Jihad Central

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MICAH HALPERN
Terrorism expert and author of What You Need to Know About: Terror

Terrorists don't just wake up one morning and decide to hate the United States. The only thing that really happened in Iraq is that we brought the target closer to them — there are Americans walking around there right now. It's not that the war generated terror, it just provided an easier target. All these other people who normally would not have had the opportunity to strike out against American targets now have them close by. Iraq has become a magnet. But these are people with divergent opinions about the world. There are staunch secularists and nationalists together with vehement Muslim fundamentalists. It would not surprise me if these people ended up fighting one another, which we have seen already. This terrorism is not just against Americans, it's a statement. They are doing it in order to influence tens of thousands of other Muslims and Arabs not to collaborate with the West.

MILAN RAI
Author of Regime Unchanged: Why the War on Iraq Changed Nothing

Before the war Iraq was a terrorist state to its own people. But now there's an internal terrorist problem, which the U.S. and Britain are doing nothing to solve. The view that the attack on Iraq was itself an act of international terrorism is widely held around the world and in the Middle East. This in itself is an ignition point for people to support and commit terrorist acts against a state that they perceive as being the greatest terrorist state in the world — that is, the United States. For the Iraqi people, there are a lot of what they regard as terrorist actions by U.S. soldiers, unpunished killings of civilians, terrorist acts by different groups — foreign and domestic — and an outbreak of gangsterism, all of this confining them to their homes. They attribute this largely to the breakdown of the former Iraqi system and the failure of the U.S. to provide an adequate system to replace it. From their point of view, there are many forms of terrorism at play, all of which are ruining their lives.


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DANIELLE PLETKA
Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Terrorism is about opportunity, and Iraq presents a convenient opportunity, but it's not a terribly conducive environment for anything other than hit-and-run operations. It's not an operational base and not a strategic asset. Terrorists may be coming in, but it's very temporary. Operational leaders of terrorist groups confine themselves to places where there is a congenial government or sufficient lawlessness, like the hinterlands of Afghanistan, the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan and, increasingly, in places like Iran, a mecca for terrorists. That's not the case in Iraq because of the American presence but also because Iraq has an increasingly robust system of local governance. It has a central government that is growing in power, it has any number of foreign troops, and it also has 55,000 Iraqis trained and under arms now. It's not a place where bad guys feel comfortable. There's a reason why Saddam Hussein is not sitting in a palace and eating bonbons. He is running and hiding every day.

BENJAMIN R. BARBER
Author of Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism, and Democracy

We have created the very circumstances that we intervened to prevent. We have now created a connection between al-Qaeda and the remaining Baathists and Republican Guard that didn't exist before. We have created American targets that didn't exist before. We have turned the Iraqi people and the United Nations into targets that didn't exist before. The whole intention of the invasion has been counterproductive. But the real issues are not just tactical. There is also a deep strategic issue — the Preventative War Doctrine, which Condoleezza Rice enunciated last year, that the United States has a right to intervene pre-emptively against rogue states that may have connections to terrorism and may eventually be a threat. That doctrine has been proved faulty and ineffective. The basic justification for the war was that Iraq presents a potential threat and therefore we have a right to eliminate it. But instead the threat has been increased. This points to the deep deficiency of the doctrine. The problem is that terrorists aren't states; they are martyrs with no address.

JOHN L. ESPOSITO
Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University and author of Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam

The theory that Iraq will become the theater of terrorists is naive thinking. The situation in Iraq is more analogous to the Afghan jihad in the sense that resistance is coming mainly from within the country. Yes, jihadis have been attracted to Iraq, just like during the Afghan-Soviet war, but the more ominous development is the growth of global extremism as a reaction to the Iraqi situation and the proliferation of recruits to global terrorism or of terrorist groups. Many of these groups continue to fight in their own countries or regions as well as to espouse global terrorism. The indigenous resistance in Iraq could grow and provide an impetus for the growth of global terrorism. But you have to be careful not to lump all of global terrorism under one corporate terrorist group led by one terrorist CEO. What makes terrorism so dangerous is that it's so diffuse.