By Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian today:
"So Iraq is central. But it is not the whole story. For, as Taylor [Peter Taylor, the veteran documentary film-maker who spent decades studying Northern Irish terrorism] explains, al-Qaida is not like Eta or the IRA - organisations with a clear, single goal. It is not simply a troops-out movement, demanding nothing more than a withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq and justice for the Palestinians. It is not the armed wing of the Stop the War Coalition.
Its aims are rather different. Central to its ideology is the reintroduction of the caliphate, an Islamic state governed by sharia law that would stretch across all formerly Muslim lands, taking in Spain, Morocco, north Africa, Albania, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, as well as Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Plenty on the left tend to skim over this stuff, dismissing it as weird, obscurantist nonsense - and imagining it as somehow secondary to al-Qaida's anti-imperialist mission.
That's a big mistake. For it is this animating idea which helps to explain al-Qaida actions that otherwise make no sense."