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Middle East

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: Bin Laden won

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Osama Bin Laden’s goal in 9/11 was to suck the US into Afghanistan and Iraq, sparking a regional conflagration that would sweep away the imperial legacy and establish a new caliphate. Over a decade later, this plan is still on track. As he led his jihadists triumphantly into Mosul and declared an emirate on Iraq-Syrian territory, ISIS ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced that the 1916 secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain, France and imperial Russia was at last being dismantled.


ISIS and the Taliban: Writing on the wall for Afghanistan

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Afghans sleepwalked to the polls to replace Karzai, with a choice between a US-educated ex-World Bank official Ashraf Ghani (and his warlord VP Dostum), or the Tajik Abdullah Abdullah who threatens chaos if he loses. Iraq’s April elections, the first national elections since the US declared ‘success’ and left in 2011, provide an indication of what could be in store for Afghans. Rather than confirming the new order, they precipitated a ‘surge’ by Sunni insurgents, who quickly capture a third of the country, discrediting the whole US-imposed electoral process.

Plans for consolidating Iraq and Afghanistan as pro-US regimes appear to have collapsed with ISIS’s capture of Mosul, facing virtually no resistance. The Kurdish Peshmurga militia took control of Kirkuk, and in the south, Iraq's Shia brace to resist ISIS. Iraqis are now living through the 1990s Afghan scenario, when the Taliban quickly took over a country in the grips of sectarian violence with the promise to disarm militias and provide security. In Iraq’s Sunni majority areas, a population exhausted by war and violence is now faced by the same prospect of accepting a harsh rule by Sunni extremists who promise security.


The economics of Egypt’s coup

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As Egypt inches towards the first anniversary of the July 3 coup, the economy continues to flounder. The military-backed reverting to Mubarak-era policies has been buttressed only by lavish handouts from the Gulf Security Council (GCC) states and vague promises of future investment by western business, namely Coca Cola.

Despite loud media support for the military government, ongoing gas shortages and power outages, plus Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi’s minimum wage law, which excluded the neediest 75% of the labor force, sparked a wave of wildcat strikes that forced his government to resign on February 24.

This was the scenario as Egyptian officials came cap in hand to the Arab Summit held in Kuwait in late March. There was little cause for cheer at the meet, with the GCC crowd fighting among themselves, Syria's membership suspended, and the rest of the members seen as economic basket cases.


Interview on No Lies Radio: Egypt, currents in political Islam

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Interview with Kevin Barrett, summarizing the main features of postmodern imperialism, considering the main tendencies within political Islam as epitomized by Azzam, Bin Laden and Zawahiri


The logic of 9/11: US-Saudi-Pakistani connections

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Last week, Congressmen Walter Jones and Stephen Lynch introduced a resolution urging President Obama to declassify the legendary “28 redacted pages of the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry of 9/11” issued in late 2002, which point to official Saudi involvement in 9/11. After much lobbying, and under an oath of secrecy, Jones was allowed to read the censored document: “I was absolutely shocked by what I read. What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me,” he told IBTimes' Jamie Reno.

PNAC (Project for a New American Century) published a “grand strategy” in 2000 calling for the US to maintain its unrivaled superpower status, though this might require a “new Pearl Harbor” to justify launching preemptive wars against suspect nations. 9/11 happened as if on cue the next year, suggesting to many not so much a ‘grand strategy’ as a ‘grand conspiracy’.  As Bush told the 9/11 Commission, to justify invading Afghanistan and get Bin Laden, it was necessary to await “another attack on America”.

So who ‘did’ 9/11?

As the West invaded the Muslim world in the 19th–20th  cc, local Muslims naturally resisted the occupation—both physical and cultural—of their world. One can only admire the heroic resistance in Aceh (present-day Indonesia) to the Portuguese in the 16th century and Abd al-Qadir’s guerrilla movement against the French in Algeria in the 19th century. Even the Saudi tribe’s Wahhab-inspired resistance to the distant Ottoman court, already decadent and aping the imperialists, deserves respect, though the Saudi Bedouin were notorious for their cruelty and killing of captives. The PLO hijackings of the late 1960s–early 1970s (recall Leila Khaled) and the ongoing intifadas by Palestinian youth are classic jihad: individual duty (fard ayn) in defense of one’s home and religion, heroic and justified given Israeli aggression and unwillingness to negotiate the return of Palestinian lands. 

From the 1970s, however, there arose a very different movement of resistance—terrorists, who use indiscriminate violence intended to provoke the imperialists and their local Muslim representatives into even greater repression, in the hope of sparking revolutionary war. They are the product of the imperial times, aping 19th European anarchists who threw bombs at monarchs, eventually launching WWI, and 20th century groups such as Baader Meinhof who robbed banks and bombed buildings to protest the Vietnam war. Now it was the humiliation of the Arab defeat by Israel in 1967, and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.


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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

Purchase Eric Walberg's Books

Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html