September 18, 2003


Al-Qaeda turns against Pakistan, Saudi Arabia (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 9/18/03, Asia Times)

Asia Times Online investigations, based on interviews with intelligence sources of various backgrounds, police experts and decisionmakers, reveal that in the two years since September 11, when the US vowed to eliminate bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the terror organization has suffered numerous setbacks, but it has been forced to redefine its operations, tactics and targets.

Bin Laden's International Islamic Front, an umbrella organization for jihadi terrorist organizations of which al-Qaeda is an element, has focused its attention primarily on attacking US and Western interests in a number of countries, and this will continue.

For al-Qaeda in particular, though, it has been badly affected by a change of fortunes in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, where it had enjoyed what amounted to a truce, if not active support from some quarters. A number of al-Qaeda suspects are now believed to be in Saudi jails, while in Pakistan, which has come under intense US pressure, the blind eye that once gazed on al-Qaeda is now looking with 20-20 vision.

As a direct result of this, al-Qaeda will open a new front in these two countries. Indeed, the "ceasefire" that it followed in Saudi Arabia - bin Laden's country of birth - has already been broken.

Among the 14,000 male members of the Saudi royal family there is a strong but sidelined lobby of princes who support bin Laden. They do not necessarily agree with his strict Wahhabi agenda, rather, they seek to use him as a means of getting at the ruling elite. In terms of its new mission,
al-Qaeda will actively play along with this. After all, if nothing else, it still needs the funds that apparently flow from its supporters in the kingdom. In Pakistan, too, the knives, literally, are going to be drawn. From the early stages of the "war on terror", al-Qaeda and the Taliban were assured by Pakistan that the country would wear two faces - one acceptable to the US, the other friendly towards al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the latter, especially, having enjoyed long-time support from Pakistan. As a result, President General Pervez Musharraf made much of his alliance with counterpart George W Bush on the international stage, while on the domestic front the crackdown on terror was token, at best.

This changed, though, and in time, whether through US insistence or for another agenda, Musharraf's crackdown has begun to bite. And it hurts. In the past, Pakistan has figured only as a transitory port for al-Qaeda, and its members have not been involved in any operations in the country - neither the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl nor the Sheraton bomb blast in which a number of French civilian workers were killed. These and other missions were carried out by local groups. Indeed, only one Pakistani is known to have entered into the ranks of al-Qaeda. [...]

At present, according to the contacts that Asia Times Online spoke to, there is a realization in al-Qaeda that Musharraf is their only enemy in the country as he is the one now orchestrating the crackdown. Remove him, they argue, and the environment will once again be favorable to them. As a result, according to these same well-placed sources, Musharraf has been pencilled in at the top of al-Qaeda's hit list, and attempts on his life can be
expected in the near future.

There's no downside for us in al Qaeda turning the two countries whose cooperation we need most in the War on Terror --help we've had the most trouble gaining--into their main targets. The enemy is providing the incentive for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to finally crack down and that's all to the good. It could be argued that there's a worst case scenario, where General Musharraf falls and is replaced by an extremist government, but this may well be the best case scenario. Pakistan which now has Kashmiri, Chechen, and Taliban terrorists operating from within its borders has India to its East and South, Russia to its North, Afghanistan to its West, and the US overhead, off its coast, and on land to its West and North. Let an Islamicist government take control there and you'd have a completely encircled free-fire zone. Al Qaeda is
turning its own safe haven into a Dien Bien Phu.

Memo to Osamaists: if you're preparing for the final glorious apocalyptic battle against the infidel, you may not want to choose terrain where you're surrounded by three different hostile nuclear powers.

  Israel and India: An alliance forged by terror (Stephen Brown, September 17, 2003,

Terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last Tuesday that cost 15 people their lives served to emphasize the importance of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's historic, four-day state visit to India last week. Sharon, the first Israeli prime minister ever to visit the South Asian giant, was in New Delhi to strengthen the strategic ties between the two countries in the War on Terror, his visit symbolizing the close relations India and Israel have been developing over the past few years.

For both countries, it is a natural alliance; they see themselves facing some of the same problems vis-a-vis Islamic terrorism, such as cross-border infiltration, disputed territory and threatened annihilation. Like with the West Bank, Islamic extremists in South Asia have made it clear they will not stop with the "liberation" of Kashmir, the Muslim-majority Indian state they want to sever from India. Thereafter, their stated goal is to set up two more Islamic states in northern and southern India for the Muslims living there, having in store for India and Hinduism the same fate they intend for Israel and Judaism in the Middle East - total eradication.

For this reason, a major topic of Sharon's visit concerned Israeli aid for the insurgency war India is fighting in Kashmir. As a result, it is reported India will now buy sophisticated Israeli surveillance equipment to monitor cross-border infiltration from Pakistan as well as new assault rifles for the "lethal platoons" it is planning for its army. These measures are in addition to the 3,000 soldiers that, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post last February, India is sending to Israel for special counter-insurgency training. The report added these troops will serve in Kashmir upon their return.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 18, 2003 8:54 AM

I see India as a potential superpower in the 21st century. The world's largest democracy, talented people - most of whom now flee India - to become successful in where ever they wind up - Africa, commonwealth countries, etc.

An alliance between India and Israel is a natural. It would be a potent alliance and do severe damage to the world's terrorists.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at September 18, 2003 9:34 AM

Mr. Judd;

I fail to see why Pakistan is a bad choice for the final apocalyptic battle between Al Qaeda and the infidels. If your real goal is to immanetize the eschaton, setting up a situation where only divine intervention can carry the day would seem to be the best strategy. On the other side, if your cause has lost divine favor, maybe you're better off dead.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 18, 2003 9:45 AM

Is there really any remaining doubt about whose side God is on?

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2003 9:53 AM

If Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are really going to war with al Qaeda, with whom they used to be allies (Pakistan) or closet supporters (Saudi), then this is an incredible diplomatic triumph for the U.S. and Colin Powell.

Posted by: pj at September 18, 2003 10:42 AM

Al Qaeda's responsible, not us.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2003 10:48 AM