Many doubts, questions, and dilemmas have arisen concerning the contradicting conduct of the West while dealing with extremist movements. The West exploited these movements in Afghanistan during the late 1970’s, opposed them in the Arabian Peninsula in the nineties, and then launched war against them in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Iraq after the invasion of 2003. However, in 2011, the West returned to taking advantage of these extremist groups and we are currently faced with a rather vague Western connection with Isis.
The reason behind the doubts and different points of view is that analyses are based on relatively rigid mental paradigms which fail to proceed in accordance with the flexibility and pragmatic segmentation of the cowboy mentality. On the other hand, the alignment of extremist groups in many instances with the West has induced powers which oppose these groups to accuse them of treacherous conduct.
This is accurate, but it is accomplished through the Western scheme of indirect control of these groups. This indirect control is due to the ideological and strategic disorder which extremist groups suffer from, and the disapproval which those in their infrastructure, supportive environment, and their mustering forces maintain toward any connection with the United States- let alone full alliance with America. This is what the inconstancies in relations from 1979 up until this day indicate.
Another factor which has spurned these doubts is the vehement self-defense which the “takfiris” display when they are accused of having connections with the United States or with any countries which adhere to America or revolve around it.
The examination of the course of this movement leads to a specific model which displays how the relation with Isis is controlled by Western powers with the United States at their head. This model is composed of three aspects:
1) Commission 2) Steering 3) Restraint
Each one of these aspects forms a set of tools which The US select according to the time and condition they deem as most appropriate. They do not necessarily benefit from all of these aspects in a simultaneous manner.
This policy depends on assessing which geographical area is most suitable for the movement of extremist groups, but under the condition that these movements do not pose a threat on American interests and that they also provide a strategic advantage. This policy is fulfilled according to circumstances and through certain means which are chosen according to time and place. There are five essential means.
1) Ensuring geographical domains: Weakening a country’s control in the target region through commotions, political turmoil, political settlement, and national uprising – as was the case in Syria in 2011, and Mosul in 2014.
2) Securing logistical pathways: Ensuring roads for extremists to reach target regions whether these pathways are by land, sea, or air. They also provide visas and even means of transportation in order to reach the area of conflict. They used Egypt, Pakistan, and Yemen as transits during the war on Afghanistan in 1979, and Turkey and Jordan during the war on Syria in 2011
3) Allowing financial aid and armament: Giving approval to their allied powers which wish to support extremist groups with money and weapons whether directly or indirectly (through certain institutions and weapon dealers). Rationing and organizing financial aid is done according to the time which ensures the imposition of a strategic course upon extremist groups.
The United States might also resort to direct weapon provision in some cases of tactical exceptions, such as throwing weapons and equipment from the air to Isis fighters in Kobani more than five times, and presenting this act in the guise of “a mistake”.
4) Transport: Expelling extremists from the countries which are harmed by their presence or from countries which desire to take advantage of them.
5) Facilitating the work of preachers: Allowing extremist preachers to fulfill their activity of spreading extremist ideology and mobilizing “takfiris” in the areas of transference, at departure, and at arrival. Extremist preachers are also allowed to spread their views on satellite TV stations and through different media.
This policy is based upon exerting an effort in media, mobilization, and in the field of action in order to direct the strategic priority of extremist groups toward movement in a certain sphere only, to target a specific enemy, or even to change the strategic and tactical course at a certain stage. All of this is done according to circumstances, requirements, and capacity.
The United States is very active in this domain with the aid of its regional and international allies. It achieves its aim through nine principal means.
1) Specifying the “preferable enemy”: the US have created “stars” among the “takfiri” environment for their own purposes and interests. They shed light on commanders or convenient extremist factions through inserting them on the list of terrorism. They focus on them in the media and select them in a way in which their prominence on the political scene leads to regional and international political achievements. For example, at the beginning of the war on Iraq, Colin Powell proclaimed that the enemy of the United States was al-Zarqawi. The US media machine placed him under the spotlight in a way where he became a prominent figure on the scene, and the conflict considerably shifted to internal Iraqi strife.
This is what Israel did a few months ago when it imposed on Jabhat Nusra to assign certain commanders in charge of control of the positions along the Jolan Heights- under threat of military intervention.
2) Assassinating commanders: Targeting extremist leaders who pose a threat on American or Western national security, or leaders whose regional influence negatively affects the scheme of steering and exploiting. For example, assassinating Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-‘Awlaqi, and most Qaeda commanders in Yemen.
3) Arabian and International Media: Delivering ideological and provocative concepts which aggravate extremist groups and urge them to head to a certain target region to fight the side which America chooses.
4) Saudi Arabian clerics: The Saudi Arabian religious institution is performing a central role through issuing fatwas which declare jihad in a target region.
5) Security Breaches: Recruiting, sending “Islamized” Western men to fight, the role of Arabian secret services, imprisonment, and attracting a supportive environment which is discontent with the conduct of the extremists. Prisons play a central role in recruiting commanders and prominent figures whether in an explicit or indirect way.
6) Taking command of conflicts: Handling the crisis in the target region in a way which achieves the goals of the United States, and preserving the controllable and exploitable extremist power through suspicious operations and different means of steering.
7) Causing a suitable environment of strife: Creating a setting of conflict in which the mustering forces of the extremist groups are presented as the targets, the oppressed, and the infringed upon – as in the case of Afghanistan and Syria.
8) Dividing the “takfiri” factions: Creating conflicts, tactical clashes in the field of combat, and producing a multiple set of goals and priorities through different means in order to prevent the formation of a unified power- as in the case of the clash between Isis and Jabhat Nusra in Syria.
9) Strategic Theorization: Presenting comprehensive strategic plans which represent the interest of the extremist scheme in the targeted geographical range. The security services infiltrates the Salafist jihadi virtual world and make their own Salafist websites, and in some cases they have the advantage of recruiting few ideologue under the coercion or persuasive instrument in the secret jails, those ideologue are capable of making the paradigm shift when needed.
Takfiri factions strive to maintain their own agendas – in spite of the great influence of the United States and its agents – in order to preserve their rank among their mustering forces and political authorities. Western powers need to restrain takfiri groups in order to prevent them from crossing strategic or military limits, and they fulfill this through force or control of their incomes.
Regulation is based on six essential means:
1) Direct Confrontation: Carrying out direct military operations to strike at the critical takfiri forces or those which pose a threat, as in the case of Afghanistan in 2001 for example.
2) Limiting financial aid and armament: Monitoring the flow of money and weapons; the amount, type, and timing. They also uphold the limits which prevent the takfiris from becoming a threat while allowing them to act in a way which benefits the United States, as in the case of Syria since 2011.
3) Geographical Restraint: When necessary, the military forces of the United States or its allies fire at the posts where takfiris pose a current or future threat, as the coalition forces did when Isis fighters entered Irbil.
4) Providing a Geographical Substitute: If takfiri groups increase in number or if it becomes hard to control them or their actions, a new battlefield is provided which forms a vent for emotional and military zeal. The most prominent example is allowing Isis forces to engage in fighting in Mosul.
5) Steering through the Media: Provocations in the media contribute to maintaining military and political zeal to achieve the intended and previously specified goal. Thus, it becomes difficult for the leaders of takfiri factions to turn around on the intermediate range.
6) Assassinating Commanders: This was explained among the aforementioned means of steering. The best example on resorting to this course of action during operations of restraint is the assassination of Al-Zarqawi when the United States became suspicious that he had pledged allegiance to Bin Laden and that he had restored the struggle against America as his main priority.
The usage of these means was fulfilled in different circumstances and course of events. In Afghanistan in 1979, the United States had previously designated the course of events. The National Security Advisor to President Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, had formulated a plan to bring Islamists to Afghanistan, to lure the Soviets, and to trigger a long term exhaustive struggle between them.
The second example was after the eleventh of September when the United States resorted to means of restraint in the face of takfiri groups which had left Afghanistan in search of a range of movement. A clash of interests ensued and resulted in the war on Afghanistan in 2001 and the operation of complete security restraint in Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, the zeal of these takfiri groups was directed toward Iraq in 2003 under the banner of fighting America only to be steered toward internal strife.
After that, the great operation to engage in Syria commenced and it is still continuing. The takfiri factions had envisioned in their consciousness and political cognizance an old enterprise in that country. One of the results of this operation was the emergence of Isis whose military effort has been steered once again toward Iraq- in limited mutual interests which the United States has not allowed to cross their specified sphere. Now, Isis is heading toward targeting Saudi Arabia which induced the international coalition to strike it.
Art of the Possible
The United States, its allies, and its regional adherents have adopted this three dimensional policy. This is due to the deep hostility which Arabian and Islamic nations hold toward America, the inability of the US army to engage in the battlefield for military and economic reasons, and the steady growth of powers which oppose America and Israel. Thus, the need for substitute armies able to accomplish strategic and tactical missions arose.
The second reason is the difficulty in engaging in direct combat with takfiri groups which Bin Laden had been temporarily able to drive toward fighting the far enemy in the late nineties and the new millennium, and the need which arose after September eleventh to return these groups to their favorite ideology of targeting the near enemy and regional foes.
Thirdly, Western powers were most of the time in need for an excuse for military intervention. They were also in need of signing long-term agreements (in security, economics…) with the terrorist takfiris. This is why they enabled the takfiris to be present- in order to justify intervention as in the case of Iraq in 2003.
Fourth is the need of America and Western countries to import the takfiri individuals who are active on their soil and to get rid of them.
Regional allies have other concerns – the most important which is the need to vent the internal pressure which these takfiri movements of revolutionary quality pose, and to solve jurisprudential issues when dealing with takfiri groups which lessen their excommunicative speech against certain regimes when they find a suitable range of movement abroad.
On another level, Arabian and Islamic countries need to get rid of the organizational structures of the takfiris or to weaken them as much as possible through driving them toward areas of conflict and strategic ambushes, as Saudi Arabia did in 2003 when it imported its dilemma with Qaeda to Iraq and got rid of that great predicament. The final motive for countries which are involved in the strategy of indirect control has to do with the regional aspect- they make use of takfiri groups to accomplish political regional goals, as in the case of Syria since 2011.
The nature of the takfiri groups is the reason why they have a tendency to be under this strategy. They are hostile and excommunicate everyone, even one another. Thus, they are prone to be steered in any possible direction. Due to the intellectual and jurisprudential differences among takfiri groups, and the lack of a unified command and strategy, they have a tendency to be infiltrated and to be steered in different directions. They also suffer from great vulnerability in security and this has facilitated the endeavors to recruit agents and secret intelligence infiltration.
They are also faced with a major problem which is financial aid – they lack an independent Islamic country which provides them with the money they need. This is why they depend on countries which exclusively adhere to the United States such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Pakistan. On the other hand, due to the security and political pressure exerted on takfiri groups, they are usually in search of any available outlet- especially since their speech carries very ambitious goals in comparison with their ability and narrow range of movement.
Courses of Action and Achievements
The main cases in this strategy are Afghanistan 1979, Iraq 2003, and Syria 2011. These cases have been generally successful in accomplishing their main goal which is transformation as much as possible of the threat which takfiri movements pose into a chance, and to take advantage of their blood-thirsty and destructive nature for the benefit of strategic US enterprises. They were successful in Afghanistan which the Soviets left, and they were successful in kindling sectarian and ethnic turmoil in Iraq in 2003. Currently, the United States has benefitted from these takfiri groups in Syria through destroying a great deal of the infrastructure of that country which is central in the allegiance of resistance. Israel has benefitted in creating an obstructive line on the border of the Jolan Heights which is formed of the Jabhat Nusra forces. In Iraq today, Isis represents a case which we wait to discover its outcomes and strategic courses.
On the long term, this strategy has been successful in shifting the military effort of takfiri groups away from directly targeting the West. In Afghanistan, the enemy was the Soviet Union, and in the period after that the targeting of American interests commenced up until the eleventh of September. Steering and indirect control were successful in Iraq in making American interests a secondary priority for takfiri groups in opposition to the priority of targeting other regional powers. As for Syria, American interests became completely distant from takfiri attacks, and Isis has almost fully eliminated attempts to target American interests. The main concern has become the geographical region- to establish the state of Isis, expand it, and to preserve its lands.
The profound and structural results show that America has been able to prevent takfiris from being active in regions where they pose threats on American interests. As a result of wide American domination, takfiri groups have not been able to move in an effective way which has influential political results anymore. They are only able to do so when there is no opposition to US interests which means where the US are at an advantage due to their presence. Thus, these takfiri groups – in an objective way- have become a part of the American scheme. With time they have avoided all regions vital to the United States and are active in less crucial areas.
This article was translated from Arabic by Hiba Naser.