From Afghanistan to Tunisia: back to GWOT?

Well, exactly what we feared is happening. Protests against the stupid Islamophobic “film” spread to Afghanistan Sept. 16, with hundreds of students from Kabul University marching, blocking roads and chanting “death to America!” There was no violence, but protesters in Herat burned a US flag and pictures of Barack Obama. (AFP, Sept. 16) Meanwhile, the Taliban launched an audacious attack on a British base, Camp Bastion in Helmand province, killing two US Marines there—and astutely claimed they were doing it in retaliation for the stupid “film.” “The aim of this attack was revenge against Americans for the anti-Prophet movie,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf said. (Radio Australia, Sept. 16; VOA, Sept. 15)

We’ve been warning for over a year now that while while the Arab Spring created a poor propaganda environment both for imperialism and the jihad (throughout the Islamic world, not only in Arab lands), both sides would seek a strategic opportunity to recoup their losses and revive the dystopian dialectic of jihad-versus-GWOT. This may now be decisively happening. Barack Obama, having already dispatched two warships to the coast of Libya, has now ordered the evacuation of all but emergency personnel from the US diplomatic missions in Tunisia and Sudan—an ominous sign. The order comes after violent protests at the embassies in both countries—after Friday prayers on Sept. 14, three were killed in protests in Tunis, and two in Khartoum. Sudan, unlike Libya, denied the US request to send a special Marines anti-terrorism team to protect the embassy. 

One was also killed in new street clashes in Cairo, and nearly 150 injured. Authorities reported over 50 police injured—including by birdshot. The army has been called in, and is constructing giant concrete barriers around the US embassy.

In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) issued a statement urging killings of US diplomats, and the Yemeni parliament demanded that all foreign troops in the country be sent home, including roughly 50 US Marines deployed to protect the embassy there. (WP, Sept. 16; Sudan Tribune, Sept. 15; CNN, Sept. 14)

Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University has a piece on Al Jazeera beseeching, “An incendiary ‘movie’ should not allow fringe elements to co-opt and realign the trajectory of the Arab revolutions.” Drawing an analogy to the usurpation of Iran’s revolution by the ayatollahs in 1979-80, he sees the potential for disaster, but ends on a hopeful note:

The trigger-happy Republicans are pushing President Obama to do something rash. Presidential candidate Mit Romany has accused President Obama of “sympathizing” with the attackers, as Aljazeera reports that “US warships steam towards Libya coast.” This is after Sarah Palin has criticised president Obama’s shortcoming and urged him “to grow a Big Stick. The depth of this woman’s banality seems to have no limit.  

The last thing that President Obama wants to do now is what President Carter did in 1979 and try something foolish like “Operation Eagle Claw.” …President Obama must do absolutely nothing. The true measure of his statesmanship is do exactly the opposite of what Palin urges him to do, and let Muslims raise their own voice in condemning both bigotry and violence at one and the time—as indeed we see it happening in both Libya and Egypt… This is the season of the Arab Spring—binary banalities of fanatics on both sides of the divide cannot derail the course of history anymore.  

We certainly hope so, but we aren’t so sure. As we have repeatedly noted, the US design from the beginning has been to control the political trajectory of the Arab Spring, to assure that the region remains within the imperial orbit. A renewed crusade on jihadists may prove an irresistible lure to achieve this aim, even at the cost of further military entanglements for an already overstretched empire. The days to come may prove whether the extremely hopeful secular revolutionary surgence represented by the Arab Spring was more than a brief anomaly in the Hundred Years War between Islam and the West that was openly predicted (e.g. by Brian Michael Jenkins of the RAND Corporation) after 9-11…