AQ have announced that they have picked a new leader. I guess with the recent thinning of the ranks a number of possible candidates were eliminated from the race :). As expected the Egyptian, a man who is under suspicion for the assassination of Anwar Sadat, and is wanted for other crimes, al-Zawahri has been nominated for the post of leader.
Der Spiegel actually has quite an interesting analysis regarding al-Zawahri taking the reins. Despite the fact that Der Speigel is a left-wing paper, I actually find a lot of their articles and analysis to be quite informative, which is why I tend to not discount their point of view too quickly. Therefore, I think that the article is well worth a read to get some idea of their point of view.
Of interest is the possibility that the various AQ groups could split. This might be very much the case for AQ in Yemen.
The question now will be how al-Qaida’s members and supporters will accept the new “amir.” No one will dispute his leadership, but it is conceivable that the offshoot al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will maintain a more distant relationship with him than they did with bin Laden. There is a long-standing animosity between al-Qaida’s Egyptian contingent and its members from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. There will not be a mutiny, but perhaps the implementation of directives from headquarters will be less forthcoming than before.
The second question concerns what Zawahiri’s directives will look like. Will he try to reorganize al-Qaida?
In general, Zawahiri follows the same ideology and strategy as Osama bin Laden. But there are some admittedly vague indications that the terrorist network might try out a new strategy. These indications coincide with Zawahiri’s takeover, but they would not likely be based solely on his decision.
It is striking that in both the al-Qaida statement from the general command and in a high-quality propaganda video released some weeks ago, there are calls to non-members to become active participants in the jihadist movement.
In the two-hour video, for example, viewers are presented with dozens of examples of such sole offenders, including from the 19th century. One man, one attack: Up till now, this has not been al-Qaida’s official line. The terror network, whilst welcoming cooperation with volunteers of all kinds, has nevertheless insisted on a kind of terrorist purity: Only where al-Qaida itself was involved, should al-Qaida be mentioned.
The new message, however, could be understood as al-Qaida giving its blessing to individual attackers to carry out terror acts in the network’s name. In general, it is better to make contact with al-Qaida first, the group’s chief ideologist Abu Yahya al-Libi says in the propaganda video — but if that is not possible, would-be terrorists should act on their own initiative. Sole attackers rather than cells: The thinking behind this idea could be that groups are easier to detect.
In the document released on Thursday there is a passage that seems to echo this approach: Al-Qaida extended its hands against all those who are also “working for the victory of Islam” — in al-Qaida speech that means those planning terror attacks. It does not matter whether this is within or outside existing organizations, it adds.
Al-Qaida has also slightly shifted its position in another way: In the beginning, the terror network did not have a coherent message on the popular revolts in Arab countries. It lagged behind, the messages were out of date and sounded desperate, given the absence of any Islamist agitation in key places like Cairo, Tunis and Damascus.
But in the past week, Zawahiri — even before he gained the role of “amir” — released his own video in which he revealed the first attempt at a strategy in the face of the uprisings: Al-Qaida supports the rebellions against the “godless” regimes, but these movements must subsequently be transformed into a holy polity.
There is also an echo of this position in Thursday’s statement: The revolutions are incomplete until Sharia, the Islamic legal system, is introduced.
Some of these comments actually suggest that AQ under al-Zawahri is searching for relevance in the face of the “Arab spring”. Since we do not know much about the make of the protest groups in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen in particular, one could argue that AQ is seeking to muscle in on what has begun by the demand for “muslim purity” and of course their usual demand for the setting up of a caliphate. So far, only in Yemen has AQ had some form of success, by taking over a town in the south of Yemen. However, AQ is also making its presence felt in Tunisia. Some also claim that AQ is strongly present in Libya, but that is simply not true, despite the fact that there are elements amongst those doing the actual fighting.
Also, I note that al-Libi, who is from Libya seems to have risen in the ranks of AQ. I do not know if there is any specific relevance with regard to how AQ views the situation in Libya. Note: the fact that there are no boots on the ground means that AQ is robbed of the opportunity for rhetoric and the stirring up of the ummah to go fight the “baddies”. Also, note that neither the Tripoli regime, nor the Benghazi NTC have received endorsement from AQ. The only countries supporting Tripoli are those that actually get funds from Tripoli to finance their own terrorism against their people (including Jacob Zuma in South Africa – exactly what did Daffy promise Zuma during that meeting?).
The aim needs to be to keep AQ out of the picture in Libya and this will only happen when there is a political settlement, coupled with the departure of Daffy Duck from Tripoli.
With regard to Egypt, the ideology of MB and AQ are not quite the same because their methods vary just a little bit. It seems that MB have from the beginning been intent upon gaining political control without the fighting and bloodshed. They are now in a position to realize their dream. This is thanks to a military junta that favours MB and is working towards MB gaining control. The end result will probably be an alignment with Iran. (This is a very bad thing). Muslim Brotherhood is a fascist organization.