Monday, May 07, 2007

Understanding Al Qaeda

The wisdom of Bruce Riedel.

One of the biggest risks I bear as a C-Span junkie is joining a program in progress. Invariably I hit a stimulating discussion when the moderator is apologizing for having "time for only two or three more questions". And that's what happened when I tuned in to a discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center this morning. There were three or four scholars behind the mic in front of the cameras; only one was fielding the remaining questions. I was transfixed. As soon as I got home, you know I had to Google him.


I had never heard of Bruce Riedel before, but he wasn't hard to find. He's Senior Fellow, of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Foreign Policy Studies. His resume? Not too shabby:
Special Advisor, NATO, Brussels, Belgium (2003-2006); Member, Royal College of Defense Studies, London, UK (2002-2003); Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs, National Security Council (2001-2002); Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs, National Security Council (1997-2001); Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs, Office of the Secretary of Defense (1995-1997); National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asian Affairs, National Intelligence Council (1993-1995); Director for Gulf and South Asia Affairs, National Security Council (1991-1993); Deputy Chief Persian Gulf Task Force, Central Intelligence Agency (1990-1991); Various assignments, Central Intelligence Agency (1977-1990)

Department of State Meritorious Honor Award, 2006; Distinguished Intelligence Medal, 2001; Secretary of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, 1997; Intelligence Medal of Merit, 1991.
Since I have no way of capturing the transcripts of this morning C-Span's broadcast, (But you can watch & listen!) I'll just parse his comments from the first Google hit I scored:
The al Qaeda organization sees Iran as one of its great enemies. This was because al Qaeda - a very strict Sunni Islamist organization - views Iran's Shia faith as apostasy.

What al Qaeda in Iraq now most fears is not the continuing deployment of American forces. They've come to the conclusion we're going to leave, whether it's in 2008 or 2009.

The terrorists' key concern is what comes afterwards and specifically the worry that Iraq will be very Shia-dominated and very closely aligned with Iran.

So they've openly talked about the advisability of getting their two great enemies to go to war with each other in the hopes that they will take each other out.

Al Qaeda would especially like a full-scale U.S. invasion and occupation of Iran, which would presumably oust the Shi'ite regime in Tehran, further antagonize Muslims worldwide and expand al Qaeda's battlefield against the United States.

The biggest danger is that al Qaeda will deliberately provoke a war with a 'false-flag' operation - say, a terrorist attack carried out in a way that would make it appear as though it were Iran's doing.

The United States should be extremely wary of such deception.In the event of an attack, accurately assigning blame will require very careful intelligence work.

In the ultimate world of al Qaeda, they envision freeing the Muslim world of Western influence and forcing Western powers out - and by that, they also mean Israel, which they see as the ultimate example of Western intrusion into the Muslim world.

During 2002, we had al Qaeda on the ropes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We should have relentlessly gone after the al Qaeda leadership. We should have put unremitting pressure on the Pakistanis to do everything they could, and we should have sourced, funded and manned the effort in Afghanistan to finish the job.

Instead, we made a mistake, a decision to go after a war in Iraq that we didn't need to fight, which diverted resources and created a cause celebre that al Qaeda has exploited quite effectively.
These are excerpts, but you get the drift. Follow the link provided above and see what I missed! If you are short on time, skip ahead to the Q & A!

15 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Messenger said...

What this says to me, is that not for nothing have I argued in the past that Iran is a natural ally of the United States in its battle to crush al Qaeda. What this also says to me is that the Shia is the natural enemy of al Qaeda within Iraq. What this also says to me, is that there is no hope for a solution to our Iraq as long as the Chimp/ferret remains in the White House.

5/07/2007 11:48:00 PM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...

"Instead, we made a mistake, a decision to go after a war in Iraq that we didn't need to fight, which diverted resources and created a cause celebre that al Qaeda has exploited quite effectively."

ABSOLUTELY!

5/08/2007 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...

Hey Vig,

You ought to come here and listen to some of the "committee" discussions here in NATO. Side talks on the issue of Al Qaeda almost always leads to the same Riedel conclusion.

5/08/2007 04:10:00 AM  
Blogger Boris said...

Messenger, you're right. We can leave Iraq to the Persian-backed Shia. Iran will see to it al Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia jihadists won't sleep until they leave. If AIPAC doesn't go along with this, fuck'em.

5/08/2007 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Blogging4Food said...

All of them, Boris? All of them?

5/08/2007 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Messenger and Boris are right. But Bush will continue to stumble around in his Commander Guy way being al Qaeda's best recuiting tool.

5/08/2007 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger FunkyTown Fighter said...

Messenger is 100% right! We need to get the Chimp and the Ferret out quick! They both make me want to throw up!

5/08/2007 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger LTE said...

Boris, I'm glad you mentioned AIPAC, but you should include Israel. It's like Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert locked arms and jumped into the toilet, dragging the rest of us with them. An Israeli government-appointed panel that examined the Lebanon war concluded that Olmert was responsible for a serious failure of judgment that sent his army into a war unprepared. The panel found that the government rushed into its war with Lebanon and Hezbollah with no detailed plan or realistic goals. It concluded that the war diminished the nation's ability to take future action in the conflict.

It appears as if Israel followed the same battle plan that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney used for Iraq.

5/08/2007 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger adynaton said...

Thanks for the link. This guy is much better than George Tenet.

5/09/2007 03:34:00 AM  
Blogger Urbanpink said...

Great post, thanks Vigilante. Totally begs for the impeachment of all the reverse-reality neocons in power, ASAP.

5/09/2007 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Did anyone hear Lott talking trash about seeing results in Iraq by the Fall?

5/09/2007 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Beach, I'm not sure what you are referring to.

But I do feel compelled to paste up Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's anti-Islamic rant during the Republican Debate, which demonstrates how little he differs from the Bush-Cheney crusade:

"We'll move everything to get him [Bin Laden]. But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch, that this is all about one person, Osama bin Laden. Because after we get him, there's going to be another and another. This is about Shi'a and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate. They also probably want to bring down the United States of America. This is a global effort we're going to have to lead to overcome this jihadist effort. It's more than Osama bin Laden. But he is going to pay, and he will die."

Juan Cole rips into Romney's jihad here.

5/10/2007 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

A few days ago Mr. Lott made some reference that our patience, and I guess he meant the GOP members of congress, could not last forever on seeing results in iraq. Since then it was reported last night that several moderate Repub members of congress had a frank talk with the Commander guy saying any real info from Iraq could not come from him but had to come from military reporting to congress. More or less in short rats fleeing a sinking ship. Of course Lott has a score to settle with Bush and Rove so i can see him making as much pain for them as possible.

5/10/2007 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Urbanpink said...

Wow, thanks for the link to Mitt Romney analysis, I just don't listen to that "we'll get 'em!" tough talk anymore and missed that conflation. Just shows we have another mental lightweight running for President. As the brilliant Bill Mauer observed on Wolf Blitzer (did someone give Wolf a labotamy?) "This has been a grand experiment for 8 years, electing the guy you want to have a beer with, but let's try to elect someone BETTER than us next time--elite is a good thing." I swear that the most visionary and effective idea regarding stopping terrorism in the Middle East thus far has come from Edwards--create SCHOOLS in Palestine/Pakistan, FEED the poor, HEAL the sick. You know, hearts and minds instead of war and death. Let's try that.

5/10/2007 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Stella said...

CSPAN junkie, huh? I try and get up to watch the Washington Journal live at 4:00 a.m. I found myself watching Henry Waxman's 3-1/2 hour CSPAN broadcast of his grilling of the military contractors in February. Some of the Senate and House hearings are fascinating. Well, now I know I'm in good company.

I like beach bum's comment: the Presidunce is the best Al-Queda recruiting tool.

5/10/2007 04:29:00 PM  

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