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  • The hydra bites

    Decent article.



    Mar 18th 2004
    From The Economist print edition


    There is mounting evidence that al-Qaeda or an allied Islamist group was responsible for the devastating bombings in Madrid last week. Osama bin Laden’s terror network is not the beast it was before September 11th 2001. But it is still deadly

    FROM an unexploded bomb in a backpack to a tatty Madrid phone shop, and onwards to Morocco and beyond. The investigative trail from the March 11th bombings in Spain, though fuzzy, points to the involvement of Islamist fanatics, and now stretches over the Spanish borders. The Americans say that al-Qaeda itself was involved; Osama bin Laden, keen to portray himself as the vanguard of a global jihad, will doubtless be pleased with this conclusion. For westerners, the theory that Mr bin Laden had a hand in this and other recent attacks at least helps to make an otherwise mystifying enemy seem comprehensible. But is it credible?

    Perhaps. Jamal Zougam, a Moroccan arrested in Spain last week, is thought to be an associate of Abu Dahdah, who was himself believed, until his arrest in late 2001, to have been al-Qaeda’s top man in Spain. Mohammed Atta visited Spain not long before he led the September 11th attacks in America. Mr Zougam and Mr Dahdah may have liaised with other extremists across Europe, and with a group believed by the Moroccan security services to have sent the suicide bombers who struck Casablanca last May. There are whisperings of a connection to Ansar al-Islam, an outfit once based in northern Iraq, and also to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian accused of orchestrating the carnage in Baghdad and Karbala earlier this month.

    Yet to talk of al-Qaeda responsibility risks misunderstanding the methods that Mr bin Laden’s movement has adopted since losing its Afghan sanctuary in 2001. According to American counter-terrorism experts, nearly 3,500 suspected al-Qaeda sympathisers have been detained, in over 100 countries, since September 11th (though some have later been released). Two-thirds of al-Qaeda’s known senior leadership has been “incapacitated”, the Americans claim. Mr bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his right-hand man, may now be principally preoccupied with saving their own skins.

    Given these disruptions, the threat now comes from what George Tenet, head of the CIA, recently termed “a loose collection of regional networks that operate more autonomously” and “a global movement infected by al-Qaeda’s radical agenda”. Tens of thousands of graduates from al-Qaeda’s Afghan camps have dispersed around the world, taking with them both an apocalyptic philosophy and a deadly expertise. Some may have drawn advice, cash or personnel from Mr bin Laden’s inner circle, or from each other; some may take cues from his taped exhortations. But a few may derive nothing more than inspiration from him. Even Mr bin Laden’s death or capture is unlikely to defang these disciples. (Intelligence sources are sceptical about claims of co-operation between such terrorists and secular ones such as ETA, even if their use of the same suppliers superficially points to just such a link in Spain.)

    By its nature, such a diffuse movement is much harder to monitor than a unitary organisation: witness the apparent lack of any advance intelligence about the Madrid plot. It is also unpredictable in its tactics. Mr bin Laden’s cadre has shown considerable flexibility, variously deploying planes, trucks and boats as weapons. But suicide has been a consistent method. Yet the Madrid bombers appear to have eschewed it, though the simultaneity and wantonly indiscriminate lethality of the attacks were familiar. A jihadi website that discussed ways of dislodging the Spanish from Iraq mentioned the elections. The timing of the strike, just before the poll, may also signal a new tactic.

    Where might this hydra bite next? Perhaps because of limited resources, perhaps because of “target-hardening” in rich countries, the terrorists have since September 11th hit mainly “soft” targets, such as tourist and religious sites, often in poorer (and Muslim) countries. They have forgone the symbolism of assailing embassies, ships and skyscrapers, but killed infidels where possible, murdering German tourists in Tunisia, French engineers in Pakistan and Australians in Bali. They have also turned on Saudi Arabia—at the behest, the Saudis believe, of Mr bin Laden himself. Madrid was, however, the first Islamist spectacular in western Europe.

    One theory is that Spain became a target after it cracked down on militants whom it had previously tolerated. Something similar may be brewing in Britain, historically a haven for Islamists (especially in what is derisively known as “Londonistan”). Like Spain, Britain has been excoriated by Mr bin Laden, and it has troops in Iraq. British interests have been targeted in Istanbul; but it has not yet been hit directly. British politicians and police see that exemption as temporary: gloomy warnings were issued this week.

    On the other hand, Mr bin Laden and his ilk bear ancient as well as contemporary grudges. Mr al-Zawahiri calls the Spanish reconquest of Granada in 1492 “the tragedy of al-Andalus”. Other countries with no involvement in Iraq could be imperilled. As Mr Tenet says, future strikes may involve aircraft, or poisons and chemicals; Mr bin Laden sees the acquisition of nuclear weapons as a religious duty. Shipping is another risk. In 2002, Morocco arrested a gang thought to be planning to attack NATO ships in the straits of Gibraltar.

    European officials are considering if there is anything more they can do to avert such catastrophes. Airport-type security checks on some trains are likely, as are more random checks of baggage and cars, and the removal of litter bins that might serve as bomb receptacles—the sort of grinding measures Britain adopted during the IRA peril. That, plus a continent-wide crossing of fingers.
    Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

  • #2
    great article, as ususal, from The Economist...I thought the following especially chilling...this is why I believe the invasion of Iraq was an expensive and dangerous detour...

    the threat now comes from what George Tenet, head of the CIA, recently termed “a loose collection of regional networks that operate more autonomously” and “a global movement infected by al-Qaeda’s radical agenda”. Tens of thousands of graduates from al-Qaeda’s Afghan camps have dispersed around the world, taking with them both an apocalyptic philosophy and a deadly expertise. Some may have drawn advice, cash or personnel from Mr bin Laden’s inner circle, or from each other; some may take cues from his taped exhortations. But a few may derive nothing more than inspiration from him. Even Mr bin Laden’s death or capture is unlikely to defang these disciples.
    The Dude abides.

    Comment


    • #3
      Tens of thousands of graduates from al-Qaeda’s Afghan camps have dispersed around the world, taking with them both an apocalyptic philosophy and a deadly expertise. Some may have drawn advice, cash or personnel from Mr bin Laden’s inner circle, or from each other; some may take cues from his taped exhortations. But a few may derive nothing more than inspiration from him. Even Mr bin Laden’s death or capture is unlikely to defang these disciples.
      Hopefully we have will cut off such large scale, organized, and well funded training in the future. We will be battling these tens of thousands for years. But if we can prevent the creation of new ones, we've done something.
      "Need some wood?" -- George W. Bush, October 8, 2004

      "Historians will judge if this war is just, not your punk ass." -- Dave Glover, December 8, 2004

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by phantom@Mar 18 2004, 07:51 PM
        Tens of thousands of graduates from al-Qaeda’s Afghan camps have dispersed around the world, taking with them both an apocalyptic philosophy and a deadly expertise. Some may have drawn advice, cash or personnel from Mr bin Laden’s inner circle, or from each other; some may take cues from his taped exhortations. But a few may derive nothing more than inspiration from him. Even Mr bin Laden’s death or capture is unlikely to defang these disciples.
        Hopefully we have will cut off such large scale, organized, and well funded training in the future. We will be battling these tens of thousands for years. But if we can prevent the creation of new ones, we've done something.
        That's why Afghanistan - and the removal of the Taliban - was so key. The camps and madrassas were nurturing future enemies. Still happening in Pakistan. And unfortunately, Afghanistan - outside of Kabul - is largely ruled by ex-Taliban and drug lords.

        We got distracted.
        The Dude abides.

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        • #5
          Moe, does the terrorist camp operating freely in Northern Iraq, or the immense funding of terror, play into your same conclusions from Afghanistan.

          It appears that after Afghanistan, Iraq might be the most lawless, corrupt nation with extensive attraction for terrorist. Iraq also had extensive practice in wmd research, development and delivery.

          From Syrian, Iranian and Palestinian, all the way to Al-Qaida in the north, it now seems that those with bad intentions were able to operate somewhat freely, and we know that the "government" was corrupt and crumbling.

          Afghanistan and Iraq seemingly have many more similarities than some will admit. Obviously Afghanistan provided refuge for OBL, who was complicit in 9/11.
          Both were murderous and oppressive regimes that only policed that which was a threat to their power, not crimes within or on the general public. Both were intrinsically entwined with terrorism. Both had non-existent economies with most revenue being a result of illegal activities.

          When I think of the nation states today; Iraq, NK, Iran, Afghanistan, sub saharan Africa who fit that profile, it boils down to functioning societies. That could be considered the common denominator.

          Afghanistan was certainly priority number one, as they were protecting OBL. Then you have sub-africa, NK, Iran, Iraq and very likely Syria. Iran, Iraq, and Syria have elaborate and ingrained ties to terrorism and wmd suspicions. Sub – Saharan African is teeming with terrorists already. And NK has wmd. I am sure there are a few more out there, like Haiti, Rwanda, East Timor, and Kosovo(Libya of the past). Some are in the process of being "rebuilt", like rwanda, east timor, and kosovo.

          Obviously, some have more pressing challenges than others. All are easily intertwined. I don’t think any can be considered a distraction. Each and every one will need to be addressed, by the UN, by us, by NATO, by the French, or by someone.

          Each successful terrorist attack should only persuade all free nations to tackle these festering pits and give them a new beginning.
          Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

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          • #6
            National Court Judge Juan del Olmo charged three Moroccan suspects with 190 murders and 1,400 attempted murders and with belonging to a terrorist group, a court official said.
            Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

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            • #7
              lazy, I agree with Powell and Rice pre-9/11...Saddam did not even pose a threat to his neighbors...I find it interesting that, despite admissions by the administration, you still cling to the belief that Iraq had WMD and/or funded global terror to any great extent...give it up, man...
              The Dude abides.

              Comment


              • #8
                Who is it on whom facts don't make a dent?

                LOL
                And, frankly, it has never occured to me that "winning" a debate is important, or that I should be hurt when someone like Airshark or kah, among others (for whom winning a pseudo debate or declaring intellectual superiority over invisible others is obviously very important) ridicule me.

                -The Artist formerly known as King in KC

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Moe_Szyslak@Mar 19 2004, 04:33 PM
                  you still cling to the belief that Iraq had WMD and/or funded global terror to any great extent...give it up, man...
                  Hindsight is a beautiful thing isn't it.

                  Nevermind that Clinton and even Blix thought Iraq had WMDs.

                  If Saddam was still in power and we still didn't know if he had WMDs, would you feels safe given the proliferation of terrorism in the world? Wouldn't that worry you at least a little?
                  "Need some wood?" -- George W. Bush, October 8, 2004

                  "Historians will judge if this war is just, not your punk ass." -- Dave Glover, December 8, 2004

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Iraq didn't support any terrorists.

                    Tell it to Abul Abbas.
                    And, frankly, it has never occured to me that "winning" a debate is important, or that I should be hurt when someone like Airshark or kah, among others (for whom winning a pseudo debate or declaring intellectual superiority over invisible others is obviously very important) ridicule me.

                    -The Artist formerly known as King in KC

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by phantom+Mar 19 2004, 04:37 PM-->
                      QUOTE (phantom @ Mar 19 2004, 04:37 PM)

                    • #12
                      Moe,

                      As far as terrorism goes, Saddam most certainly did fund terror. Do you dispute that?

                      Do you dispute a terror training camp in Northern Iraq?

                      Do you dispute that there were concerns and suspicions about the wmd programs of Saddam?

                      I find it very naive for you not to at least acknowledge the conclusions previous to the war. How utterly disingenuous of you.
                      Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Clinton and Blix didn't invade. Kay found nothing. Saddam trailed many others (Syria, Saudi royals, Afghanistan...) in sponsorship of global terror and had no links to al Queda.

                        Any arguments with these statements?

                        Moe
                        The Dude abides.

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          no.
                          Un-Official Sponsor of Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist

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                          • #15
                            Moe's specialty is cynical disingenuous pomposity.
                            And, frankly, it has never occured to me that "winning" a debate is important, or that I should be hurt when someone like Airshark or kah, among others (for whom winning a pseudo debate or declaring intellectual superiority over invisible others is obviously very important) ridicule me.

                            -The Artist formerly known as King in KC

                            Comment

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