Our obligation to the memory of the victims of 9/11
Thirteen years on have we learned from 9/11?
Could any of us have imagined that the attack on America by mainly Saudi-born radicals on this very day thirteen years ago, would represent one of the most defining events of modern history?
From my own experience reporting sporadically across the region for over three decades, my fear is that we have not learned.
For most of the years since the second world war the contract has been clear: Gulf oil for the west in exchange for Western weapons, security, banking and commerce – no questions asked. Across the west our generous gates have allowed the most radical Muslim preachers to criss-cross the globe carrying their Wahabi messages of extremism.
Pakistan, once so recognisable a legacy of Empire, now represents the most unstable nuclear power in the world – its landscape dotted with radical Madrassas and Mosques. A whole generation of Muslim children far beyond Saudi borders, from Birmingham to Bombay, know no other view of the world than the Saudi-spawned Wahabi view of their faith.
Thirteen years after 9/11, an English speaking voice articulates the beheading of an American hostage. There are hundreds of western Muslims in the ranks of Islamic State (IS).
In waging unwise and horrific war themselves in Iraq, western powers have forfeited their capacity overtly to bolster moderate regional forces in Syria and Iraq.
In spite of the warrior pose President Obama deployed on Wednesday night, his instinct is still for the regional powers around Syria and Iraq to resolve the Islamic State madness themselves.
One is tempted to ask how many of the 1,700 military jets that the collective west has sold to Saudi and Gulf states down the years, have yet left the ground in anger against IS. How many of the Sandhurst trained officers from the region have yet been spotted in the field?
We may be part of IS’s target, just as New York and Washington were the targets of other regional radicals on 9/11.
But this time those same regional states from which the 9/11 gang sprang, know that they are now the targets too.
Watching regional events from Iran in the last week, I observed a quiet acceptance that the Shia forces in Iraq needed leadership, strategy, and gumption that only Iran’s revolutionary guard and ancillary resources could provide – and providing it they are.
And let us not forget what a top Iranian Foreign Ministry official told me which I reported several years ago; “you think we sit here in Iran fearing Israel, or America. We don’t, our fear is the radical implosion of Pakistan and nuclear implications of radical Sunni Muslims with their hands on nuclear weapons firing them at Shia Iran”.
There is a fire raging in Arabia today, which we in the west are not competent to extinguish. There is regional power to do the job, and we should not interfere with them getting on with it.
But those same regional powers should know, should even be told, that they cannot enjoy our friendship, our open gates, our Mayfair Hotels, our city finance unconditionally. Our condition must surely be that they distinguish themselves from the extremist forces that some of them knowingly, or unknowingly, have spawned, and deal with the effluent that is IS.
If the 3,000 dead of 9/11 are to be remembered with honour, we have an obligation to get this crisis right this time.
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