Are We Going to Become Allies With Al Qaeda? When the War on Terror Gets Confusing
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There’s so much to worry about in the world these days, if you get all your news from the U.S. mass media. New dangers pile on top of old ones all the time. Who knows what we’ll have to worry about next?
Then there’s that most fearsome of old threats, Al Qaeda, which just won’t go away. The other day the Washington Post told me they are coming back in Iraq: "'What we’re now seeing is al-Qaeda in Iraq’s revival, not only as a movement in that country but as a regional movement,' said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA counterterrorism expert."
Hey, I thought we surged those Al Qaeda guys out of Iraq when Bush was president. Didn’t we buy off a whole bunch of Shi’ites to stamp out the Sunni AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq)? Apparently not.
And it’s not just Iraq we have to worry about. AQ is now a “regional movement.” It seems to be springing up in new places all the time: “The reemergence of AQI comes at a time when U.S. officials and analysts are expressing growing concern about other al-Qaeda affiliates, including al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in Yemen, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in North Africa.”
Africa? Yes! And not just the northern part. On the very same day the New York Times advised me to get my adrenalin pumping about AQ in Mali, of all places. And then, “from a haven in Mali, Al Qaeda can aid Nigerian extremists and recruit in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, a top American commander said.”
Once I got out my map and figured out where Mali is, I could see what the “top commander” meant, and why I ought to be afraid. Suddenly the whole chilling picture came into view: An Al Qaeda arc of terror from Iraq to Nigeria, spreading its tentacles north into Europe!
Wait, it gets worse. You’re already worried about what’s going to happen in Syria, right? Well take this nugget from the WaPo article and throw it into your anxiety hopper: “From its base in the Sunni provinces west of Baghdad, AQI appears to be attempting to rebuild old networks into Syria and Jordan ‘at an alarming rate,’ Riedel said.”
Then I turned to the McClatchy News Web site and found out Riedel doesn’t know (or won’t reveal) the half of it. AQ isn’t just attempting. It's succeeding: “Jabhat al Nusra, which U.S. officials believe has links to al Qaida, has become essential to the frontline operations of the rebels fighting to topple Assad. … They’ve proved to be critical to the rebels’ military advance. In battle after battle across the country, Nusra and similar groups do the heaviest frontline fighting.”
Now my fears were growing “at an alarming rate.” The old worry about Al Qaeda was right in the thick of the new worry about Syria. But stick with me here, because there’s more about Syria. We’re just getting to the really, really scary part.
On that same day, all the stuff about Al Qaeda, which usually would have made screaming headlines, got buried by an even more frightening story: The White House says there’s growing evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad is preparing to use chemical weapons against his own people.
Of course “administration officials offered no public evidence justifying their heightened fears,” as McClatchy reported. Their evidence is all in “classified intelligence,” so they can’t talk about it. But "this is not just analytic conjecture. It is firm information," a senior U.S. official insisted. “We’re wary about indications we’ve seen that the Syrian regime may be in the midst of preparing chemical weapons for possible use."