War against terrorism or War Against Islamic terrorism?

Terror War or War on Islamic Terrorism, During his 20 minutes inaugural speech President Trump referring to 1.6 billion people (23 per cent of the population of the world) and taking a hard-line stand vowed to “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism completely from the face of the earth”. Following up on this, on his very first day as US President and during his visit to CIA Headquarters he further reiterated the “eradication of Islamic terrorism from the face of the planet”. Should this not be seen as a clear shift in how the President is taking a very narrow view of the terrorism threat that the world faces and re-naming and re-addressing the US led “global war on terrorism” to “elimination of Islamic terrorism” from the world. Clearly, US President Donald Trump is not taking a broad view of the term ‘terrorism’ and if seen from the context of committing terrorist acts which most definitions of terrorism typically do then committing these terrorist acts is not restricted and limited to ‘radical Islamic organisations’ but such states that use violence (state terrorism) in quashing the legitimate voice and grievances of the people who may be involved in any freedom struggle (Palestine, Kashmir). Magnifying terrorism as a grave threat to world security by the US President is understandable but rushing in to spin an anti-Islamic narrative that soon in the US President’s office is not.

Should Muslims all over the world meet this clear shift in Trump sponsored US policy emphasis from “global war on terrorism” to “elimination of Islamic terrorism” with fanfare? Or should they be genuinely concerned? Having rolled back Affordable Care Act (ACA) nicknamed Obamacare within hours of taking over the office of the American President, Donald Trump is losing no time in altering the Obama-led US policy of “seeking a new way forward” with the Muslim world “based on mutual trust and mutual respect”. With hardly two days in office his ‘political grandstanding’ (loud-mouthing) on policy issues (counting Islamic terrorism as greatest threat being one of them) is raising deep concerns all over the world — particularly the Muslim world in which many countries are already suffering at the hands of domestic radical Islamic organisations and some of them have very weak and vulnerable governments as well.

Already being labelled as an American President who suffers from supreme arrogance and deep miscalculations Donald Trump is seeking to do and achieve both — stepping back from global leadership and preeminence (protectionism) to internally set his own house in order and declaring an external war on ‘Islamic terrorism’ which obviously the United States will have to lead and fight. Could you step back from military alliances (he says Nato is obsolete), promise military disengagements (South Korea and Japan), make aggravating comments against Muslims (banning immigration from Muslim countries) and yet consider that he would win the war on terror? Is nobody in the US administration sharing with him the one lesson that US has learnt in fighting this war for over one decade — ‘it’s won not just by applying hard power but soft power too — winning hearts and minds’.

In this very complex, highly uncertain and extremely turbulent and unpredictable world of international politics one expects the American President to execute “explicit policy changes’ only after undertaking ‘institutionalised debates’ to assess the right policy options. Ideally, the global audience should be bought in, having been made to believe that there has been a thought process behind the change — and there are precedence’s for this. Bruce Riedel, ex-CIA and an American expert on South Asia, was brought out of retirement by former US President Barak Obama to chair a review of American policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, the results of which the President announced in a speech six months later on March 27, 2009. Hurriedly announced policy choices that are devoid of any institutionalised debates only give global audience an impression that more than anything else they are designed only to send an immediate message: ‘the current occupant of White House is quite different from his predecessor.’

President Trump’s unquestionable support to Israel during his election campaign and now his first few days in office is doing no good to address the anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. Days before he took office he tweeted, ‘stay strong Israel, Jan 20th is fast approaching’. The Israeli PM replied with his tweet, ‘President-elect Trump thank you for your warm friendship and clear-cut support for Israel’. This clear-cut support became evident when Israel’s Defence Ministry announced that it would build 2,500 more settlement homes in the West Bank. Given that Obama administration was giving stern warnings to Israel from desisting to build such settlements this change of US policy, especially when these settlements are also being funded by Trump’s own son-in-law (Jared Kushner), is winning no Muslim hearts. Has the US President forgotten that the West Bank is an ‘occupied Palestinian territory’? Has he no respect for the international community that ‘considers the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and including the East Jerusalem illegal under the international law’. The International Court of Justice in its ruling (2004) concluded that ‘events that came after the 1967 occupation of West Bank by Israel did not change the status of West Bank (including East Jerusalem) as occupied territory with Israel as the occupying power.’ By that ruling even if Mr Trump moves and relocates the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (his campaign promise) to please Israel the embassy will still be on an occupied land. President Trump and his team of experts would do well to understand that such US actions are provocative and only lead to anger the Palestinians as well as other Muslim nations who see such acts as US demonstration to sideline itself from any future peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. If that be the case which other choice are the Palestinians left with to showcase their legitimate demand for a sovereign Palestinian state?

As President Trump assumes and consolidates power the Muslim world is on the edge and wondering if Mr Trump is misreading geopolitics? Does he have a team that may show dissent and get divided on important policy issues? General James Norman Mattiss, the US Secretary of Defence, is one such person who has very clearly spoken his mind on the Arab-Israel conflict in the past. He believes that ‘lack of a two-state solution is upsetting to the Arab allies of America which weakens US esteem amongst its Arab allies.’ A strong supporter of the Middle East peace process the general has clearly been favouring a two-state solution in the past. The big question is, would he be able to prevail upon his President now?

The Israeli Prime Minister has a friend in Mr Trump who besides other (questionable) acts also made sure to omit all mention of a Palestinian state from the Republican Party manifesto — given this nobody expects him to do anything on the Palestinian issue. Mr Netanyahu has also met the Russian President four times in the last fifteen months ‘to discuss and safeguard Israel’s interests in Syria and to insulate it from the bloody war across its border’. While Israel seeks friendship, alliances and partnerships with the regional and world powers to secure its interests would the world including the American President ever take notice of the predicament and plight of 3.9 million Palestinian people living in inhuman conditions in Gaza and West Bank and the people in India-held Kashmir? Unless that is done no war is likely to be won against ‘Islamic terrorism’ in the world.

The Express Tribune.


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