Jewish World Review Oct. 18, 2002/ 12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
Richard Z. Chesnoff
Al Qaeda, whose subsidiary struck in Bali last week, is active on at least five continents. Osama Bin Laden's sleeper cells in the U.S. and Canada have their counterparts all across Asia - in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore. In Africa, where Al Qaeda terrorists murdered hundreds in two bombings at U.S. embassies in 1998, governments from Morocco to South Africa are on high alert. Security forces in Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Italy continue to comb their cities and borders for activists and brace for new attacks. After Bali, Australians understand that they, too, can be targeted - at home and abroad.
Even South America is looking over its shoulder. Argentina already has been racked by terror attacks authored by Islamic extremists. But nearby Paraguay, Ecuador and Brazil also have significant Islamic populations that include ardent Hezbollah militants with ties to Al Qaeda.
Still, it is in the Mideast where the greatest dangers lie. In Yemen, Al Qaeda operatives are considered the culprits in the explosions that ripped through the French oil tanker. Bin Laden even supposedly praised the act publicly.
In Iran, Lebanon and probably Saudi Arabia, authorities go through the charade of "arresting" Al Qaeda fugitives while remaining fully aware that others are harbored in their borders - many of them, as this column reported seven months ago, in the Ein al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon. The most important link here, intelligence sources say, is the Iranian-backed, Lebanese- based Hezbollah terrorist army.
Hezbollah, which has been helping to shelter Al Qaeda operatives, is convinced that once an attack begins on Iraq, it will become the next target of President Bush's war on terror. Accordingly, and with enthusiastic Iranian backing, say the sources, Hezbollah stepped up efforts to acquire anti-aircraft weapons from as many outlets as possible - including Chechen rebels.
Hezbollah - most of whose arms flow through Syria - has a plan. Once the war begins in Iraq, Hezbollah will launch its own artillery and rocket attacks on northern Israel. The goal: to complicate the already tense coalition the U.S. has with some of the supposedly moderate Arab states.
As the President said yesterday when he signed the bill authorizing him to go to war if necessary, "We will face our dangers squarely and unafraid."
That has to be on all fronts.