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European extortion masquerading as a peace plan

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The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades has offered to halt further operations in Europe to see if Spain makes good on its withdrawal from Iraq. It implied that the cease-fire could become permanent. I have been tracking the major press on this side of the pond during the day (NYT, WP, WSJ, etc) yet none are reflecting it.

In light of traffic elsewhere that speaks of the Ball, the Bat, and the Glove (respectively Bin Laden, Pakistani and Iranian pressure, and US forces), this could be another inspired gambit to reduce pressure on al Qaeda and its allies, split the alliance, and further isolate the US. As I write this, the AP is reporting that Pakistani troops think that they bottled up al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahri. Whether they get him is not at issue in this note, but as the effort has been underway for three weeks (along with US SoCom forces operating covertly inside Pakistan), it is reasonable to assume that the faithful would do what they could to distract or degrade our efforts.

This ploy is remarkably thoughtful as no one related to al Qaeda has ever asked for anything save for unilateral withdrawal from anything declared to be Muslim lands. Now they have placed an extortion plot on the table masquerading as a peace deal. It is quite extraordinary and goes to show what good asymmetrical thinking can do against superior forces and technology.

Not being able to make effective inroads on US soil or produce mass casualties among deployed US forces, they have gone down the list of soft targets: coalition states, civilian contractors, NGO staff, Iraqi police and administration, and Iraqi and Arab civilians. Now they have carried the game onto Western European soil.

The peace card will attract some Europeans that dislike US Iraqi policy and even lead them to advocate Spainís follow-through. It is not out of the question as even the UK once buckled under less direct pressure under Neville Chamberlain.

I had sent out an earlier, limited version of this note in response to a colleague's sending me a general trading report that we class as one that makes you 'better educated but unable to act." The only value to the missive was a "Don't be there" location list, which included such guesses as the Euro 2004 soccer matches in Portugal and the Olympic Games in Greece. Not to be unkind but your admin could have guessed those choices -- but folks have to fill up their "ink hole" by whatever means.

I would be more interested in your board of directors meeting, supervisory board meeting, staff retreat, the marriage of the CEO's son or daughter, or annual customer convention, et al, as softer targets.

The threats from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades are dire. In November 2003, they were promising "cars of death" to Europeans in news caught by Agence France-Press, New York Times, and AAP:

"The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade statement also drew up a list of demands of the US and its allies, and called on militants to join the anti-US resistance in Iraq. "This is a golden opportunity for them [the allies] to understand the message and withdraw from the coalition of the Crusades against Islam and Muslims," it said. "If they have not understood the language of words, that of the cars of death could explain it to them."'

and:

"The statement also defended the November 8 suicide bombing, which the Saudis blamed on al-Qaeda, of a housing compound in Riyadh that killed 17 people, most of them Arabs."

'"We have warned Muslims more than once that they must not go near the places where the infidels are to be found, and we renew our warning."'

Now they would represent themselves as guarantors of European wellbeing. Yet there are suckers born every minute that would grasp 'peace in our time.'

Gordon Housworth



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