Saturday, April 02, 2005

Once in a Lifetime Jihad Opportunity

The Pope in dying. After he finally passes the College of Cardinals will meet in Vatican City to vote for his successor. During the day they will meet in the Sistine Chapel. At night they will remain in Vatican City in St. Martha's House. The Cardinals will be sequestered until the next Pope is elected. Since the first few rounds of voting will almost certainly be inconclusive the Cardinals are likely to meet for several days.

From al Qaeda's point of view this is a once in a lifetime jihad opportunity. What better way to push the world toward open religious warfare than by attacking the College of Cardinals in the Vatican? The symbolism and the message need no interpretation.

It's not like the Cardinals will be meeting in a secure, undisclosed location. The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous buildings in the world. St Martha's House is located on the edge of Vatican City (#77 on the left).

How secure is Vatican City? This will be the first meeting of the College of Cardinals since the War on Jihad began. Has the Church made the necessary security preparations? Could a truck-bomb get close enough to St Martha's to destroy it? Could a suicide killer pilot a plane into the Sistine Chapel? Could a squad of suicide assassins sneak into the Vatican? Could a helicopter drop them onto the roof of St Martha's? The Cardinals are elderly men. Once inside, jihad killers would not be hard pressed to murder them if the Cardinals are only slightly protected.

If this nightmare scenario came to pass I believe that al Qaeda would have succeeded in it's goal of sparking a Christian/Muslim global conflict. Anti-Muslim riots would break out in any country with a large Catholic population. An anti-Christian response by Muslims would quickly follow. (Witness the tit-for-tat mosque and church burning in Holland after the van Gogh murder.) Countries like Nigeria would almost certainly collapse into civil war.

Of course the odds are very small. Al Qaeda would have to act very quickly and to my knowledge all previous bombings and attacks in the West, 9/11 and the Madrid train bombing for example, were planned far in advance. It seems that al Qaeda's decentralized network of networks structure is not nimble enough to take advantage of events as they unfold.

Nevertheless, Italy and nearby European countries have a large and largely unassimilated Muslim population. Lots of people are traveling to Rome to be a part of these events and perhaps one more group of men in a truck would go unnoticed. It may be 10 or 15 years before another College of Cardinals convenes. Can al Qaeda let this chance pass them by? I hope Rome has considered this possibility and is ready.