European states have emerged unscathed by terrorism both from the war against Iraq and from Osama bin Laden's ideology, apart from the train bombings in Spain in March 2004.
Strikes against European targets focused on those inside Iraq, and were perpetrated mainly by Iraqi organizations. Some of these groups are affiliated to Al-Qaida, like the al-Zarqawi network, while others are driven by local, political or ethnic motives. Their activity consisted of attacking foreign - not necessarily European - diplomats, businessmen or facilities.
It seemed that in the two and a half years of war, a terrorist pattern of action has developed in Iraq, giving the impression that foreign states are no longer in danger because the battlefield is within Iraq's borders. Until yesterday.
The bombings in London and the announcement from an organization calling itself Al-Qaida Jihad Europe indicate that the organization has adopted a new strategy - to export the war from Iraq to states it sees as its rivals for the control of Iraq. Hence the threat that was aimed yesterday at Italy and Denmark, but not toward Germany and France, which objected to the war.
If this is a new strategy (and not revenge for Britain's cooperation), it apparently
derives from the struggle in Iraq. The local terror crop there of killings, attacks and car bombs failed to bring about the sought-for strategic turning point: cutting Iraq off from the world, gaining power and turning Iraq into an alternative to the former base in Afghanistan.
These terror groups have succeeded in holding back Iraq's rehabilitation, causing huge economic damage and halting government attempts to take control. But the coalition forces are still in Iraq, which has diplomatic ties with Arab states, albeit not at the ambassadorial level.
Egypt's daring to appoint an ambassador in Iraq - following American pressure - cost Ambassador Ihab al-Sharif his life yesterday. Terrorists also tried, unsuccessfully, to abduct the acting Pakistani ambassador. But no Arab or Muslim state has announced its disengagement from Iraq.
This new strategy in Europe could result in the operation of two terror systems - one in Iraq, headed by the Iraqi network, and another on the international front, wherever a bombing could be carried out. Thus the radical organizations could fully realize the tactical capability of their flexible structure. On the one hand, they could operate as local groups poised to establish radical fundamentalist regimes in Muslim states, and on the other hand, serve as branches of a universal ideology and its leadership.
Thus, for example, the organization suspected of the bombing in Spain - the Moroccan Jihadists - is a local group whose activists took part in the Afghanistan war. Its main goal is to replace the regime in Morocco, but, when required, it is ready and able to act outside the state.
It is difficult to detect the two terror systems because international terror organizations, unlike local ones, do not necessarily depend on local community infrastructure, Arab or Muslim. Instead they have developed independent logistic systems. Consequently, Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan have succeeded in locating cells and activists. But the European intelligence services have difficulty in detecting these cells, apparently because they are cut off from the local Muslim communities that are under surveillance.
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