Will the Arab revolts cripple terrorists?

Al Qaeda is a mere sideline observer of the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. Are the revolts making Osama bin Laden irrelevant?

Arab autocrats aren't the only losers in the uprisings that have, so far, toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. According to several analysts and counter-terrorism officials, the pro-democracy revolts have been just as bad for Al Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups. Though Al Qaeda leaders are publicly embracing the revolutions, they've essentially stood by and watched others achieve their goal of overthrowing secular regimes. Has Islamist terrorism become marginalized?

Al Qaeda can't compete against freedom: The "exhilarating" revolutions upsetting regimes across the Arab world may bring the "end of the 'war on terror,'" says Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast. As democratically elected governments take over, Osama bin Laden's "worst nightmare" is coming true: Without "corrupt flunkies for the U.S. and Israel" to rally Arabs against, Al Qaeda has no appeal.

No, the terrorism risks could be greater than ever: It's too soon to declare victory over the jihadists, says Walid Phares in National Review. These uprisings all follow a pattern: A three-way struggle among an autocratic regime, freedom-seeking "civil-society forces," and, waiting in the wings, a "very well organized Islamist movement." This "triangular equation" could equal democracy, or if we're not careful, the "eventual transformation of the country [in question] into a jihadist state."

Only this Muslim 'empowerment' can beat bin Laden: There may be some short-term blips, but for defeating "the scourge of terrorism in the Islamic world, the 'Arab revolt' is the best possible news," says former CIA official Robert Grenier in Al Jazeera. We can't win with guns, "Faustian bargains" with despots, or even ideas. Only Muslims themselves can relegate "Islamically-inspired terrorism" to the "dustbin of history," and we are watching them do just that.


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