Al-Hayat's Editor Calls for War on ISIS

"What is necessary is a world war against darkness…"


"The Paris massacre was much more horrifying than 9/11 in America," writes Ghassan Charbel in the November 15 edition of the London-based Arabic-language newspaper, Al-Hayat. "It involved barbaric field executions that could recur in any capital, without requiring planes or pilots. All it takes is a pack of benighted wolves that have drunk from the river of absolute hatred."

Charbel is the editor-in-chief of the Saudi-owned daily, which has been described in the past as "far and away the best and most intensely read Arab newspaper," certainly among Arabs living outside the Middle East. The paper has long been known for its ideologically unpredictable op-ed columns, and its diverse staff, which reportedly consists of Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, and Druze. ("Charbel," for example, is a name one encounters in the Lebanese Maronite community.) The paper maintains numerous international bureaus, notably including one in Jerusalem.

Although Al-Hayat is owned by Prince Khalid bin Sultan, a member of the House of Saud, it is not a government organ. Indeed, Al-Hayat has sometimes been in conflict with the Saudi state. In 2007, for example, the paper was briefly banned in the Kingdom (not for the first time), possibly because it outed a Saudi citizen as part of Al Qaeda; no official reason was ever given. The only area the paper is believed to avoid under Prince Khalid's ownership is direct criticism of the royal family. In short, Charbel's views do not reflect Saudi policy. His November 15 essay was translated by MEMRI.

Charbel's argument is that an unprecedented war is already underway, one declared by ISIS, which he compares to the Nazis; the rest of the world, including the Arab and Muslim nations, will have to respond with a war of their own. "This is a war unlike anything we have previously experienced or read about," he writes. "This is a world war [declared by ISIS] in order to clash with the entire world: with anyone who does not adopt its inflexible and closed-minded thought patterns and anyone who does not drink from the same fountain. Its objective is to take countries back to the Stone Age and transform [the members of] the Muslim diaspora and Muslim minorities into [living] bombs. [This war] is a comprehensive plan to eliminate the right to differ [in opinion or belief], as well as any possibility of coexistence and progress. This war is a pitch black night that is trying to extinguish the lights of liberty and dignity."

The major powers are at fault for allowing ISIS to fester, Charbel believes, singling out Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. "The world perpetrated a terrible crime when it allowed this black killing machine [ISIS] to become entrenched in large parts of Iraq and Syria, when [U.S. President] Barack Obama opted for the policy of abstaining [from action] and when [Russian President] Vladimir Putin waited for hunting opportunities in the Syrian lake of blood…"

The Paris massacre has only deepened an already appalling crisis, one that threatens not only the people of the West, but also Muslims and Arabs. The attack, he says, "took advantage of the wounds already inflicted by the previous raids, pouring upon them heaps of salt and sulfur; it deepens the plan to segregate the Muslims and Arabs from the rest of the world; it pushes the Arab and Muslim communities into a terrible confrontation in the countries that host them; it built another tier in the plan to ignite religious wars and inter-civilization wars that negate [the other], and it heralds waves of hatred towards the refugees who have fled our cruel wars and societies. [This attack] is a deadly threat to the relations between countries, peoples, religions and individuals. It is a plan for global suicide."

Charbel calls for a military response to ISIS, in which the great powers act under the auspices of the United Nations. "The Security Council must resolve to launch a world war against terror. The superpowers must be responsible for carrying out this decision. This war requires a fleet of ships and planes as well as financial and media support."

Arabs must save themselves by targeting Islamist extremism. (Charbel has been joined in this appeal by the Iraqi editor Adnan Hussein in an editorial entitled, "This Is Our Terror, We Are Responsible.") "The Arab world," says Charbel, "has no choice but to help in saving itself, [by participating] in a war that will shut down all the strongholds that provide the extremists with the ability to fortify themselves, proliferate and carry out attacks. Alongside this war, we have no choice but to shut down the platforms of hatred towards the other and [engage in] a comprehensive ideological confrontation. There is no choice but to conduct thorough self-criticism that requires recapturing the universities, the schools, the mosques, the television screens and the websites from the control of those who spread takfir [the accusation of apostasy within Islam] and deny the other…"

"This is the hour of great decision," Charbel concludes. "The world should launch this war now rather than later. The Security Council should formulate a firm international position and leverage all the nations' capabilities to defend human progress. The threat currently facing the Arab and Muslim world is no less great than the threat that Nazism [once posed] to Europe and the world. The world is at a crossroads. The decision to save human progress requires [statesmanship of] uncommon stature. Far more is required than [Sergei] Lavrov's adroitness and Kerry's naiveté. What is necessary is a world war against darkness.… A delay in launching the war will only inflict new 'raids' upon the world."