The next punditry we’ll look at in the series is by Yaman Mukhaddab. Mukhaddab is one of the younger generation of AQ pundits and has quite a following judging from the cross-posting of his analyses to other forums. Yesterday, he posted his response to Bin Laden’s two recent messages.

Mukhaddab considers both messages–one directed to the West and one directed to the Muslim community–to be a single statement. They were split up, he contends, because they addressed different audiences that have different needs. For example, the message addressed to the Muslims had to be translated into Asian languages, whereas the message to the West had to be translated into European languages.

Taken together, the messages are “the dividing line” between the last stage of AQ and a new stage. The new stage will have the following features:

1) Bad days are coming for the Jihadis’ enemies. There will be simultaneous attacks in Europe and the United States very soon. The U.S. has received two messages and an offer of truce; ditto for Europe. Bin Laden’s third message is directed to the West collectively and since Islamic law often calls for things in three–three warnings, three requests for permission, three questions–this latest message should be considered his last before the simultaneous attacks on Europe and the U.S.

Locally, Egypt is going to be the new site of Jihadi action. Bin Laden’s method is to quietly have his followers prepare for attacks. Once preparations are ready, Bin Laden announces a jihad against a local tyrant. Soon after, an insurgent group mobilizes, a “region of savagery” appears (Abu Bakr Naji‘s term for a security vacuum), and the tyrant loses control of the region. This is what will happen in Egypt, probably in the Sinai, just as it happened in Pakistan with the Pakistani Taliban and in Somalia with the Mujahideen Youth Movement.

2) Glad tidings for the Muslim community: a direct attack against Israel is coming very soon. It will be just a matter of months. The reason it hasn’t happened yet is that the Jihadis are still organizing themselves into small clandestine groups that can carry out attacks. Lebanon is very soon to follow.

3) The Jihadis’ enemies surrounding Israel have been exposed. When Bin Laden talks about the “parties” and “groups” that are thwarting the liberation of Palestine, in the first instance he means Hezbollah (“The Party of God”) and in the second he means the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis who have accepted a truce with the government. According to Mukhaddab, the Salafis are Sururis beholden to Salman al-Awda (more on this below).

4) Bin Laden has exposed the hypocrisy of clerics who support liberating Palestine but who don’t want to do anything about the countries surrounding Israel which provide it protection.

At the end of his analysis, Mukhaddab summarizes the three main features of the new stage of AQ strategy: 1) a double strike on the U.S. and Europe; 2) the beginning of a direct war with Israel; and 3) the beginning of attacks on the countries around Israel. Mukhaddab finishes by saying that he would like to discuss the Islamic State of Iraq and how it fits into the plan, but he’ll save it for another time.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Mukhaddab is a bit of chicken little. At the end of 2006, he wrote an article in which he analyzed a statement by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, an AQ leader in Iraq. Muhajir had stated that the establishment of the Islamic State in Iraq heralded the end of one stage and the beginning of another. Mukhaddab believed his statement was indicative a strategic shift away from Iraq. I suppose he could claim Bin Laden’s recent messages fit with his analysis, but it’s a stretch, particularly since Zawahiri has played down expectations of an AQ strike on Israel before the U.S. pulls out of Iraq.  Nevertheless, Mukhaddab has picked up on the same point as `Asqalani: AQ is going to shift its attention to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Mukhaddab’s labeling of the sellout Salafis as “Sururis” and his claim that they are beholden to Salman al-Awda is worthy of note. The Sururis are Salafis who follow the teachings of Muhammad Surur, a cleric who blends Qutbism and Wahhabism. Sururism is big in Saudi Arabia, where it competes with the Muslim Brotherhood for control of the Islamist activism market. Salman al-Awda, a Saudi cleric and former firebrand, is often said to be a Sururi, but he’s denied it; indeed, it is a slippery label to apply. The Jihadis view the Sururis with contempt because they either a) don’t overthrow local Muslim rulers (at least in Saudi) or b) are not backing AQ in Iraq. On the last point, Akram Hijazi (a Jordanian professor) has reported that Sururi clerics are backing the Islamic Army of Iraq, the main competitor of AQ in Iraq.

Document (Arabic): 5-20-08-ekhlaas-yaman-mukhaddab-on-bin-laden-statement