IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Terror analyst explains significance of attacks

NBC's Cressey discusses how al-Qaida has evolved since 9/11
/ Source:

Hours after the near-simultaneous bombings of three hotels in Amman, Jordan, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough welcomed NBC terror analyst Roger Cressey to 'Scarborough Country' to discuss the attack and what may happen next. 

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch a video report on the bombings, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Roger, I understand al-Qaida told us it was coming 24 hours ago.  Tell us about that. 

ROGER CRESSEY:  That's right.  On the Web site al-Qaida in Iraq, they said the coalition would feel the earth move under their feet within 24 hours, so, one theory, of course, is that today's attacks were perpetrated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network.  And he was telegraphing his punch just the day before. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But the thing is about Jordan, you were always talking about how this isn't the first time they have tried to hit Jordan, and, really, Jordan's security forces are about as good as it gets. 

Talk about the history of this, how long they have been trying to go after this government, trying to shake it, because, again, it's an American ally. 

CRESSEY:  Because of King Abdullah's support for the United States, because of its peace treaty with Israel, they have always been a target for al-Qaida and for the broader jihadi movement, going back to the late 1990s, during the millennium plot, when Zarqawi and others tried to attack these type of hotels, the SAS Radisson, for the same reasons that they are doing it today.  And, of course, they were successfully today, unfortunately. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Everybody always wants to know every time there's an explosion like this, when after so many people are killed, what does it mean about the power and the force of al-Qaida tonight? 

CRESSEY:  Well, we need to think about al-Qaida not as an organization, but as a movement.  And this movement is global in nature, which we all know.  These type of attacks appeal to part of its base, which is to strike at these apostate regimes, as the jihadis describe the Hashemite kingdom, to strike at U.S. interests. 

There's another part of the base, which says, wait a minute, why are we killing innocent civilians?  So, there's a debate within this movement right now over whether or not these type of attacks are appropriate.

SCARBOROUGH:  And that's what so fascinating, because, of course, we like to think of al-Qaida as an organizational chart, playing cards -- like, in Iraq, you get all the cards, you win the game.  Not the case here.  You actually have al-Qaida fighting al-Qaida ... some saying, stop killing our people. 

CRESSEY:  That's right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Others say, we have to do it. 

CRESSEY:  It's not a monolithic organization.  It's not hierarchical, like it was pre-9/11.

So our challenge, when we talk about the war of ideas and how to get our message across, is to work with our allies to make sure the message is killing civilians is wrong and it's against the tenets of Islam. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, what you are telling us right now is, even if we captured bin Laden and Zarqawi on the same day, these killings may continue. 

CRESSEY:  Joe, the most important thing is that regardless of what happens to the leadership, the movement will continue.  That's the long-term strategic challenge for us, for Jordan, and for all of our allies.