Photo courtesy of Bloomberg

US President Joe Biden ordered more than 85 targets at seven facilities, four in Syria and three in Iraq, which were suspected to be habitats of Iranian backed militias to be bombed, killing at least 16 civilians in Iraq and 29 military personnel in Syria in response to the killing of three US service members. It was a “proportionate” response said the Australian Prime Minister Albanese. President Biden also claimed that those attacks were not the end. “Our response … will continue at times and places of our choice”, he said and with UK’s support he ordered attack on Houthis in Yemen. As tit for tat, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, the 12th Brigade of a radical Shiite paramilitary group in Iraq reminded President Biden, “that the Islamic resistance will respond in the manner it deems appropriate, at the time and place of its choosing, and that this is not the end.”

Three leading members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia in Iraq were killed by an US drone attack. On top of all this comes Benjamin Netanyahu’s instructions to the IDF to cleanse Rafah in Egypt of Palestinian Gazans who were originally encouraged to flee from Gaza when the IDF began its genocide. Rafah has now become a trap. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are warning Israel of a dangerous escalation. Although President Biden proclaimed that he had no intention of escalating the War in Gaza, it is exactly what he had done. There is total madness in the Middle East because of two maniacs, one in US and the other in Israel, who are struggling for their own political survival.

Had the ageing President Biden the foresight and courage of an elderly statesman and called for an immediate cease fire in Gaza and the withdrawal of the IDF during the early weeks of Israel’s invasion, the danger to commercial shipping in the Red Sea, South Africa’s court case at the Hague and the eruption of the Muslim militia volcano could have been avoided. But politics of survival made it imperative for President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu to re-commence the Palestinian Nakba that began in 1948. On another front, President Vladimir Putin has threatened to escalate the NATO-Russia war in Ukraine with new and deadlier weapons. All this would have a negative impact on world economy and the chances of another recession with escalating inflation or even another period of stagflation cannot be ruled out.  Indeed, the world is entering into what the UN Secretary General António Guterres described, “an age of chaos”.

An important question is why are Muslim militias proliferating, popular and operating virtually unchecked in Muslim territories? In practically every Muslim country from the Middle East to North Africa and Asia, one could find at least one non-state Muslim armed group backed by sections of local and international Muslim communities and responding with violence whenever and wherever Muslim interests are found threated by interfering world powers. Historically, one can trace the origins of Muslim militias to 11th century if not earlier and to Hassan-i Sabbah, the grand master of the so-called Order of Assassins, operating from the Alamut Castle in modern Tehran.

Their modern origins and proliferation coincided with the demise of the communist or socialist paradigm in its contest for world domination against capitalism and the subsequent emergence of a so-called New World Order (NWO) with US as its imperial headquarter. Some of the horrors of the NWO such as the yawning wealth gap between an avaricious global tiny minority and the vast majority, and NWO’s reckless destruction to nature’s gifts to humanity deserve separate discussion. But many of today’s Muslim militias cropped up as voices of protest against NWO and as missionaries and the vanguard of an alternative Islamic World Order (IWO). If NWO was the thesis IWO became its antithesis and the synthesis is yet to be born. This adversarial relationship between NWO and IWO and their respective intellectual foundations is still a neglected field in international politics and economics although there is a surfeit of scholarly publications and research papers on political Islam or Islamism.

Three events of consequence occurring in the Muslim world and almost at the same time in 1979 provide the political backdrop to the emergence and spread of Muslim militias: the Soviet-Afghanistan War, the Iranian Revolution and the Siege of Mecca. The role of Al-Qaida and Taliban in defeating the Soviet forces and forcing them to withdraw from Afghanistan, the victorious participation and leadership of Hezbollah and Iran’s Basji militia in the Mullah led revolution of Iran and the unsuccessful occupation of Mecca by the fanatical al-Jamaa al-Salafiya al-Muhtasiba (JSM) armed group that ended in a bloody massacre by Saudi Arabia’s French mercenary forces unwittingly injected a degree of self-confidence within a younger and religiously awakened generation of Muslims, particularly in Muslim majority countries that an IWO to counter and replace NWO was almost within their grasp. The economic and financial resources needed to realize that dream was expected to flow from the newly acquired petrodollars.

With the creation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and within it the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) the financial bonanza pouring from oil and gas into the coffers of Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Libya and Iraq was beyond calculation. The Economist guesstimated that even if the Saudis were to pave their sandy deserts with gold, they would not be able to exhaust the dollars pouring into their coffers. This flood of dollars provided the economic impetus and strengthened that confidence and determination to establish IWO.  The immediate result of these developments was a plethora of intellectual activities such as academic conferences, intellectual colloquia and research publications aiming to draw the blueprint to convince the world IWO’s political, economic, cultural and social rationale. The two permanent legacies of this early enthusiasm are Islamic banks and international Islamic universities.

But soon the expectation turned into disappointment and frustration set in when the young enthusiasts witnessed the very Muslim regimes whom they expected to back the mission for IWO began showing signs of settling comfortably within and even propagators of the NWO of “unbelievers”. For example, when Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait in 1990, Osama bin Laden the leader of al-Qaeda, wrote a letter to the Saudi minister in charge that Saudi forces and al-Qaeda’s mujahidin could jointly liberate that tiny state. But when the monarch rejected that proposal and allowed 100,000 US troops to land in Saudi Arabia, the land of the Prophet and the two holiest mosques in Islam, bin Laden was outraged, considered that an act of sacrilege and decided to leave the country of his birth. What happened thereafter to al-Qaeda and bin Laden is all history. The point is that a country which bin Laden expected to be in the forefront of establishing IWO turned out to be its traitor.

A number of these Muslim militias are not only anti-NWO, anti-US and anti-West but are also anti of their own regimes many of which they consider un-Islamic and need to be thrown out. That was the message from the masterminds behind the Mecca siege referred to earlier. The vast majority of the Arab regimes lack popular mandate to rule and even in those pseudo-democracies like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan parliamentary elections are mostly rigged. US and its Western allies are well aware of this and they would like to maintain that status quo prevails forever so that they could keep these regimes under US subjugation and manipulation. The Abraham Accord masterminded by US and signed by UAE and Bahrain and to include Saudi Arabia in the future with the intention of normalizing relations with Israel is a classic example of Arab perfidy and betrayal of Palestine in the interest of self-preservation and aggrandizement. All Muslim militias are fully aware of the connivance between the Arab regimes and US.

However, the Mullah led Iran is an exception. But it is a Shia regime and US and its allies are ready to use the sectarian division to keep the Muslim world divided. That is why the Iranian regime does not want to enter directly into the Palestinian fray and knowing its arsenal of weapons US and Israel do not want to provoke it either. But Iran would keep the fire burning until the Sunni regimes wake up, pool their resources and weaponry to counter US-Israeli machinations in the Middle East. Turkey talks without action. Therefore, it is left to the militias to take up the cudgel and fight against the enemy on behalf of Palestine. Hence, the rise and popularity of militias. To bomb and eliminate them as US tried in Iraq, Syria and Yemen is futile because they are a mobile force funded by the rich and religious and their weapons are purchased clandestinely from suppliers in the open arms bazaar.

US and its Western allies should realize that the militias are popular wherever they operate and they are keeping alive the thirst for an Islamic World Order at least in what was historically knows as Darul Islam. To group them all and brand them terrorists is pointless because at the intellectual and grassroot levels there is support to the militias arising out of the thirst for IWO. That order may never eventuate or a synthesis between IWO and NWO may emerge in the distant future but for the moment unless some sense prevails in US and the West to force Israel to get out of Palestine without further destruction and slaughter the Middle East madness would worsen, Muslim militias would escalate the war and the world may not be able to avoid an “age of chaos”.