Bruce Riedel joined Newsweek to discuss the continuing threat from Al Qaeda, their successes and failures, and options for fighting the organization now and in the future.
NEWSWEEK: Why this book now?
Bruce Riedel: I started writing this book two years ago when I retired from CIA, because I think Al Qaeda is still the No. 1 threat to America; but there is still much that is misunderstood or not understood about the nature of that threat.
NEWSWEEK: After seven years?
Riedel: The Bush administration deliberately conflated the Al Qaeda threat with the problem posed by Saddam’s Iraq. Then [they] deepened the confusion with the claim that Al Qaeda hated the United States because of our freedoms and our way of life. As [Osama] bin Ladin has said, if that were the case, Al Qaeda would have attacked Sweden. So what is it that motivates AQ and the terrorists that belong to it? A sense that the Islamic world has been under systematic attack by the West for the last century, and that in order to defend itself from Western attack, the Islamic world has to take thewar to the United States and its allies in order to drag them into quagmires that will bleed them until they finally admit defeat and leave Islamic world.
The [Barcelona] attacks, to me, show both the strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are obviously that [the Islamic State] has an array of supporters, especially in Europe, that it can call upon to do attacks. The weakness, though, is that it has had difficulty doing more sophisticated operations.