A decade after President George W. Bush declared the War on Terror, the Middle East now is in worse shape than pre-war times, and Al-Qaeda is stronger than pre-9/11. While Al-Qaeda influence had declined in the time following the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and progress was made by the current administration from killing Osama Bin-Laden, Al-Qaeda’s biggest leader, the years following the Arab Spring saw a surge in Al-Qaeda’s activities in the middle east, mainly driven by extreme poverty levels, rampant corruption, and sectarian tension. The US has spent almost $1.5 trillion so far on wars since 2001, an amount that is enough to cover medically uninsured Americans for the following 21 years.
Despite the trillions spent, and the thousands of lives lost fighting worldwide during the last decade, Al-Qaeda is still active, strong, and gaining sympathy from ordinary folks who are frustrated with government acts. Extremists are investing in this wave of anger. When Al-Qaeda in Iraq lost its influence and power after Al-Zarqawi (Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq) was killed back in 2006, the US focused most of its attention on fighting the rising Al-Qaeda influence in Yemen, using drones to trace and kill suspected members. However, a recent map from the Washington Post shows while Al-Qaeda is shrinking in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Southeast Asia, it is regaining its power in Iraq and Syria, supported by the ongoing revolution led by the Sunni Syrian rebel against the Shiite-Alawite government which is supported by Iran. The rising influence in Iraq is reflected from the recent prison breakout that resulted in freeing hundreds of convicted Al-Qaeda members, and also the sharp uptick in terrorists attacks last month that killed about a 1000 Iraqis.
It is gaining strength from the ideology of extremism which is the product of impoverished life and lack of proper education. The best way to fight this ideology is by investing in infrastructures of countries with growing extremist activities, providing access for a higher education, fighting poverty, and reducing unemployment.
During the same decade, the massive government spending on defense resulted in an economic boom for Washington D.C. The capital is home to the Homeland Security Department, the Pentagon, and great number of defense and security companies who are headquartered in the surrounded regions, and had multi-billion dollars contracts to support US Military in Iraq. The billions that flowed into the city resulted in a construction boom, healthy job market, prosperous community, and thus a steady reduction in crime, the causes of which are remarkably similar to terrorist extremism. Washington was dropped from the list of most dangerous cities, a position it held for more than two decades, and added to the lists of the nation’s best job markets.
It doesn’t have to be our tax money that be invested in other countries, nor we do have to give annual aid and grants for development. Our sole role can be limited on encouraging the world billionaires, especially middle eastern billionaires, to invest in their countries, create jobs for the poor, help the countries to lift the standard of living.
Qatar invests billions of dollars in New York and London’s real estate markets. The UAE billionaires always compete to bid millions of dollars on buying fancy European soccer clubs, and there are many others from Saudi Arabia who invest billions on buying shares from Walmart, the News Corporation or Citigroup. None of those billionaires ever consider investing in lower-income Muslim countries, and no government attempts solve corruption problems that lead to such income disparity that alternative ways to make a living, even terrorism, seem like bright prospects. Imagine if the $1.5 trillion spent on fighting was invested in programs that provide decent housing and access to education in Yemen, Mali, Iraq or Afghanistan. It could’ve eliminated a large portion of poverty, reduced unemployment, and most important of all, provided education. An educated workforce will lead to a transparent, fair and just democratic system.
Problems in the middle east are far from simple, however. The Saudi government is being hypocritical, allying with the United States in fighting terrorism, yet supporting and funding terrorist groups to fight in Iraq to weaken the Shiite-led government, with the knowledge of the US government. WikiLeaks published a classified US embassy cable from September 2009 issued, by the ambassador in Baghdad, that discuses Iraq’s problem with its neighbors, considering Saudi Arabia as the most challenging threat to Iraq as it trying to impose Sunni influence to weaken the government. The summary as published in the Guardian:
“In a confidential analysis, the US ambassador to Baghdad explains why Saudi Arabia, and not Iran, may represent the biggest challenge for Iraqi politicians trying to create a stable and independent government. Some but not all believe Riyadh’s goal is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government”.
Causalities from Egypt’s latest spat of violence totaled 600, with three local and international journalists among them. It marked the end of 6-week sit-in in the affluent area of Nasr City, east of Cairo, to protest the military coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Morsi. The six week period was not completely peaceful, as the Muslim Brotherhood members formed armed militias that kept attacking the troopers, Christians minorities,and starting sectarian and political clashes with christians and protestors against ex-president Morsi.
The situation in Egypt is a reflection of the instability in Middle East throughout the decade that followed the war on terror. US and Egyptian analysts suggested that Egypt’s situation is threatened from a backlash led by the Muslim Brotherhood. It is possible that the armed militias would launch a violent wave of attacks against the military.
In Yemen, drone strikes have killed hundreds of civilians and insurgents, which leads to frustration and hatred toward the US, and thus an increase in extremist activities and hate speech against Americans.