March 19, 2007 | FrontPage Magazine

Future Jihad

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Walid Phares, a Professor of Middle East Studies and Religious Conflict at the LLS Program of Florida Atlantic University and a visiting Professor at National Defense University in Winter 2007. Dr. Phares is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He has served as an Analyst on Terrorism with MSNBC since 2003 and is now a contributor to Fox News. He is the author of Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America, which has just come out in paperback and includes a new chapter which discusses some of Phares’ predictions that have already proved accurate.

FP: Walid Phares, welcome to Frontpage Interview.


Phares: Thank you Jamie for inviting me to this Frontpage Interview and for giving me the opportunity to discuss an important aspect of the War on Terror.


FP: Tell us a bit about the present jihad and the future jihad. How will the future one differ?


First, and by historical order let me make an intellectual distinction between the historical Jihad practiced throughout centuries by heads of empires, dynasties, governors of provinces, emirs and other clerical and military commanders within the Muslim world and the contemporary Jihadist movement which, since the 1920s has been trying to resume the religiously-inspired wars of the previous 13 centuries.


Indeed, few commentators can challenge the fact that since the 7th century AD/CE, and for more than a millennia, Caliphs of the Umeyad, Abbasids, Mameluk, Ottomans and other dynasties, as well as their Walis (Governors) have waged holy wars, military campaigns, signed treaties, broken conventions, and conducted state affairs, based on the concept of Jihad. The latter injunction was a theologically-grounded, but politically practiced set of marching orders to attack, defend, invade or conquer for the sake of the Caliphate.


As I underlined in Future Jihad, historically, there was no Jihad outside the state-sanctioned policies and decision-making systems. Hence, while many of today's academics in the West try to find some “exotic” meaning to Jihad, not without ideological and political agendas, the 1,200 (or so), Caliphs, Sultans, Walis, Emirs and Commanders who led and managed Jihad from Baghdad to Istanbul weren't experiencing some “spiritual yoga” when they decreed Jihad and requested fatwas for their entreprises. As for all other empires, including Christians, war decisions were simmered in religious licensing. The Jihad of History wasn't an exception at all: The Caliphs and their representatives were “military commanders” as well.


Hence, from the 7th century AD/CE till the abolishing of the Caliphate in Istanbul in 1924 by the secular founder of the Turkish Republic, a whole body of laws, regulations and practice of Jihad has been accumulated through 1,300 years. But as the international society formed on the basis of secular international law with the League of Nations and on the Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, historical Jihad and other religious wars were supposed to have ended.


But as of 1920s, a Salafi school of thinking (return to the early stage of the Sunni Islamic state) emerged out of Arabia with Wahabism and of Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 1970s, another ideological school emerged out of Iran under Khomeini calling for the establishment of a Shiia Imamate. Both movements can be defined as “Jihadist.”


FP: So what is new about the new ideological school?


Phares: In short, the ideological school that emerged under the Muslim Brotherhood and Khomeini has been calling in modern times for the resuming of the “old Jihad.” They seek the reestablishment of the Caliphate (Salafists) or establish an Imamate (Khomeinists). This means a relentless campaign to destroy 21 Arab and 51 Muslim Governments as we know today to replace them with an “empire” stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian Oceans.


So today's Jihad (as perceived by the Jihadists) is an unstoppable, non negotiable, and relentless campaign to achieve these goals. But while the Jihad of the 7th and 15th centuries was a conflict phenomenon in contemporary historical stages, and while religious wars were practiced by many other nations and civilizations from their own theological perspective, the Jihadists' “Jihad” of 20th and 21st centuries is in full contradiction with all aspects of international law and principles.


FP: Can you crystallize this contradiction? What makes this Jihad mutually exclusive with all aspects of international law and principles?


Phares: The Salafists and Khomeinists are not bound by any limits and regulations, excepts those they draw for themselves. Unlike what Western academics allege about modern Jihad, today's Jihadists, from al Qaeda to Ahmadinijad's regime,  have a comprehensive ideology, strategic plans and multiple evolving tactics to implement these radical doctrinal visions.


Nowadays Jihadists aren't just individuals and groups “frustrated” with US, Western or other foreign policies, but they have policies of their own, goals they want to achieve and tools they have developed to reach their objectives, including mainly terrorism. Modern Jihadism is not about some “spiritual yoga,” as many in the intellectual elites assert; it is about a determined and rationally designed set of strategies aiming at winning the War against moderate Muslims in the East and democracies in the West.


FP: Expand a bit more for us on what it is that the West does not understand about the threat it faces.


Phares: Today's Jihadism uses history and theology as roots for their mobilization and action, but the Jihadists have developed plans as of the 1980s and 1990s which have been taking shape in the Middle East and within the West before and after 9/11.


The West was misled by its own elites in reading and understanding the threat. Hence, I argue in my book Future Jihad, that they have at least one decade lead ahead of the West, if not more.


On 9/11, most Americans didn't understand that they were attacked in a War waged against them as of the 1990s. Since 2001, the Government has been attempting to catch up with the Jihadist penetration of the country, albeit with limited successes. The infiltration of the system is deep and wide for any federal government to address without a full fledge public awareness. And this is where the battle is today: the ability of Americans to understand the threat and to support policies that can win the conflict.


You can see clearly that the Jihadists have been able to affect this understanding through their past and current successful campaigns to mollify the national analysis in America. As for Europe, the battle is much harsher and the stakes are much higher: European governments are under tremendous pressures by the oil producing regimes in the Arab and Muslim world on the one hand and a European network of Jihadist cadres.


In short, today's Jihadism has been planned and waged as of the 1990s at the least. Tomorrow's “Jihad” though, is been planned and launched today. The level of infiltration by al Qaeda and the neo-Wahabis within US and Western systems, for example, will be seen years from now.


The 9/11 design will be topped and bypassed by today's Jihadi strategic planners. I invite readers and analysts to look hard at the cases of terror arrests within the West, but also in the greater Middle East. Those planning strikes of aggression in the US, Canada, the UK and other countries in Europe, are what we call “home-grown,” but with an ideology which is Jihadi in nature.


Future Jihadism will be native and lethal, if not addressed quickly by the international society in general and America's leadership in particular. Future terrorists will be citizens, protected by laws, and attempting to create domestic crisis, while the Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah of the world were “aliens” who had been simply successful in infiltrating the security system. 

FP: What are some of the predictions you made that have come true?

Phares: Let me mention a few:

[1] Penetration of the system: Jihadists will be trying to penetrate the U.S. system: Multiple cases have shown that they have attempted to infiltrate the U.S. military, intelligence and other agencies. In the chapter “Mutant Jihad,” I predicted the rise of the so-called second generation (homegrown) Jihadists in America and the West. The capture of these cells have shown that most members were citizens, born in the country and speaking the language, etc.

[2] That Wahabi funds have been and continue to be used to take the control of Middle East studies in the United States. Emir Talal Bin al Waleed offered 40 million dollars to US universities lately. (Chapter: The Clash of Strategies)

[3]  That al Qaeda wanted to crumble the US national security in 2001 and to pull American task forces from the region. It still project to do so: documents captured on terrorists (Abu Musaab As Suri) demonstrated this objective. (Chapter: The Road to 9/11) 

[4] Chapter 13 (the scariest) shows what type of Future Jihad is in the making: establishment of urban Jihadi units within each city, etc. The arrests in UK and the US showed that this trend is now happening.


FP: Can we avoid the Future Jihad? Are we ready for it?

Phares: The Jihadists, Salafists or Khomeinists, are determined to prepare for and implement a Future Jihad, should it be via regimes (Iran, alliance with Syria, Sudan, possible others) or via organizations (al Qaeda, neo-Taliban, Jemaa Islamiya, Mahakem of Somalia, Janjaweed in Darfur, Hizballah, others).

They have been waging campaigns and preparing for future ones, within the Muslim world and inside the West. They have the resources (including oil dividends) and the manpower (through madrassas and other endoctrination tools). When you contemplate this whole global and gigantic apparatus you ask yourself: can you avoid the Jihad of the future and how?

Answers aren't easy, especially in view of the fact that Western governments (including the US) who have the resources, lack the will of strategic resistance. And within the East (Arab Muslim world), dissident and anti-Jihadist forces have the will, but lack the resources.

Hence yes, theoretically a future Jihad can be stopped if we can consolidate the will within the West and provide the resources to Muslim dissidents around the world. These measures can stop the holy wars of the future waged against democracies and free societies. But do we have the energies to implement such a revolution in the War on Terror? I am not sure yet. Citizens in the West who have understood the challenge will rise to the level of decisions needed to win the Jihadi wars of the future. But a failure in public education will lead to a disaster in the coming years. For the Jihadists' relentlessness has proven itself several times.

If the West and America let down their mobilization, the future 9/11s will exceed the consequences of the 2001 terror attacks in America and the strikes in Madrid and London. This equation is quantitative and statistical in essence: there is little margin of error.

The Jihadists who are produced today in the madrassas, are being prepared to bring down Western democracies as we know them. It would be difficult to predict the various tactical moves, but the strategies can be projected.

In Chapter 13 of my book I simply used the various cases known by the public: 9/11 hijackers, dirty bomber, sniper, domestic cells, infiltrated within the military, etc. The scenario projected for 2008, had the attacks of 2001 not occurred showed a mass disruption of national security in America and a cataclysmic growth of Jihadi regimes in the East (had the Taliban, Saddam and the Somali Islamists for example) not been taken out.    

The public can only be ready for what the government and establishment ready it for. The war with the Jihadists is not a private enterprise, but a state business. Homeland security for example should not be limited to respond to disasters and to find the Jihadi terrorists, just before they trigger the bombs. A sound Homeland Security must begin by educating the public as to the nature of the enemy, its ideology, its strategies and tactics.

This is how you should prepare the nation to face future Jihadism, not by avoiding a national debate on the real issue under the pretext that Jihadism is some sort of theological matter. Precisely, the enemy wants you to believe that Jihadism (the enemy's profound nature) is just a matter of academic and theological debate. It would be the equivalent of having the propagandists of the IIIrd Reich convincing the Allies, that Nazism is a cultural issue. The West cannot avoid future Jihad unless it rises to a level of an advanced understanding of the enemy's ideology and tactics. And unless that new well-prepared international society equips itself with all the necessary tools, including education and outreach to fellow resisters in the East, the clash with future Jihadists is unavoidable and will last longer.

FP: Dr. Phares, thank you for joining us.

Phares: My pleasure as always.