- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2009

TERROR HIT PARADE

A top conservative member of the Spanish Parliament who is also a target of Islamic terrorists warned the West on Thursday to prepare for a new wave of attacks by radical jihadists but predicted that President Obama is the right leader to deal with the threat.

Gustavo de Aristegui, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition People’s Party, told Embassy Row that terrorists will start looking for soft targets in the United States, as they have already done in Paris where police discovered dynamite in a luxury department store in December and in Mumbai, where gunmen besieged the port city in November. His party lost control of the government after terrorists bombed commuter trains in Madrid in 2004.

“You are going to see a whole new range of terrorism. You will still see mega-terrorism, but attacks with weapons of mass destruction is not a matter of ‘if,’ but of ‘when,’” said Mr. Aristegui, who attended the National Prayer Breakfast and met with members of Congress on his visit.

Mr. Aristegui, a retired diplomat, has been personally touched by terrorism. His father, Pedro, was killed in a 1989 bombing of the Spanish Embassy in Beirut while serving as ambassador to Lebanon. Mr. Aristegui’s stepmother was seriously injured and her mother and sister were killed in the attack.

In 2006, Muslim extremists in Spain declared Mr. Aristegui an “enemy of Islam,” after he wrote the book “The Jihad in Spain: The Obsession to Reconquer Al-Andalus.” The book deals with the radical movement to reclaim Islamic control over Spain, ruled by Muslims for almost 800 years until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella finally drove them out in 1492, the same year they financed Columbus’ voyage to the New World.

Mr. Aristegui was also the target of death threats on some radical Islamic Web sites based in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Aristegui, a Christian who is planning to marry a Muslim woman, makes a strong distinction between extremists and moderate Muslims but criticizes moderates for failing to challenge the jihadists.

“Moderates are overwhelmingly the majority of Muslims,” he said. “They have to be more courageous and confront the extremists.”

Moderates are actually the first targets of the jihadists, he said, explaining that jihadists consider them heretics who should be killed or converted to their extremist beliefs.

They are at the “top of the terrorists’ hit parade of hatred,” he said.

Mr. Aristegui grew aware of the jihadist threat while serving in the Spanish diplomatic service in Iraq, Jordan and Libya in the 1990s. He first warned about the danger of Osama bin Laden in 1996, but no one paid attention to his alert to the “bloodthirsty, vicious, ruthless” al Qaeda terrorist network.

“They are drunk with violence. They understand the huge fear they can inspire by sending out a video of cutting someone’s head off,” he said.

“I am developing more and more the complex of Cassandra,” he added, referring to the Greek mythological prophet whom no one believed.

Likewise, Mr. Aristegui’s foresight led him to predict in 1995 that an obscure politician named Barack Obama would be president of the United States one day. He learned of Mr. Obama, then a member of the Illinois state legislature, through friends in Chicago.

“I saw that this man had a great deal of charisma and could become a great centrist president,” he said, acknowledging Mr. Obama’s liberal record in the U.S. Senate.

As president, Mr. Obama is “confronting a whole slate of very dangerous challenges” and “real leadership in hard times is hard to find.”

Mr. Aristegui listed leadership qualities as experience, “natural qualities” and the ability to confront challenges.

Mr. Obama “is the first leader in a long time to have these qualities,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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