Monday, January 04, 2010

Old Dogs & Old Tricks

No matter how hard some people try, they can’t blame the recent failed attempt to blow up a Delta plane on any of U.S. President Barak Obama’s policies.

According to an article in the New York Times by correspondent Steven Erlanger, two of the terrorists transferred from incarceration at the Guantanimo, Cuba prison to a high security prison in Yemenite, not only escaped from that prison but went on to become leaders of the nascent Al Qaeda movement in the Arabian Peninsula that was responsible for the recent failed suicide bomb attack by 23 year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallah on a Detroit bound Delta airline. But their release was prior to Obama.

The New York Times article states that the rise of Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia came about because the U.S. released a number of Al Qaeda leaders from Guantanimo. These leaders then escaped from Yemeni prisons, or sought refuge in Yemen. In February 2009 23 suspected Al Qaeda fighters escaped from a Yemeni prison. All but a few were recaptured or killed by security forces, but those few became key players in the new rise of Al Qaeda.

One escaped prisoner, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, reorganized the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda, focusing on attacks against western targets. Another, Qassim al-Raimi, became a military commander.

In December 2007, years before Obama, Said Ali al-Shihri, a 36 year-old Saudi, was released from Guantanimo after six years’ imprisonment to a Saudi-run rehab program. He went on to become one of al-Wuhayshi’s top aides in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Another released Guantanimo prisoner, 30 year-old Saudi-born Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaysh, also in the Saudi rehab program, is now supposedly the leader of the Al Qaeda religious branch in the new organization. Another Al Qaeda activists, U.S. born Anwar al-Awiaki, arrested and jailed and released from a Yemeni prison, is reportedly the “internet Imam” and the key link to Umar Abdulmutallah.

The 200,000 Somali refugees who fled to Yemen are merging with the thousands of Al Qaeda fighters returning from Iraq, or those on the run from Afghanistan. The failed suicide bomber Abdulmutallah claimed hundreds more Al Qaeda fighters were ready to do what he did.

According to some military analysts, a swap of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas for over three years in Gaza, may have the same negative effect as those prisoners released from Guantanimo. This, according to the experts, is why Israel PM Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, is slow to move on the final implementation of the Shalit deal.

Hamas has placed to names on the list that create tremors in Israeli security circles. The main one is Marwan Barghoutti, the imprisoned leader of the militant Tanzim branch of the PLO, now serving two life-sentences for organizing terror attacks on Israeli citizens.

Some political analysts think that Hebrew-speaking Barghoutti should be released, since he could act as a counter-weight to Hamas, take over the Palestinian Authority from Mohammed Abbas, and be able to come to the negotiating table with the power to implement a peace agreement with Israel.

Others think that should Barghoutti be released he may just start a new Intifada just to show his power, and establish his credentials as a Palestinian leader. These skeptics also point out that of the 1,000 other prisoners; many will resort to terrorist activities and make life unsafe for Israelis who have been enjoying a relatively calm period since the end of the War In Lebanon II.

According to observers these released prisoners may have the same effect on Israel’s security that the release of prisoners from Guantanimo had on the world.

Many critics say that President Obama is too soft on terrorists, willing to talk to them rather than fight them. Israel’s PM Netanyahu has long posed as a leader of the right-wing, firm in his fight against terror. Still, according to Monday’s Haaretz Newspaper, PM Netanyahu has said that ‘a new spirit’ is in the air. Some speculate that he has a plan to announce progress in a peace agreement.

Some pundits believe that Netanyahu and the security establishment is negotiating with Barghoutti, offering to free him if he promises to help bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table, not to the battlefield. Others believe that the security establishment, specifically Shin Bet head Dicter, have been whispering in Netanyahu’s ear, pointing out that the release of the Al Qaeda prisoners from Guantanimo has caused the resurgence of that organization, and a similar release of Palestinian prisoners would have the same effect in Israel.

The press is again talking about a Palestinian state by 2012. This is the goal President Obama has ostensibly set for the final agreement. Israel’s Foreign Minister, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beitanu party, has said there is no chance of a peace agreement within two years. Speaking on Israel Radio Yosi Beilin, former head of the left-wing Meretz party, derided Leiberman, saying that no country’s foreign minister took him seriously, and most avoided dealing with him. Still, there are those in Israel who find that while not politically correct, Leibnerman often has the correct take on the realpolitik.

Whatever the final analysis, it is clear that the call for softening the hard-line attitude to terrorism hasn’t brought any serious progress, at least none that is obvious. Iran is still racing to build their nuclear weapon, Al Qaeda is still planning attacks, Hezbollah in Lebanon reportedly has more rockets than ever before, and Hamas says it has weapons that can reach Tel Aviv and far beyond.

Given the uneasy state of the world one wonders if the Jimmy Carter approach to world peace will work at this time, or if it isn’t more the time to keep a careful eye on the enemies of western democracy, denying them more soldiers, officers and generals. Men who just might decide the time was right to band together with like-minded fanatics and launch a massive attack that will make 9/11 look like a computer game.