Al Qaeda’s Yemen base, a more reliable barometer for Osama bin Laden‘s schemes than his Afghanistan and Pakistan networks, issued a Directive to All Fighters in Arabia Sunday, Nov. 9, presaging a major operation in the United States that will “change the political and economic world” and be “far bigger than 9/11.”
The notice said “the operation is very near” and “precise instructions are in the hands of “the fighters, who are “already on their way to America” armed with bin Laden’s orders.
The operation is explained by American and European rejection of a four-year old truce offer from al Qaeda. The offer was preconditioned on them pulling their armies out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources comment that this pretext coming belatedly out of the blue sounds like a made-up excuse for hitting America, particularly since the truce offer was never mentioned in Qaeda publication in the last three years.
At the same time, it fits at least one of the three dominant features of al bin Laden’s mode of operation:
1. Long-term planning is a key factor of his strategy. He is convinced that the more time spent in preparing an attack – years rather than months – the better its chances of success. He does not begrudge his own time as a hands-on manager. Unlike like typical Western war leaders, who step back and delegate after ordering an operation, bin Laden personally accompanies preparations down to the smallest detail. He may change operational plans or even bring in replacement strike teams close to execution.
The al Qaeda leader does not count seven years between attacks a long incubation period. That is the time elapsed since the Sept. 2001 atrocities, and eight years went by from al Qaeda’s first strike against New York’s Twin Towers to the final devastating blow.
Bin Laden may return to the targets he missed the first time
2. Bin Laden never gives up on a target. After failing to bring the Twin Towers down in 1993, he persevered and achieved his objective eight years later in September 2001. Then, al Qaeda’s skyjackers damaged the Pentagon but failed to hit the White House and Capitol Hill in Washington and may try again.
Al Qaeda has gone on record as vowing to strike down America’s economic and financial might in New York, Seattle, Houston and Chicago, and destroy New York’s bridges and tunnels. The jihadists may try and make good on that vow, especially in Chicago which has gained prominence from Barack Obama‘s election as president.
Bin Laden does not readily abandon a policy. In April 2004, his taped voice was aired offering European states a truce in Qaeda activity “north of the Mediterranean Sea” if they pulled their troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan within three months.
He pointedly distinguished between Europeans and “the White House gang,” which he accused of pursuing a war in the interests of war profiteers like the “Halliburton company, its sisters and daughters.”
Europe spurned the offer.
But in January 2006, bin Laden’s extended it to the United States.
This time, he was recorded as saying: “In response to the substance of the polls in the US which indicate that Americans do not want to fight Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their land, we do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will adhere to.”
He went on to say: “We are a nation that God banned from lying and stabbing others in the back. Hence, both parties of the truce will enjoy stability and security to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by war.”
“There is no problem in this solution, but it will save hundreds of billions from going to influential people and warlords in American – those who supported Bush’s electoral campaign. And from this we can understand Bush and his gang’s insistence on continuing the war,” said bin Laden.
Top US officials responded by saying the United States would not be swayed from its fight against terrorists.
The truce for US is over – al Qaeda is back in action mode
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terror sources note a telling difference between the bin Laden truce statements in 2004 and 2006 and this week’s bulletin from Yemen. It signifies that the truce offer al Qaeda left on the table for the Bush administration has been voided by Obama’s election.
Al Qaeda has switched to action mode.
3. The third principle guiding bin Laden in every operation is the surgical removal of clues or leads for Western intelligence to trace the logistic machinery which brought the terrorists to target.
Our counter-terror experts note that, to this day, American, European, Middle East and Far Eastern intelligence agencies are mystified by the set-up which produced the massive terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, London, Madrid and Istanbul. They have not identified the parties who orchestratred the attacks or their trainers for those specific missions, or established how the bombers reached their targets from unknown departure points.
The Yemen bulletin reveals that the terrorists were sent on their way with specific instructions, possibly barring only the final “go” order, another option bin Laden reserves for himself.
The bulletin was not unexpected; it confirmed other indications and estimates that al Qaeda had timed a strike in America for some time between now and after Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009.
As DEBKA-Net-Weekly 371 revealed last week, a previous al Qaeda communication, which Washington prefers to ignore, stated that whether the incoming president has white or black skin is immaterial. It is enough that he is president of the United States to condemn him to death.
Bin Laden tested the last Democratic president twice in his first year
This comment was prepared in advance to shut the mouths of some Arab and Muslim leaders tempted to praise president-elect Obama.
Damascus ran a welcoming statement in the official Tishrin of Nov. 9 with the hope he would be better equipped to understand the Arabs by his childhood experiences.
Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal (See separate item on his waning influence in the Gaza Strip) told a British Sky television interviewer: “The fact that he is of African descent gives the Arabs hope that he will have a better understanding of their case against Israel.”
The day after the new president’s election, al Qaeda moved again to rule out Muslim acceptance of the new president, by declaring him a murtad, i.e. an apostate whose betrayal of Islam is judged the most heinous. Believers have the duty to execute a murtad unlike other non-believers whose death sentence is optional.
In private, most heads of the intelligence agencies fighting al Qaeda admit that an attack on the United States or major American interest outside is only a matter of time.
President Jimmy Carter‘s former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, spoke freely about this prospect after a long conference with Obama and consultations with his close advisers.
One of America’s leading strategic thinkers, Brzezinski said in an interview with Deutsche Welle, this week that Barack Obama may be tested by terrorists after he takes office on Jan. 20.
Changing US policies is not easy
“The last two US presidents were tested early in office,” he said – “the two attacks on the World Trade Center occurred in the first year of Democrat Bill Clinton‘s and Republican George W. Bush’s presidencies.” He added: “It’s possible. There’s no way of predicting that. It’s a possibility, but it’s by no means a certainty.”
Al Qaeda twice singled out Clinton, a Democrat like Obama: Once, in Feb. 1993, a month after his inauguration, when a bomb truck was detonated underneath the Twin Towers of New York, killing three people and injuring 1,000; and, again, in October, when an al Qaeda-orchestrated ambush against US forces serving under the UN aid flag in Mogadishu, Somalia, killed 18 American servicemen and injured 84.
That debacle was presented at the time as the worst American defeat since the Vietnam War; it showed how badly the US stood in need of military forces capable of taking on al Qaeda.
Eight years later, the year Bush entered the White House, al Qaeda carried out its most horrendous attack, crashing hijacked airliners into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington. Thousands of Americans lost their lives and were injured.
Brzezinksy warned the president-elect this week that changing the substance of US policies is not as easy as it sounds and Obama may be incapable of bringing “a dramatic change” to Washington.