The doctrinal message circulating round al Qaeda circles and publications in recent days has undergone a tidal change under the influence of the approaching American offensive against Iraq. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror experts report that the new message is bringing hundreds if not thousands of new recruits flocking to the Islamist fundamentalist group’s flag in the Gulf region. Alarming changes in terror tactics are also discerned.
Whereas Western leaders are at pains to stress that the global war on terror is not a war against Islam and the coming conflict with Iraq is not an assault on the Arab world, radical Arab Muslims are explaining that America’s objectives in Iraq are to seize Arab land and its natural resources, oil. Young Gulf Muslims are being told that, whereas in Afghanistan, Bin Laden led a global jihad, in Iraq and Arabia, his followers are fighting for their sacred homelands and their violation by infidels. Today the Americans will conquer Iraq’s cities and oil fields; tomorrow they will use Iraq as a jumping-off base to capture Saudi Arabia and its oil riches.
Al Qaeda’s spokesmen are now going beyond general calls for action against the enemy and announcing a serious escalation of tactics. They are telling partisans explicitly that American troops and civilians must be fought with nuclear weapons. In some Internet sites associated with the group, such phrases as “the way to kill Americans is by nuclear attack,” appear of late. Another favorite is: “There are no Western civilians. Every Westerner is a combatant whom we are enjoined to kill.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror experts estimate that Al Qaeda is striving to prepare the ground for the mass murder of American and Western civilians by unconventional means of warfare.
Its sites abound with detailed instructions on how to prepare chemical agents and dangerous toxins for harming American troops. They also offer detailed information on security procedures at American Gulf military installations and ways to overcome them so as to kidnap US troops as hostages. Our experts suggest that their harping on the nuclear option is a strong indication that the fundamentalists possess some sort of nuclear weapon.
Our monitors have picked up another alarming development on the al Qaeda Internet scene. While the chatter continues unabated, operational signals among activist cells in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have dried up, implying an organized blackout of electronic communications on open channels, portending some operation may be afoot.
There are a number of possibilities:
1. A nuclear/mega attack on an American Gulf installation, such as bases in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, or even Saudi Arabia.
2. A multi-location mega/nuclear strike against a number of bases, oil fields, terminals or tankers.
3. A mega/nuclear attack against an Arab capital taking part in American war preparations, such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar or Oman, where heightened al Qaeda activity has been registered in the last weeks.
4. A mega/nuclear attack against one of Israel’s main cities. Israel is deep in preparations to meet such an attack, often disguised as measures to confront an Iraqi assault. This week, Israel’s government hospitals signed contracts with a number of big hotel chains, especially along the Mediterranean coastline, for the lease of whole wings for conversion into hospital facilities in case of a terrorist attack of disastrous proportions. Large firms who rely on exports, like Intel, have been shipping their inventories out of the country. Essential government offices, banks and large commercial firms have moved their staffs and equipment to nuclear bomb shelters and especially built bomb-proof building complexes outside Tel Aviv and Haifa.
5. A mega/nuclear attack in London, which the British premier Tony Blair declared as a definite possibility in Parliament this week.
6. A mega/nuclear strike in a major American city.
Alternatively, all six might take the form of biological or chemical attack.