March 6, 2011

Frankfurt attack raises many flags

Last Wednesday's attack on U.S. personnel at Frankfurt Airport is cause for concern. Obviously, the loss of two American airmen is painful in itself, along with the two injured. But there are other reasons to worry, or at least to wonder.

Germany is the lynchpin of U.S. force projection in Europe, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. Most of those attacked were members of a "security team" and the suspected shooter is a Kosovar Muslim. Although he may have acted on his own impulses, there are just enough coincidences to be not so coincidental.

This evokes several potential interests, including Balkan-Russian nationalist tensions and Iranian backing for Balkan Islamists. The victims were connected to the U.S. intelligence and security network, so this was not just some random transfer of "boots on the ground". Did the Kosovar just get lucky, or was he pointed in the right direction by someone looking to test U.S. readiness or just exact some specific revenge?

Dramatic change is sweeping the Middle East, and it's not clear who stands to benefit -- United States, Russia, Iran... Muammar Qaddafi himself was behind a few attacks on U.S. personnel in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, but that was a quarter-century ago. Very little in Europe or the Middle East happens by chance, which may be why so many of their citizens employ conspiratorial motives to explain American behavior.

Timing, location, targeting, method -- these are important clues, and it's likely many of the intended audience have already received and understood the message. The rest of us will have to just... move along.

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