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Southeast Asia’s Islamists Hurt

Positive developments in the War on Terror seem to be multiplying by the day.
There is a piece in today’s New York Times about the progress being made in the fight against Islamic terrorist groups in Southeast Asia. The most dangerous organizations, Jemay Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf, have taken huge blows in operational capabilities and public support over the past three years.

Even the New York Times admits the U.S.’s crucial contribution to this fight:

The United States and Australia, in particular, have played major roles in helping Southeast Asian countries combat terrorist threats in the region.

But the Times is the Times after all, and the piece goes on, without citing specific evidence, to describe the American influence in the Phillipines as crude and overly militaristic. However,  here’s the important part:

In Indonesia, since 2005 authorities have arrested more than 200 members of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamic group with ties to Al Qaeda. In the Philippines, an American-backed military campaign has the Abu Sayyaf Group, an Islamic extremist organization with links to Jemaah Islamiyah, clinging to footholds in the jungles of a handful of southern islands, officials said.

Speaking of links, here’s something you won’t find in the New York Times. Saddam Hussein’s regime supported Aby Sayyaf. A 2006 Weekly Standard piece by Stephen Hayes has all the details. Iraqi intelligence routinely offered Abu Sayyaf financial support, using Lybian intelligence as a go-between. Moreover, Hisham Hussein, head of the Iraqi embassy in Manilla seems to have had a hands-on role in Abu Sayyaf’s acts of terrorism — including operations that killed Americans.

With a wealthy sponsor such as Saddam and the cover of then-rogue Libya, it seems doubtful that Abu Sayyaf could have been marginalized without  shifts in the greater Islamist network. Saddam is gone, and the Iraq War drove Libya to give up all WMD work. The Times isn’t about to ask the critical question, but someone needs to: Is the decrease in Islamic terrorism in Southeast Asia yet another positive turn in the War on Terror that can in some way be attributed to the invasion in Iraq?



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