Counter-Terrorism: Bad Actors

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December 27, 2007: In Iraq, U.S. forces killed or captured 40 al Qaeda operatives in November, including a Syrian, Abu Maysara, who was the author of terrorist training manuals, and in charge of propaganda. Al Qaeda admitted Abu Maysara's death, and the guy who made the announcement via an audio recording, identified himself as Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq. However, interrogations of several senior al Qaeda captives has revealed that "Abu Omar al Baghdadi" is just a name. No such person exists. But this fictional al Baghdadi is described, by al Qaeda, as an Iraqi, and his audio messages are read by an actor. Al Qaeda likes to play down the fact that "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is staffed, and run by, foreigners. This means little to most Iraqis, who hate al Qaeda no matter where the killers come from.

But al Qaeda survives in Iraq, despite the attacks from Sunni and Shia militias, as well as U.S. troops and government security forces. Iraq is still a magnet for Islamic radicals throughout the Middle East. Keep in mind that most of these al Qaeda volunteers expect to be killed, so increased prospects of dying doesn't discourage them. As a result, the U.S. has adopted the Israeli tactic of concentrating on the leadership and technicians. These are the skilled people required to plan a suicide bombing attack (find a target that is not heavily guarded, build the bomb, recruit and train the bomber, and then get the bomber to the target for the attack). Without these "technicians", the attacks don't happen. That's how the Israelis stopped the Palestinian terror campaign cold after a few years. The Palestinians have been stymied for over two years now, and most have lost faith in the use of terror attacks on civilians.

The Israelis have one big advantage the Iraqis don't; they can literally wall off the Palestinian population from Israel. The Iraqi Kurds have done the same thing to their Arab neighbors, and achieved the same result as the Israelis; no terrorist attacks in northern Iraq. But in the rest of Iraq, there are still many neighborhoods and villages where people will look the other way as suicide bombers prepare their attacks. Thus these attacks will go on for years, although never again at the earlier rate. This has been the pattern in other Arab countries that have recently suffered from Islamic terror attacks. Iraq has proved to be no different.

 


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