“Why is it that the growth of ISIS has not been tracked to its source, including the source of the massive flow of weapons, cash and training to extremists fighting against Bashar Assad? Why has none of the countries that have given such largesse been held to account for the creation of a militia that is in the process of setting up a state which will serve as the base for operations against Europe?” – Prof Madhav Nalapat
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has developed into an international menace and is emerging as the biggest threat to global security. Hence it has become imperative to understand the circumstances that led it to become a powerful terror outfit. Its roots can be tracked to the operation in 2011 by Turkey, France, Qatar, the United Kingdom and other countries to topple the Muammar Gaddafi government in Libya. Once that was accomplished, this group of countries turned to Syria to overthrow Bashar Assad, again by arming, training and funding extremists to engage in a gory battle. It is these fanatics who form the core of what is now called ISIS. And eventually what was evident to a limited few during 2011 has now become obvious to the world.
The US-UK-France invasion of Libya and replacement of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi with a congeries of warlords has turned the country into a melting pot. While Gadaffi was certainly a capricious dictator, and prone to flights of fancy and hyperbole, the reality is that during his rule, the people of Libya had jobs to go to, houses to live in, and food to eat. Healthcare systems were adequate and even foreign education was encouraged.
The turning point came when Gaddafi surrendered his stock of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to the US and the UK, as well as a trove of intelligence information about the way in which his team had dealt with terror groups across the globe. With this information in hand, several dozen terrorists were quietly rounded up as a result of such sharing of information, many by Gaddafi’s own secret service, headed by Moussa Muhammad Koussa (a Libyan political figure and diplomat, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from March 2009, into the Libyan civil war, and resigned his position from the Gaddafi regime on March 30, 2011).
There were reports that the Libyan dictator even bankrolled the election campaign of selected French and Italian politicians, besides paying out a huge amount to the relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie air disaster (270 men, women and children had lost their lives in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988), despite the fact that the evidence linking his regime to the crime was entirely circumstantial and based on hearsay. Certainly there were plenitude of cheques flowing from Libyan coffers to miscellaneous individuals and institutions in the US and Europe.
In a telling example of how it is not possible to “bank” goodwill with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) powers (they simply pocket the concessions made and promptly demand a fresh installment, rather than reciprocate in ways other than cosmetic), none of the many concessions and cash doles made by Gaddafi prevented Nicholas Sarkozy, then President of France, hence from drafting UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in his “Get Gaddafi” campaign. In the guise of saving civilian lives, they collectively condemned more than 60,000 Libyans to death in the military campaign against the Libyan armed forces, with further tens of thousands dying each year because of warlordism and other problems.
Infact, it was the manner in which the war against the USSR was fought in Afghanistan which gave birth to al-Qaeda. After the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, the organisation was in dire straits. The Libyan operation revived al-Qaeda and gave it cash, sanctuaries and recruits on a scale not even seen except during the 1990s, when Bill Clinton assisted the group to take over Afghanistan. This post-2011 gift of oxygen to a terror force comprising of Wahabbi extremists was reinforced by assistance given by some GCC countries (political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. established in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia, in May 1981) and NATO to arm fighters battling the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus. The spillover has been widespread from that fateful decision to battle Muammar Gaddafi and later Assad with the same cocktail tried out against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Because it was Sarkozy who was instrumental in igniting this new jihad, the most apt name for the latest variant of al-Qaeda to have come out of the Libyan and Syrian theatre would be “al-Qaeda Sarkozy”. However, it is doubtful that there will ever be any accountability for the way in which Sarkozy has damaged international security by his cowboy-style intervention in Libya, or the way his successor Francois Hollande and David Cameron have further damaged the prospect of success against al-Qaeda by the repetition of the Libyan adventure in Syria. However, in the latter case, as Assad had not revealed his intelligence secrets—including details of his arsenal of weapons—to his enemies, it became a much more difficult task to subdue his military than it was in the case of Gaddafi. Unfortunately for the world, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was an enthusiastic proponent of the Turkey-Qatar plan for taking out those regional leaders whom they did not like, of course with the assistance of NATO, which joined with them in what became, in effect, a war between NATO and the Secular and the Shia elements in the leadership of the countries in the Arab world.
Where Nicholas Sarkozy may get re-elected President of France in the next elections, defeating another walking disaster, Francois Hollande, while Hillary Clinton has a fair chance of getting elected as the first woman President of the US, especially if the Republican Party continues on the course of championing the interests only of billionaires seems bleak. It has been clear from US policy in several theatres that the Clinton view (which is aggressively Europeanist, seeking to retain that continent’s dominance into the 21st century) has in many cases prevailed over the more cautious view of President Obama. Given the reach of the Clinton couple in the “thought life” of their country and Europe, it has been no surprise that Hillary Clinton has almost completely escaped censure, or even attention, for the foreign policy errors that took place on her watch. How much of the policies followed by her is because of the huge donations made to the Clinton Foundation by donors in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE will never be known.
There should be accountability at the core of the policymaking process. Unless there is an objective assessment of the results of policies decided upon and implemented, errors are going to get repeated. Since long, the trend has been for policymakers in the NATO bloc to avoid shining the spotlight on their own errors, and focusing instead on others, usually “red herrings” designed to divert blame for failure. Why is it that after reports have begun to pour out about the chaos in Libya, the media in France does not question Sarkozy about his Libyan misadventure? Why do they not talk about the link between his launching a war there in 2011 leading to chaos of three years? Why is it that the growth of ISIS has not been tracked to its source, including the source of the massive flow of weapons, cash and training to extremists fighting against Bashar Assad? Why has none of the countries that have given such largesse been held to account for the creation of a militia that is in the process of setting up a state which will serve as the base for operations against Europe? These are the questions for which there does not as yet seem to be answers. – Organiser, 30 August 2015
» Prof Madhav Das Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair and is Director of the Geopolitics and International Relations Department at Manipal University, an international private university headquartered in Southern India. He is also the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.
Filed under: ISIS, NATO, terrorism, west asia | middle east Tagged: | david cameron, hillary clinton, ISIS, islamic terrorism, libya, muammar gaddafi, NATO, nicholas sarkozy, war, west asia | middle east