The Region: Revolution, not terrorism, is the main threat

The big strategic danger for Western interests in the region is the overthrow of entire countries, transforming into new Irans.

Egypt election campaign 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Egypt election campaign 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
An Egyptian Islamist cleric, Ibrahim al-Khouli, was recently interviewed on Egyptian television, with a translation by MEMRI. And what can we learn from his words? A lot.
“What is the nature of our relations with [the West]? They are the relations of Crusader aggression against the land of Islam – in Afghanistan, in Iraq, which was destroyed and removed from history...”
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Technically, at least the way it is expressed nowadays (in contrast to the way it was practiced historically), jihad must be defensive. However, it is easy to portray anything as defensive by dissociating cause and effect. Why did US forces go into Afghanistan? It was in response to the September 11 attacks. If there had been no September 11 attacks, US forces would not have gone into Afghanistan and the Taliban would probably still be ruling there.
Iraq is somewhat more complex, but of course the first US attack, in 1991, was in response to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and at the request of the Kuwaitis, Saudis, and other Arabic-speaking, Muslim-majority countries.
In 2003, whether the action was rightly guided or not, it was in response to a belief that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons and breaking agreements in a way that would lead to future aggression. And that this Iraqi aggression would be against other Muslim-majority countries.
A particularly fascinating line is that Iraq has been “removed from history.” What does this mean? That Iraq’s fate is not to be a happy, peaceful or democratic country – goals certainly not achieved, but which are not “supposed” to be achieved. Iraq and its people are “supposed” to be a cog in the wheel of revolution, sacrificing themselves for the Islamist global revolution. Iraq, then, does not belong to its own people but to the will of Allah, as interpreted by the radical totalitarians. And if this means Iraqis have no “right” to live peaceful lives but must suffer decades of war and destruction, so be it.
HERE ARE three underlying principles that guide the radical Islamists and their allies, but which Westerners don’t understand:
1. They have the right to attack the West, but the West has no right to defend itself.
2. They will pretend that the battle is one of the West against the Muslims, while actually the West is helping defend one group of Muslims against another.
3. Their goal is to use jihad to defeat the West while employing lies and guilt to make the West so afraid of offending Islam that it doesn’t interfere when Islamists take over the Muslim-majority world.
(By the way, note that Israel is only one issue among many, and often pretty secondary. One reason is the importance of other issues; another is the general Islamist assumption that after they take over Muslim-majority countries and end Western influence, disposing of Israel will be relatively easy and thus can wait.)
Khouli continues: “Forget about [Osama] bin Laden and al-Qaida. That’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about the jihad of the entire nation... I’m talking about jihad which is led by the Islamic scholars, and the entire nation will be mobilized for the sake of the supreme jihad. This will lead us to a confrontation... We should follow the example of the young men of the Taliban. A group of several thousand students [Taliban] have been crushing NATO in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Where are the armies of the Muslims?”
AND HERE there are three interesting lessons: First, al-Qaida is only a portion of the problem, and the less important part at that. True, al-Qaida is the group most likely to attack America and its citizens or institutions abroad.
Yet the big strategic danger for US interests is the overthrow of entire countries, the plunging of millions of people into revolution or civil war.
Revolution, not terrorism, is the main threat, transforming countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia into new Irans. The resultant extension of Teheran’s power throughout the region is the big danger.
Second, the jihadists recognize that if they are going to mobilize the masses, they must first convince people that the West is in cowardly retreat and that victory is easy. Anything that enhances this impression therefore strengthens the revolutionaries and makes violence more – not less – likely.
Third, though, is disappointment, “Where are the armies of the Muslims?” At least up to now, the revolutionary Islamists cannot persuade Muslims to rise up, wage jihad, overthrow their rulers, wipe out Israel and attack the West.
Why? Some is evidence of natural human behavior; people prefer safety and a materially better life to sacrificing themselves. Others support their nationalist governments or have communal- ethnic loyalties (the Kurds, for example, or the different competing groups in Lebanon). And many simply don’t agree with the revolutionary Islamist interpretation of Islam.
All these people (except for the small minority of Christians among them) are Muslims. They have read the Koran, yet do not accept what the revolutionaries tell them is the “only” proper interpretation. It is as ridiculous to say all Muslims “must” be radical and jihad-minded if they properly understand their own religion as it is to say that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the radicals are only a tiny minority who misunderstand their own religion.
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center ( and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs and Turkish Studies. He blogs at