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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Al Qaeda 3.0?

Whether or not you think al Qaeda is still capable of launching another major terrorist strike on the United States, it’s clear the loose network inspired by Osama bin Laden has significantly morphed since 9/11. Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as al Qaeda’s primary training ground and deployment center, and increasingly, its leading figure is Abu Mus’ab al Zarquawi rather than Osama himself. In a fascinating new article in The New Republic, Joseph Braude suggests al Qaeda is beginning to undergo a second transformation based on its emergence in an urban rather than rural setting. He focuses on a little-known but increasingly savage al Qaeda-based Islamist resistence to Quaddafi’s regime in Libya. And he goes on to suggest that the same conditions–a weakening militarist regime with a poor grip on tribal and religious loyalities, and a growing urban lumpenproletariat fed by military downsizing–exist in abundance in Syria.My first reaction to this hypothesis was to think: “Al Qaeda’s new targets are Quaddafi and Assad? Excellent!” But as Braude points out, an urban-based Islamist resistance linked to global terrorism could easily spread to less unsavory Muslim regimes in the greater Middle East. Moreover, al Qaeda’s modus operandi in both Afghanistan and Iraq–importing, training, using and then re-exporting “foreign fighters” to wreak havoc elsewhere–seems to be happening in Libya right now. At any rate, check out Braude’s piece, and see if it makes you more or less concerned about the future shape of the terrorist network that the Bush administration is beginning to think of as a spent force.

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