Al Qaeda, Muslims are Infidels in Bush's 'Freedom Agenda'

Many Muslims are now laughing at Bush's 'freedom agenda' of promoting Palestinian democracy that led to a Hamas government.

The 'National Strategy for Combating Terrorism' is the new counterterrorism strategy supporting President Bush's "freedom agenda" for promoting democracy as the leading long-term weapon against the evolving nature of the global terrorism threat.

However, the fact on the ground is that many Arabs and Muslims are now regarded as infidels in Bush's "freedom agenda" currently being applied in Iraq, and they no longer believe in the U.S.-style democratic projects in the Middle East. I'm not talking about dictatorial Arab regimes, but everyday people in the Arab and Muslim world.

The Arab public recognizes al-Qaeda-related terrorists as an opposition group to Israel and the presence of U.S. military bases in the Middle East. Many Arabs know that the United States supports 'friendly' regimes, a policy which has prevented democracy from spreading in the Islamic world.

In fact, the al-Qaeda threats have actually bedeviled the U.S. president Bush for five years since the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush now has no opportunity to bring the conflict to an end. This is not in the best interests of Americans, Europeans, or the U.S. closet allies in Arab regimes who prefer peace to war. From the perspective of the United States, this global war has become a strategic imperative.

The new counterterrorism strategy released seven days ago by the White House describes al-Qaeda as a significantly degraded organization, but outlines potent threats from smaller networks and individuals motivated by the al-Qaeda ideology. "Oh great!"

It may be true that al-Qaeda and jihadist movements have lost secure shelters and the open battle fronts. This situation, according to Arabic-language al-Qaeda strategy released through jihadist Web sites, led them to build self-controlled, small cells in many countries, including the United States and Britain. Members of these cells deeply believe in al-Qaeda idea of the holy war against the political, economic, and military power of America and its Western and Arab allies.

The counterterrorism strategy came from the fact that Bush administration believes that the global al-Qaeda organization has support from fully functioning states such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, and Jordan, to small groups of individuals in British and American cities.

In addition, the U.S. administration in its new strategy acknowledged the bitter fact that al-Qaeda was no longer a smaller group fighting a losing battle with the U.S.-led coalition on Pakistani-Afghan borders, but featured widely dispersed Islamic youths linked by little more than the Internet, from Kabul to Washington, New York and London.

The al-Qaeda tendency to be formed as smaller networks and lone individuals has made it an effective striking force all over the world. The White House probably recognized this fact due to all of the terrorist attacks have been carried out by such networks, whether in the Sept. 11 attacks or the London bombings.

The U.S. strategy failed to find out much about the next step for targeted al-Qaeda attacks, which is said to be in Israel and against Israeli interests within friendly countries. According to al-Qaeda's strategy, these attacks will be different than assaults launched by the Palestinian jihadist movements and Hamas… it will be an anther Sept. 11, 2001.

Absolutely, the five years since the Sept. 11 attacks on American soil have proven the previous counterterrorism strategies to be wrong. Only the coming days will determine whether this new counterterrorism strategy is another grave blunder by Bush.

The bad management of the U.S. war on terrorism has succeeded not only in inflaming anti-U.S. opinion throughout the Islamic world, but also, significantly, among the U.S. allies in Europe, according to most regional experts in Washington. It has also weakened the pro-Western Islamist-dominated governments – notably Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, and Jordan. As before 9/11, these regimes remain Washington's only allies in the region.

Many Muslims are now laughing at Bush's "freedom agenda" of promoting Palestinian democracy that led to a Hamas government. Here is where al-Qaeda has won in its propaganda battle for Arab public opinion that has led most not to believe in any future U.S. projects for the region.

I think it's easy for everyone who loves peace to conclude that if the United States really wants to improve its image in the Middle East, it must find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a first step, and to stabilize post-war Iraq. These are critical components for the Bush administration in winning the war of ideas in the Muslim world and defeating the recruiting of Arab youths by al-Qaeda that exploits the American occupation in Iraq and Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its propaganda.

Instead, the U.S administration has concentrated, time after time, on releasing new strategies, which only provides an admission that previous policies have failed.

Mohamed Al-Azaki is a Yemeni journalist and researcher on Islamic militants at the Saba Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Sana'a, Yemen.

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