Let’s Learn from the Post-9/11 Mistake
The ruthless killing of innocent people in Paris was a crime against humanity by any standard. It poses the same question that the world community faced after September 11, 2001: What is the proper response to terrorism carried out in the name of Islam?
The right answer would effectively end the growth of violent Islamic extremism. The wrong answer would lead to much greater threats than those created in the post-9/11 world.
In my 1993 book, Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat, I argued that although the theoretical roots of this evil phenomenon date back to the first decades of Islam, it was only after the establishment of theocracy in Iran that Islamic fundamentalism turned into the serious global threat that it is today. While the differences between Shiite and Sunni fundamentalists are minimal, they have a common major objective: establishing an “Islamic rule” for the enforcement of Sharia law.
I also argued in the book that only democratic Islam can pose the ultimate challenge to fundamentalist interpretations.
At the time, my book was cast as exaggerations by an opponent of the Iranian regime. But, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the world saw the brutality of fundamentalism firsthand. Yet even then the US made a major strategic blunder by invading Iraq.
As subsequent mistakes were made, the heart of fundamentalism in Tehran took advantage while projecting power further into the Middle East, thus laying the groundwork for the emergence and spread of ISIS as the Sunni counterpart to Iran’s Shiite fundamentalism.
Fourteen years on, Europe is dealing with what could be its own 9/11. And Tehran is poised to seize the opportunity once again. Iranian officials and media outlets are already blaming French policies for the attack. They want to convince Paris to support the Iran-allied Syrian president under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
This is exactly what the regime did after September 11, 2001 when Iranian agents and affiliates like Ahmad Chalabi helped to manipulate the US into the war with Iraq. Now, some in the West are willing to take the bait again.
Both Iran and ISIS stand to benefit.
The real solution is exactly the opposite. It includes steadfast support for the ouster of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. After all, Assad’s brutality and Iran’s sectarianism are major contributors to the social landscape that has allowed ISIS to attract more Sunnis to its extremist ideology. If the conditions were different, ISIS ideology and tactics would quickly collapse.