Rescuing the Rebels

(RUSI) – Western policymakers may weigh up a number of ways to help the rebels in Libya – what should not be in doubt, however, is their obligation to provide some much-needed assistance.

In the run-up to and since the passing of UN Resolution 1973, Western powers have insisted that they draw their legitimacy from the Arab League’s call for action. While symbolically important, questions can be asked regarding why legitimacy should – or, indeed, whether it even can – be derived from a group of largely autocratic nations, whose regimes by and large hardly recognise the value of universal human rights in their own societies. The legitimacy of moving to protect civilians vulnerable to slaughter is intrinsic. It does not need to be attained by the endless pursuit of consensus, let alone from those who do not embrace those principles.

The Arab League is acting disingenuously by claiming that their criticism of the weekend’s military strikes is due to their opposition to the shelling of civilians. Member states appreciated that the broad definition of Resolution 1973’s ‘protecting civilians and civilian population areas’ would entail military strikes against Qadhafi’s air defence systems and advances on rebel towns. Furthermore, there have thus far been no independent verifications of the Qadhafi regime’s claims of the numbers that have been killed by the strikes.

The UN’s doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (elsewhere referred to as ‘R2P’), which advocates intervention if leaders are unable or unwilling to prevent humanitarian atrocities, or are complicit in causing them, is an extension of the Western liberal traditions that embraced universal human rights. Representatives of the Arab League are left wanting regarding the satisfactory adoption of these principles, and are suffering a credibility problem as rulers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are busy suppressing their own opposition. Leaders of the Arab League who claim to be supporting the armed pursuit of these principles abroad will not succeed in duping their own people. Domestic oppositions can see the manner in which their governments are attempting to hedge their bets by applying such double standards – and their discontent will not be assuaged by their rulers’ superficially benign foreign policy.

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Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

How Moderate is the Muslim Brotherhood?

(RUSI) – Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has blindsided the West, and appears as a pluralistic movement. As a result, the US National Security Council has emphasised that the US has not ruled out ‘engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood as part of an orderly process’.1 Yet the Brotherhood is locked in endless debate between those who aspire to instant jihad − citing Mohammed’s small armies defeating much larger ones as in the battles of Badr and Uhud − and others who advocate a multi-generational process of ‘da’wah’ (persuasion via example and preaching), as well as deception. Some analysts look to Islam’s past traditions to prove this point. Strategies can involve the use of concepts such as ‘taqiyyah’, a process that includes lying to enemies to conceal one’s true intentions, which Raymond Ibrahim claims is widespread in the Islamic world. Forms of taqiyyah can include collaboration with the enemy or ‘hudna’, a ceasefire that provides organisations like Hamas time to replenish their weapons stocks. The ultimate objective is the attainment of power.

Da’wah and taqiyyah were strategies employed by the Iranian revolutionary Ayatollah Khomeini in the late 1970s in his dealings with the United States. Khomeini shrewdly echoed what the international community wanted to hear and spoke of pgge4nder equality and thepvgio8 lation of human rights by the Shah. History will recall how Khomeini later proceeded to brutally purge all those who had previously constituted his coalition to advance his Islamist agenda. Thus Khomeini laid down the blueprint that has been followed by Islamist groups across the Middle East: the more distant from power, the more moderate and democratic their rhetoric. The greater their proximity, the more openly anti-Western and undemocratic their agenda becomes.

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Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.