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

Blood from Stones

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Is Al Qaeda Signaling a New Attack?
The level of "chatter" by al Qaeda operatives is currently as high or higher than in the months prior to 9-11, and the question in many parts of the U.S. and European intelligence communities is not if al Qaeda will strike again, but when. Much of the thinking centers on the near-term. This is also reflected in current corporate security alerts being circulated among elite business establishments.

There are several factors that point to al Qaeda at least having a plan for an imminent attack. The first is the January appearance of Osama bin Laden himself after months of silence. The second is the repeated warnings and boasts from bin Laden, Zawahiri and on al Qaeda web sites of impending action.

Several analysts I have spoken with believe the leadership of the historic al Qaeda would not raise expectations of an attack, especially at a time of intense competition with Zarqawi's operation for the mantle of carrying out international jihad, without something important afoot. The risk of losing credibility is too high. Zawahiri is already viewed as the person carrying out action, while bin Laden and Zawahiri have been left in the roles of elder statesmen, respected but no longer operational in the field of battle.

One corporate risk analysis group reported something else of interest: A March 10 posting on al-Hesbah website, known for posting al Qaeda messages, carried a message from the Global Islamic Media Front. The message gives a final warning to the United States before carrying out what it said would be two devastating attacks. The second attack would not be launched until after Washington had time to respond to the first one, the message said.

While this is clearly propaganda, it is within the Islamic jihad tradition to give an enemy a chance to repent and convert before carrying out an attack, as the Prophet Mohammed did. Bin Laden did this before 9-11 as well, when few were paying attention.

Al Qaeda's MO has been to make each succeeding attack more powerful and destructive than the previous one. This has given rise to growing concern that al Qaeda has the wherewithall to carry out a chemical attack or dirty bomb attack. Much of the current al Qaeda threat seems aimed at economic infrastructure, realizing a crippling economic blow would make it more difficult for the United States to continue to support the "apostate" regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere.

The signs are there that al Qaeda is poised to try to strike. It is not clear they will be successful.
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