Ripples upon ripples

With Lebanese forces allegedly battling al-Qaeda in the north of Lebanon – there is undoubtedly growing extremism within a small section of the Palestinian Diaspora – yet more evidence that the Iraq war has been invaluable for Islamic terrorism:

A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama bin Laden has produced no significant leads on his whereabouts, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of Al Qaeda operatives and money into Pakistan’s tribal territories, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation.

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

The influx of money has bolstered Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping and reasserting influence over its far-flung network. The trend also signals a reversal in the traditional flow of Al Qaeda funds, with the network’s leadership surviving to a large extent on money coming in from its most profitable franchise, rather than distributing funds from headquarters to distant cells.

Al Qaeda’s efforts were aided, intelligence officials said, by Pakistan’s withdrawal in September of tens of thousands of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghanistan border where Bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.

Little more than a year ago, Al Qaeda’s core command was thought to be in a financial crunch. But U.S. officials said cash shipped from Iraq has eased those troubles.

“Iraq is a big moneymaker for them,” said a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official.

The sight of Tony Blair parading around Iraq heralding “progress” was beyond parody. The unindicted war criminal is delusional. The facts on the ground speak for themselves.

After Jimmy Carter’s recent clarity over Israel/Palestine, the former US President’s latest comments chastising Blair and Bush couldn’t be more appropriate.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard may not have led the charge into Iraq, but history will judge him just as harshly. After all, he chose to join the invasion and occupation for reasons that were solely based on pleasing Bush. Any serious analyst could have told him that the occupation would descend into chaos. Maybe he simply didn’t care.