By Rasheed Abubakar
The palpable tension and war of attrition between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran has entered a new phase, following US President Donald Trump’s designation of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation. This is the first time Washington will formally brand another country’s military as a terrorist group.
What an affront!, critics may say, or was it a kind of joke taken too far by the ‘Boss Tweet’ – a nickname for Trump describing his penchant for jumping on Twitter? Well, the Iranians do not find it funny. In fact, the President Hassan Rouhani-led government, in a swift reaction, has now branded the United States Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, and all its forces as terrorists, and labeled the US as “a supporter of terrorism.”
This latest development brings to the fore, once again, the question of who a terrorist is and what terrorism is. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted definition for the term. Like Mike German aptly opines in his book; “Thinking Like a Terrorist,” defining the term is “an exercise in futility.” He however stressed that “we know it (terrorism) when we see it.”
A Nigerian security expert, Abayomi Nurain Mumuni dedicated a whole chapter (about 11 pages) of his first book; “Global Terrorism and its Effects on Humanity” to defining the term “terrorism”. However, Mumuni also later admitted in his second book; “Demand by Terror” that seeking to evolve an acceptable definition of terrorism is indeed an exercise in futility!
He however said the inability to come up with a universally acceptable definition serves a good purpose, as it leaves everyone concerned with the option of description rather than definition. It is much easier to describe events that agitate, cause fear or suffering and even terminate lives whenever and wherever they are experienced, without having to fit such into any particular theoretical definition.
Hence, what is terrorism to the US government might be or might not be same to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. This explains the reasons why the US and other Western nations do not consider the outlawed IPOB a terrorist group, but according to Nigerian law, the group is terrorist, going by its violent activities which create fear in the minds of innocent Nigerians. Interestingly, both the US and Nigeria governments unanimously agreed that the Boko Haram insurgent group is a terrorist group.
Ironically, “Doro” US – a cheerful giver who distributes the term “terrorist” to her perceived enemies – be they countries or organisations – has not admitted nor will ever admit being a terrorist country, supporting terrorists or using state agents and resources to terrorise civilian populations, even as many scholars and researchers, including the US linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky, have described Washington as a leading terrorist state, based on its deadly, CIA-run operations in different countries of the world.
Like Iran’s unflinching financial support for Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which has been on the blacklist of the US and the European Union (EU) for years, the US government also heavily funded the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union in the 70s. The “freedom fighters” they called them were never terrorists when they served the interest of the US, until the invasion of Afghanistan by the US in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Same goes for the US-backed Contra rebels, who used terror tactics to fight the Nicaraguan government between 1981 and 1991.
President Trump admitted to the US government’s support for terrorists when he announced early in 2017 the plan to end the four-year covert CIA program arming and training terrorists fighting the embattled Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad since 2013. The US government might have halted its support for the rebels, but the Syrian civil war turned proxy war between the US and Russia has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.
The same President Trump who accused the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of masterminding the 9/11 attacks during his 2015 election campaigns recently made a U-turn, and signed a whopping $110 billion arms deal with the oil-rich country. Isn’t that contradictory? And, one may ask; arms deal for what? To continue the so-called ongoing war on terror against “Houthi rebels” in Yemen, where thousands of innocent children have lost their lives? To Trump, “the Land of Tawheed” is not a terrorist nation as long as it keeps the oil flowing and it keeps being the obedient lapdog of Israel and American neocons it has always been.
Evidently, so many countries are guilty of State Terrorism – the systematic use of terror by a government in order to control its population – and directly or indirectly, many countries, including India against Kashmir, China against the Uighurs, Myanmar against Rohinyga Muslims etc are culprits of this.
Trump’s second-in-command in the culture of lawlessness, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is using the same tactics in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestine, right under the watch of the US. What did they do to stop him? Absolutely nothing! Do you know Washington supports Israel’s atrocities in the region with more than $3 billion of military aid annually?
Till date, Saudi Arabia and Israel consider Palestine’s Hamas – the preeminent freedom fighters in Palestine (a replica of South Africa’s ANC) – a terrorist organisation, but countries like Qatar and Turkey do not buy into that narrative. This is based on their understanding of what the group stands for – defending the Masjid-il-Aqsa – Muslims’ third holiest Mosque and liberating the people of Palestine.
As it is, both the US and Iran have counter-declared each other terrorist. In essence, it is appropriate to see the terrorist paradigm through the prism of interests. It is evident that the US, and indeed other world powers, see whatever aligns with their interests or those of their allies as legit and desirable. Whatever falls out of that ambit is likely to be slammed with the toga of terrorism. As such, whenever any state actor, the US, Iran or any other global power rolls out the terrorist tag yet again, always remember that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and by the way, even for the same man, today’s freedom fighter may become tomorrow’s terrorist. It’s all about interests after all.
– By Rasheed Abubakar, publisher of Muslim News Nigeria and the author of “Media Narratives of Muslims in Nigeria: Facts and Fallacies” | Twitter @rawshieldpr