Talking to Al Qaeda? Don't rule it out, some say

Sep 14, 2007 ABC

Osama bin Laden ... time to talk? (Reuters)

Six years after the September 11 attacks, a few cautious voices are beginning to suggest the unthinkable - maybe it is time to consider talking to Al Qaeda.

The idea will revolt some people and raises obvious questions - through what channels could such a dialogue take place and what would there be to negotiate?

But proponents say Al Qaeda has established itself as a de facto power, whether the West likes it or not, and history shows militant movements are best neutralised by negotiation, not war.

"No insurgency or terrorism has been defeated by warfare or violence," former Anglican church envoy and hostage negotiator Terry Waite said in a debate on BBC World television ...

Al Qaeda is not so much an organisation as an idea.

Its vision - to create a global Muslim caliphate and convert even the United States to Islam, as its leader Osama bin Laden urged in a video last week - is a dream that is not confined within national boundaries and leaves no room for compromise, or even realistic discussion.

"Al Qaeda is a universal movement and its demand is universal. It cannot be met by one single government. They're talking about the whole Islamic world from Chechnya to Yemen," said Mustafa Alani, security analyst at the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai ...

"It's an endless struggle. The principle of jihad will not accept half-solutions. Either you are in the black or in the white. There is no middle ground. You are either a kafir (infidel) or you are a jihadi," said Mr Alani.