30 September 2009

Exclusive - 'Our Terrorists' in New Internationalist

The Sept-Oct edition of the popular progressive magazine, The New Internationalist, is a special issue on Political Islam, carrying an exclusive feature article by me called "Our Terrorists", which summarises some of my work on Western military intelligence cooptation of al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist networks after the Cold War.

You can't read the piece online, so I'd encourage getting hold of the hard copy, and perhaps encouraging friends/colleagues to read it too as a way of raising awareness. The NI coverage is definitely a breakthrough into the mainstream for a 'deep political' perspective on the emergence of Islamist extremism and the role of Western covert operations.

The editorial by NI Editor Hadani Ditmars has been put online here, and she gives a glimpse of the substance of my piece with her own brief summary:

"... in certain quarters extremist Islamism is being actively funded and encouraged.

As 30-year-old British author Nafeez Ahmed writes (see page 17) the old Cold War relationships between certain national intelligence agencies and Islamist extremists are still alive and well.
While researching a doctoral thesis on imperialism and the ‘war on terror’, Ahmed found that in most Muslim countries where there is a significant petroleum industry, Western intelligence agencies have formed close relationships with Islamist groups – and in many cases are supplying them with arms and funds.

As strange new Wahhabist militias appear in, for example, Somalia and Chechnya , local Muslim communities with populist Sufi or other indigenous, moderate forms of Islam suddenly find their faith hijacked. Wherever sharia law is used as a tool of authoritarianism, there are often, it seems, hidden political agendas at work.

While some secular nationalist governments in majority-Muslim countries have engaged with Islamist extremists ( like Algeria’s ruling party – see page 18) to further their own agendas and co-opt the power of religion, similar tactics by Western governments and intelligence agencies can be new versions of the old divide-and-conquer imperialism.

Even as the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq empowered extremist Shi’a death squads via the new Ministry of the Interior, the CIA continued to support Salafist, Sunni militias throughout the region (see page 17). Sectarian strife would seem almost unavoidable under such circumstances..."


  1. Nafeez, please persuade the NI to publish your excellent piece online. I read it in the magazine and at the time thought it deserved far greater exposure: no offence to the NI

  2. I have read your excellent article in the current issue of the NI. At the end of the article the editors have written that 'a full version' of this piece complete 'with footnotes' will appear on the NI website (www.newint.org). However, as yet, no such full version has appeared on their website! I'm keen to read more. Perhaps you can shed some light on what's happening here?

  3. I've been assured by NI that an online footnoted version will be published online around next month - i.e. when the new edition comes out. When it's available I'll post the link on this blog.

  4. Cheers, Nafeez. If you could post the link in this comment thread, that at would be great.

  5. Please put it online. Cheers

  6. Link for New Internationalist piece, 'Our Terrorists', http://www.newint.org/features/2009/10/01/blowback/

    Unfortunately this is not a footnoted version. A footnoted version may still be on the way, though...


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