Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1025 The So-Called “Arab Spring” Revisited, Part 1

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Ibn Khal­dun: Mus­lim Broth­er­hood eco­nom­ics role mod­el, regard­ed by the IMF as the first advo­cate of pri­va­ti­za­tion

Intro­duc­tion: In this pro­gram, we review and present infor­ma­tion about the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and the phe­nom­e­non that became known as “The Arab Spring.”

The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is an Islam­ic fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion, allied with the Axis in World War II. After the war, the orga­ni­za­tion grav­i­tat­ed to ele­ments of West­ern intel­li­gence, where it proved to be a bul­wark against Com­mu­nism in the Mus­lim world.

It is our view that the Broth­er­hood was seen as use­ful because of its mil­i­tary off­shoots (Al-Qae­da in par­tic­u­lar) were use­ful proxy war­riors in places like the Cau­ca­sus and the Balka­ns and because the Broth­er­hood’s cor­po­ratist, neo-lib­er­al eco­nom­ic doc­trine was in keep­ing with the desires and goals of the trans-nation­al cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ty.

(The Afghan Muja­hedin were a direct off­shoot of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and the suc­cess­ful war con­duct­ed by that group was a suc­cess­ful man­i­fes­ta­tion of “Broth­er­hood” as proxy war­riors. Of course, Al-Qae­da grew direct­ly from the Afghan jihadists.)

In FTR #‘s 733 through 739, we pre­sent­ed our view that the so-called Arab Spring was a U.S. intel­li­gence oper­a­tion, aimed at plac­ing the Broth­er­hood in pow­er in Mus­lim coun­tries dom­i­nat­ed either by a sec­u­lar dic­ta­tor or absolute monar­chy.

In FTR #787, we solid­i­fied our analy­sis with defin­i­tive con­fir­ma­tion of our work­ing hypoth­e­sis pre­sent­ed years ear­li­er.

About the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s eco­nom­ic doc­trine: ” . . . . . . . In Mus­lim litur­gy, the deals cut in the souk become a metaphor for the con­tract between God and the faith­ful. And the busi­ness mod­el Muham­mad pre­scribed, accord­ing to Mus­lim schol­ars and econ­o­mists, is very much in the lais­sez-faire tra­di­tion lat­er embraced by the West. Prices were to be set by God alone—anticipating by more than a mil­len­nium Adam Smith’s ref­er­ence to the ‘invis­i­ble hand’ of mar­ket-based pric­ing. . . . The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood hails 14th cen­tury philoso­pher Ibn Khal­dun as its eco­nomic guide. Antic­i­pat­ing sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics, Khal­dun argued that cut­ting tax­es rais­es pro­duc­tion and tax rev­enues, and that state con­trol should be lim­ited to pro­vid­ing water, fire and free graz­ing land, the util­i­ties of the ancient world. The World Bank has called Ibn Khal­dun the first advo­cate of pri­va­ti­za­tion. His found­ing influ­ence is a sign of mod­er­a­tion. If Islamists in pow­er ever do clash with the West, it won’t be over com­merce. . . .”

Ronald Rea­gan res­onat­ed with the Broth­er­hood’s eco­nom­ic doc­trine when pro­mot­ing his sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics: “Pres­i­dent Rea­gan, in his news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, cit­ed a 14th cen­tu­ry Islam­ic schol­ar as an ear­ly expo­nent of the ”sup­ply-side” eco­nom­ic the­o­ry on which his Admin­is­tra­tion bases many of its poli­cies. An author­i­ty on the schol­ar lat­er said that the ref­er­ence seemed accu­rate. . . . Respond­ing to a ques­tion about the effects of tax and spend­ing cuts that began tak­ing effect yes­ter­day, Mr. Rea­gan said the sup­ply-side prin­ci­ple dat­ed at least as far back as Ibn Khal­dun, who is gen­er­al­ly regard­ed as the great­est Arab his­to­ri­an to emerge from the high­ly devel­oped Ara­bic cul­ture of the Mid­dle Ages. . . .”

The U.S. view on the Broth­er­hood and Islamism in gen­er­al was epit­o­mized by CIA offi­cer Gra­ham Fuller, who ran the Afghan Muja­hadin: ” . . . . . . . Fuller comes from that fac­tion of CIA Cold War­riors who believed (and still appar­ently believe) that fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam, even in its rad­i­cal jiha­di form, does not pose a threat to the West, for the sim­ple rea­son that fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam is con­ser­v­a­tive, against social jus­tice, against social­ism and redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth, and in favor of hier­ar­chi­cal socio-eco­nom­ic struc­tures. Social­ism is the com­mon ene­my to both cap­i­tal­ist Amer­ica and to Wah­habi Islam, accord­ing to Fuller. . . .‘There is no main­stream Islam­ic organization...with rad­i­cal social views,’ he wrote. ‘Clas­si­cal Islam­ic the­ory envis­ages the role of the state as lim­ited to facil­i­tat­ing the well-being of mar­kets and mer­chants rather than con­trol­ling them. Islamists have always pow­er­fully object­ed to social­ism and communism....Islam has nev­er had prob­lems with the idea that wealth is uneven­ly dis­trib­uted.’ . . . .”

Next, we present the read­ing of an arti­cle by CFR mem­ber Bruce Hoff­man. Not­ing Al Qaeda’s resur­gence and Al Qaeda’s empha­sis on the Syr­i­an con­flict, Hoff­man cites the so-called “Arab Spring” as the key event in Al Qaeda’s resur­gence. ” . . . . The thou­sands of hard­ened al-Qae­da fight­ers freed from Egypt­ian pris­ons in 2012–2013 by Pres­i­dent Mohammed Mor­si gal­va­nized the move­ment at a crit­i­cal moment, when insta­bil­i­ty reigned and a hand­ful of men well-versed in ter­ror­ism and sub­ver­sion could plunge a coun­try or a region into chaos. Whether in Libya, Turkey, Syr­ia, or Yemen, their arrival was prov­i­den­tial in terms of advanc­ing al-Qaeda’s inter­ests or increas­ing its influ­ence. . . . It was Syr­ia where al-Qaeda’s inter­ven­tion proved most con­se­quen­tial. One of Zawahiri’s first offi­cial acts after suc­ceed­ing bin Laden as emir was to order a Syr­i­an vet­er­an of the Iraqi insur­gency named Abu Moham­mad al-Julani to return home and estab­lish the al-Qae­da fran­chise that would even­tu­al­ly become Jab­hat al-Nus­ra. . . .”

Hoff­man notes that Al-Qae­da and the Islam­ic State were, at one  time, part of a uni­fied orga­ni­za­tion: ” . . . . Al-Qaeda’s cho­sen instru­ment was Jab­hat al-Nus­ra, the prod­uct of a joint ini­tia­tive with al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, which had rebrand­ed itself as the Islam­ic State of Iraq (ISI). But as Nus­ra grew in both strength and impact, a dis­pute erupt­ed between ISI and al-Qae­da over con­trol of the group. In a bold pow­er grab, ISI’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­da­di, announced the forcible amal­ga­ma­tion of al-Nus­ra with ISI in a new orga­ni­za­tion to be called the Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS). Julani refused to accede to the uni­lat­er­al merg­er and appealed to Zawahiri. The quar­rel inten­si­fied, and after Zawahiri’s attempts to medi­ate it col­lapsed, he expelled ISIS from the al-Qae­da net­work. . . .”

An Egypt­ian news­pa­per pub­lished what were said to be inter­cept­ed record­ings of Mor­si com­mu­ni­cat­ing con­spir­a­to­ri­al­ly with Muham­mad al-Zawahiri, the the broth­er of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of Al-Qae­da. Much of this checks out with infor­ma­tion that is already on the pub­lic record.

The Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment sen­tenced more than 500 mem­bers of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, to the resound­ing con­dem­na­tion of West­ern coun­tries, includ­ing the U.S. What we were not told was why. THIS appears to be why. Note the pro­found con­nec­tion between the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood gov­ern­ment of Mor­si and Al Qae­da, infor­ma­tion that sup­ple­ments what the Bruce Hoff­man paper dis­cuss­es: ” . . . . Mor­si informed Zawahiri that the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood sup­ports the mujahidin (jihadis) and that the mujahidin should sup­port the Broth­er­hood in order for them both, and the Islamist agen­da, to pre­vail in Egypt. This makes sense in the con­text that, soon after Mor­si came to pow­er, the gen­er­al pub­lic did become increas­ing­ly crit­i­cal of him and his poli­cies, includ­ing the fact that he was plac­ing only Broth­er­hood mem­bers in Egypt’s most impor­tant posts, try­ing quick­ly to push through a pro-Islamist con­sti­tu­tion, and, as Egyp­tians called it, try­ing in gen­er­al to ‘Broth­er­hood­ize’ Egypt. This sec­ond phone call being longer than the first, Zawahiri took it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­grat­u­late Mor­si on his recent pres­i­den­tial victory—which, inci­den­tal­ly, from the start, was por­trayed by some as fraud­u­lent—and expressed his joy that Morsi’s pres­i­den­cy could only mean that ‘all sec­u­lar infi­dels would be removed from Egypt.’ Then Zawahiri told Mor­si: ‘Rule accord­ing to the Sharia of Allah [or ‘Islam­ic law’], and we will stand next to you.  Know that, from the start, there is no so-called democ­ra­cy, so get rid of your oppo­si­tion.’ . . .”

Note the net­work­ing of GOP Sen­a­tors John McCain and Lind­say Gra­ham with Khairat El-Shater of the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood while he was in prison. ” . . . . The call end­ed in agree­ment that al-Qae­da would sup­port the Broth­er­hood, includ­ing its inter­na­tion­al branch­es, under the under­stand­ing that Mor­si would soon imple­ment full Sharia in Egypt.  After this, Muham­mad Zawahiri and Khairat al-Shater, the num­ber-two man of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood orga­ni­za­tion, report­ed­ly met reg­u­lar­ly. It is inter­est­ing to note here that, pri­or to these rev­e­la­tions, U.S. ambas­sador Anne Pat­ter­son was seen vis­it­ing with Khairat al-Shater—even though he held no posi­tion in the Mor­si government—and after the oust­ing and impris­on­ment of Mor­si and lead­ing Broth­er­hood mem­bers, Sens. John McCain and Lind­say Gra­ham made it a point to vis­it the civil­ian Shater in his prison cell and urged the Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment to release him. . . .”

Might there be some rela­tion­ship between the Gra­ham, McCain/Shater con­tacts and the evo­lu­tion of the Benghazi/Clinton emails/Trump elec­tion nexus?

Note, also, that Mor­si and Zawahir­i/Al-Qae­da jihadis were alleged­ly involved in the Behg­hazi attack that, ulti­mate­ly, led to the Beng­hazi hear­ings, the  Hillary Clin­ton e‑mail non-scan­dal and Don­ald Trump’s ascent: ” . . . . Along with say­ing that the Broth­er­hood intend­ed to form a ‘rev­o­lu­tion­ary guard’ to pro­tect him against any coup, Mor­si added that, in return for al-Qaeda’s and its affil­i­ates’ sup­port, not only would he allow them to have such train­ing camps, but he would facil­i­tate their devel­op­ment in Sinai and give them four facil­i­ties to use along the Egypt­ian-Libyan bor­der. That Libya is men­tioned is inter­est­ing.  Accord­ing to a Libyan Ara­bic report I trans­lat­ed back in June 2013, those who attacked the U.S. con­sulate in Beng­hazi, killing Amer­i­cans, includ­ing Ambas­sador Chris Stevens, were from jiha­di cells that had been formed in Libya through Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood sup­port.  Those inter­ro­gat­ed named Mor­si and oth­er top Broth­er­hood lead­er­ship as accom­plices. . . .”

1. About the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s eco­nom­ic doc­trine:

“Islam in Office” by Stephen Glain; Newsweek; 7/3–10/2006.

Judeo-Chris­t­ian scrip­ture offers lit­tle eco­nomic instruc­tion. The Book of Deuteron­omy, for exam­ple, is loaded with edicts on how the faith­ful should pray, eat, bequeath, keep the holy fes­ti­vals and treat slaves and spous­es, but it is silent on trade and com­merce. In Matthew, when Christ admon­ishes his fol­low­ers to ‘give to the emper­or the things that are the emperor’s,’ he is effec­tively con­ced­ing fis­cal and mon­e­tary author­ity to pagan Rome. Islam is dif­fer­ent. The prophet Muhammad—himself a trader—preached mer­chant hon­or, the only reg­u­la­tion that the bor­der­less Lev­an­tine mar­ket knew. . . .

. . . In Mus­lim litur­gy, the deals cut in the souk become a metaphor for the con­tract between God and the faith­ful. And the busi­ness mod­el Muham­mad pre­scribed, accord­ing to Mus­lim schol­ars and econ­o­mists, is very much in the lais­sez-faire tra­di­tion lat­er embraced by the West. Prices were to be set by God alone—anticipating by more than a mil­len­nium Adam Smith’s ref­er­ence to the ‘invis­i­ble hand’ of mar­ket-based pric­ing. Mer­chants were not to cut deals out­side the souk, an ear­ly attempt to thwart insid­er trad­ing. . . . In the days of the caliphate, Islam devel­oped the most sophis­ti­cated mon­e­tary sys­tem the world had yet known. Today, some econ­o­mists cite Islam­ic bank­ing as fur­ther evi­dence of an intrin­sic Islam­ic prag­ma­tism. Though still guid­ed by a Qur’anic ban on riba, or inter­est, Islam­ic bank­ing has adapt­ed to the needs of a boom­ing oil region for liq­uid­ity. In recent years, some 500 Islam­ic banks and invest­ment firms hold­ing $2 tril­lion in assets have emerged in the Gulf States, with more in Islam­ic com­mu­ni­ties of the West.

British Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer Gor­don Brown wants to make Lon­don a glob­al cen­ter for Islam­ic finance—and elic­its no howl of protest from fun­da­men­tal­ists. How Islamists might run a cen­tral bank is more prob­lem­atic: schol­ars say they would manip­u­late cur­rency reserves, not inter­est rates.

The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood hails 14th cen­tury philoso­pher Ibn Khal­dun as its eco­nomic guide. Antic­i­pat­ing sup­ply-side eco­nom­ics, Khal­dun argued that cut­ting tax­es rais­es pro­duc­tion and tax rev­enues, and that state con­trol should be lim­ited to pro­vid­ing water, fire and free graz­ing land, the util­i­ties of the ancient world. The World Bank has called Ibn Khal­dun the first advo­cate of pri­va­ti­za­tion. His found­ing influ­ence is a sign of mod­er­a­tion. If Islamists in pow­er ever do clash with the West, it won’t be over com­merce. . . .

2. Plac­ing Stephen Glain’s analy­sis in a more famil­iar con­text, none oth­er than Ronald Rea­gan cit­ed Ibn Khal­dun’s the­o­ret­i­cal con­struct as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for his sup­ply side eco­nom­ics.

“Rea­gan Cites Islam­ic Schol­ar” by Robert D. McFad­den; The New York Times; 10/02/1981

Pres­i­dent Rea­gan, in his news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, cit­ed a 14th cen­tu­ry Islam­ic schol­ar as an ear­ly expo­nent of the ”sup­ply-side” eco­nom­ic the­o­ry on which his Admin­is­tra­tion bases many of its poli­cies. An author­i­ty on the schol­ar lat­er said that the ref­er­ence seemed accu­rate. . . .

Sup­ply-side the­o­ry, among oth­er things, holds that a cut in tax rates will stim­u­late the econ­o­my and thus gen­er­ate even greater tax rev­enues.

Respond­ing to a ques­tion about the effects of tax and spend­ing cuts that began tak­ing effect yes­ter­day, Mr. Rea­gan said the sup­ply-side prin­ci­ple dat­ed at least as far back as Ibn Khal­dun, who is gen­er­al­ly regard­ed as the great­est Arab his­to­ri­an to emerge from the high­ly devel­oped Ara­bic cul­ture of the Mid­dle Ages. . . .

3. A sub­se­quent arti­cle by Stephen Glain about the Broth­er­hood’s eco­nom­ic doc­trine, this one writ­ten for The Wash­ing­ton Post after Mor­si’s ascen­sion to pow­er fol­low­ing the “Mus­lim Broth­er­hood Spring.”

“Egypt’s Mus­lim Broth­er­hood Adopt­ing Cau­tion on Eco­nom­ic Mat­ters” by Stephen Glain; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 01/24/2012

. . . . . Though admired for its patron­age sys­tems that pro­vide food, edu­ca­tion and health care to Egypt’s poor, the Brotherhood’s eco­nom­ic agen­da is informed by an ancient lais­sez-faire tra­di­tion that has more in com­mon with the val­ues of the Unit­ed States’ tea par­ty than it does with, say, the more heav­i­ly reg­u­lat­ed economies of Europe. In the 1950s, for exam­ple, the group strug­gled against Pres­i­dent Gamal Abdel Nass­er as much for his deci­sion to nation­al­ize the Egypt­ian econ­o­my as for his fierce sec­u­lar­ism.

Broth­er­hood mem­bers trace their cap­i­tal­ist con­ceit to the birth of Islam and tend to asso­ciate one with the oth­er. “Islam endors­es the mar­ket econ­o­my and free trade,” Abdel Hamid Abuzaid, a Mus­lim Broth­er­hood mem­ber and econ­o­mist at Cairo Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view before his death last year. “It is part and par­cel of Islam as a com­plete way of life.”

A mar­ket in cri­sis

Not for noth­ing, Broth­er­hood mem­bers are fond of remind­ing West­ern­ers, did Ronald Rea­gan sug­gest that the philoso­phies of Ibn Khal­dun, a 14th-cen­tu­ry Islam­ic schol­ar, antic­i­pat­ed the Laf­fer Curve by 600 years. . . . .

4. In addi­tion to the appar­ent use of Mus­lim Brotherhood/Islamist ele­ments as proxy war­riors against Rus­sia and Chi­na, the Broth­er­hood’s cor­po­ratist eco­nom­ics are beloved to Gra­ham Fuller, as well as cor­po­rate ele­ments cdham­pi­oned by Grover Norquist.

“Chech­nyan Pow­er” by Mark Ames; nsfwcorp.com; 6/5/2013.

. . . Fuller comes from that fac­tion of CIA Cold War­riors who believed (and still appar­ently believe) that fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam, even in its rad­i­cal jiha­di form, does not pose a threat to the West, for the sim­ple rea­son that fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam is con­ser­v­a­tive, against social jus­tice, against social­ism and redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth, and in favor of hier­ar­chi­cal socio-eco­nom­ic struc­tures. Social­ism is the com­mon ene­my to both cap­i­tal­ist Amer­ica and to Wah­habi Islam, accord­ing to Fuller.

Accord­ing to jour­nal­ist Robert Drey­fuss’ book “Devil’s Game,” Fuller explained his attrac­tion to rad­i­cal Islam in neoliberal/libertarian terms:

“There is no main­stream Islam­ic organization...with rad­i­cal social views,” he wrote.Clas­si­cal Islam­ic the­ory envis­ages the role of the state as lim­ited to facil­i­tat­ing the well-being of mar­kets and mer­chants rather than con­trol­ling them. Islamists have always pow­er­fully object­ed to social­ism and communism....Islam has nev­er had prob­lems with the idea that wealth is uneven­ly dis­trib­uted.” . . . .

5. Next, we present the read­ing of an arti­cle by CFR mem­ber Bruce Hoff­man. Not­ing Al Qaeda’s resur­gence and Al Qaeda’s empha­sis on the Syr­i­an con­flict, Hoff­man cites the so-called “Arab Spring” as the key event in Al Qaeda’s resur­gence. ” . . . . The thou­sands of hard­ened al-Qae­da fight­ers freed from Egypt­ian pris­ons in 2012–2013 by Pres­i­dent Mohammed Mor­si gal­va­nized the move­ment at a crit­i­cal moment, when insta­bil­i­ty reigned and a hand­ful of men well-versed in ter­ror­ism and sub­ver­sion could plunge a coun­try or a region into chaos. Whether in Libya, Turkey, Syr­ia, or Yemen, their arrival was prov­i­den­tial in terms of advanc­ing al-Qaeda’s inter­ests or increas­ing its influ­ence. . . . It was Syr­ia where al-Qaeda’s inter­ven­tion proved most con­se­quen­tial. One of Zawahiri’s first offi­cial acts after suc­ceed­ing bin Laden as emir was to order a Syr­i­an vet­er­an of the Iraqi insur­gency named Abu Moham­mad al-Julani to return home and estab­lish the al-Qae­da fran­chise that would even­tu­al­ly become Jab­hat al-Nus­ra. . . .Indeed, al-Qaeda’s pres­ence in Syr­ia is far more per­ni­cious than that of ISIS. Hay­at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the lat­est name adopt­ed by al-Qaeda’s local affil­i­ate, is now the largest rebel group in the coun­try, hav­ing extend­ed its con­trol last year over all of Idlib Province, along the Syr­i­an-Turk­ish bor­der. . . . ”

In FTR #‘s 733 through 739, we pre­sent­ed our view that the so-called Arab Spring was a U.S. intel­li­gence oper­a­tion, aimed at plac­ing the Broth­er­hood in pow­er in Mus­lim coun­tries dom­i­nat­ed either by a sec­u­lar dic­ta­tor or absolute monar­chy.

It is our view that the Broth­er­hood was seen as use­ful because of its mil­i­tary off­shoots (Al-Qae­da in par­tic­u­lar) were use­ful proxy war­riors in places like the Cau­ca­sus and the Balka­ns and because the Broth­er­hood’s cor­po­ratist, neo-lib­er­al eco­nom­ic doc­trine was in keep­ing with the desires and goals of the trans-nation­al cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ty.

In FTR #787, we solid­i­fied our analy­sis with defin­i­tive con­fir­ma­tion of our work­ing hypoth­e­sis pre­sent­ed years ear­li­er.

“Al Qaeda’s Res­ur­rec­tion” by Bruce Hoff­man; Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions; 3/6/2018.

While the self-pro­claimed Islam­ic State has dom­i­nat­ed the head­lines and pre­oc­cu­pied nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials for the past four years, al-Qae­da has been qui­et­ly rebuild­ing. Its announce­ment last sum­mer of anoth­er affiliate—this one ded­i­cat­ed to the lib­er­a­tion of Kashmir—coupled with the res­ur­rec­tion of its pres­ence in Afghanistan and the solid­i­fi­ca­tion of its influ­ence in Syr­ia, Yemen, and Soma­lia, under­scores the resilien­cy and con­tin­ued vital­i­ty of the Unit­ed States’ pre­em­i­nent ter­ror­ist ene­my.

Although al-Qaeda’s rebuild­ing and reor­ga­ni­za­tion pre­dates the 2011 Arab Spring, the upheaval that fol­lowed helped the move­ment revive itself. At the time, an unbri­dled opti­mism among local and region­al rights activists and West­ern gov­ern­ments held that a com­bi­na­tion of pop­u­lar protest, civ­il dis­obe­di­ence, and social media had ren­dered ter­ror­ism an irrel­e­vant anachro­nism. The long­ing for democ­ra­cy and eco­nom­ic reform, it was argued, had deci­sive­ly trumped repres­sion and vio­lence. How­ev­er, where the opti­mists saw irre­versible pos­i­tive change, al-Qae­da dis­cerned new and invit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties.

The suc­ces­sive killings in 2011 and 2012 of Osama bin Laden; Anwar al-Awla­ki, the movement’s chief pro­pa­gan­dist; and Abu Yahya al-Libi, its sec­ond-in-com­mand, lent new weight to the opti­mists’ pre­dic­tions that al-Qae­da was a spent force. In ret­ro­spect, how­ev­er, it appears that al-Qae­da was among the region­al forces that ben­e­fit­ed most from the Arab Spring’s tumult. Sev­en years lat­er, Ayman al-Zawahiri has emerged as a pow­er­ful leader, with a strate­gic vision that he has sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly imple­ment­ed. Forces loy­al to al-Qae­da and its affil­i­ates now num­ber in the tens of thou­sands, with a capac­i­ty to dis­rupt local and region­al sta­bil­i­ty, as well as launch attacks against their declared ene­mies in the Mid­dle East, Africa, South Asia, South­east Asia, Europe, and Rus­sia. Indeed, from north­west­ern Africa to South Asia, al-Qae­da has knit togeth­er a glob­al move­ment of more than two dozen fran­chis­es.* In Syr­ia alone, al-Qae­da now has upwards of twen­ty thou­sand men under arms, and it has per­haps anoth­er four thou­sand in Yemen and about sev­en thou­sand in Soma­lia.

The Arab Spring’s Big Win­ner

The thou­sands of hard­ened al-Qae­da fight­ers freed from Egypt­ian pris­ons in 2012–2013 by Pres­i­dent Mohammed Mor­si gal­va­nized the move­ment at a crit­i­cal moment, when insta­bil­i­ty reigned and a hand­ful of men well-versed in ter­ror­ism and sub­ver­sion could plunge a coun­try or a region into chaos. Whether in Libya, Turkey, Syr­ia, or Yemen, their arrival was prov­i­den­tial in terms of advanc­ing al-Qaeda’s inter­ests or increas­ing its influ­ence. The mil­i­tary coup that sub­se­quent­ly top­pled Mor­si val­i­dat­ed Zawahiri’s repeat­ed warn­ings not to believe West­ern promis­es about either the fruits of democ­ra­cy or the sanc­ti­ty of free and fair elec­tions.

It was Syr­ia where al-Qaeda’s inter­ven­tion proved most con­se­quen­tial. One of Zawahiri’s first offi­cial acts after suc­ceed­ing bin Laden as emir was to order a Syr­i­an vet­er­an of the Iraqi insur­gency named Abu Moham­mad al-Julani to return home and estab­lish the al-Qae­da fran­chise that would even­tu­al­ly become Jab­hat al-Nus­ra.

Al-Qaeda’s bla­tant­ly sec­tar­i­an mes­sag­ing over social media fur­ther sharp­ened the his­tor­i­cal fric­tions between Sun­nis and Shias and gave the move­ment the entrée into inter­nal Syr­i­an pol­i­tics that it need­ed to solid­i­fy its pres­ence in that coun­try. Al-Qaeda’s cho­sen instru­ment was Jab­hat al-Nus­ra, the prod­uct of a joint ini­tia­tive with al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, which had rebrand­ed itself as the Islam­ic State of Iraq (ISI). But as Nus­ra grew in both strength and impact, a dis­pute erupt­ed between ISI and al-Qae­da over con­trol of the group. In a bold pow­er grab, ISI’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­da­di, announced the forcible amal­ga­ma­tion of al-Nus­ra with ISI in a new orga­ni­za­tion to be called the Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia (ISIS). Julani refused to accede to the uni­lat­er­al merg­er and appealed to Zawahiri. The quar­rel inten­si­fied, and after Zawahiri’s attempts to medi­ate it col­lapsed, he expelled ISIS from the al-Qae­da net­work.

Although ISIS—which has since rebrand­ed itself the Islam­ic State—has com­mand­ed the world’s atten­tion since then, al-Qae­da has been qui­et­ly rebuild­ing and for­ti­fy­ing its var­i­ous branch­es. Al-Qae­da has sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly imple­ment­ed an ambi­tious strat­e­gy designed to pro­tect its remain­ing senior lead­er­ship and dis­creet­ly con­sol­i­date its influ­ence wher­ev­er the move­ment has a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence. Accord­ing­ly, its lead­ers have been dis­persed to Syr­ia, Iran, Turkey, Libya, and Yemen, with only a hard-core rem­nant of top com­man­ders still in Afghanistan and Pak­istan. Advances in com­mer­cial dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools, along­side suc­ces­sive pub­lic rev­e­la­tions of U.S. and allied intel­li­gence ser­vices’ eaves­drop­ping capa­bil­i­ties, have enabled al-Qaeda’s lead­ers and com­man­ders to main­tain con­tact via secure end-to-end encryp­tion tech­nol­o­gy.

The Importance of Syria

The num­ber of top al-Qae­da lead­ers sent to Syr­ia over the past half-dozen years under­scores the high pri­or­i­ty that the move­ment attach­es to that coun­try. Among them was Muhsin al-Fadhli, a bin Laden inti­mate who, until his death in a 2015 U.S. air strike, com­mand­ed the movement’s elite for­ward-based oper­a­tional arm in that coun­try, known as the Kho­rasan Group. He also func­tioned as Zawahiri’s local emis­sary, charged with attempt­ing to heal the rift between al-Qae­da and ISIS. Hay­dar Kirkan, a Turk­ish nation­al and long-stand­ing senior oper­a­tive, was sent by bin Laden him­self to Turkey in 2010 to lay the ground­work for the movement’s expan­sion into the Lev­ant, before the Arab Spring cre­at­ed pre­cise­ly that oppor­tu­ni­ty. Kirkan was also respon­si­ble for facil­i­tat­ing the move­ment of oth­er senior al-Qae­da per­son­nel from Pak­istan to Syr­ia to escape the esca­lat­ing drone strike cam­paign ordered by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma. He was killed in 2016 in a U.S. bomb­ing raid.

The pre­vi­ous fall marked the arrival of Saif al-Adl, who is arguably the move­men­t’s most bat­tle-hard­ened com­man­der. Adl is a for­mer Egypt­ian Army com­man­do whose ter­ror­ist pedi­gree, dat­ing to the late 1970s, includes assas­si­na­tion plots against Egypt­ian Pres­i­dent Anwar al-Sadat, the 1998 bomb­ings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tan­za­nia, and al-Qaeda’s post‑9/11 ter­ror­ist cam­paigns in Sau­di Ara­bia and South Asia. He also served as men­tor to bin Laden’s pre­sump­tive heir, his son Hamza, after both Adl and the boy sought sanc­tu­ary in Iran fol­low­ing the com­mence­ment of U.S. and coali­tion mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Afghanistan  in late 2001. The younger bin Laden’s own report­ed appear­ance in Syr­ia this past sum­mer pro­vides fresh evi­dence of the movement’s fix­a­tion with a coun­try that has become the most pop­u­lar venue to wage holy war since the sem­i­nal Afghan jihad of the 1980s.

Indeed, al-Qaeda’s pres­ence in Syr­ia is far more per­ni­cious than that of ISIS. Hay­at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the lat­est name adopt­ed by al-Qaeda’s local affil­i­ate, is now the largest rebel group in the coun­try, hav­ing extend­ed its con­trol last year over all of Idlib Province, along the Syr­i­an-Turk­ish bor­der. This is the cul­mi­na­tion of a process al-Qae­da began more than three years ago to anni­hi­late the Free Syr­i­an Army and any oth­er group that chal­lenges al-Qaeda’s region­al aspi­ra­tions.

Filling the ISIS Vacuum

ISIS can no longer com­pete with al-Qae­da in terms of influ­ence, reach, man­pow­er, or cohe­sion. In only two domains is ISIS cur­rent­ly stronger than its rival: the pow­er of its brand and its pre­sumed abil­i­ty to mount spec­tac­u­lar ter­ror­ist strikes in Europe. But the lat­ter is a prod­uct of Zawahiri’s strate­gic deci­sion to pro­hib­it exter­nal oper­a­tions in the West so that al-Qaeda’s rebuild­ing can con­tin­ue with­out inter­fer­ence. The hand­ful of excep­tions to this policy—such as the 2015 Char­lie Heb­do attacks in Paris and the 2017 St. Peters­burg Metro bomb­ing in Russia—provide com­pelling evi­dence that al-Qaeda’s exter­nal oper­a­tions capa­bil­i­ties can eas­i­ly be rean­i­mat­ed. Yemen-based al-Qae­da in the Ara­bi­an Peninsula’s capac­i­ty to com­mit acts of inter­na­tion­al terrorism—especially the tar­get­ing of com­mer­cial aviation—was recent­ly the sub­ject of a reveal­ing New York Times sto­ry.

Al-Qaeda’s suc­cess in res­ur­rect­ing its glob­al net­work is the result of three strate­gic moves made by Zawahiri. The first was to strength­en the decen­tral­ized fran­chise approach that has facil­i­tat­ed the movement’s sur­vival. Over the years, the lead­ers and deputies of al-Qaeda’s far-flung fran­chis­es have been inte­grat­ed into the movement’s delib­er­a­tive and con­sul­ta­tive process­es. Today, al-Qae­da is tru­ly “glo­cal,” hav­ing effec­tive­ly incor­po­rat­ed local griev­ances and con­cerns into a glob­al nar­ra­tive that forms the foun­da­tion of an all-encom­pass­ing grand strat­e­gy.

The sec­ond major move was the order issued by Zawahiri in 2013 to avoid mass casu­al­ty oper­a­tions, espe­cial­ly those that might kill Mus­lim civil­ians. Al-Qae­da has thus been able to present itself through social media, para­dox­i­cal­ly, as “mod­er­ate extrem­ists,” osten­si­bly more palat­able than ISIS.

This devel­op­ment reflects Zawahiri’s third strate­gic deci­sion, let­ting ISIS absorb all the blows from the coali­tion arrayed against it while al-Qae­da unob­tru­sive­ly rebuilds its mil­i­tary strength. Any­one inclined to be tak­en in by this ruse would do well to heed the admo­ni­tion of Theo Pad­nos (née Peter Theo Cur­tis), the Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist who spent two years in Syr­ia as a Nus­ra hostage. Pad­nos relat­ed in 2014 how the group’s senior com­man­ders “were invit­ing West­ern­ers to the jihad in Syr­ia not so much because they need­ed more foot soldiers—they didn’t—but because they want to teach the West­ern­ers to take the strug­gle into every neigh­bor­hood and sub­way sta­tion back home.” . . . .

6. An Egypt­ian news­pa­per pub­lished what were said to be inter­cept­ed record­ings of Mor­si com­mu­ni­cat­ing con­spir­a­to­ri­al­ly with Muham­mad al-Zawahiri, the the broth­er of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of Al-Qae­da. Much of this checks out with infor­ma­tion that is already on the pub­lic record. Note the net­work­ing of GOP Sen­a­tors John McCain and Lind­say Gra­ham with Khairat El-Shater of the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood while he was in prison, as well as the alleged links between the Egypt­ian Broth­er­hood and the cells involved in attack­ing the U.S. Embassy in Libya.

The Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment sen­tenced more than 500 mem­bers of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, to the resound­ing con­dem­na­tion of West­ern coun­tries, includ­ing the U.S. What we were not told was why. THIS appears to be why.

Note the pro­found con­nec­tion between the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood gov­ern­ment of Mor­si and Al Qae­da.

“Exposed: The Mus­lim Brotherhood/Al Qae­da Con­nec­tion” by Ray­mond Ibrahim; Ray­mond Ibrahim: Islam Trans­lat­ed; 2/4/2014.

. . . . Con­cern­ing some of the more severe alle­ga­tions, one of Egypt’s most wide­ly dis­trib­uted and read news­pa­pers, Al Watan, recent­lypub­lished what it said were record­ed con­ver­sa­tions between Mor­si and Muham­mad Zawahiri, al-Qae­da leader Ayman Zawahiri’s broth­er.

In these reports, Watan repeat­ed­ly asserts that Egypt­ian secu­ri­ty and intel­li­gence agen­cies con­firmed (or per­haps leaked out) the record­ings.

Much of the sub­stance of the alleged con­ver­sa­tions is fur­ther cor­rob­o­rat­ed by events that occurred dur­ing Morsi’s one-year-rule, most of which were report­ed by a vari­ety of Ara­bic media out­lets, though not by West­ern media.

In what fol­lows, I relay, sum­ma­rize, and trans­late some of the more sig­nif­i­cant por­tions of the Watan reports (ver­ba­tim state­ments are in quo­ta­tion marks).  In between, I com­ment on var­i­ous anec­dotes and events—many of which were first bro­ken on my web­site—that now, in light of these phone con­ver­sa­tions, make per­fect sense and inde­pen­dent­ly help con­firm the authen­tic­i­ty of the record­ings.

The first record­ed call  between Muham­mad Mor­si  and  Muham­mad Zawahiri last­ed for 59 sec­onds. Mor­si con­grat­u­lat­ed Zawahiri on his release from prison, where he had been incar­cer­at­ed for jihadi/terrorist activ­i­ties against Egypt, and assured him that he would not be fol­lowed or observed by any Egypt­ian author­i­ties, and that he, Mor­si, was plan­ning on meet­ing with him soon.  Pri­or to this first call, Refa’ al-Tahtawy, then Chief of Staff, medi­at­ed and arranged mat­ters.

The pres­i­den­tial palace con­tin­ued to com­mu­ni­cate reg­u­lar­ly with Muham­mad Zawahiri, and sources con­firm that he was the link between the Egypt­ian pres­i­den­cy and his broth­er, Ayman Zawahiri, the Egypt­ian-born leader of al-Qae­da.

It should be not­ed that, once released, the pre­vi­ous­ly lit­tle-known Muham­mad Zawahiri did become very vis­i­ble and vocal in Egypt, at times spear­head­ing the Islamist move­ment.

The next record­ing between Mor­si and Zawahiri last­ed for 2 min­utes and 56 sec­onds and took place one month after Mor­si became pres­i­dent.  Mor­si informed Zawahiri that the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood sup­ports the mujahidin (jihadis) and that the mujahidin should sup­port the Broth­er­hood in order for them both, and the Islamist agen­da, to pre­vail in Egypt.

This makes sense in the con­text that, soon after Mor­si came to pow­er, the gen­er­al pub­lic did become increas­ing­ly crit­i­cal of him and his poli­cies, includ­ing the fact that he was plac­ing only Broth­er­hood mem­bers in Egypt’s most impor­tant posts, try­ing quick­ly to push through a pro-Islamist con­sti­tu­tion, and, as Egyp­tians called it, try­ing in gen­er­al to “Broth­er­hood­ize” Egypt.

This sec­ond phone call being longer than the first, Zawahiri took it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­grat­u­late Mor­si on his recent pres­i­den­tial victory—which, inci­den­tal­ly, from the start, was por­trayed by some as fraud­u­lent—and expressed his joy that Morsi’s pres­i­den­cy could only mean that “all sec­u­lar infi­dels would be removed from Egypt.”

Then Zawahiri told Mor­si: “Rule accord­ing to the Sharia of Allah [or “Islam­ic law”], and we will stand next to you.  Know that, from the start, there is no so-called democ­ra­cy, so get rid of your oppo­si­tion.”

This asser­tion com­ports extreme­ly well with his broth­er Ayman Zawahiri’s views.  A for­mer Mus­lim Broth­er­hood mem­ber him­self, some thir­ty years ago, the al-Qae­da leader wrote Al Hissad Al Murr (“The Bit­ter Har­vest”), a scathing book con­demn­ing the Broth­er­hood for “tak­ing advan­tage of the Mus­lim youths’ fer­vor by … steer[ing] their one­time pas­sion­ate, Islam­ic zeal for jihad to con­fer­ences and elec­tions.” An entire sec­tion ded­i­cat­ed to show­ing that Islam­ic Sharia can­not coex­ist with democ­ra­cy even appears in Ayman Zawahiri’s book (see “Sharia and Democ­ra­cy,” The Al Qae­da Read­er, pgs. 116–136).

The call end­ed in agree­ment that al-Qae­da would sup­port the Broth­er­hood, includ­ing its inter­na­tion­al branch­es, under the under­stand­ing that Mor­si would soon imple­ment full Sharia in Egypt.  After this, Muham­mad Zawahiri and Khairat al-Shater, the num­ber-two man of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood orga­ni­za­tion, report­ed­ly met reg­u­lar­ly.

It is inter­est­ing to note here that, pri­or to these rev­e­la­tions, U.S. ambas­sador Anne Pat­ter­son was seen vis­it­ing with Khairat al-Shater—even though he held no posi­tion in the Mor­si government—and after the oust­ing and impris­on­ment of Mor­si and lead­ing Broth­er­hood mem­bers, Sens. John McCain and Lind­say Gra­ham made it a point to vis­it the civil­ian Shater in his prison cell and urged the Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment to release him.

The next call, record­ed rough­ly six weeks after this last one, again revolved around the theme of solid­i­fy­ing com­mon coop­er­a­tion between the Egypt­ian pres­i­den­cy and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood on the one hand, and al-Qae­da and its jiha­di off­shoots on the oth­er, specif­i­cal­ly in the con­text of cre­at­ing jiha­di cells inside Egypt devot­ed to pro­tect­ing the increas­ing­ly unpop­u­lar Broth­er­hood-dom­i­nat­ed gov­ern­ment.

As I report­ed back in Decem­ber 2012, Egypt­ian media were say­ing that for­eign jiha­di fight­ers were appear­ing in large numbers—one said 3,000 fighters—especially in Sinai.  And, since the over­throw of the Broth­er­hood and the mil­i­tary crack­down on its sup­port­ers, many of those detained have been exposed speak­ing non-Egypt­ian dialects of Ara­bic.

Dur­ing this same call, Zawahiri was also crit­i­cal of the Mor­si gov­ern­ment for still not apply­ing Islam­ic Sharia through­out Egypt, which, as men­tioned, was one of the pre­req­ui­sites for al-Qae­da sup­port.

Mor­si respond­ed by say­ing “We are cur­rent­ly in the stage of con­sol­i­dat­ing pow­er and need the help of all parties—and we can­not at this time apply the Iran­ian mod­el or Tal­iban rule in Egypt; it is impos­si­ble to do so now.”

In fact, while the Broth­er­hood has repeat­ed­ly declared its aspi­ra­tions for world dom­i­na­tion, from its ori­gins, it has always relied on a “grad­ual” approach, mov­ing only in stages, with the idea of cul­mi­nat­ing its full vision only when enough pow­er has been con­sol­i­dat­ed.

In response, Zawahiri told Mor­si that, as a show of good will, he must “at least release the mujahidin who were impris­oned dur­ing the Mubarak era as well as all Islamists, as an assur­ance and pact of coop­er­a­tion and proof that the old page has turned to a new one.”

After that call, and as con­firmed by a gov­ern­men­tal source, Mor­si received a list from Zawahiri con­tain­ing the names of the most dan­ger­ous ter­ror­ists in Egypt­ian jails, some of whom were on death row due to the enor­mi­ty of their crimes.

In fact, as I report­ed back in August 2012, many impris­oned ter­ror­ists, includ­ing from Egypt’s noto­ri­ous Islam­ic Jihad organization—which was once led by Ayman Zawahiri—were released under Mor­si.

One year lat­er, in August 2013, soon after the removal of Mor­si, Egypt’s Inte­ri­or Min­istry announced that Egypt was “prepar­ing to can­cel any pres­i­den­tial par­dons issued dur­ing Morsi’s era to ter­ror­ists or crim­i­nals.”

Dur­ing this same call, and in the con­text of par­dons, Mor­si said he would do his best to facil­i­tate the return of Muhammad’s infa­mous broth­er and al-Qae­da leader, Ayman Zawahiri, back to Egypt—“with his head held high,” in accor­dance with Islamist wishes—as well as urge the U.S. to release the “Blind Sheikh” and ter­ror­ist mas­ter­mind, Omar Abdul Rah­man.

In March 2013, I wrote about how Mor­si, dur­ing his Pak­istan vis­it, had report­ed­ly met with Ayman Zawahiri  and made arrange­ments to smug­gle him back to Sinai.  Accord­ing to a Pak­istan source, the meet­ing was “facil­i­tat­ed by ele­ments of Pak­istani intel­li­gence [ISI] and influ­en­tial mem­bers of the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.”

The gist of the next two calls between Mor­si and Muham­mad Zawahiri was that, so long as the for­mer is pres­i­dent, he would see to it that all released jihadis and al-Qae­da oper­a­tives are allowed to move freely through­out Egypt and the Sinai, and that the pres­i­den­tial palace would remain in con­stant con­tact with Zawahiri, to make sure every­thing is mov­ing to the sat­is­fac­tion of both par­ties.

Zawahiri fur­ther request­ed that Mor­si allow them to devel­op train­ing camps in Sinai in order to sup­port the Broth­er­hood through trained mil­i­tants. Along with say­ing that the Broth­er­hood intend­ed to form a “rev­o­lu­tion­ary guard” to pro­tect him against any coup, Mor­si added that, in return for al-Qaeda’s and its affil­i­ates’ sup­port, not only would he allow them to have such train­ing camps, but he would facil­i­tate their devel­op­ment in Sinai and give them four facil­i­ties to use along the Egypt­ian-Libyan bor­der.

That Libya is men­tioned is inter­est­ing.  Accord­ing to a Libyan Ara­bic report I trans­lat­ed back in June 2013, those who attacked the U.S. con­sulate in Beng­hazi, killing Amer­i­cans, includ­ing Ambas­sador Chris Stevens, were from jiha­di cells that had been formed in Libya through Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood sup­port.  Those inter­ro­gat­ed named Mor­si and oth­er top Broth­er­hood lead­er­ship as accom­plices.

More evi­dence—includ­ing some that impli­cates the U.S. administration—has mount­ed since then.

Next, Watan makes sev­er­al more asser­tions, all of which are pre­ced­ed by “accord­ing to security/intelligence agen­cies.”  They are:

  • That Mor­si did indeed as he promised, and that he facil­i­tat­ed the estab­lish­ment of four jiha­di train­ing camps.  Mor­si was then Chief in Com­mand of Egypt’s Armed Forces, and through his pow­er of author­i­ty, stopped the mil­i­tary from launch­ing any oper­a­tions includ­ing in the by now al-Qae­da over­run Sinai.
  • That, after Mor­si reached Pak­istan, he had a one-and-a-half hour meet­ing with an asso­ciate of Ayman Zawahiri in a hotel and pos­si­bly spoke with him.
  • That, after Mor­si returned to Egypt from his trip to Pak­istan, he issued anoth­er  list con­tain­ing the names of 20 more con­vict­ed ter­ror­ists con­sid­ered dan­ger­ous to the nation­al secu­ri­ty of Egypt, giv­ing them all pres­i­den­tial pardons—despite the fact that nation­al secu­ri­ty and intel­li­gence strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed that they not be released on grounds of the threat they posed.
  • That the Mus­lim Brotherhood’s inter­na­tion­al wing, includ­ing through the agency of Khairat al-Shater, had pro­vid­ed $50 mil­lion to al-Qae­da in part to sup­port the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Egypt.

One of the longer con­ver­sa­tions between Mor­si and Zawahiri report­ed by Watan is espe­cial­ly telling of al-Qaeda’s enmi­ty for sec­u­lar­ist Mus­lims and Cop­tic Christians—whose church­es, some 80, were attacked, burned, and destroyed, some with the al-Qae­da flag furled above them, soon after the oust­ing of Mor­si.  I trans­late por­tions below:

Zawahiri: “The teach­ings of Allah need to be applied and enforced; the sec­u­lar­ists have stopped the Islam­ic Sharia, and the response must be a stop to the build­ing of church­es.” (An odd asser­tion con­sid­er­ing how dif­fi­cult it already is for Copts to acquire a repair per­mit for their church­es in Egypt.)

Zawahiri also added that “All those who reject the Sharia must be exe­cut­ed, and all those belong­ing to the sec­u­lar media which work to dis­sem­i­nate debauch­ery and help deviants and Chris­tians to vio­late the Sharia, must be exe­cut­ed.”

Mor­si report­ed­ly replied: “We have tak­en deter­rent mea­sures to com­bat those few, and new leg­isla­tive mea­sures to lim­it their media, and in the near future, we will shut down these media sta­tions and launch large Islam­ic media out­lets.  We are even plan­ning a big bud­get from the [Broth­er­hood] Inter­na­tion­al Group  to launch Islam­ic and jiha­di satel­lite sta­tions  to urge on the jihad. There will be a chan­nel for you and the men of al-Qae­da, and it can be broad­cast from Afghanistan.”

Unde­terred, Zawahiri respond­ed by say­ing, “This [is a] Chris­t­ian media—and some of the media per­son­nel are paid by the [Cop­tic] Church and they work with those who oppose the Sharia… sec­u­lar­ist forces are allied with Chris­t­ian forces, among them Naguib Sawiris, the Chris­t­ian-Jew.”

Mor­si: “Soon we will uphold our promis­es to you.”

In fact, there was a peri­od of time when the sec­u­lar media in Egypt—which was con­stant­ly expos­ing Broth­er­hood machinations—were under severe attack by the Broth­er­hood and Islamists of all stripes (come­di­an Bassem Youssef was the tip of the ice­berg).  In one instance, which I not­ed back in August 2012, six major media sta­tions were attacked by Broth­er­hood sup­port­ers, their employ­ees severe­ly beat.

The last call record­ed between Muham­mad Mor­si and Muham­mad Zawahiri took place on the dawn of June 30, 2013 (the date of the June 30 Rev­o­lu­tion that oust­ed Mor­si and the Broth­er­hood).  Mor­si made the call to Zawahiri in the pres­ence of Asad al-Sheikha, Deputy Chief of Pres­i­den­tial Staff, Refa’ al-Tahtawy, Chief of Pres­i­den­tial Staff, and his per­son­al secu­ri­ty.

Dur­ing this last call, Mor­si incit­ed Zawahiri to rise against the Egypt­ian mil­i­tary in Sinai and asked Zawahiri to com­pel all jiha­di and loy­al­ist ele­ments every­where to come to the aid of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and neu­tral­ize its oppo­nents.

Zawahiri report­ed­ly respond­ed by say­ing “We will fight the mil­i­tary and the police, and we will set the Sinai aflame.

True enough, as I report­ed on July 4, quot­ing from an Ara­bic report: “Al-Qae­da, under the lead­er­ship of Muham­mad Zawahiri, is cur­rent­ly plan­ning reprisal oper­a­tions by which to attack the army and the Mor­si-oppo­si­tion all around the Repub­lic [of Egypt].”  The report added that, right before the depos­ing of Mor­si, Zawahiri had been arrest­ed and was being interrogated—only to be ordered released by yet anoth­er pres­i­den­tial order, and that he  had since fled to the Sinai.

Also on that same first day of the rev­o­lu­tion, Khairat al-Shater, Deputy Leader of the Broth­er­hood, had a meet­ing with a del­e­gate of jiha­di fight­ers and reit­er­at­ed Morsi’s request that all jihadis come to the aid of the pres­i­den­cy and the Broth­er­hood.

As Morsi’s tri­al con­tin­ues, it’s only a mat­ter of time before the truth of these allegations—and their impli­ca­tions for the U.S.—is known.  But one thing is cer­tain: most of them com­port incred­i­bly well with inci­dents and events that took place under Morsi’s gov­ern­ment.

Discussion

One comment for “FTR #1025 The So-Called “Arab Spring” Revisited, Part 1”

  1. The LA Times had a recent sum­ma­ry on the state of al Qae­da 17 years after 9/11. The con­clu­sion? It’s arguably stronger than ever, with over 20,000 fight­ers in Syr­ia and Yemen alone:

    The Los Ange­les Times

    Sev­en­teen years after Sept. 11, Al Qae­da may be stronger than ever

    By Nabih Bulos
    Sep 10, 2018 | 3:00 AM

    In the days after Sept. 11, 2001, the Unit­ed States set out to destroy Al Qae­da. Pres­i­dent George W. Bush vowed to “starve ter­ror­ists of fund­ing, turn them one against anoth­er, dri­ve them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest.”

    Sev­en­teen years lat­er, Al Qae­da may be stronger than ever. Far from van­quish­ing the extrem­ist group and its asso­ci­at­ed “fran­chis­es,” crit­ics say, U.S. poli­cies in the Mideast appear to have encour­aged its spread.

    What U.S. offi­cials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, direc­tor of the SITE Intel­li­gence Group, in a recent phone inter­view, is that Al Qae­da is more than a group of indi­vid­u­als. “It’s an idea, and an idea can­not be destroyed using sophis­ti­cat­ed weapons and killing lead­ers and bomb­ing train­ing camps,” she said.

    The group has amassed the largest fight­ing force in its exis­tence. Esti­mates say it may have more than 20,000 mil­i­tants in Syr­ia and Yemen alone. It boasts affil­i­ates across North Africa, the Lev­ant and parts of Asia, and it remains strong around the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der.

    It has also changed tac­tics. Instead of the head­line-grab­bing ter­ror­ist attacks, bru­tal pub­lic exe­cu­tions and slick pro­pa­gan­da used by Islam­ic State (Al Qaeda’s one­time affil­i­ate and now rival), Al Qae­da now prac­tices a soft­er approach, embed­ding itself and gain­ing the sup­port of Sun­ni Mus­lims inside war-torn coun­tries.

    Here’s a look at how Al Qae­da has grown in some key Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries:

    Iraq

    The Unit­ed States went to war against Iraq in 2003, based in part on the asser­tion — lat­er debunked — that Al Qae­da had ties to dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein.

    That claim turned out to be a self-ful­fill­ing prophe­cy.

    In vic­to­ry, the U.S. dis­band­ed the Iraqi army, putting hun­dreds of thou­sands of dis­grun­tled men with mil­i­tary train­ing on the street. Many rose up against what was per­ceived as a for­eign inva­sion, feed­ing an insur­gency that has nev­er stopped. The insur­gency gave birth to Al Qae­da in Iraq, a local affil­i­ate that pio­neered the use of ter­ror­ist attacks on Shi­ite Mus­lims, regard­ed as apos­tates by Sun­ni extrem­ists.

    In its 2007 “surge,” the U.S., in con­cert with pro-gov­ern­ment Sun­ni mili­tias, large­ly defeat­ed Al Qae­da in Iraq. But by 2010, the group was “fun­da­men­tal­ly the same” as it had been before the boost in troops, accord­ing to Gen. Ray T. Odier­no, the top U.S. com­man­der in Iraq at the time.

    The 2011 upris­ings in neigh­bor­ing Syr­ia gave the group the breath­ing space it need­ed. Two years lat­er it emerged as Islam­ic State in Iraq and Syr­ia, also known as ISIS, and split from Al Qaeda’s cen­tral lead­er­ship.

    It also launched an auda­cious offen­sive that saw large swaths of Iraq fall into the hands of the jihadists. Although Islam­ic State has since lost most of its ter­ri­to­ry, it remains a threat.

    Yemen

    Al Qae­da was active in Yemen even before Sept. 11: It orches­trat­ed the Octo­ber 2000 bomb­ing of the U.S. destroy­er Cole in the port of Aden. After the World Trade Cen­ter twin tow­er attacks, Bush hailed Yemen’s then pres­i­dent, Ali Abdul­lah Saleh, as a vital part­ner in the U.S.-declared war on ter­ror­ism.

    Saleh received what he called “lim­it­less” U.S. sup­port to fight the jihadists. He in turn gave the U.S. a free hand to con­duct attacks against the group’s oper­a­tives, includ­ing con­tro­ver­sial drone strikes, which began in 2002.

    But by Jan­u­ary 2009, Al Qae­da in the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la (known as AQAP) had emerged and was soon con­sid­ered the group’s most dan­ger­ous branch.

    Pres­i­dent Oba­ma unleashed spe­cial forces teams to hunt down AQAP oper­a­tives. He also ramped up drone strikes, launch­ing rough­ly 200 from 2009 to 2016, accord­ing to a report by the Bureau of Inves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism. Pres­i­dent Trump has launched 160.

    But the strikes and raids often killed more civil­ians than mil­i­tants.

    In late 2014, Iran­ian-backed Shi­ite Mus­lim rebels known as Houthis swept in from the coun­try’s north­west to seize the cap­i­tal, Sana. Amid the result­ing chaos, AQAP net­ted a prize: the city of Mukalla, with Yemen’s third- largest port. It became the cen­ter­piece of an Al Qae­da fief­dom.

    As ear­ly as 2012, Nass­er Wuhayshi, AQAP’s self-styled “emir” and founder, had said the group need­ed to win peo­ple over by “tak­ing care of their dai­ly needs.”

    The group rebrand­ed itself as Ansar al Sharia, or Sup­port­ers of Islam­ic Law, and slow­ly intro­duced Al Qaeda’s harsh form of Islam­ic law and gov­er­nance.

    Under Trump, the Unit­ed States has large­ly con­tin­ued Obama’s poli­cies in Yemen. It has giv­en full sup­port to an air cam­paign led by Sau­di Ara­bia against the Houthis, despite crit­i­cism that the strikes have caused most of the 16,000 civil­ian casu­al­ties in Yemen since the war began.

    But even as the U.S. has con­tin­ued to car­ry out airstrikes and raids against AQAP, the group has posi­tioned itself as a vir­tu­al ally, bat­tling the Houthis along­side trib­al fight­ers sup­port­ed by Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Soma­lia

    The fall of Somalia’s gov­ern­ment in 1991 led to the rise of the Islam­ic Courts Union, a col­lec­tion of cler­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions that formed a sharia-based judi­cia­ry. It gained legit­i­ma­cy by offer­ing ser­vices such as edu­ca­tion and health­care.

    Wash­ing­ton, sus­pect­ing links to Al Qae­da, sup­port­ed the group’s ene­mies, and enlist­ed the Ethiopi­an army to crush it, which it did in 2006. In the de-fac­to occu­pa­tion that fol­lowed, the Islam­ic Courts Union’s rad­i­cal youth wing, the Shabab, grew as an inde­pen­dent resis­tance move­ment that took over most of Somalia’s cen­tral and south­ern regions.

    Despite its unpop­u­lar appli­ca­tion of fun­da­men­tal­ist Wah­habi doc­trine, res­i­dents tol­er­at­ed the Shabab because it fought the Ethiopi­ans, who are most­ly Chris­t­ian and have a long-stand­ing enmi­ty with Soma­lis.

    In 2012, it was declared as the new Al Qae­da affil­i­ate. The change of sta­tus attract­ed a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of for­eign fight­ers, includ­ing some from the Unit­ed States.

    The Oba­ma administration’s pol­i­cy of drone strikes along with sup­port for African Union peace­keep­ing forces, flushed the Shabab out of the cap­i­tal, Mogadishu, in 2011. It lost con­trol of most of Somalia’s towns and cities.

    And in Sep­tem­ber 2014, a U.S. drone strike killed its leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr.

    But the group held sway in rur­al areas, where its esti­mat­ed 4,000 to 6,000 mil­i­tants make it one of Al Qaeda’s largest fran­chis­es. They car­ry out guer­ril­la attacks on African Union forces and civil­ian tar­gets and have launched attacks in oth­ers parts of East Africa, includ­ing the 2013 attack on the West­gate mall in Nairo­bi, Kenya.

    Syr­ia

    On Dec. 23, 2011, a car bomb struck a res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood of Dam­as­cus, Syr­ia, that was home to the State Secu­ri­ty Direc­torate.

    The build­ing was all but destroyed. Dri­vers unfor­tu­nate enough to be near the explo­sion were burned alive. A sec­ond car bomb det­o­nat­ed soon after. All told, 44 peo­ple were killed.

    That attack marked the debut of Al Nus­ra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syr­ia.

    The Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment had once giv­en the jihadis pas­sage to Iraq to fight coali­tion forces there. With the civ­il war, many had now come to return the favor. Nusra’s bat­tle-hard­ened fight­ers deliv­ered daz­zling suc­cess­es to the rebel coali­tion seek­ing to over­throw Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad.

    It was so effec­tive that U.S. offi­cials, includ­ing for­mer CIA Direc­tor David Petraeus, sug­gest­ed arm­ing and deploy­ing the Al Qae­da jihadis to fight their for­mer com­rades in Islam­ic State.

    And despite its adher­ence to a strict Islamist code of behav­ior and its impo­si­tion of sharia in areas it con­trolled, the group enjoyed pop­u­lar sup­port from civil­ians tired of deal­ing with rapa­cious oppo­si­tion fac­tions more inter­est­ed in loot­ing than fight­ing.

    Yet here again, the affil­i­ate did not declare a caliphate. Instead, it rebrand­ed itself, pub­licly cut­ting ties with Al Qae­da even while retain­ing some of the group’s top oper­a­tives.

    The group, now known as the Orga­ni­za­tion for the Lib­er­a­tion of Syr­ia, is esti­mat­ed to have 10,000 to 15,000 fight­ers, includ­ing for­eign­ers from as far as Alba­nia and Chi­na.

    Libya

    Offi­cial­ly, there is no Al Qae­da group in Libya. Its affil­i­ate, the Libyan Islam­ic Fight­ing Group, was dis­band­ed in 2011; its mem­bers renounced vio­lence but dis­tin­guished them­selves as rel­a­tive­ly dis­ci­plined rebels once the rev­o­lu­tion against Libyan strong­man Moam­mar Kadafi kicked off.

    Since then, some, such as for­mer group leader Abdel-Hakim Bel­haj, who fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and was ren­di­tioned by the U.S. after 2001, have become pow­er­ful Islamist lead­ers, with a sig­nif­i­cant role in Libya’s chaot­ic pol­i­tics.

    Oth­ers have gone over to Islam­ic State’s Libyan branch or joined oth­er Islamist groups, includ­ing a num­ber that took over the Libyan cap­i­tal, Tripoli.

    But while the U.S., oth­er West­ern nations and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates have focused almost exclu­sive­ly on dis­lodg­ing Islam­ic State from its bas­tions in the north and north­east, Al Qae­da has enjoyed a resur­gence, accord­ing to an August report from the Unit­ed Nations.

    The group’s threat in Libya reg­is­tered with the U.S. only this year. In March, the Pentagon’s Africa Com­mand said it had killed two Al Qae­da mil­i­tants in a drone strike, includ­ing what was said to be a high-rank­ing offi­cial, Musa Abu Dawud.

    ...

    ———-

    “Sev­en­teen years after Sept. 11, Al Qae­da may be stronger than ever” by Nabih Bulos; The Los Ange­les Times; 09/10/2018

    “Sev­en­teen years lat­er, Al Qae­da may be stronger than ever. Far from van­quish­ing the extrem­ist group and its asso­ci­at­ed “fran­chis­es,” crit­ics say, U.S. poli­cies in the Mideast appear to have encour­aged its spread.”

    Yep. U.S. poli­cies in the Mideast appear to have encour­aged its spread. In addi­tion, changes in tac­tics have also helped increase the group’s appeal, with few­er high-pro­file ter­ror attacks and a greater empha­sis on tak­ing the sides of Sun­nis inside war-torn coun­tries. It’s a reminder that war in the Mid­dle East, any war, is the kind of ‘pol­i­cy’ that’s going to inevitably cre­ate a mas­sive oppor­tu­ni­ty for a ter­ror group like al Qae­da to increase its pop­u­lar appeal. They sim­ply need to pick a side in the war and assume the role as pro­tec­tors:

    ...
    The group has amassed the largest fight­ing force in its exis­tence. Esti­mates say it may have more than 20,000 mil­i­tants in Syr­ia and Yemen alone. It boasts affil­i­ates across North Africa, the Lev­ant and parts of Asia, and it remains strong around the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der.

    It has also changed tac­tics. Instead of the head­line-grab­bing ter­ror­ist attacks, bru­tal pub­lic exe­cu­tions and slick pro­pa­gan­da used by Islam­ic State (Al Qaeda’s one­time affil­i­ate and now rival), Al Qae­da now prac­tices a soft­er approach, embed­ding itself and gain­ing the sup­port of Sun­ni Mus­lims inside war-torn coun­tries.
    ...

    And that strat­e­gy of befriend­ing Sun­ni pop­u­la­tions in war-torn coun­tries was played out over and over. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, the fact that ISIS tech­ni­cal­ly split off for al Qae­da allowed the Sun­ni extrem­ist move­ment to have a sort of ‘good cop’/‘bad cop’ approach: as long as al Qae­da was­n’t as extreme as ISIS, it was seen in a more ‘mod­er­ate’ light:

    ...
    Iraq

    The Unit­ed States went to war against Iraq in 2003, based in part on the asser­tion — lat­er debunked — that Al Qae­da had ties to dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein.

    That claim turned out to be a self-ful­fill­ing prophe­cy.

    In vic­to­ry, the U.S. dis­band­ed the Iraqi army, putting hun­dreds of thou­sands of dis­grun­tled men with mil­i­tary train­ing on the street. Many rose up against what was per­ceived as a for­eign inva­sion, feed­ing an insur­gency that has nev­er stopped. The insur­gency gave birth to Al Qae­da in Iraq, a local affil­i­ate that pio­neered the use of ter­ror­ist attacks on Shi­ite Mus­lims, regard­ed as apos­tates by Sun­ni extrem­ists.

    In its 2007 “surge,” the U.S., in con­cert with pro-gov­ern­ment Sun­ni mili­tias, large­ly defeat­ed Al Qae­da in Iraq. But by 2010, the group was “fun­da­men­tal­ly the same” as it had been before the boost in troops, accord­ing to Gen. Ray T. Odier­no, the top U.S. com­man­der in Iraq at the time.

    The 2011 upris­ings in neigh­bor­ing Syr­ia gave the group the breath­ing space it need­ed. Two years lat­er it emerged as Islam­ic State in Iraq and Syr­ia, also known as ISIS, and split from Al Qaeda’s cen­tral lead­er­ship.

    It also launched an auda­cious offen­sive that saw large swaths of Iraq fall into the hands of the jihadists. Although Islam­ic State has since lost most of its ter­ri­to­ry, it remains a threat.
    ...

    In Yemen, al Qaeda’s off­shoot, AQAP, man­aged to take over Yemen’s third-largest port in 2014. Flash for­ward to today and we have reports of the Saud­is and UAE (with US back­ing) pay­ing off AQAP to retreat from seized cities. And they only slow­ly intro­duced al Qaeda’s ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive form of Islam­ic law while try­ing to win peo­ple over the “tak­ing care of their dai­ly needs.” It’s a reminder that, for all the atten­tion ISIS has received for becom­ing a ter­ror out­fit with actu­al ter­ri­to­ry, al Qae­da has been doing the same, but with far less atten­tion paid to it:

    ...
    Yemen

    Al Qae­da was active in Yemen even before Sept. 11: It orches­trat­ed the Octo­ber 2000 bomb­ing of the U.S. destroy­er Cole in the port of Aden. After the World Trade Cen­ter twin tow­er attacks, Bush hailed Yemen’s then pres­i­dent, Ali Abdul­lah Saleh, as a vital part­ner in the U.S.-declared war on ter­ror­ism.

    Saleh received what he called “lim­it­less” U.S. sup­port to fight the jihadists. He in turn gave the U.S. a free hand to con­duct attacks against the group’s oper­a­tives, includ­ing con­tro­ver­sial drone strikes, which began in 2002.

    But by Jan­u­ary 2009, Al Qae­da in the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la (known as AQAP) had emerged and was soon con­sid­ered the group’s most dan­ger­ous branch.

    Pres­i­dent Oba­ma unleashed spe­cial forces teams to hunt down AQAP oper­a­tives. He also ramped up drone strikes, launch­ing rough­ly 200 from 2009 to 2016, accord­ing to a report by the Bureau of Inves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism. Pres­i­dent Trump has launched 160.

    But the strikes and raids often killed more civil­ians than mil­i­tants.

    In late 2014, Iran­ian-backed Shi­ite Mus­lim rebels known as Houthis swept in from the coun­try’s north­west to seize the cap­i­tal, Sana. Amid the result­ing chaos, AQAP net­ted a prize: the city of Mukalla, with Yemen’s third- largest port. It became the cen­ter­piece of an Al Qae­da fief­dom.

    As ear­ly as 2012, Nass­er Wuhayshi, AQAP’s self-styled “emir” and founder, had said the group need­ed to win peo­ple over by “tak­ing care of their dai­ly needs.”

    The group rebrand­ed itself as Ansar al Sharia, or Sup­port­ers of Islam­ic Law, and slow­ly intro­duced Al Qaeda’s harsh form of Islam­ic law and gov­er­nance.

    Under Trump, the Unit­ed States has large­ly con­tin­ued Obama’s poli­cies in Yemen. It has giv­en full sup­port to an air cam­paign led by Sau­di Ara­bia against the Houthis, despite crit­i­cism that the strikes have caused most of the 16,000 civil­ian casu­al­ties in Yemen since the war began.

    But even as the U.S. has con­tin­ued to car­ry out airstrikes and raids against AQAP, the group has posi­tioned itself as a vir­tu­al ally, bat­tling the Houthis along­side trib­al fight­ers sup­port­ed by Sau­di Ara­bia.
    ...

    In Soma­lia the group has an esti­mate 4–6 thou­sand mil­i­tants. And while it’s harsh ver­sion of Islam may have made it unpop­u­lar with the pop­u­lace, it was still more pop­u­lar than the Ethiopi­an army that the US enlist­ed to crush the group. One more exam­ple of how try­ing to mil­i­tar­i­ly defeat a mil­i­taris­tic ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive ide­ol­o­gy — an ide­ol­o­gy that inher­ent­ly becomes more accept­able to stressed out pop­u­la­tions fac­ing mor­tal dan­ger because human sim­ply because more con­ser­v­a­tive under stress — prob­a­bly isn’t going to end well:

    ...
    Soma­lia

    The fall of Somalia’s gov­ern­ment in 1991 led to the rise of the Islam­ic Courts Union, a col­lec­tion of cler­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions that formed a sharia-based judi­cia­ry. It gained legit­i­ma­cy by offer­ing ser­vices such as edu­ca­tion and health­care.

    Wash­ing­ton, sus­pect­ing links to Al Qae­da, sup­port­ed the group’s ene­mies, and enlist­ed the Ethiopi­an army to crush it, which it did in 2006. In the de-fac­to occu­pa­tion that fol­lowed, the Islam­ic Courts Union’s rad­i­cal youth wing, the Shabab, grew as an inde­pen­dent resis­tance move­ment that took over most of Somalia’s cen­tral and south­ern regions.

    Despite its unpop­u­lar appli­ca­tion of fun­da­men­tal­ist Wah­habi doc­trine, res­i­dents tol­er­at­ed the Shabab because it fought the Ethiopi­ans, who are most­ly Chris­t­ian and have a long-stand­ing enmi­ty with Soma­lis.

    In 2012, it was declared as the new Al Qae­da affil­i­ate. The change of sta­tus attract­ed a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of for­eign fight­ers, includ­ing some from the Unit­ed States.

    The Oba­ma administration’s pol­i­cy of drone strikes along with sup­port for African Union peace­keep­ing forces, flushed the Shabab out of the cap­i­tal, Mogadishu, in 2011. It lost con­trol of most of Somalia’s towns and cities.

    And in Sep­tem­ber 2014, a U.S. drone strike killed its leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr.

    But the group held sway in rur­al areas, where its esti­mat­ed 4,000 to 6,000 mil­i­tants make it one of Al Qaeda’s largest fran­chis­es. They car­ry out guer­ril­la attacks on African Union forces and civil­ian tar­gets and have launched attacks in oth­ers parts of East Africa, includ­ing the 2013 attack on the West­gate mall in Nairo­bi, Kenya.
    ...

    But it’s in Syr­ia — where al Qae­da affil­i­ates got to claim the ‘mod­er­ate extrem­ist’ man­tle in com­par­i­son to ISIS — that we saw al Qae­da real­ly ascend in terms of pop­u­lar accep­tance. And not just accep­tance among the locals. It was none oth­er than for­mer CIA Direc­tor David Petraeus who sug­gest­ed arm­ing and deploy­ing al Qae­da to fight ISIS in 2015. And, of course, arm­ing al Qae­da in Syr­ia is exact­ly what the US’s allies like Sau­di Ara­bia and Qatar were doing all along. And then there’s the weapons the CIA was pro­vid­ing to the mod­er­ate rebel groups that were almost entire­ly end­ed up in extrem­ist hands. If there was a coun­try where the US’s long-held schiz­o­phrenic approach towards Islamist mil­i­tant is full dis­play it’s Syr­ia:

    ...
    Syr­ia

    On Dec. 23, 2011, a car bomb struck a res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood of Dam­as­cus, Syr­ia, that was home to the State Secu­ri­ty Direc­torate.

    The build­ing was all but destroyed. Dri­vers unfor­tu­nate enough to be near the explo­sion were burned alive. A sec­ond car bomb det­o­nat­ed soon after. All told, 44 peo­ple were killed.

    That attack marked the debut of Al Nus­ra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syr­ia.

    The Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment had once giv­en the jihadis pas­sage to Iraq to fight coali­tion forces there. With the civ­il war, many had now come to return the favor. Nusra’s bat­tle-hard­ened fight­ers deliv­ered daz­zling suc­cess­es to the rebel coali­tion seek­ing to over­throw Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad.

    It was so effec­tive that U.S. offi­cials, includ­ing for­mer CIA Direc­tor David Petraeus, sug­gest­ed arm­ing and deploy­ing the Al Qae­da jihadis to fight their for­mer com­rades in Islam­ic State.

    And despite its adher­ence to a strict Islamist code of behav­ior and its impo­si­tion of sharia in areas it con­trolled, the group enjoyed pop­u­lar sup­port from civil­ians tired of deal­ing with rapa­cious oppo­si­tion fac­tions more inter­est­ed in loot­ing than fight­ing.

    Yet here again, the affil­i­ate did not declare a caliphate. Instead, it rebrand­ed itself, pub­licly cut­ting ties with Al Qae­da even while retain­ing some of the group’s top oper­a­tives.

    The group, now known as the Orga­ni­za­tion for the Lib­er­a­tion of Syr­ia, is esti­mat­ed to have 10,000 to 15,000 fight­ers, includ­ing for­eign­ers from as far as Alba­nia and Chi­na.
    ...

    Final­ly, in Libya we find for­mer al Qae­da lead­ers assum­ing sig­nif­i­cant roles in the coun­try’s pol­i­tics. That’s how wild­ly suc­cess­ful the Islamist have been in the post-Qaddafi envi­ron­ment:

    ...
    Libya

    Offi­cial­ly, there is no Al Qae­da group in Libya. Its affil­i­ate, the Libyan Islam­ic Fight­ing Group, was dis­band­ed in 2011; its mem­bers renounced vio­lence but dis­tin­guished them­selves as rel­a­tive­ly dis­ci­plined rebels once the rev­o­lu­tion against Libyan strong­man Moam­mar Kadafi kicked off.

    Since then, some, such as for­mer group leader Abdel-Hakim Bel­haj, who fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and was ren­di­tioned by the U.S. after 2001, have become pow­er­ful Islamist lead­ers, with a sig­nif­i­cant role in Libya’s chaot­ic pol­i­tics.

    Oth­ers have gone over to Islam­ic State’s Libyan branch or joined oth­er Islamist groups, includ­ing a num­ber that took over the Libyan cap­i­tal, Tripoli.

    But while the U.S., oth­er West­ern nations and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates have focused almost exclu­sive­ly on dis­lodg­ing Islam­ic State from its bas­tions in the north and north­east, Al Qae­da has enjoyed a resur­gence, accord­ing to an August report from the Unit­ed Nations.

    The group’s threat in Libya reg­is­tered with the U.S. only this year. In March, the Pentagon’s Africa Com­mand said it had killed two Al Qae­da mil­i­tants in a drone strike, includ­ing what was said to be a high-rank­ing offi­cial, Musa Abu Dawud.
    ...

    And this is all why experts like Rita Katz warn that al Qae­da can’t sim­ply be destroyed mil­i­tar­i­ly because at it’s core is an ide­ol­o­gy:

    ...
    What U.S. offi­cials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, direc­tor of the SITE Intel­li­gence Group, in a recent phone inter­view, is that Al Qae­da is more than a group of indi­vid­u­als. “It’s an idea, and an idea can­not be destroyed using sophis­ti­cat­ed weapons and killing lead­ers and bomb­ing train­ing camps,” she said.
    ...

    And that warn­ing from Katz is espe­cial­ly impor­tant to keep in mind in the larg­er con­text of long-stand­ing West­ern back­ing for the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and its Islamist off­shoots. Because if you look at the harsh form of Islam al Qae­da advo­cates, that’s what the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood advo­cates too, which is why Al Qae­da could be viewed as basi­cal­ly the mil­i­tary wing of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. So as long as the West backs the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in a quest to find a Mus­lim move­ment that is cor­po­ratist-friend­ly and hos­tile to social­ism and the redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth and social jus­tice, al Qae­da is basi­cal­ly des­tined to win in the end across the Sun­ni Mus­lim world. In oth­er words, if the US was real­ly inter­est­ed in defeat­ing al Qae­da, it would­n’t be sup­port­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. It would be pro­mot­ing sec­u­lar social­ism, a mod­el that could actu­al­ly improve peo­ple’s lives and is fun­da­men­tal­ly at odds with al Qaedas ide­ol­o­gy in almost every way. Which, if course, won’t hap­pen. And that’s a big rea­son why we should­n’t expect al Qae­da to go away any time soon. The move­men­t’s fun­da­men­tal ide­ol­o­gy — an ide­ol­o­gy of hyper-author­i­tar­i­an­ism, strict cap­i­tal­ism, and an accep­tance of extreme inequal­i­ty — is an ide­ol­o­gy that is unfor­tu­nate­ly not exclu­sive to al Qae­da.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 26, 2018, 3:25 pm

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