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Published on September 30th, 2012 | by Usman Butt
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] © By Sajed; via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]   As an old Arabic proverb goes ‘me and my brother against my cousin. Me, my brother and my cousin against the stranger’.  This is perhaps the best description of International relations and global politics.  The question of ‘who is the stranger’ is often contentious in the ‘war of terror’.  In the Second World War ‘the stranger’ was Nazi Germany and during the Cold War it was the Soviet Union. The enemy was a state and the objective was clear it was to defeat that state ideologically, politically and morally. The ‘War on Terror’ is a shift away from a ‘state-centric’ enemy and the ‘stranger’ has become an organisation, idea, person, book, the internet etc.. The ‘stranger’ is broadly speaking a ‘terrorist’ which is a generic and abstract term which could apply to almost anyone. At current there is no agreed international definition for what constitutes a ‘terrorist’, as many governments decide on a per group or individual basis. This week saw two separate but equally important events which cut’s to the core of this debate. The first important event is the ruling of the European court of human rights ruling, that Abu Hamza Al-Masri should be extradited to the United States. Abu Hamza stands accused of trying to set up a terrorist training camp in rural Oregon in the United States. His legal team have been fighting against the extradition proceeding since he was arrested in 2004. The Governments of the United States and Britain clearly regard Abu Hamza as a ‘terrorist’ although no charges of terrorism have yet been proven. At the minute Abu Hamza is guilty of making inflammatory, racist and anti-Semitic speeches. However, Abu Hamza is perhaps fortunate that he lives in the UK unlike Yemeni based Anwar Al-Aulaqi was killed in a US drone strike. Al-Aulaqi was an American citizen who denounced the US in his speeches but there is no evidence that he was involved in any ‘terrorist’ activity. The reason for his killing is still a mystery however it is known that Al-Anulaqi was on a ‘secret kill list’ that the Obama Administration set up. Since taking office President Obama has along with his national security team preceded over so-called ‘death panels’, in-which decisions about who to kill are made. The second important event has been the de-listing of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MKO or MEK) from the US state department’s terrorism list. The MEK has been on the state department’s list since 1997 for their involvement in a series of bombings during the 1980’s in Iran. The organisation was born in the 1960’s and sought to fuse Marxism and Islam in order to combat the Shah’s regime. After the Islamic revolution in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini declared them to be an enemy organisation and executed and expelled its members. The MEK took refuge in Iraq and allied itself with Saddam Hussein during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. Allying themselves with Iraq made the organisation very unpopular in Iran so much so that recruitment dried up. The organisation effectively turned itself into a cult for its remaining members and has been accused by opponents of strange cultist practises which include vowels of celibacy, forceful divorce and odd sexual practises. The MEK declares itself to be the ‘secular democratic’ opponents to the Islamic regime but their coalition with Saddam Hussein led them to be listed by the state department. American forces targeted the MEK during the 2003 invasion of Iraq for its alliance with the Iraqi dictator. The MEK sent many of its wealthy members to the United States and Europe.  Using their wealth the MEK lobbied many high profile US officials and politicians and this led to their recent de-enlistment. Behind closed doors it is alleged that the MEK and the US have been working together for many years as Seymour Hersh reported in 2008, US Special Forces were training MEK members in the United States. There have been previous reports that the Israelis were financing, training and arming the MEK for operations against Iran. It has been reported that the MEK on behalf of Israel is responsible for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.  It should be noted that there is no evidence that Iran is currently pursing nuclear weapons according to the US intelligence estimate reports. If Abu Hamza is the case to go by then the suggestion alone that MEK were involved in the assassination of scientist should have left them on the list. However, this is not the case and the US has turned the MEK from a ‘stranger’ into a ‘cousin’ albeit a long-distant one.  The changing status of the MEK opens up serious questions about the definition of ‘terrorist’.  The suspicion here is that its only terrorism if you attack or kill Americans or Western not Iranians. By doing this the US increase the on-going tension in the Middle East in general and Iran in-particular. It will make Iran more hostile towards the United States and possibly push the region closer to war.

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My enemy’s enemy is my friend? The War of Terror, the Obama Administration, Abu Hamza and MEK

© By Sajed; via Wikimedia Commons

 

As an old Arabic proverb goes ‘me and my brother against my cousin. Me, my brother and my cousin against the stranger’.  This is perhaps the best description of International relations and global politics.  The question of ‘who is the stranger’ is often contentious in the ‘war of terror’.  In the Second World War ‘the stranger’ was Nazi Germany and during the Cold War it was the Soviet Union. The enemy was a state and the objective was clear it was to defeat that state ideologically, politically and morally. The ‘War on Terror’ is a shift away from a ‘state-centric’ enemy and the ‘stranger’ has become an organisation, idea, person, book, the internet etc.. The ‘stranger’ is broadly speaking a ‘terrorist’ which is a generic and abstract term which could apply to almost anyone. At current there is no agreed international definition for what constitutes a ‘terrorist’, as many governments decide on a per group or individual basis.

This week saw two separate but equally important events which cut’s to the core of this debate. The first important event is the ruling of the European court of human rights ruling, that Abu Hamza Al-Masri should be extradited to the United States. Abu Hamza stands accused of trying to set up a terrorist training camp in rural Oregon in the United States. His legal team have been fighting against the extradition proceeding since he was arrested in 2004. The Governments of the United States and Britain clearly regard Abu Hamza as a ‘terrorist’ although no charges of terrorism have yet been proven. At the minute Abu Hamza is guilty of making inflammatory, racist and anti-Semitic speeches. However, Abu Hamza is perhaps fortunate that he lives in the UK unlike Yemeni based Anwar Al-Aulaqi was killed in a US drone strike. Al-Aulaqi was an American citizen who denounced the US in his speeches but there is no evidence that he was involved in any ‘terrorist’ activity. The reason for his killing is still a mystery however it is known that Al-Anulaqi was on a ‘secret kill list’ that the Obama Administration set up. Since taking office President Obama has along with his national security team preceded over so-called ‘death panels’, in-which decisions about who to kill are made.

The second important event has been the de-listing of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MKO or MEK) from the US state department’s terrorism list. The MEK has been on the state department’s list since 1997 for their involvement in a series of bombings during the 1980’s in Iran. The organisation was born in the 1960’s and sought to fuse Marxism and Islam in order to combat the Shah’s regime. After the Islamic revolution in 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini declared them to be an enemy organisation and executed and expelled its members. The MEK took refuge in Iraq and allied itself with Saddam Hussein during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. Allying themselves with Iraq made the organisation very unpopular in Iran so much so that recruitment dried up. The organisation effectively turned itself into a cult for its remaining members and has been accused by opponents of strange cultist practises which include vowels of celibacy, forceful divorce and odd sexual practises.

The MEK declares itself to be the ‘secular democratic’ opponents to the Islamic regime but their coalition with Saddam Hussein led them to be listed by the state department. American forces targeted the MEK during the 2003 invasion of Iraq for its alliance with the Iraqi dictator. The MEK sent many of its wealthy members to the United States and Europe.  Using their wealth the MEK lobbied many high profile US officials and politicians and this led to their recent de-enlistment. Behind closed doors it is alleged that the MEK and the US have been working together for many years as Seymour Hersh reported in 2008, US Special Forces were training MEK members in the United States. There have been previous reports that the Israelis were financing, training and arming the MEK for operations against Iran. It has been reported that the MEK on behalf of Israel is responsible for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.  It should be noted that there is no evidence that Iran is currently pursing nuclear weapons according to the US intelligence estimate reports. If Abu Hamza is the case to go by then the suggestion alone that MEK were involved in the assassination of scientist should have left them on the list.

However, this is not the case and the US has turned the MEK from a ‘stranger’ into a ‘cousin’ albeit a long-distant one.  The changing status of the MEK opens up serious questions about the definition of ‘terrorist’.  The suspicion here is that its only terrorism if you attack or kill Americans or Western not Iranians. By doing this the US increase the on-going tension in the Middle East in general and Iran in-particular. It will make Iran more hostile towards the United States and possibly push the region closer to war.

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About the Author

Usman Butt

Usman graduated in 2012 with an MA in Palestine Studies from the University Of Exeter. Before that he read Arabic Language and International Relations at the University of Westminster. Amongst his proudest achievements include winning a muffin for public speaking, winning a Lego set at age 5 and helping Palestinian refugees learn English. Usually writes about genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, Israel/Palestinian politics, Iranian/Syrian/Lebanese politics, the Arab Spring, philosophy, religion, British politics, Foreign Policy, history and social issues. He enjoys writing as he sees it as an outlet to express his opinions about the public discourse on these issues. He believes writing is a good way of keeping productive and teaching yourself new things.



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