Glen Ford: After advancing policies that helped birth groups like ISIS, US imperial policy will no longer stand in the region.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Ford Report.
Now joining us is Glen Ford. He’s the executive editor of Black Agenda Report, and he’s a regular contributor to The Real News.
Thanks for being with us, Glen.
GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Oh, thanks for allowing me to be here.
DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, in your latest article, “The Superpower in the Caliphate”, you talk about the military situation in Iraq and Syria and you say, quote,
“[T]he emergence of the ‘Islamic State’ signals the final collapse of U.S. imperial strategy in the Muslim world—certainly, in the Arab regions of Islam.”
What do you mean by that?
FORD: Well, we have to understand that for the United States to send in its guns and its money in support of other forces, it has to prove to the American people, first of all, its domestic audience, that it is the good guy and it’s siding with good guys, that it’s engaged in a humanitarian effort, that it wants to send guns to the guys who are on the right side. And so in Libya and in Syria, the fighters were depicted as, well, just being people who wanted to fight against corrupt and dictatorial regimes.
It amounts to a bankruptcy of U.S. policy if the American people, as well as folks all around the world, see that the United States is siding with, is arming, is in some ways directing the battalions of jihadist fighters, as was the case in Syria and as is now clearly the case in terms of ISIS. ISIS has blown that whole game with its declaration that it constitutes, as an organization, a caliphate, that is no longer just ISIS, it is the Islamic State.
And it has words of warning not just to the governments in Iraq and Syria. These are words of warning that we ought to take seriously, ’cause any time a group of folks who are willing to die for their religion or kill you for it say something, I think they should be taken seriously. And they say the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority when those troops arrive on the soil. That means that they are saying that this caliphate lays claim to the power of a state wherever it operates, that this state, this Islamic state, operates in the name of Allah and that any other authority must bow to that. And that includes other states another emirates, and that means Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, all of the other states that directly fund ISIS and these other jihadist outfits.
So this causes a terrific crisis among the ranks of U.S. allies in the region, and certainly, of course, the United States would not be considered to be, by the Islamic state, to not also be subject to its edicts.
DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, what should the U.S. policy be, then, in that region?
FORD: It doesn’t have any options. The United States began 35 years ago in Afghanistan where it had no reliable foot soldiers to affect the outcome of events, to, in league with Saudi Arabia, fund and arm the mujahideen so that they could undermine the leftist government of Afghanistan. And this was in the months before the Soviets intervened. In the following years, the United States and the Saudis developed what became the international jihadist network. It had never existed before, but the U.S. and the Saudis breathed life into it.
And they found uses for these jihadists, most notably in 2011, when the Arab spring threatened these very regimes, the Saudis and the emirates and the Qatars, all of these filthy rich royal folk felt threatened by what was—by the Arab Spring. And so the United States and its Saudi partners said that we should stage a display of force and mount an attack on the secular regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, to show who’s boss in the region in the face of these threats of disruption. And they, of course, had to utilize the only foot soldiers they had, who were the jihadists, and the United States and Europe acted as the air force for the jihadists. And they tried to replicate that again in Syria, because, well, who else were they going to get to overthrow a secular regime that, like Gaddafi’s in Libya, was not threatening the United States in any way? So the arming of these jihadists became central to U.S. and Saudi policy in the region.
If these jihadists are no longer controllable—and they clearly are not—who are to be the foot soldiers of the United States and the Saudis in the region? And how can the Saudis and the Kuwaitis and the Qataris who live in the countries from which these jihadists come, how can they feel safe when there is a caliphate that claims temporal authority in the region and says that wherever it moves, its borders move with it—that caliphate moves as well?
The Saudis only have recognized authority in the Middle East. The people there only allow that Saudi family to monopolize the billions and billions of dollars of wealth under the soil of that country because the Saudis promised the rest of the Muslim world that they would guard the holy sites of Islam. Well, I’m sure that the Islamic state, the caliphate, would be glad to perform those same duties.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, thanks for joining us.
FORD: Thank you.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.