November 15, 2007


The brains behind the bombs: a review of Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus'ab al-Suri By Brynjar Lia (The Economist, 11/01/07)

His life is emblematic of a breed of itinerant jihadist. He started out fighting the “near enemy”, in his case Syria's Baathist regime (he got support from Egypt and then Iraq). After that proved a failure, he joined the fight to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet occupation. He then drifted in the dispersed international jihadi milieu until he arrived in “Londonistan”.

Gradually, he turned his attention to confronting the “far enemy”, the United States. He helped to propagate al-Qaeda's message through a “media bureau” in London, arranging interviews for Western journalists with Osama bin Laden. He returned to Afghanistan in 1997 to work as a media adviser to the Taliban regime, which he regarded as “the best example of an Islamic state on earth today”.

The most important contribution of Mr Lia's book is the insight he offers into the personal and ideological rivalries in the jihadi world (though these may make hard going for a non-expert). It is plain that Mr al-Suri was not enamoured by his fellow militants. He disliked the “erratic actions” being taken by al-Qaeda, which he feared would undermine the Taliban experiment (he was right). He once accused Mr bin Laden of acting like a “pharaoh” and he had little regard for Saudi jihadists in general. Many, in his view, treated the jihadi training camps as an adventure playground or as a means of cleansing themselves after having “spent time with a whore in Bangkok”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2007 12:00 AM
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