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The Phenomenon of Al Zawahiri - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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After almost four months, Ayman al Zawahiri responded to the invitation extended by Al Sahab to answer questions that were directed to Al Qaeda’s second man via the internet so let us look at certain meanings contained in the first press conference held by the Al Qaeda ideologue in which he gave verbal answers to 94 questions.

Irrespective of the contradictions and inconsistencies expressed in al Zawahiri’s positions whereby he repeatedly criticized the Hamas movement and praised the bombings in Algeria and heralded the beginning of the downfall of the United States, the actual truth that was revealed by the so-called press conference held by Al Qaeda’s second man was the idea of the press conference itself.

Over the past two years, most of the extremist organisations that emerged all over the world are local networks in terms of affiliation, planning and execution, and consequently, they are not directly affiliated to Al Qaeda, however, they are definitely identified with it.

The fact that the Al Qaeda movement dissolved and transformed into networks scattered horizontally rather than vertically generated a need for the leadership to survive and defend its position even via the media.

It is clear that the Al Qaeda movement is experiencing confusion on the organizational level following a blow to its infrastructure as a result of the pursuit of its leaders and activists and this is directly reflected in the movement’s ideas.

The difference, for instance, between Al Qaeda and Hamas is, in fact, a difference between a global and local Islamist organization. This might explain why al Zawahiri criticised the killing of Israeli children by Hamas rockets. However, he defended other bombings in which innocent people were killed in Algeria and Iraq for example. He repeatedly praised the New York and Washington attacks and these are contradictory positions.

In recent years, the attacks that were launched by Islamist extremist groups demonstrated the dominance of the local or national formula of armed Islamist movements whether in Palestine, Iraq or Pakistan.

This reality reveals the retreat of the “global jihad” theory, which was the slogan raised, called for and promoted by Al Qaeda. Nothing has remained of this globalized “jihad” after the movement’s capabilities and leadership was struck in Afghanistan, but all that is left is the media presence in the form of video recordings, statements and recorded messages and so on and so forth.

Ayman al Zawahiri’s insistence to appear from time to time, and fabricating press conferences that may take up to four months to be completed, is nothing more than an attempt by Al Qaeda to maintain its struggle as a model and idea after it proved to be impossible to continue as an organizational entity.

Once again Ayman al Zawahiri acts as if he has shifted from the position of Al Qaeda’s operations and military planner and ideologue to become more like a minister of information or Al Qaeda spokesman and perhaps we will soon be able to read his blog on the internet.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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