President Obama has, at last, taken a strong stand against radical Islam, and, as far as it goes, he has done so impressively. Unfortunately, his otherwise strong and unambiguous address to the United Nations following dramatic strikes against IS, al-Nusra and the newest al-Qaeda offshoot, Khorasan, was disappointing (and perhaps telling) in the short shrift it gave to the recent war in Gaza and his failure to condemn Hamas for initiating a war that entirely was directed at Israeli civilians. He lamented that rockets were being fired at Israeli civilians and that children were among the casualties caused by return fire in Gaza — strong condemnation of radical Islamists elsewhere, but an almost moral equivalence with respect to the fight between Israelis and the Hamas terrorists. Specifically, President Obama told the delegates…
“and the violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace. But let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort – not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza. So long as I am President, we will stand up for the principle that Israelis, Palestinians, the region, and the world will be more just with two states living side by side, in peace and security.”
Not a word about Hamas, its culture of death, its senseless murder of the three Israeli teenagers, its foiled attempt to kidnap and kill other Israeli civilians, nor its admonition for Muslims to kill Jews wherever they find them.
President Obama chose to separate Hamas from the rest of radical Islam when he said, “No God condones this terror.” Apparently, he has not read the Hamas charter, which condones and, in fact, demands in the name of Allah exactly this type of terror. “No grievance justifies these actions, “he said,” There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. But not apparently, when this brand of evil is practiced by Hamas. “So,” the President continued, “the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.” But, apparently, not the Hamas network of death – the network that brags that it loves death more than its enemy’s love life.
Now, we understand that identifying any Palestinian terror group, such as Hamas, with the “the brand of evil” the President finds beyond the pale might have compromised our objective of getting several Arab nations into the impressive coalition the President has successfully organized. The reality is, however, that the Arab nations that have joined with us have absolutely no love for Hamas, and were quite happy to see the group severely diminished in the recent Gaza war.
The President’s disappointing pass to Hamas aside, his action against IS, al-Nusra , the Khorasan Group in Syria and Iraq and al-Shabaab in Somalia has shown an impressive display of resolve, grit and global leadership. The debate over whether the President was being indecisive or deliberative since the Islamic State (ISIS) emerged with such fury this summer has, in our mind, been largely resolved.
Just today Turkey has moved to join Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain in the American organized and led coalition that also includes Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Albania, Croatia, New Zealand, Romania, South Korea and Iraqi Kurdistan with a number of other countries lining up to join the American led campaign against these new Islamic barbarians.
The current campaign in Syria and Iraq represents, by far, the most muscular response President Obama has demonstrated against radical Islam. Particularly impressive was the President’s decision to go after the leadership of the al-Qaeda affiliate, Khorasan, about which we apparently had very credible evidence of advanced plans to unleash 9/11 type mayhem on American soil. From early reports, it appears we decimated their leadership during the very first wave of attacks.
None other than Ayman al-Zawahiri, who assumed the leadership of al-Qaeda following Ben Laden’s death, apparently organized the Khorasan group. Zawahiri is reported to have dispatched an estimated 50 or more battle-hardened fighters to Syria to recruit from among the passport-holding foreign fighters, a cadre of killers to return home to execute major terrorist attacks against America and Great Britain. Apparently, the group has been concentrating on the development of difficult-to-detect and highly explosive materials that can be loaded into common toiletries to be used to bring down western airliners. American or other western intelligence agencies apparently learned where these terrorists were concentrated and successfully targeted them during the first wave of attacks in Syria.
We now know that the leader of Khorasan is (or was) a Kuwaiti named Muhsin al-Fadhli who is (was) considered an expert in launching attacks against mass transportation such as trains and airplanes. He very well may have been killed in the American-led attacks. Al-Fadhli has been of particular concern to American intelligence operatives because of his association with a heralded Yemini bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri who, in 2009 outfitted Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the ill-fated underwear bomber.
James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence has elevated his assessment of Khorasan as now being a real threat to people and facilities in the United States, and it may very well be this latest development that moved President Obama to, at last, be all in regarding the need to confront these groups. Khorasan’s successful recruiting of restive Muslims in the U.S. and Europe is cause for alarm and may be what has brought President Obama to a better understanding of the threat we face. Our guess is that the President is not apt to talk about the threat of war receding or greater tranquility taking hold in the world anytime soon. Sadly, such rhetoric simply bears no relationship to present day reality.
Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore says “Syria is a very rich recruiting ground for the Khorasan Group,” which targets primarily first-and second-generation European immigrants because “it’s much easier to train them, motivate them, give them a network and send them back to the west.” The problem, Gunaratna says, is that it will be difficult for Western governments to know who they are. That reality has apparently been a strong wake-up call for US intelligence personnel and the White House.
We, as a nation and President Obama as our President, will have to come to grips with the reality that this struggle is not about this or that terrorist group. It is about radical Islam and the absolute incompatibility of radical Islam and the modern nation state. It is, in our judgment, extremely important that America grasps the implications of this threat to world order. Vicious and bloody religious war reigned throughout much of history until the emergence, in 1648, of the nation state as the paradigm for world order. Radical Islam, at its heart, seeks to eliminate that world order, replacing it with a universal caliphate. While it is unthinkable that such a day could come to pass, it is, nonetheless, what radical Islam is all about, and its adherents will pursue that end to the detriment of western culture.
When al-Qaeda and Islamic State and Khorasan and Boko Haram and al-Shabaab have all been vanquished, the struggle is apt to continue as new organizations with equally strange names pick up the banner of conquest in the name of Islam.
As we have written in prior essays, only westward leaning forces within Islam can, ultimately, end this new incarnation of religious war. Until then, we must resolve to confront these retrograde forces that threaten us or any of our democratic allies. President Obama has, at last, responded forcefully and skillfully to radical Islam in Iraq and Syria. Hopefully, he will continue to confront those who are sworn enemies of western culture wherever and whenever they attack American interests or those of our allies.
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