It challenges credulity that Europe did not anticipate terrorist attacks after its involvement in direct and indirect military action against the people of Libya, Syria, ISIS and so on.
In March 2011, I wrote: “Have President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron ever paused to consider how the 20 million Muslims in Europe will react to their military action in the Arab world?”
I shall never tire of repeating the signal truth: the global electronic media was born when Peter Arnett of CNN brought Operation Desert Storm into the world’s drawing rooms in live telecasts from the terrace of Al Rasheed hotel in Baghdad.
That day in February 1991, the world was divided into two ever growing sets of audiences diametrically opposed to each other - millions and millions of them. For the West and its friends it was triumphalism, doubly impressive after the collapse of the Soviet power. For Arabs and the Muslim world in general, it was humiliation, defeat and anger.
It was in the shadow of the West’s triumphalism that the correlation of forces altered in India too. Remember, there were no multiple channels to cover the demolition of the Babri Masjid Dec 6, 1992. They mushroomed soon thereafter in celebration as globalized capitalism arrived in India too.
After Desert Storm, the global media had an orgy: the two Intefadas, the four-year-long brutalization of Bosnian Muslims, occupation of West Bank, invasion of Afghanistan, the droning of Pakistan’s northwest, occupation of Iraq, Darfur, Mali, Yemen, the 50-day bombing of Gaza. There was no end.
During my journey from Bosnia to Turkey I saw the boost the siege of Sarajevo gave to Islamists in Turkey.
The expanding conflict between the West and Islam has been given a tactical twist. The conflict being promoted now is between Sunnis and Shias, with Riyadh and Teheran as the two poles. This did accelerate attacks on Shias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Pakistan without in any way diminishing the danger of anti-Western terrorism.
Not only did the West help halt the Arab Spring, in doing so it ended up doing something much more dangerous. Countries with a majority of their populations in their 20s, the youth bulge, had come out on the streets waving banners of freedom. These are now angry young Muslims headed to other parts of the world, including Europe. Did Europe imagine it was exempt from Arab anger after the bombardment of their lands?
The Saudis are the spider in the web in conflicts in Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen controlling Islamist militants as a strategic asset.
Islamic Madrasas along the Afghan-Pakistan border since the 80s are commonly known. Not so well known are the Jihadist hatcheries set up by the late Prince Naif bin Abdel Aziz, as the Saudi interior minister, in Yemen. In those days the Jihadists were being trained as a bulwark against Soviet influence in South Yemen. It is these Jihadis who mutated into today's Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The name of this militant outfit was mentioned in the Paris outrage too.
France has worked out convoluted arms deals with the Saudis. For example, $3 billion worth of French arms were diverted to the Lebanese Army. The transaction was financed by Saudi Arabia. Chemical weapons in Saddam Hussain’s arsenal came from France. France has its hands in many tills. It was neck deep in supporting the opposition in Syria. All this mayhem Europe has helped manufacture just the other side of the Mediterranean. The surprise is that retribution has been so late in coming.
Is it retribution at all? The parallel media is replete with conspiracy theories. A question that pops up frequently concerns Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presence in the front row of world leaders in the march of solidarity in Paris. What qualifies him to wear the badge of liberty?
While one verifies every side of the Paris attack, one statement can be made with certainty: the carnage in Paris has clearly diverted attention from a crucial campaign launched by the ISIS against Saudi Arabia.
Just before the Charlie Hebdo attack, ISIS sent a suicide team across the border into Saudi Arabia. General Oudah al-Belawi, in charge of the Saudi northern border, was killed. The kingdom has dispatched 30,000 additional troops to guard the border with Iraq. The suicide squad clearly had inside information about the general’s location.
In the current incredible line-up, Saudis are Israel’s close allies. Their vulnerability to ISIS would be a matter of greater anxiety to Netanyahu than terrorism in Paris.
Postscript: A mild example: Were the world statesmen assembled in Paris conversant with Charlie Hebdo’s wit? Should there not be some distinction between smut and humour?
(A senior commentator on diplomatic and political affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on email@example.com. The views expressed are personal.)