Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Engaging Al Qaeda? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Following increasing debate in America over the need to reach out to Taliban “moderates” and the idea that we must learn how to coexist with radical Islamists, as well as the announcement that Britain would re-establish contact with the “political” wing of Hezbollah, all we are waiting for now is to hear about openness towards the Al Qaeda organization.

This is not sarcasm but it seems that the West understands “openness” in a different way, as after it inflamed our region with numerous battles in response to the extremist terrorist attacks of 9/11 carried out by Al Qaeda, the West today has decided to deal with extremism and extremists recklessly.

After former US President George W. Bush committed serious errors by handling every issue with confrontation and weapons, the West today wants to deal with all its problems regarding extremism and extremists through tolerance and the call for openness, forgetting that too much tolerance could be a grave error that is no less dangerous than the threat of extremism itself.

Nevertheless, one must state here that it seems that the successful experience that America has had with the tribal councils or the Sahwa forces in Iraq is what strengthened the concept of openness but in the wrong way. These tribes [in Iraq] did not take up arms because of their belief in a certain ideology or in the interest of a foreign party. These tribes took up arms in Iraq because they believed that they had lost their gains with the fall of the former regime so they allied with “the devil” i.e. Al Qaeda for the sake of their own interests. When they were finally convinced that Al Qaeda’s approach was not productive and actually threatened their interests, influence and stability, they chose to follow another path.

This is where the big difference lies between the tribes in Iraq on one hand and the Taliban in Afghanistan, or Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the other, as Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah does nothing but implement the instructions of the Wilayat al Faqih. He might appear to be different and able to be a leader but only at the instruction of his master!

This is where the question about the difference between militant and political Hezbollah is warranted and this has been highlighted a number of times before. The British Foreign Ministry cannot answer this question simply because there is no difference; the Hezbollah of the Al Manar Channel is the same Hezbollah of military and political leadership that hangs up pictures in the streets.

Therefore, Washington’s openness to Damascus is not a reason to engage Hezbollah – there is a very big difference. Syria is a state with a ruling regime; Hezbollah on the other hand is a party affiliated to Iran and its leader admits that he is a proud member of the Wilayat al Faqih party and imposes his authority in Lebanon through the use of weapons.

States do not reach out to internal parties but to other states; as for the parties, this is an internal issue unless of course Britain sees Hezbollah as the Lebanese state. In that case, the question is how can the British government recognize a party that is hijacking a state through the use of weapons?

If the excuse given is that there are Hezbollah ministers in the Lebanese government then why has the West boycotted the Hamas government? The danger of what Britain is doing today is that it is sending out the wrong message at the wrong time to Hezbollah and this is what the Bush administration did the day that it decided to show openness to the Muslim Brotherhood!

Dialogue is necessary and it is beneficial, not harmful, but dialogue here means between one state and another and dialogue between those who do not approve of using weapons against their own country. But openness for the sake of openness complicates matters further and sends out the wrong message.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

More Posts