Some interesting trends in the war on terrorism. Trends are often difficult to make out in this murky conflict, but the recent release of an audio message from Osama bin Laden on April 23rd, and a few days later, a rare video from Abu Musab al Zarqawi delivered the same message. Both sent out signals that failed to connect. Bin Laden urged his followers to go to Sudan and Israel and support the fight against Jews and Christian "crusaders." In Sudan, bin Laden was offering his services to kill Western peacekeepers that have not yet shown up in western Sudan (Darfur), where northern (largely Arab) Sudanese Moslems are killing southern (largely black African) Sudanese Moslems. Islamic radicals in Palestine (Hamas) and Sudan (the government) promptly and publicly rejected bin Laden's offer. This is a visible, to Western eyes, example of how Bin Laden's vision, of using Islamic terror to accomplish anything, has been discredited in the Islamic world. This shift in opinion was played out in Moslem media over the last three years, as Islamic terrorism was applied to Islamic populations in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The end result was that Islamic terrorism was no longer fashionable. Bin Laden is still something of a folk hero, but in the same iconic way that Che Guevara on a t-shirt or poster is. Ignored, but not forgotten.
Bin Laden wannabe Abu Musab al Zarqawi followed with a video, where he urged Iraqi Sunni Arabs to buck up and get on with the war against "foreign occupiers" and the blasphemous (elected) government of Iraq. Zarqawi was basically pleading for the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to stop joining the government. This reflects the shift in Sunni Arab attitudes, against al Qaeda, in the last year. In an attempt to preserve it as a viable movement, Zarqawi has been demoted from commander of al Qaeda in Iraq, to figurehead and pitch man. Technically, Zarqawi is supposed to be the military commander of al Qaeda in Iraq. Given the number of Sunni Arabs Zarqawi has killed, and the hatred all Iraqis feel towards him, it's more likely that Zarqawi spends most of his time just trying to stay alive.
There is still terrorism in Iraq, and the terrorists still know how to play the media. The terrorists know that each bombing, if carried out in Baghdad, where the Western journalists can hear it, will get reported. But the trend in bombings is down. This doesn't get reported, because it doesn't make a loud noise. But you can hear it in bin Laden's and Zarqawi's voices.
All this happened in the same week that Islamic terrorists bombed an Egyptian tourist resort, and, two days later, foreign peace monitors and Egyptian police along the Israeli border. These last two attacks, using suicide bombers, failed, leaving only the bombers dead. Ten arrests have been made, mostly of known Islamic radicals from among the Bedouin population in the Sinai. The "official" Islamic radical organizations in the area (the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood and the Palestinian Hamas) loudly condemned the terrorist attacks. An earlier generation of the Moslem Brotherhood tried to use terrorism against the Egyptian government and lost. Those terrorists that survived went off to help establish al Qaeda. Hamas just got elected (due to a fluke, not a majority) as the government of the Palestine Authority, and has its terror operations on hold for the moment. The attacks in Egypt have been carried out by one of more splinter groups that have not picked up on the attitude shifts in the Moslem world.
Many Moslems still support terrorism, just not in their neighborhood. But after watching what happened in Iraq and Saudi Arabia since 2003, Moslems can no longer be assured that, once unleashed, Islamic terrorism will only be carried out somewhere else. Moreover, years of al Qaeda boasting have failed the reality check. No amount of hot air and spin will change the fact that al Qaeda has accomplished none of its goals, and has gotten lots of Moslems killed in the process.
Al Qaeda may not be destroyed, but they are defeated. Bin Laden and Zarqawi just said so.