By Dr. Theodore Karasik
16 June 2015
Shockingly, on the eve of Ramadan, the United Nations and United States are effectively saying they accept Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In recent months, I have noticed what I would describe as a whitewashing of al-Qaeda and ISIS with a mixture of appeasement and containment because these terrorists are beyond immediate suppression. Both groups are excelling in their strategic and tactical goals.
The U.N. special representative to Libya, Bernardino Leon, is hoping for quick success in his peace efforts that accept al-Qaeda sympathizers and ignore ISIS in that country. His shuttle diplomacy, and up to four drafts of a Libyan settlement, are going down to the last second before Ramadan. The plan calls for a one-year unity government, and is subject to consensus from all rival groups. Most observers say the proposal is ridiculous.
One interpretation is that this may be the first time that a Hitler / Neville Chamberlain solution is applied in an Arab state within an Islamic context. We all know how temporary that state of relations between Nazi Germany and Britain turned out to be.
A second interpretation is that the United Nations may administer the next chapter of the Libyan state. According to observers in Berlin who spoke to me, Leon seems to be making himself a part of the Libyan legislative process. This terrifying thought conjures up the specter of a Paul Bremmer-styled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, which is enough to send North Africa in to geopolitical cardiac arrest.
Allies of the internationally-recognized government in Tobruk, particularly Egypt, are unhappy to say the least. Cairo summoned the U.S. ambassador to show displeasure at Libyan Muslim Brotherhood figures going to Washington during Leon’s last-ditch efforts.
These Tripoli-based politicians are the same folks mourning the deaths of al-Qaeda fighters from Derna’s Abu Salim Brigade. This bodes ill for Libya’s future if Washington is indirectly dealing with these types of people. That is called appeasement. Consequently, there is still talk of Egyptian-led military action in Libya.
Most egregious is that Leon’s draft does not mention ISIS, which is spreading like a cancer. With the kidnapping of more than 80 Ethiopian Christians last week, and ISIS advances in Libya from the coastline to its southern border, the group is promising a bloody Ramadan by splitting the country right down the middle.
We should not be surprised. The United States is supporting Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, via its contacts with Qatar and Turkey. The recent appearance of Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani signaled a rebranding of the terrorist leader and movement. Major U.S. media outlets are promoting the mantra that Nusra is better than ISIS. This empowers both groups.
One American policy wonk says the United States should “live with” ISIS. His argument is that like the emergence of communist states such as the Soviet Union and China, Washington must push containment policies no matter the length of time required.
This new approach is dead wrong, and is seen as appeasement by Arab officials. Such a policy sentences to death untold numbers of innocents, and its proponents are signalling the absolute retreat of the Obama administration. To boot, sending an additional 450 Americans to organize, train and equip Sunni tribes in Iraq is a losing proposition.
To be fair, the Obama administration is asking Arab states to take care of their own regional problems. Saudi Arabia and their allies are doing just that via airstrikes, special operations and information warfare. However, in my opinion, for Washington to cuddle up to Al-Qaeda types is beyond comprehension after all the American lives lost in fighting such evil.
The United Nations and United States are adding fuel to the fire that drives today’s chaos in the Middle East. There is no hiding from the ramifications that will echo throughout the region for years to come. Meanwhile, Arab states will continue to march forward to end violent extremism through various means. For some, the U.N. and American betrayal has been consummated.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans.