New ‘Army’ to Combat Terrorism in Sahel and Sahara

Sahel

Rabat – The Sahel and Sahara is one of the international geopolitical regions that is witnessing a bitter conflict between terrorist groups, on the one hand, and regional countries backed by major world powers, on the other. It appears that each side is aware of the important geopolitical location of the area, which is a crossing point between southern Sahara with the north and the Mediterranean with Europe. This therefore makes the region in a constant state of war due to the conflicting interests of international powers and terrorist groups.

The recent summit of leaders of Sahel and Sahara that was concluded in Mali a few days ago paved the way for a new phase of confrontation between international powers and terror groups. Held under the theme of fighting terrorism for ensuring security and development, the summit was preceded by a meeting of defense ministers from each of Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Morocco on May 4.

Along with the recent summit, the meeting will effectively signify a transition between security cooperation towards military one.

The gatherers at the summit, held in the Malian capital Bamako on July 2, saw the participation of the leaders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron. They agreed to form a joint regional force to combat terrorist groups in the region. This “army” of some 5,000 soldiers will begin its work before the end of the year. It will receive funding of some 423 million euros, 8 million of which will be presented by France.

Why the alliance now?

It appears that the alliance was made after a series of important developments in Sahel and Sahara. The first of which bolstered the terrorist groups, whereby the most important of these groups merged in one, forming the “Jamaat Ansar al-Islam and al-Muslimeen” headed by Iyad Ag Ghali. The group once again pledged its allegiance to the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

Since the merge, it has carried out several terrorist attacks and kidnappings. These developments have emboldened terrorist groups that have since expanded their area of operation, therefore posing a real challenge to the countries of Sahel.

In wake of all this, Ivory Coast Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi underlined during the May summit with his African counterparts the need for coordinated efforts by Sahel countries to counter the terrorists.

This stance was echoed by each of Ivory Coast Vice President Daniel Kablan Duncan and Secretary General of the Community of Sahel and Saharan States Ibrahim Sani Abani, who said that combating terrorism requires regional joint efforts on the security, military and development levels.

At the Bamako summit, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta declared: “In the face of rising extremism, we must unite efforts to confront challenges and we must even go beyond that.”

A Malian official said that terrorists are leaving nearby countries and coming to Mali, which demands regional and international efforts to thwart them.

Local and international forces

Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali attempted to rely on themselves in combating terrorism. In January 2016, they announced the formation of a mixed military force aimed at preserving security in the Liptako–Gourma region, which lies between these three countries, “because it was practically turning into a hub of all sorts of terrorist and criminal groups.” These local efforts are still struggling however and they need international logistic support and training.

In April 2010, the joint command operations center between Algeria Mauritania, Mali and Niger was formed in an attempt to establish regional cooperation against the growing threat of terrorist groups and foreign ambitions in the region.

This was followed with the formation of the regional “army” that will bolster UN-led international efforts in the region and the extension of the term of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on June 30.

About three weeks ago, Macron paid a visit to the French military base in Gao in northern Mali to affirm his country’s commitment to standing by Mali and supporting its security.

In October 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Mali and Niger, announcing that her country will support counter-terrorism efforts in the region.

The United States has also set up a military base in Niger, dedicating a budget of some 100 million dollars for it. The base will ensure that US troops will be able to intervene immediately in case of any unrest in the area. This was demonstrated when American jets carried out raids in Mali, Libya and Niger in 2016 and 2017.

Given all of these developments in Sahel and Sahara, one can say that the battle against terrorism will be long and hard due to the geography of the region and its ethnic diversity and tensions that are stoked by border disputes and criminal organizations. This will place regional and international efforts in a direct confrontation with very complicated and sensitive factors that ultimately all favor the region’s terrorist groups.

*Khalid Yamout is a visiting political science professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat.

The Options Facing the Trump Administration’s War on ISIS

ISIS

Rabat – It appears that developing a new strategy for the Middle East, most notably one to combat terrorism, is among the priorities of the new Republican US administration.

Congress is seeking to change the policy of Democratic President Barack Obama, which led to further Iranian expansion in the region, and yet yielded some victories against the ISIS terror group, especially in Iraq.

In his first speech before Congress since his election as president, Donald Trump, asserted that Washington will continue to cooperate with its traditional allies in the Middle East in order to defeat ISIS.

In February, former US Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey and current expert at the Washington Institute, James Jeffrey, gave a testimony before Congress on how to combat ISIS. He proposed forming a new strategy that would “exert immediate efforts, led by the US, to destroy the terror phenomenon because this is the most pressing issue in the region.”

Reports that followed the testimony said that the Trump administration completely agrees with Jeffery’s stance.

The threats facing the US interests in the region are not limited to ISIS, but they include Iran and Russia, whom Tehran views as a partner in its expansionist agenda. Washington must therefore take into account the Iranian-Russian partnership as a real threat to national US interests.

The new US strategy should not only look into destroying ISIS, but it should devise a plan that would ensure the cooperation of the parties that can help achieve this long-term goal. Experts said that Washington must cooperate with Turkey to restore the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIS control. Ankara meanwhile, must accept that this goal requires the participation of effective players that do not curry its favor, mainly the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Moreover, destroying ISIS and putting a halt to Iranian and Russian ambitions in the Middle East require looking into the aftermath of achieving these missions. Questions over the geo-political conflict in the region and who will lead the transition period need to be addressed, while preserving US interests, eliminating Iran’s influence, and accepting Russia’s “inevitable” presence.

In Iraq, Jeffery noted that the Iraqi forces’ current advance on ISIS in Mosul will soon end. This will force the militants to head to the town of al-Hawija. The battle for the town will require “field maneuvers” by the Kurdish Peshmerga and Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Units militia. The US will have to tread carefully with these groups in order to ensure its long-term interests in Iraq.

The situation appears much more complicated in Syria, said Jeffery. To that end, he proposed five options that the US could adopt to eliminate ISIS from its Raqqa stronghold.

The first option calls for relying on the YPG and the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. The Trump administration rejected the choice because these groups are not properly equipped to wage guerrilla warfare. One solution called for arming the YPG, but it was refused because it will create tensions with Ankara. The option is also not viable due to the various disputes between Kurds and the Arab tribes surrounding Raqqa.

The second option calls for establishing a Turkish alliance led by the International Alliance and which employs the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Turkish infantry units. The significance of this option lies in Turkey’s ability to establish itself in the predominantly Arab and Sunni surroundings, where it will likely be welcomed. The presence of Turkish forces will however place it at odds with the YPG and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance.

The third option is a merger of the first two and seems like the best choice for the Trump administration, said Jeffery, because it caters to Turkey’s fears regarding Kurds and uses the FSA to liberate Raqqa. Achieving the actual merger itself will be the main diplomatic challenge, especially in creating trust between Turks and Kurds and between the US and the FSA.

The fourth option relies on the Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance to liberate Raqqa, but it is not viable due to the inaccuracy of Russian airstrikes and the majority Sunni population’s opposition to regime and Iranian militias. Jeffery therefore said that the US should only make do with the intelligence that this alliance can provide.

The fifth option, one which the Pentagon seems most in favor of, calls for US and NATO troops to liberate Raqqa.

Once Raqqa and Mosul are liberated, the US will have to ensure that its long-term interests are preserved. The interests of the people must be first met and the situation should be remedied so that terror groups cannot seep into society once again. In order to do so, Washington needs to intervene to overcome the challenge of the various armed groups, ensure the unity of Iraq, limit Iran’s influence in Iraq and Syria, confront Russia’s expansion and separate it from Iran and Syria.

A historic reconciliation should be reached between the YPG and Turkey, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the possibility of arming the FSA should be an option. These goals demand that the US deploy troops on the ground in Syria and Iraq to train the Peshmerga and Iraqi soldiers and support the establishment of a “free zone” around Raqqa and “Turkish region” in northern Syria.

ISIS in One Year … between Expansion, Collapse

Rabat- On December 28, 2016, the Iraqi Forces kicked off the second phase of Mosul’s liberation after it was postponed many times for logistic and climate reasons. This extended operation came in coincidence with the joining of the Sultanate of Oman to the Saudi-led Arab-Islamic Coalition to combat terrorism. Regional and international efforts to eradicate extremist terrorist organizations in many countries including Iraq and Syria have come along remarkable divisions amid different evaluations on the movement of terrorist organizations mainly ISIS.

Researchers and research centers have agreed on the remarkable progress in the war on terrorism and the severity of ISIS’ defeats, which have weakened it till it lost its alleged Caliphate. However, opinions of researchers and experts have differed about the quality and the impact of these defeats and the future of the organization led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This difference led to the emergence of two contradicting point of views in explaining the events that took place in 2016, including regression, collapse, and redeployment.

*Theory of adaptation and redeployment
This theory is based on the capability of ISIS’s ideology to resist and recreate. It warns against the organization’s high capacity on adapting, which means that the military defeats put the group in a defensive position, especially that ISIS has sought to expand in Africa and other regions. This expansion will not be remarkably affected by the organization’s defeat in Iraq and Syria, because its recreation strategy has exposed the region to serious threats.

French Political Expert Olivier Roy defends this theory and warns against the dreadful ideological expansion of ISIS; this ideology led the organization to recruit many members and to form non-secure areas in Europe. Roy considers that ISIS has shown progress in attracting people despite the so-called Caliphate’s geographic regression. He also warns from the organization’s role in spreading religious fundamentalism.

According to a U.S. study, this proliferation has succeeded in recruiting 27-31 thousand militants from 86 Asian, African, and European countries, which led ISIS’ redeployment out of Syria and Iraq with the “lone wolves” strategy in the West.

*Theory of collapse
The recession and collapse theory sees that ISIS is not only retreating, but it is also approaching eradication. The organization is no more capable of controlling territories it captured in the few past years, its financial and natural resources have been reduced, and its most influential leaders were killed. On another hand, ISIS has lost its positive image among Arab and Western youth because of its draconian practices. The international coalition has also maximized its military procedures and adopted the policy of security coordination, which obstructed ISIS’ members from reaching recruited members in Syria and Iraq through social media.

This theory considers that the liberation of Kobani – Ayn al-Arab on 26/1/2015 – has broken the image of the unbeatable organization and proved that local popular efforts in cooperation with the international coalition can confront and beat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

In this context, the collapse theory believes that the developments of 2016 – like ISIS’ loss of its capital Dabiq and its stronghold in Mosul – prove that its eradication is close.

Generally, both theories have found indices to validate their ideas. However, based on the cumulated expertise of the researchers in this field, we can say that ISIS’ expansion cannot be separated from the ideological path of the organization; this means that these temporary defeats do not necessarily lead to the defeat of the ideological spirit of the group and may pave the road to its return.

Religion to Find its Way Back to Public Life!

Religion to Find its Way Back to Public Life!

The secular academic theories have represented an intellectual map for the modern western mind and still represent a significant trend in the political, social, and religious sciences and the modern socio-political sciences.

Different proposals discussing this context have maintained their theorist’s strength through a group of philosophers, intellects, and political scientists who focused on secularism and political path of the religion in societies. Marcel Gauchet is considered among the most prominent contemporary philosophers who defended the empowerment of the knowledge-based theorizing of secularism; he joined the “disenchantment of the world” theory created by Max Weber.

Gauchet’s interest in the political and religious beliefs and the relation between both of them was the reason behind his major in philosophy and history. He began his research at the Centre de Recherches Politiques Raymond Aron by defending the thesis “The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion” in a book he released in 1985 and many other books till 2013.

The French philosopher mainly discusses religion in the contemporary world and its creation and impact on the future and dynamics of the religion. He considers that the era of Western modernism, particularly the European modernism is the time of separation from religion. In fact, Gauchet sees that secularism has had a Christian origin as, according to him, modernism is not an ideology that emerged from political modernism and not cosmopolitan representations a philosopher isolated from the European reality and its community’s developments in the era of fundamentalist conflicts and the return of religion to the same Western entourage.

No separation with faith

Therefore, Gauchet sees that the “The Disenchantment of the World” thesis and the marginalization of religion indicate the separation from the religion itself and not the breach of faith in God. According to him, along with the religious reform, the modern politics has appeared and created the concept of modern state over a whole century, which shows how a religious and political path can completely change the facts of faith.

Fundamentalists…and the world

This historical path of religion and ideologies should not be understood as the defeat of religion in the contemporary reality. The religious belief still draw its path without losing its implicit status in social interactions in the time of modernism and secular individuality. This status was emphasized through the emergence of many religious fundamentalists that differs from the traditional religion.

However, Guachet considers that the return of religion to the community of individualism today serve fundamentalisms, which succeed in attracting the young generation stuck between the belonging to oneself and the belonging to the group. On the social level, this confusion can explain the attraction of the French youth toward terrorism under the patronage of ISIS and based on concepts like the “Caliphate” and “Jihad”.

Youth and Terrorism

Therefore, efforts should focus on eradicating the phenomenon of terrorism amid youth, and that can be achieved through supporting the individual so it can prove him in a complicated society of different interactions.

Shiism: Iranian Cover for Community Division in West Africa

Rabat -On May 12, 2016, Iran gathered students from three African countries at a conference discussing the state of Ahl al-Bayt followers in Africa. Such a step emphasizes the new strategy of Tehran in Africa, which depends on building civil and political influence before developing it into a military power that serves the Iranian higher interests.

As per the conference, it seems that the Iranian authorities considered it the biggest national project to spread Shiism and the message of Imam Mahdi in 30 Africa countries.

Experts in African affairs admit that the religious-sectarian issue has played a significant role in the long-term Iranian strategy in Africa, which was launched in the eighties.

Amid international conflicts on the choices of the black continent, Tehran has worked on building an independent influence away from the clashing powers in the West African countries. According to many researchers, Iran has made remarkable achievements in this field and has expanded its interests by building an African Shi’ite institutional system that follows the Wali al-Faqih.

This system has been the culmination of Iranian efforts to create an organized network of Shi’ite preachers and leaders who back Iran and parties working on implementing the abovementioned agenda. This is how Iran has succeeded in networking the fields of its diversified activity, which includes an economic and political influence to build an organized religious social, military, militia-like power such as the “Nigerian Hezbollah” led by Zakzaky.

*Exploiting the state’s fragility
Since the start of its infiltration in Africa, Iran has been aware that it is working in a fragile, conflicting environment of ethnic and religious diversity with more than 250 million people. This environment includes republics of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Ghana, Nigerian, Benin, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cape Verde.

Religiously, the majority of this region’s population follows the Maliki-Sunni law and has been tightly linked to the Moroccan moderate Islam; over the course of history, no Shi’ite groups linked to the Jaafari School appeared in Africa. Yet, over the two past decades, Iran has succeeded in breaching the religious and social structure in West Arica trough Shi’ite charity civil and government associations, educational and cultural centers, and economic investment projects. This activity created some Shi’ite embracing environments in the west of the continent especially in Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

The religious aspect of the expansion process has been led by the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly while the military aspect has been led by the Revolutionary Guard, which has been responsible for training African students and overseeing some economic and social institutions. While the role played by the Iranian army has been mainly secret, some of its activities come to light from time to time; in 2010, Nigeria stopped an Iranian ship transporting weapons, which led Gambia to suspend its relations with Iran, in addition to a number of projects and cooperation programs. In spite of the negative impact of such incidents, preaching and cultural efforts led by Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly have continued in the continent.

*Shi’ite institutional networking
Among the new Iranian initiatives in Africa is the establishment of “Ahl al-Bayt Association in Africa” on 10 August 2016; Secretary General Abu Jaafar said that the association has become the reference of African Shi’ites and that it will work to emphasize the values of social peace in all the continent’s communities. While establishing this association, Iran was keen to choose figures that enjoy remarkable social influence and support in their areas.

The association’s foundation statement clearly refers to the growth of Shi’ite followers in the continent and how to secure their safety and wealth.

*Propaganda of Shi’ite institutions
Although some statistics show that the Shi’ite population in Africa has reached seven million people, it’s hard to gather evidence on the data, which were promoted by Iranian Shi’ite institutions. Imam Abdul al-Nazer Damba, leader of Shi’ites in Ivory Coast said that Shiism in his country has been developing according to organized plans and a timetable under the supervision of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

However, the Shiism phenomenon, which has been clearly spreading in some African regions, has faced many popular challenges, which obstructed it from stepping out of some isolated regions.

*Role of Lebanese migrants
Shi’ites in Ivory Coast have their own Arabic and Francophone institutions and centers including the Zahraa Cultural Center and the Imam Sadeq Francophone Foundation in Abidjan, which has sought to spread Shiism. Lebanese migrants have played a significant role in this foundation mainly the youth and commercial elites.

Eventually, data of Shiism proliferation in the West of Africa can be considered exaggerated rumors spread by Iran and its institutions. However, the Iranian breach of the African structure has become an undeniable threat, particularly with Iran’s efforts in linking African Shiism with its national goals.

Burkini and the Non-Religious Extremism

[Tim Wimborne/Reuters]

The case of Burkini has emerged in France after the decision to ban swimming suits worn by Muslim women in 30 municipalities in the country. This ban provoked a wide debate in France and in the worldwide media; it has also renewed arguments in Paris on secularism and religious freedom. The ban of burkini has been accompanied with frightening constraints imposed by policemen on Muslim women who visit beaches, where some were accused of bothering people.

Yet, France’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled a ban on the 26th of August against the restrictions issued by the municipalities on burkinis. The court also considered that this ban is a dangerous violation of public freedoms including personal and religious liberties.

While many of French educated people have considered that the court’s decision has saved the reputation of the French secularism and the state of personal freedom in it, others have considered it a new privilege for Muslims and a threat for the country’s secularism. Apparently, the court’s decision has opposed the public view in France amid a large spread of Islamophobia reflected through media, culture, administration, and some security agencies.

According to a survey implemented by the right-winged newspaper “Le Figaro” concerning the French people’s view on the Burkini matter, 76% have saw that the may threat the public system.

On the sociological and historical level, the tendency of the French society to exclude religion, particularly foreign ones like Islam, can be seen as a normal reaction because France is the country that has first founded the secular movement and applied it among its colonies.

Secularism requires neutrality with other religions and thoughts; however, in the French case, secularism is turning into a mean to destroy other people’s freedoms to secure the perfect neutrality. Social interactions have given politics an important role and significance; therefore, the ban of veil through a judicial or legal decision, as happened in Paris, has transformed the protection of secularism into a movement that violates human rights and into a new religion that compete the other spread religions.

Philosopher Guy Haarscher sees that the social path in France and Europe changes on the ethnic and religious levels, which asserts that these societies need to differ with the classic secularism; the secular origin has maintained its roots in the French community, which leads it sometimes toward a radical view against religion and its symbols, like the

burkini.

Harscher adds that democratic countries don’t have a legal text that imposes a strict separation between the religion and the regime, given that there are ministries that sponsor the religious issue. The philosopher also notes that the French Secularism is not the only sample adopted in Europe and points to the Belgium sample that depends on a special pattern that secures the diversity of religions.

From his part, in his book “Religion in Democracy”, Marcel Gauchet sees that the world is standing in front of a significant transformation in the society-state relations; he considers that secularism bet on limiting religion in the people’s personal entourage, yet it has failed, which has urged the redefinition of secularism.

But would the French court’s decision on 26 August allow the change of the French secularism path and to change the law of 1905 to respond to the urgent changes in the French society? And would the French secularism succeed in protecting freedoms and rights in the era of Islamophobia and the worldwide spread terrorism?

Caliphate of Baghdadi in 2016: Geographical Regression, Constant Humanitarian Bleeding

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. There had previously been reports on social media that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would make his first public appearance since his Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) changed its name to the Islamic State and declared him caliph. The Iraqi government denied that the video, which carried Friday's date, was credible. It was also not possible to immediately confirm the authenticity of the recording or the date when it was made. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV (IRAQ - Tags: POLITICS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT OF THIS VIDEO, WHICH HAS BEEN OBTAINED FROM A SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE - RTR3X9AW

Rabat- The year of 2016 has been witnessing a significant regression of the Islamic caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in terms of its spread, human resources, and financial capacities.

This positive path has come to obstruct the political and geographical expansion of ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Following the recapture of Fallujah and other cities, Iraqi forces supported by heavy fires of the International Coalition, has launched on 13 August a military operation to control the cities between governorates of Saladin and Mosul.

Many reports have shown that the qualitative development in terrorism combat operations in Syria and Iraq signifies a real start to resume control in the region. The regression of ISIS’ financial capabilities that depended on oil trade and its consequence on the attraction of human resources and armament process reduced ISIS-controlled territory by 12%.

All these losses in the core regions of ISIS indicate that the geographical downturn threatens the concept of the “Caliphate” as a whole, which has inspired the new generation of global terrorists.

According to the HIS Conflict Monitor, ISIS has controlled around 78,000km² of Syria and Iraq surfaces in the beginning of 2015, while it remarkably retracted to around 68,000km² in 2016. Till May, the Baghdadi Caliphate has lost more than 45% of its lands in Iraq and 20% of its control areas in Syria. Also, on 12 August, Peshmerga forces succeeded in liberating Manbij city after 73 days of clashes.

Although many observers and researchers have seen that Libya will be the next destination of the Caliphate following its losses in Iraq and Syria, the extremist group has faced an increasing popular rejection and a fierce armed confrontation in this region.

Unlike the battle of Misrata liberation that depended on modest local popular resistance, the armed forces of the National Unity Government, supported by the U.S. air forces are leading continuous battles against ISIS in Sirte.

On the other hand, the humanitarian losses that struck the organization during the second half of 2016 emphasizes its defeat in the field; more than 30,000 European fighters have returned to their countries and airstrikes are killing more terrorists.

On 18 August, a Pentagon official announced that ISIS’ leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan Hafez Said was killed in a U.S. air raid. Many of ISIS’ leaders were also killed in Iraq including Abu Ali al-Anbari, the organization’s minister of war.

In spite of the remarkable success achieved during this year’s battles against Baghdadi in Libya, Iraq, and Syria, ISIS still have big chances to maneuver in the deserts that links Iraq and Libya. The ongoing conflict among the different Libyan parties and the consequences of the regional and international interventions will play a major role in the country’s failure in weakening ISIS.

The fall of Baghdadi’s Caliphate is not linked to the weakening of his terrorist organization by blockading it and suspending its financial and humanitarian resources, but to the capability of the international system on developing the patterns of international conflicts and resolving conflicts peacefully.

The emergence of ISIS has not reflected the development of the Iraqi society and the failure of the state, but it has uncovered the patterns of the regional and international conflict and the contradiction of its interests in the Middle East. ISIS has been exploiting this paradoxical situation to expand and to maneuver in the geography of political wars that controls the MENA region.

Baghdadi’s ongoing regression requires a swift development in the dynamics of compromises and regional understandings between Sunnis and Shi’ites under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Moscow, and Washington to avoid any new expansion operations by ISIS in the region.

ISIS in Libya between U.S., French Attacks

Militants from Derna, photographed shortly after pledging allegiance to Isis in OctoberReuters

Rabat-The U.S. strategy to combat terrorism in North Africa has practically been extended with the Pentagon’s announcement on 1st of August that the army has launched its first air strikes over regions under ISIS’ control. But, the scene of the strikes in Libya that reminds us of the military movement that has kicked off on 23 September against ISIS in Syria and Iraq does not mean that Western powers have the same view on the organization’s expansion in a dismantled country that lacks a unified political authority and is laden with dozens of embattling armed groups.

Apparently, Obama’s administration has been aware of these political and military complications on earth. Therefore, it has counted since 2013 on empowering the intelligence sector. It also used diplomacy to maintain its vital interests in Libya along with combating terrorism that has moved from Iraq and Syria, by urging the parties of the conflict to negotiate and to find a political solution that put an end to the political and military chaos that benefit ISIS is feeding on to expand.

As part of its strategic goals in combating terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa, the United States maintains its right to implement “special operations” and to practice intelligence activities independently from the International Coalition. On another side, Obama’s administration trains, arms, and supports the Iraqi army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and some of the Syrian opposition’s factions.

In the Libyan case, these U.S. attacks against ISIS are not the first unless regarding the coordination with the National Unity Government. The Pentagon previously announced the launch of many strikes against terrorists’ strongholds in June 2015 and February 2016.

The Pentagon’s statement said that President Barack Obama has approved the strikes against ISIS in Libya based on recommendations from Ashton Carter, the secretary of Defense and Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and considering that these strikes in Sirte will lead the government to achieve a strategic and decisive advancement. For his part, Jonathan Winer, State Department’s special envoy for Libya posted on Twitter that his country will not participate in the ground operations saying that the USA does not plan to combat ISIS on the ground.

However, the U.S. administration has been maintaining a strong coordination with the National Unity Government in Libya and is helping it by providing it with data concerning activities of terrorist groups and by launching air strikes against ISIS.

On the other hand, the U.S. air strikes go far beyond a direct confrontation with terrorism and carry many political indications. They reveal some conflicts among the regional and international powers regarding the complicated situation in Libya. The U.S. initiative which has gained the consent of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and followed remarkable conflicts between the Libyan government and France, Britain, and Italy, is still unable to control the situation.

While the Libyan government defends the United States’ intervention in the country, it condemns the French operations and considers them as a sensitive case, which shows that the combat of terrorism has been transformed into a conflict among foreign parties and countries.

Forhis part, Sarraj told CNN Arabia that his government aims at eradicating ISIS and added that his country should not be left alone facing this enemy.

Eventually, we can say that the coordination between the United States and the Libyan government regarding the combat of terrorism serves the supreme interest of the U.S. administration in the region. Therefore, Washington has rushed to play the role of the real warrior of terrorism and at the same time, it has enjoyed a legitimacy of action from a U.N.-supported government, unlike the French forces.

Experts Focus on Terrorist Practices, Intellect in Europe

Bullet imacts are seen on the heavy truck the day after it ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard - RTSI17P

The recent attack that took place in Nice while people were celebrating their country’s national day has recalled many security concerns and provoked experts in terrorist intellect’s development and practices in Europe and the Middle East.

The terrorist Mohamed Lahouaiej didn’t only chose the public square to implement his attack, but he also chose a symbolic political and historic memory for the French people, which definitely carries out an important message. Therefore, tagging the Tunisian-native young man with terrorism and the use of “Islamic terrorism” expression by the French President Francois Hollande were not a surprise.

Apparently, developments of terrorist incidents since 2015 till 14/7/2016 impose new challenges on the French cultural and political elite. Lahouaiej’s behavior shows that whether he committed his attack because of extremist incentives, or because the French state’s intervention in his marriage, the public policies and the legal and security procedures taken by the government were expeditious and unable to prevent the increasing attacks against the country.

This attack means that the terrorist groups’ strategy has overtook its traditional style in its war with Paris that used to base on kidnapping some French people in the African deserts or by attacking some French interests in the Middle East. These groups succeeded in creating an environment of intellectual and emotional support among the members of the fourth generation of the west’s Muslims.

This new path explains the reality of development and the new tools of the battle between new terrorists and Paris, and also explains the reason behind terrorists moving from Belgium to Paris to implement terrorist operations.

As expected, the new incident has recalled the tense discussions launched by Charlie Hebdo’s attack among the French elite and their dealing with this complicated complex phenomenon.

Few hours after the incident of Nice, a French professor and expert in terrorist movement severely criticized the political French elite and accused it of failure, saying that the only factor they can count on, is the capacity of the French people on building a strong interior partnership to beat the challenge of terrorism.

The expert sees that a genuine change is happening in the programs and plans adopted by the terrorists, which allows them to fulfill bloody scenes. He adds that terrorist groups are choosing simplicity to implement their attacks and they are not interested in finding new weapons anymore like what happened in the Stade de France’ operation.

Yet, the French government doesn’t understand these developments and retakes the same measures that failed before, which may lead to discord among different sects and categories in the French community, that may lead to a civil war.

According to the same expert, challenging terrorism is possible by mobilizing the society and not only the state that faced the attack, which will create a partnership among different French components.

Camille Grand, president of the Strategic Research Foundation said that many factors, which are more powerful than the French policies themselves, are nurturing terrorism. He continues that the terrorism is a global phenomenon and that the powerful countries in the Middle East play an important role in combating it. Grand considers that contrast among the global policies and interests, allows terrorism to spread and to gain new members and supporters.

The Head of FRS stresses on the importance of surpassing the limited involvement of USA and some of the Middle Eastern countries in combating terrorism and says that French-Russian- American-Turkish- Saudi cooperation is a must in the origins of ISIS like Syria and Iraq and not in the affected regions like France.

The French Philosopher Michel Onfray considered that frequent attacks in his country is the result of the French authority’s intervention in interior affairs of many countries that witnesses political violence and conflict on power and fortune. The Philosopher asked why his country would choose weak countries like Libya and Mali to intervene in their affairs. He pointed that the problem is not in Islam, yet it is in racism, and that France should admit its racism.

The terrorist attack on Nice that killed 84 people and wounded 100 others is one of the new violent trends. Although the attack enjoys an individual feature, its political results represent a challenge for the political elite in France. The frequent attempts to use terrorism in political and elective purposes will provide ISIS’s intellect with new supporters and will make the political violence and terrorism a pure western phenomenon.

Justice and Development, Ennahda … Parties with Political Priorities

Rabat-Many experts and observers of Islamic organizations,discuss the particularity of the parties of Justice and Development in Morocco and Ennahda Movement in Tunisia and their decisive contribution in ensuring their countries’ independence amidst an unstable regional entourage dominated by terrorism and armed conflicts instead of ballot boxes and legal transfer of authority. But the review of principles and behaviors of both parties explains the origin of their current political behavior.

The outcome of the Tunisian revolution transformed the Ennahda into a legitimate organism, a leader for a Coalition government, and a main partner in the current government. In Morocco, which is controlled by a royal executive rule, the manifestation of the February 20, 2011 led the Justice and Development to head the government in coalition with three other parties.

The Moroccan party emerged from the Moroccan Action Committee and was established in 1967. Dr. Abdul Kareem al-Khatib, founder of the party, is considered one of the main leaders of resistance and the Moroccan Army of Liberation, and enjoys close ties with the Royalty.

Unlike the total independence of the Justice and Development Party and the Movement for Unity and Reform, the Tunisian Ennahda was established based on the Muslims Brotherhood’s approach in 1969. However, its relations with the worldwide-Muslims Brotherhood was always tense due to differences in perspectives and views.

The Tunisian party has tried since 1987 to become a legitimate political party that works under the constitution and the Tunisian law. Therefore, the party submitted two applications to obtain legal authorizations, but the Ministry of Interior refused both. On the first of March 2011, Ennahda became a legitimate party for the first time, and received the authorization of Mohammad al-Ghannouchi government’s following the revolution. It was the biggest winner in the elections and formed a government with Congress for the Republic party.

The Justice and Development Party has benefited from the political openness in Morocco 1992. The Moroccan Royalty never oppressed the Islamists, as happened in Tunisia that adopted an eradication policy with the Islamic movement and particularly with Ennahda during Bin Ali’s rule.

This political openness in Morocco came in line with a new religious policy, and the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs organized public intellectual religious manifestations, in which participated a number of eminent Islamic leaders including Rached Ghannouchi. This Moroccan political openness that included the Tunisian Ennahda enhanced the links between the Islamists in Morocco and Tunisia.

The relations between both parties were deep and witnessed many meetings while the Justice and Development was in the opposition in its country and the Ennahda was exiled to Morocco. The coordination between them continued after the revolution of 2011. Since 2012, the meetings between both parties have focused on the separation of religion from politics.

In 2015, Ennahda called its main officials to submit a paper on the separation subject before the members of Shura Council of the party in the Tunisian capital. Obviously, the intellectual approach between the two parties unified their view concerning the religious extremism. They both refused violence while they were in power, and made daring stances concerning Islamic and secular extremism.

Justice and Development and Ennahda stress on their Islamic background and on their identity as two reformist and democratic parties that believe in rotation of power, partnership, and deliberation in the rule. Their actions emphasized their principles and disproved the allegations of their ideological rivals who accused them of hypocrisy.

In 2011, the Justice and Development Party formed the government with the former Moroccan Communist Party and offered it portfolios that exceed its parliamentary share. It also allied with the Independence Party in the first government and maintained its alliance with the Amazighs.

Ennahda in Tunisia announced that it will not become a candidate for the presidential elections in the first and second election in 2014, and that it will form a cabinet with the parties that accept to ally with it regardless of their ideologies. Unlike expectations, both parties considered religion as a personal freedom and focused on economic, social, and development affairs like resolving the unemployment problem among the youth.

Both parties avoided any confrontation with the state’s institutions like the army and didn’t intervene with the rule. They also supported the security forces in their war against the extremist groups and opposed the political isolation law that targeted symbols from Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime.

The Tunisian Ennahda supported the return of Tunisians to their country including the former president and called for handing him over his national passport.

The political practice of both Ennahda and Justice and Development shows the common mentality of the both Islamic factions, especially how they dealt with the structure of the undemocratic Arabic country and the global environment. In many events, the secretary general of the Justice and development party said that he doesn’t aim to fight with the King, and that he intends to cooperate with him to serve the country.

While both parties have not made remarkable achievements in the economic and social fields in their respective countries, they actually committed to the approach of national partnership, refused the monopoly of the authority, offered cooperation with the different legitimate political movements, avoided conflicts with the state-run institutions in the country, and decisively opposed terrorism.

All the mentioned factors contributed to maintaining stability in the countries of those parties, and also led to enhance human rights and pubic freedoms in two countries that are seeking to build a modern democratic state and are refusing to be involved in bloody civil wars.