07.06.2009
Words and Deeds
№2 2009 April/June

On January 27, 2009, a week after his inauguration, U.S.
President Barack Hussein Obama gave his first interview to a
foreign TV channel. It was the Dubai-based and Saudi-financed
Al-Arabiya Arab television network. The interview was actually a
verbal dissociation from the policy of Obama’s Republican
predecessor. “The language we use matters,” Obama said in the
interview. Shortly after, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei responded that “changes in words” would not be enough.

The attention given by the new U.S. leader to the Islamic factor
from the very first days in office is quite understandable, as
almost all problems in the U.S. foreign-policy agenda are in one
way or another related to Islam.

These problems include the protracted “war on terror,” launched
as a response to the 9/11 attacks, which official Washington blamed
on Islamists from Al-Qaeda. Another one is the war in Iraq, where
resistance is put up mostly by Islamic groups and where the
country’s post-occupation prospects largely depend on these groups.
The third problem is Iran, which has been gaining weight in the
Middle East with its increasingly real “Islamic nuclear bomb.” The
fourth problem is the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, which does
not let the United States and other NATO countries control
hydrocarbon traffic from post-Soviet Central Asia. This problem is
coupled with the Taliban’s attempts to seize power in nuclear
Pakistan or to ruin that country. Another problem is posed by the
Islamist Hamas movement, which stands in the way of
Palestinian-Israeli settlement. These are only a short list of U.S.
foreign-policy problems related to Islam.

All these problems cannot be solved and even discussed without
working out a special discourse that would appeal to Islam and
without conducting a sensible policy that would take into
consideration the Islamic factor. The previous, Republican, period
of the U.S. presidency has shown that things are not that good with
either the discourse (suffice it to mention the term
“Islamofascism”) or policies. The “war on terror” in Iraq has
brought about thriving terrorism and, what is perhaps more
important and dangerous, the legalization of terrorism in the eyes
of a large part of the Islamic world. At the same time, many of the
current conflicts are rooted in events of 30 years ago.

THE YEAR 1979 AS A STARTING POINT

In the late 1970s, the United States began to tie a tight knot
of problems and conflicts, centered around Islam, in international
relations. The war in Afghanistan (1979-1989), which was an episode
in the global Cold War rivalry between the two superpowers, was
presented as an anti-Soviet jihad against Communist “infidels” and
Afghan “apostates.” The declared goal of the jihad was the
“liberation of Islamic lands from atheist invaders.” In line with
this logic, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan was explained by the
need to “defend Islam and Muslims,” although in fact it was
intended to create a geo-strategic bridgehead near the border of
Iran, where an anti-American “Islamic Revolution” had taken place.
For obvious reasons, Americans could not employ jihadist discourse
and jihadist practices, so they delegated this task to their allies
– Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which mobilized mujahideen.

The Soviet Union’s defeat in the Afghan war deluded the United
States into a belief that it had “caught Allah by the beard,”
meaning that it could control Islam and use it to serve its own
interests. In those years, it could play on the political
differences between various regimes and on internal conflicts in
Islam itself (centuries-old self-destructing conflicts between
Sunnis and Shias repeatedly broke out in Afghanistan, Bahrain,
Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and other countries).
At the time when the U.S. entered the region in the wake of the
anti-Communist jihad, it used differences between Sunni-dominated
Afghanistan and Shia-dominated Iran to serve its purposes.

The Afghan war was met with enthusiasm in Islamic countries –
initially for domestic political reasons. Large-scale U.S. aid,
both military and non-military, was only one of the advantages.
More importantly, the ruling regimes received an opportunity for
exporting internal tensions.

The aggravation of social and economic problems in the Middle
East in the 1970s sparked outbreaks of discontent and even
uprisings under Islamic slogans. It happened, for example, in Saudi
Arabia in 1979, when a group of the Ikhwan (traditionalist Salafis
close to Wahhabis) seized the Holy Sanctuary in Mecca and declared
a young man named Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani to be the
Mahdi, or redeemer of Islam. In Syria in the same year, members of
the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood organization carried out an attack on
the Military Academy of Aleppo, killing more than 60 cadets. In
1982, the Brotherhood led an insurrection in Hama, which was
suppressed by the military who carried out artillery and air
bombing of the city, killing more than 20,000 people.

These tensions largely stemmed from a conflict between the needs
for modernization and Islamic traditions which began to stand in
the way of progress. Algeria, Egypt, the Republic of Yemen (North
Yemen), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some other countries began to
drive out “passionary elements” – as Russian eulogist of “fiery
Islam” Alexander Prokhanov would put it – out of the countries,
instigating them to participate in the jihad in Afghanistan. It was
then that a mechanism was built for transferring extremists and
terrorists: a place was named for conducting jihad and
violence-prone Muslim oppositionists were sent there by state and
non-state organizations. The official clergy shaped an ideology and
practice of “non-returnees from jihad” – the so-called
shahids.
There was also a foreign-policy factor that caused Arab Islamic
states to participate actively in the Sunni anti-Communist jihad in
Afghanistan – it was hope for success of the U.S. struggle against
Khomeini’s Iran, which began to display expansionist ambitions
after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Later that
year, an uprising, apparently inspired by Tehran, took place in
Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich and Shia-populated Eastern Province
(Al-Hasa).

Three decades later, Iran has not given up its expansionist
plans. Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, advisor to Supreme Leader Khamenei
and presidential candidate in the 1997 election, in February 2009
referred to Bahrain as Iran’s 14th province. Ever since the
revolution, Tehran has been seeking to increase its influence in
the Arab world, mainly by using and expanding the Shia presence. In
addition to the war with Iraq (1980-1988), Iranian exclaves have
been created in southern Lebanon and in southern areas of Beirut.
The Islamic Revolution has been exported to Yemen, where a Shia
(Zaidi) uprising, led by the Al-Houthi family, has been going on
since 2004, as well as to Saudi Arabia and other countries of the
Arabian Peninsula. Iran has occasional territorial disputes with
the United Arab Emirates over three islands in the Persian Gulf,
and is actively involved in the Shiazation of Syria, as it did in
Lebanon. The formation of a “Shia crescent” evokes deep concern
among Arab states, which are now more afraid of Iran than
Israel.

The 30 years that have passed since the beginning of the Soviet
Union’s Afghan campaign have made Washington even more confident
that it can use Islam as a factor of international politics. Shias
from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and
Shia forces from the Badr Brigade, based in Iran, were used against
the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein. The “democratization” of Iraq
after its occupation was a step backwards even in comparison with
the secular state of the leftist and nationalist Baath Party. The
U.S.-imposed religious system has begun to tear apart the country
and its large cities, above all Baghdad, along ethnic and religious
lines.

Now the United States is encouraging (and possibly arming and
financing) the Sunni Jundallah (Soldiers of Allah) organization,
which is fighting against the Shia regime in Iran. Most likely, the
current presence of the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan is
aimed, among other things, at creating a bridgehead for attacking
Iran. There have been reports that the U.S. is planning to divide
the Greater Middle East along confessional lines. It would seem
that religious-political “levers,” of which Islam is the main one,
can be used infinitely.

“GLOBAL JIHAD” AS A POLITICAL IMPERATIVE

It was after the Afghan war that U.S. allies that had
participated in it began to create in droves Muslim extremist and
terrorist groups to serve their own international purposes. Today,
these groups number no less than 500. They let states move their
international political activity into the “grey zone” which is not
governed by international law or international custom and which,
most importantly, does not allow states that are targets of
“unconventional aggression” to exercise their right to the
application of Article 5 of the UN Charter.

The most successful, Sunni, project patronized by Saudi Arabia
and other Arab Gulf monarchies was named Al-Qaeda (“The Base”).
Al-Qaeda created a global network, setting up branches in
Sunni-populated areas or “absorbing” opposition and/or rebel or
extremist and terrorist groups operating in those areas.

Al-Qaeda became an instrument for implementing global
geopolitical and geo-economic interests of its patrons: first of
all, the control and regulation of the hydrocarbon market using
non-economic methods and force. Al-Qaeda realizes its goals in
zones of interests (areas where it is particularly active coincide
with areas of hydrocarbon production and transportation), fighting,
for example, against Americans and their allies in Iraq and against
the growing Iranian influence, and far away from these areas by
means of terrorist attacks and other forms of pressure on sensitive
points (the Madrid train bombings in the spring of 2004, and the
terrorist acts in London in the summer of 2005).

However, this project revealed serious shortcomings which
negated its advantages. Many veterans of the jihad in Afghanistan
and later in Bosnia, Chechnya, the Fergana Valley, Iraq and
elsewhere (80 to 85 percent) returned to their countries and formed
groups with increased “passionarity,” i.e. readiness to kill and be
killed for the ideals of Islam, as they had been made to understand
these ideals. The number of jihad veterans around the world is now
estimated at not less than 150,000 people. Throughout the first
decade of the 21st century, the backward waves of the “global
jihad” brought rebel wars and/or terrorist attacks to Saudi Arabia
and other Arabian states, as well as to Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan
and other countries.

Afghan War veteran Osama bin Laden broke with the Saudi royal
family and leveled criticism and even used violence against it
after it allowed U.S. troops to be deployed in the country during
Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which stayed on Saudi territory for
almost two decades after that. If Abdullah Azzam, the late mentor
of bin Laden and the ideologue of “the defense of Islamic lands
from infidel occupiers” during the Afghan War, had now looked at
the Arabian Peninsula, he would have definitely said that the “Land
of Two Shrines” is almost entirely occupied by these “infidels”: a
dozen U.S. bases have been deployed in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the
United Arab Emirates and Oman. For a veteran of jihad in
Afghanistan, Bosnia or Iraq, it is logical to wage war against
“infidel occupiers” who have seized Muslim lands and against
apostate rulers that have invited these “occupiers.”

Backward waves are dampened by a carrot and stick. Jihad veterans
are destroyed, arrested, sent to prisons and detention camps, and
rehabilitated, and those rehabilitated are rewarded. However, it is
impossible and, perhaps, not planned to “digest” so many
“passionaries,” as “global jihad” is very convenient and effective
as a foreign-policy instrument.

Now the heads of Arabian and other Arab special services are
pondering where to redirect the backward wave of the “global jihad”
from Iraq after the war there is over. According to some reports,
several regions are now viewed as potential fields for “global
jihad”: Lebanon, Chechnya and the Palestinian territories. Many of
the returning mujahideen apparently remain in reserve for a
possible war against Iran. To this end, radical anti-Shia
sentiments are maintained among the warring mujahideen and war
veterans. Obviously, Islamic states are constantly interested in
the existence or creation of “global jihad” fronts beyond their
borders.

“CALIPHATE” AS A SUBJECT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

It is generally known that Al-Qaeda is a horizontal network
structure without vertical subordination and links with specific
states, which implies the absence of ties with official
authorities. Through target-specific efforts, a coordinating center
builds a network of cross-border groups which implement a common
geopolitical project in their territorial “areas of
responsibility.” Al-Qaeda territorial branches emerge or are
implanted in various regions. They turn into latent states –
“emirates,” “vilayats,” “Sharia zones” and other
religious-administrative units that form as latent a “caliphate.”
Al-Qaeda operates only where there are Sunni Muslims or where they
appear as a result of spontaneous or controlled migration. The
zoning of territories for this global project is done according to
historical and geographical areas as they formed in the times of
the Islamic Caliphate.

Let me begin the description of these branches with “Al-Qaeda on
the Island of Arabs,” although this branch was set up on the
territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Arabian
monarchies later than the other branches. Arabian Al-Qaeda members
believe that Prophet Muhammad told Muslims before his death:
“Remove polytheists from the Island of Arabs!” The prophet’s words
became Al-Qaeda’s official slogan. Pre-recorded statements by 9/11
hijackers were released with this slogan on screen, which real
Muslims cannot ignore. It makes them fight against all
“polytheists” (“infidels” and “crusaders”) that have settled on the
Island of Arabs, as the Arabian Peninsula was called in the
prophet’s time, and against the authorities that have invited them
and that have thus become “apostates” and “infidels.” According to
a basic precept of Islam, those who are friends with “infidels”
become “infidels” themselves.

“Al Qaeda in the Country of Two Rivers (Mesopotamia)” consists
primarily of foreign mujahideen and operates in Iraq in parallel
with the national Resistance. It has already proclaimed the
establishment of an Islamic State of Iraq in the Sunni-dominated
regions of Iraq. Should Iraq break up (which cannot be ruled out)
into independent states (for example, a Kurdish, a Shia and a Sunni
state), the “Islamic State of Iraq” may be recognized by Arab
countries that support “Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” as an outpost for
containing Iran’s expansion and Kurdish separatism and expansionism
(Kurds also have territorial claims over areas beyond Iraqi
Kurdistan). Interestingly, official materials of the “Islamic State
of Iraq” describe it as “the core of the Caliphate.” Baghdad was
the capital of the caliphate in its heyday. However, Sunnis in Iraq
and beyond it seem to be more interested not in Baghdad but Kirkuk,
an oil-rich area in northern Iraq, to which Kurds have claims and
which the U.S. Republican administration promised to give
them.

“Al-Qaeda in Khorasan” deserves special mention. This organization
is little known to the general public, yet it plays an exceptional,
symbolic and propaganda role in the “global jihad.” In the period
from the 3rd to the mid-18th century, Khorasan was a large region
without clearly defined boundaries, which comprised the
north-eastern part of modern Iran, the Merv oasis, oases in
southern areas of modern Turkmenistan, and the northern and
north-western parts of modern Afghanistan. Khorasan holds a special
place in Muslim beliefs, as the Prophet Muhammad is believed to
have predicted the coming of the Mahdi (“divinely guided one”), who
is the Caliph of Allah, in the “last hour.” One of his prophesies
said: “If you see Black Flags coming from Khorasan, then you must
join them, even if you have to crawl on snow, since among them is
the Caliph of Allah, Al Mahdi.”

The Al-Qaeda propaganda emphasizes that the Al-Qaeda flag is black
and that this organization was established in Afghan territory,
that is, in Khorasan. For many mujahideen, this must imply that the
Caliph of Allah is no other than the father and leader of Al-Qaeda,
Osama bin Laden, whose coming was predicted by the Prophet
Muhammad.

But that is not all. This “heart of Asia” is the prophesied site of
a “last hour” battle between the Mahdi and Dajjal (“The Impostor
Messiah”), in which the Caliph of Allah will win an inevitable
victory. The “infantry” of “Al-Qaeda in Khorasan” and the allied
Taliban may view NATO troops as Dajjal’s army, to which they must
give the final battle in history – especially as Al-Qaeda and
Taliban da’is (preachers) consistently instill this idea into their
minds. In other words, mujahideen believe that the Mahdi/the Caliph
of Allah has already come under Al-Qaeda’s black flags and that the
final battle in history is going on.

Another Al-Qaeda branch is “Al-Qaeda in Al-Sham” in the so-called
Greater Syria, which includes territories of modern Syria, Lebanon,
Jordan, Israel and Palestine. It is not as real as, for example,
the “Islamic State of Iraq.” There was a failed attempt to
establish an “Islamic Emirate” in northern Lebanon, where
Al-Qaeda’s branch Fatah Al-Islam, which consists mostly of Saudis,
was engaged in fighting. Groups of “Al-Qaeda in Al-Sham” are also
trying to settle in Gaza to counter Iranian infiltration through
the “Iranization” of the Hamas movement.

There is “the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb,” which
operates in Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, as well
as in limitrophe countries of Black Africa, in particular in Mali.
To the east, Egypt is an “area of responsibility” of “Al-Qaeda in
the Land of Kinana” (the ancient name of Egypt). To the south-east,
in Somalia. “Al-Shabaab” does not conceal that it is an
organization allied to Al-Qaeda. Similar to the Algerian “Salafist
Group for Call and Combat” and the “Group of Monotheism and Jihad”
in Iraq, which became Al-Qaeda’s branches, it is ready to swear
allegiance to Osama bin Laden and to be called, for example,
“Al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa.” In the north, “Al-Qaeda in the
Islamic Maghreb” is targeted against Europe. Its mujahideen have
committed or prepared terrorist acts in European countries.

One can also speak of “Al-Qaeda in Europe,” which committed
terrorist acts under distracting names, such as “the Abu Hafs
al-Misri Brigade,” named after one of the closest associates of bin
Laden, who was killed in Afghanistan during a counter-terrorist
operation in the autumn of 2001. It must be noted, though, that the
Caliphate never included the whole of Europe, unlike the Maghreb,
“the Land of Al-Sham” or “the Land of Kinana.” The Caliphate
included only part of modern Spain – Andalusia – and the island of
Sicily. However, by preparing and committing terrorist acts in
Europe, Al-Qaeda not only exerts pressure on European governments
(for example, the attacks in Madrid forced Spain to withdraw its
troops from Iraq, while the attacks in London were committed by
natives of Pakistan, which is interested in expansion into
Afghanistan) but also “fights for the liberation of Islamic lands”
in Europe.

Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in one of his
latest works lauded by jihadists, described “Islamic lands” as
territories where Allah’s laws, that is Sharia, were applied for
least one day. Meanwhile, Sharia is widely used, along with state
legal systems, in all European countries where there are Muslim
diasporas. For example, there is a Sharia court in the UK, which,
by the way, sentenced Tony Blair to death in his tenure as prime
minister.

Let me conclude this brief review of Al-Qaeda’s “political
geography” with two more Al-Qaeda branches opened in different
parts of the world.

One is “the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus,” which actually is an
Al-Qaeda branch in “Caucasia,” as Abdullah Azzam described the
Caucasian region in his fatwa, “Defense of the Muslim Lands.” This
emirate is divided into “vilayats” according to North Caucasian
ethno-religious zones.

The other is located on the Indian subcontinent, where a group
calling itself “the Deccan Mujahideen” (after the Deccan Plateau,
which is about one million square kilometers in area) committed
terrorist acts in 2008 in India’s Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Thus,
this group, with links to Al-Qaeda, seeks to involve the larger
part of the subcontinent into an Al-Qaeda-controlled zone.
Al-Qaeda as a global structure interacts with the Islamic Party of
Liberation (Hizb ut Tahrir al Islami), whose black flag is similar
to the Al-Qaeda flag. The party has also divided the territory of
Eurasia into “vilayats,” including, for example, “the British
Vilayat.” The party’s goal is to combine all Muslim countries in a
unitary Islamic state or caliphate. Al-Qaeda is an ally to the
Taliban movement, which operates not only in Afghanistan but also
in Pakistan. (The Taliban has declared the establishment of two
states: “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” on Afghan territory in
September 1996, and “the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan” on
Pakistani territory in February 2006.) At the same time, Al-Qaeda
is a bitter rival to the Shia Hezbollah organization, as the latter
seeks control over the same geopolitical zones.

So, there are many expansionist cross-border Islamic clerocratic
quasi-states in the present world. They become subjects of
international relations and may turn into full-fledged states
recognized de facto by the international community or part of it.
For example, it became known in September 2008 that the Taliban,
with Saudi Arabia’s financial participation and Britain’s support,
was engaged in secret negotiations on the termination of the
conflict in Afghanistan. In August of the same year, Swiss Foreign
Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey expressed her readiness to even “sit
down at the same table as Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden” to
tackle global terrorism. Thus she became the first foreign minister
of a democratic country to allow for such a possibility. Hezbollah,
headed by Hassan Nasrallah who is a representative of Iran’s
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Lebanon, has been advancing to the
role of the main political force in the “Cedars’ Land” and is
already establishing relations with some anti-American regimes, in
particular with Venezuela.

THIRTY YEARS AFTER

U.S. President Barack Obama has tried to change the U.S. rhetoric
and, partly, policy vis-?-vis Islam now that extremist
organizations and ideology are on the rise. The addressees of
Obama’s messages respond with haughty statements.

As regards Al-Qaeda, in early February 2009, two weeks after
Obama’s inauguration, Ayman al-Zawahiri released an audio message
through the Islamist Internet, in which he criticized the U.S.
president for not mentioning the war in Gaza during his inaugural
address. Al-Zawahiri called on Muslims around the world to attack
U.S. targets in revenge for the U.S. support to Israel during the
operation in Gaza. His patron Ali Khamenei in March commented on
Obama’s video message to the Iranians on the occasion of the major
Iranian festival of Nowruz, a 12-day holiday that marks the arrival
of spring and the beginning of a Persian New Year. Addressing his
supporters in Mashhad on the occasion of Nowruz on March 21, 2009,
Khamenei replied to Obama’s message: “If you change, we will also
change our behavior.”

Obviously, the new U.S. president holds much hope for his “I’m one
of you” campaign targeted at Muslims. Interestingly, a few weeks
before Obama paid a visit to his first Islamic country (Turkey) in
April 2009, Istanbul was visited by his half-brother from Kenya who
performed namaz in the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. In a speech to Turkey’s
parliament, Obama said that he came from a Muslim family and that
“the United States is not and will never be at war with Islam” but
fights against “a fringe ideology.” The result of this campaign has
so far produced more effect in the U.S. rather than in the Islamic
world: according to public opinion polls, 10 percent of Americans
believe that Obama is a Muslim. Meanwhile, many Muslims around the
world associate themselves with Al-Qaeda and view the fight against
it as struggle against Islam. (Hardly any rank-and-file member of
the Taliban or Al-Qaeda in Khuzestan or Waziristan knows what
“fringe ideology” is, but if they understand what it is, they will
only feel insulted.)

On the whole, Muslims of the world view – not without some grounds
– the coming of Obama (“a bit Muslim”) to power as their own
victory. Some of them (probably adepts of the “fringe ideology”)
take it as a step towards turning the United States into an
“American Vilayat” of the Caliphate. (Many Muslims believe that,
way before Columbus, America was discovered by Muslims and that
therefore it is an “Islamic land” which must be “liberated.”)

The mass media in Islamic countries actively discussed Obama’s
Nowruz message to Iranians. The president proposed putting an end
to years of hostility and mistrust between the two countries and
said that “we seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded
in mutual respect.” However, a couple of weeks before his
“conciliatory” video message to the Iranian people, Obama had
extended for another year the sanctions imposed against Iran by
Bill Clinton in 1995. The Americans could not fail to foresee the
possible reaction – skepticism, irony and alienation, and it seems
that the message was a deceptive maneuver intended to show that
Iran is rejecting an olive branch extended to it, thus forcing
Washington to seek other ways to influence that country.

During the war in Iraq, the Americans established who was fighting
against them and what hid behind the names “Al-Qaeda in
Mesopotamia” and “the Islamic State of Iraq.” They successfully
organized resistance of local Sunni Arab fighters from among
Awakening Councils (Majalis al-Sahwa) against Sunni Arab mujahideen
from other Arab countries, mainly from Saudi Arabia and other
Arabian monarchies. This experience of General David Petraeus, the
former commander of the Multi-National Force – Iraq and now the
commander of the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) whose
area of responsibility is in the Greater Middle East, is now being
extended to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The U.S. seeks to sow discord
between local Pashtun members of the Taliban and “newcomers” from
Arab Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, thus mobilizing the
local Taliban movement to struggle against the “strangers.”

This tactic is nothing new. In the summer of 2001, Taliban leader
Mullah Mohammed Omar, who had direct and indirect (via Pakistanis)
ties with Americans, as a result of secret accords began to break
with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. As a first major step, he issued
a fatwa that disavowed all anti-American fatwas of bin Laden as a
man incompetent in matters of Islamic law and without a proper
education. The “divorce” between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in U.S.
interests was interrupted by the 9/11 attacks.

U.S. success in these efforts is not ruled out, although recent
years have seen a kind of “Al-Qaedization” of the Taliban, which
has been increasingly becoming a group associated with Al-Qaeda and
embracing its ideology, slogans and methods of struggle, for
example, terrorist acts committed by suicide bombers
(shahids).

Another area of the new U.S. administration’s “Islamic policy” is
more active involvement of Europe in its Afghan-Pakistani
operation. The goal is to share with Europeans the burden of
military spending and political responsibility.

First, Washington proposed transferring inmates of the Guantanamo
Bay prison, which Obama ordered to be closed, to European
countries. It is another matter how practicable the idea to release
Guantanamo Bay detainees is, as the “global jihad” thus will
receive new leaders with the aura of “martyrs” and strong
anti-American views. For example, one Guantanamo Bay detainee from
Yemen became the leader of “Al-Qaeda in Southern Arabia” as soon as
he returned to the country and committed a series of terrorist
attacks against Americans.

Then, Obama continued pressuring the European allies in NATO to
send more troops to Afghanistan (and, by implication, to Pakistan).
However, to all appearances, the European nations seek not to be
associated with the United States (although to little effect, as
Afghans view all NATO troops as Western “crusaders”) but to
participate largely in humanitarian and economic projects,
educational programs, and etc.

In other regions of the Islamic world, European nations are bitter
competitors of Americans: suffice it to mention France, working on
a Mediterranean Union, and Italy, which is building almost
brotherly relations with Libya. Europe is obviously showing Obama
red lines marking the areas of its interests, which he should not
cross. One such controversial issue is Turkey’s bid to join the
European Union. French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave a clear
signal to the U.S. president in April 2009 that “when it comes to
the European Union it’s up to EU member states to decide” on
membership. Obviously, Obama wanted to support Turkey’s EU
ambitions in exchange for Turkey’s efforts to create favorable
conditions for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and for its
subsequent support for a pro-American status quo in the
north-western part of the Greater Middle East.

There is also a purely speculative assumption that the new U.S.
administration may continue the policy of its predecessors to
“Islamize” Europe. This would help it increase pressure on the
European countries through the use of religious and political
leverage, which the United States has been so good at in the
Greater Middle East.

Islamic states – and not only they – are looking forward to see
what President Obama will do with respect to organizations,
institutions and projects that the United States helped to create
and develop in the far-off 1970s.