Al-Qaeda fails to recognize one of its greatest allies. By Colum Lynch for the Washington Post (thanks to all who sent this in):
UNITED NATIONS — The suicide bombings that ripped apart the U.N. headquarters building in Algiers on Dec. 11 and killed at least 37 people, including 17 U.N. employees, provided a bloody demonstration of the United Nations’ emergence as a key target in al-Qaeda’s global war against the West.
This year, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have threatened or targeted U.N. officials and peacekeepers in conflict zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and southern Lebanon, where six U.N. peacekeepers were killed in a bombing in June. Even before the Algiers attack, the United Nations was already investing millions of dollars in fortifying its facilities and convoys in response to threats in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the Algiers attack — the deadliest for the United Nations since insurgents bombed its Baghdad headquarters in August 2003 — provided a blunt reminder of how vulnerable the international organization is, even in relatively peaceful locales. It also raised concerns that more than a decade of efforts by the U.N. Security Council to check the influence of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic movements has exposed U.N. humanitarian agencies to new dangers.
“Al-Qaeda certainly regards the United Nations as inimical to its own interests,” said Richard Barrett, head of a U.N. team that monitors the effectiveness of U.N. sanctions against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. “The more the United States and other countries protect themselves, the more the battle goes to the softest target, and the U.N. is always going to be a softer target.”
While the United Nations is often accused in Washington of being anti-American and anti-Israeli, its image in the Middle East — where it serves as the chief caregiver for Palestinian refugees — has also been tattered. U.N. sanctions against Islamic countries, including Iraq and Iran, and the agency’s refusal to engage in talks with elected Hamas officials have played into the hands of those who say the global body is an agent of U.S. and Israeli interests.