Al-Qaida's Embarrassment: Revolutions Mark Setback for Terror Group

By Yassin Musharbash

Ben Ali has fled, Mubarak has been overthrown and Gadhafi is faltering, but al-Qaida is frustrated, because jihadists have played no role whatsoever†in the great revolution in the Arab world. The terrorist organization has repeatedly tried to use propaganda to take credit for the revolts, but no one is listening.

Pictured here is al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another al-Qaida leader said: "It is true the revolution is not entirely what we had envisioned." Zoom
AFP/ SITE

Pictured here is al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another al-Qaida leader said: "It is true the revolution is not entirely what we had envisioned."

One of the side effects of the Arab revolt is that the jihad bubble has burst, at least for now. The popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have impressively demonstrated how little jihadists have to say in Arab societies. Contrary to the propaganda they have been spreading for decades, their mobilization potential is virtually nonexistent.

Their original goal -- the overthrow of the secular regimes in the Arab world -- has been achieved by others, including groups that are among the declared enemies of al-Qaida and its allies: secularists, students with a Western orientation, politically active women, people who support democracy and moderate Islamists. It isn't al-Qaida that has proven to be a vanguard, but the secular, Internet-savvy youth of the Arab world. And no one on the squares and streets, from Tunis to Benghazi, has called for a Taliban-esque theocracy, al-Qaida's vision for the Islamic world.

What an embarrassing revelation!

But because those who live in the universe of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his associates refuse to accept this reality, an effort is already underway to reinterpret recent events in the Arab world. At first, it seemed as if the terrorist network hadn't found any words to comment on the massive upheavals. But now al-Qaida's spin on the events in the Middle East is gradually becoming clear.

Al-Qaida is serving up a mixture of currying favor and issuing dire warnings. On Thursday, the North African branch of the organization, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), declared its support for the revolt in Libya. Of course, that revolt is being portrayed as "jihad," while al-Qaida insists that it makes sense for the Libyans to be rising up against dictator Moammar Gadhafi because he is an "enemy of God." Besides, as AQIM claims with some audacity, "we have consistently fought solely for your defense."

The Divide Between Real and Wannabe Revolutionaries

Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's second-in-command and one of the Egyptian jihadists who has spent a lifetime fighting against the "godless" regime there, issued a statement on the situation in Egypt on Feb. 18. He too congratulated the revolutionaries, but the first thing he felt compelled to say about his native Egypt was that it is "secular and democratic," and that this is what must change.

This is remarkable. While hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets precisely because the regime was only outwardly democratic, this is exactly the issue Zawahiri emphasizes as a reason for a revolt! The divide that is apparent here between the real and the wannabe revolutionaries is enormous and embarrassing, even for the occasional hardcore Islamist, especially when Zawahiri ups the ante and accuses Mubarak of having rigged elections. This isn't exactly a coherent analysis.

Meanwhile, also on Thursday, the Libyan-born al-Qaida ideologue Attiyat Allah addressed the uprisings in North Africa and his native Libya. At least he was honest enough to admit that "it is true that this revolution is not entirely what we had envisioned."

But he too had little more to offer than the warning not to ignore the Koran as a guideline for action. He suggested that the newly won freedoms in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya be used for missionary work and activism to help shape the future in a jihadist sense.

It is unlikely that this will transpire. It is far more likely that moderate Islamists will play this role, which, of course, would not mesh with al-Qaida's goals, either.

But as humiliated as al-Qaida and its allies may be at the moment, this is not necessarily a permanent state of affairs. It is easier to fight democratic governments than despots, and chaos has always been a fertile breeding ground for jihadists. Jihadism hasn't been defeated yet. Thanks to the revolts, it has only become recognizable for what it is: the ideology and bloody practice of a very small minority among Arabs and Muslims.

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1.
sirajul 02/26/2011
Yes, Yassin, you're correct to say that the current revolution fever in the Muslim-dominated middle east 'demonstrated how little jihadists have to say in Arab societies.' I want to say that it's true not in the Arab societies only but also in many other Muslim-majority societies in Africa or Asia, as well. Yes, it's also very much 'contrary to the propaganda they have been spreading for decades, their mobilization potential is virtually nonexistent.' Thank you for this well-articulated article.
2.
tgw@37.com 02/27/2011
Oh yeah sure, Al quaeda is "embarrassed"...!!! People that are willing to DIE for what they believe in do not get embarrassed... Embarrassment is for those whose image is more important to them than their work..Not Al Quaeda..!!! The Amero-Israeli proxy Mubarak has been hobbled... and Egypt allowed Iranian warshipe through the canal for the first time in 30 years...with Israel sabre rattling and talking WAR This is REAL progress for the Muslims....against the divide and conquer techniques of their enemies... Aso the Gaza border was opened by Egypt..and they say it will remain open. Al Quaeda may be embarrassed that it was not them on the front lines leading the way..... But with the Coalitions shooting, bombing torturing, kidnapping, forced disappearances, renditions bounty hunting, assassinating, and their drones.... is it any wonder that they had to eschew the spotlight.. With their most virulent enemies falling and under fire, how embarrassed can they really be... The demise of Mubarak is an embarrassment of their good fortune... Every dead demonstrator is their wealth... As their enemies fall and flee and events rattle the Amero/Nato axis, their puppets and petro patrons are going down like dominos.. America is so bankrupt they cannot pay the interest on their trillions of worthless paper and they are pulling Europe and NATO down the rat hole with them... It Was Bin Laden's plan, to lure America into Afghanistan, the GRAVEYARD of empires and for America and those stupid enough to accompany her...to stumble and FALL.... So "everything" hasn't turned out as planned....??? It never does... Before I go let me mention Raymond Davis.. The methoiical shooter... His recklessness has the U.S. demanding immunity for CIA assassins in nuclear, frontline Pakistan.. and has enraged and RADICALIZED even the common man there... As they suck America dry, their hate of the Americans grows... There is EVEN more reckless leaks of revenge against ISI,,, In short, the U.S. is losing it's marbles too... a SURE sign if impenging greater disasters. And Al Quaeta...??? What is their current predicament..??
3.
BTraven 03/01/2011
---Quote (Originally by sirajul)--- Yes, Yassin, you're correct to say that the current revolution fever in the Muslim-dominated middle east 'demonstrated how little jihadists have to say in Arab societies.' I want to say that it's true not in the Arab societies only but also in many other Muslim-majority societies in Africa or Asia, as well. Yes, it's also very much 'contrary to the propaganda they have been spreading for decades, their mobilization potential is virtually nonexistent.' Thank you for this well-articulated article. ---End Quote--- Al-Qaida lives on the mistakes of governments. Itís members are experts in taking advantage of injustices in countries. As long as people do not see that their country is about to change radically the danger that terrorists could find sympathisers remains very high. The big tasks have not been tackled, let alone been solved, yet.
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