Originally Published 2005-11-14 06:53:03 Published on Nov 14, 2005
The Al Qaeda in Iraq, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is of Jordanian origin, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the blasts directed at three hotels in Amman on November 9,2005, in which about 60 innocent civilians, the majority of them Jordanian nationals, were killed. There is no valid reason for doubting the claim.
Amman Blasts: The Message
The Al Qaeda in Iraq, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is of Jordanian origin, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the blasts directed at three hotels in Amman on November 9,2005, in which about 60 innocent civilians, the majority of them Jordanian nationals, were killed. There is no valid reason for doubting the claim.

Ever since Osama bin Laden formed his International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad against the Crusaders and the Jewish People in February 1998, Al Qaeda and the IIF have been viewing Jordan as one of their adversaries to be targeted at an available opportunity. The Amman blasts bring to mind once again the oft-cited statement of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) after the Brighton blast of 1985 that the security agencies have to be repeatedly lucky, but terrorists have to be lucky only once.

The Jordanian security agencies were repeatedly lucky since 1998 in foiling the plots of Al Qaeda to strike at Amman , but this time luck eluded them and favoured the terrorists.

Al Qaeda's targets fall into four categories:

Its principal adversaries: The US, Israel and the UK

Its secondary adversaries: In this category fall countries, Muslim as well as non-Muslim, which are perceived by it as supporters or collaborators of the US and its policies and activities in the Islamic world. Among those figuring in this category for some years now are Spain , Italy , Norway , Australia , Jordan , Egypt , Saudi Arabia , Kuwait , the United Arab Emirates , Bahrain , Turkey , Morocco and Pakistan . Spain became a target not only because of its pre-March,2004, participation in the US-led coalition force in Iraq, but also because of the perception of Al Qaeda that large parts of Spain rightfully belonged to the Ummah, whose control over them has to be restored. Australia figures in this category not only because of its perceived pro-US policies, but also because of its role in the movement for the independence of East Timor , which is viewed by Al Qaeda as anti-Islam.

Those, who are targeted not because they are viewed as pro-US, but because their policies are viewed as detrimental to Islam. In this category come France because of its rigorously enforced ban on the use of head scarves by Muslim girl students in its public schools and Germany because of its active role in support of the Government of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan .

Emerging new targets: India, which is being viewed since our Prime Minister's visit to the US in July,2005, as increasingly pro-US. The perceived silence of the Government of India on issues such as the alleged violations of the human rights of the Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq by the US security forces and the alleged desecration of the Holy Koran by the US guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba has also been interpreted by the jihadi terrorists as indicators of the Government of India's increasingly pro-US and anti-Ummah policies.

Interestingly, none of the South-East and East Asian countries--not even Indonesia, which has been the target of four major terrorist strikes, suspected to have been by the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) since 2002--fall in any of these categories. Al Qaeda might have inspired and blessed the anti-Jakarta activities of the JI, but there is no evidence that it instigated them.

Jordan has been viewed as a long-standing adversary because of its perceived pro-US and pro-Israel policies. Its help in assisting the US forces in Iraq has aggravated Al Qaeda's anger against it. Certain aspects need to be highlighted in any analysis of the Amman blasts:

The tenacity of purpose of Al Qaeda and the IIF. They are like the homing pigeons, which keep flying towards their objective, whatever be the obstacles on the way. This tenacity of purpose extends to not only their determination to successfully plan and execute tactical operations like the one at Amman, but also to their determination to acquire one day weapons of mass destruction (WMD) material and use them , in the hope of thereby clinching their strategic success.

Their continuing indifference to the sufferings caused by them to fellow-Muslims as a result of their operations against their targets. Since 2002, more Muslims have been killed than non-Muslims in the operations mounted by Al Qaeda and the IIF in different parts of the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq , but their deaths have had no impact on the policies of Al Qaeda.

For the first time, Muslim public opinion has expressed itself against the brutalities of Al Qaeda in the form of demonstrations in Amman. The demonstrations might have been officially mobilised by the Jordanian authorities, but their success in doing so is worthy of emulation in other countries.

The practical impossibility of protecting all soft targets for all time against all threats. If the terrorists have no qualms over killing innocent civilians in order to demonstrate their power and if the possibility of public anger against their actions does not restrain them, they are bound to succeed somewhere or the other, some time or the other, however efficient the intelligence agencies may be and however tight the physical security.

The eclipse of Osama bin Laden since October 29, 2004, has had no impact on the morale and motivation of the international jihadi terrorists. International jihadi terrorism remains and will remain in the short and medium term a serious threat to international peace and security, with or without bin Laden.

The international community, however close the mutual co-operation of its members in counter-terrorism, will continue to be confronted with repeated tactical successes of the jihadi terrorists, despite the unpublicised successes of the intelligence and security agencies in preventing others. The strategic success of the international community in its fight against international jihadi terrorism of the Al Qaeda kind would depend upon its ability to eradicate its roots in Afghanistan and Pakistan, dating from the 1980s, and its roots in Iraq, dating from April,2003.

It is important that the US-led coalition prevails over the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is equally important that the task of the eradication of the strong roots of jihadi terrorism in Pakistani soil receives greater attention from the international community than it has hitherto.

The author is former Secretary (R), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi. He is presently Advisor to Chairman, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi.

Source: South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, Paper no. 1610, November 12, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.

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