After seizing the OPEC conference in 1974, the Palestine Liberation Organization actually began to fade from prominence in terrorist actions. By the end of the Carter Administration, the shape and texture of the Middle East had evolved into something else entirely, though not in a good way. The “wipe out Israel” supergoal of Arab states had been proven all-but-impossible by the stunning results of the 1967 “Six-Day” War, and the chaotic events in the 1973 “Yom Kippur” War. The backlash from the 1972 Olympics massacre had forced most Arab nations to publicly disavow violence as a policy. As a result, new groups sprung up, initially under private sponsorship from influential patrons. This caused concern in the Politburo, as groups which once welcomed Soviet support now voiced an independence of mind the Communists found unsettling. Unsettling enough to approve the invasion of Soviet-leaning Afghanistan in 1979. And unsettling enough in the Middle East, to spur on dissident groups in places like Iran and Iraq, leading to the rise of both Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein.
Into this mix arrived President Reagan, a man of clear vision and firm ideals, the sort of man to hate murderers of any stripe. And the Soviets freaked. 1981 featured the attempted assassination of President Reagan, which does not appear to have any sort of Soviet connection, but also the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, which certainly did have Soviet involvement. It was at this time that dozens of new terrorist groups sprang up, operating in both the Middle East and Europe. It’s impossible to say which specific groups were created, trained, and supplied by the Soviets, but KGB documents produced after the fall of the USSR show the effort was coordinated in Moscow. That proved to be a poor investment, indeed.
While many on the Left seek every opportunity to connect the United States with support for terrorists, the truth is that most Islamic terrorists initially got help from the Kremlin. What happened to throw things awry for the Reds, was that these groups quickly learned they were not bound by their word to the Soviets, and many Soviet client states simply took what they got from Moscow, and handed it over to cells that ran operations as a sort of shadow war. The case of Osama bin Laden is a good example; When Osama became angry at the Soviets' occupation of Afghanistan, he began to coordinate delivery of weapons and logistical support to bands of mujahadeen in the hills. This included material acquired (by various means) from the Sudan, Egypt, and Iraq, as well as purchased on the black market (which itself found Soviet small arms and ammunition in good supply). Because his action was not government-sponsored, it had the additional advantage of strong security - only the members knew the connections, and very few indeed understood the cell structure well enough to attack it. The combination of tight control with the use of his enemies' tools against them became the forte' of OBL plans, but they have a limit that bin Laden does not understand. This is a trump card in the hand of Coalition forces, but not the only one.
For here, it's important to understand that bin Laden the religious fascist predated Al Qaeda the religious fascist organization, and that initially, bin Laden and Al Qaeda followed the established road of attacking known targets in known locations, where the enemy was at a severe disadvantage. Even the attack on the U.S.S. Cole fell into that category. The significance of Global Terrorism comes from Media and the Internet.
(to be continued in further articles)