Roots of Islamic Terrorism: How Communists Helped Fundamentalists
This article traces the roots of Islamic terrorism, with special focus on Afghanistan. Notes are added on practical and philosophical problems of world media in finding the right track. From systematic errors in revealing little details, to serious misconceptions about basic facts and principles, we can relatively easily learn how much of "common knowledge" rests actually on superficial research and popular myths. Instead of becoming critical and aware of the traps laid around the issue, both Islamists and Islamophobes fail to recognize how they are manipulated.The article then goes on to explain the Soviet and Communist involvement in fomenting Islamic terrorism against the West.
Terrorism is real
Terrorism is not as difficult a concept as some claim. It is a political ideology (-ism) on the use of terror, which is arbitrary, unrestricted and unspecified fear. This excludes traditional warfare against regular armies and police forces, and individual assassinations of public figures.
Neither separatism nor criminal violence as such is necessarily terrorism. To call an act terrorism, we should always ask: Does this really spread blind terror among the general populace? A bomb blown in a market place, or in a civilian airplane, intends to create common fear among customers and bystanders alike, because just about anybody could become a victim. The victims are typically anonymous, and the very idea of the act was to cause damage or a credible threat. The assassination of a political leader, throwing stones on occupation troops, or bombing of enemy positions during a declared war or after an order to surrender has been given, may be repulsive and kill innocent people, but there is no terror, if no average "man of the street" needs to feel uneasy about his security the next day. No women or children should need to fear that they could be mistaken as presidents, soldiers, or military installations. Somebody may have bad luck and be targeted accidentally, but if it is terrorism, we will find ourselves asking: Why? What is the object?
Terrorism is rarely the ultimate end itself, as anarchy or communism is thought to be, but merely a method to promote some politics. That is why terrorists represent a political ideology. Even when they are in fact nothing but common criminals or psychopaths, terrorists make efforts to find a political excuse for their acts.
We know that not every political movement has created a terrorist splinter group, or served as an excuse for terrorism. Actually, terrorism has been the favourite method of extreme socialists only - both of the (left-wing) international, and the (right-wing) national varieties. Since the Jacobins of the French revolution held a "Reign of Terror" in 1794, the international socialists (communists) and national socialists (fascists) have shared a common tendency to use terrorism.
A clear definition of terrorism helps to identify and trace it through history. It can be dated and located. This makes it very real - and thus also possible to be exterminated.
How Socialists became Islamic terrorists
Modern terrorism was born within a year, 1967-1968. International socialists (communists) started the fashion all over the world simultaneously, which should make us suspicious about the common roots. National socialists followed suit, turning Marxists of Muslim origin into Islamists of Marxist origin.
In May 18th, 1967, Yuri Andropov took over the leadership of the KGB. The Russian security services evolved into a state within the Soviet state, as it became clear when Andropov became the communist party's general secretary after Leonid Brezhnev's death, in 1982. During Andropov's era, which was far longer than that of any other KGB chief, the Soviet secret services supported international terrorism through satellite states and Marxist "liberation fronts". "On becoming chairman of the KGB in 1967, Andropov immediately announced his intention to revive KGB 'special actions' as an essential tool of Soviet policy during the Cold War." (Andrew & Mitrokhin, p. 374)
The man who became Andropov's deputy was former Azerbaijani KGB chief Semyon Tsvigun, who committed suicide on January 19th, 1982. His wife was the sister of Brezhnev. Eduard Topol wrote a spy novel about the case, titled "Red Square". In the novel, Tsvigun's widow accuses Andropov for being an anti-Semite, organizing international terrorism, and having his subordinate assassinated. Reality, however, does not corroborate any rift within the KGB. Tsvigun's son became a KGB officer too, and was appointed as a Soviet diplomat in Cairo from August 1984. Tsvigun's son-in-law became the main supplier of arms to Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan, by 1995.
On June 2nd, 1967, violent student demonstrators met the Shah of Iran in West Germany. All of free Europe was plagued by student demonstrations in May 1968, causing a nearly revolutionary situation in France. Numerous left-wing terrorist cells were formed in Germany, Italy, and other western countries. Their activities peaked in 1977, after which the West German terrorists retired in communist East Germany.
The (North Irish) IRA and (Basque) ETA started their terrorism in 1968, with peaks around 1976. Andropov considered an IRA request for arms delivery for three years until subscribing it in 1972. (Andrew & Mitrokhin, p. 378 and 384-385)
German and Italian left-wing terrorists cooperated by summer 1969, and in October 1971, altogether 16 terrorist groups held a meeting in Florence, Italy. Beside the IRA and ETA, many Palestinian and Latin American (ERP, ELN, MLN, MIR) groups joined to the international terror network by 1973.
In the USA, Soviet agents incited racial tension by writings in the name of the Ku Klux Klan, and by a bomb explosion in New York City, in summer 1971. (Andrew & Mitrokhin, p. 238) The same year, Soviet agents made contacts to a Quebecois separatist group, the FLQ.
In Latin America, communist Cuba was the source of revolutionary activities in many countries, although the KGB kept its own agents there too. (Andrew & Mitrokhin, p. 386) In October 1967, "Che Guevara", whose girl-friend was an East German, was executed in Bolivia, becoming a romantic idol for teenage girls. Thirty-four years later, his picture could be seen on the T-shirts of young Palestinian brawlers. In Mexico, the KGB was involved in student riots from July to October 1968, prior to the Olympic Games. Uruguay experienced urban guerrilla activities by the MLN, peaking between 1968 and 1972. Argentine followed between 1970 and 1975. Communists had big hopes on Chile, but were bitterly disappointed by the military coup in 1973.
By the end of the 1970s, communist optimism was definitely on the decline everywhere in the world. At that point, the KGB desperately needed any kind of a boost of revolutionary spirits. Surprisingly, the Middle East came to rescue.
In December 1967, a Lebanese Christian, George Habash, who had been a Pan-Arabic national socialist, had broadened his field by founding the PFLP, a Palestinian organization. Although it split already by the next year, the PFLP remained the most pro-Soviet Palestinian terrorist group, with widest global ties. It caused the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party to adopt the Palestinian cause in 1968. In July 1970, Andropov allowed the first direct Soviet arms delivery to the PFLP. From that on, both the KGB and - perhaps even more so - the Russian military intelligence, GRU, provided Palestinian terrorists with arms and training. (Segaller, p. 126-127; Livingston & Halevy, p. 140; Lunev, p. 80; Kuzichkin, p. 206; Andrew & Mitrokhin, p. 381) From 1972 on, this was co-ordinated by Habash, who had close connections to Japanese and Latin American terrorist groups. (Livingston & Halevy, p. 208-209)
The man chiefly responsible for exporting Palestinian terrorism was Wadi Haddad, deputy leader of the PFLP, recruited as agent "Natsionalist" by the KGB in 1970. Andropov revealed his aims in a report to Brezhnev himself: "The nature of our relations with W. Haddad enables us to control the external operations of the PFLP to a certain degree, to exert influence in a manner favorable to the Soviet Union and also to carry out active measures in support of our interests through the organization's assets while observing the necessary conspirational secrecy." (Andrew & Mitrokhin, p. 380)
The once fashionable airplane hijackings had been begun by the PFLP in July 23rd, 1968. At that time, the Soviet Union, having supported the establishment of Israel and armed its forces 20 years earlier, had already invested a lot of resources into the Palestinian cause and Arab Socialism. Arms had been initially smuggled through Egypt. (Barron, p. 77)
"By the summer of 1968, the Soviet Union had progressed far toward converting Egypt into its principal base of subversion against the Arab world." (Barron, p. 62) Thirty-three years later, Egypt was the principal base of Islamic terrorists. Soviet Union, however, failed in Egypt. In May 1971, Anwar Sadat wiped out most of KGB agents. In July 1972, Soviet advisors were expelled from Egypt. Eight years later, Sadat paid for this with his life, being assassinated by members of an Islamist group. Sadat's peace policy toward Israel made it easy for the remnants of the KGB network to ally with the right-wing Muslim Brotherhood. This is the background of Ayman az-Zawahiri, the second man of al-Qayda.
Yasser Arafat's al-Fatah organization received its first Soviet arms shipment in September 1972. Palestinians were, however, split into pro-Iraqi and pro-Syrian parties and factions. Although both Iraq and Syria were ruled by an Arab Socialist Baath party, and extremely friendly toward the Soviet Union after the end of 1950s, the deepening friction between these two Arab states cut through the Palestinians, and frustrated Soviet efforts to unite Arabs against Israel and the western world.
The Yom Kippur War of 1973, and the subsequent oil embargo from October 1973 to March 1974, which was aimed against the USA, taught the KGB two lessons: that the traditional, orthodox Arab Socialist partners and their Palestinian proxies could not be trusted and achieved little through military endeavours and terrorism; but that the future was economic, and lay with the oil-fields in Saudi Arabia and Gulf emirates. Thus Political Islam, or Islamism, replaced Socialism as the most promising basis for winning Arab hearts and hurting western interests in the Middle East. After the debacle in Egypt, the KGB turned toward Saudi Arabia, where King Faysal had been assassinated in May 1975, and King Khalid ruled until 1982. Here, the KGB could find most valuable connections through the Muslim Brotherhood.
The key link may have been Muhammad Maruf ad-Dawalibi, former Prime Minister of Syria, and founder of the Islamic Socialist Front in autumn 1949. He had declared already in April 1950, that Arabs would prefer "thousands time more to become a Soviet Republic than to be spoils of Jews". (Reissner, p. 332, 355 and 422-423) Dawalibi's preference for Soviet rule had not been shaken by Soviet support for Israel as late as September 1951. Instead, he recommended Arab leaders to seek even harder for Soviet support. (Reissner, p. 357 and 366) Dawalibi was exiled from Syria, but he became a councellor of King Khalid, and the chairman of the Islamic Conference that convened in Pakistan in 1976. (Reissner, p. 394 and 423)
Iran became Russia's most loyal ally after the Islamic revolution in 1979. This relationship has lasted over two decades, and is still cherished by the Islamists among Shi'ite clergy and security services. When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan later the same year, there was only one spontaneous demonstration in Tehran, after which Iran has tamely followed Russia's actions against neighbouring Muslim people.It is a lengthy article, but for those who are interested in the history of how Islamic terrorism against the West began, it is important to understand the substance of this article. It goes on to explain the Soviet support of the Taliban and of Al-Queda. You will also get a better understanding of what is happening in Chechnya.
The Iranian revolution took the KGB by surprise, but it was a pleasant surprise, and the Soviet Union choose to side with the Islamist revolutionaries already by November 1978. Azerbaijan's contemporary president, former party leader and KGB chief (a successor and friend of Tsvigun), Hayder Aliyev, was the expert on Middle East, who had soon convinced the Politburo, that Ayatollah Khomeini should be supported by the Soviet Union. (Taheri, p. 218) This assessment caused a permanent division within the Iranian communist (Tudeh) party, because it was instructed to support Khomeini despite the doubts of the party's own general secretary. He was replaced by a relative of Khomeini. (Kuzichkin, p. 264 and 285)
Among the closest associates of Khomeini, there were many Communists who had conveniently grown beards. Mustafa Ali Chamran had studied in California and Egypt before he founded a Red Shi'ite secret society. His pupils included later foreign minister Ibrahim Yazdi, oil minister Mohammed Gharazi, and a Lebanese fellow student in Berkeley University, Hussein Shaikh al-Islam, who led the occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran. This occupation, shortly before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, focused Iranian radicalism into anti-Americanism. (Taheri, p. 78 and 139-140) Mohammed Beheshti, whose death at a bombing on June 28th, 1981, remained a mystery, had resided in East Germany. Khomeini's early companion and foreign minister, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, was a link to Syria. Most left-wing radicals were repressed only after summer 1981, by which time many former Communists had successfully accommodated with the new regime. Both Ghotbzadeh and Chamran had received Palestinian terrorist training. As a student in the USA, Ghotbzadeh had been recruited by the GRU. (Livingston & Halevy, p. 153-154; Kuzichkin, p. 302)
"It is significant that anti-Americanism was first propagated as a major theme of Muslim fundamentalism by young men and women from Islamic countries who had spent time in the United States as students or workers." (Taheri, p. 206) These included the founding father of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Said Qutb, who had lived in the USA for two years around 1949/1950. The four pilots of September 11th, 2001, included one native German citizen, whose Moroccan father was no Islamist at all, a Lebanese of liberal background, and a United Arab Emirates' subject, both of whom had spent five years in Germany, and the Egyptian-born terrorist leader Muhammad Atta, who had immigrated into Germany nine years earlier.
Daniel Pipes' article "The Western Mind of Radical Islam" describes well, how so many Islamic terrorists actually adopted more ideas from contacts to western society than from their own traditions: "Fundamentalist leaders tend to be well acquainted with the West, having lived there, learned its languages, and studied its cultures. ... Indeed, the experience of living in the West often turns indifferent Muslims into fundamentalists. ... In contrast to this ostentatious familiarity with Western ways, fundamentalists are distant from their own culture. ... Having found Islam on their own as adults, many fundamentalists are ignorant of their own history and traditions." (http://www.danielpipes.org/articles/199512.shtml)
This became very obvious through the biographies of those who committed the suicide attacks of September 2001, and who were typically from wealthy families, liberally educated, and had lived many years in Hamburg, London, and America. Pipes takes notice of the fact that "fundamentalist Muslims" (or rather, "Islamists", as they care little of traditions and their true fundaments), have introduced distinctly Christian notions into their religion. He presents plenty of detailed examples, among others that "fundamentalists have turned Fridays into a Sabbath, something it had not previously been. ... Ignorant of the spirit underlying the Shari'a, fundamentalists enforce it along territorial, not personal lines..." (http://www.danielpipes.org/articles/199512.shtml), and so forth.
I highly recommend your reading this article for a complete understanding of the origins of Islamist terror.
Technorati Tags: Islam,Terrorism,Soviet,Russia