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Behind the Headlines: Terrorist Attacks Are ‘no Surprise’ to Students of Islamic Fundamentalism

The terrorist attacks on Jewish targets in London this week and in Buenos Aires last week came as little surprise to students of Islamic terror.

“This kind of terrorism increases in lock step with the peace procees,” said Adam Garfinkle, director of the Middle East Council of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

“There has been a pattern over the years that when Israel and the Arab make progress diplomatically there is a greater incidence of terrorism,” agreed Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, another think tank in Philadelphia.

“The key question is, who is behind it?” Pipes wondered. “Is it the Iranians, or is it the Syrians?”

In Lebanon, a group reportedly linked to the Shi’ite fundamentalist Hezbollah movement claimed credit for the attack in Argentina, which destroyed the Jewish community’s central headquarters and killed close to 100 people.

In London on Tuesday, a car bomb exploded outside the consular services section of the Israeli Embassy, injuring at least 13 people.

Hezbollah is backed by Iran, but its operations in Lebanon take place under the noses, and with the implicit approval, of Syria.

Pipes speculated that responsibility for the bombings is more likely Iranian than Syrian, “given the non-strategic nature of these targets and given the fact that it in no way enhances the bargaining positions of the anti-Israel forces.”

At a news conference wrapping up the historic Israeli-Jordanian summit in Washington on Tuesday, King Hussein joined Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in condemning the terrorist attacks.

Placing the blame squarely on Hezbollah, Rabin called on Syria to halt such attacks.

“If you ask me if Syria can put a limit on these attacks, the answer is yes,” Rabin said. “Syrian has at least preventative capability.”

RETALIATION BY HEZBOLLAH

Hussein attributed the actions to “enemies of peace, enemies of life.”

And President Clinton called on all parties “not to let the enemies of peace prevail.”

Some analysts, however, downplayed the importance of the peace talks as a motivating factor. Steven Emerson, a journalist and expert on Middle East terrorism, said “the tentative conclusion” is that the attack in Argentian “was an Iranian Hezbollah retaliation.”

In May, Israel kidnapped Hezbollah leader Mustafa Dirani from Lebanon. Attacks between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon have been heavy in recent months. In June, Israel raided an Hezbollah training base killing some 50 terrorists.

“Hezbollah has a worldwide infrastructure from Lebanon to Germany to France to the U.S.,” Emerson said.

“The issue isn’t infrastructure, but whether it is mobilized to carry out attacks,” he said. “The question is at what point they’re prevailed upon to use it.”

Emerson compared the current situation to that of the 1970s, when “there were international attacks, primarily Palestinian in origin, directed against Western and Israeli and Jewish institutions.

“What is happening now is simply a reignition of the terrorist war with new perpetrators and no geographical limits,” he said.

Instead of Palestinian groups waging the war, he said, “now we’re entering the period of the radical Islamic fundamentalists’ war against the West.”

The most spectacular American manifestation of the war against the West was the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York last year.

There were reports linking one of the escaped masterminds of that attack to an aborted plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok in March. That plot reportedly was foiled by accident when the driver of a truck carrying the explosives collided with a motorcycle, and the would-be suicide bomber fled.

Those explosives were reportedly of the same type used to demolish the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Ares in 1992. Last week’s blast is also reported to have used similar explosions.

Pipes agrees that the terrorists pose a threat in the United States.

“If one of the leaders decide to make things jump in this country, it would happen,” he said. “These are well established networks. We only see the tip of them.”

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