A Victory for al Qaeda?

Since my last post on the Madrid bombings, there’s been some evidence that’s come to light that the attacks may have been carried out not by ETA, but by al Qaeda.

There was widespread speculation when the attacks took place that they were meant to influence the outcome of today’s national elections in that country. Well, they seem to have done the trick — the ruling Popular Party, which was leading in most polls before the attacks (and which is the party of Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar, who led the country into the war in Iraq as one of the leading members of the “Coalition of the Willing”) appears to have been decisively defeated by the opposition Socialist Party, which advocates immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

If these results hold (there’s still about 10% of the votes being counted as I write this), and if al Qaeda was behind the Madrid bombings, then John Robb is absolutely right when he calls this a clear victory for that terrorist organization. If both those “ifs” are true, then they managed to terrorize a not-insignificant nation into a decisive change in foreign policy with a single, dramatic, well-timed act of violence.

Robb is also right when he says that such a situation would be “blood in the water” for other terrorists. If democracies can be decisively defeated this easily just by striking just before an election, watch for other groups (al Qaeda cells, or just unaffiliated nutcases) to try and see if they can do as well themselves. And don’t be surprised if we see a major act of violence on U.S. soil in the two weeks before Election Day this year…