Jihad. Yesterday, the New York Times used the word on the top left, front page.... jihad. I kid you not. And, no, they weren't referring to their usual narrative, an inner struggle. It was, dear friends, the proverbial pig flying moment.
The NY Times finally, and I mean finally, reports on the jihad across the Middle East. Derelict for years in the coverage of the Islamic supremacist revolutions and war across the Middle East and Africa, they instead focused on reframing the issue of "islamophobia" and calling those of us who are writing about such things outrageous, islamophobes or racist-anti-Muslim bigots.
The NY Times is reporting on what I (and the few and the brave) have been writing and warning of for years. I don't expect an apology anytime soon -- but it is a long time coming.
"Jihadist Groups Gain in Turmoil Across Middle East" By The NY Times, By ROBERT F. WORTH and ERIC SCHMITT
The new signs of an energized but fragmented jihadist threat, stretching from Mali and Libya in the west to Yemen in the east, have complicated the narrative of a weakened Al Qaeda that President Obama offered in May in a landmark speech heralding the end of the war on terrorism. The leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, raised warnings in an interview on CNN on Sunday when they said that Americans were “not safer” from terrorist attacks than they were in 2011.
The concerns are based in part on messages relayed this year by Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s overall leader, indicating that he views Syria — where the number of jihadist rebels and foreign fighters is steadily rising — as a promising staging ground.
Some analysts and American officials say the chaos there could force the Obama administration to take a more active role to stave off potential threats among the opposition groups fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But striking at jihadist groups in Syria would pose formidable political, military and legal obstacles, and could come at the cost of some kind of accommodation — even if only temporary or tactical — with Mr. Assad’s brutal but secular government, analysts say.
“We need to start talking to the Assad regime again” about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, said Ryan C. Crocker, a veteran diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. “It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence.”
It is not clear whether or when the White House would be willing to make such an abrupt shift in approach after years of supporting the Syrian opposition and calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster. It would certainly require delicate negotiations with Middle Eastern allies who were early and eager supporters of Syrian rebel groups, notably Saudi Arabia.
One growing source of concern is the number of Muslims from Western countries who have gone to fight in Syria and might eventually return home and pose a terrorist threat. Analysts say at least 1,200 European Muslims have gone to Syria since the start of the war to join the fight, and dozens of Americans.
Across the region, a rising tide of Islamist militancy — fueled partly by sectarian violence and partly by the collapse of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in the face of opposition from the country’s military — has contributed to a recent wave of attacks, including deadly bombings in Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula as well as the daily carnage in Syria and Iraq.
The violence has underscored the continuing disarray across the Middle East in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Above all, it is the chaos of Syria, where foreign jihadis appear to be building to a critical mass and have overwhelmed the Western strategy of support for the moderate opposition, that could drive the Obama administration toward greater involvement, analysts say.
But it is not at all clear what form that involvement might take. American officials are unlikely to open a new front of drone strikes in Syria. Other options carry large risks. In early October, American commandos carried out raids in Libya and Somalia aimed at capturing terrorist suspects. The Libya raid was successful; the one in Somalia was not.
To some extent, infighting among the jihadist groups in Syria has recently mitigated the threat there, but it is not clear how long that will last. Mr. Zawahri sent an envoy, Abu Khalid al-Suri, in an effort to resolve disputes between the two main factions, the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“To the extent that I am concerned about Al Qaeda the brand, it’s that it is clearly expanding its affiliates, both in number and in some cases in capability,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview. “We’ve got to watch and determine which ones are local, which ones are regional, and which ones are global, and each requires a different approach.”
Those agendas can easily overlap and change, and one place where that appears to be happening is Yemen, the home to Al Qaeda’s most organized and threatening affiliate. A series of clashes in the past month between Zaydi Muslim militia fighters and hard-line Sunnis in Yemen’s remote northwest has led to calls for a wider religious war, and there are reports of training camps being established for that purpose, Yemeni officials say.