Second Iraq battle: 'morning after'
Tuesday's tape, thought to be by bin Laden, urges Muslims to use guerrilla tactics against US troops.
Do not expect to see Islamic warriors mounted on camels, turbans flowing in the wind, charging across the Arabian desert to defend Baghdad.Skip to next paragraph
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More likely, say Western military analysts, a slow, stealthy infiltration of extremist groups could wreak havoc on US, British, and allied armies during and after a coalition invasion of Iraq.
Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of jihadis - holy warriors - will view US and British forces in Iraq as prime targets, say these analysts. They say coalition forces could wind up fighting two campaigns: one to disarm Saddam Hussein and the other to maintain security afterward - putting down skirmishes between tribal factions while defending against possible terrorist attacks (see story, page 1).
In a new audiocassette released on Tuesday, a voice believed by US officials to be that of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden calls on Muslims around the Arab world to take up just such stealthy, guerrilla tactics against "infidels" on Arabian sands.
"True Muslims should act, incite, and mobilize...." the tape said. "We advise about the importance of drawing the enemy into long, close, and exhausting fighting, taking advantage of camouflaged positions in plains, farms, mountains, and cities."
Western military analysts warn that while Iraq is today a mostly "secular" Islamic regime run by Mr. Hussein's ruling Baath Party, Western armies are likely to act as magnet that would draw Al Qaeda across porous borders into Iraq.
"There is a real possibility that an occupation of this nature will suck in all sorts of jihadis from all over," says Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies in London. "A Western occupation almost certainly invites them in from Saudi Arabia and other countries where they are currently ensconced."
Abu Omar, an Iraqi businessman here, says that he was pleased to see Mr. bin Laden, a personal hero, taking an interest in Iraq. But he said that he also wanted to see Hussein removed from power, albeit not with the help of the US military.
"Osama had hit the Americans one time in a very big way, when he attacked the World Trade Center," he says. "That was much more than any Arab leader has ever done, and for this reason we love him. But this war will involve the Iraqi people fighting the US and, while Osama will try to inspire his members to fight with them, I don't expect Al Qaeda to be a major factor."
Syrian computer technician Imad Sakkal agrees that there is little love lost between Hussein and bin Laden, but he praises bin Laden for sacrificing a life of luxury to fight for Islam in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. "Even if he and his people die fighting the Americans, they will be martyrs."
Few leading Western military analysts doubt any US-led invasion of Iraq will end in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's undemocratic regime. It is the "morning after" that raises red-flag security issues, they say.