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Friday, January 05, 2007

Don't confuse the Jihadis in Iraq with the real al Qaeda threat

Or so says George H. Wittman in The American Spectator here:
For example, the argument has been put forward that the conflict in Iraq involves terrorists who otherwise would be concentrating on targets in the United States and Western Europe. There is no operational basis for this theory. To proceed effectively on a covert mission aimed at destruction of high value targets in advanced societies requires a totally different degree of sophistication and talent from the paramilitary capability of the various insurgent elements in Iraq.
The primarily Sunni Al Qaeda has the operational interest and assets that directly threaten Western society. Among these committed terrorists, those fighting in Iraq do not generally qualify for Al Qaeda's international operations in the U.S. or Europe. The "street fighters" of that organization are in Iraq, not their sophisticated covert operators.

To put it simply, the agents of Al Qaeda capable of attacking European or American targets must be able to "pass" in those communities. They must have both the vocational and language skills that allow them a certain legitimacy within these foreign societies. While this is not necessarily a small pool of candidates, it is not large, and it does tend to restrict potential recruits to a particular socio-economic sector of the Islamic world.
In a war, there are many level at which at an enemy can, and will, operate. They have to be countered at each level. A failure on the ground in Iraq or Somalia by loosely linked al Qaeda forces does not impact al Qaeda's threat to the West by its covert agents, but even "street fighting" failures can divert attention if we are not reminded to keep our focus.

UPDATE: Excellent quote from an article "Somalia on the verge of War"
By Atle Mesoy, Senior Analyst, at Protocol:
When the expression global jihadist movement is used here, it refers to the remains of al Qaeda and international “al Qaeda-style” groups, which are part of an international network and movement. These groups and individuals base their world view on an understanding where there is an on-going war against Islam by the all the non-Muslim countries, specially the West. Their goal is to attack the enemy using all means, creating Islamic states, and finally re-establishing the Caliphate.
The article was written before the recent action against the UIC but anticipates the fight, if not the outcome. It's a free pdf available here. Protocol has been kind enough to allow me access to some of their previous work (see here), including the map of Somalia used in this post.

Caliphate? In case you forget, the jihadis want what they claim was once theirs, as seen in the map below showing the Caliphate as it was in 750AD:

Of course, if we are going to claim lands on the basis of what was once held, the Italians might want to stake out a claim to the Roman Empire at its peak:

The Italians seem unwilling to use suicide bombings and terrorism to assert their "ownership."

Maybe the Greeks will make an effort based on Alexander's Empire:

Clicking on the images makes them bigger.

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