- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

A new generation of mujahideen (Islamist “freedom fighters”) has begun to infiltrate Iraq to take on U.S. occupation troops. The appeal for volunteers from Arab and non-Arab Muslim nations says it is the same jihad, or holy war, their fathers’ generation fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The clandestine call to arms strikes a response in the many countries whose media have been denouncing American imperialism in Iraq for the past five months and where unemployment runs high.

The major difference between Afghanistan in the 1980s and Iraq in the early 21st century is that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were funding the secret war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, whereas the Iraqi resistance is on its own. In Afghanistan, the mujahideen also enjoyed rest and recreation facilities in their privileged sanctuaries in Pakistan. In Iraq, both the Syrian and Iranian borders are equally porous, but the two regimes dare not assist the new mujahideen too openly, lest they become target practice for U.S. precision-bombing.

Once across the border into Iraq, the new resistance fighters become unrecognizable in the civilian population, dressed like everyone else in the national dishabille dishdasha, a loose-fitting body shirt. Local ID is easy to fake and can’t be read by U.S. soldiers anyway.

A nexus is emerging between Islamist militants and Iraq’s underground resistance movement. The U.S. invasion has clearly driven Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda into a de facto alliance with the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend. The clandestine underground is made up of Ba’ath Party has-beens who have lost their privileges and are jobless, former Iraqi army personnel discharged by the U.S. without compensation, and common criminals in it for the bonus they are paid for killing American soldiers. Captured or killed Americans fetch cash rewards up to $2,000.

Islamist militants also see Iraq as a potential battlefield for the larger war of civilizations, shades of the Spanish civil war when the forces of fascism and communism limbered up for World War II. The overall strategic objective is the humiliation of the U.S., much the way the Soviets were humiliated and defeated in Afghanistan. Bombing U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was presumably designed to discourage the U.N. from taking over U.S. responsibilities down the road. Discouraging an increasingly isolated U.S. is the name of the deadly game.

The groundwork for the military and religious justification for “denying jihad’s connection to terror” was laid at a little-publicized conference in Stockholm in mid-July. Five reports on the definition of “terror” were presented. A Pakistani politico-religious leader was in attendance and declared, “Taliban is a movement Pakistan supports. America is the illegal occupier in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Established in Britain in 1997, the European Council for Fatwa and Research is comprised mainly of Islamic scholars from the Arab world, and is headed by Sheik Yousef al-Qaradhawi, one of the most influential clerics in Sunni Islam. It meets two or three times a year in a European city to compare notes on the discriminatory treatment of Muslims in Western countries and issues fatwas designed to protect Muslim communities.

Suicide bombers were sanctified by the clerics for three battlefronts — Palestine, Kashmir and Iraq. Al-Qaradhawi justified “martyrdom operations” against civilians in Israel “because anyone past childhood, man or woman, is drafted” and when returned to civilian life is still a soldier subject to mobilization at short notice. Suicide bombing is also acceptable practice, the sheik explained, because Israel “is a society of invaders who came from Russia or America, from Europe or the lands of the Orient to occupy Palestine and settle in it… . [Palestinians] have the right to fight the invaders with all means at their disposal and send them back whence they came… . This is jihad of necessity, not jihad of choice… . Even if an innocent child is killed in this jihad, it was not intended, but rather due to the exigencies of war… . Even with the passage of time these so-called Israeli civilians do not stop being evil invaders, tyrants and oppressors.”

“What weapon,” asked Sheik Al-Qaradhawi, “can harm our enemy, can prevent from sleeping, and strip of a sense of security and stability, except for these human bombs — a young man or woman who blows himself or herself up among their enemy? This is a weapon the likes of which the enemy cannot obtain, even if the U.S. provides it with billions of dollars and the most powerful weapons, because it is a unique weapon that Allah has placed only in the hands of the men of belief. It is a type of divine justice on Earth. the weapon of the wretched weak against the powerful tyrant.”

The senior Sunni cleric rejected the notion that “martyrs” are committing suicide. “Those who kill themselves because they failed in business, love or an examination, or the like, are too weak to cope with life and choose flight in death… . [Suicide bombers] give themselves to Allah in order to receive paradise in exchange.”

At the Council’s previous meeting at Dublin last January, differences emerged over the distinctions between colonialist terror, state terror, international terror, political terror, terror permitted by Islamic law, and martyrdom operations. Advocates of “martyrdom operations” met little opposition at the Stockholm conclave. The U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a London-based cleric, silenced the dissenters.

The highly respected Sunni cleric also achieved consensus on another category of targets for suicide-bombers when he said, “We have agreed it is permissible to kill Muslims if the army that attacks the Muslims hides behind them, that is, uses them as barricades of human shields, and sets them at the front so that the fire, arrows or spears of the Muslims will harm them first.”

The codicil was also designed to cover Palestinians or Iraqis who collaborate with enemy occupation troops. The Bush administration’s “road map” for a Middle Eastern peace and plans for democracy in Iraq are beginning to look like a desert mirage shimmering on a distant horizon. A number of pro-Iraqi war Republican supporters of president Bush are questioning the White House’s rejection of the idea of the U.N. taking over Iraq pending a new constitution and national elections. Come presidential election campaign time, they argued, the Iraqi tar baby could look more presentable if wearing a blue beret or helmet.

By blowing up U.N. headquarters at Baghdad’s Canal Hotel this week, the Iraqi underground resistance made sure the Iraqi chaos would remain America’s responsibility.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-in-chief of United Press International and editor at large of The Washington Times.

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