It’s late, I know, but I couldn’t let Mustafa Abu al-Yazid’s interview with al-Jazeera go uncommented. I found it absolutely fascinating. My hat is off to Ahmad Zaydan for finding Mustafa and asking him excellent questions.
International media focused on the A-bomb remark, but this was neither a very significant or surprising part of the interview (here I agree with Dan Drezner). It was just a quick unrehearsed side comment in an answer to a question about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
The most significant part of the interview was Abu al-Yazid’s endorsement of Hamas. “We support the sincere mujahidin in Palestine, even the mujahidin of Hamas. We support them and help them; they are our brothers; we and they have the same ideology and the same method,” Abu al-Yazid said. This is quite a different message from that of Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who have been relentless in their criticism of Hamas in the past few years.
Not surprisingly, this caused quite a debate on the forums (see also here and here), where Hamas has long been subject of criticism (see e.g. here, here and here).
Abu al-Yazid’s statement was clearly an attempt by al-Qaida to mend fences with the broader Islamist movement and reach out to a wider audience. His choice of podium was surely no coincidence, for he is well aware that most al-Jazeera viewers are sympathetic to Hamas.
It has been a while since I heard a top al-Qaida member speak as clearly and straightforwardly as Abu al-Yazid did here. He gave simple and seemingly honest answers to questions about al-Qaida’s organizational structure in Afghanistan, attacks called off against the US, the issue of two Islamic emirates (Iraq and Afghanistan), and many other things. Rob at the Shack is also right that overall, Abu al-Yazid’s remarks were not outlandishly radical when seen from the Arab street (the nuclear remark apart, obviously).
With the Abu al-Yazid interview, al-Qaida undoubtedly regained some of the popular support lost over the past few years. It is a reminder of how good al-Qaida can be at PR when they want to.
Watch the whole thing, look at the extracts or read it – I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
You can watch it here:
THanks for this, and your ongoing work. A quick question, have you seen anything about the current trouble in Xinjiang or ETIM statements? I have been intrigued by the curious absence…
Here’s a jihadi vid about Xinjiang that has cropped up.
unfortunately, am in a part of the world that means I cannot access that….any hints as to who has released it?
In addition to the openness to Hamas and other salafi-jihadi movements – another interesting aspect of the interview is Yazid’s comments on the Shabaab in Somalia. He notes that while the organizations have not officially merged, they are ideologically in line and that this relationship is more important than and actual merger. I believe this is a very smart tactic because AQ can claim the successes of such local movements as their own — even if the Shabaab know that an official merger might not behoove them on a grassroots level.
The comments made by Mustafa al-Yazid are VERY significant, because it shows two things:
1] Al-Qaeda realises the long-term importance of having Hamas as a sort of struggle-buddy/Jihadist-in-arms.
2] Al-Qaeda realises and fears the actual possibility that they may wake up one morning and find Hamas on the other side of the fence in total cooperation with the US and even recognising Israel…
Mustafa al-Yazid cleverly slipped that supportive comment about Hamas, in my opinion, because the past Hamas-bashing by Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Maqdisi have created the very real possibility that Hamas may soon find itself forced to talk to the US and it’s allies and that would mean absolutely zero credible opposition to Israel, if Hamas did talk to the US and take steps to talks with the US…
Such a dishonourable scenario is a honour-driven jihadist’s worst nightmare, so I don’t fnd it surprising that after all this time (and hatred towards Hamas) the storm of critique from Al-Qaeda Central is lessening.
Just my thoughts…
BTW, GREAT website! Thought-provoking and insightful!