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4 HA: al-Qaeda Archives

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July 1, 2011

Ending al-Qaeda: The Psyop Approach

By Joe Katzman at 07:29

Interesting bit in The American Interest:

"In a September 2007 video, al-Qaeda's third-highest leader, Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi, published a strategy, largely based on al-Qaeda errors in Iraq, showing how the West can fight and win its "war of ideas." Why would he do this? That is unclear. Al-Libi may have believed that the United States lags so far behind the global jihadist movement that al-Qaeda has little to fear.6 In any event, his six-part strategy for the West focuses almost exclusively on countering al-Qaeda's narrative:

  1. Amplify cases of ex-jihadis who have renounced armed action;
  2. Fabricate stories about jihadi mistakes and exaggerate actual mistakes;
  3. Prompt Muslim clerics to issue fatwas that incriminate the jihadi movement;
  4. Support Islamic movements that disavow terrorist violence, particularly those with a democratic approach;
  5. Aggressively neutralize or discredit the jihadi movement's guiding thinkers; and
  6. Spin minor disagreements among jihadi leaders into major doctrinal or methodological disputes.

This actually strikes me as a pretty good list. As to why a jihadist cleric would issue this, it seems pretty simple to me. I've seen more than a few "beware of the following dirty tricks from the other side, so you're prepared" pieces among political partisans. Why not among theocrats, for whom religion is politics and vice-versa?


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  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, If there were some way to do all these read more
  • Chris M: Marcus Vitruvius, I'm surprised by your comments. You're quite right, read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: I agree with JK that this list wasn't exactly put read more

February 3, 2011

Egypt and the Acceptance of Limits

By Joe Katzman at 09:14

Back in 2004, I wrote "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mubarak?." It was about 2 things, and one of them was acceptance of reality's limits on our options. Within which, I believe American could have done some good in shaping what would eventually come. It ended as follows:

"The bottom line is simple: Egypt has to change. We have to promote effective pathways to liberty, using pressure and/or confrontation on our own timetable, all the while strengthening the real champions of liberty and weakening the poseurs and the malevolent.

It's a tall order. It won't always be satisfying. And it may take time. Fortunately, time is an option we can afford in Egypt. The only thing we can't afford, is failure."

Time was an option we could afford in Egypt. But here's the thing... eventually, it runs out. And like all seemingly stable systems with major foundational cracks (vid. also, and still, global financial system, and debt supportability above key levels like 90% of GDP), it may not take a very big shock to set the endgame in motion.

We're in motion, now, in Egypt. And if America faced limits before, those limits are sharper. The Muslim Brotherhood is still the evil organization it has always been, complete with Nazi origins, and retaining its jihadist core. But Mubarak is toast, and America must now make clear choices... if its President can manage that.

I have nothing to add to Ralph Peters' current advice. I hope my country takes it.


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  • alchemist: Well Glenn, we'll see. If there as powerful an influence read more
  • Glen Wishard: IanC - No, I do not say that the MB read more
  • IanC: Glen - I am guessing that you are saying that read more

December 2, 2009

The Growing Latin America - Africa Drug Pipeline

By Joe Katzman at 17:20

Douglas Farah:

"One of the disturbing and little noticed events of recent weeks was the crash (or destruction) of a Boeing 727 in the desert of Mali.

The crash is disturbing for many reasons, among them these three: 1) the aircraft was carrying between 2 to 3 tons of cocaine, far more than other, smaller aircraft and boats that have been detected in recent months, indicating an escalation of the trade through the Trans-Sahel region; 2) The region where the aircraft was found, most likely torched by its crew to destroy evidence, in a area of heavy operation of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM); and 3) the aircraft departed from Venezuela, now Latin America's primary transshipment hub from Latin America to West Africa, and source of all the major air shipments of cocaine that have been interdicted in West Africa."

Unsurprising. Given the number of Cuban DGI agents in Venezuela, this is that state's future, whether Chavez eats a bullet tomorrow or not. Note, also, the incidental al-Qaeda opportunity to pick up the high value part of the pipeline moving the shipped drugs north to Europe.


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December 1, 2009

Al-Qaeda and Dr. Fadl: The Cracking Tower?

By Joe Katzman at 03:07

While searching for something totally different online, I came across a Commentary blog post by Peter Wehner, which touts a New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright, author of the recommended book "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11." I own that book, so dropping that name definitely sent me hurrying over to read a June 2009 New Yorker article titled "The Rebellion Within."

It's a worthy read. Sems that one of al-Qaeda's most influential jihad theorists and Islamic jurists has been rethinking his positions, and is publishing a book called "Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World." Uncharacteristically, that title is meant as a criticism, not a mission statement.

Al-Qaeda's #2 (or #1, depending on who you talk to) Zawahiri had to devote a 200 page work ("The Exoneration"; formally "Treatise Exonerating the Nation of the Pen and the Sword from the Blemish of Weakness and Fatigue") to directly opposing and refuting "Dr. Fadl," which is interesting and noteworthy in and of itself.

Ultimately, in a post-proliferation world, Belmont Club's "3 conjectures" assertion that "If Islam desires the secret of the stars it must embrace the kuffar as its brother -- or die" remains fundamentally true. Is Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, aka. Dr. Fadl, someone I can ever call my friend? I'm not sure. To the extent that he represents a shift in the tectonic plates of Islamic thought, however, as the war comes home to them instead of just killing infidels of of other faiths, his writings are an important and positive development.


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November 17, 2009

Converts FROM Islamism: The Quilliam Foundation

By Joe Katzman at 05:12

Johann Hari's article in The Independent, "Renouncing Islamism: To the brink and back again," is the result of his interviews with some unusual people - British Muslims who first joined violent global jihad, then very publicly abandoned and began to battle against Islamism.

Some interesting passages. This one, about the impellers that led them into violent jihad as an identity:


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  • rashad: I think one should be careful ascribing any type of read more

March 18, 2009

This Month's Reading

By Armed Liberal at 16:59

I'm reading my way through the Counterinsurgency Reading List over on Abu Muquama's site, as well as some other books that catch my eye, and thought I'd make quick comments on this month's reading.

The Lost Revolution, by Robert Shaplen

I have a litmus test for books about Vietnam; if they suggest that the 1956 elections were put off because of corruption in the South and don't at least equally emphasize the brutal repression in the North, I don't think much of them. This is one of those books. The most interesting thing about it is that it was written by a leading Asia journalist and staff writer for the New Yorker. His core point is much better made in Rufus Phillips' book below.
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December 30, 2007

Bin Laden vows to attack Israel

By Donald Sensing at 20:18
In the latest audiotape made by Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda chief vowed to take its terrorism to Israel.
Osama bin Laden vowed to destroy Israel.

The fugitive Al-Qaida leader issued an audio recording Saturday in which he came out against Palestinian and other Arab leaders who have recognized the Jewish state.

"I would like to assure our people in Palestine that we will expand our jihad there," Bin Laden said. "We intend to liberate Palestine, the whole of Palestine, from the river to the sea."

"We will not recognize even one inch for Jews in the land of Palestine as other Muslim leaders have," he said.

Al-Qaida is believed to have set up cells in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but its influence is limited given doctrinal opposition from ruling local groups like Islamist Hamas.

In his message, Bin Laden also mocked Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, over the fact that the U.N. peacekeeper presence has grown in southern Lebanon since last year's war with Israel. The peacekeepers, Bin Laden said, "protect the Jews."
This declaration is less a statement of actual intention than an attempt to rally the Muslim world appearing sympathetic with the one cause, Palestinian-Israel issue, that inflames passions across Islamia.
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  • Mark Buehner: I disagree- a dirty bomb wont kill many people but read more
  • David_Blue: Mark E.: "Shouldn't Israel be concerned with a dirty bomb read more
  • Mark Buehner: Yes. Dirty bombs are probably overrated as weapons, but for read more

November 2, 2007

Kalashnikovs are getting dearer

By Nitin Pai at 03:59

Kalashnikovs are getting dearer

Photo: Valerio Pandolfo

Darra Adam Khel, a small town in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, 'consists of one main street lined with shops, with some alleys and sidestreets containing workshops'. Almost all the shops and the workshops are involved in the business of small, and not-so-small, arms. Officially, you need a permit to get there. Officially, you will not be issued with one.

Well, the news from Darra is that Kalashnikov prices are going up.


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  • Joe Katzman: Robi hints at the deeper subtext way beyond Afghanistan. Pre-9/11, read more

September 8, 2007

ObL: One Smart SOB?

By 'Nortius Maximus' at 07:03

Over at Greg Burch's blog Burchismo, grudging admiration for the clever text of the most recent bin Ladin video to surface...

ONE SMART S.O.B.

I've got to hand it to bin Laden. He really is one smart son of a bitch. I just read the transcript of his latest video. I strongly recommend it. He and his close advisers have been studying the West closely. This message is carefully crafted to plug into some very powerful currents in the left -- he uses Islamic rhetoric to push the basic Marxian buttons that lie beneath the ideology of the left in a very deft way. And then he turns and pushes Christian religious buttons. All the while, he plays the parallels to Vietnam, takes a side shot at race-guilt and even gets in a solid reference to the current credit melt-down in Western economies. Brilliant.

Prediction: None of the main organs of leftist communication, whether mainstream or extreme, will call him on the game he's playing here. It's too smooth and, compared to al Qaida's actual action, too gentle.

Good job, ObL! As a lawyer, I have to hand it to you.

Greg kindly provided a link to a PDF scan of an English-language translation of Osama's text. I hope a straight ASCII version shows up; I might tackle that myself while I'm doing chores this weekend.


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  • Alan: Yes, Treefrog, your reply makes "the problem" abundantly clear. Thanks. read more
  • David Blue: #63 from Alan: "Seems to me you're simply trying to read more
  • Treefrog: Alan, I'm ignoring 59 because it's irrelevant. Even if I read more

May 19, 2007

No colours for the revolution in Pakistan

By Nitin Pai at 12:43

America is ignoring the popular movement against Musharraf to its own disadvantage

PostGlobal's Amar Bakshi is going around the world, lugging a laptop and a camcorder, to get a sense of how people in different countries view America. If he ever makes it to Pakistan, he's likely to find a country where anti-Americanism is rife. Pakistanis have genuine reasons to hold a negative opinion of American foreign policy---though not necessarily for the reasons Americans may be inclined to believe. Right now, they have little reason to nurse good feelings towards America, given Washington's determined refusal to demonstrate the smallest amount of sympathy for democracy and freedom in the ongoing confrontation between the people and the dictator.


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  • Fletcher Christian: mullah: Someday the hellfire that your so-called prophet is burning read more
  • mullah cimoc: mullah cimoc say iraki having the two gonad. just for read more
  • Oz: Jim Rockford, This whole "Muslims are all 1 dimensional villains" read more

February 22, 2007

It's A Conundrum Inside A Problem Inside A Puzzle

By Armed Liberal at 18:56

Marc Lynch (Abu Aardvark) has a post up that captures the nub of a problem I've been chewing on for a while. Note that I don't necessarily agree with Marc - but that it's a problem well worth thinking through.

In a nutshell, if we believe that freedom and some form of a democratic / representative government are the keys to dismantling the more violent and hard-to-live-alongside versions of Islamism - how do we deal with the problem that in free elections in much of the Muslim world today, the Islamists - the hard-to-live-alongside ones - would be likely to win?

And what do we do then? Lynch says:

This selective outrage, where Westerners care about one anti-Islamist blogger but can't be bothered about equally arbitrary and illiberal repression of hundreds of Islamists, only reinforces general skepticism that this isn't really about freedom, human rights, or democracy. It's just like the American focus on the release of jailed liberal politician Ayman Nour as a litmus test for the Egyptian regime (one which it continues to fail, by the way, without seeming to suffer the slightest penalty). I can not exaggerate how many times I hear from Arabs and Muslims that America's campaign against Hamas after it won fair elections and its blind eye to Mubarak's campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood proves once and for all the fundamental hypocrisy of its democracy talk. I am not criticizing anyone for rallying to Nabeel's or Nour's defense. They should. But they should also see this as part of a comprehensive regime crackdown on Egyptian political opposition, with the attack on the Muslim Brotherhood the leading edge of the regime's anti-democratic backlash. People who claim to care about Egyptian reform, democratization, and human rights should take a slightly wider view of the problem than the travails of one anti-Islamist blogger or one liberal politician.

I'll discuss this more when I get some time tonight...but the conundrum presented here is a serious one. If we believe we can avoid conflict by doing the right thing, and doing the right thing means handing power to people who are determined to have a conflict with us...there's a good chance we've got issues with the way we're formulating the problem.


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  • PD Shaw: The personal income of Iranians today is 2/3rds what is read more
  • Fred: You may be right alchemist. But it's hard to argue read more
  • alchemist: Fred, I would actually that your strategy is short term read more

October 31, 2006

Al Qaeda's war and US politics

By Donald Sensing at 16:43
My long-term readers may recall that I wrote a little over three years ago that al Qaeda does not have a strategic plan. Strategic goals, yes, an actual plan to get there, no. It was unintentionally proleptic ( I dare not say prophetic) of me to wrote so long before next month's election,

What we have seen so far is that bin Laden lashes out spasmodically at targets of opportunity. The United States has been the consistent target of the attacks (though not the only one, of course) but bin Laden’s "strategy" (it can hardly be dignified with the term) is based on a delusion that he has explained many times: when hurt, the United States always cuts and runs. In the Isma'il interview, bin Laden said,

We think that the United States is very much weaker than Russia. Based on the reports we received from our brothers who participated in jihad in Somalia, we learned that they saw the weakness, frailty, and cowardice of US troops. Only 80 US troops were killed. Nonetheless, they fled in the heart of darkness, frustrated, after they had caused great commotion about the new world order.

Bin Laden thought that terrorist violence by itself would cause America to continue to retreat, to withdraw from Saudi Arabi and the rest of the Persian Gulf countries, enabling the Muslim ummah to realize their long-suppressed dream of a true Islamic society (bin Laden having a delusion that ordinary Muslim men and women truly thirsted for a Talibanic society for their own countries). Hurt the Americans enough, he said - more than once, on the record, - and they will flee.

Al Qaeda's political objectives were, and remain, well defined: reestablish the Islamic caliphate of yore. Then extend the caliphate into the middle of Africa, South Asia and parts of Europe and Southeast Asia. After that - these are very long-rage objectives - extend the rule of Islam across the entire globe. It matters not at the moment whether these are realistic goals. Islamists think they are.

Today, for both Islamists and the US, Iraq is the main battlefield. Whomsever prevails there will gain the intiative for many years to come, perhaps so strongly that the other side will not be able to take it away.

There are two main al Qaeda objectives to its fighting in Iraq.

1. Prevent the establishment of a democratic government and society there.

2. Compel the United States to withdraw its forces, hence its influence, before a democratic government is soundly established.

Obviously, these are two closely-related objectives. What is the threat to Islamism by democracy? Yussuf al-Ayyeri, one of Osama bin Laden's closest associates since the early 1990s, was killed by Saudi security forces in Riyadh in 2003. He wrote a book published by al Qaeda entitled, The Future of Iraq and The Arabian Peninsula After The Fall of Baghdad. In it Ayyeri wrote, "It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy." Islamic absolutism, Ayyeri wrote, cannot exist inside a society where the people think they can pass their own laws and makes their own rules.


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  • David Blue: #8 from Jim Rockford: "David I would submit there is read more
  • beowulf888: Well, Sensing leaves one little fact out his analysis. Yes, read more
  • David Blue: #8 from Jim Rockford: "David I would submit there is read more
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