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The Islamic Revival and World Politics Kevin J. Benoy.

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1 The Islamic Revival and World Politics Kevin J. Benoy

2 Background to Islam Islam is a religion based on the teachings of Mohammed. It is the majority religion in all of the Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Turkic successor states of the former Soviet Union.

3 Background to Islam Mohammed was born in 570 AD in Mecca. His first revelation was in 610. From this and later revelations came the Moslem holy book – the Koran.

4 Background to Islam Islam is more than just a religion; it is a way of life. It has a strong evangelical streak to it, with followers called upon to spread the word. This has, in the past, been done by the sword as well as the word.

5 Background to Islam Early on the religion experienced a fundamental split that continues to divide it. With the murder of the 3 rd Caliph, the prophet’s son-in-law, Ali, became the leader in 656. He too was assassinated in 661 and the Governor of Syria established himself as leader, instead of Ali’s descendents. Today, 90% of Moslems are Sunni (those who accept the succession of the Caliph) and 10% Shia (who follow the descendents of Ali). Shia’s form a big majority in Iran, and a slight majority in Iraq and Bahrain while Sunnis predominate elsewhere.

6 Background to Islam Further splits relate to racial and national divisions. Arabs and Persians see themselves as different, as do Syrians and Jordanians. As with Christians, there are also divisions between orthodox practitioners and those whose faith is more liberal. On the other hand, other factors pull all Moslems together – like the yearly haj.

7 Islam in the Modern World Moslems, like Christians, faced strong secular pressure in the last century or so. This was further complicated by the effects of colonialism and decolonization. Pressures within Moslem societies have been great. Modernization has also led to huge class differences as rural peasants lived in almost feudal conditions, while the rich and upper middle class lived like westerners. Traditional values remain strongest with the poor and with those who most strongly sympathize with them.

8 Islam and Government In many Moslem countries, Islamic principles underpin national laws – just as Judeo- Christian values lie at the heart of most Western legal systems. In some, religion is more than just a philosophical basis as Islam does not separate beliefs from actions. Some Moslem states implement Sharia, religious law. For instance, they forbid charging interest on loans or proscribe amputation of a thief’s right hand.

9 Islam and Government In Saudi Arabia, punishments today are as they were in the day of Mohammed. Thieves may have a hand amputated. Adulterers are stoned to death. The testimony of a man is worth twice that of a woman. Under Sharia law, corporal punishment is meted out and the public invited to attend floggings. This is very like what happened in pre- modern Europe.

10 The Iranian Revolution Under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Aryamehr Iran prospered economically from the windfall profits of petroleum products. The country became a regional political and military power as the Shah invested heavily in US equipment, becoming the “policeman” of the Gulf, with American blessing.

11 The Iranian Revolution While the Shah, his family and supporters lived in opulence, little benefit accrued to the rural and urban poor. Religious leaders objected to the increasing secularization of the country as the Shah pushed modernization. The Shah dismissed calls for Sharia law as anachronistic.

12 The Iranian Revolution In addition, the Shah increasingly relied on brutal actions by SAVAK – Iran’s secret police – against critics. In doing so, and in his serving American interests, the Shah alienated much of the middle class. US involvement in overthrowing the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 – to put the Shah in power -- was long a source of resentment of the West.

13 The Iranian Revolution In 1978 things began to spin out of control for the Shah. – In January, religious dissidents were fired on in the religious city of Qom. – In February there were riots in Tabriz and small towns. – In May the universities were close and protests and strikes in the Tehran bazaar became commonplace. – By late 1978 the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an exiled cleric living in Paris, became the symbol of religious opposition. The clerics refused to compromise with the government, demanding a return to Islamic principles and an end to Westernization.

14 The Iranian Revolution Riots and strikes brought violent responses. On September 8 between 100 and 200 demonstrators were gunned down by security forces. By November, the armed forces were needed to back up the police. The country was placed under military rule.

15 The Iranian Revolution – The economy collapsed as little productive work could be done in an atmosphere of perpetual strikes and protests. – The Shah acknowledged that he could no longer impose his will. – On January 1, 1979, General Gholam Reza Azhari was replaced as Prime Minister by the reformer Shahpur Bakhtiar, who insisted that the Shah leave the country – which he did on January 126 after urging the military to remain loyal to the new regime.

16 The Iranian Revolution – Further radicalization followed the return of Khomeini on February 1. – He called for establishing an Islamic Republic. – Bakhtiar tried to hold on to existing constitutional principles, but was forced out of office, into hiding, and into exile after the army withdrew support.

17 The Iranian Revolution The army itself was deeply divided. There was no cooperation between the army and air force. Fearing complete disintegration, the army generals ordered their troops to remain in barracks, but when civilians and Islamic guerillas overran the major Tehran army bases army morale completely broke down. Armed fanatics now controlled the city streets and power shifted from the official government to Khomeini and his Revolutionary Council.

18 The Iranian Revolution Momentum was with Khomeini. On March 30-31, 1979, a referendum overwhelmingly accepted establishing an Islamic Republic. A President and representative assembly would be elected by universal suffrage, but they had little power. A Council of Guardians, composed of clerics, would oversee the passage of all legislation. Final decision making rested in a faqih – the leading theologian in the country.

19 The Iranian Revolution Khomeimi eliminated vestiges of opposition. Revolutionary authorities executed hundreds. Revolts in minority areas (especially Turkomen and Kurdish) were suppressed. Leftists and others attempted to turn the situation to their favour, but were crushed – though several clerics were assassinated and others injured.

20 Iranian Foreign Policy Iranian foreign policy shifted dramatically. Iran became anti-American and anti-Soviet. The regime threw its support behind Shia minorities in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf states and Lebanon. Religion, rather than political ideology, now drove policy. Fortunately for Iran’s Sunni neighbours, the revolution also sapped Iran’s military potential.

21 Iran’s Economic Trouble The economy crumbled. – Many middle class Iranians fled the country, not wishing to live under a fundamentalist regime. – Anti-Khomeini sabotage was a problem. – The government took over many large enterprises, starting with private banks, then insurance companies, and finally all major companies. – Foreign investment withdrew, taking capital and expertise with them.

22 The Hostage Crisis On November 4, 1979 radical Islamic students stormed the US embassy in Iran, holding 55 Americans prisoner until January, 1981. The US responded by freezing Iranian assets. In April, 1980 a US special forces operation to free the hostages failed miserably. Iran was an international pariah.

23 The Iran-Iraq War Seeking to take advantage of Iran’s military decline, Iraq invaded Kurdistan and Khuzestan provinces in September, 1980. The Iraqis likely expected anti-Khomeini forces would rise up – however the opposite occurred. Iranians of all beliefs united against this foreign invasion.

24 Iran Iraq War Iraq found itself in a prolonged conflict against a country with a much bigger population. Saddam Hussein was armed by the US. Iran secretly received parts for their US aircraft from Israel – which found it useful to have two strong opponents butchering each other for nearly a decade (until 1988).

25 Iran Under Khomeini The war helped solidify Khomieni and the Islamic revolution. Religious principles underpinned Iranian society – politically and economically. The Iranian theocracy served as a model for Islami fundamentalists elsewhere to strive for.

26 The Soviets and Afghanistan This remote, mountainous, backwards country has long been of strategic importance. In the 19 th century it was at the heart of the “Great Game” as the Russians and British both sought to extend influence into the country with little success. Bordering directly on Afghanistan, Soviet concern for the area continued in the 20 th century.

27 The Soviets and Afghanistan In 1978 a coup overthrew the 5 year old government of Sarder Mohammad Daud – replacing it with a pro-Soviet regime under Nur Mohammad Taraki – who renamed the country the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. In September, 1979, Taraki was killed in another coup by Hafizullah Amin – and a Soviet sponsored counter-coup followed, led by Babrak Karmal, who called upon the Soviet Union to supply troops to help him.

28 The Soviets and Afghanistan The attitude of many Afghanis to the governments after Daud was hostile – especially among the orthodox Moslems who made up most of the population. Moslem fundamentalists were also encouraged by events in Iran and Pakistan, where Islamization was taking place. Fighting broke out between religiously-motivated rebels and Afghan government forces.

29 The Soviets and Afghanistan The Soviets were concerned with events in Afghanistan for two key reasons: – They feared the rising tide of Moslem fundamentalism because of their own large (and growing) Moslem population within their own borders. Anti- Soviet broadcasts from Shia Iran were bad enough. A fundamentalist and mostly Sunni Afghanistan was more threatening still. – No nation feels secure with chaos and civil war on its border. The Soviets wanted a stable neighbour – particularly one that stood for similar social values to its own.

30 The Soviets and Afghanistan The Soviets did not expect to station forces in Afghanistan for a decade. At first the troops sent came from the Central Asian republics – but they proved unreliable. They were replaced by European Soviet units.

31 The Soviets and Afghanistan Afghan rebels proved more difficult to deal with than expected. Veterans of tribal wars and fiercely independent, the mujehaddin believed they were involved in a jihad – a holy war against infidel Soviets.

32 The Soviets and Afghanistan A third of Afghanistan’s population eventually lived in exile, fleeing the bloody conflict and providing a vast pool of disaffected people from which jihadists could be drawn. Soviet forces had difficulty distinguishing mujehaddin from ordinary peasants and many innocents were killed – breeding new hatred.

33 The Soviets and Afghanistan Support for the Mujehaddin was strong in the Arab world – which meant considerable Gulf money financing their efforts – and Arab volunteers to fight for the cause. A war that started with antique rifles and home- made weapons escalated rapidly.

34 The Soviets and Afghanistan More importantly, the conflict occurred while the Cold War was still active. The US saw an opportunity to turn it into a “Soviet Vietnam.” Very sophisticated weapons were provided to the mujehaddin – including the lethal stinger hand-held anti-aircraft missiles – much of this aid funnelled through Pakistan and their military’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) unit.

35 The Soviets and Afghanistan The war was costly to the Soviets – in lives, treasure and diplomacy. Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics. The world arms markets were awash in sophisticated weaponry that found customers in Asia, Africa and beyond.

36 The Soviets and Afghanistan The human cost of the war was staggering: – Almost 15,000 Soviet lives were lost. – 54,000 were wounded or injured. – 88% of Soviet forces suffered serious illness. – 1-2 million Afghanis died. – In the 1980s half of the world’s refugees were from Afghanistan. In February1988 the Soviets withdrew, leaving the Afghanis to conclude the war themselves.

37 The Soviets and Afghanistan The Soviet-backed government held on in Kabul until 1992. Fighting between Mujehaddin groups continued as ethnic divisions split the country. Unity was not restored in most of the country until the Taliban emerged. Beginning their drive for power in 1994, they took Kabul in 1996 – though the Northern Alliance continued to rule parts of the country. Islamic fundamentalism underpinned Taliban rule – with women’s rights (extended with Soviet help) stripped and music and entertainment banned. Sharia law was rigidly enforced.

38 Afghan Aftermath Weapons from the Afghan war flooded the world – as did committed jihadists – from Kosovo to Lebanon to Chechnya, well armed fundamentalists were buoyed by their defeat of a super-power. Returning Arab fighters had much to oppose when they returned to their authoritarian governed homelands. In 1992 a military coup prevented the coming to power of the Moslem Brotherhood in Algeria. Ongoing civil war in Chechnya cost lives in the affected area, while terrorism spread to Moscow itself.

39 Kuwait and the First Gulf War Saddam Hussein faced economic collapse at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. In 1990 he gambled with an invasion of oil-rich Kuwait on questionable historical grounds. Arab neighbours and Western Countries were taken aback. US President George Bush put together an alliance to oppose the move and ultimately reverse it.

40 Kuwait and the First Gulf War A Western air campaign quickly destroyed the Iraqi air force. Smart bombs and cruise missiles disabled Iraqi command and control capabilities. When the ground campaign began, in early August, 1990 – Operation Desert Storm had rapid success.

41 Kuwait and the First Gulf War While the war was being fought, Saddam Hussein sought to break the coalition by bringing Israel into the conflict – hopefully splitting the Arab and Western allies. Scud missiles fired at Tel-Aviv brought no Israeli response as the US promised to deliver the new Patriot anti-missile system to them, provided they kept out of the conflict. Fears that Hussein might employ chemical weapons in the Scud attacks – that were also launched against Saudi Arabia -- came to nothing. Iraq understood that any such escalation might lead to an Israeli nuclear response.

42 Gulf War Aftermath The speed of Iraq’s collapse caught many by surprise. The coalition worked hard to promote dissent in Iraq prior to the collapse – resulting in uprisings in the North by Kurds and by Shia in the South. By surrendering quickly and accepting the loss of Kuwait, Saddam preserved much of his military force – which he then turned on the rebels. The coalition achieved its goals and now it turned its back on the Kurds and Shia. Only a humanitarian disaster caused reconsideration as hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled across the mountains into Turkey – a country with a “Kurdish problem” of its own.

43 Gulf War Aftermath A safe zone was established in the North for the Kurds. A no-fly zone in both North and South forbade Iraqi aircraft from attacking. Saddam Hussein continued to rule harshly, but was restrained somewhat by threats from the West.

44 9-11 On September 11, 2001 Americans were horrified by the coordinated attacks upon the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group. Americans were shocked by terrorism at home, but this was not Al-Qaeda’s first attacks on America – attacks on a US warship in Yemen and American embassy in Kenya preceded it. Armed and supported by the US in the Afghan war – bin Laden was consistent in his ideology, opposing American secularism as he opposed Soviet.

45 Response to 9-11 Osama’s goal was to bring an American backlash against the Moslem world that would stimulate anti-Western feeling and possibly topple pro- American Arab regimes. What would the Americans do? Two schools of thought were voiced: – Moderates, like Colin Powell wanted a measured response. – Radicals, like Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney called for a general attack on terrorists and the states that sponsored them – including Iraq.

46 Response to 9-11 Al-Qaeda was quickly identified as the perpetrator. The US prepared a dramatic response against the it and the Taliban regime that allowed it to operate in Afghanistan. Working with the Northern Alliance and with NATO allies, the Americans quickly took control of the country, forcing Taliban and Al Qaeda across the border into Pakistan’s tribal territories. The war now moved into a low-intensity conflict that still continues. The Americans set up an administration under Hamid Karzai – but real power in much of the country is in the hands of local warlords. A decade of war left nothing resolved and the conflict seems more and more to parallel the Soviet experience – though with lower casualties.

47 Response to 9-11 The US administration sought to use global sympathy to push a larger agenda. George W. Bush proclaimed a “War on Terror.” Many observers noted that this was an illogical concept – one can fight a particular group or country...but a tactic? The declaration was largely unchallenged in the aftermath of 9-11, however.

48 Response to 9-11 The US passed the Patriot Act, which drastically curtailed civil rights – allowing arrest and detention without establishing cause. A detention camp was set up at Guantanamo Bay – specifically to avoid possible interference by courts in the (mis)treatment of prisoners. Other countries also passed similar laws, though none so far-reaching as the US.

49 Response to 9-11 Bush went on to talk of “an axis of evil” including Iran, Iraq and North Korea – all contributors to global terrorism. In June, he enunciated the so- called Bush Doctrine, claiming for America the right to take pre-emptive action against its enemies anywhere in the world – without international sanction. The lack of serious public debate of this pronouncement was astonishing – but clearly limited by public fear in the aftermath of 9-11.

50 Response to 9-11 Within the US government, the hawks won the day. In September, 2002 Iraq announced that UN weapons inspectors could look for weapons of mass destruction in the country – to prevent a Bush-led pre- emptive strike. The US claimed Iraq was continuing secret chemical and nuclear weapon production. Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council, presenting intelligence supporting the US position. What he seems not to have known is that Vice President Cheney’s office cited dubious intelligence and ignoring the CIA information on this file.

51 Response to 9-11 Cheney and the US hawks insisted that Iraq was involved in the 9-11 attacks. A case was being made for war. On March 21, 2003 US, British and other troops invaded Iraq, quickly crushing resistance. On May 1 George Bush announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” and that “the Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11 th, 2002, and still goes on.”

52 Response to 9-11 However, the war did not end. It merely entered a new phase – a guerrilla conflict, something the military terms assymetrical warfare and the politicians called an insurrection. No WMDs were found. Revelations of the use of torture by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay simply turned the “Arab Street” against the US.


54 Responces to 9-11

55 Response to 9-11 Furthermore, the use of pre- emptive war, the stripping of civil rights in the US and in allied countries, the revelation of special rendition of prisoners to 3 rd states for torture and the reality of a “war on terror” that might never end to justify it all worried many. Moslems wondered why the war on terror seemed to focus only on Moslems when terrorism was a global phenomenon. Bin Laden failed in trying to create a crisis that would topple Arab regimes and help create new theocracies. However, wars killing large numbers of Moslems, created huge resentments everywhere in the Moslem world.

56 Response to 9-11 The 9-11 response reinforced the feelings of some in the West that we were engaged in what historian Samuel P. Huntingdon termed a “clash of civilizations.” He theorized that radical Islam and liberal democracy were antithetical. Another historian, Paul Johnson argued that Islam was a religion spread by the sword and motivated by fundamentalist beliefs opposed to Western thinking. To policy makers raised under the Cold War paradigm, this provided a new and simple world view. Arms manufacturers identify a new foe and those who sought restriction of civil rights, a new justification.

57 The Jasmine Revolution and its Aftermath In the 1990s American neo-conservatives argued that America might impose a democracy in the Middle East that would become a model for change. The Invasion of Iraq was thought to provide this opportunity – but American imposed Iraqi democracy was messy, with sectarian disputes causing friction and no agreement about what democracy looks like. In 2010 demonstrations against authoritarian regimes began in many Arab countries – this time the call for democracy was internal – triggered by the suicide of Mohammed Bouazizi after authorities impounded his market cart and beat him and other officials refused to hear his complaint. A small demonstration in his hometown resonated everywhere and popular rage against authoritarian government in Tunisia exploded.

58 The Jasmine Revolution and its Aftermath Attempts to put down the demonstrations led to hundreds of deaths and many injuries. In the end, the military withdrew its support of the government of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. He resigned and an interim government promised reforms and free elections.

59 The Jasmine Revolution and its Aftermath In January 2011, demonstrators appeared in Tahrir Square, Cairo. The Jasmine Revolution spread to Egypt, the most populous and important Arab state. President Mubarak used security forces to try to end the demonstrations, but failed. The army was reluctant to move against the demonstrators. Cosmetic changes to government similarly did not result in an end to demonstrations that now extended throughout the country. Mubarak himself resigned and an interim government promised a referendum on constitutional change and free elections to follow. The March 20 referendum passed and significant guarantees were made to the rights of Egyptians.

60 The Jasmine Revolution and its Aftermath Demonstrations also spread to Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain and Syria – where governments promised reforms, but delivered little (to the time of writing). In Libya it sparked a civil war, with opponents of the long-term autocrat Ghaddafi found success in the East, but were repressed in the West.

61 The Jasmine Revolution and its Aftermath Western governments, taken by surprise in this “Arab Spring” played only a peripheral role in most Arab countries. In Libya they took a more active role. A no-fly zone was declared in Libyan airspace – to prevent the better armed government forces from crushing the rebels. The rationale was to protect civilian lives. However, it was also clear that the Western forces were supportive of the rebels, though their mission was not cleared to effect regime change. Rules of engagement seem murky and one wonders what might emerge if this conflict lasts very long.

62 The Jasmine Revolution and its Aftermath Where all of this is headed is unsure. Regimes that waiver will disappear. Some that do may be replaced by new regimes that differ little from the old – but that play a better public relations game. Other regimes will weather the storm and be even more repressive to do so. Theocracies may result in one or more countries. However, out of this should emerge some home-grown democracies that better meet the aspirations of their people. Westerners should not expect that their goals are identical to our own though. The world is more complicated than our simple ideological positions tell us. We cannot expect everyone else’s aspirations to be like our own.

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