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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

AL QAEDA CHIEF: Zawahiri’s First 100 Days!

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Bruce Riedel, / Aug 15, 2011 11:42 PM EDT.

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman al-Zawahiri in a video released by the media arm of al Qaeda in 2008., Anonymous.

In the 100-plus days since Osama bin Laden’s death, his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been a busy man. He has issued a series of audio messages reshaping al Qaeda’s message to adapt to the Arab revolutions and consolidated his grip on al Qaeda’s numerous franchises. If he is under pressure, he is not showing it.

In a message released this weekend, Zawahiri againmourns the loss of his predecessor and promises that al Qaeda will “pursue America, which killed the imam of the mujahedeen and threw his body into the sea.” Noting that America’s longtime friends in the Arab world, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, have been toppled from power and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been driven out of the country, Zawahiri says America’s position in the Arab world is “staggering” and will soon collapse completely. He urges supporters of al Qaeda to engage in a vigorous debate about the best strategies and tactics to defeat America.

This is the latest in a dozen messages released so far this year by al Qaeda’s As Sahab (In the Clouds) media forum and featuring the Egyptian terror leader. Already he has more than tripled his production of messages from his pace in 2010, when he put out only four. Two of those were extremely short; all these have been lengthy. Zawahiri’s operational tempo as a propagandist for global jihad has accelerated even further since bin Laden’s demise.
And his message has sharpened. At the start of 2011, he and al Qaeda seemed taken by surprise by the Arab revolutions and confused about what to say. The revolutions in Tunis and Cairo did not fit well with al Qaeda’s ideology—they were popular movements calling not for jihad but for a peaceful transfer of power. Twitter, not terror, seemed to be the agent of change in Tahrir Square.
Now Zawahiri and al Qaeda have adapted. They have jumped enthusiastically on the revolutionary bandwagon, and the revolutions have become much more violent, as the regimes in Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen have used brutal repression to stay in power. Al Qaeda’s message that jihad and violence are the only path to changing the Islamic world looks more timely when Arab autocrats resort to violence to hold onto their palaces. Zawahiri urges his listeners to use the new opportunities in the instability racking the Middle East to build safe havens, attack America and Israel, and exploit the downfall of the old police states that repressed al Qaeda for years.

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