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April 30, 2006

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'Know Thine Enemy,' Romney Says of 'Jihadists'

Republican Presidential Hopeful Warns of Religious-Tinged Threat


April 30, 2006 — - Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., has sought to confront the religious element of terrorism.


"They are terrorists, yes, but more directly they are Jihadists," the White House hopeful told ABC News. "That has broad implications."


Romney's determination to avoid referring to America's enemies solely by the tactics that they use is earning praise from some foreign policy specialists.


"I think it could change the entire center of the conversation," said Mary Habeck, a professor of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.


By identifying America's enemies as Jihadists, Habeck thinks the United States would be better positioned to wage an ideological campaign to "portray these people as the extremists that they really are" and to "drive a wedge between them and the vast majority of the Islamic world."


In her new book, "Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror," Habeck argues that Jihadists are not merely angry about U.S. policies. In Habeck's view, Jihadists are at war with the United States because they view America as the biggest obstacle to the global rule of an Islamic superstate.


She told ABC News that if you refer to them as terrorists, "you have no idea what holds them together as a group or what gets them to join up as a group."


Romney's determination to go beyond the "terrorist" label has also met with approval by a Democratic member of the 9/11 Commission.


"The governor is on the right track," former Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., told ABC News. "I continue to believe very strongly that a war against a military tactic is not likely to be very satisfying in the end."


Kerrey is concerned, however, that the root word jihad has multiple implications.


"I would not use the word jihad because there is a peaceful jihad," said Kerrey.


The former Navy SEAL, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam, would prefer to see the United States declare war on al Qaeda.


Romney acknowledges that there has been a "big debate" in academic circles about the meaning of jihad, with some people believing that a spiritual jihad was never intended in the world of Islam to be militaristic.


He says, however, that "there is no question" about what jihad means to the Islamic militants fighting the United States. Nor does Romney think there is any question that Osama bin Laden would like the world to see him as a potential caliph.


"The old statement 'know thine enemy' is appropriate," Romney told ABC News.


Romney wants the public to know that Jihadists are not an "armed group of crazed maniacs in the hills of Afghanistan." Rather, Romney says the United States is facing a "far more sinister and broad-based extremist faction" with a "very 8th century view of the world."


Based on his reading of books such as "American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us," by Steven Emerson, and "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America" by Walid Phares, Romney believes the Jihadists want to "retake the ancient Muslim lands and unify umma, or the world of Islam, under a caliphate."


To support his views, Romney points to a memo that Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to have written to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on July 9, 2005, in which Al Qaeda's number two tells Al Qaeda's top agent in Iraq that their mission must not end with the expulsion of Americans from Iraq.


The letter, Arabic and English versions of which were posted in October to the Web site of the director of national intelligence, lays out a four-part plan that begins with expelling the Americans from Iraq but also includes establishing an Islamic authority over the Sunni areas of Iraq, extending the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq, and clashing with Israel since Israel, in Zawahiri's view, "was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity."


Romney believes Jihadists are just a "very narrow and very extreme sector" of Islam. But given that there are more than one billion Muslims in the world, he warns that "a small percentage of a very large number is still a large number."


One outgrowth of Romney's focus on Jihadism is his support for increased surveillance in the United States.


In a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation last year, Romney posed a series of rhetorical questions about domestic intelligence gathering.


"We have 120 colleges and universities in Massachusetts, roughly," he said. "How many individuals are coming to our state and going to those institutions who come from terror sponsored states? Do we know where they are? Are we tracking them? How about people who are in settings -- mosques, for instance -- that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror? Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping? Are we following what's going on? Are we seeing who's coming in, who's coming out?"


The comments drew fire from Muslims and advocates of civil liberties in Massachusetts while being praised by some conservatives.


Romney told ABC News that it was not his intent to suggest wiretapping mosques, but he has not backed away from wanting to wiretap extremist individuals.


"I would wiretap individuals wherever they are who are preaching doctrines of hate," he said.


"It's important for as many of us as possible to understand the nature of those who are our enemies in this war," Romney told ABC News. "They are Jihadists -- an extreme and tiny slice of the world of Islam. They will be defeated by military might and by the forces of modernity and moderation within the world of Islam."


ABC News' Mike Westling contributed to this report


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