Monday, March 15, 2004

"Al-Qaida ... will be emboldened"

"The Guardian" today offers this frank nut-graph about the Madrid murders and their political aftermath:
Al-Qaida and its sympathisers will be emboldened by the impact of what is now assumed to be its first attack in western Europe. The governing party has lost the election and Spain is planning to pull its troops out of Iraq.

If it was al-Qaida, Spain will have become the first country "to have a prime minister owing his position to Bin Laden," said Jonathan Eyal, the director of studies at the London-based Royal United Services Institute.

And it offers this assessment from Rohan Gunaratna, "author of Inside al-Qaida, one of the most detailed accounts of the organisation to be published":

"The al-Qaida strategy is to isolate the US because the US has, by building a coalition, weakened al-Qaida. One way to isolate the US is to target the countries helping the US. You can see they have attacked the British in Turkey, the French in Karachi, the Australians in Bali and the Italians in Iraq."

It's unlikely that even "success-addicts" like the Islamists anticipated succeeding as spectacularly as they have in the past week, but they certainly had an inkling this was possible, given their conviction of the "softness" of the West. The "Guardian" article (citing Spain's "La Razón") notes that such a double-barrelled victory -- in carnage and at the polls -- had been outlined in December, by the "Institute of Information in Support of the Iraqi People," one of the anti-American organizations operation in that country.

The Arabic language document suggested attacks in Iraq rather than in Spain, but predicted accurately what the outcome on the Spanish elections would be. "We believe that the Spanish government will not be able to resist more than two or three attacks, after which they would be obliged to withdraw as a result of popular pressure," it said.

"If their troops remain in Iraq after the attacks, a Socialist victory is practically guaranteed and withdrawal of the troops will feature in its election manifesto."

It added ominously: "The withdrawal of Spanish or Italian forces from Iraq would produce tremendous pressure on the British presence [in Iraq], a pressure that Tony Blair would not be able to withstand."