October 1, 2006 | The New York Post

State of Jihad

QUESTION: What has changed about “Future Jihad” since the book first appeared?

Answer: Between November 2005 and November 2006, very important developments have been taking place on the international jihadi battlefields.

Iraq has a new government that is committed to facing off with the jihadists. In response, the jihadists tried to inflame sectarian violence. And meanwhile, the debate about U.S. involvement in Iraq continues here at home.

As I wrote in “Future Jihad,” al Qaeda and the jihadists wanted to establish a Taliban-like emirate in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, but they failed, while the United States and their Iraqi allies are building the country's army bit by bit.

In terms of the global war on terror, I am still concerned about “Mutant Jihad,” which is the capacity of the jihadists to mutate into other forms and groups. I am gratified to see that both U.S. and European counterterrorism strategies are incorporating this new reality.

A few weeks ago Americans got a taste of the new type of jihadist: Adam Gadahn, the new spokesperson for al Qaeda in the U.S. His statements and those of Ayman al-Zawahiri before him show that the jihadists want to penetrate the West – the U.S in particular – with cells that are born inside the country. Al Qaeda wants to place jihadists deep inside the defense and security apparatus in order to trigger direct threats against national security.

Q: What changes did you make to the book?

A: Instead of focusing exclusively on America, the new book covers Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, and analyzes the latest declarations from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, I've analyzed the jihadists new strategies, including ideological incitement (such as the “cartoon jihad”) and the persecution of minorities in Africa and Asia. The new book also deals with the convergence of interests between the Salafist jihadism of al Qaeda and Khomeinist jihadism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah.

Q: According to your analysis, Iran and Syria are on the same page about jihad.

A: Tehran and Damascus concluded a mutual defense treaty as of the early 1980s under Ayatollah Khomeini and Hafez Assad. It is a very old and open alliance. Both Iran and Syria are concerned about the rise of democracies in the region: Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon's Cedar Revolution, etc. And they are also concerned about the growing dissident movement in their own countries.

Iran seeks influence among Iraq's large Shiite community, while Syria seeks to bring back its influence and control over Lebanon. Iran and Syria have joint objectives and have different zones of influence in Iraq and Lebanon. But their long-term objective is a strategic crescent from Afghanistan to Lebanon's shores.

Q: What did Ahmadinejad come to the United Nations to provoke?

A: First, his regime continues with the destabilization of Iraq, putting pressures on the United States to withdraw. Then via Syria, Iran rearms Hezbollah, which has cells around the world and even within America as well. Then, Ahmadinejad reaches out to other radicals both from the Middle East and beyond. Ahmadinejad came to the United Nations to deliver a speech of incitement and confusion directed against the United States. What he hopes is to gain stature as an equal to Washington in order to shield Iran from potential U.S. action in the future. Politically, it's the equivalent of a pre-emptive strike.

Q: What is the state of affairs in Iraq now?

A: The debate in the U.S. today is about whether the terrorists are getting stronger because of U.S intervention in Iraq. But I've demonstrated that the jihadists have been in the Middle East for decades, and have been spreading their Wahhabi ideology for years. They will move to any country that moves toward democracy. That is the real battle in Iraq: future democracy.

Americans need to understand that the jihadists are international; they travel from spot to spot to conduct their war. In the past it was Afghanistan and Iraq. Soon it will be Somalia and Sudan. The only serious threat to Iraq is the sectarian incidents. But when terror is reduced, mainstream politicians will understand that further destruction and killings don't serve the interests of a stable Iraq.

Issues:

Al Qaeda Jihadism