- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

Jemaah Islamiyah is trying to bleed Indonesia, particularly Bali, by one thousand cuts. The group appears to have carried out the fatal suicide bombings there on Saturday and the October 2002 nightclub bombings that killed 202.

The United States has significant economic interests in Indonesia, a tolerant, Muslim democracy. While Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, does not directly threaten the United States, the group is hostile to Western influences and has ties to al Qaeda.

The goal of JI is to establish an Islamic caliphate in Asian regions where a significant number of Muslims live, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand and southern Philippines. Its most immediate target is Indonesia, where the group aims to establish an Islamic theocracy that could be expanded.

By bombing sites in the tourist haven of Bali, the JI is targeting an important revenue source for Indonesia: The foreign tourists who bring Western practices and the Indonesians who benefit financially from the tourist industry. Most Balinese are Hindus, not Muslims.

In its efforts to weaken the Indonesian government and eliminate foreign influences in Indonesia, even crude, if fatal, attacks serve the JI’s interests. Saturday’s attacks do not appear to have been particularly sophisticated, requiring, primarily, individuals willing to blow themselves up and murder the people around them.

The governments of Southeast Asia have arrested hundreds of JI members since September 11, including key figures. About 18 senior members remain at-large. The JI has and continues to use bases in southern Philippines for training grounds and has ties to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf in that country.

The Indonesian government has been committed to prosecuting the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, but has been less aggressive with the accessories to attacks. Also, Indonesia should make greater efforts to decrease the influence of Islamic schools which motivate terrorism.

Australia, the United States and other Western nations should redouble their efforts to improve Indonesia’s counter-terror capabilities, particularly law-enforcement, judicial and intelligence expertise. Indonesia, the world’s most populous nation that is predominantly Muslim, has become a model of democratic success, leaping ahead on women’s and human rights in recent years. Like other democracies, its freedoms make it susceptible to terrorist attack. The West must help Indonesia best counter that threat.

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