Reports that Al Qaeda is imploding are vastly exaggerated. Below are some facts that shed some light on the issue.
1. Sunnis constitute approximately 85% of the Moslem world. Fatwas by Sunni Wahhabi and Salafi leaders in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Sunni Moslem world are gaining popularity among religious Sunnis around the world.
2. The threat by Islamic extremists to Western and US interests is funded primarily by Sunni Wahhabis and Salafis who continue to open new madrassas and religious schools in South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India), Africa (north and sub-Saharan Africa), East Asia (Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia) and Saudi Arabia that are graduating a new generation of suicide bombers. President Bush was dead on target when he stated that this conflict would endure a generation or more.
3. Al Qaeda has already inspired the establishment of several new independent extremist Sunni groups in many parts of the Arab world, including Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, and Algeria. These new groups do not necessarily coordinate with Al Qaeda but could be as deadly nonetheless.
4. The one important positive development against Al Qaeda among Sunni Arab Moslems has taken place in Iraq but has been largely driven by tribes that had never embraced religious extremism in the past.
The obsession with the Iranian threat and its proxy Hezbollah by some analysts and experts is diverting attention from the real and protracted deadly conflict with Saudi Wahhabi/Salafi funded Islamic extremism.
The conflict between the United States and Iran is between two states. Though very serious in its nature, this conflict, however, is over geopolitical and strategic regional interests and should therefore be seen and addressed through that context. On the other hand, the conflict with Sunni Wahhabi/Salafi funded and nurtured Islamic extremism is at the heart of the War on Terror.
Let’s not forget that all 19 terrorist hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Sunni extremists and 15 of them were Saudis. Keeping our eye on the ball will help us avoid making deadly mistakes.