Monday, March 7, 2011

Are the Mideast uprisings strengthening al Qaeda?

It isn't Osama bin Laden who's out there toppling autocratic Arab regimes — but will he and his terrorist network benefit anyway?

Best Opinion: Wash. Post, Yemen Observer, Al Arabiya

As Libya slips deeper into a bloody civil war, unyielding leader Moammar Gadhafi insists that al Qaeda is behind the revoltagainst him. Meanwhile, many, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), argue that the uprisings in Libya and across the Arab world are a "repudiation" of Osama bin Laden's network of terrorists. Others aren't so sure. Will the uprisings unleash pent-up support for Islamist extremism?

The revolts will strengthen al Qaeda: The uprisings represent "an enormous strategic step forward for al Qaeda," says Michael Scheuer at The Washington Post. Each dictatorship that falls creates "a more religion-friendly" political environment where bottled-up support for Muslim extremists will now gush forth. And with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak gone, Israel has lost its last "anti-Islamist shield." For bin Laden, who has declared war against both Israel and "the Arab tyrannies," this is a double victory. "Why the Mideast revolts will help al Qaeda"

Actually, the uprisings make al Qaeda irrelevant: Al Qaeda has never been "more marginal than it is now," says Shahid Alam at the Yemen Observer. It recruits frustrated young people by calling for "terrorist attacks against local tyrannies or their foreign backers." But these uprisings, which have largely succeeded without violence from the protesters, are robbing the organization of its lifeblood, and undercutting its rationale. "Washington, al Qaeda, and the Arab revolt"

Al Qaeda is down, but not yet out: Al Qaeda was "caught by surprise,"says Musa Keilani at Al Arabiya, and it's trying to "muscle its way into the unrest" after the fact. But if new Arab leaders can guarantee stability and jobs, the region's "hopeful youth" will "shun al Qaeda." The real question is whether the governments replacing toppled regimes can satisfy protesters' demands. If the new regimes fail, don't count al Qaeda out. "Priorities for post-revolt leaders"


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