July 21, 2005 | FrontPageMagazine

London: Behind Infidel Lines

By: Dr. Walid Phares.

“We have to wait and see if these incidents are terrorism related.” When I heard this sentence uttered by anchors quoting officials in Great Britain after Thursday’s explosions in London’s subways, I told myself: Western instincts are still numbed, even though progress in popular mobilization is clear.

On several radio shows during yesterday morning, I compared the current legalistic logic in the terror war with odd statements the British would have never made back during the Blitz of 1940. Let's just imagine after each wave of Nazis bombers, city officials would caution the media from rushing to quick conclusions, saying: We don't know if these were bombs or gas explosions! Or: Let's call them bombers but not Nazis, before we actually show the Swastikas in a courtroom!

In short, even if we see a rising awareness about the nature of terrorism among ordinary people, the elite still trails behind in the conflict with Jihadism. In fact, either we are at war or we aren't. One doesn't need seven hours after the second wave of Jihadi attacks in London to “dare” describe it as being of a “terrorist nature.” What else could it be?

While the West wrestled with this definition “crisis”, the leading commentators in the Arab world were already exploring which Jihadist group was responsible, while, of course, blaming Britain and the US for the attacks. Ironically, there is a mental time zone between London and the Eastern Mediterranean. By the morning, Salafi chat rooms and cyber salons were already celebrating the second “Ghazwa” (raid) of London. Regardless of casualties, the Jihadis were celebrating the “penetration” of the British system: “Lan yanjahu fi darb el mujahideen” (they won't be successful in hitting the Mujahidin, sic) a chatting person lashed out. This was very indicative of the equation: The so-called bombers, failing to achieve mass death, wanted to score a point; that is that they are on the offensive. Meanwhile their infidel enemies were busy reconstructing the evidence.  

Of course, such investigations are a must and usually lead to uncovering essential information about our Islamist enemies, but educating the public on the psychology of Jihadi hatred is just as important. Unfortunately, the level of analysis in the UK is still not up to par in the West. Instead of thinking strategically and spending precious public time on investigating the actual infiltration and penetration of the West, including the UK, by Jihadists, we spend 80% of airtime and print space is spent on slow motion sensationalism. Yes, it is important to figure out if the latest attack is a “copy cat”, but it is more important to understand the message behind this terrorism and to be able to project upcoming attacks. Greater effort must be dispensed on assessing the enemies' plans, their recruitment tactics and the width and depth of their networks in Britain. To put it plainly, Her Majesty's homeland security has a significant problem. 

It doesn't stem from the weakness of the United Kingdom's security systems; they are among the best in the world. England's terrorist cancer is the result of past British policies regarding Islamic fundamentalism. This is nothing surprising to the Jihad experts. The doors of “British Troy” were wide open to the “Trojan Salafis.” For years, the influx of Jihadi cadres, doctrinal material and freedom for recruitment was overwhelming. Of course, Bakri and al Masri, the British-based Islamist leaders, didn't authorize earlier “Ghazwas” or Terrorist strikes. For over a decade, al Muhajirun, the various “ansar” groups and the trainees of Afghanistan roamed in the country of Richard the Lionhearted unchecked and uncontained. At some point, a clash was bound to occur. And Britain recent attempts to catch up on its own national security led its government to finally crack down on the domestic enemy. That in turn prompted the cells to act. 

But a thorough review of the global Jihadi strategies gives us another overarching view of the confrontation. Al Qaida and the international Salafi leadership aimed at Britain even before London aimed at al Muhajirun et al as of early 2005. It is more likely, in my analysis, that the Jihadists opened fire on Tony Blair's government before he ordered the crackdown on Londonistan's networks. It was well understood by the radical Islamists and their allies that the most precious ally of the US in the global war on Terror is the UK. 

Back in March of 2004, al Qaida took out one ally of Washington: Prime Minister Aznar's Government. In the aftermath of the “Jihadi victory” then, the Salafist and Wahabis rhetoric–on al Jazeera and many chat rooms—focused on what they then called the next chapter, which is attempting to unsettle the Blair government. The main argument at the time was the ineluctable offensive on Britain. But since “Jihadi interests” were high inside the city, the Jihadist planners relied on a growing domestic opposition to the War. Al Qaida projected a possible defeat of Blair in his elections after a defeat of Bush in his own elections: A sort of a domino effect across the Atlantic. But this didn't happen: Instead, Bush, Blair and even Howard of Australia were reelected. Even worse, a Western realignment (including Washington and Paris) occurred against Syria's occupation of Lebanon and the weapons of Hizbollah, let alone Iran. Besides, Britain moved against its own Islamists just as Iraq secured successful elections last January. 

Hence, a strategic decision was taken at the highest levels of international Jihadism: full offensive in Britain until the Blair government is out. But for the Jihadists, it is not an issue of being successful each time. That isn't the logic of the Jihadists. It is a matter of ideological persistence. A suicide bomber doesn't survive to see the result. And the decision makers behind the attacks aren't hanging their credibility in the balance. They want to break the British security system whatever it will cost them. In their minds, some operations will be successful, other won't.

This month they targeted the subway system and a couple buses; tomorrow they will construct other spaces for violence. As in the US, British national security must bridge the gap with the terrorists. It should develop a culture of knowledge free from taboos. British authorities must name the ideology behind these attacks so that the public can sharpen its instincts. These are not just bombers who happen to kill innocent civilians on particular dates. These bombers are Jihadi terrorists with a worldview and designs against the UK and other democracies. Investigating the nature of the explosives is a normal process, but exposing the lethal ideology and its ramifications in society is the center of the battle. The relative good news is that the British Prime Minister and the US President are both, amazingly, moving in that direction. Very slowly, perhaps slower than strategic needs, both leaders have finally crossed from designing the enemy as “terrorism” only to identify it as an “evil ideology.” In Washington and London, politicians are uttering the words of “murderous ideology.” By historical standards, this is a significant leap. Next is to clarify the nature of this ideology.

Only then, we will start to understand the intentions of the terrorists in Britain and the rest of the free world. Only then, will we be able to understand that each “operation” is part of the global constellation of Jihadism. London's 7/7, and prior to that, New York's 9/11 and Madrid's 3/11 are all but strikes “behind infidel lines.”  When we start thinking in Jihadic logic, we'd understand not only the ultimate objectives of these terrorist acts, successful or not; we may even begin to project their path, and ultimately deflect them.

Read the Spanish Translation.