Al Qaeda: a useful enemy

Below is an excerpt from "Going Nuclear in the Middle East: in search of an European Middle East policy", a speech that took place at the French senate in January 2010. One of the speakers, Alain Chouet, a former chief of the security Intelligence Service in France, talks about Al Qaeda. I don't know this man's credentials but I found it a good read. Some parts of course made me cringe (the implicit acceptance of the 9/11 story), but the more interesting parts are about Saudi Arabia and governments that use "Al Qaeda" against their own people just like the West uses "terrorism" and "national security".

Of course to a paranoid eye like mine what's missing from this picture is false flag attacks, infiltrated secret services (ISI), and 9/11 itself. However, I long ago stopped dreaming about former chiefs of secret services openly handling such matters with a controversial edge.

The whole thing can be found there (PDF, 127 pages)

(few emphasis added)

Alain CHOUET, Former Chief of the Security Intelligence Service,
French Foreign Intelligence Service - You may not all be familiar with the
French Security Intelligence Service: we are responsible for collecting
intelligence and implementing active security measures outside of our territory.
We deal with counter-criminality, counter-espionage, counter-proliferation,
counter-terrorism, amongst other things. We work abroad and obviously illegally
and it is all very secret. It gives you quite a strange specialized vision of the
world. I am not going to say ineptly what Jean-Pierre Filiu, and François
Heisbourg, are going to say much more aptly later on. I am just going to give you
the “intelligence” perspective of the issue.

I hesitated, first of all, in accepting the invitation to take part in this type
of necromancy exercise as I think that the questions considered as Byzantine are
less Byzantine than they seem at first sight. Like many other professionals
around the world, I think on the basis of crosscutting information that al-Qaeda is
operationally dead since the Tora Bora operations in 2002. The Pakistani Secret
Services continued to make us believe that al-Qaeda was still alive between 2003
and 2008 in exchange for generosity and indulgence.

Out of the 400 active members in the organisation recorded in 2001, there
are less than 50 of them, mostly sidekicks, apart from Bin Laden and Ayman al-
Zawahiri, who are not operational, that we feel are now living hidden in
inaccessible areas and they have very rustic means of communication. There is a
very good description of terrorist networks in Marc Sageman’s book
Understanding Terror Networks. With only that skeletal head group left, how
can they organize a global-scale network of political violence? Now we had
attacks in Bali, Bombay, Sharm al-Sheikh, London, Madrid, Casablanca, Djerba
and so on. It is obvious that none of the post-September 11 terrorists ever have
had contact with the head of the organization of course. Bin Laden and Ayman
al-Zawahiri do sometimes claim that they masterminded these attacks. However,
even if they could be authenticated, there cannot be any functional or operational
links between these terrorists and the remains of the organization.

However, we still say that al-Qaeda is behind any act of violence
committed by a Muslim or when there are Muslims in the wrong place at the
wrong time. For example, when there was a chemical plant explosion in
Toulouse, or when there are attacks that do not involve Muslims like the anthrax
attacks in the US, we keep on saying that Muslims are behind all these attacks,
that al-Qaeda is behind all these attacks. I think that we are giving it strength just
by saying so. It is a bit like Amédée in the Eugène Ionesco play, who does not
exist, but you keep talking about it, and in the end you do not know how to get
rid of it.

We keep mentioning this mythical terrorist organisation, qualified as
“hyper-terrorist”; it is mythical not because it was powerful, but because it went
against the “hyperpower”. This has had some adverse and counter-productive
effects. For example, any person in the Muslim world, whatever their political
place on the spectrum, if they want to undertake a violent action, they have to say
that they are with al-Qaeda if they want to be taken seriously, to have their action
legitimated by others and recognised internationally.

In addition, all Muslim Governments around the world, they are not all
virtuous, have understood that their opponents should be labelled as belonging to
Bin Laden's network, and they sometimes get help from Western powers when
doing this. There are so-called designated, or self-designated, forces reportedly
working for al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, the Maghreb and
elsewhere on the Arabian peninsula.

That has been a very stupid move because the effect it has had is to
reinforce the idea that al-Qaeda is omnipresent, that all Muslims belong to al-
Qaeda and that al-Qaeda is lying in wait to attack the West, and the United States
more precisely.

That sort of vision is the result of a number of judgement and perspective
errors, and this also leads to responses that do not work. If al-Qaeda does not
exist, the Islamic political violence does exist and the West is just an indirect and
collateral victim. The ideologues of Islamist violence are not “crazy for God”:
they have some specific aims. Their objective is not to spread Islam everywhere
in the world without any intervention of the West, a bit like the approach of
Hassan Turabi in Sudan. Now, perhaps, we as Westerners will feel our ego is
weakened but we must admit that the first victims of Islamic violence and the
main and most numerous ones, are the Muslims themselves.

The epicentre of the Islamic violence is neither in Afghanistan, nor in
Iraq, it is in Saudi Arabia. It is that country that was the first target of the
“Manifesto against the Jews and Crusaders”, which was the founding text of the
Bin Laden organisation at the end of the 1990s. It also targeted the Saudi royal
family before it targeted Jews and “Crusaders” and as said by Antoine Sfeir, it is
the only country in the world with a family name.

Saudi Arabia is, relatively speaking, in the same situation as France was
in the first half of the 1789. A family took power in 1926, whose legitimacy is
based on religion. They usurp the guard of holy places of Islam to their historic
guardians who belonged to the Hachemite family. This is the Saud family, who
comprises about 3000 Princes. It concentrates all power, and also concentrates in
its hands all the revenue from oil exploration of the most hydrocarbon-rich
subsoil in the world. Therefore, the Saud family has blocked the way to any
expression of democracy or pluralism in order to maintain its legitimacy faced
with any contestation. It propagates a fundamentalist type of Islam as widely as it
can in order not to be upstaged. It is simply stepping to the fore, a bit like the
Soviet Union, they did not want any enemies or any competitors, and the Saudi
family is acting in the same way.

However, oil revenues have dropped, and this has lead to the development
of trade and industry. Of course the princes could not keep their hands away
from that, and this means that the arena is now open to non-royal blood,
entrepreneurs from other countries that were of course Muslims, mostly from
Yemen, and broadly from Syria, the Levant, Lebanon, and Palestine. Some of
these entrepreneurs underscore, quite rightly, just like the bourgeoisie in 1789,
that they are the ones who are actually doing all the work and laying the ground
for the country’s future. And, therefore, they should be treated fairly and
included in the exercise of power or should also benefit from the revenue of the
oil industry, that until recently went straight into the personal pockets of the royal

Now how can these claims be heard in a country where there is no
pluralist democratic speech? How can you legitimize a power that says it is in its
place by divine right? How can you exert pressure on a royal family who has
been enjoying since 1945, after the personal pact of Quincy between Ibn Saud
and Roosevelt, the political protection and the military support of the US in
exchange of the monopoly on the exploitation of their oil industry?

Opponents to this theocracy can only use a good sprinkling of
revolutionary violence and of fundamentalist escalation against the ruling power
and also external protectors of the country who avoid the power to collapse. It is
not surprising that you find amongst the most violent Muslim activists a
significant number of the children of the so-called bourgeoisie I mentioned that
cannot participate actively in governing the country but that does not lack of
money or ideas. That is how you found Bin Laden, that is how he was propelled
into violent activity, into fundamentalism, by the Saudi royal family. They
thought that it was quite expedient to have the external interests of the royal
family be defended by people outside of the royal family, instead of themselves.
That is a classical error made by social climbers.

There were many adventures, of course, and the children of this
bourgeoisie met the wrong people, came under the wrong influence, and they
came back to bite their masters on the hand. That is how in the mid-1980s this
permanent escalation of religious fundamentalism and struggle for control of the
Islamic world started between the Saud family and its rivals, or opponents,
within and outside. The Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict was largely responsible for
escalating this Muslim fundamentalist spiral.

That spiral, because there were not enough human resources, because
there were no skills in external interventions, was made possible only because
there was so much money in Saudi Arabia. That money is being squandered and
being given to lots of countries in the Islamic world and to immigrant
communities. And of course it went straight into the pockets of a structured
international terrorist organisation like the Muslim Brotherhood and its violent
arm, the Jamia Islamia. That is to say Islamist groups, of which the al-Qaeda of
Bin Laden is only one of the components.

Everywhere jihadist violence is expressed, it is always in the weaker parts
of the Muslim world, and it is always based on three components. Firstly, this
ideological and financial spiralling of the Saudi regime and of its local opponents
or rivals. Secondly, a strong local presence of the Muslim Brotherhood or the
Jamia Islamia. They profit from this spiral, they use all political and economic
and social contradictions to set public opinion against local powers and to
dissuade the Western world from supporting the country or intervening. The
Muslim world benefits from being hated from the outside world. For the third
component, we are partly to blame. It is diplomacy. Western and US diplomacy,
and intelligence services have supported, often military, the most reactionary and
religious fundamentalist regimes against the Soviet Union up to the 1990s and
there was the Iran containment policy in the 1980s.

For very different reasons linked to unresolved local disagreements or
badly mastered external interventions, it is that cocktail, with those three
ingredients, that produces the same effects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia,
Yemen, Somalia, the Maghreb, the Sahel countries, Iraq, and the lawless areas
amongst Muslim communities in Western countries. I will not go into the details,
but you have to realise that if they all develop in the same way, it has to be
admitted that they correspond to very different local realities, and the players,
those responsible, do not really communicate between themselves. However, if
they are all agitating the same flags and claiming that they are with al-Qaeda it is
because it serves their purposes against the West and particularly the US; it
strengthens them. They are all supposed to be able to support even the most
controversial States.

Of course you might object that jihadi violence does exist, and is
spreading everywhere along the same patterns. Does it matter that it is called al-
Qaeda? This could be taken as the generic label of a globalized Jihad violence. A
certain number of more cautious journalists do not talk about al-Qaeda, they talk
about the al-Qaeda cloud, but that is very cloudy. However, it is because of that
confusion in the language that there cannot be a proper solution or response.
Of course, there are two ways of moving into political terrorist violence:
either you set up a structured political military group with agenda, objectives and
clear leadership, which is like an army with professionals. Then, of course, you
enter into pseudo-military clashes, which was the case of most revolutionary
terrorist or independent movements in Europe, in South America, and in the
Middle East, up until the end of the 20th century.

There is also the lone wolf solution, which is to say that you are both
within the mainstream and with the rebellion. You rally to your side the weakest
parts of society, you encourage people to undertake lone acts and strike where
they can, when they can, as they can, it does not matter as the act is signed and
claimed by the movement and belongs to its general strategy. The lone wolf
technique is not new, it is called lone wolf because it is well known in the US.
Mr William Pierce wrote a theory on it in his Turner Diaries, which stayed a
bestseller throughout the 1990s. It is inspirational, in fact, to most white
supremacists and Christian fundamentals. I will mention only the Atlanta and
Okalahoma City bombings, and other individual attacks that resulted in a larger
number of dead than 9/11.

That is the way of acting of several groups in the third world like the Grey
Wolves in Turkey, or the Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere. There are local acts of
violence in the Muslim world that correspond to the first model, but the second
model explains the Jihadi violence in the West and elsewhere in Arab countries.
All intelligence services know that you cannot fight the lone wolf
technique using military material means, armoured cars or increased
indiscriminate security measures. The only way you can fight the lone wolf
methodology is through targeted actions that are underpinned by political, social,
economic, educational, and cultural measures that will cut off the perpetrators of
violence from the sources that finance them and inspire them.

There have been no real serious measures that have targeted the source of
funding and ideology of Jihadi violence. Al-Qaeda was considered to be the
permanent enemy and there have only been inappropriate military and security
responses. It is a bit like using a machine gun to kill a mosquito, you miss the
mosquito but there is huge collateral damage, as can be seen in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Somalia and Yemen.

The first effect of that unproductive crusade was to boost and to provide
more credence to the terrorists, to legitimize that form of violence and to make it
the only possible frame of reference for affirmation. Let us not forget that the
Muslim world has been traumatized as Muslims are often suspected, it has been
under attack and massive, lasting and blind military occupation year after year.
For nine years now, the Western world has been attacking the tribal areas in
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, also Somalia and Palestine. Why not Yemen? Why
not Iran? For Muslims, Bin Laden is still mocking the rest of the Western world
by running free from the largest army in the world and the Islamist regime of
Saudi Arabia is still under complete protection of the US.

To conclude, and to provide my input to this panel, what is the latest with
al-Qaeda? It died sometime between 2002 and 2003, but before dying it was
reinforced and strengthened by the Westerners' mistakes and by the mistakes of
some Muslim regimes as well. It has actually disseminated. The question is
whether we will make the same mistakes again, we will feed a spiral of violence.
We hope that with partners, both Arab and Muslim, we will be able to prevent
the proliferation of rhinoceroses, to refer again to Ionesco.


newjesustimes's picture

unpeeling the onion

thanks cryptic - kinda quiet around here lately, huh? Guess I'm not the only one working my butt off these days.

hi njt

Yes, too quiet, which is why I had the nerve to kill massive bandwidth with some weekend reading. Been working too much too so it makes it even harder to swim against the tide of bullshit which im sure is getting thicker by the minute, hence I tend to avoid it.


Thanks Cryptic. I don't find your eye 'paranoid' at all. Discerning would be a much better word smiling .

Yes, and I've long ago stopped dreaming about former chiefs of secret services telling the truth, too.

Apart from the fact that I don't believe these 'intelligence' services are any more counter terrorist organisations that the Pentagon is a defence force and the fact that the CIA is behind all the problems M. Chouet lists, what I find really interesting is the fact that he felt he had to address the French senate on these matters, in the first place.

The good senators are obviously becoming embarrassingly aware, perhaps even excruciatingly aware, that a bunch of militia with IEDs and AK47s can't credibly hold off the might of both the Pentagon and Nato for . . nine. . . . frick . . . en . . . years!!
And particularly, after being routed in the beginning of the conflict. And who are these dudes with their AK47s that are accepting rides around Afghanistan from strangers in unmarked helicopters?

Hence we have this list of alternative explanations to paper over the cracks and holes in the, up till now, official story.

The Saudi situation is interesting. They promote this extreme Wahabbi form of Islam yet the Saudi royal family live in the extreme opposite manner. They live like another group, who call themselves semitic, do. They behave like their reward is here on earth and not so much in the after life like their semitic cousins also do.

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to put this up Cryptic and sorry I didn't get to comment earlier.

thanks for this, cryptic

I am not sure what to make of it but someday maybe I will. This international terrorism stuff is so complicated, it's no wonder so few people even try to understand it.

I suppose that's what makes those of us who do try to understand it "moonbats" or "lunatics" or "morans" or whatever the in put-down of the day might be.

The complexity serves another important purpose, of course: it can obscure an unlimited amount of underhanded shenanigans -- of the sorts that security chiefs will never talk about.

McJ's picture

Thanks Cryptic

This is about the 3rd or 4th time this week I have read/heard similar criticisms of Saudi Arabia. I can't help wondering, why now? Is the House of Saud loosing control? Are we being primed to accept an 'inevitable' military intervention in Saudi Arabia?

I did a little Googling and interestingly, I found an article titled "Saudi Arabia: The Gathering Storm", that was published in The Journal of International Security Affairs last fall.

This is how the home page describes this journal:
"...The Journal is dedicated to shaping ideas and framing policy relating to the security of the United States and its allies abroad.
Published twice yearly by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, it is fast becoming required reading for those who want to go beyond the headlines, and the conventional wisdom, of U.S. national security and foreign policy in a rapidly-changing world."

Sounds like a 'realty making' publication to me. Anyways, here's the part from the article that stood out for me.

"This is why Saudi analysts and reformers, as well as some at the highest levels of the U.S. government, are convinced that it is only a matter of time before opposition to the Saudi dynasty succeeds in taking over or creating enough chaos that it forces the U.S. and others to intervene militarily to ensure the safety of the vast Saudi oil facilities on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf.


McJ's picture

More Israeli Art students

I didn't really know where to put this as we don't have an open thread going so I will stick it here.
This is an interesting article on some Israeli art students going door to door selling art and asking questions about the NSA's data center that is being built at Camp Williams.

"SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Sales people working neighborhoods in Northern Utah County have been asking some odd questions that have nothing to do with making the sale. Folks are reporting that they're asking about the new National Security Agency's data center that is being built at Camp Williams.

The sales people say they're Israeli art students and are selling their works to raise money for a gallery. Some have even produced what appear to be legitimate Israeli passports.

So, why would art students be interested in an NSA data center?"

excellent find, McJ

You've done a lot of good digging recently (while I have been writing fiction!) and I thank you for all of it.

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