A New Axis of Terror ?
Today, Singapore, 23/04/2006
Recent developments in the Middle East including Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections, Syria’s continued support of terror and Iran’s aggressive nuclear aspirations and escalating invective against the US and Israel have raised concerns that we are witnessing a new axis of terror preparing a campaign of asymmetric warfare which, in the end could bring about a further expansion of radical Islam.
Israel’s UN envoy, Dany Gillerman last week was spooked enough to worry publicly about a possible future world war being prepared by this constellation.
Are we indeed witnessing a new and threatening development or are we talking about a process that has started long ago and whose outcome, either way, remains difficult to predict?
First, some facts: Syria and Iran have been charter members of an axis of terror since Assad the father and Ayatollah Khomeini were running their respective countries in the last two decades of the previous century. Hamas evolved into a terrorist movement during the same years and has enjoyed the support of Syria and to a lesser extent Iran, be it ideological, material or just through the provision of a safe Hinterland to plan terrorist activities against Israel. We can therefore conclude with confidence that there is nothing new in this axis of terror unless one wants to argue that Hamas’ PA election victory empowers this movement in its modus operandi as a terrorist organization.
Just the opposite seems to be the case since there is now an opportunity provided by the very same PA elections, to remove Hamas from this axis, or at least give Hamas good reasons to remove itself. Obtaining electoral legitimacy and the responsibility that comes with it, Hamas had to give up terrorism, which it did already nearly half a year before the elections. Nevertheless, after its upset election victory, Hamas’ appeals to maintain international support for the faltering Palestinian Authority remained futile. The international community, lead by Israel and the US said no to a Hamas led Palestinian Authority. Served with an ultimatum or suffer sanctions, encouraged by radical activists in Syria and about to be strangled economically, the movement closed ranks with Iran and Syria who quickly committed themselves to support the Hamas-PA without conditions.
Defiantly, Hamas continues to sanction violence against Israel perpetrated by other movements active in the PA, as demonstrated by its wreckless statement in the wake of the recent Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide attack in Tel-Aviv.
We can only speculate what would happen if Israel, the US and the international community would show some patience with Hamas. Would the movement continue on its hesitant path from terrorism to the responsibility of government while slowly disassociating itself from Iran and Syria? Logic would say that a movement seeking international legitimacy and support would try to distance itself from these two pariah nations if only given the opportunity.
It is not too late for the West to correct its forbidding attitude and British FM Jack Straw’s subtly differentiated comments in Riad seem to be showing the way. A collapse of the Palestinian Authority through civil war or Israeli intervention may however preempt any such change and put away for good all thoughts of moderation entertained by Hamas.
And Syria? Assad’s regime is on the brink of oblivion after losing it’s profitable stake in Lebanon, cannot escape continued international pressure over its involvement in the murder of Lebanon’s PM Hariri and is desperately trying to provide its citizens with some modicum of economic development. Sure, Syria is still a member of the axis of terror but is that of any consequence? All it will do is hasten the demise of Assad’s reign.
We are left with the Joker in the deck – Iran and its President Ahmadinejad. Working hard at causing anxiety in the West by playing his nuclear card to the hilt he is signing up the Shaheeds by the thousands keeping his hopes high that the Bush administration will actually go for the bait and start another military operation that it cannot finish. Nothing would boost radical Islamists the world over more than a US military intervention in Iran. So let’s hope that a messianic President Ahmadinejad will not get his way because an only slightly less messianic President Bush might insist on getting his.
With the possible exception of Iran, I cannot see much of a formidable axis of terror, definitely not a new one. A little original thought could make a big difference in helping to dismantle it.