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A poster commemorating Yahya, Ayyash, called "the Engineer," who developed hamas's strategy of suicide attacks. His assassination, in 1996, set off a wave of bombings.
LETTER FROM GAZA AN ARSENAL OF BELIEVERS
Talking to the "human bombs."
BY NASRA HASSAN NY 19 nov 2001
Just before midnight on june 30,1993, three members of the Palestinian fundamentalist group Hamas sat in their hideout, a cave in the hills near Hebron, and began reciting from the Koran. At dawn, when the men heard the morning call to prayer from a mosque in the village below, they knelt and uttered the traditional invocation to Allah that Muslim warriors make before setting off for combat. They put on clean clothes, tucked the Koran into their pockets, and began the long hike over the hills and along dry riverbeds to the outskirts ofierusalem. In the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, they walked in silence so that their accents, the guttural vemacidar of Gaza, would not arouse suspicion. Along the way, they stopped to pray at every mosque. At dusk, they boarded a bus that was heading toward West Jerusalem, filled with Israeli passengers. When the driver thwarted their attempt to hijack the vehicle, they tried to detonate the homemade bombs they were carrying. T'he bombs failed to go off, so they pulled out guns and began firing wildly. The shots injured five passengers, including a woman who later died. The young men fled the bus, hijacked a car at a red light, and forced the driver to take them toward Bethlehem. Israeli security forces stopped them at a military checkpoint, and in a shootout two of the young men and their hostage were killed. The dead hijacker, whom I will call S., was struck by a bullet in the head; he lay comatose for two months in Israeli hospitals. Finally, he was pronounced brain-dead, and the Israelis sent him back to his family in the Gaza Strip to die. But S. recovered, and when we met, five years later, he told me his version of the events. By then, he was married antl the father of three sons. Each of them had been named for shaheed bata 'martyr heroes." In Gaza, S. is celebrated as a young man who "gave his life to Allah' and whom Allah "brought back to lie." He was polite as he welcomed me into his home. The house was surrounded by a high cement wall that had been fortified with steel. We sat down in a large, simply furnished room whose walls were inscribed with verses from the Koran. On one wall was a poster that showed green birds flying in a purple sky, a symbol of the Palestinian suicide bombers. S. had recently turned twenty-seven. He is of slight build, and he walked with a Emp, the oray trace of his near-death. He invited his wife to join us, and he answered my questions without hesitation. I asked him when, and why, he had decided to volunteer for martyrdom. "In the spring of 1993, 1 began to pester our military leaders to let me do an operation," he said. "It was around the time of the Oslo accords, and it was quiet, too quiet. I wanted to do an operation that would incite others to do the same. Finally, I was given the green light to leave Gaza for an operation inside Israel." "How did you feel when you heard that you'd been selected for martyrdom?" I asked. "It's as if a very high, impenetrable wall separated you from Paradise or Hell," he said. "Allah has promised one or the other to his creatures. So, by pressing the detonator, you can immediately open the door to Paradise - it is the shortest path to Heaven." S. was one of eleven children in a middle-class family that, in 1948, had been forced to flee from Majdal to a refugee camp in Gaza, during the Arab-Israeli war that started with the creation of the State of Israel. He joined Hamas in his early teens and became a street activist. In 1989, he served two terms'm Israeli prisons for intifada activity, including attacks on Israeh soldiers. One of his brothers is serving a life sentence in Israel. I asked S. to describe his preparations for the suicide mission. "We were in a constant state of worship," he said. "We told each other that if the Israelis knew how joyful we were they would whip us to death! Those were the happiest days of my life."
"What is the attraction of martyrdom?" I asked. "The power of the spirit pulls us upward, while the power of material things pulls us downward," he said. "Someone bent on martyrdom becomes immune to the material pull. Our planner asked, 'What if the operation fails?' We told him, 'In any case, we get to meet the Prophet and his companions, insballah.' We were floating, in the feeling that we were about to enter eternity. We had no doubts.
We made an oath on the Koran, in the presence of Allah - a pledge not to waver. This jihad pledge is called bayt al ridwan, after the garden in Paradise that is reserved for the prophets and the martyrs. I know that there are other ways to do jihad. But this one is sweet-the sweetest. All martyrdom operations, if done for A.UaWs sake, hurt less than a gnat's bite!" S. showed me a video that documented the final planning for the operafion. In the grainy footage, I saw him and two other young men engaging in a ritualisfic dialogue of questions and answers about the glory of martyrdom. S., who was holding a gun, identified himself as a member of al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, which is one of two Palestinan Islamist orgzations that sponsor suicide bombings. (Islamic Jihad is the other group.) "Tomorrow, we will be martyrs," he declared, looking straight at the camera. "Only the believers know what this means. I love martyrdom The young men and the planner then knelt and placed their right hands on the Koran. The planner said, "Are you ready? Tomorrow, you will be in Paradise."
Since 1982, I have been an international relief worker, and after 1987 myjob brought me regularly to the Middle East, especially to the Palestinian territories. In 1996, I was posted in the Gaza Strip during one of the most vicious cycles of suicide bombings. To understand why certain young men voluntarily blow themselves up in the name of Islam, I began, without official sponsorship, to research their backgrounds and the beliefs that had led them to such extreme tactics. Finding people who were willing to discuss the details of these activities was no easy task I was warned that my interest in trying to understand the sw'cide missions was dangerous. One day, I stopped to buy fruit at a roadside stand in the south of the Gaza Strip. When I asked where the mangoes had come from, the vender smiled and said, "From Belt Lid, Hadera, and Afula three Israeli towns that had been attacked by suicide bombers. Eventually, when the people who were observing me had assured themselves of my credentials important one was that I am Muslim and from Pakistan - I was allowed to meet with members of Hamas and Islamic jihad who could help me in my research. "We are agreeing to talk to you so that you can explain the Islamic context of these operafions," one man told me. "Even many in the Islamic world do not understand." Our meetings, which were arranged by intermediaries of all kinds, took place late at right, in back rooms, in small local cafes, on the sewage-strewn Gaza beach, or in prison cells. I woiad drive to a rendezvous point to pick up a contact,who then guided me to a meeting by way of a circuitous, untraceable route. From 1996 to 1999, l interviewed nearly two hundred and fifty people involved in the most militant camps of the Palestinian cause: volunteers who, like S., had been unable to complete their suicide missions, the families of dead bombers, and the men who trained them. None of the suicide bombers - they ranged in age from eighteen to thirtyeight conformed to the typical profile of the suicidal personality. None of them were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle class and, unless they were fugitives, held paying jobs. More than half of them were refugees from what is now Israel. Two were the sons of millionaires. They all seemed to be entirely normal members of their families. They were polite and serious, and in their communities theywere considered to be model youths. Most were bearded. All were deeply refigious. They used Islamic terminology to express their views, but they were well informed about politics in Israel and throughout the Arab world. I was told that in order to be accepted for a suicide mission the volunteers had to be convinced of the religious legitimacy of the acts they were contemplating, as sanctioned by the divinely revealed religion of Islam. Many of these young men had memorized large sections of the Koran and were well versed in the finer points of Islamic law and practice. But their knowledge of Christianity was rooted in the medieval Crusades, and they regarded judaism and Zionism as synonymous. When they spoke, they all tended to use the same phrases: "The West is afraid of Islam." "Allah has promised us ultimate success." "It is in the Koran." "Islamic Palestine will be liberated." And they all exhibited an unequivocal rage toward Israel. Over and over, I heard them say, "The Israelis humiliate us. They occupy our land, and deny our history." Most of the men I interviewed requested strict anonymity; they insisted that not even their iniitials be noted. "With just a small detail like that, the security services could identify me," one said. Some of them were masked and met me in dark rooms or parked cars at night so that I couldn't see their faces. The majority spoke in Arabic, and they all talked matter-of-factly about the bombings, showing an unshakable conviction in the tightness of their cause and their methods. When I asked them if they had any qualms about killing innocent civilians, they would immediately respond, "The Israelis kill our children and our women. This is war, and innocent people get hurt."
They were not inclined to argue, but they were happy to discuss, far into the night, the issues and the purpose of their activities. One condition of the interviews was that, in our discussions, I not refer to their deeds as suicide," which is forbidden in Islam. (Their preferred term is "sacred explosions.") One member of al-Qassam said, "We do not have tanks or rockets, but we have something superior-our exploding Islamic human bombs. In place of a nuclear arsenal, we are proud of our arsenal of believers."
The first suicide bombing by an Islamist Palestinian group took place in the West Bank in April, 1993; the latest was in October, 2001. Between 1993 and 1998, thirty-seven human bombs exploded; twenty-four were identified as the work of Hamas, thirteen as that of Islamic Jihad. Since the eruption of the second intifada, in September, 2000, twenty-six human bombs have exploded. Hamas claims responsibility for nineteen of them; Islamic jihad claims seven. To date, an estimated two hundred and fifteen Israelis have been killed in these explosions, and some eighteen hundred have been injured. The attacks have taken place in shopping malls, on buses, at street comers, in cafes wherever people congregate. Hamas and Islamic jlhad consider suicide bombings a military response to what they regard as Israeli provocations. But there is a clear correlation between the peace process and cycles of suicide attacks designed to block progress. Whenever I broached the issue, however, the Islamists denied that there was any such link. Before September 11th, Islamist filndamentalist groups had sponsored human bombings not only in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Israel but also in Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Chechnya, Croatia, Kashmir, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Panama, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Yemen. The targets have ranged from ordinary people to world leaders, including the Pope, who was to have been assassinated in Manila in 1995. Dressed as a priest, the assassin presumably planned to detonate himself as he kissed the Pontiff's ring. In 1988, Dr. Fathi Shiqaqi, a founder of the Palestinian Islamic jihad, whose assassination, in 1995, was attributed to Mossad, Israel's secret service, wrote a document in which he laid out the importance of penetrating enemy territory and set down guidelines for the use of explosives in martyrdom operations. These rules were aimed at countering religious objections to the truck bombings that had become almost routine in Lebanon in the nineteen-eighties. Shiqaqi encouraged what he called "exceptional" martyrdom as a necessary tactic in jihad fisabeel A1lah (striving in the cause of Allah): "We cannot achieve the goal of these operations if our mujahid - holy warrior is not able to create an explosion within seconds and is unable to prevent the enemy from blocking the operation. All these results can be achieved through the explosion, which forces the mujahid not to waver, not to escape; to execute a successful operation for religion and jihad; and to destroy the morale of the enemy and plant terror into the people." This capability, he said, is "a gift from Allah." Y Ayyash, an engineering student in the West Bank who became a master bomb-maker, was the first to propose that human bombs be adopted in Hamas's military operations. (The late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin dubbed Ayyash "the Engineer," which became his nickriarne in the Palestiiian streets.) In a letter written in the early nineties to the Hamas leadership, he recommended the use of human bombs as the most painful way to inflict damage on the Israeli occupation forces. According to a source in Hamas, Ayyash said, "We paid a high price when we used only slingshots and stones. We need to exert more pressure, make the cost of the occupafion that much more expensive in human lives, that much more unbearable." The assassination of Ayyash, in january, 1996, which is widely believed to have been the work of Israeli secun'ty forces, set off a wave of retaliatory suicide bombings. My contacts told me that, as a military objective, spreading fear among the Israelis was as important as killing them. Anwar an Isamic jlhad member who blew himself up in an ambulance in Gaza, in December, 1993, had often told friends, "Battles for Islam are won not through the gun but by striking fear into the enemy's heart." Another Islamist military leader said, "lf our wives and children are not safe from Israeli tanks and rockets, theirs will not be safe from our human bombs." Military commanders of Hamas and Islamic jlhad remarked that the human bomb was one of the surest ways of hitting a target. A senior Hamas leader said, "The main thing is to guarantee that a large number of the enemy will be affected. With an explosive belt or bag, the bomber has control over vision, location, and timing." As today's weapons of mass destruction go, the human bomb is cheap. A Palestinian security official pointed out that, apart from a willing young man, all that is needed is such items as nails, gunpowder, a battery, a light switch and a short cable, mercury (readily obtainable from thermometers), acetone, and the cost of tailoring a belt wide enough to hold six or eight pockets of explosives. The most expensive item is transportation to a distant Israeli town. The total cost of a typical operation is about a hundred and fifty dollars. The sponsoring organization usually gives between three thousand and five thousand dollars to the bomber's family.
In Palestinian neighborhoods, the suiicide bombers' green birds appear on posters, and in graffiti - the language of the street. Calendars are illustrated with the "martyr of the month." Paintings glorify the dead bombers in Paradise, triumphant beneath a flock of green birds. This symbol is based on a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that the soul of a martyr is carried to Allah in the bosom of the green birds of Paradise. Children who cannot read chant the names of the heroes, and make the Islamist sign for victory right fist with raised forefinger-as they play in narrow alleys. A biography of a martyr named Muawiyya Ruga, who exploded a rigged donkey cart near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip in June, 1995, tells of how his soul was borne upward on a fragment of the bomb. In April, 1999, I met with an Imam affiliated with Hamas, a youthful, bearded graduate of the prestigious al Azhar University, in Cairo. He explained that the first drop of blood shed by a martyr durlng jihad washes away his sins instantaneously. On the Day of Judgment, he will face no reckoning. On the Day of Resurrection, he can intercede for seventy of his nearest and dearest to enter Heaven; and he will have at his disposal seventy-two houris, the beautiful virgins of Paradise. The Imam took pains to explain that the promised bliss is not sensual. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is the spiritual leader of Hamas. He was released from an Israeli prison in 1997, and during the next two years I had many meetings with him, in his small house on an unpaved lane in a crowded quarter of Gaza. He cautioned that I would find it hard to make martyrdom comprehensible to Western readers. "I doubt that they will be willing to understand your explanations," he said. "Love of martyrdom is something deep inside the heart. But these rewards are not in themselves the goal of the martyr. The only aim is to win Allah's satisfaction. That can be done in the simplest and speediest manner by dying in the cause of Allah. And it is Allah who selects the martyrs." There is no shortage of willing recnuts for martyrdom. "Our biggest problem is the hordes of young men who beat on our doors, clamoring to be sent," a Hamas leader told me. "It is difficult to select only a few. Those whom we turn away return again and again, pestering us, pleading to be accepted." A senior member of al-Qassam said, "The selection process is complicated by the fact that so many wish to embark on this journey of honor. When one is selected, countless others are disappointed. They must learn patience and wait until Allah calls them." He told me that there had been many attempts on his life, and he made sure that we always met at a clifferent time and in a different place. He wore a scarf over his face; only at our last meeting, when he was saying goodbye, did he remove it. "After every massacre, every massive violation of our rights and defilement of our holy places, it is easy for us to sweep the streets for boys who want to do a martyrdom operation," he said. "Fending off the crowds who demand revenge and retaliation and insist on a human bombing operation - that becomes our biggest problem!" Hamas and Islamic Jlhad recruit youths for potential leadership positions in the organizations, but their military wings rely on volunteers for martyrdom operations. They generally reject those who are under eighteen, who are the sole wage earners in their families, or who are married and have family responsibilities. If two brothers ask to join, one is turned away. The planner keeps a close eye on the volunteer's self-discipline, noting whether he can be discreet among friends and observing his piety in the mosque. (A cleric will sometimes recommend a notably zealous youth for martyrdom.) During the week before the operation, two "assistants" are delegated to stay with the potential martyr at all times. They report any signs of doubt, and if the young man seems to waver, a senior trainer will arrive to bolster his resolve. The father of Anwar Sukkar, who, with his friend Salah Shakir, carried out an explosion in Beit Lid in 1995, told me with pride, "Even after Salah saw my son ripped to shreds, he did not flinch. He waited before exploding himself, in order to cause additional deaths." A planner for Islamic iihad said that his organization carefully scrutinizes the motives of a potential bomber: "We ask this young man, and we ask ourselves, why he wishes so badly to become a human bomb. What are his real motives? Our questions are aimed at clarifying first and foremost for the boy himself his real reasons and the strength of his commitment. Even if he is a longtime member of our group and has always wanted to become a martyr, he needs to be very clear that in such an operation there is no drawing back. Preparation bolsters his conviction, which supports his certitude. It removes fear." A member of Hamas explained the preparation: "We focus his attention on Paradise, on being in the presence of Allah, on meeting the Prophet Muhammad, on interceding for his loved ones so that they, too, can be saved from the agonies of Hell, on the houri's, and on fighting the Israehli occupation and removing it from the Islamic trust that is Palestine." (A volunteer whom the Palestinian Authority arrested before he could carry out a sw'cide bombing offered this description of the immediacy of Paradise: "It is very, very near----right in front of our eyes. It lies beneath the thumb. On the other side of the detonator.") One of the "technical considerations" that may be taken into account in the final selection of a candidate for martyrdom is the ability to pass, at least temporarily, asan lsraeli Jew In lslamic jihad's first human-bomb operation, in September, 1993, the martyr AloCa al Kahlout shaved his beard, donned a cap and dark glasses, and dressed in shorts and a T-shirt before carrying his bomb onto a bus in Ashdod. I asked one planner about the problem of fear. "The boy has left that stage far behind," he said. "The fear is not for his own safety or for his impending death. It does not come from lack of confidence in his ability to press the trigger. It is awe, produced by the situation. He has never done this before and, insballab, wiu never do it again! It comes from his fervent desire for success, which will propel him into the presence of Allah. It is anxiety over the possibility of something going wrong and denying him his heart's wish. The outcome, remember, hes in Allah's hands." I was told the story of a young Palestinian, M., by two men who, at different times, had been his cellmates in Israeb prisons. In September, 1993, in a safe house just outside Jerusalem, M. had performed ritual ablution, said his prayers, and set off on his bombing mission. He had boarded a bus - one on the same route on which S.'s bomb had failed to explode two months earlier. All he had to do was unzip his bag of explosives and press the detonator. "But at the moment he was to press the button he forgot Paradise," one of his former cellmates recalled. "He felt a split second of fear, a slight hesitation. To bolster himself, he recited from the Koran. Refreshed and strengthened, he again began to think of Paradise. When he felt ready, he tried again. But the detonator did not function. He prayed to himself, 'Please, Allah, let me succeed.'But still it did not work, not even the third time, when he kept his finger pressed firmly on the knob. Recognizing that there was a technical problem, he got off the bus at the next stop, returned the bag to the planner, and went home." (The Israeli security services subsequently arrested M. in another attack, and he is currently in prison.) Many of the volunteers and the members of their family told stories of persecution, including beatings and torture, suffered at the hands of Israeli forces. I asked whether some of the bombers acted from feelings of personal revenge. "No," a trainer told me. "If that ,alone motivates the candidate, his martyrdom will not be acceptable to AHah. lt is a military response, not an individu,al's bitterness, that drives an operation. Honor and dignity are very important in our culture. And when we are humiliated we respond with wrath."
AI kbaliyya al istisbhadiyya, which is often mistranslated as "suicide cell"-its proper translation is "martyrdom cell is the basic building block of operations. Generally, each cell consists of a leader and two or three young men. When a candidate is placed in a cell, usually after months, if not years, of religious studies, he is assigned the lofty title of al shaheed al hayy, "the living martyr." He is also referred to as "he who is waiting for martyrdom." A young man named Ayman Juma Radi, whose self-explosion, in December, 1994, was delayed by a few days, wrote a message in his diary, in which he glumly signed himself "the deferred martyr." Each cell is tightly compartmentalized and secret. Cell members do not discuss their affiliation with their friends or family, and even if two of them know each other in normal life, they are not aware of the other's membership in the same cell. (Only the leader is known to both.) Each cell, which is dissolved after the operation has been completed, is given a name from the Koran or from Islamic history. ln most cases, the young men undergo intensified spiritual exercises, including prayers and recitations of the Koran. Usually, the trainer encourages the candidate to read six particular chapters of the Koran: Baqara, Al Imran, Anfal, Tawba, Rahman, and Asr, which feature such themes as jlhad, the birth of the nation of Islam, war, Allah's favors, and the importance of faith. Religious lectures last from two to four hours each day. The living martyr goes on lengthy fasts. He spends much of the night praying. He pays off all his debts, and asks for forgiveness for actual or perceived offenses. If a candidate is on the wanted list of the Israeli security services, he goes underground, moving from one hiding place to another. In the days before the operation, the candidate prepares a will on paper, audiocassette, or video, sometimes all three. The video testaments, which are shot against a background of the sponsoring organization's banner and slogans, show the living martyr reciting the Koran, posing with guns and bombs, exhorting his comrades to follow his example, and extolling the virtues of jihad. The wills emphasize the voluntary basis of the mission. "This is my free decision, and 1I urge all of you to follow me," one young bomber, Muhammad Abu Hashem, said in a recorded testament before blowing himself up, in 1995, in retaliation for the assassination of Fathi Shlqaql. The young man repeatedly watches the video of himself, as wen as the videos of his predecessors. "These videos encourage him to confront death, not fear it," one trainer told me. "He becomes intimately familiar with what he is about to do. Then he can greet death Eke an old friend." Just before the bomber sets out on his final journey, he performs a ritual ablution, puts on clean clothes, and tries to attend at least one communal prayer at a mosque. He says the traditional Islamic prayer that is customary before battle, and he asks Allah to forgive his sins and to bless his mission. lie puts a Koran in his left breast pocket, above the heart, and he straps the explosives around his waist or picks up a briefcase or a bag containing the bomb. The planner bids him farewell with the words "May Allah be with you, may Allah give you success so that you achieve Paradise." The would-be martyr responds, "Inshallah, we will meet in Paradise." Hours later, as he presses the detonator, he says, "Allahu akbar" "AJlah is great. All praise to Him."
The operation doesn't end with the explosion and the many deaths. Hamas and Islamic Jihad distribute copies of the martyr's audiocassette or video to the media and to local organizations as a record of their success and encouragement to other young men. His act becomes the subject of sermons in mosques, and provi 'des material for leaflets, posters, videos, demonstrations, and extensive coverage in the media. Graffiti on walls in the martyr's neighborhood praise his heroism. Aspiring martyrs perform mock reenactments of the operation, using models of exploding cars and buses. The sponsoring organization distributes cassettes of chants and songs honoring the good soldier. When a member of al-Qassam blew up himself and his victims in April, 1994, in retaliation for the massacre of Muslim worshippers in Hebron by the Israeli extremist Baruch Goldstein, he was commemorated in an anthem that ushered in a new popular genre of "revenge songs. The bomber's family and the sponsoring organization celebrate his martyrdom with festivities, as if it were a wedding. Hundreds of guests congregate at the house to offer congratulations. The hosts serve the juices and sweets that the young man specified in his win. Often, the mother wiu ululate in joy over the honor that AHah has bestowed upon her family. But there is grief, too. I asked the mother of Ribhi Kahlout, a young man in the Gaza Strip, who had blown himself up, in November, 1995, what she would have done if she had known what her son was planning to do. "I woldd have taken a cleaver, cut open my heart, and stuffed him deep inside," she said. "Then I would have sewn it up tight to keep him safe." +
Rumours of War NZ Listener 15 Dec 2001
Beyond the headline coverage of the 'war against terror' lies a parallel universe of alternative media and analysis.
BY MARK REVINGTON Stan Goff is funny, smart and eloquent. And so far to the left of George W Bush that they might be on different planets. Bush says that Osama bin Laden is an evildoer, sheltered by the Taliban, and it's the moral duty of his government to bomb Afghanistan to bits to get rid of him. Wait a second, says Goff. Cafl that a war on terrorism? From where he sits, it looks more like the Bush administration using the tragic events of September 11 as an unfortlmate catalyst in a 21st-century version of "the Great Game", the name that Rudyard Kipling gave to the 19th-century imperial powers' strategic squabbles in central Asia. Goff writes a long piece, "The So-called Evidence Is a Farce", and posts it to an online community. It spreads like a benign virus: "The most cursory glance at the verifiable facts, before, during, and after September 11, does not support the official line nor conform to the current actions of the United States Government. " just another conspiracy crackpot? What makes Gofrs point of view more interesting is his background as a US Special Forces veteran. He taught tactics at the Jungle Operations Centre in Panama, military science at West Point, and served in eight different conflict zones, from Vietnam to Somalia, over 24 years. Then, in 1994, while part of Operation Restore Democracy in Haiti, he had an epiphany, left the army, took a radical tum, and wrote a book called Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti. "The army sent me to probably one too many places they shouldn't have sent me," he says from his home in North Carolina. "The pieces started falling into place." He now works as the organising director of Democracy South, a 12-state progressive political network, and sometimes as a military technical adviser on films. He's tickled pink to get a call from New Zealand. The only Kiwi he knows is actor Cliff Curtis.
"He was playing in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that I worked on as tech adviser here last year. Cliff is actually the chief bad guy. It's not out yet. They held it because it was so much like September 1 1. " Softly spoken, thoughtful and at pains to stress that although he has serious questions about September 11 (primarily that the precision and execution of the terrorist acts smack of far more than mere fanatical amateurism), he's not alleging a government conspiracy. "There are huge contradictions and it is important to raise those questions, but it is more important to understand the larger context." The larger context, he proposes, is oil, and Goffs is just one voice in a tapestry of scepticism surfacing everywhere, from Internet sites to the pages of the Establishment press: George W made his first niil- lion in oil, with the help of an invest:rnent from Osama bin Laden's brother; National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, a manager at Chevron for the past decade, has an oil tanker named after her; Vice President Dick Cheney made his fortune as CEO of Halliburton, the world's largest supplier of oilfield equipment - although he's a little guarded about his former company's clients. (That's perhaps not surprising when you consider that, as Secretary of Defence for George Bush Sr, Cheney oversaw the destruction of Iraqs oil infrastructure during the Gulf war, then, as the Financial Times revealed, oversaw $US23.8 million in sales to Iraq in 1998 and 1999. This despite insisting that it was company policy not to deal with Iraq, "even arrangements that were supposedly legal".) The Taliban entered the oil equation as the likeliest guarantors of regional stability, a prerequisite for US investment. In 1998, the Unocal oil company told a congressional committee that it wanted to build a $2.5 billion pipeline from the Caspian Basin through Afghanistan to the Pakistan coastline to serve Asian markets. In a just-released book by French intelligence analysts Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, it is claimed that the Taliban were told by US negotiators to "accept the offer of a carpet of gold or be buried under a carpet of bombs". So, the sceptics ask, did the US decide to bomb Afghanistan in retaliation for September 11, or was it a strategic manoeuvre about oil? "I think there are more than a few parallels to the Great Game," says Goff. "And it's more than just the geographical positioning now. It's this whole question of Caspian Basin oil." As Jonathan Freedland wrote recently in the Guardian, the oil question must also be asked of Russia's Vladimir Putin, so far the big winner in Afghanistan, with "the prospect of a lucrative deal to sell Russian oil to an America an)dous to wean itself off the politically unstable Gulf variety".
These are the whispers and rumours and outright accusations
in a narrative That runs parallel to the derring-do tales of "elite"
soldiers and brave marines at the enemy gates; it attempts to
penetrate the meetings, minds and secrets of elite policymakers
and military strategists. The Times of lndia, for instance, recently
published a story based on an Indian Government intelligence report
linking Pakistan intelligence service ISI) chief Lt General Mahmoud
Ahmad, with both the US State Department and Mohamed Atta the
presumed ring leader of Sept 11 hijackers. According to Chonsudovsky,
Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa, who published
an online paper about this, the report also indicates that other
ISI officials might have had contacts with the terrorists. "Moreover,
it suggests that the September 11 attacks were not an act of 'individual
terrorism' organised by a separate al Qaeda cell, but rather they
were part of a coordinated military-intelligence operation, emanating
from Pakistan's ISI. " Was the US prepared for military action
in Afghanistan before September 11? Pakistan's former Foreign
Minister Niaz Naik says that senior American officials told him
as early as mid-July that military action against Afghanistan
would go ahead by the middle of October. US deputy defence secretary
Paul Wolfowitz is reported to have said that the US had not contemplated
sending its own troops in before September 11, but had talked
about an air campaign backing local troops. BBC's Newsnight and
the Guardian have also claimed that US intelligence agencies had
been told to "back off from investigations involving members
of the bin Laden family, the Saudi royals and possible Saudi links
to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan. The Guardian
said that "high-placed" intelligence sources stated
that there were always constraints on investigating the Saudis,
and it got worse after the Bush administration came to power.
Those claims are supported in the Brisard and Dasquie book, which
says that Bush obstructed investigations into Taliban terrorist
activities at the behest of oil companies. The pair claim that
FBI Deputy Director John O'Neill (who died in the September 11
attacks) resigned in July in protest at Bush's interference. O'Neill
is said to have told the authors that "all the answers, and
everything needed to dismantle bin Laden's al Qaeda, can be found
in Saudi Arabia". The shadows grow longer further from the
mainstream. A publication called the Economic Intelligence Review
takes a New York Times report about the hawkish camp within the
Bush administration and comes up with "the Wolfowitz cabal",
named after Deputy Defence Paul Wolfowitz: "According to
the New York Times, which published a leak about their activities
on Oct 12 the grouping wants an immediate with Iraq, believing
that the targeting of Afghanistan, already an impoverished wasteland,
falls far short of the global war that they are hoping for. But
Iraq is just another stepping stone to turning the anti-terrorist
'war' into a full-blown 'Clash of Civilisations', where the Islamic
religion would become the 'enemy linage' in a 'new Cold War'.
" A new paranoia, too. US Attorney General John Ashcroft
has pushed through the USA Patriot Act, otherwise known as the
"Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate
Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act",
which gives sweeping new powers to US law enforcement and intelligence
agencies to spy on US citizens without any judicial checks and
balances. He faces increased congressional questioning about the
justice Departrnent's round-up of hundreds of swarthy men on immigration
charges. Ashcroft won't name those detained, saying he doesn't
want to aid al Qaeda. In fact, Goff begins to sound like the voice
of reason when he says that there is no way to protect the US
from unconventional attacks such as those of September 11. What
looks like overwhelming US public support for Operation Enduring
Freedom is "a mile wide and an inch thick", he says.
"The unanimity in Congress is unravelling at the edges. People
are beginning to sit down and make a more cool-headed assessment
of what some of this stuff means. People are beginning to understand
that we paid the Taliban salaries two
years ago. "We have a whole litter of Dr Strangeloves going on here. I don't know who is scarier, [US Secretary of Defence] Rumsfeld, Ashcroft or Wolfowitz. Progressives in the US are very alarmed right now. Some are responding by waiting for all this to pass. A lot of us are saying that is wrong. You can't look at this as the McCarthy era all over again. This is more like 1935 in Germany. They want everyone to acquiesce. You've got to take a stand and take a stand now and roll this back with everything you've got."
Hubris A Lesson from Ancient Greeks Gwynne Dyer London Stratford Press Dec 15 2001
'GET them by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow,' went the Vietnam-era adage of the professional United States' military. But the US, despite the enormous fire- power that gave it so many military victories, ultimately lost the Vietnam war. With the Taleban regime destroyed and the al Qaeda organisation deprived of its bases in Afghanistan, the hawks in the Bush administration are in full charge. Last weekend, American military officers were in Somalia meeting with warlords from the Rahanwein Resistance Army to discuss a joint attack on that country's fledgling government, and Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker was in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq laying the groundwork for an assault on Saddam Hussein's regime. The next phase of the 'war on terrorism" may be no further away than the traditional New Year's hang-over, and the voices of doubt and dissent in Washington have almost all been stilled. 'Bombing works" is the cry, and casualty-free victories are coming to be taken for granted in the United grates, and almost anything seems possible. The ancient Greeks call this state of mind "hubris" - and expected Nemesis to follow. Elsewhere, the sense is that the US is over-extending itself, and alarm among its closest allies is growing- On December 11, for example, Britain's Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, warned that the emotionally satisfying fireworks in Afghanistan had hardly affected the real level of the terrorist threat. Al Qaeda, he said, remains "a fielded, resourced, dedicated and essentially autonomous terrorist force, quite capable of atrocity on a comparable scale' to the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11. Of course it does. The attacks on New York and Washington were not planned and pre- pared in caves in Afghanistan, though bin Laden was doubtless kept informed. They were planned and prepared and in all likelihood thought up as well by autonomous cells of al Qaeda based in Europe and the US. The whole Afghan sideshow, like the forth- coming ones in Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere, will have only a marginal impact on the ability of those cells to act. Indeed, the long-term effect of such extended bombing campaigns could be to expand the Recruiting base for al Qaeda and like-minded organisations both in the Muslim world and the diaspora. As Admiral Boyce put it, the risk is that handing over Western security policy to a 'hi-tech 21st-century posse" will radicalise the entire Muslim world, and produce a global confrontation far more serious than the dramatic but strictly limited threats posed by occasional terrorist strikes. Indeed, a failure to wage a campaign for 'hearts and minds" (and he actually said those deeply unfashionable words) will probably make the terrorist threat worse too. Britain is not America's enemy. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been Washington's closest ally, donning pom-poms and tassels to cheer-lead the US war on terrorism, and the British army will both command and provide the biggest contingent for the peace-keeping force that arrives in Afghanistan to take the place of the limited US forces that have been committed on the ground within a month. (The United States doesn't do 'nation-build- ing, and it doesn't do ground warfare much any more either.) Admiral Boyce was not just saying the first thing that came into his head. Such speeches are vetted at Cabinet level, and the anxieties Boyce expressed are those that all of America's friends and allies feel as Washington, encouraged by the easy Afghan victory, plunges on to new campaigns. But nobody in the White House is listening. Three months ago, as the United States was busy rounding up support for its new war on terrorism, there was a brief pause in the Bush administration's relentless war against any treaties that might constrain American power in any way, but the unilateralist drive has now resumed with full force. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is being cancelled with six months' notice, and the US will push ahead with Bush's beloved Ballistic Missile Defence, despite near-universal misgivings among friends and allies. Washington recently blocked moves to tighten the convention aimed at prohibiting the development of biological weapons. It has forced European countries to put their plans for a joint Nato-Russia council on hold for at least six months: it doesn't want its old allies and its new one to get too cozy. Even when it does make a commitment - as with President George W. Bush's recent verbal agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin on cutting missile numbers - it doesn't want to commit the deal to writing. This combination of technological hubris and ideological triumphalism is leading the Bush administration into dangerous waters. The US is a big, rich, powerful and technologically innovative country, but it is still only 4% of the world's population. In the 60 years since the Pearl Harbour attack pulled it into World War II and made it a full-time player in global politics, it always played the alliance game because successive administrations all understood that even American power could be over-stretched. If that lesson now has to be re-learned, we are all in for a rough time.
THE REVOLT OF ISLAM When did the conflict with the West begin, and how could it end? BY BERNARD LEWIS - MAKING HISTOKY NY 19 nov 2001
President Bush and other Western Politicians have taken great pains to make it clear that the war in which we are engaged is a war against terrorism - not a war against Arabs, or, more generally, against Muslims, who are urged to join us wholesale against our common enemy. Osama bin Laden's message is the opposite. For bin Laden and those who follow him, this is a religious war, a war for Islam and against infidels, and therefore, inevitably, against the United States, the greatest power in the world of the infidels. In his pronouncements, bin Laden makes frequent references to history. One of the most dramatic was his mention, in the October 7th videotape, of the "humiliation and disgrace" that Islam has suffered for "more than eighty years." Most American - and, no doubt, European - observers of the Middle Eastern scene began an anxious search for something that had happened "more than eighty years" ago, and came up with various answers. We can be fairly sure that bin Laden's Muslim listeners-the people he was addressing picked up the allusion immediately and appreciated its significance. In 1918, the Ottoman sultanate, the last of the great Muslim empires, was finally defeated - its capital, Constantinople, occupied, its sovereign held captive, and much of its territory partitioned between the victorious British and French Empires. The Turks eventuaUy succeeded in liberating their homeland, but they did so not in the name of Islam but through a secular nationalist movement. One of their first acts, in November, 1922, was to abolish the sultanate. The Ottoman sovereign was not only a sultan, the ruler of a specific state; he was also widely recognized as the caliph, the head of all Sunni lslam, and the last in a line of such rulers that dated back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad, in 632 A.D. After a brief experiment with a separate caliph, the Turks, in March, 1924, abolished the caliphate, too. During its nearly thirteen centuries, the caliphate had gone through many vicissitudes, but it remained a potent symbol of Muslim unity, even identity, and its abolition, under the double assault of foreign imperialists and domestic modernists, was felt throughout the Muslim world. Historical allusions such as bin Laden's, which may seem abstruse to many Americans, are common among Muslims, and can be properly understood only within the context of Middle Eastern perceptions of identity and against the background of Middle Eastern history. Even the concepts of history and identity require redefinition for the Westerner trying to understand the contempora.ry Middle East. In current American usage, the phrase "that's history" is commonly used to dismiss something as unimportant, of no relevance to current concerns, and, despite an immense investment in the teaching and writing of history, the general level of historical knowledge in our society is abysmally low. The Muslim peoples, like everyone else in the world, are shaped by their history, but, unlike some others, they are keenly aware of it. In the nineteen-eighties, during the Iran-lraq war, for instance, both sides waged massive propaganda campaigns that frequently evoked events and personalities dating back as far as the seventh century. These were not detailed narratives but rapid, incomplete allusions, and yet both sides employed them in the secure knowledge that they would be understood by their target audiences - even by the large proportion of that audience that was illiterate. Middle Easterners' perception of history is nourished from the pulpit, by the schools, and by the media, and, although it may be-indeed, often is slanted and inaccurate, it is nevertheless vivid and powerfully resonant. But history of what? In the Western world, the basic unit of human organization is the nation, which is then subdivided in various ways, one of which is by religion. Muslims, however, tend to see not a nation subdivided into religious groups but a religion subdivided into nations. This is no doubt partly because most of the nation-states that make up the modern Middle East are relatively new creations, left over from the era of Anglo-French imperial domination that followed the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, and they preserve the state-building and frontier demarcations of their former imperial masters. Even their names reflect this artificiality: Iraq was a medieval province, with borders very different from those of the modem republic; Syria, Palestine, and Libya are names from classical antiquity that hadn't been used in the region for a thousand years or more before they were revived and imposed by European imperialists in the twentieth century; Algeria and Tunisia do not even exist as words in Arabic - the same name serves for the city and the country. Most remarkable of all, there is no word in the Arabic language for Arabia, and modern Saudi Arabia is spoken of instead as "the Saudi Arab kingdom" or "the peninsula of the Arabs," depending on the context. This is not because Arabic is a poor language - quite the reverse is true - but because the Arabs simply did not think in terms of combined ethnic and territorial identity. Indeed, the caliph Omar, the second in succession after the Prophet Muhammad, is quoted as saying to the Arabs, "Learn your genealogies, and do not be like the local peasants who, when they are asked who they are, reply:' l am from such-and-such a place."' In the early centuries of the Muslim era, the Islamic community was one state under one ruler. Even after that community split up into many states, the ideal of a single Islamic polity persisted. The states were almost all dynastic, with shifting frontiers, and it is surely significant that, in the immensely rich historiography of the Islamic world in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, there are histories of dynasties, of cities, and, primarily, of the Islamic state and community, but no histories of Arabia, Persia, or Turkey. Both Arabs and Turks produced a vast literature describing their struggles against Christian Europe, from the first Arab incursions in the eighth century to the final Turkish retreat in the twentieth. But until the modem period, when European concepts and categories became dominant, Islamic commentators almost always referred to their opponents not in temtorial or ethnic terms but simply as infidels (kafir). They never referred to their own side as Arab or Turkish; they identified themselves as Muslims. This perspective helps to explain, among other things, Pakistan's concem for the Taliban in Afghanistan. The name Pakistan, a twentieth century invention, designates a country defined entirely by its Islamic religion. ln every other respect, the country and people of Pakistan are- as they have been for miflennia - part of India. An Afghanistan defined by its Islamic identity would be a natural ally, even a satellite, of Pakistan. An Afghanistan defined by ethnic nationality, on the other hand, could be a dangerous neighbor, advancing irredentist claims on the Pashto-speaking areas of northwestern Pakistan and perhaps even identifyng itself with India.
lI-THE HOUSE OF WAR
In the course of human history, many civilizations have risen and fallen China, India, Greece, Rome, and, before them, the ancient civilizations of the Middle East. During the centuries that in European history arc called medieval, the most advanced civilization in the world was undoubtedly that of Islam. Islam may have been equalledor even, in some ways, surpassed-by India and China, but both of those civilizations remained essentially limited to one region and to one ethnic group, and their impact on the rest of the world was correspondingly restricted. The civilization of Islam, on the other hand, was ecumenical in its outlook, and explicitly so in its aspirations. One of the basic tasks bequeathed to Muslims by the Prophet was jihad. This word, which literally means "striving," was usually cited in the Koranic phrase "striving in the path of God" and was interpreted to mean armed struggle for the defense or advancement of Muslim power. In principle, the world was divided into two houses: the House of Islam, in which a Muslim government ruled and Muslim law prevailed, and the House of War, the rest of the world, still inhabited and, more important, ruled by infidels. Between the two, there was to be a perpetual state of war until the entire world either embraced Islam or submitted to the rule of the Muslim state. From an early date, Muslims knew that there were certain differences among the peoples of the House of War. Most of them were simply polytheists and idolaters, who represented no serious threat to Islam and were likely prospects for conversion. The major exception was the Christians, whom Muslims recognized as having a religion of the same kind as their own, and therefore as their primary rival in the struggle for world domination - or, as they would have put it, world enlightenment. It is surely significant that the Koranic and other inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock, one of the earliest Muslim religious shrines outside Arabia, built in Jerusalem between 691 and 692 A.D., include a number of directly anti-Christian polemics: "Praise be to God, who begets no son, and has no partner," and "He is God, one, eternal. He does not beget, nor is he begotten, and he has no peer." For the early Muslims, the leader of Christendom, the Christian equivalent of the Muslim caliph, was the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople. Later, his place was taken by the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, and his in turn by the new rulers of the West. Each of these, in his time, was the principal adversary of the jlhad. ln practice, of course, the application of jihad wasn't always rigorous or violent. The canonically obligatory state of war could be interrupted by what were legally defined as "truces," but these differed little from the so-called peace treaties the warring European powers signed with one another. Such truces were made by the Prophet with his pagan enemies, and they became the basis of what one might call Islamic international law. In the lands under Muslim rule, Islamic law required that Jews and Christians be allowed to practice their religions and run their own affairs, subject to certain disabilities, the most important being a poll tax that they were required to pay. In modern parlance, jews and Christians in the classical Islamic state were what we would call second-class citizens, but second-class citizenship, established by law and the Koran and recognized by public opinion, was far better than the total lack of citizenship that was the fate of non-Christians and even of some deviant Christians in the West. The jihad also did not prevent Muslim governments from occasionally seeking Christian allies against Muslim rivals - even during the Crusades, when Christians set up four principalities in the Syro-Palestinian area. The great twelfth-century Muslim leader Saladin, for instance, entered into an agreement with the Crusader king of Jerusalem, to keep the peace for their mutual convenience. Under the medieval caliphate, and again under the Persian and Turkish dynasties, the empire of Islam was the richest, most powerful, most creative, most enlightened region in the world, and for most of the Middle Ages Christendom was on the defensive. ln the fifteenth century, the Christian counterattack expanded. The Tatars were expelled from Russia, and the Moors from Spain. But in southeastern Europe, where the Ottoman sultan confronted first the Byzantine and then the Holy Roman Emperor, Muslim power prevailed, and these setbacks were seen as minor and peripheral. As late as the seventeenth century, Turkish pashas still ruled in Budapest and Belgrade, Turkish armies were besieging Vienna, and Barbary lands as distant as corsairs were raiding the British Isles and, on one occasion, in 1627, even Iceland.
Then came the great change. The second Turkish siege of Vienna, in 1683, ended in total failure followed by headlong retreat - an entirely new experience for the Ottoman armies. A contemporary Turkish historian, Silihdar Mehmet Aga, described the disaster with commendable frankness: "This was a calamitous defeat, so great that there has been none like it since the first appearance of the Ottoman state." This defeat, suffered by what was then the major miliitary power of the Muslim world, gave nse to a new debate, which in a sense has been going on ever since. The argument began among the Ottoman military and political elite as a discussion of two questions: Why had the once victorious Ottoman armies been vanquished by the despised Christian enemy? And how could they restore the previous situation? There was good reason for concern. Defeat followed defeat, and Christian European forces, having liberated their own lands, pursued their former invaders whence they had come, the Russians moving into North and Central Asia, the Portuguese into Africa and around Africa to South and Southeast Asia. Even small European powers such as Holland and Portugal were able to build vast empires in the East and to establish a dominant role in trade. For most historians, Middle Eastern and Western alike, the conventional beginning of modern history in the Middle East dates from 1798, when the French Revolution, in the person of Napoleon Bonaparte, landed in Egypt. Within a remarkably short time, General Bonaparte and his small expeditionary force were able to conquer, occupy, and rule the country. There had been, before this, attacks, retreats, and losses of territory on the remote frontiers, where the Turks and the Persians faced Austria and Russia. But for a small Western force to invade one of the heartlands of Islam was a profound shock. The departure of the French was, in a sense, an even greater shock. They were forced to leave Egypt not by the Egyptians, nor by their suzerains the Turks, but by a small squadron of the British Royal Navy, commanded by a young admiral named Horatio Nelson. This was the second bitter lesson the Muslims had to learn: not only could a Western power arrive, invade, and at will but only another Western power could get it out. By the early twentieth century though a precarious independence was retained by Turkey and Iran and by some remoter countries like Afghanistan, which at that time did not seem worth the trouble of invading - almost the entire Muslim world had been incorporated into the four European empires of Britain, France, Russia, and the Netherlands. Middle Eastern governments and factions were forced to learn how to play these mighty rivals off against one another. For a time, they played the game with some success. Since the Western allies - Britain and France and then the United States - effectively dominated the region, Middle Eastern resisters naturally looked to those allies' enemies for support. In the Second World War, they turned to Germany; in the Cold War, to the Soviet Union. And then came the collapse of the Soviet Um'on, which left the United States as the sole world superpower. The era of Middle Eastern history that had been inaugurated by Napoleon and Nelson was ended by Gorbachev and the elder George Bush. At first, it seemed that the era of imperial rivalry had ended with the withdrawal of both competitors: the Soviet Union couldn't play the imperial role, and the United States wouldn't. But most Middle Easterners didn't see it that way. For them, this was simply a new phase in the old imperial game, with America as the latest in a succession of Western imperial overlords, except that this overlord had no rival - no Hitler or Stalin whom they could use either to damage or to influence the West. In the absence of such a patron, Middle Easterners found themselves obliged to mobilize their own force of resistance. Al Qaeda - its leaders, its sponsors, its financiers - is one such force.
Ill-"THE GREAT SATAN" Americas new role - and middle East's perception of it - was vividly illustrated by an incident in Pakistan in 1979. On November 20th, a band of a thousand Muslim religious radicals seized the Great Mosque in Mecca and held it for a time against the Saudi security forces. Their declared aim was to "purify Islad' and liberate the holy land of Arabia from the royal "clique of infidels" and the corrupt religious leaders who supported them. Their leader, in speeches played from loudspeakers, denounced Westerners as the destroyers of funda mental Islamic values and the Saudi goverriment as their accomplices. He called for a return to the old Islamic traditions of justice and equality." After some hard fighting, the rebels were suppressed. Their leader was executed on January 9, 1980, along with sixty-two of his followers, among them Egyptians, Kuwaitis, Yemenis, and citizens of other Arab countries.
MeanwhUe, a demonstration in support of the rebels took place in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. A rumor had circulated - endorsed by Ayatollah Khomeini, who was then in the process of establishing himself as the revolutionary leader in Iran - that American troops had been involved in the clashes in Mecca. The American Embassy was attacked by a crowd of Muslim demonstrators, and two Americans and two Pakistani employees were killed. Why had Khomeini stood by a report that was not only false but wildly improbable? These events took place within the context of the Iranian revolution of 1979. On November 4th, the United States Embassy in Teheran had been seized, and fifty-two Americans were taken hostage; those hostages were then held for four hundred and forty-four days, until their release on January 20, 1981. The motives for this, baffling to many at the time, have become clearer since, thanks to subsequent statements and revelations from the hostage-takers and others. It is now apparent that the hostage crisis occurred not because relations between Iran and the United States were deteriorating but because they were improving. In the fall of 1979, the retatively moderate Iranian Prime Minister, Mehdi Bazargan, had arranged to meet va'th the American national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, under the aegis of the Algerian government. The two men met on November 1st, and were reported to have been photographed shaking hands. There seemed to be a real possibility - in the eyes of the radicals, a real danger - that there might be some accommodafion between the two countries. Protesters seized the Embassy and took the American diplomats hostage in order to destroy any hope of further dialogue. For Khomeini, the United States was the Great Satan," the principal adversary against whom he had to wage his holy war for Islam. Amen'ca was by then perceived as the leader of what we like to call "the free world." Then, as in the past, this world of unbelievers was seen as the only serious force rivalling and preventing the divinely ordained spread and triumph of Islam. But American observers, reluctant to recognize the historical quality of the hostility, sought other reasons for the anti-American sentiment that had been intensifying in the Islamic world for some time. One explanation, which was widely accepted, particularly in American foreign-policy circles, was that America's image had been tarnished by its wartime and continuing alliance with the former colonial powers of Europe. In their countrys defense, some American commentators pointed out that, unlike the Western European imperialists, America had itself been a victim of colonialism; the United States was the first country to win freedom from British rule. But the hope that the Middle Eastern subjects of the former British and French Empires would accept the American Revolution as a model for their own anti-imperialist struggle rested on a basic fallacy that Arab writers were quick to point out. The American Revolution was fought not by Native American nationalists but by British settlers, and, far from being a victory against colonialism, it represented colonialists ultimate triumph the English in North America succeeded in colonizing the land so thoroughly that they no longer needed the support of the mother country. It is hardly surprising that former colonial subjects in the Middle East would see America as being tainted by the same kind of imperialism as Westem Europe. But Middle Eastem resentment of imperial powers has not always been consistent. The Soviet Union, which extended the imperial conquests of the tsars of Russia, ruled with no Eght hand over tens of millions of Muslim subjects in Central Asian states and in the Caucasus; had it not been for American opposition and the Cold War, the Arab world might well have shared the fate of Poland and Hungary, or, more probably, that of Uzbekistan. And yet the Soviet Union suffered no simuar backlash of anger and hatred from the Arab community. Even the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 - a clear case of imperialist aggression, conquest, and domination - triggered only a muted response in the Islamic world. The P.L.O. observer at the United Nations defended the invasion, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference did little to protest it. South Yemen and Syria boycotted a meeting held to discuss the issue, Libya delivered an attack on the United States, and the P.L.O. representative abstained from voting and submitted his reservations in writing. Ironically, it was the United States, in the end, that was left to orchestrate an Islamic response to Soviet imperialism in Afghanistan.
As the Western European empires faded, Middle Eastern anti-Americanism was attributed more and more to another cause: American support for Israel, first in its conflict with the Palestinian Arabs, then in its conflict with the nel,ghboring Arab states and the larger Islamic world. There is certainly support for this hypothesis in Arab statements on the subject. But there are incongruities, too. In the nineteen-thirties, Nazi Germany's policies were the main cause of Jewish migration to Palestine, then a British mandate, and the consequent reinforcement of the Jewish community there. The Nazis not ordy permitted this migration; they facilitated it until the outbreak of the war, while the British, in the somewhat forlorn hope of winning Arab good will, imposed and enforced restrictions. Nevertheless, the Palestinian leadership of the time, and many other Arab leaders, supported the Germans, who sent the jews to Palestine, rather than the British, who tried to keep them out. The same kind of discrepancy can be seen in the events leading to and following the establishment of the State of Israel, in 1948. The Soviet Union played a significant role in procuring the majority by which the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to estabesh a Jewish state in Palestine, and then gave Israel immediate de-jure recognition. The United States, however, gave only de-facto recognition. More important, the American government maintained a partial arms embargo on Israel, while Czechoslovakia, at Moscow's direction, immediately sent a supply of weaponry, which enabled the new state to survive the attempts to strangle it at birth. As late as the war of 1967, Israel still rehlied for its arms on European, mainly French, suppliers, not on the United States.
The Soviet Union had been one of Israel's biggest supporters. Yet, when Egypt announced an arms deal with Russia, in September of 1955, there was an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response in the Arab press. The Chambers of Deputies in Syria, Lebanon, and jordan met immediately and voted resolutions of congratulation to President Nasser; even Nun Said, the pro-Western ruler of Iraq, felt obliged to congratulate his Egyptian colleague - this despite the fact that the Arabs had no special love of Russia, nor did Muslims in the Arab world or elsewhere wish to invite either Communist ideology or Soviet power to their lands. What delighted them was that they saw the arms deal - no doubt correctly - as a slap in the face for the West. The slap, and the agitated Western response, reinforced the mood of hatred and spite toward the West and encouraged its exponents. It also encouraged the United States to look more favorably on Israel, now seen as a reliable and potentially useful ally in a largely hostile region. Today, it is often forgotten that the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel was a consequence, not a cause, of Soviet penetration. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one of many struggles between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds - on a list that includes Nigeria, Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Chechnya, Sinkiang, Kashmir, and Mindanao - but it has attracted far more attention than any of the others. There are several reasons for this. First, since Israel is a democracy and an open society, it is much easier to report - and misreport - what is going on. Second, Jews are involved, and this can usually secure the attention of those who, for one reason or another, are for or against them. Third, and most important, resentment of lsrael is the only grievance that can be freely and safely expressed in those Muslim countries where the media are either wholly owned or strictly overseen by the government. Indeed, Israel serves as a useful stand-in for complaints about the economic privation and political repression under which most Muslim people live, and as a way of deflecting the resulting anger.
This raises another issue. Increasingly in recent decades, Middle Easterners have articulated a new grievance against American policy: not American complicity with imperialism or with Zionism but something nearer home and more immediate - American complicity with the corrupt tyrants who rule over them. For obvious reasons, this particular complaint does not often appear in public discourse. Middle Eastern governments, such as those of Iraq, Syria, and the Palestine Authority, have developed great skill in controlling their own media and manipulating those of Western countries. Nor, for equally obvious reasons, is it raised in diplomatic negotiation. But it is discussed, with increasing anguish and urgency, in private conversations with listeners who can be trusted, and recently even in public. (Interestingly, the Iranian revolution of 1979 was one time when this resentment was expressed openly. The Shah was accused of supporting America, but America was also attacked for imposing an impious and tyrannical leader as its puppet.) Almost the entire Muslim world is affected by poverty and tyranny. Both of these problems are attributed, especially by those with an interest in diverting attention from themselves, to America the first to American economic dominance and exploitation, now thinly disguised as "globalization'; the second to America's support for the many so-called Muslim tyrants who serve its purposes. Globalization has become a major theme in the Arab media, and it is almost always raised in connection with American economic penetration. The increasingly wretched economic situation in most of the Muslim world, relative not only to the West but also to the tiger economies of East Asia, fuels these frustrations. American paramountly, as Middle Easterners see it, indicates where to direct the blame and the resulting hostility. There is some justice in one charge that is frequently levelled against the United States: Middle Easterners increasingly complain that the United States judges them by different and lower standards than it does Europeans and Americans, both in what is expected of them and in what they may expect - in terms of their financial wellbeing and their political freedom. They assert that Western spokesmen repeatedly overlook or even defend actions and support rulers that they would not tolerate in their own countries. As many Middle Easterners see it, the Western and American governments' basic position is: "We don't care what you do to your own people at home, so long as you are cooperative in meeting our needs and protecting our interests." The most dramatic example of this form of racial and cultural arrogance was what Iraqis and others see as the betrayal of 1991, when the United States called on the Iraqi people to revolt against Saddam Hussein. The rebels of northern and southern Iraq did so, and the United States forces watched while Saddam, using the helicopters that the ceasefire agreement had allowed him to retain, bloodily suppressed them, group by group. The reasoning behind this action - or, rather, inaction - is not difficult to see. Certainly, the victorious Gulf War coalition wanted a change of government in lraq, but they had hoped for a coup d'etat, not a revolution. They saw a genuine popular uprising as dangerous-it could lead to uncertainty or even anarchy in the region. A coup would be more predictable and could achieve the desired result - the replacement of Saddam Hussein by another, more amenable tyrant, who could take his place among America's so-called allies in the coalition. The United States' abandonment of Afghanistan after the departure of the Soviets was understood in much the same way as its abandonment of the Iraqi rebels. Another example of this double standard occurred in the Syrian city of Hama and in refiigee camps in Sabra and Shatila. The troubles in Hama began with an uprising headed by the radical group the Muslim Brothers in 1982. The government responded swiftly. Troops were sent, supported by armor, artillery, and aircraft, and within a very short time they had reduced a large part of the city to rubble. The number killed was estimated, by Amnesty International, at somewhere between ten thousand and twenty-five thousand. The action, which was ordered and supervised by the Syrian President, Hafiz al-Assad, attracted little attention at the time, and did not prevent the United States from subsequently courting Assad, who received a long succession of visits from American Secretaries of State James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright, and even from President Clinton. It is hardly likely that Americans would have been so eager to propitiate a ruler who had perpetrated such crimes on Westem soil, with Western victims. The massacre of seven hundred to eight hundred Palestinian refiigees in Sabra and Shatila that same year was carried out by Lebanese militiamen, led by a Lebanese commander who subsequently became a minister in the Syrian-sponsored Lebanese government, and it was seen as a reprisal for the assassination of the Lebanese President Bashir Gemayyel. Ariel Sharon, who at the time commanded the Israeli forces in Lebanon, was reprimanded by an Israeli commission of inquiry for not having foreseen and prevented the massacre, and was forced to resign from his position as Minister of Defense. It is understandable that the Palestinians and other Arabs should lay sole blame for the massacre on Sharon. What is puzzling is that Europeans and Americans should do the same. Some even wanted to try Sharon for crimes against humanity before a tribunal in Europe. No such suggestion was made regarding either Saddam Hussein or Hafiz al-Assad, who slaughtered tens of thousands of their compatriots. It is easy to understand the bitterness of those who see the implication here. It was as if the militia who had carried out the deed were animals, not accountable by the same human standards as the Israelis. Thanks to modern communications, the people of the Middle East are increasingly aware of the deep and widening gulf between the opportunities of the free world outside their borders and the appalling privation and repression within them. The resulting anger is naturally directed first against their rulers, and then against those whom they see as keeping those rulers in power for selfish reasons. It is surely significant that most of the terrorists who have been identified in the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington come fron Saudi Arabla and Egypt - that is, from countn'es whose rulers are deemed friendly to the United States.
V A FAILURE OF MODERNITY
If America's double standards - and its selfish support for corrupt regimes in the Arab world - have long caused anger among Muslims, why has that anger only recently found its expression in acts of terrorism? In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Muslims responded in two ways to the widening imbalance of power and wealth between their societies and those of the West. The reformers or modernizers tried to identify the sources of Western wealth and power and adapt them to their own use, in order to meet the West on equal terms. Muslim governments - first in Turkey, then in Egypt and Iran - made great efforts to modernize, that is, to Westernize, the weaponry and equipment of their armed forces; they even dressed them in Western-style unitorms and marched them to the tune of brass bands. When defeats on the battlefield were matched by others in the marketplace, the reformers tried to discover the secrets of Western economic success and to emulate them by establishing industries of their own. Young Muslim students who were sent to the West to study the arts of war also came back with dangerous and explosive notions about elected assemblies and constitutional governments. All attempts at reform ended badly. If anything, the modernization of the armed forces accelerated the process of defeat and withdrawal, culminating in the humiliating failure of five Arab states and armies to prevent a half million Jews from building a new state in the debris of the British Mandate in Palestine in 1948. With rare exceptions, the economic reforms, capitalist and sociahst alike, fared no better. The Middle Eastern combination of low productivity and high birth rate makes for an unstable mix, and by all indications the Arab countries, in such matters as job creation, education, technology, and productivity, lag ever farther behind the West. Even worse, the Arab nations also lag behind the more recent recruits to Western-style modernity, such as Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Out of a hundred and fifty-five countries ranked for economic freedom in 2001, the highest-ranking Muslim states are Bahrain (No. 9), the United Arab Emirates (No. 14), and Kuwait (No. 42). According to the World Bank, in 2000 the average annual income in the Muslim countries from Morocco to Bangladesh was only half the world average, and in the nineties the combined gross national products of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon - that is, three of Israel's Arab neighbours were considerably smaller than that of Israel alone. The per-capita figures are worse. According to United Nations statistics, Israel's per-capita G.D.E was three and a half times that of Lebanon and Syria, twelve times that of Jordan, and thirteen and a half times that of Egypt. The contrast with the West, and now also with the Far East, is even more disconcerting. Modernization in politics has fared no better-perhaps even worse-than in warfare and economics. Many Islamic countries have experimented with democratic institutions of one kind or another. In some, as in Turkey, Iran, and Tunisia, they were introduced by innovative native reformers; in others, they were installed and then bequeathed by departing imperialists. The record, with the possible exception of Turkey, is one of almost unrelieved failure. Western-style parties and parliaments almost invariably ended in corrupt tyrannies, maintained by repression and indoctrination. The only European model that worked, in the sense of accomplishing its purposes, was the one-party dictatorship. The Baath Party, different branches of which have ruled Iraq and Syria for decades, incorporated the worst features of its Nazi and Soviet models. Since the death of Nasser, in 1970, no Arab leader has been able to gain extensive support outside his own country. Indeed, no Arab leader has been willing to submit his claim to power to a free vote. The leaders who have come closest to winning pan-Arab approval are Qaddafi in the seventies and, more recently, Saddam Hussein That these two, of all Arab rulers, should enjoy such wide popularity is in itself both appalling and revealing.
In view of this, it is hardly surprising that many Muslims speak of the failure of modernization. The rejection of modernity in favor of a return to the sacred past has a varied and ramified history in the region and has given rise to a number of movements. The most important of these, Wahhabism, has lasted more than two and a half centuries and exerts a significant influence on Muslim movements in the Middle East today. Its founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-87), was a theologian from the Najd area of Arabla. In 1744, he launched a campaign of purification and renewal. His purpose was to return the Muslim world to the pure and authentic Islam of the Prophet, removing and, where necessary, destroying all later accretions. The Wahhabi cause was embraced by the Saudi rulers of Najd, who promoted it, for a while successfully, by force. In a series of campaigns, they carried their rule and their faith to much of central and eastern Arabia, before being rebuffed, at the end of the eighteenth century, by the Ottoman sultan, whom the Saudi ruler had denounced as a backslider from the true faith and a usurper in the Muslim state. The second alliance of Wahhabi doctrine and Saudi force began in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and continued after the collapse. The Saudi conquest of the Hejaz, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, increased the prestige of the House of Saud and gave new scope to the Wahhabi doctrine, which spread, in a variety of forms, throughout the Islamic world. From the nineteen-thirties on, the discovery of oil in the eastern provinces of Arabia and its exploitation, chiefly by American companies, brought vast new wealth and bitter new social tensions. In the old society, inequalities of wealth had been limited, and their effects were restrained, on the one hand, by the traditional social bonds and obligations that linked rich and poor and, on the other hand, by the privacy of Muslim home life. Modernization has all too often widened the gap, destroyed those social bonds, and, through the universality of the modern media, made the resulting inequalities painfully visible. All this has created new and receptive audiences for Wahhabi teachings and those of other like-minded groups, among them the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and Syria and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It has now become normal to designate these movements as "fundamentalist." The term is unfortunate for a number of reasons. It was originally an Amen'can Protestant term, used to designate Protestant churches that differed in some respects from the mainstream churches. These differences bear no resemblance to those that divide Muslim fundamentalists from the Islamic mainstream, and the use of the term can therefore be misleading. Broadly speaking, Muslim fundamentabsts are those who feel that the troubles of the Muslim world at the present time are the result not of insufficient modernization but of excessive modernization. From their point of view, the primary struggle is not aga,nst the Western enemy as such but against the Westernizing enemies at home, who have imported and imposed infidel ways on Muslim peoples. The task of the Muslims is to depose and remove these infidel rulers, sometimes by defeating or expelling their foreign patrons and protectors, and to abrogate and destroy the laws, institutions, and social customs that they have introduced, so as to return to a purely Islamic way of life, in accordance with the principles of Islam and the rules of the Holy Law.
VI-THE RISE OF TERRORISM
Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda followers may not represent Islam, and their statements and their actions directly contradict basic Islamic principles and teachings, but they do arise from within Muslim civilization, just as Hitler and the Nazis arose from within Christian civilization, so they must be seen in their own cultural, religious, and historical context. If one looks at the historical record, the Muslim approach to war does not differ greatly from that of Christians, or that of Jews in the very ancient and very modern periods when the option was open to them. While Muslims, perhaps more frequently than Christians, made war against the followers of other faiths to bring them within the scope of Islam, Christianity with the notable exception of the Crusades, which were themselves an imitation of Muslim practice - were more prone to fight internal religious wars against those whom they saw as schismatics or heretics. Islam, no doubt owing to the political and military involvement of its founder, takes what one might call a more pragmatic view than the Gospels of the realities of societal relationships. Because war for the faith has been a reegious obligation within Islam from the beginning, it is elaborately regulated. Islamic religious law, or the Sharia, deals in some detail with such matters as the opening, conclusion, and resumption of hostilities, the avoidance of injury to noncombatants, the treatment of prisoners, the division of booty, and even the types of weapons that may be used. Some of these rules have been explained away by modern radical commentators who support the fundamentalists; others are simply disregarded. What about terrorism? Followers of many faiths have at one time or another invoked religion in the practice of murder, both retail and wholesale. Two words deriving from such movements in Eastern religions have even entered the English language: "thug," from India, and "assassin," from the Middle East, both commemorating fanatical religious sects whose form of worship was to murder those whom they regarded as enemies of the faith. The question of the lawfullness of assassination in Islam first arose in 656 A.D., with the murder of the third caliph, Uthman, by pious Muslim rebels who believed they were carrying out the will of God. The first of a succession of civil wars was fought over the question of whether the rebels were obeying or defying God's commandment. Islamic law and tradition are very clear on the duty of obedience to the Islamic ruler. But they also quote two sayings attributed to the Prophet: "There is no obedience in sin" and "Do not obey a creature against his creator." If a ruler orders something that is contrary to the law of God, then the duty of obedience is replaced by a duty of disobedience. The notion of tyrannicide - the justified removal of a tyrant - was not an Islamic innovation; it was familiar in antiquity, among jews, Greeks, and Romans alike, and those who performed it were often acclaimed as heroes.
Members of the eleventh-to-thirteenth-century Muslim sect known as the Assassins, which was based in Iran and Syria, seem to have been the first to transform the act that was named after them into a system and an ideology. Their efforts, contrary to popular belief, were primarily directed not against the Crusaders but against their own leaders, whom they saw as impious usurpers. In this sense, the Assassins are the true predecessors of many of the so-called Islamic terrorists of today, some of whom explicitly make this point. The name Assassins, with its connotation of "hashish-taker," was given to them by their Muslim enemies. They called themselves fidayeen-those who are ready to sacrifice their lives for their cause. The term has been revived and adopted by their modern imitators. In two respects, however - in their choice of weapons and of victims - the Assassins were markedly different from their modern successors. The victim was always an individual - a highly placed political, military, or religious leader who was seen as the source of evil. He, and he alone, was killed. This action was not terrorism in the current sense of that term but, rather, what we would call "targeted assassination." The method was always the same: the dagger. The Assassins disdained the use of poison, crossbows, and other weapons that could be used from a distance, and the Assassin did not expect or, it would seem, even desire - to survive his act, which he believed would insure him eternal bliss. But in no circumstance did he commit suicide. He died at the hands of his captors.
The twentieth century brought a renewal of such actions in the Middle East, though of different types and for different purposes, and terrorism has gone through several phases. During the last years of the British Empire, imperial Britain faced terrorist movements in its Middle Eastern dependencies that represented three different cultures: Greeks in Cyprus, jews in Palestine, and Arabs in Aden. All three acted from nationalist, rather than religious, motives. Though very different in their backgrounds and political circumstances, the three were substantially alike in their tactics. Their purpose was to persuade the imperial power that staying in the region was not worth the cost in blood. Their method was to attack the military and, to a lesser extent, administrative personnel and instauations. All three operated onlywithin their own territory and generally avoided collateral damage. AR three succeeded in their endeavors. Thanks to the rapid development of the media, and especially of television, the more recent forms of terrorism are targeted not at specific and stated enemy objectives but at world opinion. Their primary purpose is not to defeat or even to weaken the enemy militarily but to gain public and psychological victory. The most successful group by far in this exercise has been the Palestine Liberation Organization. The P.L.O. was founded in 1964 but became important in 1967, after the defeat of the combined Arab armies in the Six-Day War. Regular warfare had failed; it was time to try other methods. The targets in this form of armed struggle were not military or other government establishments, which are usually too well guarded, but public places and gatherings of any kind, which are overwhelmingly civilian, and in which the victims do not necessarily have a connection to the declared enemy. Examples of this include, in 1970, the hijacking of three aircraft - one Swiss, one British, and one American - which were all taken to Amman; the 1972 murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics; the seizure in 1973 of the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum, and the murder there of two Americans and a Belgian diplomat; and the takeover of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, in 1985. Other attacks were directed against schools, shopping malls, discotheques, pizzerias, and even passengers waiting in line at European airports. These and other attacks by the P.L.O. were immediately and remarkably successful in attaining their objectives - the capture of newspaper headlines and television screens. They also drew a great deal of support in sometimes unexpected places, and raised their perpetrators to stamng roles in the drama of international relations. Small wonder that others were encouraged to follow their example - in Ireland, in Spain, and elsewhere. The Arab terrorists of the seventies and eighties made it clear that they were waging a war for an Arab or Palestinian cause, not for Islam. Indeed, a significant proportion of the P.L.O. leaders and activists were Christian. UnEke socialism, which was discredited by its failure, nationalism was discredited by its success. In every Arab land but Palestine, the nationalists achieved their purposes - the defeat and departure of imperialist rulers, and the establishment of national sovereignty under national leaders. For a while, freedom and independence were used as more or less synonymous and interchangeable terms. The early experience of independence, however, revealed that this was a sad error. Independence and freedom are very different, and all too often the attainment of one meant the end of the other. Both in defeat and in victory, the Arab nationalists of the twentieth century pioneered the methods that were later adopted by religious terrorists, in particular the lack of concern at the slaughter of innocent bystanders. This unconcern reached new proportions in the terror campaign launched by Osama bin Laden in the early nineties. The first major example was the bombing of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998. ln order to kill twelve American diplomats, the terrorists were willing to slaughter more than two hundred Africans, many of them Muslims, who happened to be in the vicinity. The same disregard for human life, on a vastly greater scale, underlay the action in New York on September 11th.
There is no doubt that the foundation of Al Qaeda and the consecutive declarations of war by Osama bin Laden marked the beginning of a new and ominous phase in the history of both Islam and terrorism. The triggers for bin Laden's actions, as he himself has explained very clearly, were America's presence in Arabia during the Gulf War - a desecration of the Muslim Holy Land and America's use of Saudi Arabia as a base for an attack on Iraq. If Arabia is the most symbolic location in the world of Islam, Baghdad, the seat of the caliphate for half a millennium and the scene of some of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history, is the second. There was another, perhaps more important, factor driving bin Laden. In the past, Muslims fighting against the West could always turn to the enemies of the West for comfort, encouragement, and material and military help. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, for the first time in centuries there was no such useful enemy. There were some nations that had the will, but they lacked the means to play the role of the Third Reich or the Soviet Union. Bin Laden and his cohorts soon realized that, in the new configuration of world power, if they wished to fight America they had to do it themselves. Some eleven years ago, they created Al Qaeda, which included many veterans of the war in Afghanistan. Their task might have seemed daunting to anyone else, but they did not see it that way. In their view, they had already driven the Russians out of Afghanistan, in a defeat so overwhelming that it led directly to the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Having overcome the superpower that they had always regarded as more formidable, they felt ready to take on the other; in this they were encouraged by the opinion, often expressed by Osama bin Laden, among others, that America was a paper tiger. Muslim terrorists had been driven by such beliefs before. One of the most surprising revelations in the memoirs of those who held the American Embassy in Teheran from 1979 to 1981 was that their original intention had been to hold the building and the hostages for only a few days. They changed their minds when statements from Washington made it clear that there was no danger of serious action against them. They finally released the hostages, they explained, only because they feared that the new President, Ronald Reagan, might approach the problem "like a cowboy." Bin Laden and his followers clearly have no such concern, and their hatred is neither constrained by fear nor diluted by respect. As precedents, they repeatedly cite the American retreats from Vietnam, from Lebanon, and the most important of all, in their eye from Somalia. Bin Laden's remarks in an interview with John Miller, of ABC News, on May 28, 1998, are especially revealing:
We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier, who is ready to wage cold wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than twentyfour hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia.... The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers.... After a few blows, they ran in defeat.... They forgot about being the world leader and the leader of the new world order. [They] left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat, and stopped using such titles.
Similar inferences are drawn when American spokesmen refiise to implicate - and sometimes even hasten to exculpate - parties that most Middle Easterners believe to be deeply involved in the attacks on America. A good example is the repeated official denial of any Iraqi involvement in the events of September 11th. It may indeed be true that there is no evidence of Iraqi involvement, and that the Administrafion is unwilling to make false accusations. But it is difficult for Middle Easterners to resist the idea that this refiisal to implicate Saddam Hussein is due less to a concern for legality than to a fear of confronting him. He would indeed be a formidable adversary. If he faces the prospect of imminent destruction, as would be inevitable in a real confrontation, there is no knowing what he might do with his already considerable arsenal of unconventional weapons. Certainly, he would not be restrained by any scruples, or by the consideration that the greatest victims of any such attack would be his own people and their immediate neighbors. For Osama bin Laden, 2001 marks the resumption of the war for the rehgious dominance of the world that began in the seventh century. For him and his followers, this is a moment of opportunity. Today, America exemplifies the civilization and embodies the leadership of the House of War, and, like Rome and Byzantium, it has become degenerate and demoralized, ready to be overthrown. Khomeini's designation of the United States as "the Great Satan" was telling. In the Koran, Satan is described as "the insidious tempter who whispers in the hearts of men." This is the essential point about Satan: he is neither a conqueror nor an exploiter he is, first and last, a tempter. And for the members of Al Qaeda it is the seduction of America that represents the greatest threat to the kind of Islam they wish to impose on their fellow-Muslims. But there are others for whom America offers a different kind of temptation - the promise of human rights, of free institutions, and of a responsible and elected government. There are a growing number of individuals and even some movements that have undertaken the complex task of introducing such institutions in their ovrn countries. It is not easy. Similar attempts, as noted, led to many of today's corrupt regimes. Of the fifty-seven member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, only one, the Turkish Republic, has operated democratic institutions over a long period of time and, despite difficult and ongoing problems, has made progress in establishing a liberal economy and a free society and political order. In two countries, Iraq and Iran, where the regimes are strongly anti-American, there are democratic oppositions capable of taking over and forming governments. We could do much to help them, and have done little. In most other countries in the region, there are people who share our values, sympathize with us, and would like to share our way of life. They understand freedom, and want to enjoy it at home. It is more difficult for us to help those people, but at least we should not hinder them. If they succeed, we shall have friends and allies in the true, not just the diplomatic, sense of these words. Meanwhile, there is a more urgent problem. If bin Laden can persuade the world of Islam to accept his views and his leadership, then a long and bitter struggle lies ahead, and not only for America. Sooner or later, Al Qaeda and related groups wiu clash with the other neighbors of Islam - Russia, China, India, who may prove less squeamish than the Americans in using their power against Muslims and their sanctities. If bin Laden is correct in his calculations and succeeds in his war, then a dark future awaits the world, especially the part of it that embraces Islam.
ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY THE IRAN GAME How,will Tehran nuclear ambitions affect our budding partnership? BY SEYMOUK M. HERSH
NY 3 Dec 2001
Clandestine production facilities are scattered throughout the country.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, depicted by the State Department as one of the world's most active sponsors of state terrorism, has also emerged as one of America's newest-and most surprising-allies in the war against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Another new ally has been Russia. And one of our oldest albes doesn't Eke it. On October 24th, more than two weeks after the American air war began, Israel sent a government delegation to Washington for official talks. The delegation included Gideon Frank, the director'general of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, and Major General Uzi Dayan, the head of Israel's National Security Council, and its purpose was to warn the Americans, not for the first time, about new evidence of Iran's efforts to become, with Russia's help, the world's next nuclear power. The Israeli message, as a participant summarized it, was characteristically blunt: the Iranian atomic-bomb program was making rapid progress, and something had to be done about it. As far as the Israelis were concerned, this meant that the Bush Administration should put Russia's support for Iran at the top of its foreign-policy agenda. The warning poses a dilemma for the Bush Administration. lran, which is predominantly Shiite, and has longstanding religious and political ties to Afghanistan (the Afghan population is about one-sixth Shiite), has offered to let American search-and-rescue hehcopters stage operations from bases on its soil and has relayed sensitive intelligence from Afghanistan to the United States. According to one former American intelligence official, Ismail Khan, the Northern Alliance leader whose troops reclaimed the western city of Herat, is known to have been a covert asset of Iran's two intelligence services, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of IntelEgence and Security. Both organizations have been avowedly anti-American since the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran, in 1979, and their collaboration with the American war effort is seen as striking evidence of a larger shift toward moderation. Since the terrorist attacks of September llth, President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, a reformer who is seeking to improve relations with Washington, has repeatedly criticized bin Laden's interpretation of Islam and said that if the Palestinian people chose to recognize Israel's right to exist Iran would respect their @shes. The American intelligence community, however, is unsure of the extent of Khatami's independence from Iran's conservative religious leaders. The mullahs remain in control of the country's inteffigence services, which finance and work closely with Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations that operate inside Israel. Iran's secret push for the bomb and the support it has received from Russia are being closely monitored by.American intelligence agencies, and American and Israeli officials have been meeting in secret since the mid-nineteen-nineties to share information on the nuclear program. (Israel has had a nuclear arsenal for decades, although it has never pubEcly acknowledged this.) Iran has always denied that it is trying to build a bomb. ("I hate this weapon," President Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami's predecessor, told "60 Minutes" in 1997.) Nonetheless, many American and Israeh intelligence officials estimate that Iran is only three to five years away from having launchable warheads. The immediate question is whether the country has passed the point of no return-the point where its domestic capability can no longer be derailed by export controls or interdiction of potential suppliers. "They're closer to that point than we should be comfortable about-and the fact that we can't pin it down also makes me uncomfortable," one American intelligence officer told me. For now, intelligence officials believe, Iran's biggest hurdle is the laborious process of producing weaponsgrade material. However, if Iran somehow managed to acquire fissde material on the Russian black market, all the careful American and Israeb intelligence estimates wo@d be irrelevant. Following the pattern set by Pakistan-another American ally in the war against the Taliban-Iran established a maze of covert companies to conceal its nuclear program. In the last two years, according to a former senior Pentagon official, intelligence services have observed "extensive digging" in Iran as nuclear engineers rushed to construct hidden production facilities. "We know that they're going deep and clandestine," the former official said. An Israeli official confirmed that the hidden sites "are spread au around the country." The Iranians apparently hope to minimize the potential damage from what another American intelligence official called "the Israeli version of counter-proliferation' a pre-emptive air strike. (In 1981, the Israehli Air Force attacked and destroyed a new Iraqi reactor a few months before it was scheduled to come on line.) A European diplomat who has undertaken sensitive United Nations assignments in Iran for the past two decades called Iran's push for the bomb contradictory behavior." He said, " This is the time to call their bluff. This is a time for the U.S. to really make or break it with Iran."
Iran began its pursuit of nuclear weapIons in the mid-nineteen-seventies, when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, flush with oil money, ambition, and American support, set up the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and announced that his kingdom would construct twenty-three nuclear power reactors. The Shah invested an estimated six bilEon dollars in nuclear projects, and Siemens, the West German conglomerate, completed more than half the construction needed for the installation of two reactors at Bushehr, near the Persian Gulf. Thousands of Iranians were abroad, studying physics and related subjects. American intelligence reports indicated that the Shah also planned to build a nuclear bomb; a nuclear-weapons design team had been set up, and covert efforts were made to acquire the materials and know-how necessary to produce weapons. This effort came to an abrupt end in 1979, when the Shah was overthrown. The government was, eventually, taken over by the Provisional Revolutionary Government, headed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In "Going Nuclear," a 1987 study of the spread of nuclear weapons, the profiferation expert Leonard S. Spector noted presciently that if American policymakers had understood more about the power of Muslim fundamentalism and anti-American sentiment in Iran they might have acted more aggressively to keep the ShaEs nuclear assets out of the new government's hands. Nonetheless, throughout the nineteen-eighties there seemed to be little reason for official concern, as Iran and Iraq fought a devastating war that weakened both. Iran's nuclear programs were essentially shut down, and the half-completed buildings at Bushehr were badly damaged in an Iraqi bombing raid. The war ended in 1988, with Iran's defeat. The ruling munahs turned once again to West Germany and Siemens, but the German government, under pressure from Washington-"Death to America" was still the Iranian rallying c@decided to end its nuclear involvement in Iran. At the time, lran and the Soviet Union's mutual antagonism to the United States did not translate into a close relationship @th each other.During the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet Unionwhich shared a twelve-hundred-mile border with Iran-had been Iraqs main supporter and its most important arms supplier. After Ayatollah Khomeini's death, in 1989, however, the Iranian religious leadership turned for help to China and also, in a major geopolitical shift, the Soviet Union, and signed a comprehen trac e agreement with the Soviets that included cooperation on the "peacefid uses of atomic energy. The new alliance fit Moscow's needs well, coming when the Soviet Union was in the final stages of imperial and economic collapse. The Yeltsin government agreed to rebuild Iran's bombed-out facilities at Bushehr, and, in 1995, the two countries signed an eight-hundred-million-dollar contract under which the Russians would help install a powerfiil reactor there, to be run by a Russian-Iranian team. Since then, a vast complex of buildings has been constructed at the site. Russia a so began a training program for Iranian physicists and technicians, and set up clinics on how to operate a nuclear power plant. Intelligence officials told me, however, that Iran's most important nuclear production facilities are not at Bushehr, which is open to international inspection by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, but scattered throughout the country, at clandestine sites, under military control. The clandestine facilities have not been "declared"-that is, they are not subject to I.A.E.A. inspection. One important hidden site is believed to be at the Sharif University of Technology, in Tehran, which allegedly serves as a procurement front and research center for the bomb program. An American officer who has worked closely with Israeh intelligence told me that at one point in the early nineties the Israelis traced a flow of illicit high-tech materials from German manigh ufacturers to Iran, and determined that Sharif was-as he put it 'the secret place." More troubling intelligence came in the late nineties, when it was learned from sensitive sources that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who directed the Pakistani nuclear program from the nineteen-seventies until his retirement, earlier this year, made at least one secret visit to an Iranian nuclear faciety. (He often travelled in disguise on such trips.) Khan is known to many in Pakistan as the father of the Pakistani bomb-a tribute to his ingenuity when, after secretly procuring plans for sophisticated gas centrifiiges from Europe in the nineteenseventies, he had his laboratories producing weapons-grade uranium by the mid-eighties. Khan was under American surveillance because he had made clandestine visits to North Korea. American officials believe that he brought no actual materials with him to Iran just his years of hands-on experience in bomb-making. This guy moves around," one American intelligence official said of Khan. "He's in bad places at bad times."
The initial focus of American and Israeli intelligence was less on Iran's progress in building the bomb than on what Iran might be able to buy ready-made from Russia. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, in 1991, Russian military officers, whose forces were starved for cash, sometimes proved willing to sell off weapons, including missiles, to almost anyone. Economic despair also struck Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy, known as Minatom, the huge enterprise that ran the ten closed nuclear cities where, during the Cold War, nuclear warheads were fabricated and weapons-grade uranium and plutonium-more than a thousand tons were produced. Minatom was responsible for maintaining and, later, dismantling Russia!s huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. But by 1998 the Russian goveminent was funding only about twenty per cent of Minatom's operating expenses, and thousands of scientists and technicians in the closed cities were going unpaid for months at a time. Russian mobsters, taking advantage of the poverty and disarray of post-Soviet Russia, got into the business of buying military equipment and selling it to third parties. For many in Russia's military-industrial complex, these off-the-books deals are windfalls. "They make money a lot of money,' a former American intelligence officer noted. The military leadership, he said, is filled with generals old resentment "a bunch of unreconstructed assholes who don't understand that the Cold War is over." He went on, "If you're an unreconstructed Russian general who all evil begins and ends with the United States, you help out a regional friend. The military was a state within a state under Yeltsin. The biggest problem facing the new Vladimir Putin, who replaced Yeltsin at the end of 1999 - "is how to get control of the military." Iran is believed to have made a serious effort in the early nineteen-nineties to buy specialized materials for nuclear weapons from a factory in newly independent Kazakhstan. According to William Courtney, who was the first American Ambassador to Kazakhstan, a team of American weapons experts from the United States Embassy and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory inadvertently stumbled onto the planned deal in 1994, when they were called to the factory to inspect a cache of highly enriched uranium that Kazakhstan had offered for sale to the United States. The uranium, Courtney recalled, was to be made into fuel rods for the reactors in Soviet nuclear submarines but had been "left behind" when the Soviet Union collapsed. "The Soviets just forgot about it," Courtney said. Along with the uranium, the experts found piles of packaged materials marked for shipment to Iran. Courtney explained that the Kazakhstanis later acknowledged that the Iranians had approached them about buying the goods, but claimed that they had decided against making the deal. Whatever the truth, the discovery heightened American eagerness to get all the materials out of Kazakhstan, and, in a clandestine operation, the uranium was turned over to the United States for a larger share of foreign aid. Another American intelligence official offered a cynical view of the Russians. "They have real disdain for the indigenous capability of the Iranians," the official said, adding that by the early nineties the Russians were reasoning that the Iranian program, which was then headed by a bureaucrat, was poorly run, and that any sale of high-tech equipment was unlikely to lead anywhere. "Four lab assistants were running the program, and they were all dropouts from Florida State," a C.I.A. operative joked. In 1997, however, after Khatami was elected President, the Iranian operation was put under the aegis of Gholamreza Aghazadeh, a former oil miiister who also served as Khatami's Vice-President. "It's better no@more focussed and moving ahead," the inteuigence official told me. In June of 1995, Vice-President Al Gore visited Moscow and negotiated an agreement with Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, the Russian Prime Minister. The pact protected Russia from economic sanctions in return for a pledge that Moscow would cease all deliveries of conventional arms to Iran by the end of 1999. There was also a personal pledge, an aide who was involved told me, from President Yeltsin to President Clinton assuring him that the Russians would not provide sensitive nuclear technology to Iran. The Russian promise proved to be meaningless: Russia's support for Iran, both overt and covert, continued.
Soon afterward, the United States and Israel began holding meetings to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat and other security issues. The American team was headed by Leon Fuerth, the national-security adviser to Vice-President Gore. The Israeli delegation was usually led by a policy adviser from the Prime Minister's office, and always included one or two military-intelligence officers. The Israelis continued to produce what they insisted was solid evidence of Russian complicity in the Iranian nu'ssile and nuclear program. In one case, Israeli and American intelligence agencies tracked the activities of a Russian military team as it took control of a mothbaued production facility that made SS-4 missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads twelve hundred and fifty mUes, and shipped it, "piece by piece," as one former American intelligence officer put it, to Iran. Chernomyrdin sub,sequently denied that Moscow had authorized the shipment. (According to a 1999 report in Jane's Defence Weekly, an upgraded version of the SS-4 missile, known as the Shehab 4, was being developed as part of the Iranian arsenal.) The American meetings with the Israelis were often tense. The Israeli delegation was unsparing in its criticism of the Russians and in its insistence that the United States put more pressure on Moscow to cut off the supply route to Iran. The Clinton Administration, according to the Israelis, persisted in viewing Russia's ties to Iran as a mere byproduct of corruption, greed, and lack of state control in a collapsing economy; the Israelis argued instead that the nuclear sales were part of a larger Russian strategy to begin regaining superpower status and to enlist Iran's assistance in dealing with the export of Islamic fundamentalism. "From the start, the Israelis took the view that Russia must want Iran to have a long-range-missile capabiety," a former State Department official told me. "Otherwise, why not stop it?" He went on to say, however, that "over time the IsraeEs began to see just how screwed up the Russians' controls were." Nonetheless, "the Israelis were almost shrill. The implication was'You Americans have other fish to fry with the Russians, and are not giving enough attention to our security requirements."' Throughout its second term, the Clinton Administration continued to emphasize publicly the threat posed by Saddam Hussei@s regime in Iraq-an emphasis that tended to take the pressure off Iran. "It was always a question of priority," a former Pentagon official recalled. "NATO expansion was a more important issue, and there was Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya." In Leon FuertEs White House office, meanwhile, there were some small successes in the struggle to contain Russian greed and prevent Iran from getting the atomic bomb. With help from the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, U.S. officials isolated a group of private companies in Germany, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic that were willing to sell nuclear technology to questionable customers, and persuaded them to discontinue their Iranian contacts. Other potential trading partners were discouraged from doing business with Iran through diplomatic initiatives, economic sanctions or aid, and political armtwisting. Putin responded to American pressure and changed the leadership of the still troubled Minatom. But by the end of the decade the average pay for skilled scientists in Minatom had diminished to subsistence levels-hardly a deterrent to the sale of fissile material that could end up on the international black market.
George W Bush's election, last year, led to a suspension of the meetings regarding Iran between the United States and Israeli officials. One former official explained that both sides had been reluctant to continue them. "When Bush took over, it dropped off the White House radar screen," the former official said. "And the Israelis really didn't push it with the new guys. Part of it may have been that the new guys needed time. And part of it may have been the intifada the renewed guerrilla war between Israel and the Palestinians. Another official said that the Israelis simply "pulled their punches" in the early days of the Bush Presidency. (As it happens, the Bush Administration's 2002 budget proposal called for dramatically reducing the outgoing Clinton Administration's allocation for programs aimed at safeguarding the Russian nuclear stockpile.) One factor was the Bush Administration's determination to persuade Putin to drop the 1972 anti-ballistic-missue treaty andjoin Washington in constructing a worldwide missile-defense system. Furthermore, a former Pentagon official noted, many in Russia believed that "Iran was going to get there anyway 'develop a bomb" with North Korean or Chinese help. Why, then, invest a huge effort when it would secure Russian interests to be friendly with Iran? lt wasn't clear that changing Russian behavior would change the Iranian program." In the past year, according to American officials, Israel assembled evidence showing that at least two Russian export companies have continued illicit shipments to Iran of highly specialized afuminum and steel products that are essential for the assembly and operation of centrifuges. Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, apparently decided on a two-pronged approach: the formal talks with Washington wotdd be renewed and re-energized, if possible, and Sharon himself would fly to Moscow and confront Putin with new evidence of Russian complicity. According to Israeli officials, Sharon met with Putin in early September, a few days before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and turned over explicit information on the private Russian sale of nuclear-related materials to Iran. Initially, the Russian government insisted that the materials were for ordinary industrial use, but it promised to investigate the matter. One Israeli official told me, "The Russians, after checking, got back to us and you' lsrael and the United States-"and said, 'This was stopped.'We knew it wasn't stopped, and that the materials reached Tehran. We also know that Putin was lied to." The Israelis remain hopefill about future relations Aith Putin, who has spoken warmly about the one mHEon Russian jews living in lsrael. An Israeli official told me, "Sharon, in his meetings with Putin, made it clear that this the Iranian bomb 'was an ex istential issue for Israel. Putin understands it, but he doesn't think the Iranians are up to it." Meanwhile, he added, hundreds of Iranians are continuing to get advanced training in missile and nuclear-production technology at Russian institutions. The Israelis returned to Washington in October with a delegation that included Dan Meridor, Minister Without PortfoEo, along with Gideon Frank and Major General Dayan. Their contact was no longer Fuerth but John Bolton, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. The Israelis found Washington preoccupied with Iraq, with the coming war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and with its newfound allies in the war agmnst terrorism. Nearly a dozen Iranian diplomats were assassinated in Mazar-e-Sharif by the Taliban in 1998, two years after they seized power there, and Iran was eager to protect its political interests - and its borders. Pakistan, widely believed to have provided Iran with essential data on bomb design, was suddenly America's most important ally in South Asia, and the best rewarded financially. And Putin joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair in providing repeated public endorsements of the Administration's tactics and repeated pubhc praise for President Bush. One former U.S. intelligence official said that the Israelis had come to Washington to renew their warnings about the Iranian bomb, in part, because they "think it's the only way they're going to get anybody's attention in the Bush Administration." The Administration's intelligence relationship with Iran was reminiscent, he added, of America's decision to side with Iraq dun'ng the IranIraq war. "We gave the Iraqis intelligence support, and look at the monster we created there. Today, we're being led down the same path in Iran." Even Israel's most skeptical critics in the American intelligence community and there are many-now acknowledge that there is a serious problem.
In formal evaluations, the American intelligence community Ests Iran as posing a more immediate nuclearproEferation threat than Iraq. "Everyone knows that Iran is the next one to proliferate-to possess a nuclear weapon," an American nuclear-intelligence analyst told me. "Iran has been the No. 1 concern about who's next for the last couple of years at the highest level of the government." He pointed out that, after the Gulf War, the much criticized United Nations inspection program had "shut down Iraq's nuclear program to a large extent." The Iraqis he went on, "have the knowledge-they could very quickly get back up to speed, but the international commuru'ty isn't letting them do that. They're not as far along as Iran." Iran's drive for the bomb, he said, "is not going to be resolved by export controls and diplomacy." The Bush Administration continues to concentrate on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "It's more important to deal with Iraq than with Iran, because there's nothing going on in Iraq that's going to get better," a senior Administration strategist told me. "In Iran, the people are openly defying the government. There's some hope that Iran will get better. But there's nothing in Iraq that gives you any hope, because Saddam ndes so ruthlessly What will we do if he provides anthrax to four guys in Al Qaeda?" He said, "If Iraq is out of the picture, we will concentrate on Iran in an entirely different way." Iran's help in the war in Afghanistan, and many of its internal developmentgfrom growing discontent with religious strictures to the increasing participation of women in political life-we encouraging to U.S. officials. But, one American official told me, it is also understood in Washington that Iran will continue to pursue the bomb, and that Russia win continue to help. "Even if Thomas Jefferson became President, Iran is going to go nuclear," he said. Some Israeli officials privately acknowledge that the extent of the Bush Administration's resolve in derailing the Iranian effort to build a bomb will be tied to the progress and outcome of the war on terrorism. "It's going to depend on how much success you have with Osama bin Laden," one Israeli official said. "If the terror continues, there is no alternative for the U.S. but to go to Iran for help." An American four-star general depicted the issue of priorities in more graphic terms. "We'll tell the Pakistanis and the Russians to back off their help for Iran's bomb," he said, "but that's Chapter 2, after we put our boy 'bin Laden ' in a body bag."
KING'S RANSOM How vulnerable are the Saudi royals?
BY SEYMOUR M. HERSH New Yorker Oct 22 2001
Since 1994 or earlier, the National Security Agency has been collecting electronic intercepts of conversations between members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, which is headed by King Fahd. The intercepts depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country's religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channelling hundreds of midions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it. The intercepts have demonstrated to analysts that by 1996 Saudi money was supporting Osarna bin Laden's Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and Central Asia, and throughout the Persian Gulf region. "Ninety-six is the key year," one American intelligence official told me. "Bin Laden hooked up to all the bad guy's and the Grand Alhance and had a capability for conducting large-scale operations." The Saudi regime, he said, had gone to the darkside." In interviews last week current and former intelligence and military officials portrayed the growing instability of the Saudi regime-and the vulnerability of its oil reserves to terrorist attack-as the most immediate threat to American economic and political interests in the Middle East. The officials also said that the Bush Administration, like the Clinton Administration, is refusing to confront this reality, even in the aftermath of the September llth terrorist attacks. The Saudis and the Americans arranged a meeting between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and King Fahd during a visit by Rumsfeld to Saudi Arabia shordy before the beginning of the air war in Afghanistan, and pictures of the meeting were transmitted around the world. The United States, however, has known that King Fahd has been incapacitated since suffering a severe stroke, in late 1995. A Saudi adviser told meJast week that the King, with round-the-clock medical treatment, is able to sit in a chair and open his eyes, but is usually unable to recognize even his oldest friends. Fahd is being kept on the throne, the N.S.A. intercepts indicate, because of a bitter family power struggle. Fahd's nominal successor is Crown Prince Abdullah, he king's half brother, who is to some extent the de-facto ruler he and Prince Sultan, the defense minister, were the people Rumsfeld really came to see. But there is infighting about money: Abdullah has been urging his fellowprinces to address the problem of corruption in the kingdom-unsuccessfiiuy, according to the intercepts. "The only reason Fahd's being kept alive is so Abdullah can't become king," a former White House adviser told me. The American intelligence officials have been particularly angered by the refusal of the Saudis to help the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. run "traces" that is, name checks and other background information-on the nineteen men, more than half of them believed to be from Saudi Arabia, who took part in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "They knew that once we started asking for a few traces the list would grow," one former official said. 'It's better to shut it down right away." He pointed out that thousands of disaffected Saudis have joined fundamentalist groups throughout the Middle East. Other officials said that there is a growing worry inside the EB.I. and the C.I.A. that the actual identities of many of those involved in the attacks may not be known definitively for months, if ever. Last week, a senior intelligence official confirmed the lack of Saudi cooperation and told me, angrily, that the Saudis "have only one constantand it's keeping themselves in power."
The N.S.A. intercepts reveal the hypocrisy of many in the Saudi
royal family, and why the family has become increasingly estranged
from the vast majority of its subjects. Over the years, unnerved
by the grovang strength of the fiindamentalist movement, it has
failed to deal with the underlying issues of severe unemployment
and inadequate education, in a country in which half the population
is under the age of eighteen. Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation
of Islam, known as Wahhabism, and its use of mutawwa'in-religious
poece-to enforce prayer, is @ed only by the Taliban's. And yet
for years the Saudi princesthere are thousands of them-have kept
tabloid newspapers filled with accounts of their drinking binges
and partying with prostitutes, while taking billions of dollars
from the state budget. The N.S.A. intercepts are more specific.
In one call, Prince Nayef, who has served for more than two decades
as interior minister, urges a subordinate to withhold from the
police evidence of the hiring of prostitutes, presumably by members
of the royal family. According to the summary, Nayef said that
he didn't want the "Client list" released under any
circumstances. The intercepts produced a stream of sometimes humdrum
but often riveting intelligence from the telephone cans of several
senior members of the royal family, including Abdullah; Nayef;
Sidtan, whose son Prince Bandar has been the Saudi ambassador
to the United States since 1983; and Prince Salman, the governor
of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital. There was constant telephoning
about King Fahd's health after his stroke, and scrambling to take
advantage of the situation. On january 8, 1997, Prince Sultan
told Bandar about a ffight that he and Salman had shared with
the King. Sidtan complained that the King "barely spoke to
anyone," according to the summary of the intercept, because
he was "too medicated." The King, Sultan added, was
"a prisoner on the plane." Sultan's comments became
much more significant a few days later, when the N.S.A. intercepted
a conversation in which Sultan told Bandar that the King had agreed
to a complicated exchange of fighter aircraft with the United
States that would bring five F-16s into the Royal Saudi Air Force.
Fahd was evidently incapable of making such an agreement, or of
preventing anyone from dropping his name in a money-making deal.
In the intercepts, princes talk openly about bilking the state,
and even argue about what is an acceptable percentage to take.
Other calls indicate that Prince Bandar, while serving as ambassador,
was involved in arms deals in London, Yemen, and the Soviet Union
that generated millions of dollars in "commissions."
In a PBS "Frontline" interview broadcast on October
9th, Bandar, asked about the reports of corrupfion in the royal
family, was almost upbeat in his response. The family had spent
nearly four hundred billion dollars to develop Saudi Arabia, he
said. "If you tell me that building this whole country ...
we misused or got corrupted with fifty billion, I'll tell 'You.
. . So what? We did not invent you, es. corruption, nor did those
dissidents, who are so genius, discover it." The intercepts
make clear, however, that Crown Prince Abdullah was insistent
on stemming the corrupfion. In November of 1996, for example,
he complained about the billons of dollars that were being chverted
by royal family members from a huge state-financed project to
renovate the mosque in Mecca. He urged the princes to get their
off-budget expenses under control; such expenses are known as
the hiding place for payoff money. (Despite its oil revenues,
Saudi Arabia has been running a budget deficit for more than a
decade, and now has a large national debt.) A few months later,
according to the intercepts, Abduflah blocked a series of real-estate
deals by one of the princes, enraging members of the royal family.
Abdullah further alarmed the princes by issuing a decree declaring
that his sons would not be permitted to go into partnerships with
foreign companies working in the kingdom. Abdullah is viewed by
Sultan and other opponents as a leader who could jeopardize the
kingdom's most special foreign relationship someone who is willing
to penalize the United States, and its oil and gas companies,
because of Washington's support for Israel. In an intercept dated
Jidy 13, 1997, Prince
Sultan called Bandar in Washington, and informed him that he had told AbduUah "not to be so confrontational with the United States."
The Fahd regime was a major financial backer of the Reagan Administration's anti-Commurn'st campaign in Latin America and of its successful proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Oil money bought the Saudis enormous political access and leverage m Washington. Working through Prince Bandar, they have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to charities and educational programs here. American construction and od companies do billons of dollars'worth of business every year with Saudi Arabia, which is the world's largest od producer. At the end of last year, Haniburton, the Texas-based oil-supply business formerly headed by Vice-President Dick Cheney, was operating a number of subsidiaries in Saudi Arabia.
In the Clinton era, the White House did business as usual with
the Saudis, u 'ng them to buy American goods, rgl like Boeing
aircraft. The kingdom was seen as an American advocate among the
oil-producing nations of the Middle East. The C.I.A. was discouraged
from conducting any risky intelligence operations inside the country
and, according to one former official, did little recruiting among
the Saudi population, which limited the United States government's
knowledge of the growth of the opposition to the royal family.
In 1994, Mohammed al-Khilewi, the first secretary at the Saudi
Mission to the United Nations, defected and sought political asylum
in the United States. He brought with him, according to his New
York lawyer, Michael J. Wildes, some fourteen thousand internal
government documents depicting the Saudi royal family's corruption,
human-rights abuses, and financial support for terrorists. He
claimed to have evidence that the Saudis had given financial and
technical support to Hamas, the extremist Islamic group whose
target is Israel. There was a meeting at the lawyer's office with
two F.B.I. agents and an Assistant United States Attorney. "We
gave them a sampling of the documents and put them on the table,"
Wildes told me last week. "But the agents refiised to accept
them." He and his client heard nothing further from federal
authorities. Al-Khilewi, who was granted asylum, is now living
under cover. The Saudis were also shielded from Washington's foreign-policy
bureaucracy. A government expert on Saudi affairs told me that
Prince Bandar dealt exclusively with the men at the top, and never
met with desk officers and the like. "Only a tiny handful
of people inside the government are familiar with U.S.Saudi relations,"
he explained. "And that is purposeful." In the aftermath
of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the royal
family has repeatedly insisted that Saudi Arabia has made no contributions
to radical Islamic groups. When the Saudis were confronted by
press reports that some of the substantial funds that the monarchy
routinely gives to Islamic charities may actually have gone to
Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks, they denied any knowledge
of such transfers. The intercepts, however, have led many in the
intelligence community to conclude otherwise. The Bush Administration
has chosen not to confront the Saudi leadership over its financial
support of terror organizations and its refusal to help in the
investigation. "As far as the Saudi Arabians go, they've
been nothing but cooperative," President Bush said at a news
conference on September 24th. The following day, the Saudis agreed
to formally cut off diplomatic relations with the Taliban leadership
in Afghanistan. Eight days later, at a news conference in Saudi
Arabia with Prince Sultan, the defense minister, Donald Rumsfeld
was asked if he had given the Saudis a list of the September Ilth
terrorist suspects for processing by their intelligence agencies.
Rumsfeld, who is admired by many in the press for his bluntness,
answered evasively: "I am, as I said, not involved with the
Federal Bureau of Investigation that is conducting the investigation....
I have every reason to believe that that relationship between
our two countries is as close, that any information I am sure
has been made available to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
The Saudis gave Rumsfeld something in return-permission for U.S.
forces to use a command-and-control center, built before the Gulf
War, in the pending air w
ar against the Taliban. Over the past few years, the Saudis have also allowed the United States to use forward bases on Saudi soil ' for special operations, as long as there was no public mention of the arrangements.
The intelligence-community members I spoke with praised the
Air Force and the Navy for their performance in Afghanistan last
week, which did much to boost morale in the military and among
the American citizenry, they were crestfallen about an incident
that occurred on the first night of the war an incident that was
emblematic, they believe, of the constraints placed by the government
on the military's ability tOo wage war during the last decade.
That night, an unmanned Predator reconnaissance aircraft, under
the control of the C.I.A., was surveilling the roads leading out
of Kabul. The Predator, which costs forty mileon dollars and cruises
at speeds as slow as eighty miles an hour, is equ' pped with imaging
radar and an array of infrared and television cameras that are
capable of beaming high-resolution images to ground stations around
the world. The plane was equipped with two powerful Hellfire missiles,
designed as antitank weapons. The Predator identified a group
of cars and trucks fleeing the capital as a convoy carrying Mullah
Omar, the TaEban leader. Under a previously worked-out agreement,
one knowledgeable official said, the C.I.A. did not have the authority
to "push the button." Nor did the nearby command-and-control
suite of the Fifth Fleet, in Bahrain, where many of the war plans
had been drawn up. Rather, the decision had to be made by the
officers on duty at the headquarters of the United States Central
Command, or CENTCOM, at MacDin Air Force Base, in Florida. The
Predator tracked the convoy to a building where Omar, accompanied
by a hundred or so guards and soldiers, took cover. The precise
sequence of events could not be fully learned, but inteuigence
officials told me that there was an immediate request for a fiffl-scale
assault by fighter bombers. At that point, however, word came
from General Tommy R. Franks, the CENTcom commander, saying, as
the officials put it, "My JAG"Judge Advocate General,
a legal officer-'does@t hke this, so we're not going to fire."
Instead, the Predator was authorized to fire a missile in front
of the buildin@'bounce it off the front door," one officer
said, "and see who comes out, and take a picture." CENTCOM
suggested that the Predator then continue to follow Omar. The
Henfire, however, cowd not target the area in front of the buildingin
military parlance, it coidd not "get a signature" on
the dirt there-and it was then agreed that the missue wotdd attack
a group of cars parked in front, presumably those which had carried
Omar and his retinue. The missile was fired, and it "obliterated
the cars," an official said. "But no one came out."
It was learned later from an operative on the ground that Omar
and his guards had indeed been in the convoy and had assumed at
the time that the firing came from rocket-propeUed grenades launched
by nearby troops from the Northern Alliance. A group of soldiers
left the building and looked for the enemy. They found nothing,
and Omar and lis convoy departed. A short time later, the building
was targeted and destroyed by F-18s. Mullah Omar survived. Days
afterward, top Administration officials were still seething about
the in cident. "If it was a fuckup, I could live with it,"
one senior official said. "But it's not a fiickup-it's an
outrage.This is@t like you're six years old and your mother calls
you to come in for lunch and you say,'Time out.'If anyone thinks
other wise, go look at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon."
A senior military offi cer viewed the failure to strike immedi
ately as a symptom of "a ciatural issue" 44 a slow degradation
of the system due to political correctness: 'We want you to kill
the guy, but not the guy next to him.' No collateral damage."
Others saw the cultural problem as one of bureaucratic, rather
than poetical, correctness. Either way, the failure to attack
has left De fense Secretary Rumsfeld"kicking a lot of glass
and breaking doors," the officer said. "But in the end
I do@t know if it'll mean any changes." A Pentagon planner
also noted that some of the camps the b
ombers were hitting were empty. In fact, he added, it became evident even before the bombing that troops of the Northem Alliance had moved into many of the unused Taliban camps.'ne Affiance soldiers came up with a novel way of alerting Amen'can planners to their new location, the officer said: "They walked around holding up white sheets so when the satellites came by they're saying,'Hey, we're the good guys. ' "
The American military response has triggered alarm in the international
oil community and among intelligence officials who have been briefed
on a still secret C.I.A. study, put together in the mid-eighties,
of the vulnerability of the Saudi fields to terrorist attack The
report was "so sensitive," a former C.I.A. officer told
me, "that it was put on typed paper," and not into the
agency'S computer system, meaning that distribution was Emited
to a select few. According to someone who saw the report, it concluded
that vath only a small amount of explosives terrorists could take
the oil fields off line for two years. The concerns, both in America
and in Saudi Arabia, about the security of the fields have become
more urgent than ever since September llth. A former high-level
intelligence official depicted the Saudi rulers as nervously "sitting
on a keg of dynamite" that is, the oil reserves. "They're
petrified that somebody's going to light the fiise." "The
United States is hostage to the stability of the Saudi system,"
a prominent Middle Eastern oil man, who did not wish to be cited
by name, told me in a recent interview. "It's time to start
facing the truth. The war was declared by bin Laden, but there
are thousands of bin Ladens. They are setting the gamethe agenda.
It's a new form of war. This fabulous military machine you have
is completely useless." The od man, who has worked closely
N6th the Saudi leadership for three decades, added, "People
like me have been deceiving you. We talk about how you do@t understand
Islam, but it's a vanilla analysis. We try to please you, but
we've been aggrieved for years." The Saudi regime "Win
explode in time," he said. "It has been playing a delicate
game." As for the terrorists responsible for the September
11 th attacks, he said, "Now they decide the timing. If they
do a simdar operation in Saudi Arabia, the pn'ce of oa win go
up to one hundred dollars a barrel"-more than four times
what it is today. In the nineteen-eighties, in an effort to relieve
political pressure ' on the regime, the Saudi leadership relinquished
some of its authority to the mutawwa'in and permitted them to
have a greater role in day-to-day fife. One U.S. government Saudi
expert complained last week that religious leaders had been allowed
to take control of the press and the educafional system. "Today,
two-thirds of the Saudi Ph.D.s are in Islamic studies," a
former Presidential aide told me. There was little attempt over
the years by American diplomats or the White House to moderate
the increasingly harsh rhetoric about the U.S. "The United
States was caught up in private agreements"-with the Saudi
princes-"while this shit was spe@ng in the Saudi press,"
the former aide said. "That was a huge mistake." A senior
American diplomat who served manyyears in Saudi Arabia recalled
his foreboding upon attending a training exercise at the kingdom's
most prestigious military academy, in Riyadh: "It was hot,
and I watched the cadets doing drills. The officers were lounging
inside a suradiV'-a large pavilion-"with cold drinks, ca]Eng
out orders on loudspeakers. I thought to myself, How many of these
young men would follow and die for these officers?"The diplomat
said he came away from his most recent tour in Saudi Arabia convinced
that "it would@t take too much for a group of twenty or thirty
fundamentalist enlisted men to take. How would the Kingdom deal
with the shock of something ruthless, small, highly motivated,
and of great velocity?" There is little that the United States
can do now, the diplomat said. "The Saudis have been indiaged
for so many decades.They are so spoiled. They've always had it
their way. There's hardly anything we could say that would impede
the 'majestic instancy' of their progress. We're their janissaries."
He was referring to the captives who became elite troops of the
Ottoman Empire. "The policy
dilemma is this," a senior general told me. "How do we help the Saudis make a transition without throwing them over the side?" Referring to young fundamentalists who have been demonstrating in the Saudi streets, he said, "The kids are bigger than the Daddy."