Friday, 2 March 2007

Worrying - and not surprising

According to a Karachi correspondent of ASIA TIMES ONLINE, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Al-Qaeda will this year significantly step up its global operations after centralizing its leadership and reviving its financial lifelines. Crucially, al-Qaeda has developed missile and rocket technology with the capability of carrying chemical, biological and nuclear warheads, according to an al-Qaeda insider.

While al-Qaeda will continue to operate in Afghanistan and Iraq, it will broaden its global perspective to include Europe and hostile Muslim states, and is ready to resume the offensive. New fronts will soon be opened in several countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, where al-Qaeda has its own command and control apparatus. The group's alliance with the Taliban in Afghanistan, however, is under strain, as the latter have struck a deal with Pakistan over mutual cooperation, which is anathema to al-Qaeda

Although al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has not made any recent public pronouncements, he is said to be active in al-Qaeda's planning. Since 2005, the al-Qaeda leadership had been talking to many groups, including Egyptians, Libyans and the takfiri camp (which calls all non-practicing Muslims infidels). Al-Qaeda paid for differences in tactics and ideology among these groups as its structure unraveled and the organization developed into an "ideology" rather than a cohesive group.

As a result, al-Qaeda's global agenda was largely shelved and the international community's financial squeeze definitely hurt. This problem has been overcome, the contact claimed. Even US intelligence agencies concede that the group's finances have improved, but they have no idea how. All the same, they have pressured Pakistan to clamp down on some charitable organizations in that country.

Several militant Islamic Libyan and Egyptian groups have joined forces with "Jamaat al-Qaeda" under the leadership of bin Laden. Now al-Qaeda has completed regrouping organisationally and financially, major operations can be planned. But to ensure that 2007 would be "the year of al-Qaeda", a "great compromise" had to be made. Before the "Mother of all Battles" [the Gulf War of 1991] bin Laden offered to help the Saudi monarchy fight Saddam Hussein's forces in Kuwait. The Saudi royalty ignored the offer and opted instead for US military assistance. The presence of American troops in the land of the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina inflamed bin Laden, and he split with the Saudi royalty.

Nevertheless, the growing influence of Shi'ite Iran in the Middle East, especially in Iraq after the US invasion of 2003 and Lebanon, concerned al-Qaeda and the anti-Shi'ite Salafi Saudi oligarchs, which included the royal family, scholars, tribes and the state apparatus. In this environment, a speech by bin Laden was aired on Al-Jazeera television in which he called the Saudi monarchy extremely corrupt, the most contemptuous aspect of which was its alliance with US interests. Having said that, he asked the Saudi monarchy to step aside, saying that the mujahideen did not at that stage want to confront it. Rather, the Saudis should leave al-Qaeda alone to fight against Americans in Iraq.

The speech was, in fact, the beginning of dialogue between al-Qaeda and the Saudi royal family through various Muslim scholars at numerous places in the Middle East. Eventually, the Saudis agreed to turn a blind eye to Maaskar al-Battar (al-Qaeda's training camp) in Saudi Arabia on condition that the fighters would not carry out any operations in Saudi Arabia and go straight to Iraq.

ASIA TIMES ONLINE’s contact said that al-Qaeda is so powerful in Saudi Arabia that the monarchy had no choice but to strike a deal. Similarly, it was al-Qaeda's choice, he said, that it concentrate this year on Iraq. The intention is to consolidate in Iraq to the extent that al-Qaeda and the "coalition of the willing" have their respective and identified occupied areas from which to fight each other. The Saudi front is thus only deferred until al-Qaeda gains sufficient ground in Iraq.

The "arrangement" between al-Qaeda and the Saudis reveals a diplomatic double-step by Saudi Arabia, which Washington considers an important ally in the "war on terror" and in helping establish a Sunni front against rising Shi'ite power in the region, led by Iran. Al-Qaeda uses Maaskar al-Battar in Saudi Arabia to train youths in guerrilla warfare, including the use of SA-7 surface-to-air missiles. Research is also conducted at the camp, as well as in Afghanistan.

This includes work on "Abeer" rockets to carry nuclear or chemical weapons. Last October, the insurgent group Islamic Army in Iraq claimed to have successfully built and tested a rocket with a range of 120 kilometers. It was named Abeer after the 14-year-old Iraqi girl raped and killed by a US soldier who last month received a jail sentence of 100 years. In video footage released online, the group said the Abeer rocket could carry a payload of 20 kilograms. Iraqi engineers linked to resistance groups are now developing Abeer rockets with upgraded accuracy and payload capabilities.

According to the ASIA TIMES ONLINE contact, basic work on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons has now been completed and the next main task is to mount them on suitable missiles - which it is hoped the upgraded Abeer now is. In the meantime, the Maaskar al-Battar camp is preparing to send an additional 10,000 trained youths into Iraq by the middle of the year.

This coincides with al-Qaeda organizing all segments of the Iraqi resistance under its umbrella. It has already declared an "Emir of the Islamic Emirates of Iraq" comprising Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Ninawa, and in other parts of the governorate of Babel. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi has been declared the emir of the state.

This development signifies that in the coming months, al-Qaeda's epicentre will shift from the Pakistani tribal areas of South Waziristan and North Waziristan to Iraq and its neighbourhood, including parts of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. It also means that the almost-independent "al-Qaeda in Iraq", once headed by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by the US, will not function as an entity.

Although many Arab fighters left Afghanistan and Pakistan after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 to join hands with the Iraqi resistance, others are now following. These include al-Qaeda's Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, who moved from Waziristan. This will further weaken the link between al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the latter's decision to strike a deal with Pakistan. According to al-Qaeda sources, it is only a matter of time before the entire al-Qaeda leadership abandons its bases in the Pakistani tribal areas and moves to the Middle East.

Previously, Iran allowed al-Qaeda members to pass through its territory on the way to Iraq or other places. But in the wake of the sectarian troubles in Iraq, Tehran is somewhat hostile toward al-Qaeda. So it remains unclear whether Iran will facilitate al-Qaeda entering Iraq and destabilizing a Shi'ite government that is pro-American, but certainly also friendly with Iran.


Richard W. Symonds said...

Hitler made a pact with Stalin, so maybe the Bush regime will make a similar pact with Al-Qaeda ?

Jose said...

The article says the Taleban have struck a deal with Pakistan, but I read that Pakistan has arrested an outstanding leader of the Taleban. News appear confusing regarding deals, sides and actions at this stage in the ME.

We have so far included all Muslims in the same threat, but perhaps it is about time to see which is which in the wider panorama of the region. The Arab ethnicity has always shown its supremacy over the rest of Islam, but Iranians are not Arab, Pakistanis , Indonesians are
not either.

Although much is said about the Islamic danger, I am afraid this is not so much so. The Arab world is very much divided and I cannot see we should anticipate that something really catastrophic may arise from all this.

I can be wrong, though, and perhaps I am, but I feel the real danger comes from those who are Islamic but who are not Arab, while the Arab world is split there is nothing much to be scared of in that connection.

My opinion as always.

anticant said...

Richard - I'm not a great one for conspiracy theories, but one of the fishiest aspects of post-9/11 is the USA's failure to capture bin Laden and his associates and put them on trial. It's pretty obvious that a deal has been done - but what sort of a deal? And the article's assertion of a de facto alliance between al Qaeda and the Saudis confirms my hunch that all these wily gents are not merely double-crossing the West, but treble-crossing us. Presumably the Americans are willing to go along with this until they have secured alternative oil supplies in Iraq and Iran.

Jose - I do not think we can afford to be complacent at the prospect of rogue groups such as al-Qaeda, who are implacably hostile towards us, getting their hands on nuclear weaponry. I think the article's scenario is highly likely - they obviously haven't been sitting twiddling their thumbs for the past five years. It may not alarm you, but it scares the hell out of me.

Richard W. Symonds said...

Western power elites - state power - are as much 'terrorists' as anybody else. "It may not alarm you, but it scares the hell out of me..."

Our 'system' (eg 'The Pentagon System') requires lies and killing to keep it propped up - and we'd be naive to think otherwise.

We need to look closer to home for the real enemy

anticant said...

It's naive to imagine that even dangerously corrupt governments such as we currently have in the UK and US are a greater threat than nuclear weapons in the hands of fanatical Islamists. The governments can and will be removed; the weapons will almost certainly be used against us sooner rather than later.

Yankee Doodle said...

Jose, Arab Imperialism first began under the banner of Islam. As more peoples were assimilated, it became Islamic Imperialism. Now the Saudis, backing Wahhabism with petrodollars, are rearabizing the Islamic World. I write about this at my blog.

Anticant, I did a post about this topic today, also. I'm linking to yours.

Jose said...

The Arab imperialism you are talking of, yankee doodle, was a diametrically opposite culture. The Arabs who invaded Spain permitted the coexistence of Christians and Jews with Muslims, something that is not happening in our days. And something that Christians did not permit after the Reconquest. As you may know Jews and Arabs were expelled if they did not abjure their faiths.

Corruption in the high spheres of most Arab countries will not allow for a union among Arabs, strong-fisted leaders in the most important nations will rein in any type of revolution that may emerge from the people.

Yankee Doodle said...


You've got a lot of good points. Let me just address a couple of things.

1) The idea that under Islam Christians and Jews lived peacefully with Muslims is to a great extent a politically correct fairly tale. Yes, there were isolated examples where this was so, in certain places at certain times. But, most of the time, other religions were oppressed and suppressed under Islam, as the Koran directs. And, for every example of peaceful coexistence one can point to at least one example of brutal persecution.

2) I of course offer no excuse for any excesses done when the tables were turning during the Reconquista. I would like to point out, however, that past behavior on the part of its enemies, whether such behavior (or even such enemies) be real or imagined, has often served as justification in the Islamic World for continuing the jihad with increased brutality.

When much of the Islamic World makes noise about defensive jihad, they are often defending themselves against exagerrated insults (like cartoons) or events that occurred long ago (like when Bin Laden declared in the early 1990s the need to defend against the Crusaders).

3) True that what we consider the Arab World is highly divided, despite certain pan-Arab ideologies that have been advocated. My point is an economic imperialism of the Islamic World, in which Saudi Arabia's petrocash is used to spread Saudi Arabia's radical, hateful brand of Islam, Wahhabism, which many Muslims consider to be simple Kharajism. Thus, I am not implying that Mubarak, Assad and the kings of Morocco and Jordan are in favor of this; I am pointing out that the Saudi Royal Family and its religious elite allies are seeking a Wahhabi Muslim empire that is in large extent controlled by the Saudi Arabs.

That's why at my blog I often refer to the Saudis as Saudzilla -- nobody seems to have the guts to stop them.

anticant said...

What's even more worrying is that no-one in office in the West seems to WANT to stop them - certainly not Bush or Blair, who count the Saudi princes as their dearest Muslim friends. Blair's halting the BAeS corruption/Saudi slush fund investigation as "against the public interest" speaks volumes. If, as the article I reposted suggests, the Saudis are now in cahoots with al-Qaeda, the unfolding scenario is nightmarish. [My belief, in fact, is that they always were.]

Yankee Doodle said...

I've been hammering the US government on this very issue in recent posts -- just got done with another one regarding Pakistan.

By the way -- I linked to you! Excellent blog!