No one in the Bush administration is saying how long U.S. and British attacks against the Taleban and al-Qaida, the Osama bin Laden terrorist organization, will last. But several experts on military, religious and regional issues in the Middle East say the U.S. would be wise to be swift.
Retired Egyptian Army general Mohammed Kadry Said is now head of the military studies unit at the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. He says U.S. and British attacks must be brief or they run the risk of further angering Muslims throughout the region. He says that anger is exactly what Osama bin Laden is counting on. "In my view, Osama bin Laden is happy that the United States launched this war," he says. "I mean Osama bin Laden is dancing now on what Osama bin Laden wants. Such atmosphere is now dominating the area and threatening any moderate voices. Now nobody can speak defending the American act without being criticized. I am afraid the United States is serving in some part of what Osama bin Laden wants."
Saudi Arabia has said that there is clear evidence linking Osama bin Laden to last month's attacks in the United States and has called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
But Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al Faisal is warning Washington the September 11 attacks were meant to provoke unmeasured responses that could lead to more casualties and, in the process, inflame passions.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned the U.S. strikes in neighboring Afghanistan. Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi has said the U.S. and British attacks are unacceptable and could hurt Afghan civilians and encourage extremism.
Mohammed el Said Idris is the editor-in-chief of Iran Digest magazine. He is also an Iranian expert at the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. He says there is concern that if terrorists in Afghanistan flee into Iran the United States might go looking for them. Mr. Idris says the possibility of terrorists seeking safety in Iran is especially worrying for him because, he says, this means war could be transferred to Iranian territories. Mr. Idris says the U.S. might follow fleeing terrorists, which would mean an attack on Iranian territory.
Abdel Moneim Sa'id, the head of the al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, calls this the first crisis of the 21st century and says its characteristics are unique. "It has religious undertones," he says, "but also it is in an area without any strategic significance. The U.S. is not saying it is fighting Afghanistan or the Afghan nation. It is fighting a phenomenon. It is the first crisis to put Russia and the U.S. together since the Second World War. It is the first crisis in which you have a major party and its allies bombing an adversary and at the same time bombarding them with relief food."
Mr. Sa'id says history has shown that when it comes to the use of military force in someone else's territory, being quick and decisive can create future allies, while he warns protracted involvement almost always results in the development of anger and enemies.