Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is Al-Qaeda over? Egyptian security experts sound off | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Although Egyptian experts agree that the Al-Qaeda organization is effectively finished, a decade after the 11 September 2001 attacks against the United States – the most notorious terrorist operation for which the organization claimed responsibility – they also agree that small armed groups continue to exist that have adopted Al-Qaeda’s ideology in several Muslim, Arab, and western countries. These experts assert that the influence of these groups is limited and is on the verge of disappearing thanks to the growing awareness of youths and the eruption of the Arab spring revolts.

In an Email interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Yasser al-Sirri, the director of the Islamic Media Monitor, stressed that: “after the revolution in Egypt, the justifications for the presence of such secret organizations in Egypt have ended. It is the duty of every single Egyptian to promote the jihad of development and call for Islam with wisdom and good counsel. Egypt’s reconstruction and resurgence require the efforts of everyone in order to provide a life of dignity to all the sons of the Egyptian people so that Egypt would regain its stature and leading role in the ummah [worldwide Islamic community]. All the sons of the people – individuals as well as groups – should unify their efforts to raise Egypt and act to return society to the righteous path and fight ignorance, poverty, and disease. It is time for action and there is no room for clandestine or armed action any more. This applies to all the countries of the Arab world that are all my homelands”. Asked whether the end of the Al-Qaeda organization came with the end of Bin Laden and the eruption of the “Arab Spring”, Al-Sirri added: “The problem lies with the United States and the West. In my opinion, they are trying to nip the Arab spring in the bud. The United States and the West should change their policy toward the Arabs and Muslims so that all would live in prosperity, amity, and peace. Otherwise, the Arabs would continue to resist against occupation and hegemony”.

The director of the Islamic Media Monitor was asked about Al-Qaeda in 2001 and Al-Qaeda in 2011, especially after the Arab revolts. He said: “Al-Qaeda is like a college that taught and trained youths on its way of thinking in training camps in Afghanistan. At the end of the training course, Al-Qaeda selected those that excelled and recruited them in its ranks just like college instructors and they became members of the organization. The rest would return to their countries not as recruited members of the organization but promoting its ideology. Thus, Al-Qaeda was like a college that would graduate large numbers every scholastic semester. These graduates know their goals and prepare themselves automatically to accomplish these goals accurately. These groups would be in contact with the mother organization spiritually and organizationally. They may not even have any organizational connection. Nevertheless, any operation they carry out accomplishes the goals of Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda adopts it. The perpetrators of an operation may even present it as a gift to Al-Qaeda, as was the case in the Filka Island operation in Kuwait and the operation in Djerba in Tunisia. Consequently, Al-Qaeda has turned more into an ideological affiliation organization than an organizational membership one. The United States and the West made a big mistake when they assumed that the Al-Qaeda organization is a hierarchical organization and that like other similar organizations it can be eradicated with the eradication or containment of their leaders”. On the manner in which the West dealt with “terrorists” after 11 September 2001 and the way it is dealing with them at present after the 2011 revolts, Al-Sirri asserted: “The West betrayed its principles and values on which it keeps harping. In general, it is dealing with the Arabs and Muslims in a racist manner, especially after 11 September 2001. For example, new laws were passed and old laws were amended to become more racist and target Arabs and Muslims. The problem is that the United States and the West know no other language except that of force, fiats, hegemony, and control. Only three laws govern relations: force, knowledge, and interests. They have governed relations since the establishment of nations and this is how they will remain. The racist approach is not new to the history of the West. The West should reconsider its racist policies and stop the wave of animosity against the Arabs and Muslims in order for peace and security to prevail”.

Major General Dr Adel Suleiman, strategic expert and director of the International Center for Future and Strategic Studies, says that the Al-Qaeda organization is on the verge of ending. He added: “10 Years after the events of 11 September, Al-Qaeda has turned into a mere symbol or trademark”. In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Suleiman added: “The Al-Qaeda organization is ending, especially after the US forces killed its historic leader Osama Bin Laden a few months ago”. Major General Suleiman justified the imminent end of the Al-Qaeda organization by saying: “Times have changed and the thinking of the youths – that constitute the backbone of such organizations – has changed. In the 1990s, Al-Qaeda used to exploit the idea of fighting Jews and Christians to recruit youths. This approach is no longer convincing for many young men. Generations have changed and their beliefs have also changed. There are no more frail excuses to kill innocents”. Major General Suleiman added that the popular revolts will deprive these dispersed organizations of much of their raison d’etre. These organizations sometimes resorted to the excuse of rebelling against the infidel rulers of corrupt regimes. Now that these regimes have fallen and the rulers have been overthrown with some of them imprisoned, this justification does not exist anymore. Hence, these organizations will lose many of their supporters. The extremist organizations tried violence to change the corrupt ruling regimes and failed miserably. This failure led rulers to tighten their security grip on their peoples. The peaceful approach of the youths succeeded whereas arms failed. Thus, I do not expect these organizations to grow in the near future”.

Security affairs expert Major General Fuad Allam, the former official in the intelligence department of State Security, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There has been no presence for the Al-Qaeda organization since 2001 to date. Anyone that says otherwise is implementing a US scheme to entrench wrong concepts. Al-Qaeda as an organization was totally destroyed in 2001. Its leaders are in hiding in unknown and dispersed locations; they are unable to do anything now”. Allam pointed out that the Arab revolts will not make the activities of these dispersed organizations decline because they have somewhat devious principles and ideas. They will continue to constitute an uncalculated threat to some Arab countries”. Allam added: “Prior to the 25 January revolution in Egypt, we witnessed some radical ideas that led to terrorist bombings and operations against diverse targets in the Sinai, Cairo, and Alexandria. This shows that some youths continue to have such wrong ideas. This is the real danger that threatens the whole world”.