At the beginning of September, New America published a paper, based on recovered al-Qaeda documents, which concluded that there was “no evidence of cooperation” between the terrorist group and the Islamic Republic of Iran. New America’s study lauds itself for taking an approach that “avoids much of the challenge of politicization” in the discussion of Iran’s relationship with al-Qaeda. This is, to put it mildly, questionable.
A narrative gained currency in certain parts of the foreign policy community during the days of the Iraq war, and gained traction since the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in 2014, that Iran can be a partner in the region, at least against (Sunni) terrorism, since Tehran shares this goal with the West. Under President Barack Obama, this notion became policy: the US moved to bring Iran’s revolutionary government in from the cold, to integrate it into the international system. Continue reading →
In less than a week, it will be the seventeenth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s “Plane’s Operation”, the assault on the United States. It is a vertiginous enough reflection that many of us have been alive more years since 11 September 2001 than before it, and positively alarming that many of those who will soon move into the government, media, and other leading societal institutions will have been born after an event that still shapes so much of the international scene. As Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan put it in The Eleventh Day: The Ultimate Account of 9/11 (2011), we are left with “the brief name ‘9/11’,” the context and meaning stripped away all this time later. The book is a useful overview of an event that should always be to some degree fresh in mind, though it is not without its problems in its analytical sections. Continue reading →
Five years on from the military coup d’etat in Egypt that brought to power Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the problems of the country—political, economic, demographic, security—remain as intractable as ever. Indeed, in many cases, the problems are worse than before. Among the problems that are noticeably worse now than in 2013 is security, specifically the Islamic State (Daesh) insurgency in the Sinai. Continue reading →
Carter Malkasian sets out in Illusions of Victory: The Anbar Awakening and the Rise of the Islamic State to upend the conventional understanding of the campaign against the Islamic State (IS) movement, known at the time as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), in Anbar province of western Iraq. Continue reading →
Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a speech on 15 February 2018, entitled, “Glad Tidings of Victory To Our People in Egypt”. Al-Zawahiri’s address was the eighth episode of the “Brief Messages To A Victorious Umma (Islamic community or nation)” series. Al-Zawahiri reiterated a theme al-Qaeda has used many times, by referring to the downfall of Muhammad Morsi, the first elected president of Egypt, who was deposed in a military coup d’état in July 2013. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, had taken part in elections and had tried to find a compact with the non-Islamist sections of the Egyptian state and society, including the felul, the remnants of the fallen tyranny, notably in the military, police, bureaucracy, and judiciary, plus the media and business class. It had served Morsi no good: severely constrained in his authority, Morsi’s government unravelled quickly when these forces came together with foreign sponsors for a putsch. The old regime was restored in Egypt, with the support of Western countries, despite being more violent than ever. For al-Qaeda, the lesson of this episode is clear: without a violent revolution that creates tabula rasa, Islamist politics will not get a chance. An English-language transcript of al-Zawahiri’s speech was made available by al-Qaeda’s media apparatus and is reproduced below. Continue reading →
Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, made a speech on 26 January 2018, entitled, “After Seven Years Where Is the Deliverance?” The speech built the case that the “Arab spring” uprisings failed because they tried to make changes within the framework of the nation-state, to be incremental, and to make accommodations with the fallen regimes, rather than radical “purification” by launching coordinated jihadist revolutions that respected no frontier, violently uprooted the old order, and implemented the shari’a. An English transcript of the speech was released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab Media station and is reproduced below. Continue reading →