Sayf al-‘Adl and al-Qa’ida’s Historical Leadership

In light of the widely reported news that Sayf al-‘Adl (also spelled Saif al-Adel) has taken the reins of operational leadership within al-Qa’ida in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden, I thought it would be useful to Jihadica’s readers to provide a bit of context about this man and about the significance, if any, of these reports (see, e.g., Musharbash and Bergen), all of which rely on the testimony of Noman Benotman, a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. First of all, it would be more correct to say that Sayf al-‘Adl remains the operational leader of al-Qa’ida rather than that he has lately assumed this rank. (Nor is this the first time that Benotman has called attention in the press to Sayf’s operational re-emergence in al-Qa’ida. He discussed Sayf’s release from Iran and return to headquarters, as it were, with Der Speigel last October)

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Crowdsourcing the Revolution

Several weeks ago, Leah noted the appearance of five new letters sent by Sayf al-`Adl, one of the most senior al-Qaeda members, to Abu al-Walid al-Masri.  This is in addition to the five letters Sayf sent at the end of 2010 that Vahid ably summarized here.  Given Sayf’s historical importance to the organization, his reported leadership role in the tribal areas, and the uncertainties surrounding the succession to Bin Laden, I thought readers might be interested in what he’s thinking.  I’ll summarize some of their contents over the next few days. As of Jan-March, when the letters were written, Sayf was preoccupied with the Arab Spring and its implications for al-Qaeda.  Al-Qaeda has been justly accused of being on the sidelines of the revolutions but somewhat unfairly dinged for not grasping the technological advances that have enabled them.  Sayf, for one, sees the power of social media and what it

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No New Bin Ladens

The title is both a prediction and a plea.  The prediction is that Bin Laden is sui generis and none of his successors will combine in one person the man’s organizational skills, media savvy, and personal charisma. The plea is that experts on al-Qaeda resist the temptation to answer the media’s question, “Who Will Be the Next Bin Laden?”  Putting forward a name risks misunderstanding Bin Laden’s unique role and capabilities, which are not likely to be replicated in a single person.  It also risks elevating the global stature of others who might otherwise fail to win the international following that Bin Laden won. Note that answering this question is different from answering the perfectly innocuous question, “Who Will Run al-Qaeda?”  That’s a question about an organizational role, not a person.  Leah has provided the best answer so far. Readers may wonder why I am harping on experts and not

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Jihadi Dilemmas in Syria

A few days ago, it was reported that Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the radical Jordanian ideologue, had issued a fatwa supporting the revolts in Syria (see here, here and here, for instance). This struck me as odd, since al-Maqdisi has been in prison since September 2010 and has been quiet ever since, presumably because the prison authorities do not allow him to write anything. A quick look at the relevant page on his website, however, reveals that it was not al-Maqdisi himself who wrote the fatwa, but Abu l-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, a member of the Shari’a Council of al-Maqdisi’s website. Despite the obvious mix-up by several media, the fatwa itself is nevertheless quite interesting and worth another look. Syria Al-Shinqiti has already expressed his enthusiasm for the recent protests in Egypt (see for example Brynjar’s post) but, as the revolutions keep on coming, the questions posed to scholars such as al-Shinqiti become

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The End of an Era

Like most others, I knew this day would come but I still can’t believe it’s here.  And to come at such a momentous time in Middle Eastern history, with the Arab Spring and the end of our combat presence in Iraq. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the stock thinking about the implications of Bin Laden’s demise has given way to careful analysis when finally faced with the fact.  Al-Qaeda will certainly go on and may catch its breath with the likes of Zawahiri and Awlaki, but it is Bin Laden who was the driving force of the organization and much has died with him.  Like al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda Central will continue zombie-like to wreak havoc but it will never be the same.  This truly is the end of an era and more politically savvy Islamists will now take center stage. There are a legion of big questions about the

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