Thursday, March 24, 2011

'The Bell Tolls for Thee...'

In my earlier post on March 21 'Don't Ask For whom Bell Tolls', I estimated that one unintended byproduct of the western intervention in Libya may turn out to be the ascendance of militant Islam in a wide arc of the Muslim world. I wrote: "The stunning reality is that the bell tolls not only for Qaddafi. Libya is a fragile nation of recent origin and is unlikely to withstand the pressure of foreign intervention. Its tribal, clan politics are a recipe for disintegration. More important, the only unifying force may turn out to be Islamism, which if it rises in the debris of civil war would profoundly impact international security in a wide arc of Greater Middle East stretching all the way to Afghanistan in India’s extended neighbourhood."
Today's Asia Times carries a sensational piece that Osma bin Laden is on the move, that he has been spotted by US intelligence as having bestirred himself and meeting various militant groups including with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Karachi-based Syed Saleem Shahzad who authored the piece has close contacts with Pakistani intelligence sources. It is hard to tell whether the information is aimed at derailing the ongoing talks between the Americans and Hekmatyar. (Gulbuddin seems to have bypassed the Pakistani intelligence and got directly in touch with Americans.) But Shahzad's main thesis is interesting, namely, that bin Laden might switch to a less dogmatic 'united front' approach toward other islamist groups so as to tap into the anti-American fervor that is bound to arise out of the Arab revolt. He doesn't mention Libya, though.
But Alexander Cockburn, editor of CounterPunch, does. He has an interesting post today, based on WikiLeaks cables. It seems the American embassy in Tripoli had been warning state department that eastern Libya, especially Benghazi is a beehive of Al-Qaeda operatives/sympathisers. Again, the so-called Sinjar Records (set of al-Qaeda documents that came into the possession of US intelligence in 2007) independently substantiates the estimation by the WikiLeaks cable. So much so that a former CIA operations officer Brian Fairchild has been quoted as assessing, amid "the apparent absence of any plan for post-Gaddafi governance, an ignorance of Libya's tribal nature and our poor record of dealing with tribes, American government documents conclusively establish that the epicentre of the revolt is rife with anti-American and pro-jihad sentiment, and with al-Qaeda's explicit support for the revolt, it is appropriate to ask our policy makers how American military intervention in support of this revolt in any way serves vital US strategic interests."
Are we coming a full circle? To fight the "evil empire" in the 1980s, al-Qaeda was created. And now the attempt to effect a regime change in Libya may lead to a similar catastrophe. The fact of the matter is that no one has a clue in the NATO camp as to what they are fighting for, who these so-called "rebels" are or what a successor regime is going to look like. As Cockburn says, Barack Obama is being pushed around by the interventionists and neocons against his own better instincts.

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