West-stirred up Muslims terrorise Mumbai – III
by K. Gajendra Singh on 17 Dec 2008 2 Comments

Hitler's and London's Grand Mufti

During the formative years of the Muslim Brotherhood, the British simultaneously promoted the career of another "Islamist" named Haji Amin al-Husseini. A notorious anti-Semite with little Islamic theological training, he was promoted by Sir Ronald Storrs, British Governor General, and in 1921 installed as president of the Supreme Muslim Council, a British-sponsored association of hand-picked Muslim religious leaders. With British rigging, Al-Husseini was 'elected ' next year the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

During the World War II, al-Husseini and al-Banna ended up in Berlin as propagandists for the Nazi assault against the Jews. But al-Husseini was back in the Holy Land, again on British intelligence payroll, now a firebrand anti-Communist propagandist for the Middle East Broadcasting Station. [The current Western proxy leaders in Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi and ex-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, have been unabashed operatives of CIA, MI6 and others; so the pattern continues]

Hassan al-Banna was assassinated in 1949 by Egyptian security, but by that time the Muslim Brotherhood had vastly expanded its ranks, and had spread to other parts of the Middle East where the British had a major postwar presence. The Muslim Brotherhood established branches in Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.

'British Brains and American Brawn to rule the world' - Churchill

After the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, Winston Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain" address came to define the Cold War, an Anglo-American partnership that Churchill once described: "With British brains and American brawn, we can rule the world."

During the 1950s, the United States sided with Great Britain against the legitimate, popular secularist governments of Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iran's Mohammed Mossadegh. In both instances, the Anglo-Americans used the Muslim Brotherhood as the battering ram to bring down the popular regimes. In the case of Egypt, President Dwight Eisenhower, in a decisive postwar break with London, neutralized the joint British-French-Israeli invasion of Suez in 1956, temporarily backing the Nasser regime. (For years after the Suez crisis, Eisenhower and the United States were admired in Egypt).

One of the architects of playing the Islamists against the nationalists /socialists /communists in the Middle East was Dr. Bernard Lewis, a wartime British intelligence Arab Bureau spy, who in his crucial 1953 essay "Communism and Islam," argued for a strategy of promoting right-wing Islamist movements and regimes as a weapon against Soviet-backed nationalist and socialist regimes in the region. Lewis' scheme was embraced by the Dulles brothers, Secretary of State John Foster and CIA Director Allen, despite reservations from President Eisenhower and some leading CIA Middle East specialists.

Despite Washington's ambivalence about Nasser, Britain's Prime Minister Anthony Eden had no doubt the Egyptian President was a menace to British interests and had to be eliminated. George Young, a top MI6 officer posted in Cairo, ordered by Eden to assassinate Nasser according to MI6 documents, turned to the Muslim Brotherhood for the job, leading to a full-scale war between the Brotherhood and Nasser. Thousands were killed, and eventually the Brotherhood was forced to flee, taking refuge in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other pro-US/UK Arab regimes. Saudi Arabia funded Egypt's Brothers against Nasser. Riyadh also funded the Brothers in Jordan, as King Hussein complained when I was posted at Amman (1989-92).

Operations in Iran: 'Made in England'

Contrary to popular assumptions, the Muslim Brotherhood was not exclusively a Sunni movement. In Iran, a Shia cleric, Ayatollah Seyyed Abolqassem Kashani, was a close collaborator of al-Banna, his heir Ramadan, and other Brothers. In 1943, he founded an Iranian Shia branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, called the Devotees of Islam. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, the Devotees had their own assassination squads. They failed, in 1949, to assassinate the Shah.

When Tehran re-established diplomatic relations with Amman in the 1990s, the Iranian charge d’affairs in Amman spent most of his time in the National Assembly where the Muslim Brotherhood had a sizable presence. Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan wryly commented to me that the diplomat thought he was accredited to the Assembly and not to the Palace of Hashemite King Hussein, his brother!

The appointment of Mohammed Mossadegh as new Prime Minister led to yet-another Anglo-American coup against a secular nationalist regime, falsely branded "communist." As in Egypt, the British turned to the local Muslim Brotherhood - Devotees of Islam - to stage street riots that led to Mossadegh’s overthrow. The coup in Iran became the stuff of legend about CIA officers Kermit and Archibald Roosevelt, who organized the bazaari to stem the tide of Communism and stop the nationalization of British oil holdings.

A well-informed Iranian source reported that Mossadegh made the decision to step down, rather than side with the Soviet-backed Iranian Communist Party or unleash his own mass base of supporters to battle the Muslim Brothers and the allied bazaari. Mossadegh's concern about the Iranian people had more to do with the success of the so-called "coup" than the clandestine prowess of the Roosevelt boys and their British partners.

Khomeini Revolution

The Khomeini revolution was a blowback against the UK-US-supported Shah's repressive regime and resentment against the overthrow of popular and nationalist Mossadegh. From the beginning, not all Iranians fully supported the Islamic revolution (in which skillful use was made of Karbala - where Imam Hussein, his army and family, fought and died for Islam - and other Shia imagery), its agenda and implementation. Khomeini was a rallying point for all against the Shah (caricatured as sultan or caliph), the corroding corruption, the excesses of the Savak secret police and its backers, the CIA, the hopes and aspirations of the youth for social justice, the masses suffering from inflation and sudden oil wealth inequities.

Khomeini provided the unflinching moral and spiritual bulwark against the Shah's armed-to-the-teeth military machine and his capacity to deny whatever concessions were demanded; what was offered in the end was too little too late. Many Iranians who opposed the hardline clerics and their killjoy agenda were eliminated, forced to flee, or went underground. Even in 1980, disenchanted, only one-fourth of Iranians went to the parliamentary polls. Expectedly, many clerics, some even senior to Khomeini, like Shariatmadari, favoured political parties and more freedom. But by sheer force, the radical conservatives took over, sometimes in spite of Khomeini. 

Current US policies have strengthened radical forces in Iran and catapulted President Mahmud Ahmadinejad against a reformer like President Khatami.

Syrian Brothers

The next British-backed battle between fundamentalist Islam and nationalism occurred in Syria, where the Muslim Brotherhood branch was founded by Ramadan. When a Baathist military coup took place in 1969, the Brotherhood began a campaign of irregular warfare that built momentum throughout the 1970s. In 1979, the Muslim Brotherhood staged a military assault on the Syrian Army academy at Hama, setting the main building on fire and killing 83 cadets, mostly from the Alawaite sect of the ruling Assad regime. The government killed thousands of Syrian Brothers, who then fled to Saudi Arabia.

Afghanistan and Muslim Brotherhood

Dreyfuss gives a brief history of the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood in Afghanistan, with roots in Egypt. A group of young Afghan students after spending several years at the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, a center of Muslim Brotherhood activity, returned to Afghanistan and formed a branch of the Brothers, the Islamic Society. "The Professors," as they were known, would later form the backbone of the Afghan Mujahideen, who waged a West and Saudi backed decade-long war against the Soviet occupation. The three leading "Professors" were: Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Sayyaf and Hekmatyar, in particular, were backed by the Pakistani ISI, and by Pakistan's own Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Group, founded by Abdul Ala Maududi. The three professors led the major factions of the Afghan insurgency.

A key recruiter for the jihad in Afghanistan was a Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood member Abdullah Azzam. In 1984, under Anglo-American and Pakistani sponsorship, Azzam and a leading protégé, bin Laden, founded the Service Bureau in Peshawar, Pakistan. It served as a hospitality service for incoming jihadists.

USA and the rise of the Taliban to power

In April 1992, various guerrilla armies took over Kabul, where they promptly started fighting among themselves. There were street fights in the capital, battles for control of strategic positions. The US encouraged and enabled Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to support one faction whose army had destroyed most of Kabul in 1993. Iran, Russia, India, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan chose other factions to back. For the next three years, the United States would support first one, then another fundamentalist faction in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the people suffered, caught in endless civil war.

Around 1993, the Pakistani government became interested in opening up trade with the new Central Asian Republics that had split from the old USSR. USA was interested in American UNOCAL laying energy pipelines from Central Asia to Pakistan and beyond. But the warfare in Afghanistan blocked the roads. A way to end the warfare was needed.

The Pakistan government once again set up schools for guerrillas, masked as religious schools. They were recruited from the Afghan refugee camps. The Taliban were nurtured in these schools and camps. They were supported by the Pakistani Deobandis and their political party the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). In 1993, when JUI entered the government coalition of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, ties between JUI and the Army and ISI were established. In 1995, with the downfall of the Hizb-i-Islami Hekmatyar government in Kabul, the Taliban not only reinstated a hardline Islamic government, but also "handed control of training camps in Afghanistan over to JUI factions..."

By the summer of 1994 the first grouping of guerrillas was ready. It was led by older religious teachers and Pakistani soldiers and armed by Saudi Arabia, with cooperation from the CIA. The arms, food and four-wheel drive vehicles gave Taliban the material means to grow rapidly against those less equipped. Jane Defense Weekly confirms that "half of Taliban manpower and equipment originated in Pakistan under the ISI". The Taliban Islamic State was to serve US geopolitical interests.

The Taliban were only one more armed reactionary band in a country with lots of them. Yet in a couple of years they were able to take power. They profited from the advanced decomposition of the state apparatus and were able to take entire cities without combat. Some warlords preferred to join the Taliban, while others fled instead of fighting.

The Taliban presented themselves as champions against corruption and the rule of warlords. They appeared as austere, disinterested combatants, opposed to pillage and respecting private property. They received at least the resigned consent of the population to end the civil war, even if that meant giving up the most basic liberties.

The Koran was already the law of the land, and rights of women hardly existed. After the Taliban took control of Kabul in September 1996, Glyn Davies, a State Department spokesman, said that the United States saw "nothing criticizable in the measures now taken by the Taliban movement to impose Islamic law in the zones which it controls." US imperialism saw Taliban as establishing order. UNOCAL, the giant California-based oil company, looked forward to being able to build a giant pipeline across the country.

On coming to power, Taliban again opened training camps for recruits from fundamentalist groups around the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan

The Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), are led by Baitullah Masud. Centred in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it differs from its Afghan cousins in being mostly tribal rather than clerically trained in madrasas (though they have some clerics among them). Many clans actively oppose the TTP and have battled with them. The Pakistani Taliban is a relatively small group, probably a few thousand strong, but powerful in North and South Waziristan, the northern agency of Bajaur, and in the Khyber Agency. As FATA abuts Peshawar, the Pakistani Taliban has many times encroached on that city. The Khyber Agency lies between Peshawar and the Khyber Pass, the easiest road to southern Afghanistan from Pakistan.

The War in Chechnya

The main rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Al Khattab were trained and indoctrinated in CIA-sponsored camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to Yossef Bodansky, director of the US Congress's Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, the war in Chechnya was planned during a secret summit of Hezbollah International in 1996 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The summit was attended by Osama bin Laden and high-ranking Iranian and Pakistani intelligence officers. Thus, the involvement of Pakistan's ISI in Chechnya "goes far beyond supplying the Chechens with weapons and expertise: the ISI and its radical Islamic proxies are actually calling the shots in this war.”

Mujahideen in Balkans and US involvement

The JUI with the support of the Saudi Wahabi movements also played a key role in recruiting volunteers to fight in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. The Golden Crescent drug trade was used to finance and equip the Bosnian Muslim Army (starting early 1990s) and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). There is evidence that Mujaheddin mercenaries were fighting in the ranks of KLA-NLA terrorists in their assaults into Macedonia.

Regarding US support to Mujaheddin in the Balkans, I wrote way back in 2003:
"During the current debate, the Balkan chapter of the 1990s and the US and European role in the breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent events are not scrutinized closely. The origins of al-Qaeda and other terror groups during the Afghan war of 1979-1992, their fight against the Soviet army and the role of the US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others is well documented, including Osama bin Laden's drive to recruit Muslim volunteers world-wide. US officials estimate that tens of thousands of foreign fighters were trained in bomb-making, sabotage and guerrilla warfare tactics in Afghan camps that the US Central Intelligence Agency helped set up between 1985-92. 

"After the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, and the Najibullah communist regime collapsed in 1992, the Afghan mujahideen became irrelevant to the US. But the mujahideen had acquired a taste for fighting, and now they had no cause. But soon a new cause arose.

"During 1992-95, the Pentagon helped with the movement of thousands of mujahideen and other Islamic elements from Central Asia, even some Turks, into Europe to fight alongside Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs.

"It was very important in the rise of mujahideen forces and in the emergence of current cross-border Islamic terrorist groups who think nothing of moving from state to state in the search of outlets for their jihadi mission. In moving to Bosnia, Islamic fighters were transported from the caves of Afghanistan and the Middle East into Europe; from an outdated battleground of the Cold War to the major world conflict of the day; from being yesterday's men to fighting alongside the West's favoured side in the clash of the Balkans. If Western intervention in Afghanistan created the mujahideen, Western intervention in Bosnia appears to have globalized it" ["Turkey: Sow war and reap terror,” K. Gajendra Singh, Atimes.com, 22 November 2003]

There is a Dutch government report, "Intelligence and the War in Bosnia," prepared after investigations into the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995; written by Professor C. Wiebes of Amsterdam University, published in April 2002. It details the secret alliance between the Pentagon and radical Islamic groups from the Middle East and their efforts to assist Bosnia's Muslims. By 1993, vast amounts of weapons were being smuggled through Croatia to the Muslims, organized by "clandestine agencies" of the US, Turkey and Iran, in association with a range of Islamic groups including the Afghan Mujahideen and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah. Arms bought by Iran and Turkey with the financial backing of Saudi Arabia were airlifted from the Middle East to Bosnia - airlifts with which, Wiebes points out, the US was "very closely involved." [The same gang which fought against Soviet Russia in Afghanistan was now fighting against Russia's Slav Orthodox ally, Yugoslavia, and succeeded in breaking up the secular socialist state]

Pentagon's alliance with Islamic elements permitted mujahideen fighters to be "flown in" as shock troops for particularly hazardous operations against Serb forces. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times in October 2001, from 1992 as many as 4,000 mujahideen from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe reached Bosnia to fight with the Muslims. Richard Holbrooke, America's former chief Balkans peace negotiator, said as much. The Bosnian Muslims "wouldn't have survived" without the imported mujahideen, which was a "pact with the devil" from which Bosnia would take long to recover. If US made a pact with the devil, then the Muslim mujahideen made a pact with Satan. They temporized with the Christian West to defeat the ungodly Russian communists, now they are after the US-led Crusaders."

"But by the end of the 1990s, State Department officials (as now vis-a-vis the Pentagon), were increasingly worried about the consequences of this devil's pact sponsored by the Pentagon. Under the terms of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord, the foreign mujahideen units were required to disband and leave the Balkans. Yet in 2000, the State Department raised concerns about the "hundreds of foreign Islamic extremists" who became Bosnian citizens after fighting against the Serbs, and who will remain a potential terror threat to Europe and the United States."

US officials claimed that "one of bin Laden's top lieutenants had sent operatives to Bosnia," and that during the 1990s Bosnia had served as a "staging area and safe haven" for al-Qaeda and others. The Clinton administration learned that it was one thing to permit the movement of Islamic groups across territories; it was quite another to rein them back in again."

Despite the official US stand against jihadis, it permitted the growth and movement of mujahideen cadres in Europe during the 1990s. In the run up to Clinton and Blair's Kosovo war of 1999, the US backed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) against Serbia. The Jerusalem Post reported in 1998 that KLA members, like the Bosnian Muslims earlier, were "provided with financial and military support from Islamic countries," and had been "bolstered by hundreds of Iranian fighters and mujahideen ... [some of whom] were trained in Osama bin Laden's terrorist camps in Afghanistan". So US' pact with the devil continued.

The aspect of US encouragement of mujahideen and its growth in Balkan Europe has been largely overlooked, and the Bosnia connection remains largely unexplored. In Jason Burke's excellent Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, Bosnia is mentioned only in passing. Kimberley McCloud and Adam Dolnik of the Monterey Institute of International Studies have written some incisive commentary calling for rational thinking when assessing al-Qaeda's origins and threat - but little on the Bosnian link. 

A cool analysis of today's disparate Islamic terror groups, created in Afghanistan and emboldened by the Bosnian experience, would do much to shed some light on precisely the dangers of such intervention. Car bombers in Istanbul on November 15 and 20 [2003] are perhaps the results.

To be continued…

K. Gajendra Singh, IFS (retd.) served as Indian ambassador to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Romania and Senegal, and is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies


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