Jump to content
Clubplanet Nightlife Community

Acknowledging Victory


Recommended Posts

June 2, 2003, 9:15 a.m.

Acknowledging Victory

And recognizing the remaining threat.

By Amir Taheri

he first thing to note about the latest terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco is that few in the leadership of the two Arab monarchies expected them. Saudi leaders had assumed that the kingdom would not be attacked because of an old pledge by Osama bin Laden not to harm his native homeland. The Saudi sense of security had increased as a result of Washington's decision last month to withdraw the 5,000 U.S. troops stationed in the kingdom, thus meeting one of bin Laden's demands.

Morocco felt safe if only because, for a decade, it had turned a blind eye to the activities of groups that have killed some 100,000 people in neighboring Algeria. (Moroccan secret services may even have helped some of the groups to settle old scores with Algeria.)

Saudi Arabia and Morocco now know that, as far as terrorism is concerned, they are in the same boat as the "infidel" powers, notably the United States and Britain. It is not enough for Saudi Arabia to observe the most severe version of Islam to escape the wrath of the self-styled custodians of the faith. Nor is Morocco safe because its king advertises himself as a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad.

The terror that the world faces cannot be understood in theological terms. That its perpetrators claim to represent Islam is neither here nor there. (Proving a thousand times that Islam is not what they say it is will change nothing.) Nor is it about the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, or Palestine or poverty or "Arab humiliation," whatever that means.

The only way to deal with them is to treat them as the criminals they are.

But do the latest attacks indicate the return of al Qaeda, as some experts suggest? Not necessarily. Al Qaeda did not invent suicide bombing.

The Lebanese Hezbollah, created by Iran and backed by Syria, introduced it in the Muslim world in 1982. (Hezbollah suicide bombers killed over 1,000 people, including 251 U.S. Marines and 62 French paratroopers in a series of attacks in Lebanon in the 1980s.)

Two Algerian terrorist gangs, the Salafi Group for Preaching and Armed Jihad (SGPAJ) and the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA) have also used the tactic since 1992, claiming thousands of victims.

Copycat suicide bombings have also come from Islamist groups in Pakistan, India, Indian-held Kashmir, Russia, Chechnya, and, of course, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Al Qaeda may well be a shorthand term for Islamist terrorism. But there is no evidence that the latest attacks came from al Qaeda, which is one of more than a dozen Islamist terror groups present in various countries.

The only time those groups came together was in Khartoum in March 1993 in a conference that elected a nine-man leadership. Bin Laden was one of the nine, along with militant figures from Algeria, Tunisia, the Sudan, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Judging by the internal debate within the Islamist terror movement, al Qaeda is in disarray, its remaining leaders on the run. Other Islamist terror organizations, however, remain intact. It is important that they, too, be targeted with the same determination as shown against al Qaeda since Sept. 11, 2001 Despite their dramatic impact the latest attacks may well represent the last gasps of the monster of international Islamist terrorism. In fact acts of international terrorism fell by almost half from 2001 to 2002 — for the lowest figure since 1969.

Most centers for the study of global terrorism report unprecedented calm on that front. Their analysis is backed by the latest annual State Department report and an interim study, to be submitted next month to the G-8 summit in Annecy, France, next month.

There were 199 "acts of global terrorism" in 2002.

There were no acts of terror in the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia, designated as special targets by al Qaeda.

Almost 100 of the acts came in five Asian countries: the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and Pakistan. Latin America recorded 50 attacks, but half were in one country: Colombia.

The Middle East saw 29 attacks, all but seven in the Palestinian territories and Israel. There were nine attacks in Western Europe and five in Africa.

The only place where attacks on American targets increased was Colombia, where local guerrillas bombed a pipeline owned by a U.S. oil company on 41 occasions.

There were only two spectacular attacks: the Bali discotheque bombing, where over 200 people died, mostly Australians, and an attack in Tunisia, where a suicide-bomber killed 23 mostly German tourists near a synagogue. The dreaded attacks with "dirty bombs" did not take place.

Several factors explain what looks like a strategic setback for global terror. These include the major powers' efforts to dry up terrorist groups' funding.

The terrorists have also lost many bases including in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The tide may be turning against global terror. But, as the latest attacks show, this does not justify complacency. A good part of that victory was due to vigilance.

Various governments loath revealing the number of terrorist attacks nipped in the bud or stopped in time. Where some numbers are given (as in Pakistan, Israel, and France), we see that the underlying curve of terror is not falling as sharply as figures for recorded attacks suggest.

There are still many terrorists out there, plotting attacks. Americans may still have to keep their duct tape handy. But this should not prevent us from acknowledging what is a spectacular victory over the monster of global terror.

— Amir Taheri is the Iranian author of ten books on the Middle East and Islam. Taheri is available through www.benadorassociates.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...