Shimshon Issaki is a leading expert on Islamic terrorism. He served for 44 years in the IDF and other Israeli security agencies as an intelligence analyst and operations officer, retiring with a rank equivalent to brigadier general. His new book, Terror and Iraq: How We Can Better Combat Islamic Terrorism, evaluates al-Qaeda's strategies and tactics. On April 30, Mr. Issaki addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call.
Shimshon Issaki opened with a holistic overview of al-Qaeda, from its roots in the battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan to its far-reaching terrorist activities during the past two decades.
According to Mr. Issaki, al-Qaeda opposes Christians, Jews, and even other Muslims who do not subscribe to Osama bin Laden's Wahhabi ideology; it seeks to attack and "overthrow all regimes that are non-Muslim," or that adhere to an unacceptable brand of Islam. Its preferred instrument is terrorism.
Mr. Issaki claimed that 9/11 could have been averted "if things had been done in the right way," but he sees similar barriers hindering intelligence work seven years later. In particular, he stated that Barack Obama's release of documents on enhanced interrogation techniques has done "irreversible damage to security because [terrorists] are learning how to behave" during questioning.
Asked whether American-Israeli intelligence cooperation has changed since President Obama took office, Issaki reported that it remains "very good," since "the interests [of the U.S. and Israel] are the same interests, the targets are the same targets, and the experience is the same experience."
However, he noted that significant differences of opinion between the United States and Israel have emerged over Iran, Hamas, and other strategic issues. Mr. Issaki said that the Obama administration may be "correct to explore all the possibilities. But where is the time limit? For how long?" He lamented that nothing has been done to deal with Iran since the U.S. election.
Finally, Mr. Issaki warned that al-Qaeda's demise in Iraq has been greatly exaggerated. Recent events show that the organization still is capable of generating chaos there, to the undisputed benefit of Iran.
Summary account by David Rusin.