x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Mali action helps Al Qaeda rise from the ashes

Al Qaeda is expanding and it has been learning from its mistakes and those of the West, while the latter has not learnt anything, a newspaper notes. Other topics: Yemen and the UAE's Gulf Cup victory.

Al Qaeda, the organisation that US president Barack Obama tried to portray as a thing of the past after the killing of Osama bin Laden in the spring of 2011, is very much alive and kicking, according to Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

In a column yesterday titled Al Qaeda's Golden Age, the editor argued that world powers have always made "strategic mistakes" in reckoning the real strength of the organisation.

"Al Qaeda is coming back strong these days in three of the world's major flash points: Syria, Mali and Iraq. This strong comeback of the organisation - and the Jihadist groups that operate under its umbrella - is a result of a failure on the part of regional and international powers to properly assess the potency of this network."

This failure is compounded by a chronic "misreading of political factors" in many parts of the Islamic world, which led to a series of deadly invasions and other interventions exacted on Muslim nations, he said.

The US's big mistake in Iraq is now being replicated, at a smaller scale, by France in Mali, the editor argued.

"If the US invasion of Iraq has breathed new life into Al Qaeda, the French military intervention now in Mali may as well turn out to be the godsend that the organisation was waiting for in recent years - being able to fight, on its own turf, the proverbial 'Crusaders'," he noted.

Recent history has proven this time and again: every time Nato forces intervene in an Arab or Muslim state, leaving chaos behind and turning stable nations into failed states, Al Qaeda thrives and branches out into new areas, under new names.

"A failed state is an open invitation for Al Qaeda - that is where it regroups, pitches new camps and starts to expand in a studied fashion, recruiting thousands to achieve its ambition of establishing 'the Islamic Jihadist society'," the editor went on.

"Indeed, Al Qaeda is expanding and it has been learning from its own mistakes and those of the West, while the latter has not learnt anything. If France had learnt something from Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya, it wouldn't have fallen into the Malian trap that Al Qaeda had set up masterfully."

Jabhat Al Nusra, the Islamist militant group fighting the regime of President Bashar Al Assad in Syria, has successfully forged close ties with the local communities in the country's north.

While the Free Syrian Army is trying to cope with internal divisions and accusations of corruption and abuse, Jabhat Al Nusra is offering the locals protection and other services.

It is hard to see how Al Qaeda - or Al Qaeda-inspired groups - can be countered in the near future, the editor concluded.

GCC has an interest in helping out Yemen

"Yemen is not happy," wrote Dr Abdullah Al Haj, a columnist with the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

"The country's economy is as good as paralysed, socio-political issues are festering, and there is no solution at hand."

But why is Yemen going through all this while its neighbourhood is thriving?

Sure, Yemen is plagued by instability on at least three fronts: in the country's south-east, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; in the north, the Iranian-backed Houthi militants; and in large areas of the south, the secessionist movement, the writer said.

The Houthis have relatively come under control since a government crackdown in 2010, the writer said. The secessionists are, for the most part, still expressing their grievances peacefully, through marches and manifestos. And it seems that Sanaa is making some progress in undermining Al Qaeda's leadership through army operations assisted by the Americans.

But there is much more to Yemen's plight: rampant poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and the proliferation of weapons.

On these issues, wealthy Arab Gulf nations can make a difference - and it will be to their benefit as well, the writer argued.

By offering political and financial support to their struggling neighbour, Gulf nations can pre-empt the fallout of instability while bailing out a brotherly nation.

UAE's Gulf Cup victory was a purely local feat

The UAE national football team's title victory on Friday in the highly competitive Gulf Cup comes as a continuation of the country's track record of achievements in all other sectors, noted the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej in a front-page editorial yesterday.

"In the end, the win comes to crown the progress of a nation that has proven its success and merit in all fields," it said.

"This is purely a UAE-made feat - the sponsorship, the support, the management and the coaching all had the Emirati seal. The underlying achievement here consists in the successful investment that was made in youth and human resources."

The UAE side beat Iraq 2-1 in the final, after Ismail Al Hammadi scored five minutes into the second period of extra time, liberating the UAE crowd that travelled to neighbouring Bahrain, the host nation.

In today's world, being successful in sports is an indication that one's country has an infrastructure that is conducive to big accomplishments.

"The nation has made everything available, on every level, to reach this crucial moment," the newspaper said, noting that Sheikh Khalifa, the UAE President, had ordered several planes to take UAE fans to Bahrain.


* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi