Terrorism: November 21, 2003


November 20th's two suicide bombings in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, came less than a week after two local synagogues were subject to similar attacks. Al Qaeda and the Moslem Brotherhood both took credit, which may be accurate. Al Qaeda founders included Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood leaders that had been driven out of Egypt after a bombing campaign there backfired. The same thing is happening in Turkey, where the population is still recovering from a decade of terrorism and murder from Kurd separatists. While there are Islamic conservatives in Turkey, they have far fewer radicals among them, and far fewer Turks who will give them support, or refrain from reporting them to the police. 

Al Qaeda has long preached the use of terror against its enemies, and the September 11, 2001 attacks were held up as a perfect example of that. But the attacks in Turkey have killed mostly Moslems, as have the recent suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda is also thought to be behind the suicide bombings in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Do you see a pattern here? Al Qaeda is not following up on September 11, 2001 with more attacks on Western targets, but is killing Moslems. Al Qaeda does have a lot of Moslems on its hit list, particularly Moslems who al Qaeda does not consider Moslem enough. But since al Qaeda recruits from Moslem populations, angering Moslem populations is suicidal to the organization. This is what happened to the radical faction of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt during the 1990s. But al Qaeda is not the kind of organization that can control all of its members. The fall of Afghanistan and Iraq to Western armies has inflamed many radical Moslems, and they sought to join al Qaeda to fight the infidel invaders. Thus al Qaeda was faced with the problem of "use them or lose them." So al Qaeda is sending these eager volunteers into battle wherever possible. With Western troops in Iraq, many al Qaeda volunteers were simply encouraged to go there. In other countries, attacks on local targets are being arranged. All of this is resulting in thousands of al Qaeda members being killed or arrested by fellow Moslems. This will take care of the excess volunteers, and will not have much impact on the hard core al Qaeda. This group, who control over a billion dollars in cash and hundreds of veteran members, are looking farther ahead.

It is known that al Qaeda has long believed in long term planning of attacks, and makes use of self-organized teams of attackers. If a group of Islamic radicals can come together, work out a plan, and make contact with the surviving al Qaeda leadership, help in the form of cash and technical assistance will be forthcoming. But communications with potential al Qaeda recruits in non-Moslem nations has become a lot more difficult since September 11, 2001. The police in Western nations are a lot more efficient than what most al Qaeda members are used to, especially when the cops on are the alert and most of the local civilians (Moslem or otherwise) are ready to turn you in if suspicions are aroused. Many formed, or forming, al Qaeda teams have been rounded up in Western nations. But it is feared that al Qaeda could be taking the long view, and establishing "sleepers" within Western nations. Many captured al Qaeda speak of this. The sleepers are al Qaeda followers who are instructed to not act like an Islamic radical, or even conservative Moslems, but to try and get a job in law enforcement or some industry where they could eventually be in a position to do a lot of damage. Nuclear power plants are at the top of this list, but chemical factories, air ports and law enforcement agencies are also vulnerable. This is a tricky business, as it makes all Moslems suspect, as even native born Moslem-Americans have been found in al Qaeda. However, the history of counter-intelligence shows that in the past half century there have been very few examples of successful "sleepers." But they have existed, they are real.

Al Qaeda's finances have been hurt, but not destroyed. The cash for supporting terrorism is still out there, traveling through the ancient Arab cash transfer system (basically letters of credit). As long as the cash is out there, al Qaeda will be dangerous. Money buys explosives, forged documents and airplane tickets. But these cash transfer systems must operate in the open to survive. Once Western intelligence agencies decide to penetrate these outfits, they eventually will. It will take several years. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is finally cracking down on the wealthy Saudis who regularly contribute to radical Islam. But that only slows down the contributions, it doesn't stop them. 

But cash will be what will eventually kill al Qaeda. It's members, often young men, change as they get older. Access to unguarded cash has already corrupted some members of al Qaeda, and this will continue. In Afghanistan, Islamic radicalism is being harnessed to work with drug gangs, just as Marxist rebels in South America have become drug cartels. Radical organizations traditionally turn into gangsters. Remember, the Mafia started out as nationalist rebels centuries ago, and the Irish Republican Army now spends more time dealing drugs than fighting the British.

Al Qaeda will eventually morph into a Mullah led Mafia, but it will be a bloody and drawn out process.


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