Islamic terrorism is a rather complex response to the confrontation with the West, which Islam sees as a devastating, deadly threat.
At the end of the 1980’s, there was a pitched battle within the Islamist camp between the positions of Abdullah Azzam and the more extremist positions of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, a true ideologue of jihad in the form it has taken today, which includes in the category of enemy the “Herodians,” or those who collaborate with the West. On November 24, 1989, Azzam was assassinated in Peshawar, and Al-Zawahiri had an open field.
For the zealots, everything that comes from the outside is like poison to their traditional ways of life, so they hold that there is only one way to avert cultural catastrophe: expel the invader and hermetically seal off the borders, so nothing can pollute or corrupt their miniature world. This is, in part, the position of Osama Bin Laden, who is opposed to the American presence, not only in Iraq, but also in Saudi Arabia.
But this defensive program would never work against Western civilization. Unlike all previous civilizations, it is not localized or territorially circumscribed. The pervasiveness of the global village is such that there is only one way to escape its grasp: destroy it. And this is Al-Zawahiri’s ideological program, which he pursues with a complex strategy. For the formula of “modernizing Islam,” he substitutes another: “Islamizing modernity,” and therefore the West.
Within the Muslim world, Islamization means de-Westernizing everything: from political and cultural institutions to economic ones, even to the point of rethinking banking operations. On the outside, it means spreading Islam through vigorous missionary activity, in both Europe and the United States: this activity is supported above all by Saudia Arabia. But according to the most radical interpretations, Islamizing the West means violently attacking its political and economic power, without sparing the civilian population.
This pan-Islamist program might make some smirk, just as many smirked at Hitler before his political ascent. But this is a real program, which is being carried out according to a clear plan, and although it is working slowly, it is producing results.
That this is a real program can be seen in many ways.
The first piece of macroscopic data is that from Afghanistan to Kashmir to Chechnya to Ossetia to the Philippines to Saudi Arabia to Bosnia to Kosovo to Palestine to Egypt to Algeria to Morocco, sizeable groups have unleashed a war against the West. It is impossible to think that these attacks are completely independent from each other.
The second piece of macroscopic data is terrorism, especially if one has the patience to follow the thread that extends from July 7, 2005 to 1969, and the airplane from the Rome Fiumicino airport that Leila Khaled hijacked and blew up in Damascus.
1972 was the year of the Olympics in Munich and the massacre that happened there. But before that, on August 16 of that same year, an airplane headed for Tel Aviv was blown up by a record player rigged with explosives that a couple of English tourists had received from two Arabic men who had been romancing them. Thinking about it today brings chills: Al-Qaeda is a new and closely related phenomenon. Courting two women in order to carry out an attack means being deeply steeped in ideology. And it means that there is a connection between ideology and organization – you can’t just pick up an exploding record player at the local hardware store. Unless two Arabs happened to meet two tourists going to Tel Aviv, and then happened to get the idea of carrying out an attack, and again happened to have a friend at the ready to provide them with the surprise package. But already in 1970, six airplanes had been hijacked or blown up on the ground or during flight.
The conditions for carrying out the attack of August 16, 1972, were so complex that they required a plan constructed over years, assisted by excellent propaganda systems and economic and human resources of the highest caliber. People’s sense morality cannot be altered in the blink of an eye. The young women were probably attractive, and there may have been some tenderness in them. Placing this episode side by side with the massacre at the school in Beslan in 2004, with one hundred fifty children killed, with those three days of torment in the gymnasium and the torture of withholding water, with the girls who were first raped and then killed, we see a ferocity at work that is so opposed to the common sense of morality that it must be sustained by an absolute ideological commitment.
April 12 (Bloomberg) -- Iran, defying United Nations Security Council demands to halt its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days, a U.S. State Department official said.
Iran will move to ``industrial scale'' uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling state-run television today.
``Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days,'' Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.
Rademaker was reacting to a statement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said yesterday the country had succeeded in enriching uranium on a small scale for the first time, using 164 centrifuges. That announcement defies demands by the UN Security Council that Iran shut down its nuclear program this month.
The U.S. fears Iran is pursuing a nuclear program to make weapons, while Iran says it is intent on purely civilian purposes, to provide energy. Saeedi said 54,000 centrifuges will be able to enrich uranium to provide fuel for a 1,000-megawat nuclear power plant similar to the one Russia is finishing in southern Iran, AP reported.
``It was a deeply disappointing announcement,'' Rademaker said of Ahmadinejad's statement.
Rademaker said the technology to enrich uranium to a low level could also be used to make weapons-grade uranium, saying that it would take a little over 13 years to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon with the 164 centrifuges currently in use. The process involves placing uranium hexafluoride gas in a series of rotating drums or cylinders known as centrifuges that run at high speeds to extract weapons grade uranium.
Iran has informed the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to construct 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz next year, Rademaker said.
``We calculate that a 3,000-machine cascade could produce enough uranium to build a nuclear weapon within 271 days,'' he said.
While the U.S. has concerns over Iran's nuclear program, Rademaker said ``there certainly has been no decision on the part of my government'' to use force if Iran refuses to obey the UN Security Council demand that it shuts down its nuclear program.
Rademaker is in Moscow for a meeting of his counterparts from the Group of Eight wealthy industrialized countries. Russia chairs the G-8 this year.
China is concerned about Iran's decision to accelerate uranium enrichment and wants the government in Tehran to heed international criticism of the move, Wang Guangya, China's ambassador to the United Nations said.