The Next Strike; Will Al Qaeda Attack the Political Conventions?

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 23, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Next Strike; Will Al Qaeda Attack the Political Conventions?


Byline: Walid Phares, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

One of the heaviest questions in the realm of homeland security these days centers on the possibility that al Qaeda cells are targeting the American political process, starting with the upcoming political conventions. This threat is accompanied with the deployment of tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel from Boston to Manhattan.

Many within counterterrorism circles point to the Madrid attacks in the spring as a perfect example as to how al Qaeda subverted the Spanish election process. Indeed, the al Qaeda strikes derailed the Spanish commitment to Iraq, and as a ripple effect, weakened the coalition of the willing.

Does al Qaeda really think in political terms or just ideological ones? Do they study the political system inside each of their enemy states and examine the tools before they strike, or is this a stretch of the experts' imaginations?

I believe that the jihadists have a sophisticated view of their enemies; hence, they do aim at the internal political processes of the systems they fight against. Political conventions are targets, but not the only ones, not at all times, and only when the terrorists' objective is locked in their crosshairs.

Historically, jihadists draw from examples where infidels have been pit against other infidels. To bring them down is the will of Allah, they postulate. How to do it, and in what circumstances, is the job of the jihadi strategic planners. From Sudan to Afghanistan, jihadi tactics have reaked havoc among their opponents' unity. Even the "Ghazwa" (raids) of New York and Washington were aimed at provoking chaos within the United States. Al Qaeda's masters have a thorough knowledge of American political institutions and of U.S. political culture. Jihadi intellectuals have lived here, visited this country and are constantly keeping themselves abreast of our nation's state of mind.

Osama bin Laden wanted to create a deep division in the United States as a result of his mass killing of 3,000 men and women in less than 30 minutes in 2001. He may have miscalculated on the timing, but here we are three years after the attacks, and, indeed, the American political establishment is split on the war on terror and on Iraq. The Madrid attacks reaffirmed this winning formula in al Qaeda's mind. By striking well, with good timing, you've got the infidels reacting as you wish, think these jihadists. …

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