Pat Lang, on his Sic Semper Tyrannis blog recently had a post about the National Journal blog’s question of "Is Al Qaeda Shifting Strategy Or On The Run?". Pat addressed that question as did a number of other "experts".
This Oxdown diary also follows the news that Chas Freeman withdrew from the position of Chairman of the National Intelligence Council under the assault from the Israel First lobby because Chas Freeman did not and does not share the Israel First monomania.
The National Intelligence Council is the responsible US organization for the creation of the Obama’s Administration National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) on current foreign policy hot issues such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Couple this news of Chas Freeman’s withdrawal with the fact that Israel continues its almost fanatical absorption on Iran as the monster under their bed.
I’d like to embellish my commentary by adding to the thoughts expressed in the National Journal blog question of "Is Al Qaeda Shifting Strategy Or On The Run?".
Many of the commenters there focused, not unexpectedly, on the threat Al Qaeda poses (or not) to the United States.
My commentary is that perhaps this focus on the United States misses the tree for the forest (yes, I know this turns that old adage on its head, but bear with me).
It seems to me that one of the key defining aspects of Al Qaeda has been, and likely continues to be, a desire to grandstand, to hit a spectacular target in a spectacular way (does 9/11 ring a bell?).
Make no mistake, Al Qaeda runs operations that one might call "run of the mill" terrorism stuff like AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) suicide bombings and similar acts via the Taliban in Afghanistan, local jihadis in Saudia Arabia, the Sudan, etc.
However, I believe that Al Qaeda also focuses a smaller, dedicated corp of its "talent" to that one, big, spectacle as its primary operations focus.
And this brings me back to Pakistan. In my earlier comments (linked above), I raised the issue of Al Qaeda targeting Pakistan for destabilization with the point being (somewhat imaginatively rather than realistically), that taking Pakistan with its existing nuclear weapons was a far more enticing prize than just blowing up Humvees in Iraq or Afghanistan.
But in this comment, I want to further narrow my focus on something that is far more realistic as to Al Qaeda’s grasp.
That is Al Qaeda sufficiently targeting the destabilizion of Pakistan or influencing the state of play in Pakistan to not take over Pakistan, but by means of blackmail, bribery, intimidation, assassination or simply joining with like jihadi-minded Pakistan military and/or intelligence types to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Many have written over the years about the looseness of the nuclear weapon regime in the former Soviet Union as it disintegrated, and that perhaps Al Qaeda might be able to obtain a "loose" nuclear weapon. Whether this was ever really possible or not, I do not claim to know.
However, I do believe one can make the case that Pakistan, with its history of support for jihad (remember the Pakistan’s intelligence service ISI was instrumental in creating the muhajadeen who defeated the Soviet Union, and for that matter, creating the monster Osama Bin Laden himself) has more of a "lean" toward the jihadis of Al Qaeda and the like, than any the of rump parts of the former Soviet Union.
One of the central points I’m driving at is that it may be that Al Qaeda is targeting Pakistan not because they want to take over the country, but that they see a very real possibility of acquiring a nuclear weapon.
And on whom is this nuclear weapon to be used?
That brings me to my other central focus point.
I don’t believe one should presume that Al Qaeda would necessarily focus their targeting on the United States with such a weapon for a number of reasons not least because a single nuclear weapon, while able to cause millions of casualties, would not mean the demise of the vast country we call the United States. One nuke is simply not going to do it!
Instead, going back to the "spectacular" aspect of Al Qaeda’s modus operandi, I believe that Al Qaeda would have as its primary focus the detonation of this "acquired" nuclear weapon on the Jewish colonies of Judea and Samaria (i.e. Israel).
And just how "spectacular" would this be? Basically, any nuclear device detonated in the populous part of Israel would render the country uninhabitable. Yes, such a detonation would also decimate the Palestinian population as well, but remember that Al Qaeda thinks nothing of sacrificing its own brethen to the cause. Paradise awaits.
This probably is a good time to give a warning to Israel. You are focusing all your paranioa these days (and seeking to induce the same in the United States) on the "forest" of Iran’s "purported" nuclear program while you may be missing the tree of an Al Qaeda-acquired nuke from an already nuclear weaponized Pakistan.
A Pakistan that is far less under control of its "leadership" than is Iran. A Pakistan that already has a real track record of jihadi support that dwarfs that of Iran. A Pakistan that today teeters on the brink of destabilization. A Pakistan that is now the acknowledged home of the Al Qaeda leadership.
And so to answer the question posed by the National Journal blog, I would say that yes indeed, Al Qaeda’s strategy has shifted. We, in the United States, may do a grave disservice if we continue to egocentrically assume that Al Qaeda’s focus is all about US.