Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Doing Saddam's Dirty Work

I wonder if Osama lit up a cigar when Saddam was caught. Being the type of secular leader Osama hates, they weren't exactly fast friends. Saddam's an evil bastard. Brutal enough to keep just about anyone out of his Iraq he didn't want there. The door's open now. But there are so many targets elsewhere.

Saddam Is Ours. Does Al Qaeda Care?

WASHINGTON — While President Bush was careful to remind Americans that even with Saddam Hussein behind bars, "we still face terrorists," the White House and Pentagon have characterized the arrest as a major victory in the war on terrorism. But is Iraq really the central battleground in that struggle, or is it diverting our attention while Al Qaeda and its confederates plan for new strikes elsewhere? There's strong evidence that Osama bin Laden is using Iraq the way a magician uses smoke and mirrors.

The calls to arms by Al Qaeda only intensified after the fall of Baghdad, when its intermittent Web site, Al Neda, similarly extolled the virtues of guerrilla warfare. In urging Iraqis to fight on, the site invoked prominent lessons of history — including America's defeat in Vietnam and the Soviet Army's in Afghanistan.

But as useful as Iraq undoubtedly has been as a rallying cry for jihad, it has been a conspicuously less prominent rallying point, at least in terms of men and money. The Coalition Provisional Authority may be right that thousands of foreign fighters have converged on Iraq, but few who have been captured have demonstrable ties to Al Qaeda. Nor is there evidence of any direct command-and-control relationship between the Qaeda central leadership and the insurgents.

If there are Qaeda warriors in Iraq, they are likely cannon fodder rather than battle-hardened mujahedeen. In the end, Qaeda's real interest in Iraq has been to exploit the occupation as a propaganda and recruitment tool for the global jihadist cause.

While America has been tied down in Iraq, the international terrorist network has been busy elsewhere. The various attacks undertaken by Qaeda and its affiliates since the occupation began have taken place in countries that are longstanding sources of Osama bin Laden's enmity (like Saudi Arabia) or where an opportunity has presented itself (the suicide bombings in Morocco in May, Indonesia in August and Turkey in November).

In fact, Saif al-Adel, the senior Qaeda operational commander who was credited with writing the "Shadow of the Lances" articles, is widely believed to have been behind the May attacks that rocked Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but he has yet to be linked to any incidents in Iraq.

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