GS(3) Intelligence Special Supplement (2-4-06): Iran, Hamas, Islamic Fundamentalism, Terrorism, Geopolitical Hegemony, The Great Game and Danish Cartoonists
In Syria, raging mobs have torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies. In Beirut, they have torched the Danish consulate. Because of a political cartoon. In Islam, there is nothing more sacrosanct than the edict against rendering the image of the Prophet Mohammed in any way at all. But as Reporters Without Borders states, the reaction in the Arab world "betrays a lack of understanding" of press freedom as "an essential accomplishment of democracy." Of course, free speech and a free press are not the only issues involved. In an open and secular society, the religious edicts of one person or group must not constrain the behaviour of another person or group. Nor is this extraordinary episode all that extraordinary. In 1989, Khomeini called for the murder of British author Salman Rushdie for blasphemy in his book, The Satanic Verses. In 2002, when Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel wrote that the Prophet might have approved of the Miss World beauty context, the article sparked deadly riots and she too was threatened with execution. In 2004, the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh was killed after release of his documentary about violence against Muslim women. Meanwhile, the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has referred the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council. Iran has ended all voluntary cooperation with the IEAA, and challenged the West: "We don't need you, but you need us!" Several days ago, Al Jazeera aired a new video-taped message from Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's No. 2. Zawahri mocked George W. Bush "as a 'failure' in the war on terror, called him a 'butcher' for killing innocent Pakistanis in a miscarried airstrike..chastised the United States for rejecting Osama bin Laden's offer of a truce [and] threatened a new attack in the United States" (AP, 1-31-06). And, oh yes, Hamas has won the Palestinian elections. There is an ugly, gaping chasm opening up beneath our feet. If we are not careful, it will swallow us all.
Looking back at the Holocaust, i.e., the Nazi genocide against European Jews in WWII, the philosopher George Santayana wrote: "Those who fail to understand history are condemned to repeat it." In very poignant and bitterly ironic ways, Santayana's axiom has a profoundly new significance for all of us. Most people do not understand why Lord Balfour lobbied for what he said would be "a little Jewish Ulster" in Palestine. They do not understand the extent to which national borders within the region were drawn by the colonial powers of Europe, to serve their short-sighted agendas at the time. They do not know enough about the Palestinian leadership's collaboration with Hitler and the Nazis, or the torture chambers of the Shah's secret police (Savak), or the Iranian mullahs brainwashng and exploitation of child soldiers, or Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against the human wave assaults of the Iranians, or the genocide of the Armenians perpetrated by the Turks at the end of the Ottoman Empire, with the participation of the Kurds. They know nothing about the role of Israeli intelligence in the birth of Hamas (which, as Rabin confided to Arafat, was a "fatal error"). They know next to nothing about the terrorist activities of those who founded Israel, e.g., the assasination of British and U.N. officials, the abduction and execution of British soldiers and the bombing of the King David Hotel. They do not understand the painful and damning paralells between the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the US-UK invasion of Iraq or the agonizing consequences of forcibly displacing one population (Palestinian Arabs) to provide a homeland for another forcibly displaced population (European Jews). Many people who know and care about one of these horrors have turned a blind eye to the others. Very few of us are willing to acknowledge them all. There is very little moral high ground in the Middle East. Any political leader or news media pundit who portrays the situation in terms of absolute good and evil is a liar, an ignoramus, or even worse, a religious fanatic (whether Muslim, Christian or Jew). I do not write much about the Middle East. It only leads to losing old friends and making new enemies. But the situation is dire. There are no more Rabins or Sadats on the scene. (Indeed, their ultimate sacrifices may, in the end, prove to have been made in vain.) And although his son has done an admirable job in near impossible circumstances, the loss of King Hussein is a great one. The Mega-Mogadishu in Iraq, the coming confrontation with Iran, the rise of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, the spread of Al Qaeda style terrorism throughout the world, and the geopolitical struggle for hegemony of the world's oil and natural gas resources going on behind it all, are propelling us into a global conflaguration. The greatest contributing factor at this juncture, even greater than the lack of economic opportunity in the region itself, is the ignorance and denial which the political leadership and mainstream news media have cultivated in the U.S. populace. The political establishment and the news media establishment have kept most Americans woefully ignorant of the mind-expanding historical context, parvticularly in regard to events in the Middle East.
Those with eyes to see knew, even before 9/11 or Iraq or Katrina, what chaos and despair the spiritual and intellectual poverty of the Bush-Cheney administration would bring to the challenges of the 21st Century. All you had to do was watch what they did about Second Intifada, i.e. they did as little as possible, and what little they did only fanned the flames. They abandoned the painstaking, bi-partisan, US-led peace efforts that had spanned decades and adopted an abhorrent new policy of malevolent neglect. They forfeited the U.S.’s vital role as fair broker. They isolated and ridiculed Arafat. They brought even greater danger to innocents in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. And then came 9/11, the “second Pearl Harbor” that the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) authors had wished for. The Bush-Cheney response to 9/11 has done incalculable damage to the US prestige throughout the world. They compromised the national security of the U.S. in hitherto unthinkable ways. They have done more to boost bin Laden’s reputation, and swell the ranks of his adherents, than any sane observer could have believed possible. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a different scenario had Osama himself been calling the shots from the Oval Office. The plot has unfolded as if the Bush-Cheney national security team (and by extension, the US mainstream news media and the leadership of the political opposition) had their roles scripted for them by bin Laden or Zawahiri personally. Of course, it all makes sense if you read the PNAC document itself. The Bush-Cheney vision of the Middle East is one in which the U.S. dominates first through force of arms, and in the long-term, through cosmetic surgery on the body politic of Middle East, breaking the bones of faces to reshape them in the image of some Stepford “democracies” by stapling stomachs, injecting Botox, performing hair and breast implants and maybe even sex change operations.
The Middle East could never become what the PNAC dreamers imagine. Since they do not know what democracy is in the West, they cannot know what it will mean to the Middle East. They are 21st Century Frankensteins attempting to create life out of corpses and lightening. All they will succeed in bringing to life is more monsters.
In the GS(3) Intelligence Supplement, I have selected and organized some important news items and op-ed pieces that provide sweeping scope and in-depth context (both cultural and geopolitical) on the Bush administration's failed approach to the "Global War on Terrorism" and also deliver insights into both our predicament in Iraq and the broader "clash of civilizations" it has exacerbated. I have included the sober perspectives of IAEA director-general and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammend ElBaradai and former White House National Security Council official Richard Clarke concerning the coming confrontation with Iran, as well as Juan Cole's "Ten Top Mistakes of the Bush Administration in Reacting to Al Qaeda," an open letter from Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) to George W. Bush, detailing a sane strategy for extricating the U.S. from the debacle in Iraq, as well as William Pfaff on "To Europe, Bush is Only Creating More Terrorists," Renaud Girard on "The Causes of the Irresistible Progression of Islamist Parties in the Arab-Muslim World" and Amy Goodman's interview with Robert Dreyfuss, author of The Devil's Game. Use them as your talking points when dealing with "true believers," whatever national flag, holy book or corporate interest they have sworn their allegiance too.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Thursday told a meeting of the nuclear watchdog that the dispute between Iran and the west was "at a critical stage, but was "in no way a crisis situation". He said that Thursday's meeting was "about confidence building, but not in any way about an imminent threat". There had been some positive signals from Iran, which had stepped up its co-operation with the IAEA in recent days, and there was a window of opportunity to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, said Mr ElBaradei. He noted, however, that the majority of the IAEA board were agreed that Iran needed to return to full suspension of its nuclear enrichment activities and that a majority of board members were in favour of reporting Iran to the UN security council over its failure to co-operate with IAEA demands. A vote was likely to be held on the issue on Friday, he said. Earlier this week all five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, France and the UK (P5) - agreed to propose that Tehran should be reported to the Security Council but that any substantial discussions should be deferred until talks at the UN in New York next month.
Daniel Dombey, IAEA Chief Says Iran Dispute Is Not 'Crisis Situation,' Financial Times, 2-2-06
Richard Clarke On Iran: Clarke's comments on Iran were prompted by an alarmist question by an unidentified member of the audience who wanted to know what Clarke thought we should do about Iran 's presumed nuclear weapons program. Clarke's first response was to chastise the questioner for mischaracterizing the strategic situation in the Persian Gulf. Whereas the questioner tried to paint a picture of a crazy Ahmadinejad leading a rogue Iran and threatening the rest of the Middle East, Clarke insisted that such a portrayal is extremely dangerous. Rather, Iran must be understood as a state with many centers of internal power, not only populist Ahmadinejad but the elitist Ayatollah Khameini and the more moderate former President Rafsanjani. Power and decision-making is distributed between these three centers and that must be used to create an opportunity for de-escalation. The rationale for diplomatic de-escalation and not unilateral military action was Clarke's other point. In a nutshell, Iran has the ability already to make America pay for such a move. Iran, in Clarke's view, has thoroughly infiltrated southern Iraq with intelligence and military personnel. Should the U.S. or Israel drop one bomb on the Bushehr nuclear facility, says Clarke, these forces in Iraq have the capability to make the current insurgency look like child's play, implying that Iran can trigger the Iraqi civil war we've been fearing. Not only that, Iran has the capability to virtually shut down the flow of energy (oil and gas) from the Persian Gulf. Finally, Iran could quite quickly turn up the heat in Afghanistan, where it holds considerable influence with warlords Washington needs to maintain stability. Any of these moves would be an extremely effective check on American military action. Furthermore, characterizing Iran as irrationally seeking to acquire nuclear weapons is impossible to sustain. From Iran's perspective, Clarke reminded us, Bush has labeled it a member of the "axis of evil" and has since invaded and occupied its two largest neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan. From Iran 's perspective, it is surrounded by an aggressive, unpredictable United States that is willing to lie to its own people to make war in Iran 's front yard. Clarke is very clear: because of these reasons and the simple fact that the United States has no capacity to invade and occupy Iran, the only alternative is to deal.
Patrick Doherty, Richard Clarke on Iran, www.tompaine.com, 1-19-06
Armed militants angered by a cartoon drawing of the Prophet Muhammad published in European media surrounded EU offices in Gaza on Thursday and threatened to kidnap foreigners as outrage over the caricatures spread across the Islamic world Foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers began leaving Gaza as gunmen there threatened to kidnap citizens of France, Norway, Denmark and Germany unless those governments apologize for the cartoon…Gunmen in the West Bank city of Nablus entered four hotels to search for foreigners to abduct, and they warned hotel owners not to host citizens from several European countries. Gunmen said they were also searching apartments in Nablus for Europeans.…In Pakistan, more than 300 Islamic students protested, chanting "Death to Denmark" and "Death to France." Iran's Foreign Ministry has summoned Austrian Ambassador Stigel Bauer, as representing the European Union, to protest the publication…Morocco and Tunisia barred sales of France Soir's Wednesday issue. French publications are normally widely available in the largely Muslim countries, formerly French colonies. Iraqi Islamic leaders urged worshippers to stage demonstrations from Baghdad to the southern city of Basra following main weekly prayer services Friday to condemn the caricatures.
IBRAHIM BARZAK, Protests Over Muhammad Cartoons Escalate, Associated Press, 2-2-06
The editor of a French newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad has been sacked. Jacques Lefranc was dismissed by the owner of France Soir, as his paper became embroiled in a developing row between Muslims and the European press. Some Muslim countries have withdrawn their ambassadors to Denmark and boycotted Danish products after a paper there first printed the cartoons. Norway has closed its West Bank mission to the public in response to threats.…The row intensified when France Soir, alongside the 12 original cartoons, printed a newly created cartoon on its front page showing Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy figures sitting on a cloud, with the caption "Don't worry Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here". Publications in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain also re-ran the Danish cartoons on Wednesday to show support for free speech…Journalists at the newspaper stood by their editor's decision on Thursday, printing a front page picture and editorial in which they strongly defended the right to free speech…French MP Herve Mariton condemned the sacking as "in total contradiction of the tradition of press freedom"…The caricatures from Denmark's Jyllands-Posten included drawings of Muhammad wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb, while another shows him saying that paradise was running short of virgins for suicide bombers….Syria and Saudi Arabia have recalled their ambassadors to Denmark, and Libya has closed its embassy in Copenhagen, while the Danish-Swedish dairy giant Arla Foods says its sales in the Middle East have plummeted to zero because of a boycott of Danish products…Reporters Without Borders said the reaction in the Arab world "betrays a lack of understanding" of press freedom as "an essential accomplishment of democracy."
French editor fired over cartoons, BBC, 2-2-06
Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Palestine ... In the course of the last two years, everywhere in the Arab-Muslim world where governments have organized democratic elections (local or national), Islamist parties have enjoyed spectacular progress…With its historic start between the First World War, which saw the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the Second, which inaugurated the movements of decolonization and national revolutions, Islamist ideology did not succeed in taking root in the societies of the Arab-Muslim world at the outset…Yet one is forced to observe that in the Arab-Muslim world, the graft of European governance, implanted at the time of the decolonizations and founded on the central principle of the separation of religion and politics, was rejected by the people…The governments that emerged from decolonization all undertook a predatory relationship to power, which ended up being recognized and despised by the population…The simplifying power across the Muslim world of the Brotherhood's electoral slogan, "Islam is the solution," is enormous. From Cairo to Gaza to Baghdad or Algiers, who could contradict such a slogan? Who there could prefer the government of men to that of God? Doesn't Islam, a religion the power of which lies in its simplicity, forbid theft? Doesn't it preach alms to the most deprived? Hasn't the Brotherhood always shown an example? In Gaza, in Cairo, or in the southern suburbs of Beirut, it's Islamists who assure the social services there where the state fails to. For poor people, Islam, which teaches submission to God alone, is a liberating religion…Simultaneously, the image the Western world presents to the Muslim masses has been considerably tarnished. Islamists have a field day teaching their co-religionists that Westerners "don't believe in anything any more," lost as they are in their hyper-consumerism. What sort of moral model do European societies offer now, societies that are afraid to have children and that abandon their old people in nursing homes? It would be useless for Westerners to try to interrupt this deep current. Now we need to allow the societies of the Arab-Muslim world to experiment freely with God's government, in their own countries. As for ourselves, let us continue - without any hang-ups - to demand total human democracy in our own countries.
Renaud Girard, The Causes of the Irresistible Progression of Islamist Parties in the Arab-Muslim World, Le Figaro, 1-31-06
The difference between official American and European perceptions of terrorism has serious practical consequences for trans-Atlantic cooperation. At the police and intelligence level, all goes reasonably well, or did until the public uproar in Europe about alleged official cooperation with the CIA's secret "rendition" and interrogation operations. On the other hand, last Monday, France blocked a proposed NATO-European Union meeting on terrorism because NATO "was not intended to be the world's gendarme." It is a military defense alliance of equal partners…The Bush administration is firmly committed to the notion that Al Qaeda presents a military problem that requires a military solution. It has to stick to this story or else it has no explanation for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq…The Europeans, in general, think otherwise. Rik Coolsaet, of Ghent University and the Belgian Royal Institute for International Relations, notes that while some European analysts agree with Washington's position, most see terrorism in Europe as "a patchwork of self-radicalizing cells with international contacts," lacking central direction…The sources of extremism are social and political alienation, exclusion (and unemployment) among the offspring of immigrant communities, but the international drama mobilizes them. Coolsaet says that when Bush declares that America is fighting jihadists in Iraq so as not to fight them at home, most European counterterrorism officials find that just the opposite is true: The more the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan intensifies, the more the number of would-be terrorists in Europe increases. He has a reassuring comment, however, on the trajectory of terrorism. To reidentify himself as a jihadist, the recruit must dissociate himself from his own society, politicize his views and look for groups with a similar radicalized worldview. "Groupthink gradually eliminates alternative views, simplifies reality," and causes the candidate-terrorist to "dehumanize" all who disagree - especially his fellow-Muslims. "Ultimately, this strategy is self-defeating and will signify these groups' defeat, as was the case with Europe's left-wing terrorist groups in the 1970s, and the anarchist terrorists in the 1890s." It isolates them from the community on whose behalf they think they are acting.
William Pfaff, To Europe, Bush is Only Creating More Terrorists, International Herald Tribune, 1-29-06
Because they exaggerate the scale of the conflict, and because they use it cynically, Bush and Cheney have grossly mismanaged the struggle against al-Qaeda and Muslim radicalism after September 11. Here are their chief errors:
1. Bush vastly exaggerates al-Qaeda's size, sweep and importance, while failing to invest in genuine counterterrorist measures such as port security or security for US nuclear plants.
2. Bush could have eradicated the core al-Qaeda group by putting resources into the effort in 2002. He did not, leaving al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden to taunt us, inspire our enemies and organize for years after the Taliban were defeated…
3. Bush opened a second front against Iraq before he had put Afghanistan on a sound footing.
4. Bush gutted the US constitution, tossing out the Fourth Amendment, by assiduously spying on Americans without warrants. None of those spying efforts has been shown to have resulted in any security benefits for the United States…
5. Bush attempted to associate the threat from al-Qaeda with Iran and Syria. Iran is a fundamentalist Shiite country that hates al-Qaeda. Syria is a secular Arab nationalist country that hates al-Qaeda. Indeed, Syria tortured al-Qaeda operatives for Bush, until Bush decided to get Syria itself. Bush and Cheney have cynically used a national tragedy to further their aggressive policies of Great Power domination.
6. Bush by invading Iraq pushed the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to desert secular Arab nationalism. Four fifths of the Sunni Arab vote in the recent election went to hard line Sunni fundamentalist parties. This development is unprecedented in Iraqi history…
7. Bush diverted at least one trillion dollars in US security spending from the counter-terrorism struggle against al-Qaeda to the Iraq debacle, at the same time that he has run up half a trillion dollar annual deficits, contributing to a spike in inflation, harming the US economy, and making the US less effective in counterterrorism.
8. Counterterrorism requires friendly allies and close cooperation. The Bush administration alienated France, Germany and Spain, along with many Middle Eastern nations that had long waged struggles of their own against terrorist groups. Bush is widely despised and has left America isolated in the world…
9. Bush transported detainees to torture sites in Eastern Europe. Under European Union laws, both torture and involvement in torture are illegal, and European officials can be tried for these crimes. How many European counterterrorism officials will want to work closely with the Americans if, for all they know, this association could end in jail time?
10. Bush's failure to capture Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri allows them to continue to grandstand, to continue to frighten the public, to continue to affect financial markets, and to continue to plot. Al-Zawahiri almost certainly plotted the 7/7 London subway bombings himself, and gloated about it when he issued Muhammad Siddique Khan's suicide statement. Misplaced Bush priorities are getting our allies hit. The CIA is reduced to firing predators at villages because our counterterrorism efforts have been starved for funds by the Iraq quagmire. If al-Qaeda does pull off another American operation, it may well give Bush and Cheney an opportunity to destroy the US constitution altogether…
Juan Cole, Top Ten Mistakes of the Bush Administration in Reacting to Al-Qaeda, 1-24-06
Dear Mr. President,
This March will mark the beginning of the 4th year of the war in Iraq. In contrast, U.S. involvement in WWI came to an end after 19 months. Victory in Europe was declared in WWII after 3 years 5 months. In the Korean War, a cease-fire was signed after 3 years and 1 month…Iraq is not the center for the global war on terrorism. I believe Iraq has diverted our attention away from the fight against global terrorism and has depleted the required resources needed to wage an effective war. It is estimated that there are only about 750 to 1,000 al-Qaeda in Iraq. I believe the Iraqis will force them out or kill them after U.S. troops are gone. In fact, there is now evidence that Iraqi insurgent groups are increasingly turning against al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists. Our country needs a vigorous and comprehensive strategy for victory against global terrorism. The architect of 9/11 is still out there but now has an international microphone. We must get back to the real issue at hand - we have to root out and destroy al-Qaeda's worldwide network.
There are 4 key elements that I recommend to reinvigorate our global anti-terrorism effort: Redeploy, Replace, Reallocate, and Reconstitute.
The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it. Our continued military presence feeds the strong anti-foreigner fervor that has existed in this part of the world for centuries. A vast majority of the Iraqi people now view American troops as occupiers, not liberators. Over 80% of Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave Iraq and 47% think it is justified to attack Americans. 70% of Iraqis favor a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces, with half favoring a withdrawal in the next six months. In fact, 67% of Iraqis expect day-to-day security for Iraqi citizens will improve if U.S. forces withdraw in six months and over 60% believe violent attacks, including those that are ethnically motivated, will decrease…
The ever-changing justifications of the war in Iraq, combined with tragic missteps, have resulted in a worldwide collapse of support for U.S. policies in Iraq. The credibility of the United States of America will not be restored if we continue down the path of saying one thing and doing another…Mr. President, I believe in order to restore our credibility, you must hold accountable those responsible for so many missteps and install a fresh team that demonstrates true diplomatic skill, knowledge of cultural differences and a willingness to earnestly engage other leaders in a respectful and constructive way. This would do much to reinvigorate international participation in a truly effective war on global terrorism.
The Department of Defense has been allocated $238 billion for the war in Iraq, with average monthly costs growing significantly since the beginning of the war. In 2003 the average monthly war cost was $4.4 billion; by 2005 the average monthly cost had reached $6.1 billion. Despite the urgent homeland security needs of our country, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission issued a dismal report card on the efforts to improve our counter-terrorist defenses. Even the most basic of recommendations, such as the coordination of fire and police communication lines, still have not been accomplished…
The U.S. army is the smallest it's been since 1941. It is highly capable. But this drawn out conflict has put tremendous stress on our military, particularly on our Army and Marine Corps, whose operations tempo has increased substantially since 9/11.
The Government Accountability Office issued a report in November 2005 addressing the challenges of military personnel recruitment and retention and noted that the Department of Defense had been unable to fill over 112,000 positions in critical occupational specialties. This shortfall includes intelligence analysts, special forces, interpreters, and demolition experts-- those on whom we rely so heavily in today's asymmetric battlefield.
Some of our troops have been deployed four times over the last three years. Enlistment for the regular forces as well as the guard and reserves are well below recruitment goals…During a time of war, we are cutting our combat force, we have not mobilized industry, and have never fully mobilized our military. On our current path, I believe that we are not only in danger of breaking our military, but that we are increasing the chances of a major miscalculation by our future enemies, who may perceive us as vulnerable.
Rep. JOHN P. MURTHA (D-PA), Letter to President George W. Bush, 2-1-06
AMY GOODMAN: In light of Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections, we turn to Robert Dreyfuss right now, investigative reporter and author of the new book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. We welcome you to our Washington studio at Reuters in D.C., Robert Dreyfuss...How was Hamas established?
ROBERT DREYFUSS: Well, gosh, you know, you can go back, really 60 or 70 years. The Hamas organization is an outgrowth, really a formal outgrowth, of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was a transnational organization founded in Egypt, which established branches in the ‘30s and ‘40s in Jordan and Palestine and Syria and elsewhere. And the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was founded by a man named Said Ramadan, actually the father of Tariq Ramadan, who you mentioned earlier. Said Ramadan was one of the founders of the Brotherhood, who was the son-in-law of its originator, Hassan al-Banna, and he established the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and in Jerusalem in 1945. And it grew rapidly during the ‘40s and was, not surprisingly, a very conservative political Islamic Movement that had a lot of support from the Hashemite royal family of Jordan and from the king of Egypt.
This movement, as it began in the ‘40s and ‘50s, ran up against the emerging tide of Arab nationalism, and really the story of Hamas and the story of the Muslim Brotherhood is a continual battle for the last 50 years between Arab nationalists and the Arab left on one hand, and what I would call the Islamic right on the other hand. So the Hamas movement, as it grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, found itself in the 1960s fighting Arab nationalism in all of these countries, including Egypt.
When Fatah was founded in late 1950s and began taking action against Israel in guerilla warfare in the mid-60s, Hamas was -- or the Muslim Brotherhood was strongly opposed to Fatah. They grew out of the same movement. The Palestinian Fatah organization was founded really out of the League of Palestinian Students, that was a Muslim Brotherhood organization. But the nationalists broke away, and people like Khalil al-Wazir, and Salah Khalaf, and Yasser Arafat and the Hassan brothers, who founded Fatah, broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1950s.
And by 1965, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt launched its second attempt to kill Nasser at precisely the same time that Nasser was supporting the Palestinian national movement and Fatah against Israel in the areas surrounding the Israeli borders on the Egyptian front. So the Egyptian authorities arrested a man and put him in jail in 1965, named Ahmed Yassin. Ahmed Yassin, of course, is the founder of Hamas. He was, in turn -- we'll get to the end of the story -- was killed by Israel a couple of years ago. But in 1965, he was put in jail by the Egyptian authorities. And then, two years later, of course, when Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank and, of course, the Sinai peninsula after the 1967 War, the Israelis released Ahmed Yassin and a number of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
And starting in 1967, the Israelis began to encourage or allow the Islamists in the Gaza and West Bank areas, among the Palestinian exiled population, to flourish. The statistics are really quite staggering. In Gaza, for instance, between 1967 and 1987, when Hamas was founded, the number of mosques tripled in Gaza from 200 to 600. And a lot of that came with money flowing from outside Gaza, from wealthy conservative Islamists in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. But, of course, none of this could have happened without the Israelis casting an approving eye upon it.
And during these years, during that 20-year span, the Hamas organization was a bitter opponent of Palestinian nationalism, clashed repeatedly with the P.L.O. and with Fatah, of course, refused to participate in the P.L.O. umbrella. And just as during the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Muslim Brotherhood fought against the Nasserists, the Baath Party, the communists and the rest of the Arab left, in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Muslim Brotherhood fought against the Palestinian national movement. Now that's not even a surprise, you know. In 1970, when the king of Jordan launched his massive counter-offensive against the Palestinians there in that event called Black September, the Muslim Brotherhood was a strong supporter of the king and actually backed his effort, which resulted in thousands of Palestinians killed in a virtual civil war in Jordan.
So there's plenty of evidence that the Israeli intelligence services, especially Shin Bet and the military occupation authorities, encouraged the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood and the founding of Hamas. There are many examples and incidents of that. But there were armed clashes, of course, on Palestinian university campuses in the ‘70s and ‘80s, where Hamas would attack P.L.O., PFLP, PDFLP and other groups, with clubs and chains. This was before guns became prominent in the Occupied Territories.
Even that, however -- there's a very interesting and unexplained incident. Yassin was arrested in 1983 by the Israelis. On search of his home, they found a large cache of weapons. This would have been a fairly explosive event, but for unexplained reasons, a year later Yassin was quietly released from prison. He said at the time that the guns were being stockpiled not to fight the Israeli occupation authorities, but to fight other Palestinian factions.
That and other incidents gave rise to -- a number of diplomats and intelligence people who I interviewed, saying that there was plenty of reason to think that the Israelis were fostering the growth of Hamas. And, of course, Yasser Arafat himself, in a famous quote to a newspaper reporter a number of years ago, explicitly described Hamas as, quote, “a creature of Israel.” And he said that he discussed this with Yitzhak Rabin during their Oslo process. And Rabin told Arafat that it was “a fatal error” for the Israelis to have encouraged the growth of Hamas. The theory of it, of course, was that Hamas would be a force against Palestinian nationalism. And I think it's clear that it ended up, to a shocking degree, backfiring against overall Israeli policy.
Amy Goodman Interviews Robert Dreyfuss, Democracy Now! 1-26-06
Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and http://www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: email@example.com. For more information, go to http://www.wordsofpower.net/.