Terrorism: May 1, 2005


Despite fears that Al-Qaeda is plotting something major in Europe or even the United States, the most likely venue for a spectacular attack remains in Central Asia or the Middle East, with Pakistan a very likely target. Al-Qaeda networks in the West have been seriously damaged, while they remain more or less intact across the Islamic world, and particularly so in Pakistan, where its possible to secure support from tribes that have never been fully under anyone's control. The US embassy in Pakistan is an obvious target, as are the very large number of Americans in the country and in several adjacent countries.

Islamic radicals are known to be working in the Arab-descended communities in many Latin American countries, aided by the porous frontiers, such as in the notorious "three borders" region, where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet. The Islamic radicals have been able to raise  some money from Latin American Arabs, often through bogus "charities." But the extent to which they have been able to recruit active supporters is harder to gauge. In some countries, such as Bolivia and Paraguay, recruiting efforts have been reported to the police, who have been able to take action. One factor hampering the Islamic radicals in the region is that many of the Arab immigrants to Latin America were Christians, and those who were Moslems often became secularized, in an environment where they found very few co-religionists.

There's been much chatter lately about how Iraq is, "another Vietnam." Those who push that line are making it up as they go along. Fixating on Vietnam is bankable for pundits on the make. But what's going on in the Middle East is not some civil war in the aftermath of decolonialzation, and attempts by a new ideology to spread its influence. Iraq is all about the ancient battle between Shia and Sunni (which is tied up in still more local social and cultural conflicts), and attempts of the locals to get out of the retro rut they've been stuck in. It's finally sinking in that the glory days of Arabia Ascendant are not coming back. Only took about a thousand years for the message to sink in. The diehards who are willing to do anything to reestablish the Caliphate will play with bombs as long as they can, but the longer they do it in the Middle East, the quicker they destroy their own base. That's what Iraq is.


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