Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Al Qaeda's Changing Strategy and Warnings of Attacks
Al Qaeda (meaning the core group led by bin Laden) seems to be adjusting its strategy in the wake of the relative success of Hezbollah in its recent war with Israel. Rather than letting Hezbollah and Shi'ite groups operate there alone with such greatly enhanced stature, the core al Qaeda leadership is working hard to regroup with an eye toward moving into more direct attacks on Israel and corrupt Islamic regimes.

The al Qaeda leadership appears to be concerned that Hezbollah's ability to frontally attack the "Great Satan" of Israel and not only survive, but prosper politically around the Arab world, will undermine al Qaeda's standing and that of its leadership.

As the Asia Times reports, the recent decision by Pakistan to negotiate a truce with the Taliban in several provinces has helped faciliate this by unblocking the flow of money to bin Laden and his network. While the Taliban may not be militarily active in those regions, in technical compliance with the terms of the agreement, the cessation of hostilities has made it far easier for bin Laden to regain his financial footing and project control further than he has been able to in some time. In fact, this consolidation has been going on for several months, taking advantage of the easing of Pakistani pressure during the negotiating process.

Earlier this week bin Laden's chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned that the Persian Gulf and Israel woudl be the next al Qaeda targets. He has also repeatedly called on others to join in united Muslim efforts to fan the flames of unrest around the globe. This includes not only keeping the Afghan and Iraqi fronts open, but expanding the conflicts in Somalia, the Philippines, Sudan and elsewhere.

It is not hard to see U.S. forces are stretched to their limit. Another war cannot be handled by the current military structure. Nor is there political capital to spend on chasing far-away wars that seem peripheral to our security interests. This is the advantage the jihadis have. For decades Saudi-funded Wahhabist theology has spread like gasoline across much of the Muslim world. It will take a relatively small spark to get the flames going, especially when there is at least the perception on the street that once-invincible enemies (Israel) are suddenly vulnerable.

The al Qaeda leadership may be somewhat isolated, but they surely can read the international winds. With more money flowing, a strengthened Taliban, a resilient Iraqi insurgency, a resurgent Hezbollah and spreading Islamist pockets from Somalia to Sudan, the contours of a strategy to take advantage of this are not hard to see.

I do not believe Hezbollah and al Qaeda can or will form a durable alliance. But there is strong evidence to suggest that they have and will help each other tactically if conditions require it. This correlation of forces, coupled with al Qaeda's repeated warnings to repent and turn to Allah-a key prerequisite to be fulfilled before an attack on infidels, as Mike Scheuer and others have recently correctly pointed out-point to a jihadi offensive of some strength.
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