The 159th edition of Al-Naba, the Islamic State’s (IS) newsletter, released on 6 December 2018, had a very interesting story on pages nine and ten about three “repentant officers” (dubat al-tayib) from Egypt who joined IS in the Sinai. The two trendlines this story highlighted were: (1) the movement of trained military cadres from the Arab states into IS’s security apparatus, as has been seen with the elements of Saddam Husayn’s fallen regime; and (2) the radicalisation of those Islamists previously prepared to work through the democratic process by the 2013 putsch in Egypt, and the violent crackdown afterwards, which shut down all peaceful paths to change. Al-Qaeda has made this point a staple of its propaganda for some time. 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
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
Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a speech today entitled, “Sham Will Submit to None Except Allah” or “Syria Will Submit to None Except Allah”. The short speech—around five minutes in length—was part of the “Brief Messages” series, “Brief Messages to a Victorious Nation 6,” to be exact. An English transcript of al-Zawahiri’s speech was released by As-Sabha Media and is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration, explanatory notes added, and interesting sections highlighted in bold.
On 5 January 2017, the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, gave a speech, “To Other Than Allah, We Will Not Bow: Brief Messages To A Victorious Nation, Part 5”. Today, al-Qaeda channels put out an English translation. The emphasis of the speech was restating al-Qaeda’s creed and methodology, specifically as it differs from that of the Islamic State (IS). One noticeable point was al-Zawahiri’s admonition against IS’s genocidal approach to the Shi’a: lay Shi’is should not be harmed, al-Zawahiri says; rather, their leaders should be killed for misguiding them and the masses converted to Sunnism. Al-Zawahiri also reiterates that al-Qaeda remains focused on the West and determined to carry out terrorism against it—regardless of whatever short-term strategic calculations currently have al-Qaeda de-emphasizing this aspect of its worldview and conduct. The speech is reproduced below with some transliteration editions and some sections bolded for emphasis. Continue reading
UPDATE: It has subsequently become clear that the “Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir” who was killed in Syria on 18 November 2016 was not Muhammad al-Saghir, who is profiled below. The slain man, like al-Saghir a veteran of the war get the Soviets out of Afghanistan and an Egyptian jihadist with close links to al-Qaeda, also used the kunya “Abu Afghan al-Muhajir”.
A week ago, it became clear that the air war being waged by the U.S.-led Coalition, which primarily targets the Islamic State (IS), was going to expand its campaign against the leadership of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaeda’s rebranded branch in Syria. In the evening of 18 November 2016, the Coalition killed Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, whose real name is Muhammad Ibrahim al-Saghir. Al-Saghir also uses the name Abd al-Rahman al-Ali. This killing would appear to be part of the Coalition’s new effort.
Al-Saghir has a long record as an important jihadi religious ideologue, though his exact relationship with al-Qaeda’s network remains unclear. Al-Saghir’s most lasting contribution to jihadi-salafism is as a key guide to the founder of IS, Ahmad al-Khalayleh. Continue reading
Last month, Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic published an interview with Hillary Clinton. At 8,000 words it can be off-putting to plough through, but I have now finally got around to it, and it is rather interesting. The interview focusses on the three areas where President Obama’s foreign policy has so conspicuously failed—Syria, Iran, and Israel—and also includes sections on Egypt and Libya, where the administration’s failure has been somewhat less in the news. Continue reading
David Kirkpatrick on The New York Times front-page brought the news everyone following Egypt already knows: the putschists in Cairo have reneged on their promises of pluralism and religious tolerance, which was part of their sell in bringing off the coup last July. Continue reading
The spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, gave a speech on 17 April 2014, “This Is Not Our Methodology, Nor Will It Ever Be”. This was released by al-Furqan Media, which also produced an English-language version, reproduced below.
Al-Adnani delivered the most ferocious attack from ISIS against al-Qaeda so far. Al-Adnani said that the dispute is not related to pledges of allegiance, which he says ISIS never had to al-Qaeda, but to al-Qaeda under Ayman al-Zawahiri deviating from the path of Usama bin Ladin, encouraging collaboration with heretics and unbelievers, and inciting divisions within the ranks of the jihadists, particularly by accepting the bay’a (pledge of allegiance) from the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, whom al-Adnani says owed his allegiance to ISIS.