Monday, October 25, 2010

My First Article Published on Foreign Policy Magazine's AFPAK Channel: "Al-Qa'ida Central's Media Operation Falls Behind"

The article was published with this image, a screen grab from an AQC video featuring the group's American spokesman Adam Gadahn, who I discuss at some length in the piece.

I'm excited to write that my first article published on Foreign Policy magazine's "AFPAK Channel" (Afghanistan-Pakistan) came out today. In the piece, I focus on the decline of Al-Qa'ida Central's (AQC) media wing, the Al-Sahab (Clouds) Media Foundation, in recent years and raise the argument that other jihadi-takfiri groups' media campaigns are now "the model" to follow, particularly Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP; Qaeda, Qaida). The article also raises the issue of whether AQC's attempt to root itself in the Pakistani militant milieu and the possibility that AQAP is making an effort to include more online militants in their media campaign with the publication of an English online magazine produced by an American citizen.

The first paragraph reads:

"In the span of a few days earlier this month, al Qaeda Central's (AQC) Al-Sahab (Clouds) Media Foundation released a series of video and audio messages from Osama bin Laden and prominent U.S.-born spokesman Adam Gadahn on the severe flooding and resulting humanitarian crisis in Pakistan. This spate of releases strongly resembles the strategic response of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to severe flooding in 2009 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the year before in the eastern Hadramaut region of Yemen. This response leads the reader to question whether AQC's current media response to the flooding in Pakistan is perhaps even modeled after AQAP's earlier response, which in turn raises the larger question of to what degree, if any, AQC is still the model to follow, particularly in terms of media production, or whether it has instead begun to copy successful media campaigns by its regional affiliates like AQAP."


Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Fourth Guest Piece on Prof. Juan Cole's Blog: "HAMAS' Rhetoric as Spoiler"

"There is no escape from the Torrent of Fire" (except maybe this way)

I'm excited to write that today I have a fourth guest piece on Informed Comment, the widely-read blog of Prof. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan's Department of History, who is a noted expert on the modern Middle East and South Asia, with a specialty in Shi'i Islam. The essay is entitled, "HAMAS' Rhetoric as Spoiler." The piece examines the group's late August and early September attacks on Israeli settlers near the cities of Hebron and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. I analyze them, briefly, through a discussion of the U.S. government policy of sidelining/ignoring HAMAS in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

I suggest that HAMAS (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya; "Islamic Resistance Movement") has little reason to act as anything but what it is at present, a spoiler in the ongoing negotiations. For the piece, I examined HAMAS' own statements about the attacks and its dialogue, usually mutually hostile, with its main rival, the Fatah party that dominates the Palestinian National Authority government.

My first guest editorial, "The Islamic State of Iraq’s Positions on Iraqi National Elections: The Continuing Decline of a Self-styled Jihadi State," can be read HERE.

My second guest editorial, "The Death of a Caliph: Will the Reported Killings of the Islamic State of Iraq's Two Senior Leaders Spell the End of the Self-styled Jihadi State?", can be read HERE.

My third guest editorial, "From 'Martyrdom' Videos to Jihadi Journalism in Somalia," can be read HERE.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

IN PICTURES: Four Year Anniversary of the Founding of the Islamic State of Iraq

"Four years since the coming of the Islamic State (State of Islam)"

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) is marking its four-year anniversary. An umbrella for several jihadi-insurgent groups operating in the country, the largest being Al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers/Iraq (AQI), the ISI's formation was announced in a video released in October 2006. Its formation came just over four months following the killing of AQI's founder, the Jordanian Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, in a June U.S. airstrike.

"Plucked heads....flying body parts: The Islamic State of Iraq...4 Years"

The ISI's original amir (leader), Abu 'Umar al-Husayni al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi al-Baghdadi, and "minister of war," Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, who was also head of AQI, were killed in a U.S. airstrike near Tikrit on April 18/19. The current senior leadership of the ISI is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (amir), Abu 'Abdullah al-Baghdadi (deputy amir), and Nasir li'Din Allah Abu Sulayman (minister of war).

Artwork produced by cyber jihadi-takfiris has been trickling out in "honor" of the anniversary, some of which is included in this post.

"The Islamic State of Iraq will remain with God's permission"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

IN PICTURES: Hizbullah Prepares to Welcome Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on His State Visit to Lebanon Today

"Welcome" in both Arabic and Persian; cyber artwork produced by Hizbullah to welcome Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his state visit to Lebanon today. The symbol on the Iranian flag, stylized calligraphy of the word "Allah" ("the [one] God"), is side-by-side with the Cedar tree emblem of Lebanon. Red flowers are in the foreground; in Shi'i artwork red flowers (often tulips) represent martyrdom (red flowers, in this case poppies, are also used as symbols for "martrys" in the famous poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae in 1915 during the First World War).

The Lebanese Twelver Shi'i political party and paramilitary movement (Hezbollah, Hizballah, Hizbollah), is preparing to welcome Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Lebanon during his state visit today (Oct. 13). He will meet with both Lebanon's president, Michel Sulayman (Suleiman), and prime minister, Sa'd al-Hariri, and will tour southern Lebanon, including Hizbullah strongholds such as the village of Bint Jbeil. It will be his first state visit to Lebanon since 2005.

Ahmadinejad's visit has been heavily criticized as "provocative" by members of the March 14 political bloc in parliament. His visit is largely seen as public support for the Iranian government's key regional ally in Lebanon, Hizbullah. Unsurprisingly, the United States government has also criticized the planned visit.

The party has actively been promoting its Lebanese identity though key tensions remain due to its continued adherence to the concept of wilayat al-faqih (authority of the jurisconsult) as detailed by Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhollah Khumayni, the guide of the Islamization of Iran's 1978-1979 revolution.

Hizbullah is a product of the Lebanese historical and social milieu, despite claims by some analysts, yet it cannot be denied that the party, or more accurately its leadership, is a key ally of the Iranian government in the region. Informal data suggests that most of the party's members, however, do not follow the religious opinions and rulings of Iran's current "supreme leader," al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei, who claims to be a marja' al-taqlid (reference point for emulation) despite his questionable scholarship (or lack thereof, as he essentially mimics Khumayni). Most Hizbullah members reportedly follow Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid 'Ali Sistani in al-Najaf, Iraq, or, before his July 4 death, Lebanon's resident Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. Immediately following the latter's death, Hizbullah made a naked bid to win over followers of Fadlallah by dedicating much space to his obituary, viewing, and funeral, despite disagreements between the party's leadership, headed by al-Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, and the grand ayatullah.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula Releases Second Issue of English-language Internet Magazine "Inspire"

UPDATE (September 27, 2011): New 7th issue of INSPIRE has just been released.

UPDATE (July 19, 2011):
Images and non-militant download links for the just-released sixth issue of Inspire HERE.

UPDATE (March 29, 2011): Analysis & non-militant URL download links for the just-released fifth issue of Inspire

UPDATE (January 16, 2011): Find non-militant URL download links to the just-released fourth issue of Inspire HERE.

UPDATE (November 20):
Find non-militant URL download links & image grabs of key pages from the just-released third issue of Inspire HERE. The new "special issue" focuses on AQAP's UPS printer bomb plot.

UPDATES (October 12):
Read analysis of the new magazine by Prof. Jarret Brachman, formerly of the U.S. Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center and Dr. Thomas Hegghammer, an expert in Islamism of all stripes in Saudi Arabia. Yemen expert and Princeton Near Eastern Studies doctoral candidate Gregory Johnsen, who is thankfully back to blogging, weighs in with insights on the state of AQAP recently and the debate on whether or not to put U.S. citizens in or associated with the group on assassination lists.

Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP; Qaeda, Qaida) media outlet, the Al-Malahem (Epics) Media Foundation, has the second issue of Inspire magazine, its purported English-language jihadi-takfiri Internet magazine (Inspire #2, Inspire 2). United States citizen Samir Khan, who is believed to be hiding in Yemen, probably edits the magazine. It is remarkably similar to his edited series of English magazines from 2009, Jihad Recollections, which was produced in the U.S. The first issue of Inspire was released in July to much (overdone) hullabaloo in the U.S. media.

Noteworthy articles in the new issue include a first-person account by Khan of his decision to join AQAP's media outlet and an article by the radical American-Muslim preacher Anwar al-'Awlaqi (Awlaki, Aulaqi) about the Mardin Conference, a meeting in late March of Sunni Muslim religious scholars from around the world. One of the major results of the conference was the issuing of an opinion historically contextualizing the fourteenth century Sunni Muslim jurist Ibn Taymiyyah's fatwa on jihad and territories ruled by the Il-Khanid Mongols. He permitted the Muslim Mamluks in Egypt to wage war against the newly-converted Muslim Il-Khanid Mongols in Syria and parts of Iraq and Iran. Readable images of these two articles are below.

The PDF may be downloaded via:

The password to unpack the file is: Hu.&hGgi/HlM*hgYsghL




Thursday, October 07, 2010

IN PICTURES: Anwar al-'Awlaqi...Destroyer of the Americans (Screen Grab from Forthcoming Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula Video?)

A possible screen grab, with added graphic design, of the radical American Muslim preacher Anwar al-'Awlaqi (Awlaki, Aulaqi), possibly taken from a forthcoming video release from Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). He is labeled "Destroyer of the Americans (Qaher al-Amrikan). The image was teased a few weeks ago on jihadi-takfiri web sites without showing his face.

Anwar al-‘Awlaqi
(often spelled “Awlaki”), the New Mexico-born U.S. citizen-turned radical Muslim preacher currently hiding in Yemen, has seen his stock rise among transnational jihadi-takfiris over the past ten months. Since being linked to accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army major accused of gunning down thirteen of his fellow soldiers last November, al-‘Awlaqi has received a great deal of attention from cyber militants, particularly those active on English-language jihadi-takfiri Internet forums and web sites.

He has also reportedly been connected to a number of other high-profile cases, the most infamous of which is the failed Christmas Day 2009 attempt by a young Nigerian, ‘Umar Farouq ‘Abdulmuttallab, to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner. In late July, a 20-year-old Virginia man who converted to Islam in 2008, Zachary Chesser, was arrested and indicted for allegedly attempting to join the Somali insurgent-jihadi group Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior-Youth). He reportedly had been in contact via e-mail with al-‘Awlaqi.

Once put forward as a moderate Muslim voice, al-‘Awlaqi is now believed to be an active associate, if not member, of Al-Qa‘ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is based in Yemen. His rise from a relatively little-known preacher at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia to a well-known jihadi-takfiri ideologue embraced by AQAP and sought out for assassination by the U.S. government has been remarkable. Al-‘Awlaqi’s notoriety has also benefited from the disproportionate amount of attention paid to him since his online contact with Hasan were made public late last year.

The preacher’s public persona and influence, both within the transnational jihadi-takfiri community and in the U.S. news media, have been shaped to a large degree by his extensive online footprint. Hundreds, if not thousands, of his audio and video lectures, as well as a number of his writings, are available on the Internet via YouTube and other web sites including, for a time, a personal blog. The topics of his sermons and lectures range from the historical (lives of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions) to contemporary (jihad against the U.S. as a religious imperative of American Muslims).

After being under an intense media spotlight for months following Major Hasan’s shooting spree, Al-‘Awlaqi was publicly embraced by AQAP in late April in an audio message from the group’s leader, Abu Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi. The AQAP leader pledged to defend the preacher and retaliate if either the U.S. or the Yemeni government attempted to harm him. A month later in late May, a “first” video interview in Arabic conducted by AQAP’s media outlet, the Al-Malahim (Epics) Media Foundation, with al-‘Awlaqi was released to jihadi-takfiri web sites. In the interview, he proudly takes credit for instructing Hasan and ‘Abdulmuttallab and praises their actions. The titling of the interview suggests that al-‘Awlaqi will be featured in future AQAP video productions.

In July, a glossy English-language e-magazine was released to jihadi-takfiri web sites, reportedly by AQAP. Entitled Inspire, the magazine is suspected of being the work of Samir Khan, a radical American Muslim currently in Yemen who has designed similar e-magazines in the past, possibly working in tandem with al-‘Awlaqi.

Al-‘Awlaqi, aided by his charismatic preaching and fluency in both Arabic and idiomatic English, has certainly become an influential jihadi-takfiri ideologue whose influence has inspired terrorist attacks inside the United States. However, as Princeton doctoral candidate and Yemen and AQAP specialist Gregory Johnsen has convincingly argued, he has also received a disproportionate level of attention considering his actual importance to AQAP.

Although AQAP’s senior leadership, al-Wuhayshi, deputy leader and former Guantanamo inmate Sa‘id al-Shihri, and military commander Qasim al-Raymi, receive little attention in comparison to that given to al-‘Awlaqi, all three are much more important to AQAP’s operational capabilities than the New Mexico-born preacher.

While it is important to recognize and counter the potential influence of al-‘Awlaqi on Muslims vulnerable to radicalization whose first language is English, it is equally important to not artificially exaggerate or inflate his importance to AQAP and other transnational jihadi-takfiris. To do so is to misunderstand and possibly misaddress the threat posed by these groups and charismatic ideologues like al-‘Awlaqi.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Al-Qa'ida Central's Media Attempts to Tap into Popularity of "Twilight" Film Series

Al-Qa'ida Central's (AQC; Qaeda, Qaida) media outlet, the Al-Sahab (Clouds) Media Foundation, has a new intro animation segment. They are clearly attempting to tap into the popular Twilight film series in order to win recruits from among teenyboppers and young women (Yusuf al-'Uyayri and the folks at Al-Samood Jihadi Media would/will be glad to see the "descendants of al-Khansa' " finally being cultivated). Apparently even the most hardened transnational jihadi-takfiri cannot withstand the depth of Edward's eyes or Jacob's six-pack abs. Say it ain't so, Ayman.

[Jihadi-takfiri online sources suggest that a split is developing between Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Egyptian AQC contingent, who are solidly on Team Jacob, and Abu Yahya al-Libi and the Libyan cadre backing Team Edward. Details on what the sources say, HERE.]

NOTE: I thought it was pretty clear that this post was meant as satire. For the record, this post is satire.