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The Wrong Question on Somalia
Part of the policy debate over what do to (or what should have been done) about Somalia centers on the question of the relationship between al Qaed and the Islamic Court movement.

Ambassador David Shinn of George Washington University and many others, have cautioned that the ties of the Islamist movements to al Qaeda have been "overstated." The focus is usually on whether a handful of individuals of the old "core" al Qaeda were being sheltered by the Courts and if so, if that constituted a tie to terrorism.

That is the wrong question. The question that should be asked is not dependent on the presence of specific individuals who have sworn an oath to Osama bin Laden and the old organization of al Qaeda. It is whether the Courts were part of a broader Islamist movement seeking to impose _sharia_ law and create and entirely Muslim enclave that would constitute the beginnings (or the re-beginings) of the Islamist _caliphate_.

The answer in this case is clearly yes. There is a law enforcement interest in knowing if Fazul et al are in Somalia. But there is ample evidence, from their own statements and actions, that the Court leadership that triumphed was a intergral link in the Islamist narrative, woven and rewoven in different conflicts around the globe.

Fazul's presence (or not) is not the indicator of this relationship. Al Qaeda's leadership also clearly views the Somalia situation as part of a wider movement, not dependent on the leadership's willingness to submit personally and directly to bin Laden. It is a broader loyalty to the narrative of the new age that Islamists view as fully within their grasp.

Ayman Zawahiri, in his statement released last week (provided by the SITE Institute) concisely gave the narrative that is fundamental to the _jihadist_ movement:

"My Muslim brothers in Somalia, don't worry about the power of America, you already defeated it with the Help of Allah, and today, it is weaker than before. The Mujahideen already broke its back in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then she sent you its slaves. Don't worry about the first shock; it is not more than empty propaganda, arrogance, and boasting. The real battle will start by your campaigns against the Ethiopian forces, with the Help of Allah, as the gangs of believers will eat up, by rushing to jihad for the Sake of Allah, the invader Ethiopian Crusader army who attacked the Islamic land, Allah willing, as it happened in Afghanistan and Iraq where the most powerful force in the world was defeated when they faced the campaigns of the Mujahideen gangs who wanted Paradise. They will then be defeated
by the Somali Muslim Mujahid land, Allah willing."

The organic links between one person and anther in the new Islamist movements are not what is paramount. What is paramount is this Islamist project, where Allah has already given miraculous victory to the _mujahadeen_ in dire circumstances.

Whether one swears alligiance to bin Laden, Mullah Omar or only to Allah, one can be part of the movement of Islamist radicals seeking to fundamentally alter the world order in the name of Allah. The Courts were clearly a part of that movement.

The arguments over the indivduals that one can catalogue, quantify and name, are of very limited use.

The other question is whether the rest of the African Union can seize the brief window of opportunity in Somalia to make it more difficult for the Courts to return, by providing a multinational security force that would allow the fragile government to consolidate.

However, the AU has given few reasons to be optimistic that it can rise to the challenge. It never has. So the question remains, what next?

The Strategy in Somalia
Iran's Grander Ambitions
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