By Nafeez Ahmed and cross-posted from Middle East Eye
Theresa May is right. Enough is enough.
A difficult and embarrassing conversation needs to be had about the fact that there is too much tolerance of extremism – by the British state.
Whitehall’s disastrous policy of partnering with regimes in the Middle East which – according to reports and a briefing drawn from open sources that I co-authored with Mark Curtis – sponsor the Islamic State (IS) group, has created a situation that has directly increased the threat of domestic violent extremism.
But now the problem is here, it is not enough simply to point fingers. All of us need to work together to solve it.
When War Comes Home
About 850 British citizens have travelled to Syria, Iraq and Libya over the last few years to fight with a variety groups, including jihadist, against the likes of Gaddafi and Assad. About half arrived back in Britain this February.
Others have been coming back intermittently before then.
Now hundreds of al-Qaeda, IS and Libyan Islamic Fighting Group-groomed jihadists are roaming the streets of Britain. Many have simply carried on with their lives. Others are recruiting and radicalising in our midst.
This is why we have had the unprecedented circumstance of three horrifying terrorist atrocities on British soil within just three months, under Theresa May’s watch.
As UK foreign policy expert Mark Curtis and I show in our new briefing published on the morning that London was attacked, Britain’s security services actively colluded in this process. They established an “open door” between UK and jihad theatres in the Middle East, ensuring that our own police forces were unable to prevent these British citizens from joining various rebel uprisings abroad.
A Very British Fight
And yet we also know that British military assistance ended up being supplied to the very jihadist groups that radicalised these British citizens in theatres like Syria and Libya, alongside regimes whom we call our allies – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey to name just four.
Western and regional intelligence sources overwhelmingly have confirmed that the bulk of military and logistical support to rebels in Syria and Libya, for instance, went to Islamist groups with ties to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS).
A secret memo written by then secretary of state Hillary Clinton in August 2014 to John Podesta, her campaign chairman, noted that the Saudi and Qatari governments “are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Islamic State] and other radical Sunni groups in the region”.
The document went on to describe the rise of IS as a strategic opportunity for the US to reshape the region: “With all of its tragic aspects, the advance of ISIL through Iraq gives the US Government an opportunity to change the way it deals with the chaotic security situation in North Africa and the Middle East.”
In Libya, Britain’s partnership with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which some have argued was for a time affiliated with al-Qaeda, empowered a network many of whose members had been arriving back from fighting US troops alongside al-Qaeda in Iraq. The very same members ended up being enrolled in the anti-Gaddafi rebellion.
In Syria, in alliance with the Gulf states, British support went to al-Nusra Front, the “proscribed group considered to be al-Qaeda in Syria” many of whose followers went on to join IS. Al-Nusra has since attempted to rehabilitate its image by publicly disassociating from al-Qaeda – a move which, however, was strongly supported by al-Qaeda largely for PR purposes…