During World War I, Germany Tried to Weaponize Radical Islam against Its Enemies

As the 19th century entered its last decades, Germany—in contrast to France and Britain—had no colonies in the Arab world, and unlike either these powers or Russia, had no designs on the Ottoman empire’s territory. It therefore sought an alliance with the sultan, which, Wolfgang Schwanitz argues, would have long-lasting consequences.

Kaiser Wilhelm II . . . feared that Germany’s neighbors would import soldiers from abroad and use them in Europe against Germany. The Kaiser developed a new policy: align with the Ottomans, and, in case of an all-out war in Europe, turn Muslims against their colonial masters.

After the Kaiser’s trip to the Ottoman empire in 1898, [this evolved into an] “official Islam policy.” The Kaiser’s [challenge] was to avoid Islamist revolts in his own colonial areas while inciting them in his neighbors’ colonial territories. Germany did not have colonies in the Middle East, so his rivals would need to send colonial soldiers from Europe to put down any revolts overseas.

These ideas came to fruition when World War I broke out in 1914, and Germany found itself fighting Russia, France, and Britain simultaneously:

Oppenheim penned a plan for the Kaiser in early November 1914: The Revolutionizing of Islamic Areas of Our Foes. According to the text, the sultan would call for jihad against the Allies. Berlin would deliver money, experts, and guns. The Germans would seek to galvanize Muslims in British India, French North Africa, and Russian Asia, in addition to all Muslims in the enemies’ armies. The call to jihad would go out in their languages. Berlin would create an Oriental News Organization with up to 75 “reading halls” in the Ottoman empire. . . . Expeditions would be sent out to incite local jihad by fatwas that prepare for revolts from Kabul to India.

Now, 100 years later, the legacy of the German-Ottoman alliance and call for Islamist revolts endures.

Read more at Foreign Policy Research Institute

More about: Germany, Jihad, Ottoman Empire, World War I


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy