Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Devil's Game

And the Devil is us.

' I wrote Devil’s Game to fill in a gap amid the millions of words that have been written about political Islam and U.S. policy since September 11, 2001.

In the 1950s, the United States had an opportunity to side with the nationalists (like Nasser and Mossadeq), and indeed many U.S. policymakers did suggest exactly that, as my book explains. But in the end, nationalists in the Third World were seen as wild cards who couldn’t be counted on to join the global alliance against the USSR. Instead, by the end of the 1950s, rather than allying itself with the secular forces of progress in the Middle East and the Arab world, the United States found itself in league with Saudi Arabia’s Islamist legions.

Choosing Saudi Arabia over Nasser’s Egypt was probably the single biggest mistake the United States has ever made in the Middle East.

A second big mistake that emerges in Devil’s Game occurred in the 1970s, when, at the height of the Cold War and the struggle for control of the Middle East, the United States either supported or acquiesced in the rapid growth of Islamic right in countries from Egypt to Afghanistan. In Egypt, Anwar Sadat brought the Muslim Brotherhood back to Egypt. In Syria, the United States, Israel, and Jordan supported the Muslim Brotherhood in a civil war against Syria. And, as described in a groundbreaking chapter in Devil’s Game, Israel quietly backed Ahmed Yassin and the Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank and Gaza, leading to the establishment of Hamas.

Still another major mistake was the fantasy that Islam would penetrate the USSR and unravel the Soviet Union in Asia. It led to America’s support for the jihadists in Afghanistan. But as Devil’s Game shows, America’s alliance with the Afghan Islamists long predated the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and had its roots in CIA activity in Afghanistan in the 1960s and in the early and mid-1970s. The Afghan jihad spawned civil war in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, gave rise to the Taliban, and got Osama bin Laden started on building Al Qaeda.'

(Note: Mark Curtis also makes clear the influence the British had in the creation of Hezbollah. Other note: I should have made clear in earlier in earlier versions of this post that the Hezbollah I was referring to was not the Lebanese Hezbollah, but the Turkish Hezbollah. And the British help was via Turkey. But the basic point remains.


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