Today’s doubletake: Why we need al-Qaeda
Posted by Charles II on June 27, 2015
Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books:
In Washington and other Western capitals there is rampant confusion about the status and future of al-Qaeda.
…events in the Middle East suggest growing contradictions in Western policy. In Syria, the United States has been bombing Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, alongside ISIS. But members of the US-led coalition against ISIS, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are actively supporting al-Nusra with arms and money. In Yemen, the US has pursued a years-long drone campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a campaign that has included, most recently, the reported killing on Friday of AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi. But much of the Arab world is now essentially siding with AQAP in a Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels in that country.
…two quite separate super-wars are now being fought. The first war is being fought by the US and its Western allies, who are seeking to defeat Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and AQAP in Yemen alongside the campaign against ISIS.
The second war, by contrast, is being fought by Turkey and the regional Arab states—primarily Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Egypt—against Assad and other Iranian-backed forces in the region, as well as ISIS. In this war the Arab states openly avoid bombing or attacking al-Nusra and AQAP, and in fact now provide both with financial support and weapons.
The West must recognize that the ground is shifting quickly across the region and the Arab Spring is now on the verge of turning into an Islamic fundamentalist winter, whether we like it or not. The US has paid a bitter price for declining to back the Arab states in removing Assad four years ago when there was a viable moderate opposition. In the months ahead, we should not be surprised if formal talks between al-Qaeda and these Arab states begin. The only one not at the table could be the United States.
I think Ahmed Rashid is wrong, and I think his statement that we should have removed Assad four years ago is a clear sign of just how wrong he is. And if Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey want to focus on killing Shia and supporting terrorists, the United States should make it clear that we will not “sup with the devil,” as Rashid accurately calls such a strategy.
Still, I wish everyone in Congress would read the article, just so they’d stop saying such idiotic things.
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