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The Daily Journal: April 12, 2007

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So What If It Is al-Qaeda?

The headlines are blaring it all over Europe (less so in America, where attention is still focused on the dumping of Don Imus and the return of the draft by other means): The terrorist attacks in Algeria that killed 23 people are “raising the spectre of a return to Islamist terrorism that spread mayhem across the country in the 1990s” when 200,000 people were killed in a civil war between Islamists and the army. Curious how the Times (the one in London this time) mish-mashes everything down to the same common denominator—Islamic terrorism—the way Bush does, as if a brand of Islamic nationalism (even if fueled by Islamic warheads) couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it. Say what you will about Algeria’s Islamists, they were leading in the polls in 1992 when the army intervened to crush them, at a price. This isn’t to excuse the Islamists. Regression is worth beating back wherever it snouts about. But there are better ways than repression and civil war, and the flouting of the democratic process. If, however, this is al-Qaeda’s work, as the headlines claim, then the Europeans have less to worry about, these terror attacks being the signatures of their own limitations. If al-Qaeda has been reduced to attacking the odd North African capital, it’s not much of a force anymore, and it wouldn’t be the sort of force that inspires popular awe. Al-Qaeda’s attacks in Arab lands usually backfire, as they did when al-Zawahri’s operation killed all those tourists at Luxor or when Zarqawi went at it in Jordan. Then again, these bombings could be training runs for the real thing.

Briefing Israel on Iran?

Odd that the American secretary of defense would choose this month, this year, this soon into his tenure and this deply into Bush’s mess to… Go to Israel? From Haaretz: “U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Israel next week for a series of meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz on the strategic situation in the Middle East. The visit, scheduled for April 17, is the first time a U.S. Defense Secretary will be visiting Israel in eight years. […] Gates' main mission at this point is to oversea the renewed effort to stabilize Iraq, in light of President George Bush's decision to increase the number of U.S. troops in that country. American sources told Haaretz yesterday that Gates is interested in hearing what the Israeli leadership thinks about the situation in Iraq. He is also planning to discuss tactics for dealing with the IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) employed by terrorists in Iraq, which have taken a toll on U.S. forces. Among the bilateral issues to be discussed is Israel's wish to be included once more in the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) project for the new American strike fighter […] The Israelis said they raised some of the lessons of the Lebanon war in conversations with their American colleagues and recommended that these should be studied before the JSF development program is finalized. Another issue of interest to Gates and Israel, and a subject covered extensively last week by the New York Times, is Israel's opposition to the sale of advanced weapons systems to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. The American defense establishment is determined to sell these systems to Arab states and will seek a compromise formula in order to prevent supporters of Israel in Congress from foiling the deal. Israel has also expressed interest in procuring a number of advanced systems from the U.S. and it is possible that Washington will agree to reconsider the sale of these to Israel in exchange for an easing of Israeli objections to the Saudi deal.

 

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