Growth of Al-Qaida in Syria Increases Chances of Chemical Weapons Attack in Europe

December 14, 2012 5:07 pm 0 comments

Chemical weapons collected after Libya’s National Transitional Council declared full liberation of the country. Similar weapons are believed to be inside Syria. Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti.

Joby Warrick, The Washington Post’s correspondent who specializes in intelligence, wrote a story on Dec. 3 about how the Syrian rebellion was already spilling over and having an impact on neighboring countries. He focused in particular on Jordan. According to interviews he conducted, last month Jordanian security forces arrested 11 men and thus foiled a massive planned terrorist attack in the heart of Amman.

The Amman attack was supposed to begin with suicide bombings at two shopping malls to be followed by strikes against luxury hotels used by Westerners. But the main target in Amman was the U.S. Embassy, which was to be assaulted with mortar shells. Most of the suspects captured were Jordanian Salafists, who fought in Syria, which served as their new training ground. Moreover, the same explosives that were to be used in the Amman attacks were found in Syria as well.

But the key player orchestrating many operations in Syria, and also now in Jordan, was the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida. It had been incorrectly assumed that al-Qaida had been vanquished in 2007 by General David Petraeus during the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq. Recent events in Syria and Jordan demonstrate that it has been rehabilitating itself.

James Clapper, President Obama’s director of U.S. National Intelligence, noted this past February that al-Qaida in Iraq was infiltrating the Syrian uprising and extending its network into Syrian territory. This process was supported by the al-Qaida leadership. For at about the same time, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the global al-Qaida network, appeared in a video and urged jihadists in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The Iraqi branch of al-Qaida was the natural partner to take up Zawahiri’s call. During the Iraq War, al-Qaida there used Syria as a rear base for its insurgency operations against the U.S. armed forces. It had a logistical network of safe houses and sympathizers it had built. Bruce Reidel, who specialized on the Middle East and counterterrorism when he served at the CIA, told The Washington Post recently that al-Qaida in Iraq was now rebuilding these old networks “at an alarming rate.” He also warned that the new Iraqi branch of al-Qaida was coming back as a “regional movement.” What he meant was that its targets would be in neighboring countries and not just in Iraq.

Specialists looking into the Syrian rebellion have pointed out that several of the jihadi groups fighting Assad rely on al-Qaida’s Iraqi branch. For example, there are the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (named for Osama bin Laden’s mentor), which was originally established in 2005 as a branch of Iraqi al-Qaida. Its current commander, a Saudi named Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, fought with the former al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It has been involved in Southern Jordan and in the Sinai Peninsula. It also launched rocket attacks on Israel. It is now also beginning to raise its profile in Syria.

There is also Jabhat al-Nusra, the most deadly of the Syrian jihadist organizations, which has been joined by operatives from al-Qaida’s Iraqi branch. The stature of Jabhat al-Nusra, in particular, has grown lately because of a string of battlefield successes in Aleppo and Damascus. When the U.S. designated the Jabhat al-Nusra as an international terrorist organization, most of the other opposition groups strongly protested, despite its al-Qaida connections.

The involvement of the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida in the Syrian rebellion is important to follow for another reason. Al-Qaida has proven itself to be an organization with a strong interest in chemical weapons. In April 2004, Jordanian security forces foiled a plot by the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida to attack the Jordanian intelligence headquarters and the Office of the Prime Minister in Amman with tons of chemical agents. One captured terrorist confessed on Jordanian television to be part of Zarqawi’s al-Qaida network.

Should Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles fall into the hands of jihadi forces, with connections to al-Qaida in Iraq, it is likely that these non-conventional capabilities could spread further. The Zarqawi network operated in Europe and planned in the past to use chemical weapons in an attack on the Paris subway system. Thus given the ideological orientation of the groups currently operating in Syria, what happens in the next few weeks will have broader implications for the rest of the Middle East and even beyond.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Book Reviews The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    Romirowsky and Joffe’s book Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief is an important volume for those interested in truly understanding the origins of the Palestinian refugee issue. Utilizing a treasure trove of newly released documents, the authors link UNRWA’s (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) origins to the Quakers/American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). For those readers who thought they knew most of the Middle East story, Romirowsky and Joffe’s version provides another twist. The authors meticulously [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.