Friday, April 8, 2011

Perfidious Albion and the dirty little secrets of British foreign affairs

SERPENT'S TAIL, £12.99, 460PP. £11.69 FROM THE INDEPENDENT BOOKSHOP: 08430 600 030

Secret Affairs, By Mark Curtis

Reviewed by Kim Sengupta 
Friday, 30 July 2010

Shot in the back by UK policy? Gurkha Rifles in Helmand

For years, violent Islamist groups were allowed to settle in Britain, using the country as a base to carry out attacks abroad. This was tolerated in the belief that they would not bomb the country where they lived and that, as long as they are here, the security service would be able to infiltrate them. At the same time mosque after mosque was taken over through intimidation by the fundamentalists. Police and others in authority refused pleas from moderate Muslims with the excuse that they did not want to interfere.
There was even a name for this amoral accommodation: the "covenant of security". We now know that jihadists will indeed blow up their home country and that the security agencies signally failed to infiltrate the terrorist cells while they had the chance.
The part played by officials in the growth of terrorism in Britain is a relatively small-scale affair compared to what went on abroad. Successive UK governments had nurtured and promoted extremists for reasons of realpolitik often at a terrible cost to the population of those countries. Mark Curtis, in his book on "Britain's collusion with radical Islam", charts this liaison. He points out how reactionary and violent Muslim groups were used against secular nationalists at the time of empire and continued afterwards to back UK and Western interests.
The price for this is now being paid at home and abroad. I am writing this review in Helmand, where a few days ago I went on an operation with British and Afghan troops against insurgents whose paymasters, across the border in Pakistan, have been the beneficiaries of US and British largesse.
Curtis points out that two of the most active Islamist commanders carrying out attacks in Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalalludin Haqqani, had particularly close contacts with the UK in the past. Hekmatyar met Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street when he was a favourite of MI6 and the CIA in the war against the Russians. Haqqani, while not the "Taliban's overall military commander fighting the British" as Curtis says (he runs his own network parallel to the Taliban), was viewed as a highly useful tool in that conflict.
The Western use of the Mujaheddin as proxy fighters is well documented. It resulted in the spawning of al-Qa'ida, the spread of international terrorism, and the empowering of ISI, the Pakistani secret police, who became their sponsors. Curtis examines the lesser known by-products of this jihad: the dispatch of Afghan Islamist veterans, with the connivance of Britain and the US, to the wars in the Balkans and the former Soviet republics in central Asia, and ethnic Muslim areas of China. Vast sums of money from the West's great ally, Saudi Arabia, helped fund the Reagan administration's clandestine war in support of repressive military juntas in Latin America while, at the same time, buttressing the aggressive Wahabi faith embraced by many terrorist groups.
The use of hardline Islam by the West was particularly prevalent at the time of the Cold War. In many instances, however, the targets for destabilisation were not Communist regimes but leaders who had adopted left-wing policies deemed to pose a threat to Western influence and interests.
The UK attempted to combat "virus of Arab nationalism", after Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt and nationalised the Suez Canal, by forging links with the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation involved in terrorism. The nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company by the democratically elected Iranian government of Mohammed Mossadeq led to a British-American organised coup which was facilitated by Ayatollah Seyyed Kashani, one of whose followers was the young Ruhollah Khomeini. In Indonesia, the removal of Ahmed Sukarno in another military coup by the UK-US was carried out with the help of Darul Islam. Its followers went on to massacre socialists and trade unionists.
In each of these cases the clandestine backing of Britain and the US strengthened Islamist groups at the expense of secular bodies and moderate Muslims. These groups then went to form terrorist groups whom the West would later have to confront in the "War on Terror".
Here in Afghanistan, its most ferocious and violent front, moves are once again under way to negotiate with Islamists as the West seeks an exit strategy from a conflict increasingly costly in lives and money. The UK, more than the US, has been pressing President Hamid Karzai to come to an agreement with the insurgents. This goes beyond reintegrating the foot soldiers - a sensible policy - to a settlement with the leadership of Haqqani, Hekmatyar and Mullah Omar. The Pakistani ISI is eager to help broker such a deal and Karzai, who no longer believes Western politicians have the stomach for a long-term military commitment, is veering towards this as the option which will keep him in power.
The Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, minority communities who had fought the Pashtun Taliban in the past, warn this will re-ignite the civil war. Human rights groups fear hard-won civil liberties, especially for women, will be sacrificed in order to cut a deal with the Islamists. For Britain and the West the result is likely to follow the past pattern of the history of involvement with extremists: short-term gain followed by long-term loss as the international jihad continues to grow and gain ground.
Kim Sengupta is Defence Correspondent of 'The Independent'

This densely packed history of Islamic terrorism will confirm many people’s worst suspicions about the origins of al-Qaeda. 

Islamic radicalism was actively encouraged as part of the British Empire’s strategy of divide and rule, specifically against Arab nationalists who sought to break with the West economically. 

Here, Mark Curtis shows how variations of this thinking are still driving strategic choices – he recounts how the British government has backed fundamentalist Muslims in coup plots in Iran, Syria and Egypt, supported the rise of the house of Saud, armed an Islamic insurgency in Indonesia and looked the other way when Islamist terrorist groups set up their headquarters in London because the security services thought it would safeguard Britain from attacks. 
This exclusive focus on Britain’s involvement pushes the US’s larger role to one side and Curtis has a pub bore’s habit of lamenting too often the media’s failure to report any of this. 
Still, Secret Affairs deserves to become a key reference point in the debate over terrorism and Middle East policy.

The Author –Mark Curtis

مفجر فضيحة العلاقات السرية بين لندن والأصوليين لـ«الشرق الأوسط» : وثائق تؤكد أن بريطانيا بدأت تمويل جماعة الإخوان المسلمين سرا في عام 1942
مارك كيرتس: بدأت الكتابة عقب هجمات لندن 2005 وتجولت بين عشرات الآلاف من الوثائق السرية
مارك كيرتس مؤلف كتاب «فضيحة العلاقات السرية بين لندن والأصوليين» («الشرق الأوسط»)
محمد الشافعي 
يكشف الباحث البريطاني مارك كيرتس في كتابه «العلاقات السرية» عن شعار يتكرر في ملفات الحكومة على مدار عقود كثيرة، وخلال عقدين من عام 1952 حتى عام 1970، جاء هذا التهديد في صورة القومية العربية التي دعا إليها عبد الناصر؛ ومنذ عام 2005، جاء ذلك في صورة إيران أحمدي نجاد. وقال في لقاء مع «الشرق الأوسط»: «حتى اليوم.. في سياستها الخارجية، لا تزال بريطانيا تستخدم القوى الإسلامية أو تعمل من خلالها». وأضاف أنه في احتلال جنوب العراق، وقفت بريطانيا بصورة أساسية مع المسلحين الإسلاميين من الشيعة، المتصلين بالمجلس الأعلى الإسلامي للعراق، من أجل السيطرة على المنطقة وضمان خروج «مقبول». إلا أنه تحدث عن تغيير في سياسات لندن مع «لندنستان» والمتطرفين الأصوليين الموجودين في العاصمة البريطانية بقوله: «يرجع هذا التغير في المقام الأول إلى أن بريطانيا نفسها أصبحت هدفا للإرهاب. ففي السابق، كان التفاهم هو أن السلطات ستتيح للجماعات الراديكالية بالعمل ما دامت بريطانيا نفسها ليست مستهدفة، وهو ما يسمى (ميثاق الأمن)». وكان هذا بمثابة «ضوء أخضر» واقعي من وايتهول إلى الإرهاب في جميع أنحاء العالم. إلا أنه أعرب عن اعتقاده أنه من الممكن تفسير التسامح الحالي من جانب النخبة البريطانية مع الجماعات المنشقة في لندن جزئيا باستغلال هذه الجماعات في صالح سياساتها الخارجية. وجاء الحوار معه على النحو التالي:
* ما الفترة التي قضيتها في كتابة الكتاب الأخير لك «العلاقات السرية: تواطؤ بريطانيا مع الإسلام المتشدد»؟
- لقد استغرقت عملية تأليف هذا الكتاب أربع سنوات. لقد بدأت الكتابة فورا عقب هجمات لندن، في نهاية عام 2005. واستغرق الأمر عدة شهور من البحث في الهيئة الوطنية للأرشيفات بين عشرات الآلاف من الوثائق السرية، التي تحتوي على ملفات سرية للحكومة تم الكشف عنها.
* هل فكرت في طباعة هذا الكتاب باللغة العربية؟
- نعم، يبحث الناشر الخاص بي عن ناشر عربي، لكن هذا الأمر لم ينته بعد.
* هل تعتقد أن مصطلح «لندنستان» لا يزال موجودا أم أنه انتهى؟ هل انتهت لعبة استخدام الإسلاميين في بريطانيا أم أنها لا تزال مستمرة في وجهة نظرك؟
- تم حظر الجماعات والأفراد الذين تربطهم صلات بالإرهاب والذين تسامح معهم البريطانيون في تسعينات القرن الماضي، وفي بعض الحالات عقب هجمات الحادي عشر من سبتمبر عام 2001، أو تم القبض عليهم. ويرجع هذا التغير في المقام الأول إلى أن بريطانيا نفسها أصبحت هدفا للإرهاب. ففي السابق، كان التفاهم هو أن السلطات ستتيح للجماعات الراديكالية بالعمل ما دامت بريطانيا نفسها ليست مستهدفة، وهو ما يسمى «ميثاق الأمن». وكان هذا بمثابة «ضوء أخضر» واقعي من وايتهول إلى الإرهاب في جميع أنحاء العالم.
بيد أنني أعتقد أنه من الممكن تفسير التسامح الحالي من جانب النخبة البريطانية مع الجماعات المنشقة في لندن جزئيا باستغلال هذه الجماعات في صالح سياساتها الخارجية، وهو الأمر الذي وثقته في الكتاب، حيث إنه بمقدورهم العمل كدعامات أو بطاقات تفاوض مع حكومات أخرى، على سبيل المثال.
وبصورة خاصة، كان لبريطانيا مصلحة دائمة في الحفاظ على الانقسامات في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وجعلها تحت سيطرة سياسية منفصلة، ويعد ذلك إحدى صور سياسة «فرق تسد» الدولية التي كان يُنظر إليها على أنها مهمة من أجل ضمان أنه لا يوجد هناك أي قوة فاعلة وحيدة في الشرق الأوسط مسيطرة على المنطقة، ولا سيما ثروات النفط بها، ضد رغبات لندن (أو واشنطن). وهذا شعار يتكرر في ملفات الحكومة على مدار عقود كثيرة. وخلال عقدين من عام 1952 حتى عام 1970، جاء هذا التهديد في صورة القومية العربية التي دعا إليها عبد الناصر؛ ومنذ عام 2005، جاء ذلك في صورة إيران أحمدي نجاد.
وفي سياستها الخارجية، لا تزال بريطانيا تستخدم القوى الإسلامية أو تعمل من خلالها.
ففي احتلال جنوب العراق، وقفت بريطانيا بصورة أساسية مع المسلحين الإسلاميين من الشيعة، المتصلين بالمجلس الأعلى الإسلامي للعراق، من أجل السيطرة على المنطقة وضمان خروج «مقبول». كما كانت تطور علاقاتها مع جماعة الإخوان المسلمين في مصر وسورية وفي أماكن أخرى، ربما كوسيلة لتأمين نفسها عند تغيير النظام الحاكم في القاهرة ودمشق. وتواصل تحالفاتها الاستراتيجية العميقة مع المملكة العربية السعودية وباكستان. ويأتي ذلك على الرغم من التعليقات (الدقيقة) لديفيد كاميرون بشأن دعم باكستان للإرهاب في الهند، لكننا سنرى ما إذا كان ذلك سيقود إلى تغير في السياسة الفعلية لبريطانيا تجاه إسلام آباد أم لا.
* هل من وثائق تدعم الادعاء بأن التمويل البريطاني لجماعة الإخوان المسلمين في مصر بدأ في أربعينات القرن الماضي؛ وأنه خلال العقد التالي كانت بريطانيا متواطئة مع الجماعة لاغتيال عبد الناصر؟
- نعم، يوثّق الكتاب ملفات بريطانية سرية تم الكشف عنها، والتي تبين أن بريطانيا بدأت تمويل جماعة الإخوان المسلمين سرا في عام 1942. وقال تقرير بريطاني: «سيتم دفع الإعانات لجماعة الإخوان المسلمين سرا من جانب الحكومة (المصرية)، وسيطلبون بعض المساعدات المالية في هذا الشأن من السفارة (البريطانية)». وستقوم الحكومة المصرية بالزج بعملاء موثوق بهم داخل جماعة الإخوان للإبقاء على مراقبة وثيقة لأنشطتها «وسيجعلنا (السفارة البريطانية) ذلك نحصل على المعلومات من هؤلاء العملاء. ومن جانبنا، سنجعل الحكومة مطلعة على هذه المعلومات التي تم الحصول عليها من مصادر بريطانية». وكان الهدف من هذا التمويل هو إحداث الانقسام داخل الإخوان، «مما يساعد على تفكيك (الإخوان)» عن طريق دعم فصيل منها ضد الآخر.
وفي منتصف خمسينات القرن الماضي، يوثق الكتاب بعض المعاملات السرية بين البريطانيين و«الإخوان». وبعدما استولى عبد الناصر على الحكم عام 1952، بعدها مباشرة اختلف مع «الإخوان»، ونظرت بريطانيا إلى «الإخوان» على أنهم معارضة مفيدة لهذا النظام الحاكم ذي التوجهات القومية العربية. وعقد مسؤولون اجتماعات مع قادة الإخوان المسلمين كأداة ضد النظام الحاكم في مفاوضات بشأن إجلاء القوات العسكرية البريطانية من البلاد.
وفي عام 1956، عندما قامت بريطانيا بغزو مصر ضمن ما يعرف بالاعتداء الثلاثي، كان هناك مصادر جديرة بالثقة تشير إلى أن بريطانيا قامت باتصالات سرية مع جماعة الإخوان وغيرهم من الشخصيات الدينية كجزء من خططها للإطاحة بعبد الناصر أو اغتياله. لكن لسوء الحظ، لا تحتوي هذه الملفات السرية التي تم الكشف عنها أي تفاصيل أخرى بشأن ذلك. وما تبينه هذه الملفات هو أن المسؤولين البريطانيين كانوا يعتقدون أن هناك «إمكانية» أو «احتمالية» أن يقوم «الإخوان» بتشكيل الحكومة الجديدة بعد الإطاحة بعد الناصر على أيدي البريطانيين. وفي شهر مارس (آذار) عام 1957، كتب تريفور إيفانز، المسؤول بالسفارة البريطانية الذي قاد اتصالات سابقة مع «الإخوان»، قائلا: «إن اختفاء نظام عبد الناصر... ينبغي أن يكون هدفنا الرئيسي».
وتجدر الإشارة أيضا إلى أن الخطط البريطانية السرية للإطاحة بالأنظمة القومية في سورية عامي 1956 و1957 كانت تنطوي أيضا على تعاون مع جماعة الإخوان المسلمين، التي كان يُنظر إليها على أنها وسيلة مفيدة في خلق الاضطرابات في البلاد تمهيدا لتغيير النظام الحاكم.
* الكاتب في سطور
* بدأ كيرتس دراسته في مدرسة لندن للاقتصاد، ثم عمل باحثا لدى المعهد الملكي للشؤون الدولية.
وسبق له العمل كمدير بـ«الحركة الإنمائية العالمية». بعد سنوات كثيرة من عمله مع منظمتي «كريستيان إيد» و«أكشن إيد» غير الحكوميتين، حيث عمل مديرا لقسم «السياسة وجهود الضغط» لدى «كريستيان إيد» ومديرا للشؤون السياسية في «أكشن إيد»، أصبح يعمل الآن كاتبا وصحافيا ومستشارا مستقلا. ويعد من المشاركين بانتظام في النقاشات السياسية ويكتب مقالات في الكثير من الصحف بينها «غارديان» و«ريد بيبر» و«إندبندنت» داخل المملكة المتحدة، و«زنيت» في الولايات المتحدة، و«فرونتلاين» في الهند، و«الأهرام» في مصر. كما أنه أستاذ شرفي بجامعة ستراثكلايد. وعين من قبل باحثا زائرا بالمعهد الفرنسي للعلاقات الدولية في باريس وDeutsche Gesellschaft fuer Auswaertige Politik في بون.
عام 1998، ألف كيرتس كتابه «الخداع الأكبر: القوة الأنغلو - أميركية والنظام العالمي»، وحمل الكتاب هدفا معلنا تمثل في إلقاء الضوء على الكثير من الخرافات المرتبطة بالقوة الأنغلو - أميركية في حقبة ما بعد الحرب الباردة. وحاول كيرتس إظهار كيف ظلت المملكة المتحدة شريكا محوريا في جهود الولايات المتحدة لتعزيز هيمنتها عالميا، وحلل ما وصفه بالعلاقة الخاصة بين البلدين وخلص إلى أن هذا الوضع ترتبت عليه تداعيات خطيرة على كليهما.

فريد مصطفى، «مصر»، 31/07/2010
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاتة ، يقول الله عز و جل (يا أيها الذين آمنوا إن جائكم فاسقون بنبأن فتبيانوا ان تصيبوا قوما بجهالة فتصبحواعلى ما فعلتم نادمين) صدق الله العظيم ، اخى المحرر الكريم اين الوثائق حتى لا تدخل نفسك فى دائرة الظالمين.

Omar، «الولايات المتحدة الامريكية»، 31/07/2010
من المعروف ان بريطانيا تنشر وثائقها السريه بعد ما يقارب الخمسين عام، و علينا اليوم الانتظار خمسين سنه اخرى حتى نعرف مع من تعاملت وكيف تعاملت خلال هذه المرحلة !

نبيل محمود هنيه -الولايات المتحده، «فرنسا ميتروبولتان»، 31/07/2010
في كل سياسة الغرب اتجاه الوطن العربي هناك عامل مستمر وهو عداء الغرب لفكرة القوميه العربيه والعمل على نفيها وأعتبارنا شعوبا نتكلم العربيه فقط ولسنا امه واحده وربما هذا كان السبب الأساسي في غزو العراق والأطاحه بنظام صدام حسين وربما الشئ الواضح ان الغرب لن يسمح بظهور قياده قوميه لهذه الأمه العربيه سواء كانت محترمه كجمال عبد الناصر او مختله عقليا كصدام.

محمود صبري، «المملكة العربية السعودية»، 31/07/2010
لسنا من ذوي الاطلاع الخاص ولا من ذوي الذكاء الاستثنائي ولكننا كنا نشك دائما في وجود هذه العلاقة كون هؤلاء المتشددين قديما وحديثا يعطون لندن والغرب عموماً بقوالهم وأفعالهم الغريبة الشاذة الحجة لتنفيذ المخططات ضد الدول الإسلامية, ولازلنا نشك في اعتداءات مدريد ولندن التي جاءت في وقت كان بلير وأثنار حليفي بوش احوج ما يكون إلى مثل هذه الأفعال, ونجحت في لندن وفشلت في مدريد لأسباب تخص البلدين, ونتعجب ايضا ولا نجد تفسيرا من استقراربعض الأصوليين من مثيري الجدل في بريطانيا وتحت حمايتها بل إن أحد هؤلاء المشهورين بالهجوم الدائم والعداء على (بلاد الكفر) والذي يعطي دائما بهيئته وتصريحاته المنفرة صورة سلبية عن المسلمين كشفت صحيفة بريطانية أن الحكومة البريطانية منحته بيتا خاصا, ولو قلنا حينها أن ثمة رابط مشبوه بين هؤلاء وهؤلاء لقيل لنا (إنها نظرية المؤامرة مجددا) ولكن لن يقولوا ذلك لمارك كيتس (وشهد شاهد من أهلها), كلما رايتم هجوما غير مبرر على الدول الغربية وتحريضا عليها من قبل اصوليين فارفعوا علامة الاستفهام.

فهد العلي، «المملكة العربية السعودية»، 31/07/2010
تثار دائما علامات الشكوك عن وجود علاقة بين الأصوليين وبين بريطانيا وأمريكا, وكما يقال عن خطة بريطانيا الناجحة بخداع الإخوان بدفعهم لتاييد ثورة عبد الناصر وبعد الانتهاء منهم تم الانقلاب عليهم والتخلص منهم, يقال أيضا عن الخميني الذي استعانت به امريكا وبريطانيا للتأثير على الشارع الإيراني ليحل محل الشاه الذي انتهى دوره وجاء دور نظام راديكالي يقود المنطقة إلى وضع متوتر على الصعيدين الرسمى والشعبي وقد وضح من خلال اوضاع المنطقة بعد قيام هذا النظام ان رهان امريكا وبريطانيا على الخميني كان في غاية الذكاء والدهاء.

ابو ميار، «فرنسا ميتروبولتان»، 31/07/2010
هذا شيء تعلمناه ونحن على مقاعد الدراسة واعتقد ان العلم لم يكن كافيا لمن وصل للسلطة ليدرك ان سياسة الاستعمار كانت وما تزال فرق تسد. اين دور القادة العرب من بعد عبد الناصر الذي فعلا رفع شعار القومية العربية لان القوة بالوحدة.وعلى الاقل بالتضامن العربي الذي سرعان ما اجهضته قوى الاستكبار العالمي ايضا. لاجديد فيما تقوم به لندن الان طالما انها غير مستهدفة بالارهاب ما المانع ان يقتل المسلم اخاه المسلم او ان يقتل العربي اخاه العربي طالما ان ذلك يحقق مأرب واهداف المملكة المتحدة.
نسأل الله ان يرد كيدهم الى نحورهم

Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion With Radical Islam

by Mark Curtis (Profile Books, £12.99)
Tuesday 21 September 2010

In a detailed historical journey, Mark Curtis charts Britain's intimate involvement in the promotion of Muslim individuals and Islamic states as tools for its own imperial ambitions.
It used Islam in a blatant divide-and-rule tactic from the time of the Raj onwards and Curtis amply demonstrates a continuous and intimate marriage of convenience between Britain and various Islamic forces over three centuries.
After Britain's long-time support of the Ottoman Empire as a bulwark against Tsarist Russia and to protect its East Indian trade routes it soonsought alternative allies once the Turks had unexpectedly entered the first world war on the side of Germany. Britain then proceeded to find a suitable and subservient proxy from among the tribal groups of central Arabia.
In the1920s it discovered Ibn Saud as an ideal candidate for leadership and gave him sole control over Saudi Arabia.
He proceeded to assert this in one of the most bloody repressions the region had experienced, killing over 40,000 Arab tribesmen and women and amputating the limbs of 350,000 more.
This led to the complete domination of the Saud family in the region to this day and assured Britain of a steady flow of oil and the family's complete support from Britain in the maintenance of its brutal and obscurantist regime.
It also led to the spread of the divisive and backward-looking faction of Islam called Wahabism - the founding ideology of modern jihad.
Throughout the region Britain has always propped up elements of the ruling classes against the democratic and nationalist aspirations of the people.
Curtis provides a long list of such tactics from Egypt, Afghanistan and Persia to Turkmenistan.
This history is little known and rarely discussed in academic circles and it will come as a surprise to many to see how Britain has meddled in Islamic affairs over such a long and continuous period.
And, although it would be foolish to blame Britain solely for the present resurgence of Islamic extremism or terrorism, it is certainly not the innocent bystander it paints itself.
Britain has continuously provided covert support to Muslim guerrilla forces to counteract the spread of Soviet influence in Persia, Turkey and Afghanistan, as well as in Kosovo.
Curtis concludes with the present day chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan, showing how Britain and the US are very much to blame for what unravelled there even before they chose to invade.
He names the "heroic" Afghan guerilla leaders who fought Soviet forces and who were backed and armed by Britain and the US only to then set up the Taliban regime and become "the enemy."
Pakistan was also given massive military and financial support over many years as a bulwark against Soviet influence in the region and to counteract India, seen as pro-Soviet and unreliable. This policy and Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan has also contributed to the present political instability and violence there.
This is a fascinating, well written and researched book.
And it is a must-read for anyone who wishes to better understand the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and Britain's key role in its ascent.
John Green

Perfidious Albion and the dirty little secrets of our foreign affairs

Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam by Mark Curtis
Serpent’s Tail, £12.99
by Ian Sinclair
Saturday, September 25th, 2010
According to the respected American dissident Noam Chomsky: “The responsibility of a writer is to try to bring the truth about matters of human significance to an audience that can do something about them.”
Historian Mark Curtis has been doing just that since he wrote The Ambiguities of Power in 1995. Bypassing the establishment-friendly analysis of mainstream media and academia, Curtis argues “the basic fact is that Britain is a major, systematic contributor to much of the world’s suffering and horrors” carrying out brutal military interventions, large-scale human rights abuses and opposing economic developments that would benefit the poor.
Previously the director of the World Development Movement and a research fellow at Chatham House, Curtis has continued his evidence-based critique of British foreign policy with Web of Deceit in 2003 and, more recently Unpeople, in which he maintains Britain “bears significant responsibility” for around 10 million deaths since 1945.
Now in Secret Affairs he turns his attention to Britain’s relationship with the politics of radical Islam. Both Labour and Conservative governments have, he argues, “colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organisations. They have connived with them, worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them.” Why? To help promote Britain’s two main foreign policy objectives – “influence and control over key energy resources” and “maintaining Britain’s place within a pro-Western global financial order.” Whether it is working with major state sponsors of Islamist terrorism such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, or non-state players such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Britain has consistently attempted to undermine secular, nationalist forces in the Arab world.
As with Curtis’ previous work, the first part of this historical overview makes extensive use of declassified government documents. For example, in 1957 the British ambassador to Jordan makes British policy plain in a letter to the Foreign Secretary: “I suggest that our interest is better suited by an authoritarian regime which maintains stability and the Western connection than by an untrammelled democracy which rushes downhill towards communism and chaos.”
Presumably because of the 30-year rule the more recent chapters on Britain’s involvement with radical Islam during the wars in the Balkans rely more on newspapers and Hansard. The picture is therefore far from complete, and Curtis seems less sure of the terrain. However, there is no doubt that the claim of “humanitarian intervention” in Kosovo in 1999 is seriously undermined by the fact that Britain trained the Kosovo Liberation Army, an outfit who worked closely with al-Qaeda and who were openly described as a terrorist organisation by British ministers at the time.
Turning to the present conflict in Afghanistan, Curtis notes that Britain is now fighting the Islamist forces it had previously supported in the 1980s against the Soviet Union in what he calls “Whitehall’s most extensive covert operation since the Second World War.” The media have followed the government’s lead, forgetting inconvenient facts like the visit of the brutal insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to London in 1988. Or, as a former literary editor of Tribune famously wrote: “Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.”
As for
Pakistan’s continuing support for the Taliban, highlighted by the recently leaked Afghan war logs, published on WikiLeaks, he simply says “the situation is absurd: in order to defeat the forces of the Taliban, Britain is dependent on their main ally.” Bang up to date, comprehensive and clearly written, Secret Affairs is a work of great importance and sobering conclusions. Curtis remains essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand Britain’s real role in the world.

About The Author

Ian Sinclair reviews books for Tribune.

Secret Affairs

Book Review by Charlotte Bence, September 2010
Mark Curtis, Serpent's Tail, £12.99

Until I read Secret Affairs I thought I was relatively well informed about the hypocrisy of the British government and the way in which the ruling class of any country will side with whoever promotes their interests, irrespective of any other considerations. I knew about the shocking use of divide and rule in India, for example, where the colonialist strategy of pitting Hindus and Muslims against each other resulted in communalism - separate electorates, jobs and education for Muslims. I knew about the role the British government played in the formation of Israel, where post-war British planners were deeply implicated in the ethnic cleansing of parts of Palestine.
These shameful acts of the British government's past will not be news to readers of this magazine, and I would guess that the events reported in this book which came as a surprise to me would already be familiar to some of you. However, I can pretty much guarantee that there will be information in here that even the most knowledgeable will not be aware of, and that alone would make this worth a read.
Secret Affairs is so striking because of the detail that Mark Curtis goes into, leaving no questions unanswered in his analysis of the role the British state has played in propping up or working with Islamic regimes across the world to secure the furtherance of its own interests. The information on Saudi Arabia, for example, could make a book in its own right, as could the section on the role of the British state in Bosnia.
To a lesser extent, Curtis also turns his eye to the manoeuvrings of Washington, which is crucial for understanding the influence that the so-called "special relationship" has had on the actions of Whitehall and how various imperialist rivalries have shaped the global political landscape.
As impressive as these sections are, by far the most remarkable but also enraging elements of Secret Affairs are the parts that deal with the state's relationship with so-called Islamic fundamentalist groups and individuals across the world, but especially in what Curtis refers to as "Londonistan". In Londonistan the state provides "welfare to Islamic extremists on the unspoken assumption that if we give them a safe haven here they will not attack us on these shores" - clearly since 7/7 that attitude is changing, but not as rapidly as you might think.
Curtis exposes the lies, dirty tricks and subterfuge the state will indulge in to protect its interests and attempt to keep us divided. I would argue that although there are things to disagree with here, this book is required reading for those of us who stand shoulder to shoulder with the vilified Muslim community in Britain and across the world.

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Karen Passmore reviews Secret Affairs by Mark Curtis.
British historical interest in influencing Middle Eastern politics is well recognised, largely through the actions and subsequent attention paid to protagonists such as T.E. Lawrence and Sir Mark Sykes. Far less frequently discussed is the subsequent – and ongoing – involvement of the British government with the internal affairs of an arc of nations stretching from Egypt to Kazakhstan. In Secret Affairs, Mark Curtis focuses on the cooperation and often collusion between the British and a variety of Islamist groups in this region, showing how these relationships are not merely historical but affect the social and political landscapes of the world today.
From an initial somewhat strong position in the Middle East to the profoundly weaker one of today, Curtis reveals how British policies of ‘divide and rule’ in the region have remained unchanged. Drawing on many now declassified Foreign Office documents, he considers how the British sought to implement such policies both in countries where they held direct power (India, for example) and those where they did not (such as Iran and Egypt).
During the Cold War, the overwhelming concern of the Foreign Office to maintain the balance of power produced many secret alliances with Islamist groups as Britain sought to prevent or destabilise nationalist movements in a variety of countries. Curtis shows how this often came at the expense of many allegedly core British values, including democracy, justice, women’s rights and freedom, which were denied to the local population in the name of British short-sighted regional interests.
Most eye-opening for the generalist reader like myself is the direct relationship between Britain and British foreign policy and modern-day terrorism. Curtis draws on an impressive range of sources to reveal the close links, both historical and contemporary, between many of today’s high-profile Islamist groups that are involved in terrorist operations and the British government, military, or intelligence services.
Secret Affairs follows a rough chronological timeline, from the British Empire to the present day. It is entirely possible to read the various chapters out of order; however, one of the major strengths of the book is in how Curtis shows the patterns in British policies develop and repeat over time and over national borders – this is best appreciated if read in order of inclusion.
The book as a whole is accessible to a general readership and Curtis ensures that the text is not overridden with confusing acronyms and names of organisations (of which there are many). The index is particularly useful, and the extensive notes both develop ideas further and provide excellent source material should the reader wish to investigate certain aspects in greater detail.
Secret Affairs is essential reading for anyone wishing to fully understand the political and social situation in the world today, in particular Britain’s role in the Middle East and Central Asia. It constitutes a historical reference, as well as an investigation into current affairs, that is both enlightening and somewhat depressing. In the words of the author, the hallmark of British foreign policy in the region has been ‘expediency: the willingness to do whatever, with whomever, at the time to achieve short-term objectives irrespective of the long-term costs and any moral calculation.’ This has had a profound effect on Britain’s status and security in the world today.

Secret Affairs, Mark Curtis (Profile Books)

The book Tony Blair doesn’t want you to read

Saturday, October 23, 2010
Photo: Flickr/Fabbio.
Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam
By Mark Curtis
352 pages (pb), Serpent's Tail, 2010.
In Tony Blair's new memoir, A Journey, the former British prime minister says one of his biggest regrets is introducing the Freedom of Information Act, because journalists have used it “as a weapon”.
Foremost in his mind would be people like Mark Curtis, who uses declassified British government documents to reveal the true recent history of the country. Curtis' previous book, Unpeople, showed that, by invading Iraq, Blair was continuing a great British tradition of plundering other nations' resources — a dirty habit that has killed more than 10 million people, and counting.
Curtis' latest book shows that, far from fighting Islamic terrorism, Britain has nurtured it whenever it has thought it useful to do so. Occasionally, the consequences for Australia have been horrific.
For the past 100 years, Britain's real enemy in the Middle East has been not Islam, but secular nationalism. As British colonial power began to ebb in the 20th century, it tried to prop up its interests in the resource-rich region by any means possible. Radical Islamists usually fitted the bill.

Britain has long employed Machiavellian divide-and-rule tactics. Lawrence of Arabia, the "great liberator" of the Arab world in the sanitised British version of history, would be better named Lawrence of Disunited Arabia, since he wanted it sliced up and undermined.
Curtis notes an intelligence memo Lawrence sent in 1916, which said the burgeoning Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire was “beneficial to us because it marches with our immediate aims, the break-up of the Islamic ‘bloc’.
“The Arabs are even less stable than the Turks. If properly handled they would remain in a state of political mosaic, a tissue of small jealous principalities incapable of cohesion.”
Following the Arab revolt, the British didn't back the revolt's leader, Sherif Hussein, who had visions of a united Muslim world. Instead, they favoured Ibn Saud, a hardline conservative Islamist whose ambitions were limited to Arabia. In an orgy of murder that cost the lives of up to 400,000 people, Saud established “Saudi” Arabia.
Britain's then-colonial secretary, Winston Churchill, noted that Saud's “austere, intolerant, well-armed and bloodthirsty” forces “kill all who do not share their opinions” and “make slaves of their wives and children”. But he later wrote that “my admiration for him [Saud] was deep, because of his unfailing loyalty to us”.
As a British ambassador to Saudi Arabia put it later in the 20th century, the House of Saud could be built up as “the great gookety gook of the Muslim world” to counter the rising popular Arab nationalism led by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser.
In 1917, the British were intent on seizing Palestine, since it opened up a clear overland route to the huge oil reserves of British-controlled Iraq. Britain declared it was creating a home for the persecuted Jews, but “without prejudice” to the Arab inhabitants.
Historian Barbara Tuckman says the declaration “allowed Britain to acquire the Holy Land with a good conscience … they had to have a good moral cause”. Curtis says: “Britain also saw the Jewish national home as creating a reliable client population in a strategically important region.” It also fitted the bill for a disunited Arabia.
After Britain was left weak and near-bankrupt by the World War II, it was forced to end its rule over India. In doing so, it divided the country along the sectarian lines it had always exploited, pitching Hindus against Muslims. The strategically important Muslim state of Pakistan was formed. Its creation, says Curtis, “would contribute profoundly to the development of radical Islam throughout the world”.
In 1959, the Cabinet Office stated that Britain's "special interest" was "continued control of sources of oil with consequential profits to United Kingdom".
As the head of the Eastern Department of the Foreign Office put it: "Our interest lies in keeping Kuwait independent and separate, if we possibly can, in line with the idea of maintaining the four principal oil-producing areas [Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Iraq] under separate political control."
In the same period, united Indonesia under anti-imperialist president Ahmed Sukarno was also seen as a threat. Sir Robert Scott, Britain's commissioner-general in Singapore, saw an opportunity to unsettle Sukarno by nurturing the radical Islamic elements in Indonesia's outlying provinces.
He told the Foreign Office: "I think the time has come to plan secretly with the Australians and Americans how best to give these elements the aid they need."
The result was a strengthening of Darul Islam (House of Islam), which went on to produce the violent splinter group Jemaah Islamiyah, the perpetrator of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings in which 202 people, including 88 Australians, died.
In the oil crisis of 1973, Western industrial nations went from trading surpluses of $10 billion to deficits of $48 billion, while the oil producers accrued surpluses of $69 billion. Britain courted Saudi Arabia to invest its new wealth in indebted Britain, forging a partnership that continues today.
In return for oil, Britain supplies the Saudis with arms and military training. Britain turns a blind eye to the fact Saudi Arabia is the biggest funder of radical Islam worldwide, estimated at $50 billion so far.
Similarly, Pakistan has become more violent and extreme through Western funding, arms and training. Britain, with an eye on Central Asia’s huge oil and gas reserves, encouraged Pakistan to begin expanding northwards into Afghanistan and beyond.
The Taliban was formed from the 400,000 pupils in Pakistani madrassas (Islamic schools). Other violent Islamists had been championed as "freedom fighters" by Margaret Thatcher in their battle for Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.
Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf (who later became president) trained Osama Bin Laden. The result, says, Curtis, was 9/11.
Britain has always sought to hedge its bets by funding both sides in war or politics — and did just that with Islamic terrorist groups who began using London as a base for their activities worldwide. Britain gave them free reign, so long as they supplied MI5 with information.
The most notorious result was the 7/7 bombings on London public transport in 2005. A lesser-known result was the death of an Australian in 1998, who was killed after being kidnapped in Yemen by a group of jihadists trained by British ex-soldiers, funded by Finsbury Park cleric Abu Hamza, an MI5 informant.
Today, says Curtis, Britain finds itself in an absurd situation. It continues to insist the real enemy is Iran and that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are moderates, when they are anything but. Almost half of all foreign jihadists in Iraq are Saudis and the US military says they carry out more suicide attacks there than any other nationality.
Curtis says 70% of terrorist activity in Britain has links to Pakistan, yet Britain continues to funnel arms and aid to the country, which Pakistan then passes on to jihadists who are fighting against NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Perhaps as a result of Curtis' source material, his book is a dense, dry tome — less like Tony Blair and more like his doomed successor, Gordon Brown. It would have perhaps benefited from some Blair-like levity.
However, if you want to find out the real dirty details of British politics, this book will tell you far more than Blair's self-serving memoir — and it’s guaranteed that Blair will hate it.

From GLW issue 858

Books of the year 2010 | John Pilger

Published 19 November 2010

In another year distinguished by the silence of fiction writers about rapacious wars and a society at home assaulted by extremists in power in Westminster - a silence exemplified by the Man Booker Prize short-list and its compromise winner - three books are a blessed relief.

The first is Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam by the historian Mark Curtis (Serpent's Tail). Excavating long forgotten official files, Curtis illuminates the darkest corners of Britain's critical role in the rise of islamicism as a means of blocking Arab nationalism and guarding western "interests". He explains much about the current colonial adventures. In Newspeak in the 21st Century by David Edwards and David Cromwell, the editors of the website (Pluto), brilliantly decode the propaganda that so often passes for news and give us with an A to Z of how corporate journalism demonises "our" enemies, from Venezuela to Iran. My other choice for finding out how power works is Noam Chomsky's latest bonfire of the illusions and falsehoods that masquerade as public policy. This is Hope and Prospects (Haymarket Books). All three books provide a moral and intellectual survival kit in these extraordinary times.

Secret Affairs: a book by Mark Curtis

By Paul Cochrane on March 10, 2011

Britain's collusion with radical Islam
Britain has played a nefarious role in the Middle East’s history. We all know that London re-drew the region’s borders after World War I as part of a “divide and rule” strategy, but few are aware of Britain’s divisive and often contradictory efforts in the region that have remained a core part of its foreign policy. Instead, the United States and Israel tend to get all the “credit” when it comes to the dark arts of Machiavellian political subterfuge.
In ‘Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam,’ author Mark Curtis uses declassified official documents and leaked reports to lay bare Britain’s policies of destabilization and the political-economic ties Britain developed to ensure energy security and financial co-dependence. What Curtis exposes is as damning to Britain as the WikiLeaks US embassy cables have been to Washington, revealing the decisions made away from public scrutiny and what really makes up official policy.
“It is clear that Britain has an interest in divide and rule in the Middle East. If it sounds conspiratorial, it is there, spelled out in the planning files,” Curtis told Executive.
Shady goings-on
‘Secret Affairs’ is an eye opening read that charts the beginnings of British collaboration with radical Islamic forces, a relationship that began during the occupation of India over 150 years ago, was used extensively post-1945 and continues to this day. Britain worked with Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, and friendly authoritarian Islamic regimes in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Bosnia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan to ensure that communism, nationalism, pan-Arabism and anti-Western policies didn’t take hold.
Britain would cultivate relationships on both sides of the political fence, showing a willingness to work with essentially anyone, whether the Mahaz-i-Milli Islam (National Islamic Front of Afghanistan), the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group or the ayatollahs in Iran, to achieve short-term goals, irrespective of the longer-term implications, in order to maintain a balance of power.
“In [my] analysis of British foreign policy, it is not all down to economics,” said Curtis. “The collaboration with Islamist groups in the Middle East has been about power status, to not be relegated to a bit player on the fringes. It has seen those groups as essential allies in a region where Britain has often lacked dependable allies. In a lot of the episodes where Britain collaborated with Islamic groups, it was essentially to do the dirty work that the US couldn’t do due to Congressional oversight and the fear of being found out.”
The dirty deeds include assassination attempts – for example on Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Libya’s Muammar al-Qadhafi, and Lebanon’s late Ayatollah Mohammad Fadlallah – military assistance and the dissemination of propaganda tools, such as Korans and Islamic literature. British operatives also orchestrated “false flag” operations, such as the one in Iran in 1953 when mosques and public figures were attacked by agents and paid supporters appearing to be members of the communist Tudeh Party. British intelligence also worked in collaboration with Ayatollah Kashani, the mentor of Ayatollah Khomeini, to stir up sentiment against nationalist Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadiq.
Alongside maintaining its power status and ensuring energy security, Britain also worked to make sure oil-producing countries invested their petro-dollars in London to shore up the city’s global financial position. To do so, Britain needed to maintain its status as a power broker and to curry favor with regimes, regardless of the means. One example of this is the “fabricated invasion” of Kuwait by Iraq in 1958, during which Britain intervened to protect its newly-independent former colony against a threat that they had themselves concocted, as British files explicitly show. “Britain wanted to exaggerate the threat to Kuwait so [Britain] would continue its protection and Kuwait would keep investing revenues in the British banking system,” said Curtis.
Blow back
Such covert operations — all documented in ‘Secret Affairs’ — have been just one part of Britain’s foreign policy that has gone against London’s purported democratic ideals. The backing of Islamist forces, and its hidden alliance with two chief state sponsors of radical Islam, Saudi Arabia — which has spent more than $50 billion to spread the Wahhabi brand of Islam around the world and is a major sponsor of Islamist groups — and Pakistan, have also had major negative repercussions.
By preventing independent and secular governments from coming to power in much of the Islamic world, Britain’s policies have nurtured the current socio-political malaise and resulted in what the late Chalmers Johnson famously termed “blow back,” when the very forces the West aided and abetted came back to bite the hand that once fed them. Curtis shows how Britain in the 1990s allowed Islamist groups to operate out of London, which they believed could be used to destabilize governments in, among other places, Syria, Iraq and Libya. This was possible through a ‘covenant of security’ between radical Islamists and the security services.
A former Cabinet Office intelligence analyst explained: “The long-standing British habit of providing refuge and welfare to Islamist extremists is on the unspoken assumption that if we give them a safe haven here they will not attack us on these shores.”
This pact meant Britain could keep tabs on such groups’ memberships and finances, and enabled British intelligence access to groups linked to militancy from Afghanistan to Yemen. Even Al Qaeda had an office, the Advice and Reformation Committee, in London until 1998.
Alongside the US and Saudi Arabia, Britain equipped and bankrolled Islamist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bosnia that were later involved in the September 11 attacks in the United States, terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, and the July 7, 2005 bombings in London. Indeed, as Curtis’s research shows, the history of the ongoing “war on terror” is rooted in covert support for the Afghani Mujahedin in its fight against the Soviets and for the terrorism infrastructure co-established with Pakistan’s notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which trained fighters for operations in Central Asia, India, Bosnia, the Middle East and elsewhere.
It also goes further back in time, to the British-backed partition of India in 1947, which led to the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the current imbroglio in Kashmir. Curtis quotes former Indian Ambassador Narendra Sarila as saying, “Many of the roots of Islamic terrorism sweeping the world today lie buried in the partition of India.”
More than 60 years later, Britain is still using divide and rule as a strategy and is contending with the repercussions of what in many ways its foreign policy has created. “There is still this resort to rely on particular Islamist forces to achieve objectives, whether in Southern Iraq [post-2003], where Britain worked with Islamist forces and now [has] a de-facto working arrangement with the Taliban, in the sense that Britain is reliant on them for an honorable exit from Afghanistan,” said Curtis. In a previous book, Curtis called Britain’s foreign policy a “web of deceit.” In his latest, he has further shown how that web was spun and, crucially, how British foreign policy has nurtured global terrorism and instability.

Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam

By Mark Curtis
British troops are in Afghanistan, we are told, to forestall terrorist attacks on UK soil. This post hoc justification is one of the many myths about the ‘War on Terror’ debunked by Mark Curtis’s fascinating and timely examination of the British state’s collusion with radical Islamic groups.
Curtis argues that the roots of more recent deals and accommodations with extremist groups lie in the Imperial era, when Britain and Russia manoeuvered for power and influence in Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan; a grim strategy referred to as ‘The Great Game’. He shows how the installation of puppet rulers and the removal by force of democratically elected ones has shaped the region, and how post-War foreign policy has been consistently bent to the maintenance of control and the expropriation of wealth, most notably oil.
In an impressively detailed sweep through the history of the region, Curtis exposes, time and again, British government support of militant groups. In Iran and Iraq, Libya and Syria, Egypt and Indonesia, Britain has provided funds and logistical support for organizations whose aims would seem inimical to the ostensible Western objectives of security and stability. He also sheds light on the murky US-British links with those two major sponsors of fundamentalist Islam, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Secret Affairs deals with a weighty subject in a meticulous manner, but Mark Curtis writes engagingly and it is surely beyond argument that his contention – that post-War British foreign policy in the Central Asian region has made the world a more dangerous and more lawless place – is a topic worthy of debate.

Permalink | Published on September 1, 2010 by Peter Whittaker | 0

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