December 30, 2005:
In the two countries that Islamic terrorism was born in, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the terrorists are taking a beating. This is good news that doesn't get much attention, but it says much about the future of Islamic terrorism. In Egypt, the majority of the population continues to be turned off by the seemingly random violence of Islamic terrorists. The radical groups continue to survive, partly because of the fact that Palestinian Islamic terrorist groups thrive right next door in Gaza. The Palestinian terrorists are the darlings of the Moslem world because, so far, the Palestinians have concentrated on killing non-Moslems (namely Israelis and Arab Christians).
The main source of Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia, has turned on Islamic terrorism with a vengeance. Last week, Abdel-Rahman Mohammed al Suwailmi, the most wanted Islamic terrorist in the kingdom was captured. This happened after al Suwailmi went on a one-man terror spree, killing five policemen in drive-by shootings. This was the only kind of attack al Suwailmi could get together. The Saudis have a posted list of the 36 most wanted Islamic terrorists in Saudi Arabia. But 21 of those are believed to be out of the country (hiding in places like Iraq, Yemen, Europe, Syria or Iran). Of the fifteen terrorists in the kingdom, eight have been killed or captured. This is the second "most wanted" list, consisting largely of second-string al Qaeda operatives. Al Suwailmi, for example, was only 23 years old, and his main activity was propaganda and recruitment.
The first most wanted list, issued two years ago, had 26 men on it. All but one of those has been captured or killed. These men were senior al Qaeda leaders and operatives. The second-string crew have not been able to rebuild al Qaeda's terrorism operations in Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is the source of most Islamic radical rhetoric, money and volunteers. As with Egypt, once Saudis got a taste of Islamic violence, they changed their minds about supporting it.
The most effective Islamic terrorist groups are now in other countries, far from the Middle East. This week, for example, the U.S. closed its embassy in Malaysia because of terrorist threats. Malaysia has not yet suffered the kind of mindless violence Islamic terrorists often resort to. While Malaysians have seen that kind of violence in neighboring Indonesia and Philippines, many Malaysians can still maintain enthusiasm for Islamic terrorism because they have not seen it up close. This kind of experience turned Iraqis and Jordanians, previously major supporters of Islamic terrorism, into al Qaeda haters.
Islamic terrorists are aware of this image problem, and there is a, at times, public debate among the leadership over the need to avoid attacks that kill Moslems, especially women and children. Another tactic that works, is good works. Charity projects are good for the image of Islamic terrorists. This has worked in the Palestinian territories (Hamas), Lebanon (Hizbollah), and Pakistan (many groups). However, the "charity" tactic also limits your choice of targets. For the moment, Palestine, Lebanon and Pakistan remain the main training grounds, and support bases for Islamic terrorism. Getting at these bases is difficult, because of the protective "good will" the Islamic terrorists have created.
Meanwhile, the Islamic terrorists are having a hard time gaining traction in the outer areas, like Southeast Asia. There just isn't enough support there for hard core tactics. They will keep trying, even after most of their support has faded away. For the truth of the matter is that Islamic radicals have always been there, usually without enough popular support to make much of a fuss. Islam is a religion born, and initially spread, via conquest and violence. This tends to get played down, but it is real, and it's not going away until Islam undergoes some serious changes.