned, shares the same ultimate goals of Zawahiri and other jihadis. Recent events—including unprecedented attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya, ironically, the two nations the U.S. especially intervened in to pave the way for Islamist domination—only confirm this.
The aftermath of the terrorist attack of 9/11 did not unfold as either the Islamists nor the West wanted.

The immediate Islamist 'victory' was overshadowed by bin Laden being on the run -- his occasional videos and tapes becoming decreasingly unimpressive. Not only did the US go after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the US invaded Iraq as well and putting Saddam Hussein out of the picture.

On the other hand, not only did the dream of bring democracy to the Middle East in Iraq and Lebanon prove to be elusive if not a mirage, taking out Hussein gave Iran the opportunity to pursue its goals of leadership in the Middle East unimpeded by its traditional rival.

The second 9/11 attack of this past year may not have obvious repercussions either way, not the least because of the successful attempt of the Obama administration to play down -- if not outright distort -- what actually happened, aided by the media.

Predictions in the Middle East are a tricky thing -- which may be why so many attempt it.

After all, in Egypt alone you had:
  • What appeared to be a real Arab Spring, 
  • Followed by the Muslim Brotherhood co-opting the moving and installing their own man, 
  • Followed by the political strength of the Military keeping Morsi under control (especially with the terrorist attacks in the Sinai which were blamed in part on Morsi), 
  • Followed by the resignation of Tantawi and Morsi controlling the military and going on to take full dictatorial powers, 
  • Followed by an unexpected uprising that caused Morsi to back down.
And the roller coaster in Egypt -- and the rest of the Middle East -- shows no signs of slowing down.
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