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...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    JNS.org – Less than five months after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its sixth European basketball title, David Blatt, now the head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, routed his former team in an exhibition game on Sunday, with the Cavaliers dominating Maccabi 107-80 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The 20,562 fans in attendance witnessed Lebron James’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform since he left the club in free agency for the Miami Heat four years ago. [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish New York Giants Guard Plans to Fast on Yom Kippur

    Jewish New York Giants Guard Plans to Fast on Yom Kippur

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz said on Wednesday that he will not eat anything between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday in observation of Yom Kippur, ESPN reported. “If I was playing, I wouldn’t fast, because I’ve got to be able to fuel myself to play,” said the Jewish athlete, who is on short-term leave due to a toe injury. “But it’s not that tough, really. I’ll eat dinner at 5:00 Friday, then I’ll go to services and I’ll just [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.