June 22, 2004 | Washington Post Online

Terrorism: Hostage Crisis

According to Al Jazeera reports, South Korean hostage Kim Sun Il, 33, has been beheaded by his kidnappers.

Just a few days after the beheading of American hostage Paul M. Johnson Jr., militants linked to al Qaeda captured the South Korean hostage in Fallujah.

Kim, 33, was an employee of South Korea's Gana General Trading Co., a supplier for the U.S. military. The South Korean government is planning to evacuate all its citizens working for businesses in Iraq by early July.

Walid Phares, Ph.D., professor of Middle East studies and ethnic and religious conflict at Florida Atlantic University, will be online Tuesday, June 22 at 3 p.m. ET, to discuss the recent hostage situations in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and militant terrorist organizations.

Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.

Phares is a terrorism analyst and Mideast expert for MSNBC. His expertise covers Islamic fundamentalism, the Jihadic movements and strategies worldwide, Arab-Israeli conflict, human rights under Islamic regimes, ethnic minorities, women, and democratic processes within the Muslim world, terrorism, as well as the clash of civilization.

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Walid Phares, Ph.D.: I would like to thank the WashingtonPost.com for this opportunity. Addressing Terrorism and foreign policy after 9/11 has become part of US national security with great effects on international relations. The themes I'd like t0o address this afternoon would range from the most recent beheading of the South Korean national in Iraq at the hands of “al Tawheed wal Jihad” to the global assessment of al Qaida's tactics, strategy and the US response to it. It is important to analyze the War on Terrorism as a war between two parties, with two world opposing views. It is also important to note that within these two parties -the US led campaign against Terrorism, and the al Qaida led Jihad movement – there are different views and objectives.

The beheading of the South Korean national today illustrates at least two matters. One is ideological, that is the firmness of the Jihadist ideology and its incompatibility with international norms as we know them. The other is the sophistication of the Jihadist movement with regards its tactics. Al-Qaida finds no limitations to its intentions when it comes to the destruction of its enemy, as long as that perceived (Infidel or apostate) enemy obstructs its plans. Hence, the wars in Algeria, Chechnia, Cashemire and Sudan, have preceded in extreme violence the 9/11 war. The Jihadi violence is ideological in nature, ie, explains itself with highly doctrinal concepts. But at the same time, al Qaida has demonstrated significant capabilities in analyzing and dealing with Western systems. It knows how its strikes can, or could affect political outcomes. It attempted it on 9/11 not with major success, it was highly successful on March 11 in Madrid, and it now attempting to use it tactically with the beheadings. It wants to affect its enemies through their own political structures.


Silver Spring, Md.: From Jefferson Morley's chat earlier today:

Wheaton, Md.: It seems that Americans don't understand why so many people in Arab countries oppose our policies, except that those people, even those who aren't Islamic fanatics, hate Israel and/or all things Western. I doubt that many people here know the history of conflicts in the region before 1948 (e.g., colonization by Western powers). The media are great on reporting details of day-to-day events but could do a lot more in letting us know the background of disputes that affect our lives.

Jefferson Morley: Its a very good point. I think Americans generally know the experience of the Jewish people before 1948, ie The Holocaust. But very few Americans know the history of the Arab Muslims before (or after) 1948.

Could you please enlighten an ignorant soul in Maryland about this? What is the history of the Arab Muslims before 1948? I'm familiar with the Israel/Palestine issues but not the rest. Thank you very much for taking my question.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: The actual question that we need to understand the history of the Middle East, let alone the Arab-Islamic history is essential. Unfortunately, Mideast studies inthe US and the West in general was over concentrating on one -important- conflict, but only one: the Arab Israeli conflict. While during the same decades, millions have perished as a result of other conflicts, such as Algeria (100,000), Lebanon (185,000), Iraq-Iran (about a million) and ofr course the most violent in Southern Sudan (more than 1.5 million). While the statistics of death are morally difficult to use in comparative politics, they remain as a major reminder that the region as a whole has been experiencing mega-crisis and conflicts, most of which goes back decades and centuries in History. The Arab Israeli conflict is in fact the youngest, but was the most publicized. America was surprised, and stunned by the depth of the ideologies of violences only when Mohammad Atta's planes slammed into Manhattan's twin towers. We definitely need to learn a deeper history than the one we have been receiving on our campuses. My own surprise was great when I was first assigned a class in Middle East studies in this country some 14 years ago..In a sum, many of the horrors related to terrorism, as today's drama, have their ideological roots deeply sinking in decades of not centuries of unfinished conflicts, most of which were pre-Colombian.


Fair Lakes, Va.: Prof. Phares,
Thank you for taking part in this discussion. The tactic of taking hostages and executing them seems to be popular amongst some of the terrorists we see operating in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. With the exception of one incident several years back, this tactic hasn't really emerged in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Why?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Because when it is between two ethnic groups, living side by side, the retaliation factor is so great, that the perpetrators would be engaging their own group in a direction where their own kin would want to put an end to it. Beheading in Israel or the Palestinian areas would lead to massive retaliation and at the same time would not affect theother side. It works with remote civil societies, not living in war direct conditions: US, Europe, South Asian, etc.


Cedar Rapids, Iowa: In reading your opening remarks, can you comment on how the terrorists choose their targets. I understand about the US but what made them choose Madrid, versus some other city or nation?

Are the terrorists educated or simply thugs who are nevertheless sophisticated in their knowledge and know how? Thank you.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: The al Qaida dominant elites have either studied or are advised by people who have studied in the same universities attended by readers like the Washington Post. They analyze thoroughly their targets and project the dividends of their strikes. The execution of the operation is left in the hands of less complex individuals, totally influenced by the religious doctrine. Madrid was planned politically and was successful. They chose Spain, because the polls showed 90% opposing the War. More important because the Spanish political and educational elites have been critical of any attempt to change the Middle East. In addition, the Spanish capitalists have developed growong relations with the Wahabi-read Saudi- financial power in Spain. By adding up, you can understand the logic of al Qaida. Spain will fall if hit hard..


Washington, D.C.: Given the way al Qaeda has tried to affect political outcomes in the past, do you foresee them attempting to change the outcome of the US elections in Novemeber?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Yes, al Qaida is planning on doing so, and will attempt to affect the process. Actually, by derailing Iraq, de-stabilizing Saudi and possibly striking again within the US, they project a massive effect here in the US. Note that within the US Justice system, the al Qaida strategy is working. For unless, the Jihadist is caught -about to trigger-, our system cannot track and stop the growth of the Terrorist network. Under our laws, they can build more than 80% of their infrastructure.


Tübingen, Germany: I noticed that you mentioned Chechnya in your opening remarks, and it seems often to get lumped in with other jihadist hotbeds. Is this fair, given that the concept of jihad has been part of the Chechen national resistance movement against the Russian Empire/Soviet Union/Russian Federation since at least the early 19th century? My perception is that since 9/11 the Russian government has used the jihadist label to justify further oppression in Chechnya and political control in Grozny. Then again, I may be wrong. I'd be interested to know what you think.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Yes, you're right. There are “national” resistance movements, which are independant and sui generis. Meaning they have preceded the Jihadist march. However, and precisely, the Jihadists target these “nationalist” movements, and implant their “Wahabi-Salafi” doctrine. At some point, both “causes” merge and the Jihadi element takes over. There are certainly a Chechen, Cashemiri, Palestinian, Southern Philippines, and other “minority” or separatist causes. But the art of the international Jihadists is to project themselves as “the” liberation force of these causes. Hence, the advantage of the “uprisings” would be to receive aid and solidarity from many networks in the world. The disadvantage would be to “disqualify” the legitimacy of the cause. Russia and India have understood the matter.


Miami, Fla.: Three questions:

1. These terrorists had not previously engaged in such gruesome acts as beheading, at least not that I had seen. Is this new tactic as a result of our weakened position in Iraq and the world opposition to the war?

2. Since most of these terrorists are, from my understanding, both islamic and arabs, why don't more Arab leaders and Imams speak out – louder.

3. Are these stepped up acts of terrorism also as a result of a weakened Saudi government. Thanks.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: 1) As a matter of fact, beheadings and dismembring have taken place in many places, but it wasn't yet aimed at Americans, or during an American led campaign as is the case today. There were thousands of beheadings in Algeria between 1992 and 2001, including of women and children at the hands of the same Jihadi salafis. Same in Chechnia few years ago. The current ones are alarming, because they are announced on al jazeera, and aired on international media.

2) There are Arab and Muslimleaders who are issuing statements against it, oif course. But what is needed is rather a qualitative statement by both politicians and religious clerics in the Muslim world with regards the “theological roots of Jihadism.” As long as that matter is not addressed, the Jihadists have an open filed in front of them.

3) Saudi Arabis's government attempted to distance itself from the global war on Terrorism, but failed. They know that their country is significantly infiltrated by the Jihadists. They are attempting to operate as surgeons. Extricate the cells withtout touching the doctrine. Very difficult..


Bay Shore, NY: How best can the US combat the taking of hostages in Iraq?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Minimizing the exposure of individuals. Creating zones: red, orange, yellow. And most importantly equip the Iraqi security forces to engage the Jihadists. The Iraqi state isn't yet on the offensive against al Qaida.


Woodbridge, Va.: Since we cannot engage in a cold war with terrorism, hoping it will go away, when are we going to destroy these SOBs who are cutting off people's heads at random? How many more have to suffer this fate? Do you think/feel/believe that crimes against Muslims will rise in this country?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: The most intelligent thing is not to give al qaida what it wants: back clashes against Muslims in the US. Rather give al Qaida what would be its nightmare: A democratic and powerful Government in Iraq, Human Rights NGOs around the region, and Muslim organizations in the US that would openly oppose the ideology of al Qaida. It is coming, it needs time..


Georgetown, D.C.: Many revolutionary movements have used the tyrannies of
their countries' rulers to bring themselves to power,
despite their own ideologies being little, if any, better. The
Russian communists for example.

Given the auotcratic nature of so many of the regimes in
the region, do al-Qaida and their ilk have any chance of
coming to power in any of the arab nations?

Until recently, I would have thought such a proposition
ludicrous, but, given recent events in Saudi Arabia, I am
not so sure anymore.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: al Qaida came to power in Afghanistan. We saw what it developed. It is trying to takeover in Saudi Arabia. It won't be easy, in view also of the vast interests of the Saudi elites and also -remember- the past internal problems in the Kingdom. Al Qaida is trying to establish a Taliban regime in the sunni triangle in Iraq. In a sum, yes al Qaida can undermine, destablize and kill, but it has been demonstrated that it it would be difficult for its movements to establish regimes that can serve national communities. That was the main dividend of 9/11. Al Qaida doesn't have a free ride anymore..people know what it wants to establish..and certainly women and minorities in the Middle East. Those who know the least about al Qaida, are ironically the intellectual elites in the West, particularly in the US..


New Orleans, La.: History shows that non-violent movements are much more effective at achieving political goals than movements based on terrorism(South Africa, Martin Luther King v. Ireland, PLO). Do you think the Palestine/Isreal and/or Arab/Islam/West conflicts could be resolved through non-violent means at this late date given the right leaders?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Non violent movements are the real and final insurance for peaceful development. But as you can see, they need the culture of the oppressive group to be undermined by democratic movements as well. Review most cases, and you'll connect the dots. The imperialist, occupation and colonialist forces have to be able to be responding to some measure of either internal or external pressures..


Castle Shannon, PA: Like many Americans, was Kim Sun over in Iraq because he couldn't turn down the substantial money being offered to him? How many foreign workers are actually over in Iraq, and how many have left in the past few months?

I've got a friend who was supposed to move to Saudi Arabia to live with her fiance. She went over for a week last month, did not feel comfortable at all, and he resigned from his job. Both are now back at home here in the U.S.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Kim Sun was there as a translator. He happens to be a Christian as well. However, al Qaida selected him because of his passport. He could have been a member of the South Korean socialist party, a liberal, a gay or a Hindu. They beheaded him because they wanted to put pressure on his government..

Yes Saudi Arabia now is not the most secure place on Earth..


Boca Raton, FL: Professor Phares,
On the “News Hour” last night, it was reported that Israeli commandos are training Iraqi Kurds for the invasion of Kirkuk and the Kurds' ultimate secession from the Iraqi union.
Two questions. (1)When the British divided up the Ottoman Empire what was their rationale for including these ethnically diverse peoples with the Arabs to the South?
(2)With the Arab hatred for Israel, don't you think that Israeli support of the Kurds in this internecine conflict in Iraq will just provoke and aggravate the existing situation?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: There are no real evidence about that “Israeli training of the Kurds for separation.” The US provided training has helped the Kurds to establish their national guard. In any event, the final word for self determination is to the Kurds, in as much as it is to any minority, including the Palestinians, the Kosovars or the East Timorese. Traning or not, it would remain a matter of coexistence between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq. And that will be solved by the elites of the two groups..Keeping in mind, that both sides, after Saddam have demonstrated some rationalism..we'll see.


Los Angeles, CA: Do you think that conventional warfare is the proper strategy to win the war on terrorism? It seems to me that the U.S. and its allies are using conventional warfare strategies on a war that is anything but conventional. Shouldn't this be a war be carried out in a spy vs. spy manner?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: there is no more one dimentional conflict. You'd use conventional against conventional to establish a system that would produce non conventional against non conventional..

Does it make sense?

You eliminate the Taliban and the Iraqi Baath with conventional. But you help the next generation to establish its own non conventional against the Terrorists. That's why the Terrorists prefer to engage your conventional forces instead..



Conn: What is the ultimate goal of al-Quaida?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: The establishment of a worldwide Islamic Government under the name of a Caliphate with world military economic and diplomatic powers. The Caliphate will unite all Muslim states under one banner and would resume the Jihad worldwide, under one leadership..at least that's what you read on the web sites..and in the books al Qaida cites..


Vienna, Va.: Dr. Phares,
Do you know what the Korean government plans to do next? How are the people responding and is it part of the kidnapper's goal to create disharmony between the people and the government?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: you got it right..at this point, Seoul may not respond, but if more strikes are launched, the south Korean opposition is known to be very active..

However, when and if the Iraqi Government wouldstart the real counter offensive, things will start to change..


Greenbelt, MD: I work with a number of people who are Muslim, and of course Christian and Jewish. And I find that the Muslims are much more different than other religious groups in that they are not flexible i.e. their religion consumes their whole life. Thefore, their acceptance of Democratic values doesn't seem realistic.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Each one of us has their views on the flexibility and rigidity of other religious and theologies. Whatever are our views, I do believe that “reform” can “change” any set of doctrinal bases. The question is how to encourage such reform. What are the conditions? Maybe because the international society was overwhelmed by the “oil-power” equation since 1973, that a precious time was lost..


Annandale VA: Sorry but i just don't get it. How is a contractor that supplies US soldiers in a country they invaded not a legitamate target? This is war, people are going to fight back.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: If indeed all Iraqis believe that al Qaida is legitimate, then they would have exploded from Kirkuk to Basra. It is to the Iraqis, not to Berkeley to decide who is what in Iraq


Austin, TX: How does the Iranian experience fit into all of this? (Yes, I know they're not Arabs.)

A repressive, US-backed regime overthrown and a repressive theocracy established. But 25 years later, apparently a whole lot of ordinary Iranians are wondering what they've gotten themselves into….

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: I listen to the students and young womren of Iran. More than 75% of this nation are sending an important message..all we need is to enable them to air their voice..the rest will be natural evolution (or revolution) of an oppressed society..


Philadelphia, PA: What effect is al Qaida attempting to achieve within our political process? If an attack is made prior to our November elections, what outcome do you think they expect? George Bush? Something else?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: The list is too long, and the hour is closing..

Terror attacks, assassinations, triggering internal violence..The US has plenty of target to offer..

But a historic unified move by both parties against al Qaida can cripple this weapon..


Texas: I know it's impossible to predict the future with certainty, but I think I know my own country well enough to say that if there is another terrorist attack in the US this summer or fall, Bush will almost certainly win the election. Likely the war on terror will get far nastier and more aggressive than it is now. And a lot of things people feared after 9/11 that (for the most part) didn't happen, like widespread attacks on Arabs in the country, may well happen this time around.

Does al-Qaida realize this (especially the part about handing Bush the election)? Is that what they want?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Depends how the strike is designed, how the media will respond…remember Madrid..The only (major) difference, is that al Qaida may have important analysts and “advisors” but it can't predict the deep psychology of the American people..more to come..


Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Dear readers
Great questions ladies and gentlemen

I must go. I have three interviews ahead. You can read me at www.walidphares.com

Thanks to the Washingtonpost.com for hosting.

Hope to be back some other time

Good luck


Paris,France: My question is the objectif of the kidnapeur destabilising arab's countries?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Oui l'objectif est de terroriser le Coree du Sud pour qu'elle se retire de L'Iraq


Cabin John, MD: I notice that the last couple videos involving beheadings, the victims are in the prison orange jumpsuits and the captors are almost invariably carrying USGI weapons (eg: the M4 and FN-Mag on the front page of the Post online). Is there any symbolic signficance to this?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Yes, to signify that in this case, they are the guards and the hostages are the detainee. They have the Guantanamo syndrome..


Boston, Mass: From Al Qaeda's point of view, would they rather have an uncompromising type like Bush or a more nuanced type like Kerry as their US adversary? Just wondering about AQ psychology. Thanks.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: You may think that they would prefer a Bush over Kerry for the simple reason that they'd prefer someone who'd give them legitimacy. It turned out that this could be the thinking of these groups when they were much weaker. They would need a Western symbol to build their agression againt. But now that they are stronger, they'd like to have a western symbol they could score victories against. Hence, it is my assessment that in the current context they'd prefer a Kerry instead. He would still be an American “infidel” President, but he would inspire less fear than an agressive “infidel” President. But I may be wrong..


Washington, DC: Can you shed light on Saddam's connection with terrrorism? Was “al Tawheed wal Jihad” working with or sponsored by the previous regime? President Bush has also offered Abu Musab Zarqawi as an example of Saddam's terrorist connections. Is there any evidence of collaboration between them?


Walid Phares, Ph.D.: That's the question of the day I believe..Here's the history of it. Till 1990, Saddam was against all Fundamentalist groups, both Shiites and Sunnis. After his defeat, and gradually since about 1992 he slowly moved closer to the Sunni radicals. He showed many signs throughout the 1990s. Contacts were taking place as of the mid 1990s between his regime and the rising al Qaida. He was very careful about that. And they didn't like him much. But contacts were taking place. And I told MSNBC last Sunday, when al Qaida and Baathist mukhabarat used to meet, they weren't talking Ozone layer. Bin Laden explained his whole policy towards Saddam in a 2003 February speech via al Jazeera. His words were very well chosen. Put it that way. Before the fall of Saddam they were contacts, exchange of information, talks, and possible joint ventures. Do I have information about one major joint operation? No. After the fall of Saddam, al Qaida in Iraq took over the main Terrorist operations. Are they working with Baathists? Yes they are. Abu Mus'aab is now in control of most Terrorist operations and possibly most military operations…


Liberty Hill, TX: Thank you for your time. My question might be a simple question but why do the “Terrorist” always cover there faces. Are they scared that someone might recongize them or is it something in their upbringing? It seems sort of cowardly in my view.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: The al Qaida Terrorists in Iraq and Saudi Arabia do not want authorities to know who they are, and where they are. They want to retain the freedom of action till they are in control of a specific area. I think they are cowards in the sense that they kill innocent civilians.


Pittsburgh, PA: Dr. Phares,

Is it really fair to say that al-Qaeda wants to disrupt the November elections? Despite the viscitude between the two parties, both the Republicans and Democrats have pledged similarly to fight al-Qaeda and to not pull-out of Iraq. This is a situation much different than was found with the two political parties in Spain.

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: True, the American political culture and national psyche is different than the Spanish one. There is no doubt about that. But al Qaida has one political culture and won't lose anything if it tries. Al Qaida counts tremendously on the fact that the debate about the war against Terrorism and Iraq seems to be very deep through the media. What is a normal process within democracies sounds as a quasi civil war in the eyes of the Jihadists. How will they analyze the situation here is what counts, not the real situation. They may think that a strike will cost them few mujahideen only, but it may derail the process here. And if it doesn't then it is a strike against the infidels. It is very important to think with an Al Qaida mind. But may I say that your question is very valid. Probably the most powerful in terms of risk analysis in homeland security.


Washington, DC: Professor Phares, would you please comment on the role of development aid from countries like the U.S. in combating fundamentalist terrorism?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Excellent question. I wish I had all the space to answer here. I do teach a course in comparative politics that deals with this issue. In a nutshell, during the past decade, US Foreign aid wasn't targeting Fundamentalism. Actually, many of the funds and resources ended up in a very complex way to the advantage of Fundamentalists. Academic elites in America -including in the 1990s- who were influenced by political Wahabism were promoting the idea that the Islamic Fundamentalists were a force of change! In my sense, we lost one decade and millions of dollars because of the failure of our academic establishment in defining the threats. Can development initiated and funded by the US help in combatting fundamentalist terrorism. Of course it can. Actually, it may well be the best tool. The so-called Greater Middle East initiative, although not clear and not explained yet, is a powerful principle whichv can, and ultimately will produce some results. If invited back here, I'll expand further.


Crystal City, Va.: Hi Professor. Where were these hostages before they were captured? Are they not being guarded by the troops? Are we (americans) doing anything to protect others (right now today) from being captured?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: I wish I can answer that one. But from analysis, the assumption is that thousands of Americans and other nationals are simply attending their duties in Iraq, unguarded. It would be relatively easy for Terrorists to snatch them. However, the first who are killed are unfortunately a warning to others. This “foreign civilian” population in Iraq will rapidely adapt to this threat. Soon, al Qaida will find it more difficult to repeat the scenario. But the question is: what is soon, and how many more before it will become more difficult. Answers will come later..


California St Washington, D.C.: Do we know how many other hostages are being held? So far only civilians have been executed. Do you think this will expand to POWs?

Also, considering the US troops killing of 600+ men women and children in AlSadr's base area (Sadr City?), is it any surprise the assasins feel free to also kill innocents?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Some sources said about 15 to 20 others are still missing. POW are a higher value to al Qaida. They will logically “use” civilian hostages first, as harsh this statement may be. Killing civilians has a more imminent effect on Western societies.

As far as the balance of casualties you hinted at, it has to be used with its proper logic. In US and Western logic, one civilian hostage beheaded on video, will have more impact than 30 soldiers killed in an ambush. And the killing of one civilian is always more troubling than the killing of a military. These are psychological facts with roots that can be discussed. As far as the Jihadists, we need to understand that they have an ideological logic which is different, although intertwined with the popular logic. Yes, supposing that American military action left hundred of Iraqis killed in Sadr city. The answer to that would be either massive demonstrations against the Americans or military operations against US forces. But the beheading by al Qaida isn's an answer to US military action. Al Qaida's orders are from Allah -or so they think-regardless of the military confrontation. Had the US forces acted outside the international norms, such as collective executions, public beheadings, etc, than the response would be logical for symbolical reasons. The al Qaida specific actions are more to convince the other Iraqis that Allah is on their side and is ordering them to use 7th century techniques rather than response to US bombardments. For technically killing one man by beheading versus -as you wrote- Americans using their technology to go after the Terrorists, doesn't make sense. You can't use Western and Jihadi logics at the same time. It's either one or the other..


Cleveland, OH: Dr. Phares, what exactly do the people taking citizens hostage want? Do they want other countries out of the Mideast entirely? Do they only want the military out of the region? If we did leave, would they eventually try to take over our countries? Does this have anything to do with Israel or is it a different issue?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Excellent questions:

1) These are not random individuals taking hostage randomly. If we understand this reality, we will begin to understand the whole equation. You're facing a network with an ideology that is callign for very specific objectives. They connect the war from manhattan, Washington, to Baghdad, Cashemire, Chechnia, Sudan, Algeria, Indonesia, the Philippines. It is an ideology that doesn't have “national borders” to defend. Sort of a “Borgs” syndrom. Americans are still confused as far as what does al Qaida want, despite 9/11. Our media and academic establishment is not really helping.

2) The Jihadists want all “infidels” out of the Middle East, or what they define as the Islamic world. Not only the Americans, not only the other “Western infidels,” but also the native “infidels.” They want to destroy the native pre-Islamic communities such as the Copts of Egypt, the Blacks in Southern Sudan, the Christians in Lebanon, the Assyro-Chaldeans in Iraq, etc.

3) Then the Jihadists (Sunni radicals) wants to suppress the Shiites, Druze and other Muslim minorities. After that, they want to eliminate the Muslim socialists, liberals and progressive. From there on, their logic is to bring down the “apostate” Government of the region, and replace them with Taliban like regimes. And once they do so, they will implement their own interpretation of the Islamic Sharia law. First to suffer would of course be Muslim women.

4) From there on, and according to their texts, they would cancel all borders and create a pan-Islamic state ruled by what they want to establish as a “Caliphate.” This new super power will be equipped for even a wider Jihad with weapons of mass detruction, etc..

5) This has to do not only with Israel, but with Russia, India, Europe, Africa and of course the United States. You're talking about a worldwide web of Jihadism, with Palestine as a tiny fragment of its real concerns.

I hope I didn't scare you..but Americans must understand the ideology of al Qaida before devising their plans and choioces for the whole decade.

Fort Washington, Maryland: What is it that terrorists are attempting to accomplish? For example, if the US withdraws all of it's military and other governmental organizations out of Iraq and there is no US or other countries' presence in the country, would the terrorists be satisfied? Or, would they then want to come to the US and try to establish their philosophy here and why?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Let me answer with all simplicity.

1) After Iraq, there will be Saudi Arabia. And after that, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, India, Russia, Spain, central Africa, and then again the United States.

2) They don't follow the geographical logic when they strike, but you cna clearly see the final scheme when you visit their web sites..

3) Speaking of here, ie the US, the Jihadi Terrorists are not shy at all. They call it the “land of opportunity”…


Munich, Germany: Dr. Phares,

What effect has the Iraq conflict had on the current situation in Saudi Arabia? Over the past couple of months, I've read reports and opinions regarding the gradual destabilisation of Saudia Arabia, and the disenchantment of it's inhabitants. In your opinion, do you believe that the situation would have been more peaceful in Saudi Arabia today, if the Iraq war had not occured?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Interesting question

Let's put it that way..Islamic Fundamentalism -in its Salafi and Wahabi forms- was marching underneath the regimes, both in Iraq and in Saudi. I wouldn't be surprising you if I add, that below most regimes in the region, the “movement” is there.

The state of the affairs in Saudi Arabia wasn't culturally “peaceful” but “stable.” These are different things. So was the case in Iraq, and in other countries. The Oceans of Fundamentalism were rising at their own pace to spill out at some point.

The question is this: Had the US not intervened in Iraq, would the Jihadists been defeated by the regimes? No. The Jihadists would have taken over from the inside and acquired power.

The Jihadists are not a reaction to US policy, they are an action that US policy didn't see, understand, and contain for few decades.

Raleigh, NC: Dear Dr.Phares,

While the Terrorists are going on causing all the damage to innocent human beings and to property, they are also distorting the Islamic faith. As they go on with their rampage, they are 'selling' the religion to propage and promote their beliefs. Most of these terrorists are from the Middle Eastern countries.Should not all the leaders in the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, convene a Summit to denounce the actions and the ideology of these Terrorist organizations ?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: Bravo, that was and would be my recommendation. As you put it. Saudi leader5s can and should call for a world conference of all Muslim leaders, clerics and intellectuals to be held in Saudi Arabia. Such a Conference would delegitimize Jihad as a violent ideology. If this is done, half of the battle is won..well, 49% of it..


Philadelphia, Pa.: Once the government is handed over in Iraq can moderate Muslims sustain the leaderhip/support necessary in Iraq and the Middle East to create a stable environment or will there ensue a kind of civil war to quall the violence of the radical Muslims. Isn't total banishment of Westerners/foreigners from the Middle East the ultimate goal of all Muslims?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: That's the entire logic behind the campaign in Iraq, -at least as I understood it-

To find a country in the Arab Muslim Middle East, where civil society would be given the opportunity and the chance to free itself from dictatorship, begin democracy and more importantly for this case, engage the Terrorists in the middle of the region.

The Coalition's real mission now is to support the Iraqi Government to takeover, organize itself and lauch the Iraqi-Middle East camopaign against Jihadist Terrorism. Obviously, with all the media coverage of the beheadings and the Terrorists attacks, most of our public is concerned about the future. Not the majority of Iraqis though. Our pace in the US and the West is different. Our deadlines are June 30th, the US elections, the British elections, and some other self centered political benchmarks. In Iraq, and after decades of brutal oppression, time is open. Even outside Iraq, democratic forces are hoping for a regional change. It is ironic that the regimes in the region are concerned about what can come out of the Iraqi experience. The masses have a different view. Not the radical audiences of al Jazeera and the web sites, but the underdogs.

The new Iraqi Government and its civil society will have to avoid internal frictions, and ethnic confrontations. If they succeed in this, they will position themselves as historical winners against Jihad Terrorism. When they tasted freedom they can't go back to Taliban, Baath or Khumanism. What they need is time, and we are not giving them enough of it. We need to understand that what we are up against in that region, is deeper, wider and more rooted than what we think. But at the same time, there will be no real peace nor freedom and democracy if that change doesn't take place.

Canton, Conn.: Why do these terrorists in Iraq and Saudi Arabia fail to recognize that murdering individual foreign nationals in cold blood will result in our revulsion first, our anger second and finally our retribution?

Could those that decapitate hostages be criminally insane?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: They, the Jihadist Terrorists are not independant thinkers. They have been mentally controlled by a school, the madrassa, and are ordered by clerics in the name of the divine. Their logic is not similar to Basque ETA, the French Resistance, or even the PLO. The “infidels” are a legitimate prey, should they be “angry” or not. At the end of the day, the Jihadists are told that whatever they do in execution of their “Emirs” is the will of Allah. Even when they behead, they think they are his faithful soldiers. It is a violent ideology, which has been trying to hijack a religion and many nations, and use them to destroy world peace.


Riyadh, KSA: What do you think about the width and depth of the militant/terrorist movement in KSA? How many people are members of al-Qaeda linked groups? What is the public support for their operations?

Walid Phares, Ph.D.: The ideology, encouraged initially by the regime for decades, has wide and deep influence.

The Jihadist movement was initially also directly helped by the regime till about the mid 1990s. Then the regime distanced itself, slowly, but remained intertwined.

It will be difficult to trace a border between who is Fundamentalist per se and who crossed the line to become an active Jihadi.

The support for the ideology is wide, the actual involvement in the support for the al Qaida may be lesser, but still significant.