December 15, 2003

December 15, 2003 | Commentary on Middle East

The Terror War Goes On

The capture of Saddam Hussein is reason for real celebration for the Bush administration and for the Iraqi people, but its effect on the War on Terror is unclear.

Of course it's a boon for stability, reconstruction and democracy in Iraq, but beyond that it's too early to tell.

Saddam's capture could persuade Syrian and Iranian leaders that their support for terrorism, in the form of such rogues as Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, is a fool's errand and will likely resign their fate, as well, to the despot dustbin of history.

And if Saddam decides to cooperate with his debriefers, we could learn a tremendous amount about the questions that tug at our intellects daily, such as the organization of the resistance network in Iraq, Iraq's relationship with terrorist organizations, and, of course, the fate of his weapons of mass destruction (WMD.)

Information about Iraq's role in terrorism, now and in the past, would help us unravel the fabric of the world's terrorist network. And have Saddam's WMDs question been spirited to Syria or Lebanon's Bekaa Valley or buried deep in the Iraqi desert?

But the War on Terror continues. Word of an assassination attempt on Pakistan's President Musharaff, who sided with the United States against al Qaeda and the Taliban after 9/11, shows that this struggle is not over by any stretch of the imagination.

Considering Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and its border with Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia (another potential hotspot inhabited by the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the radical fundamentalist group Hizb ut Tahrir), the country is arguably one of the most important in the War on Terror.

And if that news isn't enough: A U.N. panel has reportedly warned of a continuing, lucrative funding stream to terrorists, including drug money. A separate report by the the U.S. General Accounting Office squealed on Sunday that the Justice and Treasury Departments are still struggling with understanding and stemming the flow of terrorist blood money, especially where terrorist groups are using commodities, such as diamonds, gems, or gold, to move money internationally.

The U.N. report also warned that al Qaeda "has already taken the decision to use chemical and biological weapons in their forthcoming attacks. The only constraint they are facing is the technical complexity to operate them properly and effectively."

This means that it isn't getting their clammy mitts on weapons of mass destruction, it's how to use them properly to kill the most people possible. So it's not a question of if, but a question of when, some innocent civilians will suffer the fate of these horrible weapons at the hands of al Qaeda or one of its international franchises, such as Southeast Asia's Jemaah Islamiya.

Bagging Saddam is great news, but it's not Miller time yet. It's one less face hanging in the rogue's gallery, but letting our guard down in Iraq, or elsewhere, for even a second could be disastrous.

Peter Brookes is a senior fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Peter Brookes Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

Related Issues: Middle East

First appeared in the New York Post.