Spiegel Online claims to be in possession of a 42-page arabic language document that, according to the magazine’s author, Yassin Musharbash, suggests not only that Al Quaida had strategically targeted Madrid just before the elections, but, moreover, that the organisation’s intellectual and thus strategic capacities seem to have risen significantly. According to Musharbash’s article (in German), international experts who analysed the document – which was allegedly found on the internet by a Norwegian defense research agency in December 2003 – assume it to be authentic.
The article claims that the document bears witness of a new strategic sobriety within Al Quaida, as it renounces to many of the religious references of previous terror-guides. Accordingly, the paper has allegedly been signed by a “Service Center for Mujahedin” and not, as was apparently customary, by a “Coalition against Jews and Crusaders”.
With respect to the Madrid bombings, Mr Musharbash explains that the document suggests the terror consultants had singled out Spain as first brick in a domino chain after a detailed analysis of Spanish domestic policy, particularly the tension between the Aznar-led government and a large part of the population with respect to the country’s Iraq policy. The article quotes from page 33 of the document (my retranslation from German) –
“We believe that the Spanish government will not be able to bear more than two, maximal three strikes until popular pressure will lead to a troop withdrawal from Iraq. If Spanish forces were to remain in Iraq despite these attacks, a victory for the Socialist party would be almost certain and a troop withdrawal would be on the electoral agenda.”
And With Spain on retreat, other countries might follow. Poland and Italy are the next bricks to fall, according to the terror guide (see Scott’s post below).
It’s evidently impossible to tell if the document is really authentic or not. The timing of its public appearance certainly adds to the ambiguity. But even assuming that it were authentic – the indication that terrorists are more aware of their limitations and the need to use their “assets” strategically, more “rationally”, does not in itself help to answer the question whether they are stronger or weaker now than before.
So let’s hope it is a sign of weakness.