Does Bush have a clue about al Qaeda's changed strategy?Al Qaeda's strategy has changed since 911 from "chop off the head" to "chop off the hand."
I almost didn't read this article because I'm tired of the speculation whether bin Laden is dead or alive -- and I'm not sure it's particularly relevant anymore. Al Qaeda has morphed into a much more dangerous decentralized organization since Rumsfeld let the leadership walk away from Tora Bora.
I'm glad I didn't: this article by Amir Teheri includes a very informative summary of al Qaeda's current strategy. Obviously this is one man's opinion but it has the ring of truth.
(Of course the Bush apologists like Fox claim we haven't been attacked because this administration has done such a spectacularly good job at homeland security. This clearly has the ring of spin.)
Teheri says that Ayman Al Zawahiri has sifted al Qaeda's strategy from "chop off the head" to "chop off the hand." In other words: to stop attacking the leading infidel countries and start taking control of Muslim countries.
Here is the whole article of Is Bin Laden dead or alive? but here is the most interesting part:
Bin Laden believed that the strategy helped defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and would lead to the destruction of the United Sates and its European satellites. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York was a major test of that theory.
Bin Laden's strategy had critics from the start.
One was the "Godfather of Jihad", Palestinian-Saudi Abdullah Al Azzam who insisted that "holy warriors" should focus on Muslim lands rather than attacking "infidel" territory. In 1989, Al Azzam was murdered in Pakistan - a crime his relatives blamed on Bin Laden.
Between 1989 and 2001, Bin Laden was the sole architect of jihadist strategy, tested in dozens of attacks including 9/11 in the United States. Bin Laden dubbed his strategy Qat'e al-Raas, (chopping off the head), meaning that the global system must be defeated by attacking its head, ie the US.
Al Zawahiri, however, has revived Al Azzam's strategy of focusing on Muslim lands. He calls his strategy Khal'ee Al-Yadd (chopping off the hand), designed to destroy the tentacles of the "infidel" in Muslim countries.
He divides Muslim countries into five circles of "possibilities". The first consists of Afghanistan and Iraq which Al Zawahiri believes Al Qaida can capture, once the Americans run away.
In the second circle, are Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, along with Algeria.
The third circle includes Israel-Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
In the fourth circle are Chechnya, Uzbekistan, East Turkistan (Xingjian) and Thailand.
The fifth circle includes all other Muslim states, or states with large Muslim minorities such as India and the Philippines, which Al Zawahiri hopes to conquer.
Al Zawahiri has taken other measures that indicate that Bin Laden is either dead or no longer in control.
He has replaced key commanders of Al Qaida linked groups, including in Iraq and Algeria, by Egyptians close to himself and with no history of ties to Bin Laden.
"You could say the Egyptian mafia has taken over," says one expert. Al Zawahiri has acknowledged Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader, as Emir Al Momeneen (commander of the faithful) and caliph of a putative Islamic empire. This ends Bin Laden's position as the "shaikh" and ultimate authority for jihadists.
Bin Laden's name has almost disappeared from jihadist propaganda.
Al Zawahiri has also abandoned Bin Laden's rule of never making deals with Shiites, whom he regarded as heretics and Sunni Salafists such as the Muslim Brotherhood whom he branded as "compromisers".
Adopting a more pragmatic approach, Al Zawahiri has evoked tactical alliances with the Islamic Republic in Iran and its clients such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He has also sent feelers to Hamas, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, to coordinate strategies.
The good news is that the threat of domestic attack is less. The bad news is that the "War on Terror" is a lot more complex.
If Teheri is right, the US needs to adjust it's strategy to help Muslim countries avoid takeovers by the radicals. But this may be impossible since Bush has so fully alienated nearly all the world's one billion Muslims.
However, the US could encourage our allies to work at this issue through diplomacy and development -- which is obviously more their strength than ours right now.