Has ‘Old Guard’ Al Qaeda Shifted Their Targeting Focus?

Today, the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia provided me the platform to discuss something new I’m exploring; a potential shift in ‘Old Guard’ al Qaeda targeting towards Israel.  Yesterday brought the announcement of three al Qaeda operatives being interdicted as they developed plans to attack targets in Jerusalem.   Here is the introduction to the article and see the full post and discussion points at this link.

“While al Qaeda connections to Gaza and Palestinians are not unheard of, they appear less frequently.   Terrorist group competition for Palestinian manpower continues to be quite intense. Al Qaeda came after, not before, groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and many others.  But with Hamas pursuing a more political path and young boys willing to fight, al Qaeda might be finding a ripe audience for their message.  The article continues by explaining how the Internet facilitated recruitment of parallel operatives:

“The Shin Bet said an al-Qaida operative in Gaza, named as Ariv Al-Sham, recruited the men separately from one another, and had planned to activate three independent terrorist cells via his recruits. Senior Shin Bet sources said they believed Al-Sham received his orders directly from the head of al-Qaida’s central structure, Ayman Al-Zawahri….In the planned attack, terrorists would have fired shots at the bus’s wheels, causing it to overturn, before gunning down passengers at close range, and firing on emergency responders….Abu-Sara also volunteered to help orchestrate a double suicide bombing, involving the dispatching of two suicide bomber to the Jerusalem Convention Center and the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, simultaneously. Subsequently, Abu-Sara planned to detonate a suicide truck bomb in the vicinity of emergency responders arriving at the Convention Center….Abu-Sara was also supposed to travel to Syria for training in combat and explosives manufacturing, and had purchased a flight ticket to Turkey, a gateway to Syria.”

When Should Israel Bomb Iran? Debate Over Pre-empting Iran’s Nuclear Development

One can always tell when its an election year as the rhetoric related to Iran hits a fevered pitch.  Rather than discuss the two wars (Iraq & Afghanistan) the U.S. has been fighting for more than a decade, political debate has recently focused intently on Iran’s development of uranium in the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  These discussions consistently debate one issue: when should Israel (or even the U.S.) bomb Iran to prevent the country from developing a nuclear weapon?  Rarely do politicians or the media address the validity of the assumptions surrounding this question. Why is it unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon when countries like North Korea have one?  What does the West think would happen if Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapon?  Why is a nuclear armed Iran considered irrational while a highly volatile and partially unstable Pakistan considered a secure home for nuclear weapons?  I could go on forever, but I won’t.  I’ll instead hope that increasing levels of tough talk will subside as the U.S. Presidential election year passes.

Last night, to my surprise, 60 Minutes broadcast a reasonable interview on the topic from a highly informed Israeli source; ex-Chief of Mossad Meir Dagan. Dagan explains in the interview that a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran would be counterproductive and instead recommends that the international community continue to pursue sanctions. Dagan also suggests the best way to facilitate regime change in Iran is internally – by fomenting revolution via Iran’s next generation – rather than externally through an Israeli or Western invasion. Here’s the video and it’s worth a listen.