By Jamal Khashoggi
12 May 2015
The impertinence of Iran and its militias has gone as far as opening public recruitment offices in Baghdad. Perhaps they have gone this far due to concerns over Operation Decisive Storm, which was launched in Yemen and which the Iranians view as a threat to their sectarian project. Perhaps this is pushing them to drag more Iraqi youths into the inter-Muslim struggle of the century. There must be similar offices in Afghanistan and Iran itself.
It is not right to view these youths as mercenaries. They are young dogmatic men who believe in a cause and a project, and who have undergone military and faith training. It does not matter that we view their cause and project as a bunch of metaphysical myths, because to them these are facts that are enough to kill us.
It is an ambitious project that has been moving Iran and its affiliated fanatics for 30 years. It has made them tolerate international sanctions, form secret cells worldwide, provide educational scholarships to youths from across the Muslim world, smuggle weapons and distribute funds. Their state, intelligence, army and economy are all put at the service of their project.
Does it make sense to give up all these years of effort and patience just because Saudi Arabia suddenly shifted from a policy of patience to that of decisiveness and confrontation? Of course not. They will fiercely resist. Saudi Arabia must formulate a comprehensive strategic project. Iran claims that it is engaged in a “jihad” for the sake of “a fair Islamic state that supports the vulnerable,” but we have neither seen real jihad nor an Islamic state.
Jihad is Operation Decisive Storm, whose goal is a fair Islamic state representing everyone in Yemen, Syria, and whatever is left of Iraq. A fair Islamic state is one that replaces perishable dictatorships that have failed in these three countries. It is a state that acts as a catalyst to a movement that not only expels sectarian Iran from our world, but also expels the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as tyranny, poverty, ignorance and disease.
The concept of jihad has been distorted, but now that we are on the cusp of a fateful confrontation, it is time that we restore its reputation via a moderate implementation of it, and by achieving its higher objectives of supporting the vulnerable and oppressed.
In the 1980s in Afghanistan, we witnessed one of the best jihad manifestations, as it was against a clear Soviet invasion. Back then, there were “mujahideen” and “jihadists.” Youths there did not need a wise man to explain the difference to them.
A “mujahid” is immediately known for his commitment to the conditions and jurisprudence of jihad, but “jihadists” are those who adopt heresy, turning jihad into a duty that stands alone without any disciplining conditions, and who consider it a major tool for change and thus end up as extremist takfiris.
Just as much as “mujahideen” are capable of confronting a tyrannical enemy such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, or the Houthis and deposed Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, they are also the most capable of confronting “takfiri jihadists.”
The “mujahid” is one who supports the oppressed. The pilot of a jet that shells Houthi posts in Yemen is a “mujahid” who acts on the intent of jihad every time he takes off. The same applies to special forces in Aden, and revolutionaries in Syria and Yemen.
Our jihad is not like that of ISIS or Iran, and our state is not like theirs. The pluralistic, democratic state that the Syrian and Yemeni peoples seek is at its core a parliamentarian, constitutional Islamic state based on justice, and which protects the rights of minorities. It is a state where freedom reigns, a model that destroys this distorted image that ISIS claims is the Islamic state.
In my article “Changing the face of jihad in Syria,” which I wrote in Nov. 2013, I said: “It is true that jihad and the victory of the Syrian people are not a bad idea to aim toward. However, the presence of Al-Qaeda in Syria made governments sympathizing [with the Syrian people] reject it.
“The experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s was a success, despite all the criticism of it now. I am confident about what I am writing based on my own experience and knowledge. The course of jihad deviated there only when takfiri currents emerged. Those who participated in jihad in that case returned to their homeland safe and moderate, and enjoyed a good reputation.
“These are true jihadists, without abuse or extremism, respecting their governments and public order. They have become respectful elders, and they might have a role in such a project because they can contain young people and protect them from wrongdoing and falling into Al-Qaeda’s traps.
“Perhaps with the help of scholars, they will be able to open dialogue with moderate forces in Al-Qaeda such as Al-Nusra Front. This way, they can bring them back to a moderate position that can contain us all.” I concluded the article by saying: “This is a crazy idea indeed, but isn’t everything that is happening in Syria crazy?”
Iranian madness and insolence have increased not just in Syria, but also in our Yemen.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.