Spain's Appeaser-elect (AFP)
The Sydney Morning Herald (thanks to Nicolei) has articulated the obvious: that Spain's elections are perceived by Al-Qaeda as a capitulation to the jihadist intimidation of the Madrid bombings, and so radical Muslims will be emboldened to try to influence elections elsewhere with the same tactic.
Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups may be moving toward a potent new strategy - targeting Western nations at election time for the maximum political effect.
This scenario was raised yesterday by US intelligence officials and the FBI's most senior counter-terrorism agent, who is in Sydney for a regional police commissioners' conference. . . .
US intelligence analysts and political strategists said yesterday they have been forced to consider anew the possibility of an attack in the US in the run-up to the presidential elections in November.
They said there has been a steady flow of "chatter" among suspected al-Qaeda members and their affiliates about the timing of the election. This suggests the group hopes to exploit the election cycles of the US and other nations in an effort to peel away popular support for the war on terrorism.
"Al-Qaeda would love to do something close to the election, an 'October surprise'," said the CIA's former anti-terrorism chief, Vince Cannistraro.
"Al-Qaeda thinks strategically. Are they considering what effect this would have on our political system? Yes."
In Sydney, the FBI's John Pitsole said yesterday it "raises the stakes" of international terrorism if the Spanish elections were a target of the Madrid bombings.
"In terms of the attack in Madrid, I would hate to give whatever terrorist group credit for influencing the election," Mr Pistole said. "If that was the intended outcome and that was what was achieved, then that raises the stakes in terms of the vulnerabilities and potential that we must deal with."
Meanwhile, the Washington Post (thanks to "Allah") claims that Zapatero won because Spanish voters were angry at the Aznar government's early insistence that the Basque group ETA, and not Al-Qaeda, perpetrated the attacks. The Toronto Star, in a similar vein (thanks again to "Allah"), opines that "Spanish voters were not bowing to terrorists when they threw out the ruling conservative Popular Party on Sunday. Instead, they were punishing a government they believed was trying to mislead them. They also were rejecting a government that joined the United States in backing the Iraq war, against the wishes of the vast majority of Spaniards."
Neither of these face-saving analyses stand up to scrutiny. The Post's founders on the large amount of clear evidence that Spanish voters were voting quite consciously with Iraq and Al-Qaeda in mind, not because of anger with Aznar over an alleged deception regarding the bombing: see, for example, the photo and story here. Now: were they bowing to terrorists or simply voting against Bush and Blair and their alleged lies about Iraq? Unfortunately for the Toronto Star, this is a distinction without a difference. As the Sydney Morning Herald story above illustrates, Al-Qaeda and other radical Muslim groups will see it as the same thing. What's more, "Allah" also points to this AFP story, which illustrates that Spanish voters didn't seem upset enough about Iraq just before the bombing to turn out Aznar. Only with the bombs did everything change.