Algihadya, an Egyptian Jihadi blogger, has posted an essay by Zadi al-Taqwa titled “Al-Qaeda and the Battle for Oil.” I don’t know where Zadi usually hangs his electronic hat, but his essay is making the rounds on the forums. Zadi argues that AQ has focused on attacking U.S. oil interests since its inception in 1998 because it understands that oil is vital to the U.S. economy, which it wants to damage. This is one of the main reasons it went into Iraq, where it could thwart U.S. plains to obtain cheap oil and where it could damage the oil infrastructure of a major oil producer. There is no mention of religious justifications or Prophetic precedents for attacking oil; it’s purely economic in Zadi’s analysis.
According to Zadi, the price of oil is sky high today because of a variety of factors (quoting):
1) Reduction of the level of oil production in the United States of America
2) Reduction of the level of oil production in Iraq because of the war
3) Rising level of demand for oil in China and India, which are expanding economically
4) Reduction of the dollar’s buying power and rising levels of inflation
5) Many countries and their central banks are decoupling their currencies from the dollar and seeking refuge in currency baskets.
6) The strength of the Euro as a currency led to the decline of the value of the dollar; moreover, the value of renminbi, the currency of China, is rising.
AQ will continue to attack oil infrastrure and the price of oil will continue to rise. For example, on May 30 2008 AQ in Yemen launched an attack on a refinery in Aden, which AQ Central officially embraced. After this date, the price of oil went up to $122.80 per barrel of oil.
Document (Arabic): aq-and-the-battle-for-oil (القاعدة ومعركة النفط)
So is this representative of a conflict, so to speak, between religious/cultural analysis and calculating realist analysis within AQ? That is, I don’t imagine it’s very common that religious justification is subjugated to hardheaded geopolitical or economic analysis in AQ’s strategy . . . maybe that’s just my own bias.
I don’t think there is a real distinction between the two. Hardcore believers like Yusuf al-Ayiri also write long treatises on the economic vulnerabilities of the U.S. The realist vs. religious dichotomy doesn’t work.
How can there be a dichotomy? That would be confusing the end with the means.
The end: subjugation of the kafir. The means: destruction of his personnel and interests, whatever they may be. Otherwise they’d just sit around praying for divine retribution.
perhaps because I’ve met some of these ‘jihadis,’ I have no illusions about their intelligence. The average al-Qaeda “member” speaks several languages, has travelled vastly, has both technical knowledge of weapons and computers and tactical knowledge of guerilla warfare and counter-intelligence – as well as how to evade security systems at airports and “social engineering” – read ‘Omar Nasiri’s “Inside the Jihad” for a review of the training camps in Afghanistan for a more accurate picture of what goes on there.
I think the Western picture of jihadis, outside of the intelligence circles which study them actively (I’m thinking of Michael Scheuer and Bob Baer, amongst others) has the image of cave-men, literally, who can’t function in the modern world and live in resentment of it. That may be true of the Taliban or some of the lower recruits to al-Qaeda, but not of their elite ‘officers’, so to speak. Read John Gray (‘al-Qaeda and modernity’) and others…
While I’m deeply worried about their fanaticism (as a muslim, I think the theological distortions disturb me more than they might non-muslims, who may be perfectly happy to take al-Qaeda ideologes at their word that they are ‘true muslims’); their comfort with indiscriminate warfare and technology actually suggests that they are more than accepting of technology and modernity (and hard-headed analyses of the West) than not. Mohammed Atta had a degree in architectural engineering, and most of the ‘top-level’ recruits have science and engineering degrees… as one muslim scholar pointed out, they tend to lack studies in humanities and Islamic law/theology, and take after the ‘Salafi’ trend of individualizing reading & interpretation of Islamic law and texts.
Dawud, right you are. But I don’t think underestimating Jihadis is confined to Westerners. Check out my post today about Naji.