JACK CAFFERTY: This week's bomb attacks in Madrid have so far claimed nearly 200 lives and put the spotlight, once again squarely, on the world's terror groups. Despite efforts of a global crackdown, terrorist outfits from al Qaeda to Ansar al Islam continue to make their presence known -- their deadly presence.
For more on the current state of terrorism and the potential for another major attack here in the United States, we are joined by Jonathan Schanzer. He's a terrorism analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Jonathan, nice to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.
JONATHAN SCHANZER, WASH. INST. FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Thanks. Good to be here.
CAFFERTY: Walk us through this thing on Madrid and give us your take on it. A lot of fingerprints on that, that suggest al Qaeda might be involved there. Repercussions around the world, including here in the United States, beefed up security in New York, the stock market reacting. What is your read on that event?
SCHANZER: Well, the attack was, of course, a coordinated deadly attack, more than 10 explosions. This does not have the markings of ETA. The most deadly year for ETA had about 120 people killed; and that was in 1980. So I think the attacks from Madrid were well beyond the capabilities of ETA. Which of course, points the finger to al Qaeda. So this, again, raises questions as to how deadly al Qaeda can be in the west and in the Middle East.
And we really are, perhaps, seeing a reconstitution of al Qaeda in a different way. Al Qaeda has really become more of a phenomenon than an organization. Where as once it was sort of a core group. It now appears that there are other smaller that groups carrying out violence in the name of al Qaeda. And this is the kind of thing we have to worry about in the Iraq, in the United States and around the rest of the world.
SERWER: Jonathan, You seem sure that it was al Qaeda in Spain, which is interesting. What about the possibility that al Qaeda is linked up to ETA and other groups, even non-Islamic groups, and wreaking havoc around the world?
SCHANZER: This is a sort of fear that I think terrorist analysts have had for some time. I don't know of any direct links between ETA and al Qaeda, but it's possible. I've heard of one ETA member who was a convert to Islam and that had some contact with al Qaeda. This is yet to be proven.
But what we do know is there are a number of affiliate groups throughout the Muslim world. These are small, organic, local groups that were formed for very local reasons, whether they wanted to topple their governments or install Shariya law. Whatever their beef was, they eventually linked up with al Qaeda and they are now much, more dangerous than they were, let's say, five or six years ago. This was an alliance that Usama bin Laden began in 1998. It has expanded. And this is essentially the next generation of threat coming from al Qaeda. These affiliate groups will continue to get stronger. And particularly if we're able to capture Usama bin Laden, or if he's killed, or we are able to stop him entirely, these small groups are going to come up through that vacuum.
LISOVICZ: And Jonathan, specifically, Abu Musaab al Zarqawi is someone you have described as al Qaeda 2.0, which is pretty scary.
SCHANZER: Yes. Abu Musaab al Zarqawi is the man we caught; we intercepted his memo last month. U.S. intelligence officials found this memo. It indicated that he was trying to continue to carry out attacks against the United States. He was seeking help from the larger al Qaeda network and was seeking to foment internecine violence inside Iraq. This is a man dangerous; he's been linked to attacks in Riyadh, Istanbul and Morocco. This is essentially a freelancer. This is a lone wolf, someone that's acting alone in the name of al Qaeda.
And this is essentially the next generation of al Qaeda. People that weren't part of the core, weren't part of the sort of the more dangerous people coming out of Afghanistan. While this guy was trained in Afghanistan he found his roots elsewhere and he's created a network not unlike al Qaeda. And it has the same vision as al Qaeda. This is the danger, I think, of terrorism in the future.
CAFFERTY: Where do we stand in your opinion on this war on terrorism? We have got this terrible situation in Madrid. We've got this fellow, Zarqawi, you are talking about, the lone Wolf that is active, some think inside Iraq. We have got terrorist attacks happening there. There is discussion all over Western Europe of fear of terrorism, possibly being about to increase there. Are we winning this war or are we losing it? What is your read?
SCHANZER: I think we're winning it. We've certainly -- I mean counterterrorism at its core is just restricting the terrorist environment. So we've cut down on the amount of finances moving around in the terrorist world. We have arrested a number of key figures. So we are doing a good job.
The problem is that this is more of a movement, a phenomenon. So when you cut off the head, another head emerges. And essentially we're going to see more attacks on softer targets. Whereas, I think al Qaeda was once able to carry out the attacks against the USS Cole, against U.S. embassies, they have not been able to hit targets like that. What they are going now --going for now are really the softer targets. Which I think shows that they have less of a capability than they once had; of course, that makes it more dangerous for the average civilian.
This is going to be a long war. This war on terrorism is going to be lasting for quite a long time. And I think we have to get used to the idea that civilians will be targeted but we are actually making headway.
CAFFERTY: You mentioned when one head is cut off, another emerges. A lot of people suggest those head are grown in the fundamentalist schools that are operating inside Saudi Arabia. What are your thoughts on the validity of that statement and the reluctance, if you are really serious about a war on terror, a reluctance to go after this stuff, where it is being fomented, and where it's being bread, and where it is being promoted?
SCHANZER: There is no doubt that Wahabi Islam coming out of Saudi Arabia has been a major source of radicalism throughout the region. Madrassas, or these informal Koranic schools, are certainly where a lot of the radicalism is taught. I can actually look towards Yemen, as one very good example of how to actually stop that. The Yemenis have done a good job of co-opting some of these informal schools, and making sure math and science are being taught there, or English for that matter. This is the kind of thing that we're going to start to ask the Saudis to do. And they've yet to do it.
CAFFERTY: All right. Jonathan, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.
SCHANZER: Thank you.
CAFFERTY: Jonathan Schanzer is a terrorism analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.