Nine Lives: My Time as MI6’s Top Spy Inside Al-Qaeda

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EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Nine Lives: My Time as MI6’s Top Spy Inside Al-Qaeda

 

DATE: [6.15-7.15] [11/09/2018]

VENUE: The Grand Committee Room, House of Commons, Westminster London, SW1A 0AA United Kingdom

SPEAKER: Aimen Dean

EVENT CHAIR: Mr David C T Davies MP / Nikita Malik

 

David C T Davies: You were one of MI6’s most highly placed agents with ISIS, Al-Qaeda and others, you also ended up working for MI5. I love the dry humour of the book; I mean this is a man who writes a sentence about how you read James Bond and expect to be in a casino in St. Tropez instead of a vandalised bus shelter in Dewsbury or somewhere. Absolutely fantastic. Will forgive me if I go and vote and perhaps I can hand over to Nikita who can chair this, and then I can come back afterwards. I’ve certainly got questions from the book, which is there. Thank you very much.

Nikita Malik: Thank you very much all of you for coming today. I am afraid, well no I am very glad, that we will be having more people joining us. I’m not sure if you saw the queue outside today – it’s absolutely massive and so I think once people clear that queue they will be filling up the seats behind us. My name is Nikita, I am the director of the Centre of Radicalisation and Terrorism. We have Emma as well today who is on our team as a research fellow and both Emma and I are delighted that Aimen could take the time today to come and speak with us. I’m sure we have many many questions from your book and also your experiences and we also love talking with you so we’re very glad to be with you today. So maybe we could start, perhaps, if you could give a few opening remarks and talk a little bit about what is in your book and your experiences and then perhaps when we take questions and answers I could chair.

Aimen Dean: Thank you so much Nikita for inviting me here and for organising this event. Basically the book is about period of time between 1994 and 2006, the period between the time I went to Bosnia as a young jihadist – I was 16 at the time and that was a bit regrettable because I was supposed to go behind the wheel and prepare for my driving test in Saudi Arabia to get a driving licence. However, I ended up going into the Balkans to join the jihad in Bosnia which, regrettably, led to the process of getting a driving license delayed for another 20 years, so that was clearly a mistake. But nonetheless, what happened was that at the age of 16 I left Saudi Arabia, where I grew up, and went to join the jihad in Bosnia from October 1994 to December 1995. For me it was an eye-opening experience, it wasn’t an experience that I was contemplating seriously before I go how much trouble I would get myself into. I remember when I heard that my best friend in Saudi Arabia was going to join the jihad in Bosnia, who was three years my senior, but nonetheless I went and knocked on his door and told him I want to go with you. I don’t know what exactly possessed me, but actually in the ten minutes proceeding that I was going to say goodbye, I wasn’t going to say take me with you. I think, and I didn’t know it by then, that I was preparing myself for the proceeding four years for such a journey. At the age of 12 I completed the memorisation of the Quran and I delved more into Islamic spirituality and that spirituality was more or less brought about by the fact that at the age of 12 my mother passed away. So for me it was very important to find solace and consolation in the writings of, at the time I would considered great writers such as Sayyid Qutb, at the time I would have considered him a great writer, because he wrote his book ‘In the Shade of the Quran’, which is a commentary of the Quran, that was more than 4000 pages. And he wrote that when he was in prison over a nine-year period. So I thought basically that it was a kind of writing through the prism of pain and I thought basically that his writings will be more or less something of a consolation. But over a two-year period his commentary of the Quran, it was more than just a consolation, it was a call to arms, it was imbued with the idea that we are living through an age, at the time he was writing was the 1950s and 1960s, we are going through the age of great battle between communism and capitalism, between socialism and democracy, and therefore all of these are false idols that must be cast away and the only thing basically to have happiness, prosperity and semi-utopian society is by the restoration of what he called God’s kingdom on earth. He meant of course the Caliphate. So I found myself basically, I was ready to be politicised, I was ready to be sucked into that ideology because I was more or less even politicised from a young age. The fact that even though I grew up in Saudi Arabia where hardly anyone talks about politics except for our household was very much politicised – my mother was from Lebanon. Given the fact I grew up in the 1980s when the civil war was raging there so I had to ask her so many questions about why she is worried about what is happening in the news, why she was following in the news so carefully in order to understand what was going on in her home country. The other catalyst was that at the age of 14 my maths teacher, who was from an affluent family, his father was a brigadier-general in the ministry of interior, his uncle was minister for transport in Saudi Arabia, he and a member of the Bahraini royal family, just a next-door country to us, went to fight the jihad in Bosnia in 1992, when I was only 14, and died there just a month after he arrived. So when we expected to see him in the following year he wasn’t there and it was explained to us that he went to fight the jihad in Bosnia and died there as a martyr. So the teacher who was trying to attempt something of a counselling – which wasn’t exactly a counselling, it was more of an incitement – but nonetheless he said that our other teacher, and ironically his name was Osama, he basically exhibited the characters of sacrifice, jihad and martyrdom. So from the first time basically I remember two things, first the Bosnian conflict, even though it was raging 3000 kilometres away, it was ever so present in our classroom in the desert in Saudi Arabia and his death there brought that conflict sharply into our own classroom, fighting in a conflict far away, defending people we had never heard of until the war started. In addition to that, when we asked our teacher why did he do it and he said well I told you about sacrifice, and sacrifice really tastes much sweeter if you have it all and give it all away. So a young person with a life ahead of him and yet he decided basically to go and fight the jihad there. So when two years after that my friend was going, that was a trigger, which basically led me to decide within three minutes that instead of saying goodbye I would join him in that journey and that journey led to where I am standing right now.

Nikita Malik: That’s absolutely fascinating. I think that it’s really important for us to understand and, as you highlighted so well in the book, what led you to your journey. Perhaps I could ask about what then led you to become disillusioned. We are working in a space where we are very interested in, as you know, there are so many people in the United Kingdom who are drawn to these ideas. How did you personally then realise what you had done was perhaps not the best choice?

Aimen Dean: One of the greatest blessings I ever had was a good moral compass. I think when I went to Bosnia it was more of an idealistic thing, an impulse. There was a genocide taking place there and people were dying and the UN was useless in enforcing its mandate. So there was that particular reason for going and at the same time basically we were part of the Bosnian armed forces, we were not, it wasn’t advertised to us as well, this is Al-Qaeda come and join us, of course it wasn’t like that, it was so different. But once you are there, then I was more or less minded to the fact that the forces that were managing and shaping, the Bosnian jihad, were in fact having different motives. They were mostly from the (Arabic – translated as Tanzim al-Jihad), which is the Egyptian jihadist group that became infamous for their assassination of President Sadat in 1981 and their migration to Afghanistan sometime after that and they were graduates of the Afghan jihad. So they came to Bosnia and because of their experience and military credentials they were leading the jihad there, they were the ones who managed it. But of course they imbued that with their ideology, with the fact basically that at some point in the future that the jihad will move from the fringes of the Muslim world back into the Muslim world itself and that was really forced, I remember, by end of 1995. When the Bosnians entered into talks hosted by the US with their Serb and Croat counterparts and the ceasefire was there, there was a wedding I remember, and in that wedding a young, charismatic, well-dressed, well-kept man showed and was talking, and he was sitting in the same place that I was sitting with several others and he was talking to us about how the war in Bosnia is going to change the nature of jihad completely. He said to us at the time that the conflict is going to change in its nature and in its ferocity because gone are the days, and this was his opinion, when we are going to be dictated to as to where to fight. So instead of fighting from Bosnia, to Chechnya, to Kashmir and keep fighting on these fringes of the Muslim world as he called them, we are fighting on the fringes because the fringes are weak. The only way to strengthen the fringes of the Muslim world was by strengthening the centre, because the centre is weak, the centre is weak and divided because it is either occupied or manipulated by Western forces. In particular, he cited the Americans and their Zionist allies. He said that the only way that this cycle of violence on the fringes of the world would end was if we change the outcome in the centre of the Muslim world, in other words if we would expel the Americans out of the Middle East altogether, restore the Caliphate, and then we will have a Muslim super-state that would in essence protect the fringes. That man, his name was to us was Khalid Sheikh, and to the rest of the world he was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who would later become the architect of 9/11. His advice, I remember, to us and to myself was this is the contact details of a man in Pakistan (inaudible), when you make up your mind, go to Afghanistan, the camps are re-opening and you need to gain the skills necessary to equip yourself for the war that is yet to come and that will have a different kind of war that requires a different kind of skills from the ones you have acquired in Bosnia. In Bosnia we were fighting face-to-face as a military against a military outside of the city centres. In the war that is going to happen against the Americans it will be completely different and therefore you have to equip yourself for that. I wasn’t entirely convinced actually, I made a detour to Azerbaijan, travelling trying to get to Chechnya but it never happened, I ended up being an office jihadist where I was responsible for sending jars of mayonnaise to Chechens, among other items. And so I ended up in Afghanistan and just shortly after my arrival, just three months after I arrived to Afghanistan bin Laden arrived to Afghanistan – because he was in Sudan as you all know, but he arrived there and I remember they came to us and the camp we were based, and he was only based about 45 minutes’ drive from us, that he was looking for all those who are from Saudi Arabia, or as he used to call it the Arabian Peninsula, he never acknowledged Saudi Arabia as Saudi Arabia, he always called it the Arabian Peninsula. And so we drove there, 14 of us in one pickup. Now you can imagine how we must have felt, I felt sorry for the livestock that was transported from one place to another. So as soon as we arrived there… my first glimpse of bin Laden isn’t your first glimpse of bin Laden. Your first glimpse of bin Laden is the neat turban, neat robe, striking presence. Our first impression of him was of a dishevelled, disorganised almost refugee coming to Afghanistan. Himself and all of his followers were really in a compound that didn’t belong to them, it belonged to an Afghan warlord and they looked dishevelled from their flight and lucky and happy to be alive and they did not look the image of splendour and glory that you associate with them. They looked like a bunch of refugees. But remember something, this group of refugees, in five years’ time would pull off the most audacious terrorist attack in human history. The reason for that can be found in the words that Osama spoke to us at that time when he told us about the fact that it was destiny and fate that brought him back to Afghanistan and I remember I was thinking that are you saying this to comfort yourself being that you were stabbed in the back by Tarabi (Hussan Al-Tarabi) in Sudan? Nonetheless, he went on to say basically that it was destiny, it was fate, that brought him from Sudan back to Afghanistan because from here, from Afghanistan, the army of the black banners, the army that would fulfil Islam’s destiny and prophecies – so he started speaking in eschatological terms – so he started saying that basically the launch, pardon me the change, will come to the Middle East and he cited the prophecies. So I remember something about bin Laden, there was a day when he was reading our faces, and he was good at reading faces, he realised that we were a little bit sceptical given the surroundings and given how he looked along with his followers and so he said remember when the Prophet Muhammed was escaping for his life from Mecca, trying to reach the safety of Medina, in the Hijrah, in the migration, and he was a fugitive chased by so many Arab tribes and Arab bounty hunters and when he was confronted by one of these bounty hunters when he finally chased him and almost was within striking distance, Muhammed confronted him and he said that do whatever you’re going to do but actually I will reach Medina and my religion will triumph and the Persian Empire will fall and you, a Bedouin knight, will end up wearing the crown and bracelets of the Persian Emperor. So he said a fugitive was able to do that, why can’t we? I mean in reality that Bedouin knight did in fact, 16 years later, wear the crown of the Persian emperor but just as a mock, in order to mock the fall of Persian Empire. So these words were so powerful because the individual sitting next to me, a man called (inaudible – possibly Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali) two years later, two years later almost to the day, in 1998, drove the van of explosives into the US embassy in Nairobi. He was more or less convinced and he joined. Most of us did not. But a year later, after a detour to the Philippines, which was a disaster, I ended up joining Al-Qaeda. Why? Again because the head of bin Laden’s bodyguard at the time (inaudible) used a toxic mix of theology, ideology and politics and eschatology to convince me that it was the right thing to do. And when you spend a considerable amount of time without contact with the outside world and all you hear is the same narrative every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and tea even, therefore you are susceptible, you become an easy target and that is exactly what happened and I was only 19 at the time. And so I joined. And at the time I was assigned, because they told me basically that hey, you look like a nerd and a geek, with spectacles and all of that, you won’t cut it as a commando so you will end up going basically to join our WMD division, going to work on explosives and chemical weapons and biological weapons and I thought basically I don’t have any knowledge of chemistry, and they said no one who goes there has prior knowledge of chemistry. Trust me when I say this way to teach chemistry is so effective, destructive but effective. If it was taught this way in British schools everyone would pass their exams with flying colours. I don’t know about safety and security though, but that’s another matter. But nonetheless it was a turbulent year where I was of course being trained in that field but at the same time bin Laden’s threats of taking the war to the Americans was beginning to be realised even when we heard about the suicide squad being put together, for us it was a novelty, a suicide squad, that is something reserved for the Palestinians because we always thought that suicide bombs were not permissible theologically outside of the Palestinian territories although I have no idea, on theological basis, that theology is governed by geography and that it could differ from one place to another. But we were told that only the Palestinian territories are you allowed to kill yourself and kill others. But suddenly bin Laden changed his mind and decided that yes, in the fight against the Americans we can deploy suicide missions. That was the first deeply uncomfortable thing for me because you cannot just play with religious principles like this, you cannot come to an absolute article of the faith standing for 1400 years and then change it because you thought so, you thought basically the circumstances necessitates that. Necessity means that it’s a matter of life and death and I don’t see life and death there. Nonetheless it was to my surprise that it was that fellow trainee and a friend who basically drove that van into the embassy in Nairobi and that event, the attacks against the American embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania, which basically shook my conscience and shook my belief in Al-Qaeda to its core because when I joined Al-Qaeda the backdrop to this was the attacks against the US military personnel in Riyadh in late 1995 and against the US pilots, 19, who were killed in Khobar Tower which is the town where I come from, that place was only about a kilometre from where I was born and grew up. So I thought it was going to be against military personnel and at the time of course it was the Iraq sanctions, these pilots were enforcing the no-fly zone and it was in our opinion at the time the perfect target. But then the attacks against the US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania claimed the life of 12 American diplomats who under Islamic legal jurisprudence they are not meant to be targeted, diplomats are not meant to be targeted they are sacrosanct, but at the same time 224 civilians from Kenya and Somalia and other African countries were killed and 5000 people were wounded, 150 of them were blinded for life. So it’s enough to at least make me question and I’m always, as an individual, always knowingly inquisitive, so I thought was it the right thing to do, was it the right thing to do, and I thought we are going to attack American pilots, we are going to attack American marines, it is not going to be something that is directed at people who have nothing to do whatsoever with what is happening between the Americans and Muslims in the Middle East. As I went to a person who was heading the (Sharia?), which was a college for Al-Qaeda, just a 30-person college, his name was (inaudible) when I went to see him and I asked him the question, I said look it’s not like I’m doubting, I’m just asking so my heart will be at peace – is it allowed, is it fine that we have killed 224 innocent people who have nothing to do whatsoever with what’s going on between us and the Americans, in order to get at 12 Americans? And his answer was really eye-opening for me. He said that it was permissible because if the enemy bases his facilities within heavily populated areas then we are allowed to do that. Whoever dies, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, God will sort them out. Even he added basically a sentence, and don’t shoot the messenger, that (inaudible). So I ask based on what fatwa and he said there is a fatwa from the 13th century and that fatwa is called the (inaudible) fatwa, which means the human shield fatwa and that fatwa gives us the right to attack an enemy who is hiding within civilian populations, using them as human shields. So that fatwa is in a book called the comprehensive works of (inaudible) which is basically 37 volumes, and the last two volumes are index, so I basically can just look for it and I was finally able to find it and what I read there does not at all correspond with what he said. That fatwa was based on the Mongol invasions of the Muslim world, especially in central Asia when the Mongols were invading cities, all of these wonderful passages of civilisation in Central Asia. They would sack one city, take hundreds, possibly thousands of prisoners, civilians from one city, make them push the siege towers to the wall of the next city they intended to sack. So if they die by the hand of the defenders of the city the intend to sack, they are expendable. So the defenders of these Muslim cities sent an urgent request for a fatwa asking, are we allowed to kill our fellow Muslims? And the answer was yes you are allowed because if you don’t kill them the Mongols will kill them. They are already dead; they are already martyrs before you defend yourselves. So I was forced to ask myself the question – I did not see the American embassy in Nairobi as pushing the siege towers towards Mecca and Medina that necessitated such action, so it was not a life and death situation. And therefore the entire premise, the entire theological premise was wrong, was false. And that also was as outrageous to me as the death toll itself because it means they are ready to twist to the point of breaking religious principles in order to get their way, they were even going to break them altogether. Basically using such a pretext in order to advance an agenda that basically brings nothing but death and destruction and bloodshed on a scale that had never been seen before in the Muslim world. I felt also that if this is what they will do now, what will they do in the future when they force us to fight against our own brothers and cousins and uncles who are in the security services inside of Saudi Arabia, in Bahrain, in Kuwait and Egypt and elsewhere? So I decided that I would rather go, I would rather leave and the idea at the time wasn’t to become a spy, I didn’t wake up one day and said I will become a spy, I decided that I wanted to leave, go to the Gulf again, enrol into university, graduate, become a history teacher. It never happened, much to the delight of my would-be students. They were spared such a fate, lucky them. I ended up instead of being enrolled into university basically, I actually ended up the guest of the Qatari intelligence service and spent some time with them. The preconcept was that I was there for medical reasons and it was a good medical reason, after all Afghanistan is the place where you can get typhoid and malaria all at the same time and it’s not a pleasant experience. So, through many twists and turns – and it’s all detailed in the book – I ended up being persuaded basically to work for the UK intelligence services. I remember that the first time basically I met them here in London and in the first meeting basically I just handed over the entire file or program on explosives, chemical and biological weapons, I had them all on floppy discs. For the benefit of younger people here floppy discs are an ancient tool in which basically you store information, just in case you don’t know what floppy discs are. I remember for them and for the first British counter-terrorism officer I met from MI5, he was so welcoming and so gentlemanly, I remember basically that he told me that because it was December 16th 1998, he told me that basically it was like Christmas coming early, except I wasn’t dressed like Santa. And so I thought it was a good beginning and it was a good relationship that lasted for 8 years. Although it wasn’t supposed to last for 8 years, I was promised only 6 months. But there you go, people always break their promises.

David C T Davies: Thank you Aimen. I suppose we have to take a few questions here but could I just sort of kick off and ask you this: as somebody who is a member of Parliament and part of the British government, I would be very interested to know what you think that British and MPs and Britain could be doing anything to try and protect ourselves from terror attacks, and you covered a lot in your book and I want to give other people a chance, but you mentioned the subtle differences between ISIS and Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as well which was interesting, and whether there are opportunities there to sort of build on those divisions. You’ve mentioned supporting alternatives to democracy on I think page 397, I wondered what you actually meant by that, I presume you mean supporting some of the not very democratic governments that are in place, and I also wondered, and I think we have to ask this, it’s an interesting one, what do you actually think of British policy and American policy towards Israel and also towards Syria where we have a choice between frankly Assad who is a murdering dictator, who I have met myself actually, or various extremist Islamic groups, and it’s not much of a choice if you believe in secular democracy. So I am afraid that is quite a long-winded question but I will go to other people straight after it.

 

Aimen Dean: At the core of what I believe is that we have to diagnose the illness and this is the diagnosis which has always eluded us. If someone asks me what is the thing that really I learned from my experience, the most valuable thing, the most valuable thing is that at the core of it there is no war between Islam and the West. There is actually a civil war within Islam that is sucking the West into it. But in fact it is the war between four distinct factions. The first faction is nation-states, nation-states as we know them. The modern nation-state, with all their faults and shortcomings, and there are many of them, if we talk about Saudi Arabia, if we talk about Egypt, if we talk about Pakistan, if we talk about Indonesia, if we talk about Jordan, all of these countries are the modern nation-state as we know them with borders, with identity, with national anthem, with a flag. So on one hand you have this first faction. Then the other three factions are three trans-national ideologies that really seek to destroy the nation-state. The first one is political Sunni Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood and their allies. They are a trans-national ideology that do not believe in national identities. No borders, nothing. The second is militant Sunni Islam. You have Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, Hamas, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and similar groups as well. And the third of these trans-national ideologies is the militant and political Shia Islam represented in Tehran and by their allies as well, subordinate groups I would say, like Hezbollah and the militias. All these three have dark, imperial, eschatological vision for the Muslim world that contradicts completely the modern concept and institution of the nation-state. So that is where the fight is actually. It’s a fight between those who believe in nation-states and those who don’t. And radicalisation happened because belief in the nation-state eventually weakens. One of the reasons why you find that among all those who join ISIS or Al-Qaeda or the Taliban or even the Muslim Brotherhood, you will find that all of them share one common dominator which is the fact that they have an identity crisis. They no longer believe in the nation-state in which they live in, either they were born into or migrated into, they don’t believe in it anymore. Whether it is the fault of the nation-state or not, that is another question, sometimes it is the fault of the nation-state, I mean basically in Libya or in Syria or in other weak national states like Pakistan it is difficult to belong to the nation-state for many people because while you have duties towards the nation-state, the nation-state also has duties to you and in many cases, in many Muslim societies, the nation-state has failed in its duty towards their citizens and this is why some citizens take drastic action by abandoning the nation-state altogether and joining these groups. So that is the first diagnosis of the problem, it’s a fight between the nation states and those who don’t believe in the nation-states. And the West is naturally on the side of the nation-states because that is how it should be, regardless, that is how it should be. And then we have the second part of the problem, the second diagnosis, is the fact that when Islam has a civil war politically, a civil war, theologically there is also a civil war, there is a problem and a deep crisis within Islamic theology and spirituality and how it is being preached in this modern day and age. By that I mean when I was younger and trained to become an Imam we are told that there are three pillars of worship which regulates the relationship between yourself as a Muslim and the creator, which is love, fear, and hope. You love the Lord, you hope for his eternal reward, and you fear his eternal damnation. And Islam, just like Catholicism, is a guilt-based religion. I am still a devout Muslim but I have to be as critical of my own faith in order to diagnose what the problem is. I remember that when I was young I was told that if I am going to preach to people I have to balance my preaching between love, fear, and hope, I have to tell people, and this is the gist of it, that God is forgiving, God is vengeful, but he loves you. So this is why it is important to understand that while it must be a third, a third, a third, many Muslim clerics across the Muslim world, and in response to globalization and the advent of globalization and American-led globalisation and the cultural encroachment of American culture, films, music, lifestyle, dietary habits, the Imams across the Muslim world, even in Western-based Muslim communities decided that their young congregation is vulnerable, they’re vulnerable to all of these perceived vices and therefore the only way to safeguard them is to put the fear of God literally into their own hearts. So instead of balancing the order of preaching from one third love, one third hope, and one third fear, we get 80% fear, 10% hope and 10% love, if even that. And so you end up in the situation where the Imam says ‘you drink – hell, you smoke – hell, you sneak around – hell, you sell drugs – hell, you take drugs even more hell’. So that message of fear produces a more or less guilty generation, more guilty than the generations that came before. People who are burdened by guilt and feeling basically that no matter what they are bad Muslims and they are destined to hell, deep inside they are feeling that they are going to be in a situation where they will be sent to hell because there is no hope, there is no redemption and that is basically where dark forces such as Al-Qaeda, such as ISIS or anyone else that come and say ‘well look, I have something for you, I can actually sell you redemption’. The shortest path to forgiveness, to redemption, to heaven is jihad and martyrdom. According to what the Prophet said you are forgiven all of your sins with the first drop of blood that hits the ground. It’s an attractive proposition because many people don’t understand that there is a difference between ritual Islam and spiritual Islam. Many people were puzzled by the fact that there are some ISIS members who carried out attacks in France and Germany and Belgium who never went to the Mosque or opened the Quran, and they think basically that how can we associate religious crisis with what he is doing because basically he never even went to the Mosque. But again it is because he never went to the Mosque is because basically he had a criminal past, he thinks that the only way he can get a one-way ticket to heaven is through jihad and martyrdom.

David C T Davies: How do we as politicians combat that ideology?

Aimen Dean: Politicians can’t combat that. It is basically the clergy who can combat that because we need to basically encourage a message of hope and love. We need to encourage a positive message. That’s why prisoners are fertile ground for recruitment, because this is where we find lost souls who think they are so much burdened by guilt, guilt-ridden is their conscience, and they need to leave that guilt-ridden conscience and therefore they are vulnerable. Instead of telling everyone basically that if you do this, hell, if you do that, hell, just compare what I’m going to tell you with that other statement. If I tell you that if you drink that glass of wine you will end up on the day of judgement drinking molten lava and melting your insides and you’re going to be repeating it again and again for ever and ever, it’s scary. If I tell you that if you refrain from drinking that cup of wine God will reward you with oceans of wine much better than this rubbish, and you see the difference between a positive message and a negative message. It’s important that we need to get rid of negativity, the clergy need to do that. Only the clergy basically. And especially those chaplains in prisons, need to do that. Chaplains who go to university campuses need to do that because these are the two locations, two places where people who feel that they are not good enough are vulnerable to this.

David C T Davies: Aimen I am just a little bit conscious of the time and I’d like to if I could throw this out to questions and have a few quick ones, questions and answers, so you were first.

Speaker 1: Hi, how are you doing. I’d just like to say congratulations on the book, it’s a really good read but more importantly just thank you for the role that you played in keeping people safe basically. What I’d be interested to know is what is your current assessment of the threat posed to the UK specifically by Al-Qaeda at this point in time and how do they go about disseminating their message and recruiting people at the moment?

Aimen Dean: Generally, not just the UK but generally, Al-Qaeda are regrouping at the moment, they are in this recruiting phase trying to reclaim the narrative of jihad from ISIS after ISIS more or less was defeated on the ground though not in the cyberspace I would say, and not in the (inaudible) space, but in general terms ISIS have lost considerable ground more than 95% of what they used to have, Al-Qaeda is trying to reclaim that narrative and they are grooming young Hamza bin Laden to be the next face of Al-Qaeda, face and phase of Al-Qaeda because they know that Ayman al-Zawahiri is someone who cannot command the same authority and the same charisma, I mean he has got the same charisma of a dead fish, with all due respect to dead fish, maybe dead fish would smell better even. So that’s why I would say that Hamza bin Laden is the one who within 1-3 years will be propelled more into prominence in order to attract that young generation who is looking for an alternative. An alternative to ISIS and their murderous ideology and brutality, so I would say at the moment the threat of a strike to UK is low, but at some point Hamza bin Laden, in order to gain credibility, must, according to tribal customs and Islamic customs, avenge his father.

David C T Davies: Thank you. You sir. Please could you introduce yourself and any organisation you represent as well.

Speaker 2: You said you were disillusioned with Al-Qaeda and the activities they were performing, so how easy is it to leave Al-Qaeda after you’ve been working in the program, and why do you think MI6 got through to you specifically?

Aimen Dean: The first one is that it was easy because I had a medical emergency, medical reasons so it was good that I use that opportunity because it took four months between me deciding to leave and actually leaving so I was still in Afghanistan and Pakistan at that time. Why specifically? Because I had a wealth of information, simple as that.

David C T Davies: Good, great. Next question, sir.

Speaker 3: One question which might be too long, my name is (inaudible), Media News Network, first of all Mr Dean, I would like to know if your qualification is that of an expert bomb-maker and a double-agent. Have you done any Islamic studies or a PhD in Islam, you have been making sweeping statement about moving ideologies, nationally, but do you have any, because I am reading your CV and actually it doesn’t say much here. For that you really need to go back and do a PhD so that you can talk about Islam and its different sects, and then at the very end you said something about American movie influence and things like that, I think that is my request because you’ve upset me and I will do more research on you, but the fact is your name is Aimen Dean, which in Arabic means Imam and Dean, I think you should do a bit of self-research, but I feel that you’ve made some sweeping statements about different sects of Islam which are violent or whatever but I think your book needs further research, especially on the sects of Islam.

Aimen Dean: I’ll tell you something, you see there is the idea of theology and there is applied theology. I have seen with my own eyes the evil of applied theology when it is applied wrong, I have seen people die beheaded and I’ve seen people basically get shredded to pieces by this ideology. So at the end of the day the theology you are talking about, yes I do not study the theoretical one, but I have seen the applied one on the battlefield. I can tell you it’s ugly and it needs to be corrected. There people like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, they basically take their fatwas from who, and their theology from who, and they basically have Master’s degrees and PhDs, who basically graduated from Islamic University of Medina or enrolled in university in Mecca or I’m sorry in Riyadh, and basically end up giving these people fatwas and in the end what is basically the end result, death and destruction, and then retaliation because of the provocation that happens. So its applied theology, whether you accept it or not. I am a graduate, unfortunately, of applied theology.

David C T Davies: May I just say to you sir, with all due respect, just over a year ago I was outside on that square when somebody was shot dead in front of me, a terrorist, I was ten feet away, and he would either have gone into the café and murdered innocent members of the public or he would have come for myself and Grant Shapps who were standing on the square. So I don’t know a great deal about Islam but I have every right to talk about it because it has affected me personally, this gentleman here knows more than most.

Speaker 3: You are sitting in a house where there were people burning women a few hundred years ago, so you are not going on about brutality…

David C T Davies: We need to be discussing this issue, all of us, whether we are Muslims or not. Right, who’s next, sir, at the back.

Speaker 4: Thank you. You mentioned the three groups that are, if you like, counter-posed to the nation-state. The first two were Sunni groups, from what you were saying the first lot are extremists and the second lot are extremists who make the first lot look like moderates, but they are Sunnis, so if there a chance at some point that they might coalesce into a single group or are the differences between them just too extreme? The third group you mentioned are Shia. Now I think you said one of the component parts of that is the state or Iran, but Iran is a nation-state so is there a possibility that that group might fissure, with Iran going over to the side of the nation-states?

Aimen Dean: I don’t see any coalition happening between the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the political Sunni Islam, and militant Sunni Islam, which is for example ISIS or Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The reason for that is because basically if they didn’t align themselves, and they are fighting together against Bashar al-Assad, they couldn’t actually even coalesce during a time of war and need, a need for unity, despite all the appeals to them to basically unify, if they didn’t do that under war circumstances, they wouldn’t do that basically in the future, I don’t see any alliances between the two. For the Shia militant and political Islam, you see many people tell me that Iran is basically is a nation-state and in fact no, Iran is a theocratic state without defined boundaries because the official name of Iran is the Islamic Republic, not of Iran, the Islamic Republic in Iran. In order to basically signify there will be more Islamic republics in Lebanon in the future, in Iraq in the future, in Yemen in the future, so for them they are a theocratic state based on eschatology and with an expansionist policy. A nation-state is defined by its borders but if Iran respected its borders I don’t know if it would be a problem, I don’t know if I would even mention them, but there is no respect for borders and so basically they really defy the nation-state category, they are a hybrid of nation-state and trans-national ideology.

David C T Davies: Ok, the lady there please.

Speaker 5: Thank you so much for your talk, it was very interesting. My name is Catherine White I used to work with the UN in their political office in both Yemen and Baghdad. I listened with great interest to your discussion of religious ideology and the differences and the entrenchment of these ideologies. To what extent do you feel there can be diplomacy to overcome the conflicts that the West, as you say, is being sucked into? So specifically for example the Geneva talks on Yemen, can diplomacy really have much hope when faced with all of these varying ideologies? Thank you.

Aimen Dean: Conflicts are like swamps and what swamps do, they breed mosquitos and spread disease. So the only way basically to get rid of the extremists is to drain the swamps, and I’m borrowing Trump here, but seriously you have to drain the swamp which is the conflicts raging in the Middle East and North Africa, so basically whatever effort to end conflict is going to have a positive impact because if you deny people the theatres of jihad the theatres in which they exercise their ugly applied theology, and basically that is exactly what we need to do, we have to have every effort, diplomatic or otherwise.

David C T Davies: Ok. Surely there must be some more. The lady there please.

Speaker 6: To what extent do you think Saudi policy and money is responsible for rise of extremism and do you have any hopes that the new Saudi leadership will change things?

Aimen Dean: The problem with Saudi money and Saudi ideology is that it was done in the most noble of intentions, which is first to counter the spread of communism and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Basically it was done in conjunction with the (inaudible) and their policy of pushing the Soviets out of Afghanistan. So for ten years, from 1979 until 1989, the policy was geared towards expelling the Soviets out of Afghanistan, countering the rise of also the Shia theology in Iran and the radicalisation Iran was giving across the Muslim world, so we are trying basically to counter both communism and Iranian revolutionary theology. That ended, unfortunately, in the fact that the alliance between the jihadists and the West breaking down when the Soviets left and there was no need for jihadist ideology anymore, but I will tell you, the fire in the forest was lit and no-one bothered to extinguish it and that led to a greater fire basically reaching all the way into our time, culminating in 9/11 and then going beyond that. If you told everyone – hindsight is amazing, but we don’t have it – if you told everyone at the time in 1979 that in two decades there would be a 9/11, nobody would have gone to Afghanistan at all. But of course basically we are always the children of today. We are always planning for today and we as humans are always short-sighted, no matter how much we try to foresee into the future we are short-sighted and that is exactly what happened. You can’t say they caused 9/11 because they were doing it because there were greater forces and greater things above them. The new leadership, Muhammed bin Salman, he is doing the right thing, he is part of the, basically by trying to eradicate as much of the old guard as possible as far as the business establishment is concerned. He has established a new centre for the auditing of Hadiths, which are the second holy texts in Islam, because it requires, because between 15000-40000 texts are certain texts that basically contradict one another and what is the Quran, so basically it need auditing. Once that happens, and it will take years, then we could be at the cusp of a different era in Islam, let’s hope for that.

David C T Davies: Ok, that lady there.

Speaker 7: What are your thoughts on the Muslim Brotherhood, do you see them as a sort of precursor to – they are a political organisation, but do you see them as a precursor to militant activity?

Aimen Dean: If the Muslim Brotherhood was limited to Egypt and we are having for example the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, I would say basically that they are a political movement, I wouldn’t classify them as a trans-national ideology, but the Muslim Brotherhood, throughout the ages, from 1928 onwards when it started by Hassan al-Banna as a movement all the way until now, they have been a trans-national ideology, just like communism for example, I mean branches everywhere, parties everywhere, but the message is the same, and the message is that they do not call for the respect of the current boundaries. For example, when the Prime Minister of Tunisia, the former Prime Minister of Tunisia, after the Arab Uprising he was the Muslim Brotherhood and even though he was the most moderate of them all at his inauguration he actually quoted an eschatological text where he talked about how we are on the cusp of the Caliphate. I don’t think the Caliphate will be local to Tunisia, so he was more or less talking about the Pan-Muslim Caliphate which is basically again, it’s a trans-national ideology which basically doesn’t respect the current boundaries. Now the Caliphate in itself it basically is a wonderful institution if it was done in the right way, more like a European Union style or a Papacy style basically, where you have a figurehead governing the affairs of Muslims but the nation-states remain the same. Because throughout history, with one exception of 100 years, the Muslim world was really divided into nation-states. Only 100 years in 14 centuries was the Muslim world one single entity, but that’s it, therefore basically I think the modern Muslim, the modern nation-state, is the successful model that can guarantee safety, security, responsibility, loyalty, and order. Any trans-national one that tries to destroy the nation-state will result in bloodshed on a massive scale, just look at what is happening in Libya, in Yemen and in Syria.

David C T Davies: Yes, I think at that moment I should just say, I wouldn’t necessarily say the European Union is a good thing myself and obviously the Papacy might be a better example. I think on this side, yes sir.

Speaker 8: Thank you very much for what you’ve done to protect us, that’s the first thing I’d like to say to you, thank you very much. Surah 47 says ‘when you meet the infidel, smite them at the neck until many are dead and tie bonds on the rest. Allah could have punished them himself but he sets it as a test for you, some with others.’ Do you think that the commands to do violence in Islamic scripture have had any effect on the 1400-year history of Islam and are you prepared to deny the divinity of that verse and reject it outright?

Aimen Dean: First, I won’t reject it. The second thing is that your question is so good and it is necessary that I answer it. Every student of the Quran must know not to read it unaccompanied by another text that should be a required reading, called the Context of Revelation. I remember when I was young I was given a gift which is basically the Quran, in the middle box there is the Quran text, in the annotations around is the Context of Revelation. So it tells you why that verse is there, what is the context of that verse and to which time and place it is applied. So it was applying to a specific moment which is the Battle of Badr and it was telling basically the Muslims who were going out to face their enemies for the first time that when you meet them, be brave, do it, use violence but once it is over, take prisoners. That is the command specific to that day. Therefore, it is important that when we read the Quran we read it with the Context of Revelation we attach to it because if we read it only on its own and it is amazing when it comes to language it is a beautiful language, in Arabic, but it’s a complex language and therefore basically if I read it, and I am teaching my daughter to read it in the future, I would say please read it with the Context of Revelation because basically then you will understand why and how the Quran was written over many years, how it was structured, and to which events it is referring to. So if you read the Quran you will find that basically most of the verses that refer to violence, one particular verse also which says to wait for them, ambush them, it’s there in the Quran it says ambush them and smite their necks, but it talks about a particular battle where basically they were ambushed and now they are ambushing the enemy in return and so basically it was about a particular set of events. If you take it literally, just as you would take Leviticus literally, it would be a very bloody state of affairs indeed.

David C T Davies: Ok, that was a good answer, next, yes madam.

Speaker 9: I’m very interested in what you were saying about there being no political solutions to what is going on in universities and prisons but it is up to clerics. But if the clerics aren’t minded to actually go in and preach more love rather than hellfire what is the role of the politician, what is the role of, indeed, the general public, and I just speak as a member of the general public.

Aimen Dean: I mean if, I would find it an extremely sad state of affairs if the clergy is not willing basically to do that, and they should, why shouldn’t they? This is again where, you remember when I said the battle if actually between those who believe in a nation-state and those who don’t, then we need to strengthen the nation-state in the mind of people. I mean one of the things that you always find when certain individuals like are shouting at me traitor and you betrayed your community and you say country comes before community, the nation-state comes above any other consideration, whether it is a religious or ethnic community. That is the most important thing, so therefore I shouldn’t put the interests of a community I am supposed to belong to based on religion and race above the country that I am in, because basically if this country sinks we all sink. That is actually the message that needs to be transmitted. If you really can’t be in the boat with us, then please don’t sink it, just leave.

Speaker 9: Can I just come back quickly, but surely at the moment what is going on is that there is more and more identity politics, so young Muslim men in prison or young Muslim women and men at university perhaps are encouraged to think of themselves as Muslim first and as English or British second, and when they think of themselves as British its purely the passport rather than feeling British.

Aimen Dean: The disaster is Muslim first, Muslim second, Muslim last. And that is what is happening unfortunately because the nation-state is not strong in their minds for some reason, I am not going into details about it but if politicians want to convey the message it’s that the nation-state to which you were born into or have migrated into, as it has obligations towards you you have obligations towards it and that country comes before community no matter how much that community means to you, but the country as a whole comes before anything else. That message needs to be strengthened.

Speaker 10: Hi my name’s Chris, I am here as a member of the Henry Jackson Society, I just wanted to ask you what do you think is going on in the current Qatar vs Saudi battle?

Aimen Dean: It’s again within the same context as the nation-state versus trans-national ideologies. The problem with Qatar basically is that it has more or less tried to please everyone all the time. And you can’t please all people all the time. You can’t please America, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Muslim Brotherhood, you can’t please everyone at the same time and at some point basically something is going to give. This is the problem with Qatar at the moment. Qatar is not exactly seeing eye-to-eye as far as the UAE for example or Saudi Arabia as far as trans-national ideologies, which I highlighted before. So until they do I think they will remain outside of the club for the time being, until they see sense and stop basically hosting the Muslim Brotherhood and supporting them through media organisations that they own and use basically.

David C T Davies: Right. Anymore? Yes, sir.

Speaker 11: With the Chairman’s permission Mr Davies I would like to ask a member of the audience a question by way of clarifying something because I think some wrong information has perhaps been given. I have never heard of anybody, and I mean I have even googled it just now, anyone being burned in Parliament and the last person to be burned in England for heresy was a man actually, Edward Wightman in 1612, that’s more than 400 years ago, albeit within the British Isles in 1727 Janet Horne was burned in Scotland so we are talking about more than 400 years ago and secondly I don’t think anyone has ever been burned in Parliament.

Speaker 3: I said women were burned in this country…

Speaker 11: You did say in Parliament I thought…

David C T Davies: I think I speak for all Christians when I say I totally deprecate that and any language of violence I can interpret the Bible in any way I want, I have that freedom and that is a very good thing. I think one of the concerns I have is that Muslims don’t seem to feel that they have the same freedom to interpret their Quran in the way that we have that freedom to interpret the Bible and disassociate ourselves with things that have gone on in the past that are totally unacceptable.

Speaker 11: I apologise if I misheard you. The reason for me making my point is that I continuously hear history misquoted, particularly on television and nobody ever correcting it and it is history that is wrong and it is always anti-British in the way that is it being misinterpreted and it is usually because somebody, I am afraid quite often possibly a Muslim says something that the presenter doesn’t know and lets them get away with it and people are taking away information that is completely wrong and I’m sorry about that but I thought I’d make a point of it.

David C T Davies: Did you want to comment on that Aimen?

Aimen Dean: You see we have a (inaudible). We are talking about the ills and problems that are plaguing the Muslim world and my dear brother I can tell you basically when I talk about applied theology my own cousin is 20. My own nephew is 19. Life ahead of them. They went to fight and die in Syria. So I couldn’t even save them. I couldn’t even persuade them to come back. From my own hometown, my own teachers who told me in the middle school, two of their peers went to fight and die there. A young man who when I was 16, he was 9, I inducted him into the Quran circle where he became a Hafiz just after me. And guess what – he went to become a judge for ISIS, executed 34 people, he passed the sentence. He wasn’t even 30. And then he texted me or Whatsapp and he told me he was leaving and then they caught him with four others trying to leave, and guess what, executed them. So what I am saying here is there are a lot of problems with we have right now, we cannot concern ourselves with what happened in America 50 years ago with the KKK or what happened basically in England 400 years ago with witches being burned, we have to concern ourselves with now and with what is happening. And basically I have seen families being torn apart including mine over this question. So this is why it is important that we should abandon whataboutery and basically focus in on what is actually relevant to us.

Speaker 3: Can I just say one sentence, I am not condoning anything and I respect the fact that you have had personal tragedy in your family but today is the first of (inaudible) and 1400 years ago Muhammed had to travel from Medina to Mecca where on the (inaudible) because of the same institution because of whatever the reasons were, I think the West needs to understand the Quran and Islam much better and you could be helping them.

Aimen Dean: Exactly and that’s what I was saying, when people say that sectarianism was ignited in the region because of the West I’ll say with all due respect, he is as revered to me as he is to you, but (inaudible).

David C T Davies: Ok, I think there was one over there. That lady there and I have to go and vote again so I will be back in 5 minutes.

Speaker 12: I just wanted to ask a simple question, have you been talking to a different organisation or have you had the opportunity to be invited in Arab countries, by Muslim communities, and would you speak the same way you have spoken today?

Aimen Dean: The good news is that in countries like UAE and Saudi Arabia I talk to the audiences the same way I am talking to you. The discourse is different and people are brave enough basically to talk about these issues without feeling that they are constrained because of the fact that… I entered this world in 1994 when I went to join the jihad in Bosnia, it was 1994. So it has been 24 years and if I cannot basically provide at least a first-hand commentary on these issues I doubt who then. So yes most of the time basically it’s in Western countries because that’s where I live generally but yeah.

Speaker 12: It’s a pity because I think you should go there more and more, in Arab countries and try really to send your message because without you and people like you I think we will not really reach peace at all.

Aimen Dean: I hope so.

Nikita Malik: The lady here?

Speaker 13: Thank you very much for your talk. My question is really for you as an individual person, your theology, but do you feel that what has happened to you has been fate, your life has been so important and really fascinating, how do you feel that was meant to be as a person, how did you stay positive on that path knowing that everything that you do, how did it affect you and what is the future for that?

Aimen Dean: The most important aspect is acceptance. Because you accept first of all that, first of all I am a religious person, I believe that everything I do is in the will of God and I can’t do anything about it. So therefore you accept. You accept everything that happens, people who died, people you lose and personal calamities basically that happen. If you believe basically that your faith is in the hands of a divine power then wherever you go, wherever that divine power takes you then you accept along the way that this is basically what I am supposed to do this is what I am here to do. And that is what kept me positive I would say. At the same time a sense of humour now and then doesn’t hurt.

Nikita Malik: Do we have any more questions? Yes, gentleman at the back?

Speaker 14: I’m Tom, I’m a student, and I was just wondering you talk about civil war within Islam. Is it maybe too soon or maybe naïveness to consider it the beginnings of a reformation within the religion and especially for Western policymakers is there maybe anything to be learned from say the history of the Christian Reformation or similar divisions in the past, I know you are a historian at heart.

Aimen Dean: I don’t think it is similar to the Reformation because the Reformation was against the central power which was the Papacy. Islam doesn’t have a central power whatsoever, well in Shia Islam they have but even in Shia Islam they have two centres of power. In Sunni Islam there is no centre of power whatsoever, there is no centre of gravity in which basically you can say there is a reformation occurring. What is happening basically is Islam struggling as a whole to find a place for itself in the modern world. You have factions of Muslims basically fighting in order to find a way in which Islam basically can go hand in hand with modernity and it can because at some stage in the past basically Islam was modernity, especially in the Iberian Peninsula, remember that. So what is needed right now is to emulate that because if you visit Baghdad, let’s say in the year 1000, you would be surprised basically by how many people were translating Greek and Hindu and Sanskrit and Roman texts into Arabic and basically immortalised all of that heritage from the rest of the world and presenting it as a sign of Arabic civilisation at that time. That is what is needed right now, what is needed is for Islam just to absorb modernity and basically make it its own. If that happens then we will be really happy.

Nikita Malik: Anymore questions? Yes.

Speaker 15: Very interested in what you say about the (inaudible). We talk about the clash of civilisations…

Aimen Dean: Sorry, could you raise your voice please.

Speaker 15: Sorry, I’d like to talk about the clash of civilisations as I’m sure you know. You quite rightly framed it as a debate within Islam and a struggle within Islam, I’m wondering how you think the West needs to think about this and to live in a culture where it’s us versus Islam or Islam versus us how do we change the relationship between Islam and the West to make a positive relationship where people understand each other and make that movement towards modernity in Islam that you talk about?

Aimen Dean: You are right in the sense that one of the things that I have learned in my years is that Islam is not at war with the West but is at war with itself, divided in the factions I talked about. Really even the fault line is between those who believe in the nation-states and those who don’t believe in the nation-states. The West is generally and as it should be on the side of those who believe in the nation-states. But what the West can do basically is to strengthen the institutions of the nation-states, is to provide the experience and good governance. How many colleges or institutions of good governance are actually around that are dedicated to young people from North Africa or the Middle East or South Asia, hardly any. So what is needed is a way in which some good experiences that need to be emulated, also there are some experiences that need to be emulated from within the Muslim world. Take for example Oman. It’s not exactly a democracy, it is a very conservative country as well as one of my favourite destinations, I like to go there a lot. How many people from Oman went to join ISIS? None, zero, and we are talking about 2.5million people, the population of Oman. And yet, zero, no-one went to join ISIS. I remember the only Omani who was in Al-Qaeda (inaudible). So why aren’t we studying the Omani experience? What is it about Oman that produced a deeply conservative yet amazingly tolerant society, peaceful and at the same time laid back and did not send anyone to fight and die and kill. That in itself is an experiment which needs to happen, it’s a study that needs to happen in order to determine what Oman has done right so we can copy it elsewhere. So it is not only what the West can do but what successful Muslim examples can do.

David C T Davies: My daughter has just stuck her hand up, fire away.

Speaker 16: Do you have any regrets about becoming a spy?

Aimen Dean: No.

David C T Davies: I like that, short answers. Yes, you, sir.

Speaker 17: Richard Watson, BBC Newsnight. You said in your presentation that IS had lost 95% of its territory now in Syria and Iraq. What is your assessment of the terrorist threat from Sunni extremism, whether from IS or Al-Qaeda, given the (inaudible)?

Aimen Dean: The problem is that we have the cyber-Caliphate right now, which is ISIS’s way of managing their assets all over the world and the problem here is that they have adopted this methodology in which people pledge allegiance to them out of many many reasons as to why they want to pledge allegiance to them, we talked about the sense of redemption, there are also many people who feel they are downtrodden, they want to exert power, inner sadist violence in an individual so they need to find a way they direct that sadism and violence that is repressed so basically they do their actions, they carry out their attack, using primitive means, cars, knives or whatever basically they can lay their hands on and then claiming it in the name of ISIS or ISIS claims it in the name of their behalf. That is actually what is worrying because there is no territory now that welcomes them so ISIS tells them stay where you are and so something on our behalf. So that is what is happening with ISIS right now although there are signs that they are more or less beginning to fight back especially in eastern Syria, there are signs there, there are signs of more and more attacks and assassinations happening in the area between Mosul all the way to (inaudible), so there are concerns as to how they will regain some of the territories and there are witnessing some weaknesses in the Arab governments now over all the infighting, they are sensing that there could be an opportunity there. If the political crisis in Iraq deepens, that is again why we say when the nation-state weakens, these violences unfortunately emerge. So it all depends on how Iraq can pull the good government over the next several weeks. But a fair assessment for the global, it’s going to be the same we have seen over the past 12 months, not as bad as 2017, 2016 but still it’s going to be at a high level.

David C T Davies: Can I follow that Aimen, because if the war in Syria is going to continue until one side wins and if the only two sides who could feasibly win could be ISIS or Assad, because I don’t see much evidence of a democratic army lurking there despite what we’ve been told, which of these two sides would we prefer to win?

Aimen Dean: Wow, it’s like asking basically who will win, the lion who will eat me or the tiger who will eat me after that? Both are vicious creatures and both basically will end up in the situation where (inaudible). No. Basically I would say that it’s a regrettable situation where we end up basically having to choose between the two. In my opinion basically I would rather the war ends tomorrow, even if it means Assad wins, just for the bloodshed to stop and that’s my assessment. It’s not something I wish for, it’s just basically it is the least, least, least of all evils. You asked me in the beginning about alternatives to democracy because basically I am one of those people who supports a very, very controversial opinion that I am not exactly very pro-democratic solutions for the Middle East now, now, I believe that a moderate semi-constitutional monarchy is the way forward because it’s encompasses legitimacy, also it encompasses the religious aspect which is the allegiance and the contract with the people and the monarch, basically it can have a lasting impact and basically the monarchies, even the poor ones like Jordan and Morocco have fared much better than any other form of government, even the democratic ones like Lebanon and Iraq because democracy in these two countries produced nothing but sectarianism and failed states. Monarchies seems to be the only systems that have stood the test of time and provided more modern nation states than the rest of the Arab world.

David C T Davies: I think we have time for one more question, sir you were first.

Speaker 18: I am a Japanese journalist. So a Japanese journalist (inaudible) has been detained for a long time by the group al-Nursa. We were hoping he would be released in some circumstances but Japanese have no negotiation policy like UK and US.

Aimen Dean: There is no negotiation because the Japanese believe he is dead. And they refuse to believe that all the other proof of life is recent. I’ve been involved in the negotiations before and the Japanese side is difficult but we can talk about it face to face.

David C T Davies: Ok, I am really sorry about this ladies and gentlemen but we are about be evicted from the room for another meeting and there are probably going to be further votes, but once again can I really thank you from the bottom of my heart Aimen for all that you’ve done to protect us and also for making a very interesting and coherent argument for a nation-state because there are far too many writers in the West at the moment who seem to want to undermine the whole concept of nation-states and I thought you put a particularly strong argument for that forward so on behalf of all of us thank you

*Applause*

 

HJS



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