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Al-Qaeda's War on Iraq By: Dr. Walid Phares
Philadelphia Inquirer | Thursday, April 22, 2004

"'Al harb ala al Iraq."

This slogan, which means "The War on Iraq," appears with each story on the Iraq conflict on al-Jazeera television and its young media counterparts in the Arab world. It's a motto designed to transcend all facts and opinion. The notion that this is a war against Iraq is meant to mobilize jihadists and demobilize ordinary Iraqis. If this is an American-led war "against" Iraq, then the best way to come to Iraq's aid is to attack U.S. forces and their allies.

The equation has its own logic. It attempts to open the door for volunteers - including al-Qaeda and other jihadists - to travel to Iraq from Syria, Iran and elsewhere to wage a holy war. But the question today, as it has been since May 2003, is: "Yes, there is a war against Iraq, but who is waging it?"

Tuesday's deadly bombings in Basra provide us with the answer. In several mortar and car bomb explosions, directed against police stations and civilians, terrorist attacks killed more than 70 men, women and children and injured nearly 250. The slaughter was a vivid reminder of similar attacks in several cities around the world including Istanbul, Riyadh, Madrid, Bali and Moscow. Mass killing of civilians has all the al-Qaeda hallmarks. But the Basra massacre has even more to tell us.

In targeting police stations, the attacks were meant not only to kill security officers, but also to disrupt the present and future security of Iraq. The aim goes beyond the British troops deployed in this major Shiite city; the real targets are the Iraqis who must become the backbone of stability and normal civil society in Iraq. What the attackers want to achieve is the preemptive assassination of normality for a society in search of peace and progress.

In place of these security forces, which will be serving future democratically elected governments, the terrorists want to see fundamentalist militia at the service of some emir or other. Thus the forces of reaction desperately try to block the march toward the future. If the new Iraq rises, radical forces will be reduced to gangs, or at best, marginal radical factions, which could hope to get at best only a few seats in the representative assemblies. That future is what these killers are trying to forestall.

Al-Qaeda may be emboldened by its bloodshed around the world and particularly in Iraq, but the Iraqis are not the Spanish voters, totally blinded by their own media. The people of Iraq have lived under terror longer than al-Qaeda has been in existence. Ordinary Iraqis, who have no links to the Fallujah Fedayeen or supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, have deep instincts. They have been gassed in Halabja, tortured in Baghdad and piled up in mass graves. They understand the terror message; they know who their real enemy is. Yesterday morning in Basra, they saw the monster devouring the lives of their children. Unlike the Spanish voters, they will not submit to al-Qaeda, for one simple reason: They know that there is a war against their freedom, and that war on Iraq is al-Qaeda's war.

Dr Walid Phares is the author of the newly released book Future Jihad. He is also a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington DC.

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