November 22, 2005


Terror tactics turning away former al-Qaida supporters (Hannah Allam, 11/22/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Today's insurgency in neighboring Iraq is unfamiliar to Jordanian villagers who said they simply wanted to defend fellow Muslims from foreign invaders. Now they're trying to figure out how blowing up innocent Arabs at a hotel wedding reception - as suspected Iraqi bombers did in Amman, the Jordanian capital, earlier this month - became an accepted means of resistance. The pride they took in sending two of their own to Iraq is mixed with confusion over whether their holy warriors may have become terrorists.

"I don't believe in al-Qaida anymore. Boom. It's finished," said Adnan Badran, 37, the older brother of the Irbid man who fought in Iraq and hasn't returned. He traced the rim of a cup of Turkish coffee with his finger and gazed at the floor.

"I think maybe there is no jihad anymore," he said sadly.

The change of heart by these once-enthusiastic supporters of jihad - holy war - suggests that Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who claimed responsibility for the hotel bombings, has miscalculated. While Bush administration policies in the Middle East remain deeply unpopular, al Zarqawi's tactics are soiling his image among potential foot soldiers. If Hikmet and Badran are any example, the region may not provide fertile ground for the radical Islam and terrorism that Americans fear most.

In his terrific new book, The Far Enemy, Fawaz Gerges writes about the crisis, largely hidden from our Western eyes, within the jihadist movement that was brought on by 9-11. Al Qaeda's transnationalist jihad against the "far enemy," America, offers some visceral thrills, but since it does nothing to reform the regimes that Arab Muslims live under and, therefore, nothing to improve their lives, it doesn't attract foot soldiers. Meanwhile, the increasing focus of the jihadis in Iraq on blowing up fellow Muslims, even if they are Shi'ites and Kurds, is hardly a selling point. But start blowing up other Sunni Arabs and on what possible ground would people support you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 22, 2005 1:50 PM

But . . . but . . . but . . . they're the minutemen, the true patriots . . . the freedom fighters . . . aren't they?

Posted by: Mike Morley at November 22, 2005 7:22 PM