Monday, April 14, 2008

Salon: How Iraq Spawned Wider Terrorist Chaos

[A destroyed residential building, with a Palestinian flag flying over it, in Nahr el-Bared, January 2008.]

A good article from James Martin over at Salon that looks at the ways in which the debacle in Iraq has actually increased the terrorist threat around the world, especially in the Middle East where Iraq has become training ground for terrorists to then move on to the Palestinian situation, or into Lebanon, and so on.

Here's a good taste of the article:

Back in early 2005, Porter Goss, then head of the CIA, warned Congress that the war would spawn a new breed of Islamic militants who would "leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism." Middle East experts have long warned that U.S. actions in Iraq would stir up a deadly hornets' nest, with consequences potentially spreading throughout the region. On a trip into ravaged Nahr el-Bared this January, what I saw and heard there confirmed those dark predictions.

Nahr el-Bared, whose name in Arabic means "cold river," was destroyed in the summer of 2007 in heavy fighting between the Lebanese army and the previously little-known Fatah al-Islam -- an al-Qaida-linked group of international Sunni extremists that emerged in Lebanon's Palestinian camps in the aftermath of Lebanon's 2006 war with Israel. The fighting began in May 2007, when Fatah al-Islam militants slaughtered Lebanese soldiers on the outskirts of Nahr el-Bared, prompting a massive military retaliation. In the battle that ensued, the heavily armed and well-funded extremists -- many of whom had come from fighting U.S. forces in Iraq -- managed to hold back the Lebanese military for three months, using tactics they had learned in the urban war zones of Iraq.

"Fatah al-Islam was part of a group that was with Zarqawi in Iraq," says Ahmad Moussalli, an expert in Islamist movements and a professor at the American University in Beirut, referring to the erstwhile head of al-Qaida in Iraq killed by U.S. forces in June 2006. "By virtue of fighting in Iraq, they learned many techniques for fighting a regular army. They were very well trained in urban warfare."

What's worse, adds Hilal Khashan, a colleague of Moussalli's at the American University in Beirut, Fatah al-Islam's fighters may be the first of a new generation of extremists to expand their fight beyond Iraq. Their suicidal stand at Nahr el-Bared could signify the beginning of a new era of international Islamist violence, Khashan says, brought about by an exodus of battle-hardened militants from places like Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul.

The article is much longer, and deserving of our attention -- read all of it.

No comments: