Two Major Steps Forward in Studying al-Qaeda

First, Thomas Hegghammer has written a very valuable article on the rise and fall of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia (more properly, “al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula” or QAP).  Thomas’ study is valuable because he draws on a deep well of empirical research to challenge the three major explanatory models of Islamist militancy: ideological (as they believe, so shall they fight), structural (the system is pushing them to fight), or social movement (al-Qaeda is just the violent manifestation of a larger network of like-minded people).  Thomas argues instead that QAP’s material and human resources, organizational needs, and pan-Islamic orientation, coupled with the Saudi security environment in the early 2000s, were more determinative influences on the group’s behavior.  I’m interested to know what he makes of the latest round of militant activity and arrests in the kingdom. Second, Steve Corman of the COMOPS Monitor has created a blog aggregation service for counterterrorism

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Saudi Terror Arrests Summary, Government Points Finger at Iran

I’ve been collecting news stories on the terror suspects arrested in Saudi Arabia. Much of the reporting relies on Saudi security personnel and the Interior Ministry’s statement last week, so it should be read with due skepticism. There’s a lot to discuss, but I’ll save my comments for later. For the moment it’s worth noting that, as of today, the Saudis are now injecting a new piece of information into the story: the network was taking orders and receiving money from someone in Iran: The funding for the AQ cells in Saudi came from one of the major countries in the region in the form of Euros. (al-Qabas, “Oil Cell”) Instructions for the cells came from the same major country in the region in which leaders of AQ sought refuge, like the Egyptian Sayf al-Adl who is currently living there. (al-Qabas, “Oil Cell”) Below is my summary of all the

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Mauritania Again

In the news surrounding the Saudi statement on its capture of suspected terrorists over the past six months (see Marisa’s links here and here and here), one thing stood out: 40 Mauritanians were arrested in Saudi’s oil-rich Eastern Province, some (all?) of whom were part of a cell that planned to attack oil installations in the province. I’ve written before on the repeated blipping of Mauritania on my radar screen and Alle has helped me understand (here and here) the rise of Islamist militancy in that country. But why are so many involved in militancy in faraway places like Saudi and Afghanistan/Pakistan? Why not just join al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb? (Picture of one of the Mauritanians arrested in Saudi)

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Managing Savagery in Saudi Arabia

In the past six months, Saudi Arabia has arrested around 700 suspected terrorists.  Yesterday, the Interior Ministry released a statement which claimed that many of those arrested were trying to implement the blueprint laid out by Abu Bakr Naji in his Management of Savagery. Naji argues that if Jihadis want to take power, they need to abandon the idea of overthrowing governments in the Middle East.  Instead, they should focus on creating security vacuums.  They can do this by striking  a country’s crucial industries, like oil and tourism.  The government will respond by pulling in its security forces to protect the infrastructure.  This will open up the desired security vacuums (“regions of savagery” as he calls them) that Jihadis can move into and set up rudimentary governments.  These vacuums can be as small as city blocks or as large as a province.  Once they have gained control, the Jihadis can

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New Bin Laden Message

If you read Ekhlaas’ sign-in page that I posted yesterday, you already know that Bin Laden has released a new message. Like his message last week, the new one is inspired by the 60th anniversary of Israel, but this time it is directed to the Muslim community, not the West. Here’s a summary: Muslims, Bin Laden argues, will only reclaim Palestine from the Jews by fighting, not compromising, since the only law that matters today is “the law of the predator.” To fight a wolf, you have to be a wolf. Before the twentieth century, the Ottoman empire protected Palestine from the rapacious Crusaders, but then Arab leaders like Sharif Husayn and Abd al-Aziz Al al-Saud worked with the British to destroy the empire, which removed Palestine’s protection. Since then, Western proxies in the region have prevented Muslims from reclaiming Palestine. To reverse this situation, Muslims need to follow the

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