By Jim Kouri
Even after the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama continues to give himself credit for all but destroying al-Qaeda and it’s offshoots. On Friday, while campaigning in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Obama boasted that al-Qaeda “had been decimated.” Then over the weekend in Ohio, Obama repeated his boast.
“Al Qaeda has been decimated,” said President Obama. “Osama bin Laden is dead.”
When the terrorist organization al-Qaeda announced that, after a period of deliberation, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri had been appointed as Osama bin Laden’s heir, very few within the intelligence, law enforcement and military communities were surprised.
The elevation of al-Zawahiri stressed al-Qaeda’s commitment to jihad, which was the “personal duty of every Muslim.” The jihad would be waged against the various “infidels” including the Americans, Israelis and the Arab-Muslim rulers, “until the Resurrection,” according to several counterterrorism sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Al-Zawahiri’s appointment to al-Qaeda chief was expected, although it took several weeks for the announcement instead of it occurring immediately. He had the reputation of being the “brains” behind al-Qaeda and the group’s head ideologue.
During his years as a terrorist leader he amassed considerable operational and organizational experience in terrorism and possibly, at various times in recent years, even became the de facto head of the worldwide organization, according to the Meir Amit Information Center in Israel.
According to Meir Amit, al-Qaeda’s bylaws written in 2002 state that the organization’s second in command is supposed to succeed the leader (emir) should he be killed or captured without hope of release. Appearing in a video issued on June 8, 2011, a month after the death of bin Laden, al-Zawahiri promised the United States he would continue Osama bin Laden’s path of jihad, thus positioning himself as bin Laden’s heir although at that time there had not yet been an official confirmation of his appointment, which came eight days later.
An intelligence source, living in Israel, said he believes there are possible consequences of al-Zawahiri’s appointment for al-Qaeda’s nature and methods are the following: Ideologically, because of his usually close cooperation with bin Laden and their mutual worldview, it is unlikely that significant changes will be made in its concept of waging a global jihad against the United States and its allies.
However, it is possible that changes may occur in al-Qaeda’s order of priorities, due to al-Zawahiri’s worldview, personality, Egyptian origin and personal experience.
Al-Zawahiri’s Achilles’ heel, the fact that he does not have bin Laden’s charisma and his leadership is not a foregone conclusion, and may actually influence al-Qaeda in the future. Thus potentially, power struggles may arise over the “inheritance” of the al-Qaeda leadership, and charismatic local commanders with their own power bases or operational terrorist experience may make demands for leadership or act independently, according to the CBRNE Terrorism Newsletter.
According to Israel’s Meir Amit, Al-Zawahiri may give high priority to terrorist attacks against Arab-Muslim regimes he considers Western collaborators and enemies of Islam, as well as against Israel (possibly from al-Qaeda bases in the areas on its borders, especially the Gaza Strip) and against Jewish targets around that globe.
He may emphasize terrorist activity in Egypt, exploiting the collapse of the Mubarak regime, the weakening of internal security control, the legalization of the Muslim Brotherhood and its return to the forefront of the political stage; and al-Zawahiri’s long experience with subversion and terrorism within Egypt. At the same time, the United States and Western countries will continue to be perceived as prime targets.
“Organizationally, al-Qaeda’s financial capabilities may be affected because al-Zawahiri lacks bin Laden’s resources. If that happens, its operational and logistic capabilities may suffer. It is also possible that there will be changes in al-Qaeda’s structure and methods, with the decentralization of various local focal points, the result of possible power struggles and al-Zawahiri’s difficulties in enforcing his authority on local commanders in distant confrontation arenas,” claims former intelligence officer and police detective Michael Snopes.
Al-Zawahiri was particularly influenced by the radical Islam of Sayyid Qutb, according to which the Arab-Muslim regimes (“the internal enemy “) were no less dangerous than external enemies. His ideology justified using violence and terrorism against them, since, it claimed, they had deviated from the precepts of Islam and did not govern according to religious Muslim law (the Shari’a). He was also influenced by Dr. Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian from northern Samaria, who became Osama bin Laden’s ideological mentor. Azzam developed and institutionalized the concept of jihad as the “personal duty” of every Muslim.
Based on experienced gained from decades of terrorist activity, al-Zawahiri formulated his worldview of radical jihadist Islam. According to his worldview, a global jihad movement was necessary, based on a territorial infrastructure which would serve as a “hothouse” for breeding the jihadist campaign (in a region such as Afghanistan, although al-Zawahiri would have preferred to locate the hothouse in the Arab Middle East), as previously reported in the Examiner.
Young men imbued with radical Islamic ideology would be sent from the hothouse to wage a violent campaign against Islam’s various enemies: the “treacherous” Arab-Muslim regimes, the superpowers (the United States, the main enemy, and Russia), other countries hostile to Islam (especially those in Western Europe), and the State of Israel, as well as Jews around the world, according to Meir Amit.
“As President Obama trumpets the downfall of al-Qaeda, one is reminded of all of the lies that emanate from this White House especially those connected with Banghazi and the equally mendacious retelling of the Fast and Furious gun-smuggling scheme,” said Snopes, who pulls no punches.