Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 1-Nov-2010
1-Nov-10 News -- Al-Qaeda shifts to 'more realistic' terrorism

Web Log - November, 2010

1-Nov-10 News -- Al-Qaeda shifts to 'more realistic' terrorism

Suicide bombing in Istanbul, Turkey

Al-Qaeda's failed bomb attempt reflects evolving strategies

The strategies of both al-Qaeda and the west are going to have to evolve, in the wake of the failed bomb attempt

It's ironic that this bomb attempt occurred just two days after a British Airways executive was complaining that airline security had become too onerous, thanks to unreasonable pressure by the Americans, as we reported yesterday.

Printer plot bomb: Explosives were hidden in toner cartridge (Telegraph)
Printer plot bomb: Explosives were hidden in toner cartridge (Telegraph)

But now, new developments in the failed bomb attempt will require that the west will have to strengthen security in some areas.

One development is that U.S. national security adviser John Brennan is expressing concern that there may be other package bombs. Associated Press reports that he said that "it would be very imprudent ... to presume that there are no [other packages] out there." He said that "We currently have put a hold on any cargo that is coming to the United States that originated in Yemen,"

In fact, the devices in the packages were very professional and sophisticated, enough so that they passed through multiple screenings at the Sanaa airport. The devices would not have been detected at all, had it not been for the tipoff by Saudi intelligence.

The second development is the discovery that at one of the packages was in cargo hold of a passenger flight for part of its journey, and that the bomb was " designed to blow up passenger jets and threatened "another Lockerbie," according to the Telegraph.

The result is that airline security procedures will have to be updated and perhaps strengthened, rather than relaxed as some people had hoped. In particular, new procedures for package delivery will have to be implemented.

On the other side, al-Qaeda's strategy is changing as well.

As we reported yesterday, al-Qaeda's center of gravity has shifted from the Pakistan tribal areas to the deserts of Yemen. This led to the merger last year of the Saudi and Yemen branches of al-Qaeda into Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, al-Qaeda's basic long-term strategy has not changed. The two most important events for the Muslim world in the last century were the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 and Iran's Great Islamic Revolution of 1979. Al-Qaeda's objective, masterminded by Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, has been to replicate the Iran's revolution to create a Sunni Muslim government in another country.

This has now been tried in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, and has failed so far. In fact, since the Taliban were defeated in the war following 9/11, it could be said that al-Qaeda has actually lost ground in the last ten years.

Thus, it's not surprising that al-Qaeda is making some dramatic changes in strategy.

According to Jonathan Stevenson, a professor at U.S. Naval War College, and Steven Simon of the Council on Foreign Relations, writing recently in the Washington Post, al-Qaeda has decided that it lacks the capacity "to mount sophisticated and coordinated attacks that would match, let alone exceed, the innovation or shock value on display on Sept. 11, 2001, or even in the USS Cole operation the year before."

Thus, the new al-Qaeda understands its limitations, and is adopting "more realistic means of achieving its grand objectives." According to the authors:

"With the help of these so-called "cleanskins," who are difficult for Western security services to detect, al-Qaeda's opportunistic, pragmatic leadership has embraced urban warfare of the sort pioneered by terrorists decades ago: low-intensity, IRA-style operations in densely populated areas, using both conventional military weapons (such as assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades) and standard terrorist weapons (such as improvised explosive devices). This, not simultaneously blowing up airliners or destroying skyscrapers, was the mode of jihad envisioned by Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin, the late leader of the jihad in Saudi Arabia and the author of the appropriately named turn-of-the-century al-Qaeda combat manual "The War Against Cities."

This change in strategy to "low-intensity, IRA-style operations in densely populated areas" should exclude blowing up airliners, according to the writers, but in fact, shipping UPS or Fedex packages with bombs fits the objective of creating IRA-style chaos without spending much money or resources.

"The long-range implications of this evolution are sobering. Al-Qaeda's leaders are realizing that they can panic and disrupt Western society the old-fashioned way -- but on a global level. If they succeed, their new strategy will inspire increasingly rigid security measures and rising paranoia, which will almost inevitably drive a wedge between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans. Given our increasingly rancorous, polarized politics and the politicization of counterterrorism, al-Qaeda's foray into urban warfare could make effective governance and the preservation of constitutional norms much tougher propositions than they have been so far in the age of terror."

This brings us back to a theme that I've been emphasizing for years: the political confrontation and xenophobia that's been increasing in all forms around the world is leading to a new world war.

For al-Qaeda, the mutual xenophobia between Muslims and non-Muslims serves al-Qaeda well. As long as American and European armed forces have a presence in the Mideast, doing everything from fighting Taliban terrorists to helping Pakistani flood victims, and as long as Islamist terrorist activities are killing far more Muslims than non-Muslims, there is little chance of triggering the kind of Iran-style revolution that's the objective of al-Qaeda.

If Stevenson and Simon are correct, then "IRA-style" terrorism or bringing down an airplane with a mailed package bomb will meet al-Qaeda's objectives by dividing Muslims and non-Muslims at little cost. If al-Qaeda is really successful, then these kinds of activities will force American and European armed forces to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving them free to bring about the kind of revolution that that Osama bin Laden envisioned over twenty years ago.

Suicide bombing in Istanbul, Turkey

A suicide bomber struck Taksim Square in Istanbul Turkey on Sunday at 10:30 am, critically wounding two and injuring 32 others, according to the LA Times. Taksim Square is a vast transportation and commercial hub, and the city's busiest location.

Nearly half of the injured were police officers.

PKK Kurdish separatist terrorists are suspected in the bombing, but they're not the only suspects. The bombing bears the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda attack, and extreme left-wing groups are also suspected, according to the Guardian.

Additional links

The bomb packages in the failed terrorism attack were addressed to two Jewish synagogues in Chicago. Chicago area Jewish organizations remain on high alert. Chicago Tribune

When a US delegate once confronted a Chinese diplomat about Beijing's uncompromising support for Pakistan, the Chinese reportedly responded with a heavily-loaded sarcastic remark: "Pakistan is our Israel". Al-Jazeera

On September 2, there was a fatal plane crash in Dubai of a UPS mail cargo flight. The UAE claims that there was nothing suspicious about the crash, but the US is going to open an investigation to see if it could be a precursor to this weekend's failed bomb plot. Debka

Russian president Dimitry Medvedev has met in Hanoi with Vietnamese leaders to seal a $5 billion agreement to build Vietnam's first ever nuclear power plant. VOA

China's recent embargo on exporting rare earth minerals is causing more deals to be made by nervous neighbors. A few days after India promised to supply Japan with rare earth minerals, Vietnam has now signed a deal to supply Japan with them as well. BBC

This is incredible. Recall that Bernie Madoff swindled investors out of something like $60 billion in a Ponzi scheme. The trustee overseeing Madoff's bankruptcy is supposed to recover money to be returned to the swindled investors. In the six months ending September 30, he recovered $849,000 to be returned to the victims, and he spent $26.9 million to do it. Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Nov-10 News -- Bomb plot shows al-Qaeda shift from Pakistan to Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Nov-2010) Permanent Link
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