NetWar: Spain, Andalusia, Bin laden revisited by The New Yorker

Contents Letter From Paris

Contents Letter From Paris

Sunday, September 12, 2004


Spain, Andalusia, Bin laden revisited by The New Yorker

I have just read in the New Yorker a very interesting (and long, 19 pages) article on al Qaeda and the terrorist attacks in Madrid last March.

The author, LAWRENCE WRIGHT, has researched his subject very intensely and I absolutely recommend reading it.HERE IS A LINK TO IT.

Note that Wright comes to some conclusions very close to the ones I evoked in the A Plastic Politician, which were also taken up by, a.o., Urban Empire Link 1 Link 2 and Winds of Change

Here are some excerpts:

Gustavo de Aristegui is one of the leaders of the Popular Party in Spain’s Basque country... His father was Spain’s Ambassador to Lebanon and was killed in Beirut in 1989, when Syrian forces shelled his diplomatic residence.

“Al Qaeda has four different networks,” Aristegui told me in Madrid, the day after the Socialists took power. “First, there is the original network, the one that committed 9/11, which uses its own resources and people it has recruited and trained. Then, there is the ad-hoc terrorist network, consisting of franchise organizations that Al Qaeda created—often to replace ones that weren’t bloody enough—in countries such as the Philippines, Jordan, and Algeria.” The third network, Aristegui said, is more subtle, “a strategic union of like-minded companies.” Since February, 1998, when Osama bin Laden announced the creation of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews—an umbrella organization for Islamist groups from Morocco to China—Al Qaeda has expanded its dominion by making alliances and offering funds. “Hamas is in, or almost in,” Aristegui said. “Bin Laden is trying to tempt Hezbollah to join, but they are Shia, and many Sunnis are opposed to them.” Finally, there is the fourth network—“imitators, emulators,” who are ideologically aligned with Al Qaeda but are less tied to it financially. “These are the ones who committed Madrid,” Aristegui said.

Until the Madrid attacks, the Al Qaeda operations—in Dhahran, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Aden, New York, Washington, Jerba, Karachi, Bali, Mombasa, Riyadh, Casablanca, Jakarta, and Istanbul—had been political failures. These massacres committed in the name of jihad had achieved little except anger, grief, and the deaths of thousands. Soon after September 11th, Al Qaeda lost its base in Afghanistan and, along with that, its singular role in the coördination of international terror. New groups, such as the bombers in Madrid, were acting in the name of Al Qaeda, and although they may well have had the blessings of its leaders, they did not have the training, resources, or international contacts that had bolstered the previous generation of terrorists. Some operations, such as the 2003 attack on Western compounds in Riyadh, which killed mainly Muslims, were such fiascos that it appeared that Al Qaeda was no longer able to exercise control.


Al Andalus is the Arabic name for the portion of Spain that fell to Muslim armies after the invasion by the Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad in 711. It includes not only the southern region of Andalusia, but most of the Iberian Peninsula. For the next eight hundred years, Al Andalus remained in Islamic hands. “You know of the Spanish crusade against Muslims, and that not much time has passed since the expulsion from Al Andalus and the tribunals of the Inquisition,” Fakhet says on the tape. He is referring to 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella completed the reconquest of Spain, forcing Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or leave the Iberian Peninsula. “Blood for blood!” he shouts. “Destruction for destruction!”


Less than a month after 9/11, Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, had appeared on Al Jazeera. “We will not accept that the tragedy of Al Andalus will be repeated in Palestine,” Zawahiri said, drawing an analogy between the expulsion of the Moors from Iberia and the present-day plight of the Palestinians. The use of the archaic name Al Andalus left most Spaniards nonplussed. “We took it as a folkloric thing,” Ramón Pérez-Maura, an editor at ABC, told me. “We probably actually laughed.” This January, bin Laden issued a “Message to the Muslim People,” which was broadcast on Al Jazeera. He lamented the decline of the Islamic world: “It is enough to know that the economy of all Arab countries is weaker than the economy of one country that had once been part of our world when we used to truly adhere to Islam. That country is the lost Al Andalus.”


Imams sometimes invoke the glory of Al Andalus in Friday prayers as a reminder of the price that Muslims paid for turning away from the true faith. When I asked Moneir el-Messery, of the M-30 mosque (in Madrid), if the Madrid bombers could have been motivated by the desire to recapture Al Andalus, he looked up sharply and said, “I can speak of the feeling of all Muslims. It was a part of history. We were here for eight centuries. You can’t forget it, ever.”


Appeasement is a foolish strategy for dealing with Al Qaeda. Last year, many Saudis were stunned when the terrorist group struck Western compounds in Riyadh—shortly after the U.S. had announced that it would withdraw troops from Saudi Arabia, fulfilling one of bin Laden’s primary demands. The Saudis now realize that Al Qaeda won’t be assuaged until all foreigners are expelled from the Arabian Peninsula and a rigid theocracy has been imposed. Yet some of the countries on Al Qaeda’s hit list will no doubt seek to appease terrorists as a quick solution to a crisis.

Intelligence officials are now trying to determine who is the next target, and are sifting through “chatter” in search of a genuine threat. “We see people getting on the Internet and then they get on their phones and talk about it,” a senior F.B.I. official told me. “We are now responding to the threat to the U.S. elections.” The idea of attacking before Election Day, the official said, “was born out of Madrid.” Earlier this year, an international task force dubbed Operation Crevice arrested members of a bomb-making ring in London. During the investigation, officials overheard statements that there were jihadis in Mexico awaiting entry into the U.S. That coincided with vague warnings from European imams about attacks before the elections. As a result of this intelligence, surveillance of border traffic from Mexico has been increased.


Spain's Prime rMinister, JL Rodriguez Zapatero has called the countries of the US lead coalition to leave Iraq.

Winds of Change

An example: this analysis of the March 11th attacks in Madrid, written 5 days later! Imposing.

Inspiring, passionate and decent

Iraq, the Model
A very goodview of what is going on in Iraq by Mohammad and Omar, two brothers... Check it out if you're fed up with the EuroPress

The Patriot Debates
Many provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire at the end of 2005. This forum is devoted to civil and informed debate about these provisions and whether they should be renewed.

A serious visit to jihadist ideology

Michelle Malkin
Her column appears in nearly 200 US papers nationwide. Pretty conservative AND very articulate. I like her.

From Barcelona. I like it! And, by the way, it's getting better every day.

Across the Bay
Very good blog by Tony, an expert in in Ancient Near Eastern Studies with focus on Semitic Linguistics, Ancient Levantine history, religion....

Allah Pundit
It's quite consevative, but really funny!

Bjørn Stærk's blog
In the NetWar since 2001, this norwegian wonderkid is just worth reading.

Norman Geras's blog
I mean, READ HIM. He's bright, insightful and knows a lot about Marxism and la condition humaine... Yeeees! (thanks Stygius).

Dan Darling
Excellent Open Source analysis of al Qaeda!

Bilingual (FR&EN) and passionate!

The Politburo Diktat
Forthrightly, frankly, fully funny, comrades. Neo-Komintern Urgh.

Insults for use by the ideologically informed
Nice page of Real Socialist Nostalgia. Check it out, comrade!

Letters From New York City
Michele tells it from the place where the world changed three years ago.

Alphabet City by Robert Stevens
Very well informed "from the perimeter of Manhattan ;-)" Impresive collection of links.

Colt's Eurabia
If you want to know and follow politically incorrect debate, red it!
His motto is:"...the only secure basis for oligarchy is collectivism." George Orwell

Monitoring Media Coverage of the War On Terror

Political Correctness Watch
John Ray, a former university teacher gone blogger monitors political correctness around the globe. When you needthat cheering information that somewhere else it's even worse than in your home town...


Free Lance Corner
Emilio Alonso, madrileño sin pelos en la pluma, liberal y extremadamente sensato.

Guerra Eterna en Oriente Medio
Reportero español polí­ticamente correcto, buena gente y suavemente partisano

Español residente en Parí­s, liberal, vasco, polí­ticamente incorrecto, reflexiona sobre la situación en Euskadi (Paí­s Vasco)

Carmelo Jordá
Otro español, buen analista y políticamente incorrecto. Pertenece a la nueva ola de jovenes liberales (en el sentido europeo) que empiezan a poner en cuestión todo en Europa

Una Temporada en el Infierno
Interesante blog de Juan Pedro Quiñonero, escritor y periodista español que merece dos lecturas.

Location: Paris, France

I have been a journalist since I was 22. For a (long) while I worked as a reporter for the Swedish, Spanish (I was born in Spain) and American media, covering international affairs... After 1991 I recycled myself to the business press.

 A Must Read!
Note that on the above page you have BOTH a link to buy the book (US$ 20) AND
the links to all the 6 chapters in PDF for FREE.

Contents (PDF)
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Conceptual Outlines
Chapter Three: A World in Flux - Ripe for Netwar Chapter Four: Varieties of Netwar
Chapter Five: Challenges for U.S Policy and Organization
Chapter Six: Implications for U.S. Doctrine and Strategy

And, by the way...
I love NYC French Hostages "Social Capital" "King Juan carlos" Barcelona Stockholm Iraq Bagdad Basora Volunteer shia Muqtada al-Sadr Islam Chirac Iraq Ossama Osama Bin laden Markawi Colin Powell London President Bush Paris Tony Blair Blog Allawi Geopolitics Iraqi police "Foreign Affairs" John Kerry campaign Policy Poll Bush Kerry Kofi China Madrid Japan warfare Sun-Tzu Unrestricted asymmetric strategy Survey Bush Kerry perception management Hispanic voters Sarkozy Chalabi oil for food Lebanon Donald Rumsfeld Beirut Pentagon marines Robert Kagan weapons neocon ideology neoconservative Alamut White House preventive Congress Washington Chicago New York Los Angeles Miami San Francisco Seattle California Illinois Massachussets Portland Aznar Zapatero Moratinos Saddam Syria