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A blog on terrorism, democracy and international politics

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Spain's place in Al-Qaeda's strategy 

Spanish voters who hoped to make themselves safe from terror attacks by supporting Zapatero in March 2004 are no doubt disappointed to discover that Islamic terrorism is still active in their country.

On Friday, another bomb (which may or may not have been placed by the same people who initiated the 11th March wave of attacks) was found on the train line between the capital Madrid and the city of Seville in southern Spain. Today three Northern African terror suspects detonated a bomb while chanting in Arabic when police raided their apartment. The bomb killed all three suspects and a police officer.

The recent discovery of a cache of ammonium nitrate (one of two ingredients of massively destructive but easily produced ANFO bombs) in Britain also underlines the importance of the terrorist strategy document discovered by Norway's Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt (FFI). It would appear that al-Qaeda is attempting to force the allies from Iraq one at a time by means of terrorist attacks designed to alter those countries' internal political dynamics. The Islamist strategy document states that the road to British withdrawal from Iraq lies through Spain.

Some commentators have implied that Islamic militants have only now 'discovered' their ability to impact on the politics of their targets in this way. In writing my thesis on al-Qaeda in 2003, I found that this is in fact at the core of al-Qaeda's methodological model. Al-Qaeda - including its allies in the 'Arab-Afghan' diaspora - genuinely believes that the Soviet Union fell as a consequence of the application of 'correct' theory by the foreign Mujahideen in Afghanistan. This theory states that just as Muhammad and his Al-Salaf al-salih (pious predecessor) companions migrated from pagan Mecca (the Hijra or migration/flight) to establish the ideal Muslim community in Yathrib (Medina), so Afghanistan was the ideal destination for Hijra (until the American-led coalition invaded in 2001.) Applying their new theory to new conditions, al-Qaeda leaders have repeatedly predicted that by attacking Western/American interests, they could drive the West out of lands they 'occupied' (such as Saudi Arabia) thereby destroying America as a Superpower. Similarly, Jemaah Islamiya believes Australia will cease to exist within ten years, and Indonesia will be thrown into civil war as a result of Australia's terrorism-induced collapse.

Al-Qaeda's current objective is to render Iraq ungovernable by destroying all external and internal forms of support for non-Salafi-Islamic government. Note that this does not necessarily mean al-Qaeda aims to found a new Salafist Islamic government in Iraq. Al-Qaeda did not respect the laws of the Taliban - with which it had significant theological differences - rather the group exploited the opportunity to work undisturbed in those areas controlled by the Taliban - just as al-Qaeda's Kurdish wing, Ansar al-Islam, operated in Iraqi Kurdistan under the protection of the no-fly zone. As Medina/Yathrib was used as a base from which to build up strength, resulting in the reconquest of Mecca eight years after the Hijra, so Iraq is to be used as a base for training and organisation against al-Qaeda's enemies in Europe, America, Australia, the Middle East - indeed, everywhere.

By helping al-Qaeda to achieve that goal, Spain has taken us all one step closer to the nightmare scenario of a failed post-Coalition Iraq. The world community must provide Iraq with all the support it needs until it can genuinely govern itself.

Salafis have always adhered to the principle that 'nothing succeeds like success'. The recent events in Spain must surely have boosted al-Qaeda's standing within Jihad Salafi circles and in the Salafi community in general.
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