A new, key front could be opening very soon.
The coils of jihad are complicated, so it is useful to see how they interrelate. (for D&D geeks like myself, this is just like the series of "G" and "D" modules: the marauding Hill Giants were being incited by the Frost Giants which led to the Fire Giants which led to the Drow elves and finally the Demon Queen at the center of her Web of Intrigue...But I digress...)
To set the stage, a commenter (who normally irritates me) at Belmont Club summarizes the historical situation concisely, showing where two of the three poles came from:
While there are valuable precursers - the rise of the Islamic Brotherhood, the seminal teachings of Sayyid Qutb, use of mass media to stir up infidel and particularly Zionist hatred by repressive Arab rulers...even the string of using the tactic of terror as effectively as others like the zionists and communists before did....2 critical events happened in 1979.Victory against the modern jihad will not come until all the sources of influence are all destroyed.
A. The Islamic Iranian Revolution and it's ability to stand up to Western powers that placed short-term obsession over hostage lives over long-term harm.
B. Saudi Arabia caving to a small band of Islamic Extremists who too over the Grande Mosque and agreeing to devote a substantial percentage of petrodollars to spreading Wahabbism globally in return for peace with the ruling family.
Before 1979, radical Islam was localized [apparently meaning in modern times -- RDS]. After that........it proved it could take a nation and spread with the endorsement of Islam's Ruling and Clerical center. Thereupon it found it could also add major elements of the Left to it's positions and beliefs - justification of terror, anticolonial rhetoric - Islam as the native - the ifidel as the colonist, use of identity politics, victimhood, using legal systems against majority populations. And use of technology to begin winning the PR war, proselytizing, networking..
While we slept, it spread like wildfire, and as polls show, fundamentally changed the attitudes of the Ummah towards the West, as well as among Islamic natives and immigrants outside the Ummah compared to polls on attitudes towards modernity, America, culture, Christianity, what makes a good Muslim - taken in the 60s and 70s.
9/11? Just a small chapter in the war if we win. A minor footnote in the Islamic chronciles if we lose.
We see the two "religious" poles sprung into action around 1979: the Shiite Persian islamists of revolutionary Iran (with lots of oil money) and the Sunni Arab Wahabbists (with even more oil money) in the Bandit Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
And in between them, the third troublemaker: the "secular" Sunni/Shiite mix of old-fashioned Arab nazi-like imperialism in Saddam Hussein's Iraq (also with lots of oil money, and the "best" mohammedan army in the region).
These are the three "Kingpins."
Understanding how they influence the Middle East is perhaps best seen by using the analogy of Prison Bitches.
Hussein, the imperialist, tried to make Iran his bitch and failed. Then he made Kuwait his bitch, probably with aims of making the Saudis his bitch. With that oil money and influence, he could have made the whole region his bitch. Gulf War 1 ended those ambitions.
And we knocked out that Kingpin, which is vitally important. No pressure would be on any of them if we hadn't taken out the middle.
We now are located right between the two remaining Kingpins.
The Bandit Kingdom sent its money and clerics to the madrassas in Pakistan, making Pakistan's intelligence service its bitch. The Taliban were Pakistan's bitch.
We've attacked that end of the snake, but have stalled in moving up that food chain for important reasons: Pakistan has nuclear bombs and the Bandit Kingdom has the biggest oil spigot. Those problems must be delicately handled, but handled they must eventually be. We can save them for last. India, our "new best friend", will be important.
Finally, Iran has made Syria its bitch, to aid its proxy army Hezbollah. Hezbollah has made Lebanon its bitch.
And attempted to make Israel its bitch, perhaps a little too early.
If Israel's response is unexpectedly forceful and effective, removing the huge investment Iran has made in Southern Lebanon, the war could widen quickly to involve Iran, which would be a Gift from Heaven.
Some parallel tentacles are worth noting.
Mookie Sadr in Iraq with his Shiite "Mahdi Army" is also Iran's bitch.
al-Qaeda tried to make the Sunnis in Iraq their bitches, but that hasn't been too popular.
al-Qaeda had been operating with the Taliban, at the end of the Bandit Kingdom's foodchain. Binny decided that the Saudis weren't pious enough, even though the Royal Family is indeed composed of vile Wahabbists. So they've gone "rogue" and al-Qaeda's main goal is to make Saudi Arabia its bitch, in order to then restore the Caliphate and make everyone else their bitch. Perhaps they can be considered a Kingpin as well, but are not as tangible a "node" as the others.
The Palestinians are the arab world's bitch, for making Israel miserable.
So it's one down, two (or three) to go.
And another one could be on the chopping block soon, with pressure being applied at both ends: diplomatic pressure directly on Iran for its nuclear program is moving along with an actual deadline in place, and military pressure on its proxies.
The situation is highly volatile.
Anything can happen at any time.