Cliff May

Nisman provides additional evidence — not that more is needed — that Iranian officials and one Lebanese Hezbollah operative were responsible for two terrorist bombings in Argentina in the 1990s. There’s an American nexus too: Nisman charges that Mohsen Rabbani, Iran’s former cultural attaché in Buenos Aires — implicated in the 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were killed — directed “Iranian agent” Abdul Kadir, now serving a life sentence in connection with the 2010 plot to bomb John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Connect the dots, Nisman argues, and they draw a picture of Iran “fomenting and fostering acts of international terrorism in concert with its goals of exporting the revolution.”

All this considered, can al-Qaeda still be considered a serious competitor? Yes, it can! Last weekend, my colleague, über-researcher Tom Joscelyn, pointed out that AQ and its affiliates now “are fighting in more countries than ever.”

In Afghanistan, AQ maintains safe havens in the provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. The Taliban, its loyal ally, is responsible for a level of violence “higher than before the Obama-ordered surge of American forces in 2010,” according to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

AQ and its affiliates have bases in northern Pakistan. The Pakistani government, Joscelyn notes, “continues to be a duplicitous ally, sponsoring and protecting various al Qaeda-allied groups. The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, remains a threat after orchestrating the failed May 2010 bombing in Times Square. The State Department announced in September 2010 that the TTP has “a ‘symbiotic relationship’ with al Qaeda.”

The AQ-affiliated al-Nusrah Front may be the most effective force fighting against Assad’s troops and against Hezbollah and Iranian combatants in Syria. AQ is resurgent in neighboring Iraq, with April 2013 being the deadliest month in that country in nearly five years, according to the U.N.

AQ has expanded operations in Yemen. In Somalia, Shabaab — which formally merged with AQ last year — is far from defeated and has managed to carry out attacks in neighboring Kenya and Uganda as well. In Nigeria, Boko Haram continues to slaughter Christians. In Egypt, al-Qaeda members and associates — including Mohammed al-Zawahiri, the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri — are operating more freely than ever. On 9/11/12 they hoisted an AQ flag above the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

Libyan groups closely linked to al-Qaeda were responsible for the 9/11/12 attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb easily took over northern Mali until French forces pushed them out of the population centers. Al-Qaeda affiliates are becoming more visible and perhaps viable in Tunisia, too.

Despite all this, the State Department report asserts that “core” al-Qaeda “is on a path to defeat.” I am not convinced that there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that thesis. And even if it does prove to be accurate, who’s to say that a weakening core can’t be compensated for by a stronger periphery?

In the final analysis, “Which is the A Team of terrorism?” is not the paramount question. What is: in the years ahead, does the U.S. have what it takes to be the A Team of counterterrorism?


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Due to the overwhelming enthusiasm of our readers it has become necessary to transfer our commenting system to a more scalable system in order handle the content.