Thanks to the Obama administration’s uninformed and flimsy foreign policy decisions, the year 2013 has distinctively been a blessing for the independent Islamist parties and fundamentalist Islamic governments throughout the Middle East and the world. Although it is somewhat difficult to predict what will happen in 2014 regarding the Islamists movements and prominent challenges within that (along with Iran’s nuclear ambitions), several issues can be projected based on the trends and polices carried out in 2013.
Firstly, the foreign and domestic policies carried out by the Obama administration have led to several key trends.
In 2013, Islamists and fundamentalists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and other Islamists parties have gained an unprecedented level of power, organization, and coordination, particularly across the Middle East and Africa. In Syria, for example, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has emerged as among the most powerful jihadi groups. This particular Islamist group, which seeks to rule Syria and the Levant just as the Taliban did in Afghanistan (along with fighting against infidels), has become more centralized through obtaining a unified command-and-control structure, ideologically and politically.
Reportedly, this Islamist party— which has been behind thousands of beheadings, in many cases proudly beheading people and showing it on videos— is advocating for the systematic genocide of Shi’ite Muslims or others who are “damaging Mohammed’s legacy” in perpetrating their beliefs. Currently, ISIL is the most powerful oppositional group in Syria, even overshadowing the Free Syrian Army and other rebels. It is argued that many of the arms sent to the Free Syrian Army were actually obtained by several Islamist groups, including ISIL. In late 2013, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights labeled the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams as “the strongest group in Northern Syria.”
Beheading ordinary people, taking videos (such as the reported beheading of a young Christian girl in this widespread video, or others as seen in this video), targeting non-Muslims (primarily Christians), raping women, and kidnapping non-Muslims have become daily practice in several Muslim countries, carried out by either independent Islamist groups or by those who have recently gained control of the sovereignty of the state.
According to an Amnesty International report this week, Islamist militants are perpetrating “a shocking catalogue of abuses” conducted in secret jails, including torture, flogging, and killings after summary trials. Amnesty International added that, “Those abducted and detained by ISIL include children as young as eight who are held together with adults in the same cruel and inhuman conditions.” Despite all the atrocities and brutalities committed by the ISIL and other Isalmist groups, recent reports from various credible news outlets including Reuters indicate that the Obama administration has attempted to reach out to these Islamist groups, with the Islamists rejecting the administration’s overtures. Do these attempts empower and embolden these Islamist groups to further carry out their atrocities and barbarity?
A turning point and tremendous achievement for the Islamists has been the nuclear deal struck with Iran, thanks to President Obama’s efforts. The Ayatollahs, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the Iranian leaders will receive about $7 billion worth of sanctions relief on sectors including its metal industry, the sanctions relief can be accomplished by an executive order by the Obama administration, without the need to appeal to Congress.
In return for this sanctions relief, Iran is not giving any concessions to rollback its program; Tehran is not going to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure. The Islamic Republic will not decrease the number of its centrifuges, currently about 19,000 (just a few thousands below the needed amount to created a nuclear bomb). In addition, Iranian leaders will not close any of the nation’s nuclear sites. Iran will not even halt its nuclear enrichment. In fact, the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue enriching uranium.
In addition, while the Obama administration still supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamist party of Al-Nahda in Tunisia and other Islamist parties that have recently gained power, with billions of American dollars, the persecution of non-Muslims has reached an unprecedented level.
If the current foreign policy moves by the Obama administration continue on, 2014 may likely mark other groundbreaking and exceptional turning points for fundamentalists and Islamists in the region and across the world. The balance of power has already considerably shifted in favor of the Islamists in the region in 2013. They have been capable of remobilizing, organizing, and fossilizing their establishment, ideology and power.
If this trend continues, Iran is more likely to declare itself as the first ideologically-Islamist nuclear-armed state. Furthermore, ISIL will obtain greater territorial, organizational, and political gains in the region, possibly fulfilling their objectives of obtaining sovereignty in Syria. This reminds us of a reiteration of history, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda created a similar centralized state, later implementing their goal by committing the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The other Islamists groups in the region will also continue gaining power, growing, becoming more centralized, organized, and coordinated through the current foreign policies that are being carried out.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and he serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC and a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He has been a recipient of several scholarships and fellowship including from Oxford University, Annenberg University, University of California Santa Barbara, and Fulbright Teaching program. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and taught at University of California Santa Barbara through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rafizadeh is a regular commentator for national and international outlets including CNN, BBC TV and radio, ABC, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, RT, CCTV and Aljazeera English. He is frequently quoted in major news outlets including CNN, BBC, Aljazeera and he regularly writes for both academic and non-academic papers such as New York Times International, Foreign Policy, Aljazeera, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Yale Journal of International Affairs, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, George Washington International Review, to name a few.