While the arrest of Saddam is certainly heartening, other international terrorists (particularly Usama Bin Laden and his supporters) are unlikely to be fazed for long by this successful raid. There have been widespread suggestions of a loose, informal alliance between radical Islamists loyal to Bin Laden and remaining Baathist militants in the Sunni triangle of Iraq. At least two detained members of the Al-Qaida-linked Ansar Al-Islam group have reportedly identified former vice chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri as a “coordinator” of various anti-American post-war guerilla factions. Saddam’s intelligence apparatus may also have assisted fanatic foreign terrorists to cross Iraqi borders in order to jointly fight against the U.S. Last February, Bin Laden himself noted in a taped message that the interests of Al-Qaida “coincide” with those of the Iraqi Baathists “in the [current] war against crusaders.”
|"Al-Qaida could seek to capitalize on the temporary power vacuum left by Hussein’s capture ..."|
This is not to say that Bin Laden will shed many tears in Saddam’s sudden absence—quite to the contrary, prominent Al-Qaida spokesmen have consistently expressed bitter scorn and contempt for Hussein. Abu Hamza al-Masri, an infamous Al-Qaida recruiter in London (who has been connected to the likes of Zacarias Moussaoui and failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid), issued a statement last spring accusing the leaders of the Muslim world of being “puppet traitors… even the Baathist [infidel hypocrite] Saddam Hussein.” He further called upon the international Islamic mujahideen (“holy warriors”) to overthrow “eunuchs” such as Saddam in order to clear the way for a future Islamic state. Usama Bin Laden’s own February recording may have blessed a temporary alliance of convenience with Saddam but nonetheless went on to vigorously condemn him as an untrustworthy “socialist infidel.”
Al-Qaida could seek to capitalize on the temporary power vacuum left by Hussein’s capture by placing their own cadres in charge of guerilla cells formerly under his purview. This is similar to the way in which the Palestinian Hamas terrorist group took over traditional power bases of the PLO during chairman Yasser Arafat’s past exile in Tunisia. Within only a relatively short period of time, Hamas developed into a powerful armed faction that rivaled even the venerated Arafat himself. Thus, in this same fashion, perhaps Bin Laden will achieve his ultimate dream of serving as the focus of anti-U.S. violence in Iraq.
Evan Kohlmann is a Senior Terrorism Consultant for the Washington, D.C.-based Investigative Project and author of the upcoming book, Al-Qaida’s Jihad in Europe: the Afghan-Bosnian Network, to be released by Berg Publishers in June 2004. http://www.bergpublishers.com.