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Issue #1697      August 12, 2015

Culture & Life

The anti-Communist origins of IS

The Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud, the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle and My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (both Pluto Press, London), wrote at the end of July on the Common Dreams website “As much of the Middle East sinks deeper into division between competing political camps, the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) continues its unhindered march towards a twisted version of a Muslim caliphate. Many thousands have lost their lives, some in the most torturous ways, so that ‘IS’ may realise its nightmarish dream.”

George W Bush, when he was US President, enunciated the doctrine of “continuous war” and the eagerness with which the US launches wars against poor countries in particular has alienated young people all over the world.

Curiously, Baroud regards IS as “hardly an anomaly, considering that the group was spawned in a predominantly violent environment”. What he fails to identify satisfactorily is just who is responsible for creating this violent environment and – more importantly – who benefits from it.

Western intelligence agencies have been arming and financing extremely reactionary Muslim groups since before the Russian Revolution, when such groups were seen as a potential weapon with which to disrupt what was perceived in London to be Russian threat to British possessions in India. After the Revolution, these destabilising intrigues continued with the target now the disruption and hopefully the overthrow of Soviet power in central Asia.

Western agents encouraged the most reactionary beys and emirs to take up banditry, to attack convoys of Soviet cotton and murder anyone supporting the new collective farms that were being formed as the groundwork for socialism. Lawrence of Arabia was even hauled out of retirement and sent to Afghanistan to stir up anti-Russian feeling on the border of the Soviet Union.

Prior to the Second World War, in preparation for Germany’s invasion of the USSR, Nazi agents sought out these same groups as a fifth column. When Hitler invaded, anti-Soviet Muslims in Chechnya, for example, declared their allegiance to the Reich, a mistake that cost them dearly when the war did not work out as planned. After the War, the US as the most powerful capitalist country, took over the mantle of chief instigator of anti-Soviet intrigue, chief proponent of what soon became known as “the Cold War”. The US also took over all of the Nazis’ intelligence apparatus in Russia. They have continued to stir up anti-Communist and anti-Russian sentiments wherever they see an opening ever since.

The Saur revolution of April 1978 in Afghanistan provoked an immediate hostile response from the US intelligence community, determined as it was to “roll back Communism”. They chose to back the reactionary feudal elite who opposed the revolution with the aid of the most backward section of the Muslim clergy. Now, however, these modern champions of intolerance and ignorance were very well funded and armed with US-supplied Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Afghanistan, where hope and confidence in the future had briefly flourished after the revolution overthrew its royal family, became instead a failed state, wracked by constant warfare, a place for imperialist governments to try out new weapons and tactics. Meanwhile, the US and its main Middle Eastern allies – Israel and Saudi Arabia – sought to use their creation of a Muslim terrorist force as a weapon against numerous governments in the region, some progressive, some merely inclined to be independent especially with regard to trade in oil.

Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia as well as Russia and Ukraine have all found themselves under attack from armed terrorist bands claiming allegiance to the Muslim faith. For a while they claimed to be part of “Al-Qaeda” but now they have metamorphosed into IS, supposedly building “a new caliphate”.

George W Bush, when he was US President, enunciated the doctrine of “continuous war” and the eagerness with which the US launches wars against poor countries in particular has alienated young people all over the world. As Ramzy Baroud notes, “‘IS’ thrives on conflicts and calamities that are rooted in poor, fragmented Arab societies, where youth are disenchanted with their governments and where they have little or no hope for the future due to corruption and the protracted violence. Such embitterment is a perfect recruiting ground for ‘IS’, which enjoys multiple revenue streams and a self-sufficient economy.”

Those “multiple revenue streams” are the key: they come in the first instance from the oil-rich Saudis and their patrons, the US. The latter country is determined to gain control over the world’s key resources, especially oil. No matter how much wars may play havoc with a country’s economy, infrastructure, and social system, as long as its resources can still be accessed, US imperialism will be content. And so it is happily instigating wars all over the region and beyond.

As Baroud says, “With access to massive funds, IS is able to latch on to local militant groups which were formed as a result of real grievances, buying leverage and loyalty, as they have done in Libya, Syria and Sinai.” However, he also notes that “the ferocity and ruthlessness of the many conflicts currently under way in the region have achieved little, aside from setting the stage for extreme polarization in political, ideological and sectarian discourses. [Which is precisely what those conflicts were meant to achieve.]

“Mauritanian journalist, Sidiahmed Tfeil … lists countries where IS is moving in full force, flushing out Al-Qaeda influence and competing with local actors there. They include Yemen and Libya, but also Algeria, Mali, Somalia and others. Aside from Algeria, the same malaise of internal conflict, external meddling and intervention seems to unite the rest, which have either become – or teeter at the edge of being – failed states. [Libya of course was nothing like a failed state until NATO attacked the country and destroyed its economy and infrastructure.]

“It is the lack of political prospects, and the smothering of any attempt at freedom and fair economic opportunity, that lead to extremist violence in the first place. As long as this reality remains intact, IS will tragically find new recruits, latch on to local militant groups, and continue to expand into new borders – and even darker horizons.”

And as long as imperialism’s attempts to control the world’s resources are not combated, that reality will remain intact.

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