Pakistan has been caught red-handed. Pakistani denials notwithstanding, it is inconceivable that bin Laden could have resided in Abbottabad without official knowledge and contrivance. Rumors have circulated consistently since 9/11 that Pakistani authorities, in particular the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, tipped off bin Laden when US forces were getting close and ultimately gave him shelter. Bin Laden was the biggest al-Qaeda figure located inside Pakistan but hardly the only one. The WikiLeaks documents also make it clear that American officials have not fully trusted Pakistan for years.
Pakistan’s double game is now beyond question; taking billions in American military and economic aid, aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, making desultory efforts against lower and middle level terror figures, but not challenging the hold of Islamists in the tribal territories or the vast urban slums. But will another American president and Congress succumb to continuing open blackmail, continue aid to Pakistan or have its allegiances – and nuclear arsenal - switch sides to the Taliban and global jihad?
Saudi Arabia’s role as the largest funder of al-Qaeda has been known since before 9/11. It has also exported its intolerant and violent form of Islam, Wahhabism, spending billions to establish mosques and other institutions like the Organization of the Islamic Conferences that have crowded out and transformed the practice of Islam around the world. Internally, Saudi Arabia is also horrifically repressive of women, Shi’ites, and other minorities.
But the world’s most important oil producing state has consistently purchased lavish quantities of American weaponry, and is on the frontline against Iranian expansionism in the Gulf and the Middle East. Like Pakistan, it has played a double game that is well-understood, supporting only those US and Western efforts, such as the war in Iraq, that are in its immediate interest, and opposing the rest. Now that Saudi Arabia’s prodigal son, Osama bin Laden, is dead and with even more documentation of that country’s support for al-Qaeda, will Saudi energy production and arms purchases continue to blackmail US policymakers?
Few countries share a closer heritage and set of values than the US and the UK, and closer security cooperation. But a recent report showed that many jihadists imprisoned at the Guantanamo facility were radicalized in the United Kingdom. Countless Islamist groups have operated freely in that country for years, part of a strategy to maintain British relations with countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and to deflect radical Islam away from Britain.
The 7/7 terror attacks showed that the latter strategy was a dramatic failure, and more broadly, closer relations with Pakistan in particular have helped radicalize British Muslims. British officials are confronted with a huge cultural groundswell of angry, unassimilated and increasingly violent Muslims, indigenous and immigrant, as well as with hundreds if not thousands of active terror threats.
Britain has been on the frontline with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its Special Forces and secret services have been active around the world against global jihad threats. However, British policy has produced security threats to the West, largely through indulgence of Islamic radicalism in the name of official multiculturalism. Although that policy is gone, the reality it produced, a polyglot Britain filled with angry Muslims, cannot be undone. In part thanks to American pressure, these problems are now fully out in the open.
Israel is frequently alleged to be the root cause of Muslim anger and global jihad. Westerners frequently point to specific Israeli actions and policies, not least of all the “occupation” of the West Bank, as irritants, which, if removed, would alleviate global Muslim anger and terror. Many Israeli actions and policies are of questionable wisdom and utility, but as Hamas happily admits, the real problem is the existence of a Jewish sovereign state in the Middle East. In this it is echoed by its parent, the Muslim Brotherhood, by Hezbollah and its Iranian parent, and by countless individuals, from theologians to the man in the street.
Indeed, the creation and existence of Israel are regarded as literally unholy by a large majority of Muslims around the world.
Without committing national suicide, Israel will always be a global Islamic cause, until the unlikely day when Islam itself changes. As Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren recently pointed out, Israel’s alliance with the US is uniquely close and includes security, technological and political cooperation. The US has successfully persuaded as well as pressured Israel to halt military campaigns and launch negotiations with adversaries, sometimes against Israel’s immediate interests. Allies sometimes defer to one another in order to maintain alliances and create shared a strategic vision.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not allies of the US, but rather, business associates. These states are effectively run by and like violent organized crime syndicates and share only one value with the US and the West, self-preservation. Unfortunately, the US has often trapped itself into either supporting such putative allies or abandoning them in the name of “democratic revolution.”
The fate of Egypt is instructive. The brutal, if partially reliable, Mubarak, kept in power thanks to billions in US aid, was swiftly overthrown, abandoned by the US, and will soon be replaced by an Islamist or anti-American regime. The lesson is that allies cannot be bought or even rented, and that business relationships do not constitute an alliance.
Real allies can discuss, be negotiated with, and even coerced, because they share certain premises, not only about their own survival but about each others’, as well as about the world as a decent and humane place. In the wake of bin Laden’s death it is necessary to relearn that there are relatively few states in this category, like the United Kingdom and Israel, and that new ones are not made overnight.
Alex Joffe is a New York-based writer on international affairs. His website is alexanderjoffe.net
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