The West ignores Islamic Jihad

We don’t have a leadership vacuum in the Middle East. What we have is a reality vacuum.
By Andrew C McCarthy, NRO

The vacuous “vacuum” chatter is back, reappearing in the Iraq debate after its long run as the all-purpose explanation for internecine Islamic bloodletting in Syria. That should make perfect sense since Iraq is Syria: same players, same bloodletting. Yet, the “vacuum” is wildly different from place to place, which also makes perfect sense . . . but only because the idea of a “vacuum” is nonsense on stilts.

Syria, we are told, disintegrated because President Obama’s abdication created a leadership void — “the vacuum” — that al-Qaeda rushed in to fill. The “moderate” Sunni “rebels,” the story goes, were poised to fulfill America’s top priority, undermining Iran, by overthrowing the Shiite regime the mullahs control in Damascus. But the president failed to back “moderate” Sunni “rebels,” who threw in their lot with al-Qaeda — strictly, we are to believe, owing to Obama’s default, not to the ideological harmony of the “rebels” with the jihadists.

Cross Syria’s eastern border, though, and the vacuum abruptly warps. Now, far from undermining Iran, America’s top priority somehow becomes propping up an Iran-backed Shiite state. Obama’s abdication is thus said to be the failure to “consolidate the gains of the Iraq War” by keeping about 20,000 U.S. troops in place to fend off Sunni “rebels,” who — I know you’ll find this hard to believe — have yet again thrown in their lot with al-Qaeda.

In fact, it turns out that if the same “rebel” gravitates from Syria to Iraq, he’s no longer even a “rebel” anymore; he’s a “terrorist.”
It ought to tell us something that al-Qaeda’s latest incarnation is known as “ISIS.” No, not because it takes an Egyptian goddess of magic to make sense of American policy these days. The acronym is derived from the jihadists’ self-proclaimed name: the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Al-Sham refers to “greater Syria” or the Levant, encompassing the neighboring territories of Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Cyprus, and Southern Turkey.

Jihadists, you see, do not recognize or much care about national boundaries drawn by Western powers. In the world, as they see it, they are pitted against everyone else — Dar al-Islam versus Dar al-Harb: All must choose the realm of Islam or the realm of war. Significantly, al-Qaeda was not the first to revive this ancient Islamic-supremacist perspective. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the creator of Iran’s revolutionary sharia state, famously proclaimed:

We do not worship Iran. We worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [i.e., Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.

Unlike us, Islamic supremacists have a strategic vision fit for a global conflict. They do not think in terms of countries. You will never find them thinking their allies in Syria are their mortal enemies in Iraq. They know the principal enemy is Western civilization — especially the United States and Israel. When we are involved, Sunni and Shiite supremacists put aside their mutual hatred and collaborate against us — so that their version of Islam “emerges triumphant.” When we are not involved, they go back to killing each other. ’Twas ever thus, and so shall it ever be, at least in our lifetimes.

Here in the United States, neither the government nor the commentariat has a strategic vision for a global conflict. We have the vacuum, and it shows.

There never was a vacuum in Syria. Assad’s Sunni rivals always teemed with Islamic supremacists. Hoping no one would notice this inconvenient fact, proponents of American intervention vaporously labeled them the “rebels.” But there’s only so many times you can play that game, and our Beltway wizards had done it before in Egypt and Libya, where “Arab Spring” delirium was already being exposed as the pernicious rise of Islamic supremacism. So the interveners talked up the “moderate Syrian opposition,” hoping no one would notice that the “moderates” they had in mind were mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, who seem “moderate” compared to al-Qaeda the same way Al Capone seems moderate if you compare him with Charles Manson.

It is not that there was a complete absence of authentic moderate Muslim and non-Muslim democrats in Syria. There simply aren’t enough of them to make a difference. The brute fact is that only Islamic supremacists and their ruthless jihadist factions had a chance to overthrow Assad, if they got enough outside help.

The claim that Obama abandoned the opposition is equally bogus. Because of the president’s delusional theory that the Muslim Brotherhood are “moderates” we can ally with, he quietly colluded with Qatar and the Saudis to arm and train the Syrian “rebels.” It blew up on him because the “moderates” are not moderate. The Brothers concur in al-Qaeda’s sharia goals and readily resort to terrorism if that is what is necessary to achieve them. So arming the rebels, as Obama helped do, necessarily meant arming anti-American jihadists. This has proved embarrassing, so what Obama has done, at least so far, is refrain from giving the “rebels” decisive aid — the kind he gave the “rebels” in Libya, to disastrous effect in Benghazi. That is hardly an aid vacuum.

Similarly fatuous is the vacuum narrative regarding Iraq. As I argued throughout the Bush years, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has always been Iran’s guy, and under his regime, Iran’s tentacles were allowed to spread throughout post-Saddam Iraq — the State Department and the Iraq Study Group sharing the loopy conceit that Iran had an interest in a stable Iraq even as Iran was fueling both sides of Iraq’s civil war, supplying Sunni terrorists with IEDs, and running Shiite terror cells against our troops.

In the revisionist history of the Iraq War currently on offer, by 2008 the “Sunni awakening” had turned Islamic supremacists into “moderates”; the surge had obliterated al-Qaeda; and Iraq was stabilized and on the cusp of a pluralist, democratic reconciliation. Thus, we’re told, President Bush was able to conclude a successful 2008 status-of-forces agreement with Maliki that would see all American troops out of Iraq by 2011.

In truth, Iraq was never stable. Only the presence of American troops prevented an outbreak of Sunni–Shiite warfare. The Sunnis were temporarily “awakened” by being paid off, not by a commitment to Iraqi “democracy” that promised domination by Iran-controlled Shiites. And because the conflict is global, it was never possible to obliterate al-Qaeda in Iraq.

As recently argued here, the status-of-forces agreement was no success. It was a bad deal President Bush agreed to because it was the best he could get. At the time it was negotiated, there were several problems looming, including a U.N. authorization set to expire on December 31, 2008, and a new president from the anti-war Left about to take power. The biggest challenge, however, is the one to which Washington has been willfully blind for a generation: Islam, and in particular the supremacist interpretation of it that rules the Middle East. Its absence from the debate is the vacuum at the center of the vacuum claptrap.

Iraqis despise Americans. Their sharia jurists, Sunni and Shiite, called for violent jihad to drive the “occupiers” out, and Iraqis thus overwhelmingly demanded that our forces leave the country. Under pressure from his Iranian overseers, Maliki drove a hard bargain with Bush, insisting on an American withdrawal and refusing to grant our troops immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts. Running out of time, Bush acceded to the demands that our forces be dramatically reduced by 2009 and fully evacuated by 2011. In so doing, he agreed to exactly what he had always rightly regarded as folly: hard withdrawal dates that would inevitably encourage jihadists to bide their time and reemerge as we vacated.

The principal challenge confronting the United States in the Middle East is Islam. As taught there, it inspires intense hatred of us from both sides of the Sunni–Shiite divide. President Bush could not make it go away by pretending it was a “false” Islam, and President Obama has made it worse by pretending we can ally with it. But neither of them caused the problem. We will never have a rational foreign policy until we fill that vacuum in our understanding.

Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment, was released by Encounter Books on June 3.

June 22, 2014 | 6 Comments »

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  1. bernard ross Said:

    Didn’t see the evidence?

    Like what???? 🙂

    bernard ross Said:

    Sisi is gathering international support for his presidency, and the US is promising to resume delivery of Apache attack helicopters.


    “The Apaches will come, and they’ll come very very soon,” Kerry told reporters, in reference to one big-ticket weapons deal that was suspended in October. The US is planning on delivering 10 Apache attack helicopters to Egypt’s military.

    Analysts say that despite the muted criticism, Kerry’s diplomatic visit and the partial aid release shows the US is keen to return to the steady bilateral relationship that the two countries had developed in the decades prior to the 2011 uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power.

    At this point the least Egypt needs is more arms. They need money and credits and wheat, Lots of wheat. They have enough to take care of Sinai. Seems to me they are scared that the arms deals Egypt has made with Russia had more to do with Obama caving in to Sisi.


    Stalwart Allies: Obama Admin Has Frozen Arms Sales; No More Apache Longbows for Israel?

    WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has blocked Israel’s request for advanced U.S.-origin attack helicopters.

    Government sources said the administration has held up Israel’s request for the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. The sources said the request was undergoing an interagency review to determine whether additional Longbow helicopters would threaten Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

    February 10, 2010 GET REAL

    Israel’s Netanyahu keeping mum about Obama’s virtual arms embargo

    Israel upgrades Apache helicopters after U.S. blocked their modernization

    TEL AVIV — Israel, despite opposition from the Obama administration, has managed to upgrade its fleet of attack helicopters.

    Military sources said the Israel Air Force has overseen a project to modernize its AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters.

    It’s obvious that the arms deal Egypt just concluded with Russia for $3 billion in advanced weapons has been the major influence on Obama changing his position. Russia has offered to sell Egypt stealth aircraft, advanced fighters and special operations equipment, according to Defense News, which cited Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute of Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, a think tank in United Arab Emirates.

    Such arms sales typically include training packages, meaning Egyptian officers will travel to Moscow, “which could help (Russia) re-establish a solid connection with the Egyptian military,” White said. “This is very significant I think,” he said

    The arms deal was originally proposed during a November visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Cairo. Various media reports have indicated the value of the deal could be several billion dollars.

    The deal is reportedly to be funded mainly by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    According to US officials, aid cuts included halting shipments of F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, M1A1 tanks and advanced anti-ship missiles.

    Moscow is apparently seeking to exploit the Egyptian demand for defense materiel created by US disengagement.


  2. yamit82 Said:


    Didn’t see the evidence?

    Kerry talks democracy in Egypt – and promises delivery of weapons
    Egyptian President Sisi received Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo today. Sisi is gathering international support for his presidency, and the US is promising to resume delivery of Apache attack helicopters.

    Remember I said the rift was BS and that after the Sisi election the US will return to Sisi?

    Beware ISIL, Iran’s Rouhani warns ‘petrodollar’ states
    Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned on Sunday that Muslim states which funnel petrodollars to jihadist Sunni fighters wreaking havoc in Iraq will become their next target.

    Rouhani did not name any country, but officials and media in mainly Shiite Iran have hinted that insurgents from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are being financially and militarily supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar

  3. @ Per:


    FIRSTLY, who still believes that the “official” reasons given for firing TOP commanders, whose commands handled nukes, are true? Besides, isn’t it other worldly that a week before their summary firings they were judged fine commanders, but suddenly deemed “unfit” for command, no sooner than credible reports of a controlled underwater nuke explosion took place, 200 miles from South Carolina? Come on…Not only that, but the Traitor-in-Chief ordered these same “unfit” heavyweights to transport 3 nukes, 2 of which they whisked away (thank heavens) to parts unknown. G-d bless them. Can’t imagine the hell Obama Inc.’s goons are putting them through now, or the blackmail they are enduring to shut the hell up!

    Why has Obama Fired 197 US Senior Military Commanders in 5 years? (nine Generals in 2013)

    Is Obama setting up the American Jews???

    Obama names Jewish Major General in charge of the US Nuclear arsenal! ( Gen. Jack Weinstein )

    after Obama named (Jewish)Janet Yellen as the new candidate for FED bank chairman to replace Jewish (Bernanke).