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Non-Fiction, Novation, Policy & Politics

Irony in the Middle East: Al Qaeda Fights Indirectly (sort of) for Democracy, And the West Just Fights

This graffiti was found on a street near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.  This picture was taken in February 2012 by the author.

Would you believe me if I said Al Qaeda’s actions in Egypt has helped fuel dissent of King Abdullah II in Jordan, and the demands of the people for political reform, while the West has supported the murder of civilians by a religiously (non-Islamic) ideological government in Israel and a “government” which is very close to becoming a violent regime in its own right?

Let’s begin in Egypt.

Ansar al-Jihad has done a few things since Mubarak, the former “President” (dictator) of Egypt, was overthrown in early 2011.  They’ve come into existence, and, as of July of 2012, attacked gas pipelines in the northern Sinai peninsula fifteen times. They’ve pledged support and allegiance to Al Qaeda, invoking their martyr’s name, Osama bin Laden.

They are now the militant wing of Al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula.

And in Jordan, four months after Ansar’s last attack in Egypt, you have (mostly) non-violent protests criticizing King Abdullah II.  Even demanding the resignation of the thirty-six day old government, which was formed after the king dismissed the previous government.  The New York Times article (linked under non-violent protests) says this is the third prime minister for Jordan this year alone.

The most recent protests immediately followed the announcement by the current prime minister on state television informing Jordanians of “a drop in subsidies that would result in increases of 14 percent on prices at the pump and more than 50 percent in gas used for cooking.”  The gas subsidies, the government said, is costing them $7 million per day.

The Arab Gas Pipeline is not operational, or at least only marginally capable of exporting gas to Jordan.  If Jordan received the gas they are under contract to, they would receive gas enough for 80% of their electricity needs, but the pipeline is only pumping 16% of the contracted amount.  What’s really interesting about that article is they lay blame on the Bedouin tribes of the Sinai.  Despite the admittance by Ansar al-Jihad.

Although, they do hit on an important topic: the neglection of the Bedouin tribes.  That neglect has led to problems such as kidnapping all over southern Sinai which is distinctly far away from Al Arish, where the pipeline was blown.  Also an interesting question to ask is, if the Bedouins are blowing up the gas pipeline, and not Ansar al-Jihad, why would they be hired to guard the pipeline against “unknown bombers?”  Furthermore, the Bedouin chiefs warned the military leadership of the rise of extremist groups in the Sinai.  They have even been attacked and killed after denouncing the militant groups.

Let’s put all of this together: An elected Islamist government in Egypt is fighting against an Islamic militant group who sees the government as not conservative enough, which is blowing up gas pipelines leading to Israel and Jordan, and killing other Muslims in the Sinai, which is indirectly causing popular dissent in Jordan because of rising gas prices, and demands for reform, the resignation of the government, and perhaps eventually the fall of the King of Jordan, possibly furthering what has been called the Arab Spring.  Not to mention causing further tensions between Hamas and Israel.

Now let’s focus on the West’s role in current affairs in the Middle East.

You would think the West (that includes NATO, the EU,  countries like France, Britain, and the US could be singled out; maybe the UN, although it’s slightly balanced by Russia and China’s veto power; even Turkey, that EU-hopeful; Israel is obviously in there; economically Saudi Arabia and Qatar get grouped under this mass noun) would be pushing for equality, human rights, popular votes, representative governments, and all of those things that are read from the mental note cards of politicians and spokespeople of the West.  At least, you would think.

France and Turkey, have recognized the too long named National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF, see, it’s even too long of an acronym) as the sole representative of the Syrian people.  This group was only formed in Doha, Qatar this past weekend, and its first announcement was to say they would not negotiate with Bashar al-Assad’s government, at all.  And diplomacy flies out the window.

President Hollande of France recognizing the NCSROF as a legitimate government not only allows for  political support, but also the eventual lifting of the arms embargo currently in place, preventing more legal sales of weapons to Syria. Hollande’s announcement was yesterday, the 14th of November.  But wait, only a day later, today, the 15th, France is already asking to arm the now legitimatized government.

Has anyone asked the Syrian people if this is their government?  It seems today you receive legitimacy as a government when the West begins to recognize you as such, and not through the people’s vote.  At least in civil wars (think Libya). Even so, one would imagine that a government truly in the pursuit of the best for the Syrian people would work for a ceasefire, not more death.

The US State Department said they, “look forward to supporting the National Coalition as it charts a course toward the end of Assad’s bloody rule and the start of the peaceful, just, democratic future that all the people of Syria deserve. We will work with the National Coalition to ensure that our humanitarian and non-lethal assistance serves the needs of the Syrian people.”

Meanwhile, possible war crimes (executions is what they mean) and crimes against humanity are committed by different opposition groups.  The rebels blame “extremists.”

Meanwhile, NATO surreptitiously, or not so surreptitiously, warned they would go to war for Turkey, should they be attacked by Syria.

Meanwhile, the US State Department supports Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip.  Israel killed the military leader of the admittedly militant Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.  They also killed the baby son of a BBC Arabic worker.  They also live tweeted the attack.  British Foreign Minister in his cool English accent, in a wishy-washy statement, laid “principal blame” on Hamas, but urged Israel to do all it could to “reduce tensions.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Netanyahu said he would do “whatever was necessary” to protect Israelis.

What do we have amidst all of this?

We have an ideologically driven government in Israel, whose military is completely supplied by the United States.  A “government” recently popped up in Qatar which is meant to be representative of the Syrian people, supported by the West in the pursuit of democracy, justice, and peace, and yet they refuse to have negotiations with the current government in the hopes of a ceasefire.  We have support of Turkey through NATO should conflict arise between Turkey and Syria.  And I’ve already written about why the Saudis and Qataris would want a long, bloody conflict in Syria.  I’ve also written about (and a follow up here) the role oil plays in the international affairs in the Middle East.

Does the West seem to be acting on their principles, the ones read from those mental note cards I mentioned earlier?

Again: What an odd world we live in when Islamic extremist groups blow up gas pipelines and contribute to mostly non-violent protests in Jordan, in the hope of political reform, and the West supports the murder of innocents in the pursuit of “terrorists” (wow, that sounds familiar); a government which was not elected and refuses peaceful negotiations, preferring violent conflict instead.

Reinforcing violent solutions reinforces violence and reinforces the monopoly of violence by governments and terror organizations, thus reinforcing fear in the individual. A democracy is not functioning properly when its main tool is fear.


About Jared Krauss

traveler, reader, thinker, writer, photographer, doer


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