Friday, May 16, 2003

The War on Terror is back. For several days there've been threats by al-Qaeda of a sustained campaign similar in scope to 9-11 consisting of the types of attacks we saw in Riyadh and directed at targets primarily in the Arab world. In addition, al-Qaeda seems to have kicked up a new crop of leaders to replace those they've lost so far.

There is also a new terrorist organization in the wings. Its named is al-Muwahhidun, meaning "those who believe in the unity of God," and its leader is Shaykh Ali al-Khubayr, a former al-Qaeda member who was probably in Iraq at the start of the U.S. invasion there. It is led by former members of al-Qaeda, but also has new recruits whose main cause seems to be opposition to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Gulf sources describe it as "Al-Qaeda II."
UPDATE: In response to queries, the source for this was a translated article from al-Ilaf from the Eurasia Research Center list-serve.

These kinds of threats come and go, but the amount of reporting and everything on this one is quite large, and now we've had the Casablanca attacks following those in Riyadh, both seemingly by al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has reconstituted itself for these kinds of attacks, perhaps using their experiences working with Indonesian groups as a model. This whole situation also shows the difficulty of a "war on terror" model, as you can't just capture some leaders and occupy a country and thus end the war. I'm politically liberal, but when Bush talks about a campaign that will go on for years with no clear victory, he's just calling it like it is. The only way to fight this is to wear these groups down while disrupting them as much as possible until they finally lose all credibility.

I'd also suggest that while I supported the Iraq war, we are about to start seeing in groups like al-Muwahhidun the price of that campaign in new terrorism people talked about. Some would have happened anyway, of course, but Iraq did add logs to the fire.


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