March 22, 2018


Al-Qaeda 3.0: turning to face the near enemy (Isaac Kfir, 3/22/18, The Strategist)

In the 1990s and 2000s, as al-Qaeda was asserting itself on the global stage as the premier Salafi-jihadi terrorist group, its ideology and action inspired tremendous bloodletting, especially among Muslims. By the 2010s, Zawahiri recognised the limited value of that approach and reoriented the organisation away from mass casualty-terrorism, especially against Muslims.

To highlight how attuned Zawahiri is to shifting perceptions, he clearly noted that by the late 2000s, pollsters were pointing out that public opinion, especially in Muslim-majority countries, had shifted against suicide bombing. In Lebanon, for example, 74% of the population thought that such attacks could be justified in 2002; by 2007, that support had fallen to only 34%. At that time, noted that large majorities in Egypt (88%), Indonesia (65%) and Morocco (66%) opposed attacks on civilians.

Zawahiri's al-Qaeda even chastised Islamic State, accusing it of 'deviation and misguidance' and saying that the group 'exceeded the limits of extremism'. That has meant that the prospect of another al-Qaeda-inspired 9/11 has decreased, as Zawahiri appreciates that such an attack is likely to harm his cause more than to help it. [...]

Interestingly Zawahiri appears to have adapted the ideas of his arch-enemy, Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, who argued that after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, it was time for the Arab Afghans (Arabs who had made the hijrah (migration) to Afghanistan) to shift their attention to the near enemy--'apostate' Muslim regimes and Israel. Zawahiri had argued that the mujahedeen should focus on the far enemy (the US and the West in general), as it was Washington that was keeping the Arab leaders in power.

Zawahiri's current strategy seems to indicate that al-Qaeda is moving away from its initial focus, the far enemy, and focussing instead on the near enemy, specifically Arab countries with fragile governments. There are many such governments across the Muslim and Arab World, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb.

'So where are you,' Zawahiri asks his followers in his latest message. 'Where is your Islamic zeal? Where is your eagerness? Where is your settlement of your duties for the inheritance of your fathers?'

While we will replace them with Islamist regimes,, rather than Islamicist, the near enemy is ours as well, to the extent each oppresses its own population.

Posted by at March 22, 2018 3:23 AM