July 14, 2003 | Commentary on National Security and Defense
September 11 terrorist attack taught the United States government a
painful lesson -- it must be alert to emerging threats, including
terrorism against its military assets, citizens and allies. Some of
these emerging threats, combined with the actions of terrorist
jihadi organizations, such as al-Qaeda, may also generate political
instability in key geographic areas and threaten pro-American
regimes, such as in Central Asia.
government should be taking a close look at Hizb ut-Tahrir
al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation). A clandestine,
cadre-operated, global radical Sunni political organization that
operates in 40 countries around the world, with headquarters
apparently in London, Hizb was in the headlines recently, when
Germany banned its activities and Russian Federal Security Service
(FSB) arrested 55 alleged members and over 60 "supporters."
ut-Tahrir an emerging threat to American interests in Central and
South Asia and the Middle East? Analysts note the increasingly
militant rhetoric, participation of Hizb fighters in the coups in
the Arab world and on the side of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and
explosives and weapons found when Hizb members are arrested.
proclaimed goal is Jihad against America and the overthrow of
existing political regimes and their replacement with a Califate
(Khilafah in Arabic), a theocratic dictatorship based on the Sharia
(religious Islamic law). The model for Hizb is the "righteous"
Califate, an Islamic state that existed in the seventh and eighth
centuries under the Prophet Mohammed and his first four successors,
known as the "righteous Califs."
spread around the globe over the last five decades, in Western
Europe and often in authoritarian states with strong secret police
organizations, is an impressive feat of beating security. It could
only be accomplished by applying 20th century totalitarian
political "technology" melded with Islamic notions of the seventh
and eighth centuries, as interpreted by medieval Islamic scholars.
Only a cell commander knows the next level of leadership, ensuring
operational security. "Representatives" in Great Britain and
Pakistan claim to speak for the organization, but have no official
address or legal office. Its leadership for large regions (e.g.,
the former Soviet Union), countries, and local areas is kept
secret. The achievement of Hizb founder Tariquddin an-Nabhani was
marrying Orthodox Islamist ideology to Leninist strategy and
ut-Tahrir is a totalitarian organization, akin to a disciplined,
Marxist-Leninist party, in which internal dissent is neither
encouraged nor tolerated. Because its goal is global revolution,
Hizb is similar to the Trotskyite wing of the international
communist movement. Its candidate members become well versed in
party literature during a two-year indoctrination course in a study
circle, supervised by a party member. Women are organized in cells
supervised by a woman cadre or a male relative. When a critical
mass of cells is achieved, according to its doctrine, Hizb may move
to take over a country to establish the Califate. Such a takeover
would likely be bloody and violent. Moreover, its strategy and
tactics show that, while the party is currently circumspect in
preaching violence, it is already justifying its use -- just as
Lenin and the Bolsheviks did -- when "circumstances" dictate
platform and action fits in with "Islamist globalization" -- an
alternative mode of globalization based on radical Islam. This
ideology poses a direct challenge to the Western model of a
secular, market-driven, tolerant, multicultural globalization.
Where radicalization has taken hold in the Islamic world, Hizb
gains new supporters in droves.
primary characteristics include the fiery rhetoric of Jihad, the
murky funding sources, rejection of existing political regimes, and
shared outlook and goals with al-Qaeda and other organizations of
the global jihadi movement.
called for a Jihad against the U.S., its allies, and moderate
Muslim states. Hizb claimed that the U.S. accused Osama bin Laden
of being responsible for the September 11 attacks "without any
evidence or proof." The party attempted to use its influence by
calling upon all Muslim governments to reject the U.S. appeal for
cooperation in the war against terrorism.
prevent Hizb ut-Tahrir from destabilizing Central Asia and other
areas, the Bush administration may pursue a number of policy
options. U.S. is considering expanding intelligence collection on
the organization. This is likely to be done both in Western Europe
and in outlying areas, such as Central Asia, Pakistan and
Indonesia. A recent visit to Washington of the German Interior
Minister Otto Schile may be a step in this direction.
is also getting irritated with the glacial pace of economic reform
in Central Asia, particularly in Uzbekistan. U.S. may condition
security assistance to Central Asia on economic reform. Hizb is
growing in Central Asia due to the "revolution of diminishing
expectations," increasing despair, and the lack of secular
political space and economic opportunity in the region.
jumpstart economic development, the Bush administration may
condition security assistance provided by the Pentagon on the
adoption of free market policies, strengthening property rights and
the rule of law, encouraging transparency, and fighting
will further encourage democracy and popular participation. The
scarcity of secular and moderate Islamic democratic politics and
credible nongovernmental organization (NGO) activities and the lack
of freedom of expression may be driving thousands of young recruits
to join Hizb in Central Asia.
will expand cooperation with moderate and secular governments in
the Muslim world to discredit radicals and encourage moderates. The
U.S. should encourage local governments to not only crack down on
radical Islam (as they already do), but also encourage
United States has important national security interests at stake in
Central Asia, Indonesia and Pakistan, including access to the
military bases used to support operations in Afghanistan,
preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and
technologies for their production, and securing access to natural
resources, including oil and gas. A Hizb takeover of any key state
could provide the global radical Islamist movement with a
geographic base and access to the expertise and technology to
manufacture weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. and its allies
will do everything possible to avoid such an outcome.
Ariel Cohen is research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He is the author of "The Road to Economic Prosperity for Post-Saddam Iraq."
Appeared in The Washington Times