UPDATED: Increasing animosity towards AQ a result of Iraq war?


Abul Taher’s UK Times Online article today – al Qaeda: The cracks begin to show – is yet another in successive articles that document the growing disfavor of the jihad movements because of their brutal rules of engagement. While the iconic villains remain Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri, the shared goals by other movements who are not card carrying AQ associate members, are not excluded in the world’s growing disenchantment with jihad in general.

Taher’s article is a nicely written overview of a subject many of us are already aware of. Certainly worthy of a personal read from end to end. Touched on are increasing sermons from Mosque pulpits, condemning the murders of fellow Muslims;  AQ’s increasingly desperate attempts to replace their dwindling suicide bomber numbers by reaching out to 13 year olds (plus the disabled and women he neglected to mention);  and polls in Pakistan showing support for the suicide bombings dropping from 1/3 to about 9%. I guess there’s nothing like having those bombs in your back yard to alter your opinion

But since the subject of AQ’s popularity decline has been documented here at FA many times before, I’d like to take this off tangent for interactive speculation by FA readers. And this involves a certain amount of “what if’s”,  peppered by scads of parallel universe imagination. These are the scenarios:

1: Had the US not gone into Afghanistan and removed the Taliban (not AQ, the Taliban) for harboring and abetting AQ – would this trend against jihad be in play today?

2: Had the US gone into Afghanistan and quit there, would this trend be in play?

3: Do you think the events of Iraq are the prime factor driving this trend?


UPDATE:  AJ Strata at The Stratasphere has a post today echoing my thoughts, but sans the solicited “exercise” I propose here. 

But to garner the news headlines it required to win the war against the will and determination of America, something Bin Laden predicted would fail, something he assumed would fail, al-Qaeda started to indiscriminately massacre – killing thousands of Iraqi Muslims in the process. When the Iraqis started to raise objections, they were killed in the most gruesome ways in order to bring them back in line under the rule of al-Qaeda’s foreign thugs. It was these atrocities against fellow Muslims which turned al-Qaeda’s support base against it.

Per AJ, like myself, no Iraq, no backlash against al Qaeda as we see today. But he adds another interesting tidbit. A NY Daily Times article by Paul Cruickshank today that calls out to the future POTUS candidates.  In his final paragraph, he points out that seizing this opportunity is a must.

This is the new world in which we are living. If Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are to make strong national security cases for their candidacies, they must both come to terms with this new strategic reality – and propose steps for how to isolate Al Qaeda further.

Indeed, this new rebellion against jihad is the most significant progress in winning hearts and minds, thus offering the best bet to minimize future attacks by terrorists. But the American public must be re’educated – taught that singular events are merely a radar blip on the overall strategy.


Back to the exercise. I’ll pass on my own opine… just ‘cus I brung it up…  and let the rest of you take it from there.

There was no doubt in my mind that the US had sat back and allowed increasing assaults by jihad movements on US assets for far too long. After an attack on our soil – designed  to bring us to our economic knees (WTC economic center) and  to cripple our military response (Pentagon and the WH or Congress) –  Afghanistan was necessary and correct.  There is little divide in the US, or even the world on that action.

However after Afghanistan was when AQ enjoyed some of it’s greatest popularity… a resentment of the US and it’s military response by bolding invading and instigating regime change in an Arab nation. Had we stopped there, I suggest that popularity for jihad would never have waned.

When the US took on Iraq as the next feasible nest for the scattered jihad movements, again the jihad movement enjoyed a surge in popularity. Yet as the US made slow headway, and the Iraqis showed genuine intent and bravery to try and create an Arab democracy of their own choosing, the jihad movement and Iraq’s internal displaced power brokers –  Ba’athist/ex-IIS allies – became increasingly desperate.

The mutually shared goal of the new Iraq minority plus jihad militants created a doomed alliance.  They focused on attempts to create civil war chaos in order to bring down the elected government.  This, however, required Muslim on Muslim warfare, and the destruction of historic places of worship.

In short, IMHO, were it not for Iraq, the Muslim world at large would not have seen the very brutal and un-Islamic nature of the jihad movement. Without Iraq, jihad would most likely still hold a revered place in Muslims’ hearts as the epitome of religious freedom fighters.

With these thoughts, and in hindsight, my only conclusion can be that this rise up against jihad by Muslims themselves was only possible with the Iraq war – which showed the true colors of the militants . And what say ye? 

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Interesting challenge!

2: Had the US gone into Afghanistan and quit there, would this trend be in play?

This is a question that I haven’t resolved in my own head, yet. I have no doubt that if Saddam were still in power, he and his murderous sons would be an even greater menace today; especially if sanctions were lifted by now.

But after Afghanistan, with 80% of the leadership killed or captured, with some Islamist leaders critical of Zawahiri and bin Laden for having angered a “sleeping giant”, directly resulting in the loss of the Taliban which was perhaps the closest thing to a perfect Islamic state…

…I don’t know.

3: Do you think the events of Iraq are the prime factor driving this trend?

I think Iraq has been a prime factor in exposing al Qaeda as the “dead-end evil-doers” that they are. Even in the eyes of some Islamists who are now 2nd-guessing if violent jihad is the right path, now that they’ve witnessed it in practice. More Muslims have been killed at the hands of Islamic terrorists than by U.S. hands. And even many Islamic fundamentalists are not “Islamic enough” for the Islamic purists who don’t tolerate the narrowing definition of how a true Muslim must live his life. This has worked toward marginalizing and delegitimizing the jihad movement. That coupled with their military defeats.

If not for the propaganda exploitation of abu Ghraib, I think it could have happened much sooner.

Had we stopped there, I suggest that popularity for jihad would never have waned.

I’m inclined to believe you are right. Iraq became a battleground for conflicting ideologies, and in the end, I think the jihadis lost the hearts and minds of many in the Muslim world as they witnessesd on a public stage, jihadis in action murdering innocent Iraqis and losing militarily to the U.S. and Coalition forces. And they’ve forced Islamic radicals to rethink, reflect, and doubt.

Looks like Dr. Fadl learned the meaning of Michael Scheuer and Ron Paul’s “blowback”:

Fadl acknowledges that “terrorizing the enemy is a legitimate duty”; however, he points out, “legitimate terror” has many constraints. Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks in America, London, and Madrid were wrong, because they were based on nationality, a form of indiscriminate slaughter forbidden by Islam. In his Al Hayat interview, Fadl labels 9/11 “a catastrophe for Muslims,” because Al Qaeda’s actions “caused the death of tens of thousands of Muslims—Arabs, Afghans, Pakistanis and others.”

The most original argument in the book and the interview is Fadl’s assertion that the hijackers of 9/11 “betrayed the enemy,” because they had been given U.S. visas, which are a contract of protection. “The followers of bin Laden entered the United States with his knowledge, and on his orders double-crossed its population, killing and destroying,” Fadl continues. “The Prophet—God’s prayer and peace be upon him—said, ‘On the Day of Judgment, every double-crosser will have a banner up his anus proportionate to his treachery.’ ”

At one point, Fadl observes, “People hate America, and the Islamist movements feel their hatred and their impotence. Ramming America has become the shortest road to fame and leadership among the Arabs and Muslims. But what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy’s buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours? . . . That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11.”

This is my starter.

Fact: September 11th, decapitation strike. The WTC attack to undermine the financial markets. The Pentagon strike was a back up for failing to find the WH.

What if #1 – No Afghan campaign: The impact would have been tremendous. The inability to strike back would result in an emboldenment of AQ and their allies. It would have destabilized several Muslim countries … Indonesia comes to mind, just emerging from a political crisis; Egypt, with an uncertain political direction; Jordan, faced with a large, uneasy Palestinian population; Lebanon, the Hezbollah influence; Palestinian territories, a corrupt PA and Hamas increasingly challenging Fatah.

What if #2 – No Iraq campaign: Sanctions lifted, Saddam would restart his WMD programs which have been kept in standby mode. Already redeveloping their long range missile program in defiance of the 1991 cease fire agreement, they would be accelerating their efforts to mate nuclear and chemical warheads with the missiles. Coupled with the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons, it presents a nightmare scenario – full exchange between the two regional rivals and/or directing their weapons at a common enemy, Israel. Israel launches a pre-emptive strike to take out both countries. It results in a large scale, regional war and oil prices far beyond we see now. AQ uses the cover of large scale war to promote and spread the “caliphate solution” through propaganda and direct action.

What if #3 – Iraq influence on a waning jihad movement: It depends. A shaky Iraq, i.e., one without or minimal the US military presence, the terrorist movement has a chance to return. Terrorism goes through cycles, it has its strong moments and weak moments. Each time through the cycle, they learn from the last.

However, these three “what ifs” do not matter. September 11th redefined the entire security situation. Do you leave situations alone, hoping for them to go away (through their cycles). Or, do you take an event as an opening to redefine the situation and provide a solution? We know which solution this President chose.

In short, IMHO, were it not for Iraq, the Muslim world at large would not have seen the very brutal and un-Islamic nature of the jihad movement. Without Iraq, jihad would most likely still hold a revered place in Muslims’ hearts as the epitome of religious freedom fighters.

I’ve said it many times before: Iraq was the keystone in President Bush’s geostrategy to win the war against Islamic radicalism/terror or whatever you want to call it. And it is paying off.

And you cannot overstate the importance of having Al Queda defeated BY the U.S. in Iraq which they declared to be the capital of their caliphate and even MORE importantly, having the Iraqis themselves, both Shia and Sunni reject extremism of whatever stripe.

However, the problem we have is how to place these events, in their proper context, into some easily understandable form to assist in the current political debate?

The left will not permit for one moment that anyone should consider the Iraq war the right thing to do let alone consider it a looming success. After all, many of them still deny that President Reagan’s extremely bold and certainly controversial policies towards the Soviets had anything to do with winning the Cold War.

So again, how do we communicate the successes we observe in regard to these immensely important issues to an electorate used to hearing little more than slogans like “change we can believe in?”

The point is that we live in a very complicated world where the truth in the Middle East is akin to folk lore, the only way to bring reality to myth is through action and self discovery. That is what the “Awakening” was all about. It would have never happened in Afghanistan because you need a more advanced, educated society and a country with greater opportunity.

I hope John McCain borrows Fred Thompson’s notes, he could explain to the American people why Iraq was necessary to the GWT.

What if Afghanistan was left alone? Well, we’re told that it has been. We’re told that the Taliban (Al Queda’s political arm there) is in control of everything outside Kabul, and that Al Queda is bigger now than ever before. What? Ya mean that’s not true?

Why invade Iraq? Here’s the reasons:

Primary reason:
* to prevent a Nexus of Evil situation
* to prevent UBL from setting up headquarters in Iraq as Saddam had annually and bi-annually requested for 5 yrs. UBL had turned down each offer based on the idea that he was safer in Afghanistan, but driven from Afghanistan in 2001/2…the possibility of UBL moving AQ HQ to Iraq was much more likely and easily a worst case scenario for the war on terror (see also 911 Comm report and SIC 911 report and SIC Iraq investigation report for details OR multiple RR threads on “AQ’s ties to Iraq per _____”)

Secondary reason:
* to remove/resolve the hundreds unresolved WMD issues (any one of which could kill thousands in the hands of an Iraqi trained terrorist-like Abu Musab Al Zarqawi
* to get the hundreds of AQ terrorist who fled Afghanistan to Iraq
* to end Iraqi support for terrorists in general

Tertiary reasons:
* to create a battlefield against terrorists made of America’s choosing-not the terrorists preference (UBL’s preference was Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires where he felt he had already destroyed one superpower)
* to create a bastion of democracy in the middle of a region plagued by tyranny and oppression…things that spawn terrorism
* to drain the swamp of terrorists in the region; ie, to draw terrorists into a fight against the US military and not the Springfield, Ohio police Department
* to offer the Iraqi people a chance at restoring their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-rights that some Americans believe are endowed to all men by the creator
* to end the 4000-5000 Iraqis per month who were dying because of UN sanctions per the UN’s claims
* to prevent Saddam from continuing to terrorize the Iraqi people and his neighbors (all but one of which he had attacked)
* to support a legitimate govt in Iraq.
* to position US forces in a more threatening/deterring position to Iran, Syria, etc.
* With Al Queda’s #1 and #2 leaders pinned in Waziristan/Pakistan, as a means of going after the Al Queda’s #3 man, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who had already attempted to kill hundreds of thousands in London, Rome, Paris, and Jordan using chemical and biological weapons via training he had been given from Saddam
* To end the funding of Palestinian terrorists by Saddam and thus help deter bi-weekly suicide bus bombings that had completely derailed the peace process
* to prevent the funding of Al Queda by Iraq through the mega-corrupt UN Oil-for-Food program
* to shift American oil dependence (and funding) from terrorist-breeding-ground of Saudi Arabia to a Democratic and representative govt in Iraq
and so on…

….and if anyone believes that Saddam could have been contained forever, I suggest reading the Iraqi Perspectives report on Saddam’s ties to terrorist groups-including groups in the Al Queda network as well as Egyptian Islamic Jihad which made up 2/3 of Al Queda’s leadership.

However, the problem we have is how to place these events, in their proper context, into some easily understandable form to assist in the current political debate?

I posed this alternative universe exercise for a couple of reasons, Mike’sA.

1: To find out what people thought would happen had we taken another path. And how do they think this disenchantment with jihad – those formerly revered – happened?

I never had doubts that those who support a free Iraq Republic possess a clearer picture on the events, the outcome, and can see the correlation. But it’s liberal progressives, of which we have many on this site, that I am most curious to hear from.

2: The second reason for the exercise is to find out if this question was one that the naysayers could answer at all, and with any realistic scenario. Obviously pure fiction, like all AQ being killed and the movement dying, or Saddam turning into a good guy, is not allowable. It needs to be a cogent look at an alternative universe. After Afghanistan, just where did they think the cockroaches would run to regroup? And would they have continued to enjoy the nod of approval from the Muslim community?

Which is where we come to your “assist in the current political debate” point.

The electorate will never believe that Iraq was a correct response, thanks to a media and liberal/progressive propaganda/education campaign. However the debate has *never* been been directed towards this anti-jihad movement, and what led to it.

Instead we hear that we are “fueling” jihad. Really? How does that reconcile with reality? This is great progress in the winning of hearts and minds. Just how do they think this happened??

Congress and the liberal/progressives are big study spenders: “what happened”, or “how did we get here?” Since the war in Iraq is doing just the opposite of fueling jihad, just how did that come about? I’d genuinely like to hear from some of our liberal buds on this.

As of this moment, if we are to judge from the naysayers’ responses… or rather the lack of responses … it appears it is a question they cannot answer at all, or prefer not to answer. In which case, we have found how to bring this into the political debate.

It is a question that should be posed at debates, emailed around to everyone… pundits, Congress members and fellow citizens.

“How do you explain the current Muslim tide, turning against jihad? And would that have happened had we not gone into Iraq?”

It should be asked by the press,over and over and over again, until it is on the lips of the electorate daily.

I, for one, would be on the edge of my chair to hear a BHO answer. I suspect he would drift off topic and not answer it at all the first time. But eventually, if it was repeated often enough, he’d have to come up with why this is happening, and attribute it to some event.