The world is waiting to see what will happen in the Middle East after the death of Al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden. Tensions have escalated in Pakistan since 1 May, when US forces carried out a raid on a palatial compound in a suburb of Pakistan
called Abbottabad, 150km from Islamabad. Anti-western sentiment has grown there against what many feel to be an infringement of their national sovereignty, while the US and its allies are asking searching questions as to why the Saudi-born bin Laden managed to hide out in Pakistan for so long. It is still unclear whether there was collusion among government officials over harbouring the fugitive, and questions are being asked as to whether the stronghold that the Taliban has in parts of Pakistan was due in part to the proximity of the Al-Qaeda leader. Other questions have been raised, over the immediate killing of bin Laden, and why the body was buried at sea. The Associated Press suggested that no country would accept his remains.
A statement from NATO’s secretary- general read, ‘This is a significant success for the security of NATO allies and all the nations that have joined us to combat the scourge of global terrorism’. Al-Jazeera reported that Libyan rebels, fighting to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, welcomed the news of the death. Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, argued that the strike in Pakistan proves the real fight is outside his country’s borders. However, Iran said the leader’s death removed ‘any excuse’ for the US and its allies to deploy troops in the Middle East under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Reuters said that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was calling for the US to leave Afghanistan and Iraq. Palestinian group Hamas condemned the killing and Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague told BBC Radio 4 that the UK government has warned its embassies of reprisals following the raid. Whether or not the West withdraws from Afghanistan, it is possible that bin Laden’s reported death may have less effect on stamping out terrorism than the huge haul of intelligence reportedly obtained by US SEALS when they overwhelmed bin Laden’s hideout.
The news may have boosted Barack Obama’s campaign to see him through a second presidential term, but many believe bin Laden’s influence was already on the wane. Robert Grenier, writing for Al-Jazeera, said that it had been long replaced by two forms of reactionary— hard-line Islamic militants, who would continue to work independent of Al-Qaeda, and liberalised Arabic youth. He wrote: ‘The scattered groups around the globe which had appropriated the al-Qaeda name had little connection to bin Laden’s organisation, and still less to bin Laden. ‘Then there is the rise of the so-called Arab spring. The al-Qaeda leader had professed the only means of Muslim liberation was to strike at the Western powers who propped up their repressive leaders. ‘What the Arab youth has shown recently is that the means of their liberation is in their own hands, and has always been. And, in the face of their moral example, the Western world will be forced to support them’. Christians in the Middle and Near East may well expect reprisals. They continue to need our prayer and support. Global terrorism cannot be controlled by man’s might. It is a matter for the heart, and God alone can change the heart of man. It is worth remembering that, whether despots and tyrannies rise or fall or terrorism waxes or wanes, the government of this world is still upon the shoulders of our God.