After last week's stunning Spanish election, a Stratfor report said, "given the use of planted explosives in Madrid rather than suicide bombers, al Qaeda is likely planning to carry on with this tactic, particularly given the tremendous success of the operation in Spain." Britain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary and Australia were listed as U.S.-aligned nations risking the Spanish punishment. Stratfor added: "A wave of attacks in those countries against soft targets . . . could shift the global balance."
A new al Qaeda strategy twist was hinted last Thursday when the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombings, offered a cease-fire if Spanish troops actually leave Iraq as promised by Zapatero. That first known possible al Qaeda offer to negotiate with the West pressures weak European governments who might prefer appeasement to the fate of Spain.
However, in Friedman's opinion, al Qaeda's big target will be the United States. He sees an attack earlier (in the summer) rather than later (in the autumn), when it might boost Bush's re-election chances. "The grand prize," said a Stratfor report, "would be triggering an election defeat for Bush -- something that clearly would demonstrate the group's influence over Western powers."
The reaction from the left wing of the Democratic Party was sounded by Howard Dean, clinging to his national platform weeks after his presidential campaign collapsed. Feckless as ever, Dean said Bush "was the one who dragged our troops to Iraq, which apparently has been a factor in the death of 200 Spaniards over the weekend." Kerry, clearly appalled, was succinct in his reaction to Dean: "It's not our position."
Kerry is an experienced politician who has been uncharacteristically reckless in the euphoria of his party victory. He is sailing dangerous waters, supported by rogue dictators and leftist opportunists around the world and risking rejection at home. Climaxing over three centuries of defeat and decline on the world stage, Spaniards bowed to terrorism when they voted. Americans are considerably less likely to make that choice.