The title of this article may cause a shock; this is what is required as whoever is following up on the recent terrorist attacks attributed to Al Qaeda, or claimed by the organization itself, will find that he has more questions than answers. The latest terrorist operations are characterized by a different mark to the 9/11 attacks or the attacks that followed.
For two years, terrorist operations have been marked by a qualitative feature that is more than just organized group action and we have seen this in a number of places around the world such as Saudi Arabia, the United States, London, Jordan or elsewhere. They have attempted to kill a number of people and to spread fear to send the message that Al Qaeda exists and is strong. The exception here might be the large-scale operations that took place in Iraq, and there is still debate as to whether they were carried out by Al Qaeda or others.
If we look at the biggest operations in terms of quality there was the killing of Benazir Bhutto, the attempted assassination of the Saudi Assistant Minister of Security Affairs, Prince Mohammed Bin Naif, and the attack carried out by Malik Nadal Hassan, a US army Major of Palestinian origin, at the Fort Hood army base in Texas. There was also the recent suicide bombing at a US CIA base in Afghanistan that left a number of American senior intelligence officers dead. The attack was attributed to a Jordanian who is said to have been a double agent [working for] Jordanian intelligence and Al Qaeda. This attack was very similar to the bloody suicide bombings that targeted the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and left 29 people dead including six senior commanders, as well as tribal leaders. This attack was implemented by the Iranian Jundullah group in the Sistan-Baluchestan province in southeast Iran near the borders with Pakistan.
There is also still the most prominent incident that took place that was an exception, as it did not target security leaders and the like. A young Nigerian man attempted to blow up a US Delta airplane and what’s striking is that the people who foiled the plot were passengers, not security forces or intelligence [officers].
What we need to ask here is: are we seeing a decline in Al Qaeda operations based on the consideration that it has started to carry out operations targeting leaderships and [prominent] figures and not large operations targeting what are known to be easy targets, or embassies and communication networks, because intelligence operations have tightened the noose on Al Qaeda and it can no longer do anything but resort to trickery and deception by targeting security apparatus or even leaderships? This is what we saw take place in the battle against terrorism between Egypt and the Islamic Jihad Group in the nineties, as an operation targeting [important] figures was an indicator of a major decline, especially as the person overseeing that battle on the terrorists’ side is today participating in Al Qaeda’s planning i.e. Ayman al Zawahiri. Or are we facing qualitative and sophisticated action by Al Qaeda?
There are no answers of course. For that reason more discussion is necessary because some people have begun to believe that the threat of terrorism has disappeared and there is a kind of slackness in dealing with this threat.