Seventeen Years after Its Attack on the World Trade Center, Al-Qaeda Is Still Very Much Alive

Sept. 14 2018

While improved American counterterrorism efforts have made attacks on the U.S. much less likely, and the killing of key figures—most importantly, Osama bin Laden—has severely disrupted al-Qaeda, the organization is far from extinguished. Crucial to its continued success are its relations with Iran and the Taliban, as Thomas Joscelyn writes:

When we look at the organization as a whole, it quickly becomes apparent that al-Qaeda has many thousands of men around the globe. Indeed, al-Qaeda is waging jihad in far more countries today than it was on 9/11, with loyalists fighting everywhere from West Africa, through North and East Africa, into the heart of the Middle East and into South Asia. . . .

The Obama administration’s Treasury and State Departments revealed in 2011 that al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network serves as the organization’s “core pipeline through which” it “moves money, facilitators, and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia.” This pipeline operates under an “agreement” between al-Qaeda and the Iranian government. In the years since the Obama administration first exposed this “secret deal,” the U.S. government has revealed additional details about other al-Qaeda leaders operating inside Iran, including “new-generation” figures who were groomed to replace their fallen comrades. . . .

Al-Qaeda [also] continues to have a significant presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and some senior managers are operating in those two countries. One of the principal reasons the group has been able to weather the America-led counterterrorism storm in South Asia is its relationship with the Taliban. This is perhaps the most underestimated aspect of al-Qaeda’s operations. . . .

The U.S. and its allies have failed to defeat al-Qaeda. The organization has survived multiple challenges. . . . From Afghanistan to West Africa, al-Qaeda loyalists are attempting to build their own caliphate. . . . Al-Qaeda’s leadership has [meanwhile] deprioritized professional attacks on the West. The group hasn’t attempted to carry out a mass casualty attack in the U.S. or Europe in years. But that could change at any time. It would then be up to America’s and Europe’s formidable defenses to stop them.

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More about: 9/11, Al Qaeda, Iran, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

 

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics