Walid Phares asks four questions about the $100K reward offered by al-Qaeda for the murder of a Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks they deem blasphemous. An extra $50K will be paid Vilks is "slaughtered". Phares asks:
1. Why would al Qaeda Iraq and not another branch offer such a bounty? The Cartoonist is Swedish and the al Qaeda Iraq fights against the US in Iraq. Where is the link here? Many voices in the debate on the War on Terror have been saying that al Qaeda came to Iraq just because the US invaded the country. What about Sweden?
2. Why is al Qaeda-Iraq offering a bounty for the killing of an editor in Scandinavia? Why offering money for Jihad? Well, when a Jihadi group begins to offer financial rewards, it means that the ideological reward isn't enough.
3. Will such a call be heeded in Sweden? Does al Qaeda have cells -dormant or not- that far north? Reports tells us that the Salafists are propagating this ideology across Scandinavia. Very few realized that an assassination of a film maker in Amsterdam was imaginable before Theo Van Gogh was killed.
4. Will al Qaeda or other Jihadists attack Swedish companies or individuals worldwide? In fact orders were given but it depends on whom would consider themselves the "infantry" and actually take action. It will also depend on what the Swedish Government and Multinational Corporations would state in public or do in private. Sweden has had decades of neutrality regarding many challenges in international relations, and its foreign policy wasn't comparable at all to NATO countries in their struggle against Terror. However, this is the greatest litmus test yet to be addressed.
Here are some possible answers:
1. Al Qaeda is trying to stake out a leadership position in the Global Islamist struggle. One of the ways this is typically done is to to take the lead in "hot button" items. Coverage of the Mohammed cartoons ensured a high profile for the issue in much the same way as Salman Rusdie's literary fame did. The planned murder of Vilks is above all an act of propaganda. It's part of a media drama.
2.Offering bounties is a common tactic. Iran offers a certain amount of money to perform specific acts of murder. Planting an IED, shooting a person, etc. It's like a McDonald's menu, with a price opposite every item. There are probably value combos and special deals. The observation that Sweden had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq is irrelevant. The idea that the Jihad is all about the invasion of Iraq is a demonstrable lie. Iraq did not cause the Jihad. Iraq has nothing to do with the planned murder of Vilks.
3. The call will probably be heeded in Sweden. The immigration, birth and conversion figures are high enough to ensure there will be a sufficient pool of persons available to respond. Considering that the money is comparable to contract for murder rates and murder is not unheard of in the West, why should there be any shortage of takers in Sweden?
4. Swedish companies will probably be threatened. Now that a "grievance" has been manufactured there's a pretext upon which any grifter, genuine Jihadi or generic extortionist can approach any Swedish company and say "we are outraged over the cartoons. Pay us or we'll harm you."
Thinking of al-Qaeda as a religion like Buddhism will take one down the wrong path. It's easier to understand it as a gang, with territories, local bosses, rackets, internal rivalries, and a secret culture which requires you to be "made". Al-Qaeda is in fact linked to gangs. It operates an actual narcotics trade in Afghanistan. It performs contract hits on behalf of clients and subcontracts hits to independent operators. It does everything gangs do and very little that religions, as we know it, undertake. The reason al-Qaeda is poorly understood is that the West insists on misunderstanding it; giving it a dignity far beyond any it would accord itself in candid moments. The contracted Vilks murder is a case in point. It's not about cartoons, blasphemy or piety but about intimidation and dominance. A desert raider will grasp the point immediately. But maybe the West never will.