Friday, January 30, 2009

Jihadi Views on Energy and the US Economy

Making Sense of Jihad posts an excerpt of a 2007 DRAFT report she delivered to a client that August. "It was never completed for reasons I just can't recall now. Re-reading the entire report again for the first time, there are parts I wouldn't write today, or I would write differently. My understanding of the adversary has grown and developed in many facets. And yet in other parts I can see where my current ideas on AQ's threat to energy infrastructure came from.

The working title was Fueling the Engine of the West: Jihadist View of Energy and the American Economy from Sayyid Qutb to Al Qaeda . The excerpt below is really the only section you may find interesting. Note that the references aren't available here. Also, I've added a bit of commentary in green," Marisa Urgo writes

In Their Own Words

There are several apparent, recurring themes associated with radical Islamists’ [I would use Salafist-Jihadist now] opinions on the United States and its economic power.

First, is the vision of an unstoppable, engulfing, inhuman power represented in the Muslim world by multinational corporations that are extensions of American foreign policy.

Second, is the theme of the theft of oil. In their eyes the Arab world’s preeminence in the energy sector is a God-given blessing, a birthright that can sustain the Islamic nation for generations. The West in general and the United States, in particular, are is paying too little for these resources, and that is tantamount to theft.

A third theme is the perception of energy demand as a strategic weakness. The United States relies on the Arab world’s energy resources to maintain its economic superpower status, disrupting that vital link offers radical Islamists one of their best opportunities to curtail American global hegemony.

Sayyid Qutb

From a letter dated December 23, 1949, Colorado

Here is strange/foreign, real foreign, psychologically, spiritually, physically, and mentally. Here is that big workshop they call the new world. I know the extent of propaganda that America overwhelms the world with, and the Egyptians who came to America share that propaganda and in that light make comparison. The extent in which that the Europeans overwhelmingly advertise, and the Egyptians who return from there. And they are weak people. They do not find any value in themselves, and feel big by inflating Europe and America and derive their self respect from that!

From The America I Have Seen In the Scale of Human Values (1951)

And we would do well not to forget the psychological state that wave after wave and generation after generation of Americans brought to this land...This psychological state springs from an enduring desire for wealth by any means, and for the possession of the largest possible share of pleasures and compensation for the effort expended to acquire wealth....

...They tackled nature with the weapons of science and the strength of the muscle, so nothing existed within them besides the crude power of the mind and the overwhelming lust for the sensual pleasure. No windows to the world of the world of the spirit of the heart or tender sentiment were opened to the Americans as they were opened to the first humans. A great deal of this world of spirit, heart, and tender sentiment was preserved by the first humans, and much of this continued to be preserved even in the age of science, and added to the account of human values that endured through time. And when humanity closes the windows to faith in religion, faith in art, and faith in spiritual values altogether, there remains no out for its energy to be expended except in the realm of applied science and labor, or to be dissipated in sensual pleasure. And this is where America has ended up after four hundred years.

Usama bin Laden, founder and current leader of Al Qaeda

From a December 30, 2004 audio tape

“Today There is a Conflict between World Heresy Under the Leadership of America on the One Hand and the Islamic Nation with the Mujahideen in its Vanguard on the Other.”

"You, the mujahideen: there is now a rare and golden opportunity to make America bleed in Iraq, both economically and in terms of human losses and morale. Don't miss out on this opportunity, lest you regret it. One of the main causes for our enemies' gaining hegemony over our country is their stealing our oil; therefore, you should make every effort in your power to stop the greatest theft in history of the natural resources of both present and future generations, which is being carried out through collaboration between foreigners and [native] agents… Focus your operations on it [oil production], especially in Iraq and the Gulf area, since this [lack of oil] will cause them to die off [on their own].

Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s second in command

From his commemoration of the fourth anniversary of 9-11 (September 2005)

"I call upon the mujahideen to focus their attacks on the stolen oil of the Muslims. Most of its revenue goes to the enemies of Islam, and most of what they leave is plundered by the thieves who rule our countries. This is the greatest theft in the history of humanity. The enemies of Islam are consuming this vital resource with unparalleled greed. We must stop this theft any way we can, in order to save this resource for the sake of the Muslim nation.

From his commemoration of the fifth anniversary of 9-11 (September 2006)

The materialistic Crusader western civilization knows not the language of ethics and principles but understands the language of punishment and retribution. So, if they taste some of what they are inflicting on our women and children, then they will start giving up their arrogance, stubbornness, and greed and will seek to solve the problem between them and the Muslims.

Sheik Abdelaziz bin Rashid al-Anzi
, a well-respected Al Qaeda scholar of Islamic law [I would characterize him differently now]

From the Ruling on the Laws of Targeting Petroleum-Related Interests and a Review of the Laws Pertaining to the Economic Jihad (2004)

The mujahideen have recently targeted a number of petroleum-related interests. As expected, these attacks were among the most powerful blows dealt to the enemy. These attacks dealt a blow to the economies of the infidel crusader countries...The conclusions that I have reached in my study, thanks to Allah's guidance, are briefly summarized by the following points:

1) The targeting of oil facilities is a legitimate means of economic jihad. Economic jihad is one of the most powerful ways in which we can take revenge on the infidels during the present stage....

3) The infidels do not own what they have seized from the Muslims. It is still
Muslim property.

4) The demolition of infidel property as part of a war is legitimate, as long as the benefits outweigh the costs of such an action.

5) It is okay to destroy Muslim property if infidels have seized control of it, or if there are fears that something like this may happen. This is true as long as the potential damage of the infidels making use of this property is greater than the potential benefit that can be obtained when this property is returned to Muslim hands....

Abu Bakr al-Naji, the nom de guerre of a well-known Al Qaeda ideologue

From the Management of Savagery (2005)

Therefore, what is the plan by which we shall shape [lit. “provoke”] events from now until we have completely accomplished (by the permission of God) our goals which we mentioned above?

- Diversify and widen the vexation strikes against the Crusader-Zionist enemy in every place in the Islamic world, and even outside of it if possible, so as to disperse the efforts of the alliance of the enemy and thus drain it to the greatest extent possible.. If an oil interest is hit near the port of Aden, there will have to be intensive security measures put in place for all of the oil companies, and their tankers, and the oil pipelines in order to protect them and draining will increase...

However, at least these operations will raise the price of oil, even if it is just covering the cost of the electronic security system and the salaries of troops and guards which will be disbursed along the paths of the oil pipelines and the massive factories of the petroleum sectors and their many annexes. We also anticipate an additional increase in the price (of petroleum) during the political crisis which the operations will cause. We also anticipate a rise in the price of petroleum even before the operations (take place) solely on account of the statement and the study which are issued. In this there is a good media gain since we raise the price of oil by merely issuing a statement, then we raise it again through some of the limited operations against petroleum targets which were poorly protected.
Al Qaeda’s Committee on the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda’s affiliate active in the Gulf states

From the article "Bin Laden and the Oil Weapon" by Al Qaeda memberAdib al-Bassam, published Voice of Jihad (Issue 30, February 2007)
Even though the oil does not belong to (former Saudi King) Faisal or his parents, he claimed that it is permissible to stop its production. Based on this statement, we can assume that it is permissible for the mujahidin to target the oil and try to stop its export, or at least minimize its export, and raise its prices; this will benefit our country and our people...Any pious Muslim should not be against targeting the oil; we should all work together to stop the exporting of oil to the United States, if we are truly devoted to aid Muslims who are victimized everywhere, and we should work together to stop the American aggression against the world....

Sheikh Usama's orders regarding oil targeting are clear and in order for the mujahidin to fulfill their duties they must collect precise intelligence, they must carefully choose their targets, they must collect all media material needed for the operation, and they must have everything ready for the operation throughout all the stages, including planning, preparation and implementation.

In the end, I assure you that the biggest losers will be the industrial nations and on top of them all the Untied States, the carrier of the cross. Oil producing countries will not be greatly affected; on the contrary, the oil producing countries will benefit from the price increase. This was proven in 1973 when the Gulf States used the oil and their economy benefited a great deal from that. The effects on the United States were clear when the Minister of Defense Schlesinger stated that military force is needed to avoid new oil threats, which are considered to be a threat to the American economy.

Muslim Brotherhood in Denmark (1969)

Making Sense of Jihad found this little gem tonight.
It's a 1969 Danish-language pamphlet published by the I.I.F.S.O with a forward by Afzal Rahman (from London). It appears to have been distributed by a group called the Scandinavian Foundation of Islamic Services. Not jihad related, but certainly a curio from the Brotherhood's still-formative years in Europe.

View article...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Did Hamas Really Win?

Who did win the Gaza war, Israel or Hamas? The answer to that question is political rather than military and hotly debated. With Israel on the eve of elections and Gaza having been devastated, neither side can afford to be perceived as anything less than victorious. Yet, the more important question is to what degree Israel and Hamas are better off than before the fighting and whether their gains outweigh their costs.

Israel has achieved at best tactical advantages at the price of seriously damaging its image, risking facing war crime charges and putting in jeopardy an Arab peace plan it endorsed as a basis for talks. Anthony Cordesman, a prominent military analyst of the Middle East argued in January 9 report to Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that tactical advantages Israel achieved were largely gained early in the war in strikes on Hamas facilities. Cordesman cautioned that the strategic cost of a pro-longed war as opposed to a halt after the initial Israeli air strikes outweighed any tactical advantage Israel would gain. "Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel's actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer seems to be yes… Any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert, (Foreign Minister Tzipi) Livni and (Defense Minister Ehud) Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves, and damaged their country and their friends," Cordesman wrote.

Israel said stopping the firing of rockets into southern Israel was its main goal in the war. The rockets posed however more of a psychological and political than a military threat. There is no doubt that innocent Israelis were killed by the rockets, albeit in far less numbers than Palestinians killed in Israeli retaliation operations. Most important to Israel's leaders however, was the need to break Hamas' political will so that it would accept a two-state solution with a Palestinian state that effectively would be totally dependent on the Jewish state. With Hamas defiant, claiming victory and no longer willing to accept a truce with Israel longer than a year, Israel's goal of ensuring that Hamas would sing a tone lower appears to have failed, That may prove to be far more important than whether Hamas dares fire rockets into southern Israel following the pummeling of Gaza. It also enhances the relative value of Hamas significantly increased popular support in the West Bank and across the Arab world as well as its claim to victory by virtue of survival.

On the principle of war is an extension of diplomacy, breaking Hamas political will was all the more important to Israel given that in the last year truly meaningful Israeli Palestinian negotiations were taking place with Hamas, not with the Palestine Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. The indirect Israel Hamas talks focused on the same key issues as with Abbas: Israeli withdrawal, the terms of a cessation of hostilities, the flow of goods, border patrols and supply of arms. Contrary to the negotiations with Abbas, these talks excluded the notion of mutual recognition and sought to achieve agreement only for a limited period of time. Negotiations are now integrated with violence rather than posited as an alternative; and the two parties proudly proclaim their rejection of the other's legitimacy," says George Washington University political science professor Nathan Brown.

Some Israeli intelligence and military analysts acknowledge that Hamas has in fact accepted the principle of a two-state solution with a Palestinian state alongside Israel. While the Islamist group insists its acceptance is temporary without defining how long 'temporary' may be, former Mossad chief and national security adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ephraim Halevy, writing in Yediot Ahronot, says that Hamas "know(s) that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their co-operation, they will be obliged to change the rules of the game: they will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals."

The Gaza war may be to Hamas what the 1973 war was to Egypt. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat needed his claim to victory to pursue peace. Israel may have inadvertently handed to Hamas the equivalent albeit for something less than peace. "There may be no Nobel Prize to be had here, but making sure these real negotiations succeed – and then immediately worrying about the next step—is a far more promising approach than pretending that the parties can be cajoled, muscled and jawboned into a final and comprehensive settlement under current conditions," Brown says.

In the effort to rebuild Gaza, those opposed to rewarding Hamas –Israel, the pro-US Arab governments, the European Union and the United States – will find themselves working through Hamas whether they like it or not if they want their funding to have any effect. Statements that funding has to be channeled through the Ramallah-based Palestine Authority lack clarity and seem meaningless. "If they mean funds can never leave the control of the Ramallah-based government, how can that be accomplished when that entity has no effective presence on the ground in Gaza?... If the assistance is to go through regular PA channels, those answer to Hamas. Even if rebuilding and assistance is the task not of the PA but of international actors, those can only operate with the permission and cooperation of the Gazan PA," Brown says.

Nathan cautions against believing that the aftermath of the Gaza war may constitute an opportunity to drive a wedge within Hamas between soft and hardliners. Differences in Hamas tend to be regarding perspective and priority with things looking different from Gaza, the West Bank or Damascus. Discussion is also fueled by the fact that the group's various arms – military, social, religious and government – at times have different short-term needs. However, debate seldom focuses on long-term, strategic or ideological issues. Rather differences emerge on more immediate tactical questions. The Gaza war serves as an example. Once all had been done and dusted, Hamas in a unified decision opted to match Israel' unilateral ceasefire with one of its own. In this, resembles its ancestry, the Muslim Brothers who often squabble but rarely splinter.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Studies Urges Trans-Atlantic Push For Middle Eastern Reform

If there is one issue beyond the Israeli Palestinian conflict that has damaged US credibility, and to a lesser degree that of the European Union, in the Middle East, it is their failure to stand by their principles of democracy and human rights when it comes to the Arab and Muslim world. Examples of the inherent contradictions of US and EU policy are multiple and glaring: rejection of free and fair elections when the outcome is not to the West's liking such as Hamas' victory in 2006 and the electoral success of the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria in 1991, continued support for autocratic Arab regimes in the Middle East and a disregard for human rights in the war on terror.

In his very first days in office, President Barack Obama has signaled his sincerity in seeking to restore US credibility and return it to its adherence to values of respect for human rights and the pursuit of democracy. His executive orders to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and ban torture of suspected terrorists as well as his shift in tone although not in substance on Israel and the Palestinians create expectations. While the Middle East has heard this before from Washington and seen no shift in policy either towards the Palestinians or political reform in the Arab world, tangible changes of US policy, if pursued, are likely to be gradual. Given the fragile balance in the Middle East, policy change resembles an oil tanker seeking to change course.

Public opinion in the Middle East recoils from the unqualified support the Bush administration granted Israel in its war on Hamas and the impotence of the international community and Arab governments in seeking to impose a halt to the carnage. Hamas enjoys a groundswell of support from ordinary Arabs and Islamist opposition to Arab governments is riding high on the predicament of their governments. Fear that change would undermine Arab government support for US policy in the region has repeatedly in the past defeated past lofty US promises to nurture democracy in the Middle East. So has concern that change could produce governments more in tune with their people but less attentive to US needs. The Obama administration has yet to prove that it is able and willing to chart a course key to restoring US credibility and true to Obama's declared ambition in what constitutes a treacherous minefield. Inevitably, this would involve engagement with the region's Islamists, something the US and Europe has been reluctant to do even though it has done so on various occasions. To do so, the United States and Europe will have to balance their long-term objective of political reform with short-term geo-strategic goals such as Middle East peace, continued access to the region's energy resources and a coming to grips with Iranian regional ambition.

In a report entitled 'Europe, The United States and Middle Eastern Democracy: Repairing the Breach,' published by the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Tamara Coffman Wittes and Richard Youngs, argue that to achieve both short and long term goals, the United States and Europe need to adopt a common approach. In a series of recommendations, they suggest:

1) Establishment of a high-level transatlantic forum to coordinate policies in the Middle East similar to the U.S.-E.U. strategic dialogue on Asia established in 2005.
2) The United States and Europe should leave Arab leaders in no doubt of the West’s continued interest in and attention to democratic growth and human rights improvements in the Middle East, in part through joint statements
3) Europe and the United States should agree on common criteria on rewards and positive conditionality as incentives for reform
4) The allies should uphold the principle that local civil society can seek and accept foreign assistance and make US and European support of Arab civil society non-negotiable
5) The United States and Europe should engage with non-violent Islamist organization, make clear that their defense of peaceful political activism is not selective, and exert pressure on regimes that crack down on such organizations or seek to prevent them from meeting with Western donors
6) US and European government funders should engage in sustained and regular dialogue on funding strategies for democratic development in specific states
7) The United States and Europe should stress that democratic development in the Middle East is a common interest shared with the peoples of the region, not a means to other ends.

For too long, the United States and Europe paid lip service to reform in the Middle East, but feared that commitment to a reform policy could endanger energy supplies, nurture the emergence of forces less inclined to embrace the compromise needed for a two-state solution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and embolden militant forces. Failure to insist on reform has produced regimes that increasingly lack credibility and opposition groups opposed to the West in part because the West failed to stand against repression and violation of human rights and refused to engage with them.

Lack of Western commitment to reform is stifling indigenous attempts at a more modern interpretation of Islam that challenges the views of the Islamists. Arab regimes, seeking to neutralize the appeal of the Islamists, often close ranks with conservative religious forces opposed to more liberal approaches to Islam, such as the Koranists, an Islamic reformation movement that focuses exclusively on the Koran and opposes implementation of Sharia law.

"For nearly a decade, as (the Koranists have) gained momentum, they have come under increased attack from the Egyptian government for their religious ideas. Al Azhar University, which is based in Cairo and is the leading center for conservative Sunni learning in the world, has rejected the views of the Koranists and has sought to systematically dismantle the movement. To curry favor with this influential religious establishment, the Egyptian government has brutally cracked down on members of the Koranist movement, leading to the imprisonment and torture of over 20 members and the exile of many more," says Ahmed Subhy Mansour, president of Washington's International Quranic Society.

Progress in seeking a modus vivendi for long-term Israeli Palestinian coexistence would ease Western efforts to nudge Arab governments towards democratic reform. Palestine constitutes a double-edged sword for Arab rulers. For too long, it served as a lightening rod that distracted attention from problems at home. Increasingly, Arab inability to further a peace agenda that incorporates Palestinian aspirations and impotence to force a halt to the latest war is fueling support for Islamist opposition groups. A coordinated US and European peace effort would allow the allies to help regimes embark on reform.

In a separate study, India's Strategic Foresight Group, backed by governments or other agencies in Norway, Qatar, Switzerland and Turkey, has concluded that conflict in the Middle East since 1991 has cost the region $12 trillion. The study says the region's population could have been twice as rich as they are today had conflicts, that prevent the Middle East from capitalizing on its location and resources, been resolved. The report looks at the cost of conflict across the region, including the Israeli Arab dispute, the war in Iraq, tension between Iran and Israel rivalry between Hamas and the Palestine Authority and al-Qaeda. It estimates the opportunity costs of conflict in the region at 2% of growth in gross domestic product and suggest that peace coupled with good governance and sound economic policies would allow some countries to grow at 8%. The report says with peace incomes per capita of the population in Israel in 2010 would be $44,241 instead of $23,304, on the West Bank and in Gaza $2,427 as opposed to $1,220 and in Iraq $9,681 against the current $2,375. The report put the cost since 200 of Israeli checkpoints on the West bank impeding Palestinian freedom of movement at 100 million person hours. "Considering the enormity of the costs evidenced in this report which have direct or indirect negative consequences for the whole world, the urgent necessity of a stronger international engagement is inescapable," says Thomas Greminger, a senior Swiss diplomat who worked on the study.