On the Record

Iraq War Strengthened Al-Qaida

Bruce Riedel

ALEX CHADWICK, host: This is Day to Day. I’m Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host: I’m Madeleine Brand.

A new State Department report on global terrorism is out today. The news is grim. Terrorist attacks jumped 25 percent in the last two years, and 40 percent more people were killed.

CHADWICK: One intelligence expert says al-Qaida – the terrorists behind 9/11 – are stronger than ever now. Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. His article, “Al-Qaida Strikes Back,” is in this month’s issue of “Foreign Affairs” magazine. When we spoke earlier, I asked Bruce Riedel how he came to his conclusion.

Mr. BRUCE RIEDEL (Senior fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution): Well, I think if you look at the breadth of attacks that al-Qaida and its supporters have carried out in the five years since September 11th, it’s truly staggering. This is an organization of movement that has struck in Algiers, in Casablanca, in Madrid, in London, in Istanbul, in Karachi, in Bali, in Mombassa – literally all over the world. It’s not just the breadth, though. It’s also the audacity of these attacks against government offices, against significant oil targets, against tourism targets – literally, around the world, carnage and mayhem.

CHADWICK: You say that al-Qaida had propaganda goals to become the focus of Islamic fervor against the West, that it has succeeded in achieving those goals. Has it been more successful over the last five years than this country has?

Mr. RIEDEL: I think in the war of ideas, al-Qaida has been able to succeed in some important ways. They have painted the United States and its allies as intending to occupy Muslim countries, and – as al-Qaida puts it – plunder their wealth, particularly Iraq. That message has resonated very powerfully in much of the Muslim world.

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