Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Al-Qaeda and the Arab Spring

Mariann Ormholt looks at al-Qaeda and the Arab Spring:
"A study on al-Qaeda in the Arab Spring by Juan Zarate and David Gordon of Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS, suggests a number of other reasons why al-Qaeda has been sidelined in the uprisings...

"Nonetheless, al-Qaeda leaders have quickly sought to try and position their movement as having a role to play in the revolutions.

"Abu Yahya al-Libi, a leading al-Qaeda figure, even linked the rebellions with its efforts to challenge the United States. He said this had inspired the Arab world to demand change.

"Other prominent al-Qaeda figures such as current head Ayman al-Zawahiri and Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric, have also attempted to claim credit for the revolutions...

"At the same time, Benotman said that it was difficult for al-Qaeda to find a role in the revolutions. While the militants blame western powers for the hardships faced by Muslims, the popular protests addressed ineffective governance and local grievances, such as unemployment and corruption.

"In addition, while the protesters are mostly driven by temporal concerns, al-Qaeda continues to be driven by religious imperatives."

I'm dubious of the distinction between temporal and religious concerns in that last paragraph, as al-Qaeda has always articulated temporal concerns through a religious lens. This, however, does not detract from the fact that al-Qaeda has become even more marginal to Arab political developments than they were before. At the same time, I think we should take seriously the concern that their brand of transnational salafi jihadism could attract more of a following if the Arab world reverts to the status quo of 2010, much as it has gained supporters in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and in some Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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