The discovery Friday of suspicious packages aboard airplanes, including a Chicago-bound flight on which the package contained explosives, could have uncovered a dry run for al-Qaida terrorists, says terrorism expert Walid Phares.
The explosives aboard a plane intercepted in Dubai, as well as suspicious packages pinpointed in other countries, follow an increase not only in rhetoric from al-Qaida leaders but also recent shootings around Washington, D.C., Phares told Newsmax.TV.
What’s more, the arrests of several individuals accused of plotting terror attacks inside the United States may indicate a “much wider effort,” Phares said.
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Even if Friday’s activities were, indeed, a dry run, Phares says they accomplished a terrorist’s dream goal of mobilizing our resources, elevating al-Qaida in the public eye and bleeding the U.S. economy, even if only for a day.
Regarding the apparent targets of Friday’s events, including synagogues in Chicago as well as locations in Britain and United Arab Emirates, Phares says the terrorists probably have several goals. They are appealing to their base, portraying themselves as “anti-Zionist or anti-Jewish,” while showing their ability to penetrate the defenses of the United States and Europe even without bombs, revealing weaknesses in our defenses.
Phares believes the events, just days before midterm elections in the United States, indicate that the terrorists are trying to make a statement and affect U.S. policy amid the Obama administration’s declared goals of withdrawing from Iraq and negotiating with the Taliban for an eventual pullout from Afghanistan.
A likely goal is to increase the pressure on the United States to move forward on these withdrawals, as well as to frustrate our policies in Yemen and Somalia.
Postelection, Phares says the next Congress should engage in dialogue with President Barack Obama and change the direction of anti-terror efforts for the remainder of his administration.
Phares suggests that al-Qaida forces are evolving because of the United States’ lack of absolute control over policy on combating radical ideology. Without allies in the Arab and Muslim worlds on board to combat radicalization, the United States will continue to face an uphill struggle on this front. Phares points out that most of those terrorists recently captured or arrested have been relatively new recruits to al-Qaida, indicating that recruitment is still successful and the organization thrives.
To combat this threat, Phares suggests we need “a major change of policy in Washington.” Phares contends that the United States has done the “opposite” of what it should during the past two years by focusing on the criminal aspects of terrorism and neglecting to tackle the ideology behind it.
The Obama administration has been disengaging from the confrontation with radical Islamic ideology as well as from supporting anti-jihadist elements such as the democratic uprising in Iran, while moving toward negotiations with the fundamentalist Taliban, Phares said.
Asked what the United States is doing to address the threat in Yemen, where today’s suspicious packages apparently originated, and whether we should expect a U.S. strike, Phares said there may indeed be a response from the United States if the military and intelligence services see an opportunity.
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