Belmont Club

Net present terror

What do you call it when the sharks think it’s safe to come out of the water? According to reports by the Associated Press, al-Qaeda, after having been momentarily supressed in the Arabian peninsula, is making a comeback. Captured documents suggest the formerly reeling organization is feeling a renewed confidence.

Al-Qaida has not carried out a major attack since February 2006, when suicide bombers tried but failed to attack an oil facility at the Abqaiq oil complex, the world’s largest oil processing facility, in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia issued the list on Monday and sought Interpol’s help in arresting the men. They include 11 who have been released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and have attended the kingdom’s touted extremist rehabilitation program. Among them were two Saudis who have emerged as the new leaders of Yemen’s branch of al-Qaida. …

Documents profiling the 85 wanted men — 83 Saudis and two Yemenis — reveal that many of them either took part in planning attacks targeting oil, security and other installations in the kingdom or provided al-Qaida members with weapons, safe haven, false documents and money.

The documents illuminate the extent of Saudi participation in the shadowy extremist networks struggling to rebuild in the Arabian peninsula after a series of harsh crackdowns in past years. All the men on the list are hiding abroad, many in neighboring Yemen.

Terrorists, like investors, base their present investment decisions on what they believe the return on their effort is going to be. If the al-Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula believed that the prospects for terrorism in the future were poor, then relatively fewer of them would return to the life of Jihad. But if on the other hand, the Men in the Business believed that the future would be conducive to acts of terror and that they could safely return to their old trades, then relatively more of them would.

The next few years will provide an empirical test of whether “reaching out” and going after Osama bin Laden in Southwest Asia turns out to be a strategically sound move. Every new administration has a right to try a new approach out, but they should also be alert to signs indicating whether their new strategy is working or not. George Bush is gone and Hope and Change are in office, but al Qaeda doesn’t seem too worried. So far.


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