As already demonstrated, on the political, moral, and operational levels, the multiple internal wars have degraded Al Qaeda's decision making and considerably reduced the flow of recruits to its ranks. In particular, four important countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen – that had provided Al Qaeda with secure bases of support and thousands of volunteers have become inhospitable and highly dangerous. Yes, Al Qaeda can occasionally inspire a direct attack, but its mobilizational and recruiting capacity has steadily been diminishing. But there is one promising theater, Iraq, which has provided Al Qaeda with a new lease on life, a second generation of recruits and fighters, and a powerful outlet to expand its ideological outreach activities to Muslims worldwide, thanks to the 2003 American-led invasion and occupation of the country.
Statements and speeches by Al Qaeda's top chiefs, including bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi, and Seif al-Adl, show they perceive the unfolding confrontation in Iraq as a “golden and unique opportunity” for the global jihadi movement to engage and defeat the United States and spread the conflict into neighboring Arab states, including Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestine–Israeli theater. Since the beginning of the American occupation, Iraq has become central in Al Qaeda's ideological outreach and recruit efforts. Bin Laden, for example, characterized the Iraqi resistance or insurgency as the central battle in a “Third World War,” which the “Crusader-Zionist” coalition started against the ummah: “The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries; the ummah, on the one hand, and the United States and its allies on the other.