Arab Press: Knew it was coming
In a world of terrorism, the London attack was not the first and will not be the last, writes Rasha Saad
Analysts and opinion writers were by and large not surprised by the London attacks, seeing it as part of an ongoing world war. They believe Britain's position on the war on terrorism and the war against Iraq made it from the beginning the No 1 country on the list of targeted nations. Many were expecting that what happened in Madrid last year would repeat itself on British soil, especially given that Britain is home to many Islamic militants who are convicted of terrorist attacks in their home countries.
"It is not strange for terrorism to strike London. Neither the dangers nor the perils are new," Ghassan Charbel wrote in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper. The attacks against London, Charbel contends, were not a declaration of war but merely a chapter of WWIII, prompted by the attacks of 11 September 2001. According to Charbel, the attacks once again proved that this world war is not being waged using traditional methods. The countries engaged in the war on terrorism lack the essential element found in traditional wars: the ability to determine the position of the enemy, the battlefield for the confrontation and the size of the enemy in order to prepare the necessary force to defeat it. In such a war, a group of individuals and a few bombs are enough to create chaos and fear in a city the size of London.
"This means the countries at war are fighting a ghost who might retaliate in any capital, airport or hotel." In the absence of a clear identity for the enemy it is impossible to achieve victory, as it is impossible to negotiate.
Also in Al-Hayat, Maher Othman agreed that the London explosions and the escalation of attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan on the US and other foreign troops could result in a full-fledged war. "The war, which was characterised by a one-way direction, from West to East, seems to have become two ways," Othman wrote.
Othman says a number of the victims of the London blasts might have participated in the protests against British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to take part in the US-led war on Iraq. They also might have rallied in support of the Palestinian people, including their right to be liberated from the Israeli occupation. The blasts brought the British people and the political strata together, regardless of their class affiliations or ideologies. "Whatever objection the British have against the policies of their prime minister, especially with regard to the war on Iraq, everyone is aware that last week's 'war' of attacks did not target him but instead hit civilians, making no distinction."
Abdel-Rahman Al-Rashed in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat contends that Britain is largely responsible for the attacks. Al-Rashed said he and other Arab writers had warned years ago of the danger of the lenient policy exercised by British authorities towards extremism which has rapidly spread among Muslims in Britain. It was never understood why British authorities grant asylum to people implicated in crimes of extremism in their countries, while not granting visas to Arab students who are law-abiding and have no police record or ill intention.
"It was never clear to us why British authorities grant visas to Arabs who are indicted in their homeland in political crimes and crimes related to religious fanaticism, with some even sentenced to death." British authorities even grant asylum to "fundamentalist fascists" and pay for their accommodation, give them monthly allowances and, moreover, their lawyers' fees should they want to sue the government. "What stupid generosity, whatever its political or legal motives," wrote Al-Rashed.
Al-Rashed said the common belief that extremists living in London will not target Britain as they benefit from it as a base for their operations, a safe haven and the freedom they enjoy -- and that their real enemies are the Arab and Islamic regimes -- has been proven wrong. Britain has become a country full of extremist fugitives who were able to achieve a very important target: find a large network of followers. "Unless British authorities are pragmatic in dealing with extremism, we are heading for an inferno. We have demanded before that these fanatics be barred from operating in Britain. Now we demand that they be expelled."
Also in Asharq Al-Awsat, Ahmed Al-Rabei wrote that the London attacks were but another mistake by Al-Qaeda that will backfire. He explained that Al-Qaeda's biggest mistake was 11 September. It was the beginning of a universal terrorist war that brought in Baghdad and Kabul. "The terrorist attack in London hence was another Al-Qaeda mistake. It is an operation without a political aim." Al-Rabei explained that Britain is not Spain; it will not bow to terrorism and withdraw its troops from Iraq. It is the chief ally of the US and has always proved its loyalty in many international situations.
The operation serves US-British strategy which lobbies for a broader international coalition against terrorism. The attacks thus weaken France and Germany who refused to join the US and Britain in the war against Iraq and might force them to join a future coalition.
The attacks, according to Al-Rabei, also weaken the Islamic presence in Europe, especially in Britain, which hosts a number of fanatics, including from Al-Qaeda, who operate with fake names belonging to fake organisations. Now Britain is more likely to hand over many of these terrorists to Arab countries.
Only Blair will benefit from the operation because it proved that he was not stoking pre-election fears when he warned the British people about terrorism and the possibility of it occurring in Britain. He was talking about real fears and concerns.
In its editorial the Omani newspaper Oman said the London bombings were an alarm bell for the world to pay more attention to the issue of terrorism and organise an international conference to discuss the issue more thoroughly and to try to find the best options and most pragmatic solutions instead of continuing the confrontation which will deepen wounds and cause more losses. "The US and Europe must also re- examine their policies in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, stop being biased and halt their military and financial support to Israel."
However, in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, in "London massacre and fundamentalist fascism", Hashem Saleh wrote that the reason behind terrorism was ideological and theological before being economic or as a result of the struggle in Palestine, Chechnya or Iraq. "Those who speak from London on Arab satellite screens saying that Blair is paying the price for his mistakes in Iraq are speaking only half the truth. The other half goes back to religious fanaticism."
The Saudi Al-Watan wrote that after the attacks hit the heart of Europe, in Madrid and London, the US and its allies should admit failure in fighting terrorism and prepare other alternative plans to uproot it. The newspaper suggested they stop interfering in the internal affairs of these countries under the pretext of spreading democracy. "They should also withdraw their troops from the countries which they invaded, especially Iraq, and give its people the right to self- determination."
The Qatari Al-Raya wrote that since 11 September 2001, the Arabs and Muslims had become the biggest losers since each time a terrorist attack happens, fingers start pointing to Arabs and Muslims even before the start of any investigation.
Fanatic groups which claim responsibility are not true Muslims, have defamed Islam and offered enemies of Islam a free service. However, Al-Raya concluded, "that some of the victims of the London attacks were Muslims proves that terrorists do not differentiate between the race or colour of their victims".