Ghassan Charbel
Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Don’t Forget this Date

That was on September 11, 2001. Security informed President Saddam Hussein of the news from New York. He turned to the screen and did not comment. At first glance, he might have thought that the event was far away.

But days later, when George Bush Jr. spoke of an “axis of evil” that included Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, the picture changed.

Addressing a Cabinet session, Saddam said: “Forget Iran and North Korea. What is meant is Iraq. ” He was right. The American war kitchen promoted scenarios, invented accusations and evidence and uprooted the Iraqi Baath regime.

On the same day, the Libyan security informed Leader Muammar Gaddafi of the incident. He rushed to ask his foreign minister, Abdel -Rahman Shalqam, to prepare a statement expressing Libya’s stance. Gaddafi suggested adding a phrase confirming the Libyans’ willingness to donate blood. The colonel had great fear of America, since the moment US aircraft succeeded in targeting his bedroom in 1986.

President Bashar Al-Assad was supposed to spend a nice day. September 11 was his birthday and nothing in Syria called for concern. He followed the scenes worriless.

His position on Al-Qaeda is known. Moreover, in those days, he had neither an Iranian attachment nor Russian leanings. His options will change with the US invasion of Iraq.

Security informed President Ali Abdullah Saleh of what happened. At first, he didn’t want to believe it. But he was soon overwhelmed by the scenes.

His feelings of distress mounted when he witnessed the uprooting of Saddam Hussein’s regime. He did not hesitate at an Arab summit to warn his counterparts of the risk of being prosecuted.

King Abdullah II does not forget that day. His plane was heading to the United States. As it landed, he realized the atrocities and expected a wide and massive American response. The fire will soon approach the borders of his kingdom, when America will shift the disciplinary campaign from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Yasser Arafat followed the first scenes with anxiety. He was afraid that a Palestinian organization would claim responsibility for the attacks. Despite knowing the perpetrator, Arafat paid the price. Ariel Sharon took advantage of the hostile world equations to besiege and exhaust the Palestinian leader.

In the French prison, Carlos the Jackal rejoiced with the “slap” that was directed to American arrogance. He remembers what happened in a previous meeting of “Islamic forces and movements opposing imperialism.”

A young man stood up and suggested using a civilian plane as a bomb, to hit the World Trade Center. The man was Murtaza Bhutto, the son of the late Pakistani leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

September 11 shook America and the world. It was quickly added to the list of violent tremors in the memory of recent decades, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989) and the disintegration of the Soviet Union (December 26, 1991).

When the attacks caused the launch of two wars and the broader hunt throughout the world, everyone knew that September 11 was the beginning of a new era.

It was normal for the journalist to ask questions like - “Where were you on that day?” – with the aim to persuade the speaker to give a personal account on that terrible event.

In the post-September 11 world, the enemies of the West were known: Osama bin Laden and his companions, and later Abu Bakr Al -Baghdadi and his associates, and whoever revolved around them.

Starting with Bin Laden to Ayman Al-Zawahiri and passing through to Al-Baghdadi, Washington organized the largest tracking process in history, supported by enormous capabilities and advanced technological competencies.

Osama bin Laden was the enemy of the West and so was Al-Baghdadi. But Western agencies committed a historical mistake, by overlooking the real enemy, who succeeded in hiding his actual program and his deep desire for revenge.

It is really strange that Western intelligence services failed to decipher the real intentions of Vladimir Putin, despite his annexation of Crimea and his military intervention in Syria.

In recent years, it was clear that the man was plotting a major coup against the unipolar world, claiming that NATO’s movement near his borders threatened Russia’s security and stability.

The approach of Al-Qaeda and ISIS caused major human losses and economic damage, and stirred coexistence crises in more than one place. The West succeeded in dismembering Al-Qaeda and eradicating what Al-Baghdadi called “the caliphate state.” But that long confrontation, which did not threaten international balances, was less dangerous than the open war that has been ongoing for months.

In the last week of February, the West woke up to a painful and expensive fact. The first enemy resides in the Kremlin. This time, the confrontation does not revolve around an organization or a state. It revolves around a continent named Russia, which sleeps on a nuclear arsenal that can destroy the world, and happily occupies a seat among the permanent members of the Security Council.

On February 24, the world was hit by an unprecedented earthquake since World War II. Putin brought back the war to European soil and his forces invaded Ukraine. He called the invasion “a special military operation.” The post-September 11 era has ended. The new page will determine the fate of balances, patterns, maps, currencies and economies.

A few days ago, Western weapons flowing in support of the Ukrainian army caused a Russian military setback. The confrontation is almost a world war, if we take into account that the Ukrainian army is practically acting on behalf of NATO in an attempt to prevent a Russian victory.

It is early to make conclusions about the future of field confrontations. The war is expected to last for years.

Putin cannot accept to lose. He would rather prolong and expand the conflict than come out weak or defeated. The battle concerns everyone. Europe is afraid of a “harsh winter”. China, which monitors the Ukrainian theater, is eyeing Taiwan. Other countries are searching for wheat, grains, gas and oil, and fearing high prices.

The post-September 11 world has ended. We are now drowned in the post-February 24 era. Dear reader, do not forget this date. It concerns your children and your country.