A mosque in Munich
âA Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhoodâ by Ian Johnson (Mariner Books, 336 pages, $16)
Everyone knows by now about U.S. backing for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s - Exhibit A for those shaking their heads at Washingtonâs foreign policy blunders in the Muslim world. Rather less widely known, at least until this book was written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson, was how that support had precedents at the start of the Cold War in post-World War II Europe, when U.S. and German intelligence jostled for influence over various Muslim groups as anti-communist instruments to undermine the USSR. With a cast including Nazis, the CIA, the German intelligence agency, the Muslim Brotherhood, and a host of flamboyant individual characters, the subject matter certainly makes for a spectacular title. But although Johnsonâs deeply researched book often yields surprises, it is generally less sensational than its blurb might suggest. Nevertheless, it does provide lessons that remain valid about the perils of trying to co-opt hard-line Muslim groups to pursue broader Western policy goals.
Johnson begins the tale back in the war, when the Nazis recruited proxy forces from the Muslims of Central Asia and the Caucasus to fight the Soviets on the Eastern Front. After hostilities ended, many ex-soldiers of these units found themselves living in West Germany, as did other Nazi collaborators from the Soviet Unionâs Muslim regions and those who were able to flee Stalinâs Russia. Before long, the attention of post-war German and U.S. intelligence agencies would turn to these groups as intelligence sources and voices in the Westâs propaganda war against the godless communist...