New al Qaeda message reinforces focus on Arab Spring
September 13th, 2011
01:42 PM ET

New al Qaeda message reinforces focus on Arab Spring

By CNN's Tim Lister

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri returns to one of his favorite themes in the video released to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11: the Arab Spring. Even if the uprisings from Yemen to Tunisia were inspired by young pro-democracy protesters, al Qaeda clearly wants to co-opt them – and sees opportunities in the instability they have caused.

The video, running just over an hour, is optimistically titled “The Dawn of Imminent Victory” and was released Monday by al Qaeda’s media arm, as-Sahab. It includes the latest in a series of lengthy diatribes from Zawahiri (eight so far this year) on the rapidly changing situation in Arab states.

Zawahiri’s segment is audio-only, showing a still picture of the new al-Qaeda leader. He says that contrary to what is claimed by the western media, al-Qaeda supports the revolutions in the Arab world and hopes they will establish true Islam and government based on Shariah, or Islamic law. He also claims the revolutions are a form of defeat for the United States, just as the 9/11 attacks and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were also defeats, according to a translation of his remarks by the SITE Institute, which monitors jihadist forums.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian who tried to overthrow Presidents Sadat and Mubarak before leaving the country in the 1980s, also returns to comments he made in his seven episodes of “A Message of Hope and Glad Tidings to Our People in Egypt.”

He argues that the Egyptian military council that has replaced Mubarak cannot be trusted. In other statements recently, he has said Egypt’s new rulers are slaves to the United States and will abide by Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. It’s a consistent theme in his messages – that Washington is trying to replace one with dictator with another.

In June he appealed to the people of Yemen, where al Qaeda’s affiliate is flourishing. “I urge them not to be fooled by the tricks of politics and the GCC [Gulf Co-operation Council] American agents who want to abort their blessed revolution so they can simply replace one tyrant with another, and have another American crony running the country.”

In his latest message Zawahiri says: “The blessed rebellious Arab earthquake has turned America's calculations head over heels.”

Zawahiri is clearly making an effort to tap into popular themes in Egypt, such as widespread resentment of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. In one of his messages earlier this year, Zawahiri exclaimed: “It is not rational that tens of thousands of Israeli tourists enter Sinai without a visa in order to practice adultery, while our families in Gaza are not allowed entry into Egypt except through tearing souls apart.”

He also praises the recent bombings of gas pipelines in Egypt’s Sinai desert which supply Israel and Jordan. It’s unclear who was responsible for those bombings. The Sinai is a lawless area where Bedouin groups have often challenged the authority of the state, but Egyptian officials in the area have recently spoken about al Qaeda cells being active in coastal areas not far from the Israeli border.

Al Qaeda’s rationale appears to be that volatility in the Arab world, and the dismantling of authoritarian regimes and ruthless intelligence services, gives Salafist groups room to breathe. Zawahiri alludes to this in his newest statement when he comments: “The blessed Arab uprising has liberated the Arab people from the handcuffs of fear and terror. ….[It] has liberated thousands of the members of the Islamic movement’s prisoners, who were imprisoned by direct orders from America.”

And contrary to all the available evidence, Zawahiri has called the Syrian regime a “partner of America in the war on Islam.”

Not surprisingly the new Director of the CIA, General David Petraeus, and the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, offer a different perspective. At a Congressional hearing Tuesday, Petraeus said the nature of the Arab uprisings had discredited al Qaeda’s narrative – they were popular movements that had nothing to do with violence and extremism. Clapper said the Arab Spring had marginalized al Qaeda’s message.

“al Qaeda is sort of in the position to catch the train after it already left the station, because what has happened because of the Arab spring is not consistent with [what] al Qaeda is advocating,” Clapper said.

Ever since the first protests erupted in Tunisia last December, al Qaeda has struggled to find ways to exploit the Arab unrest.

In February, a leading al Qaeda ideologue – Attiya Allah – wrote that the revolutions were not the "perfections for which we hoped." Allah said he hoped that a post-dictator era would give al Qaeda greater freedom to proselytize in the Middle East but admitted it had no "magic wand" to provide the necessary manpower to overturn governments in the Middle East.

Al Qaeda and its associated groups have since sought to rewrite modern history. The Brigades of Abdullah Azzam last month claimed that fighters from al Qaeda and other groups had provided the spark for the Arab revolutions. Zawahiri, more vocal this year than ever before, is trying hard to claim that history is still on al Qaeda’s side.

Filed under: Arab Spring • Clapper • Osama bin Laden • Petraeus
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Marketing Consultant

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    December 23, 2018 at 9:58 am | Reply
  2. Mr Smith

    The courier, shut the operation down, instead remove the tools. We have let the violence increase to find the courier. As the CIA know after Khost I only work with Israeli's. No one has the reach as the Shin Bet and Mossad.

    June 28, 2012 at 6:22 am | Reply
  3. car locksmith Miami

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    April 21, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Reply
  4. Ashley Wilson

    Hey folks, Will be the U.S. far better off sticking with Syria's Assad?

    February 1, 2012 at 4:23 am | Reply
  5. Avraham

    You know Palestinians aren't being denied several civil rights for no reason. They have been allowed total freedom in the past and have abused it tremendously. Many of them are Hamas members or aids to Hamas and cannot be trusted. They complain about being oppressed, but to be totally honest they have brought it upon themselves through the choices they make. Also I find it hilarious that these extremists want anything positive associated with Israel severed completely. It is what they have wanted since time began. The have never wanted us Jews to have anything we can claim as our own, not even a cultural identity. They only oppose Israel because it's a Jewish state and just can't seem to accept that historical facts prove that Israel is the original homeland of the Jews.

    September 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  6. KaraOK

    The silly Arabs and Muslims will NEVER lift themselves out of the muck until they abandon their Dark Ages barbarism.

    September 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  7. Kerry

    Let the people decide for themselves. The U.S. needs to get out and quit sacrificing our people for a lost cause. It's not our war.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  8. Ben James

    Never before, or after 9-11-2001 in the history of the planet has a steel frame high-rise building collapsed as the result of fire and yet it is supposed to have happened 3 times in 1 day on 911.
    WTC Tower 7: Height 642 ft (160 m), 44 Floors, collapsed symmetrically into its own footprint by demolition after a countdown can be clearly heard over 2 way radios to clear emergency personnel from the area of the building. WTC Billionaire owner Larry Silverstein quoted directly on national TV describing what happened to WTC Tower 7 said: "I said maybe the smartest thing to do is to PULL IT. And then they made the decision to PULL, and we watched the building collapse." Clearly the decision to "PULL" refers to controlled demolition. In point of fact unexplained explosions were reported in WTC Tower 7 even before the collapse Tower 1. No aircraft hit Tower 7 on 911 and when the building was demolished it had only 2 small areas of fire secondary to the collapse of Tower 1 which was more than 400 feet away to the south west.
    Flight 77: All of the hundreds of Pentagon security videos have been withheld from the public except one 15 second clip which clearly DOES NOT show a commercial aircraft, but something much more like a drone or cruise missile passing along the courtyard and into the Pentagon. The original hole made by the impact in the Pentagon parameter wall was approximately 19 feet wide and penetrated the outer wall of the Pentagon's E Ring and the damage extended all the way through the inner wall of the C Ring, through the heavily reinforced walls. The aircraft used for Flight 77 that supposedly hit the Pentagon was a Boeing 757-223 which has a fuselage 37 feet in diameter and 2 large wing mounted engines. The hole in the Pentagon wall was only 19 feet wide, and yet the entire aircraft is supposed to have compressed itself, gone into a 19 foot hole and disappeared leaving virtually no trace of engines, wings, tail , passengers, luggage, and seats. It is very, very simple: Why doesn't the Pentagon release the videos being withheld and end the controversy once and for all, unless they are hiding something?
    Flight 93: At the "official" crash site the coroner's examination showed no evidence of human blood or tissue whatsoever. In addition no aircraft engines, luggage, seats, wings, or tail were found at the crash site. In the history of air travel this has never happened before or since. Even when a plane few at full speed into the face of a mountain in Brazil the crash debris contained all the evidence conspicuously missing at the site of Flight 93. The largest fragments at the 93 site were measured in centimeters. Never in the history of aviation has a cash yielded this type of results except on 911.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Reply
    • fred

      You are a tool.

      September 15, 2011 at 8:03 am | Reply
    • Bhaal

      Do some research on tempering metal. If you actually learn about it you'll understand what happened on 9/11.

      September 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  9. phil crabill

    Americans aren't scared, we took the fight to them. These cowards only want to fight with unarmed men, women and children. When our troops come they scatter like the cockroaches they are!

    September 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  10. Larry

    Most Arabs are peaceful but all we see are the extremist. We feel to realize that all religion's have
    extremist. We need to quit being the worlds police and put the money that were spending in the war's and spend on securing all of our boarders and ports. Then and only then will this country be safe!!

    September 13, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Reply
  11. FrankLW

    Yep, the "Arab Spring" is far more a boon to a majority tyranny of fundamentalist radical Islam than it is to true democracy...

    September 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Reply
  12. john

    I need to bust a leak, where is Osama Bin Laden's body.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  13. Retspool

    this will all end with the arabs nuking israel and israel doing the same in return.

    America China and india will emerge as the next super pwers

    September 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  14. john

    Please someone destroy his family members and put a bomb in ass. Better ya, why don't we totally illuminate muslims. Or, stop the immigration and send all the muslims born outside their garbage countries.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • john

      F*** ALL THE TERRORISTS. All you guys need to get laid, that's what you guys need. Hey, there are so many Islamic ladies out there looking for unused penis.

      September 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Reply
      • london

        i should shove my fat c....k down your hole u piece of sh.....t

        September 14, 2011 at 12:43 am |
      • jake

        What I find most puzzling about your thoughtful and logical argument is how you actually found yourself on a site like, and reading. I would assume we'd most easily find you at Perez Hilton or some other such garbage.

        Correction: By 'reading' I actually meant 'looking at the headline, seeing that it had something to do with terrorists/Arabic peoples, and subsequently opening mouth and depositing excrement on the screen.' Sorry for the confusion.

        September 19, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  15. glyder

    and in the end,it's all about the destruction of israel.which will fail but a lot of destruction in yet another attempt.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • 2011cnn2011

      Thus say the Lord your God.....Thou Shalt Not Kill

      September 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  16. Just Wondering

    most leaders dead.... hated by all but, those desperate for self fame.... and your winning.... hhhmmmm

    September 13, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  17. Isabella1709

    CNN I'm surprised you haven't sent Ann Curry to interview him, as with the Iranian tyrant. She can be the most obsequious woman I've ever seen! Shame on you!

    You really could use a censor for some of these comments. Why ever do people talk like that?

    September 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  18. tookymoney

    the rich/powerful do bad things to get rich => economy goes up in short run, but doesn't work out in long run => the masses get sad while the rich/powerful stay rich => some masses fight against their status quo elites, some elites use trickery to distract the masses => world goes back into this cycle until a real, true great depression and the masses finally open their eyes. karl marx predicted it all in the 1800s, and everything he said is coming true! enjoy playing your political games and wasting the lives of entire generations because i'm in the upper 2 percent of america's, so it doesn't matter to me.

    September 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  19. Mr. Houston TX

    In normally don't post on these type of things but it seems to me that AQ is realizing how powerless they are becoming in this Arab Spring. Even conservative elements like the Muslim Brotherhood don't want to associate themselves with AQ. AQ has been trying for the last 20 yrs to get rid of these dictators and "American" puppets yet it just took one guy in Tunisia to set himself on fire to bring down a whole set of govts. That has to be a blow to AQ and their perception of having some sort of power. It seems to me that this organization is desperate to stay legitimate. I think the US best action, politically and economically is to sit this one out and to see where this Arab Revolution goes.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  20. roland

    Can someone tell me the correlation between the tea party, the arab spring, European Riots, and Chinese Migrant worker uprising. I CAN.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Reply
    • Moros

      I don't see where the tea party comes in there... The others were all legitimate protests against tyrannical governments, the tea party is an attempt to overthrow the popular vote and put tyrants in power.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:03 am | Reply
    • Moros

      EDIT: nevermind. The european riots weren't a legit protect, they were a bunch of stupid greedy kids trying to loot whatever wasn't bolted down.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:04 am | Reply
  21. Mike H.

    Yet another mumbling diartribe from a caveman whose mind is inhabited by spider cobwebs, still living in the 14th century.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Reply
    • DrKnowsBest

      You're right – they are anything but modern. But these guys don't lack intelligence. They are systematically working to shake the stability of our government, and are in it for the long-haul. Have you noticed how much our economy has changed since the days before 9/11? The dollar is worth little compared to where it was, oil is 3x more expensive, unemployment is up, and as a military, we are stretched incredibly thin. As a result, we are weaker and more unstable than we were, and in a sense, that means the "cavemen" did what they set out to do, and are continuing to strive for, too. Scary, yes?

      September 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  22. Allocer

    And as always, Americans will pay attention to this scumbag, rather than ordinary Arabs who just wanted freedom from dictators and oppression. What will Americans do when they get choked up with fear? They vote for self-proclaim patriots who will establish dictators in the Middle East.

    September 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Reply
    • Bellus Techoff

      Imagine having 25 million of these UGLY diaper wearers walking in your neighborhood. TRhey can all suck my nut sack as far as i'm concerned.They still probably wipe their ass with their hands in their prehistoric country.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Reply
      • DrKnowsBest

        You are calling arabs "ugly diaper wearers" who can "suck" your "nut sack" and still "wipe their ass with their hands in their prehistoric country." It's a shame you don't see the irony in your post, which is filled with childishness, immaturity, and a complete lack of intelligence. You are exactly the type of person Allocer is talking about.

        September 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
      • Allocer

        Thanks for proving my point Bellus, now Cikin can shut his trap as he is too naive to grasp whats going on.

        September 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Tha Chikin

      Allocer – What a narrow view of Americans you have. When it comes to decent Arabs that just want their freedom, there are people like me who will support them every step of the way. After all, standing up for what you believe in and fighting against the "man" is very a American concept. We have been doing it since 1776!!

      September 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply
      • Allocer

        Narrow view? I guess you don't know anything about what Americans think. Relying on the media to give them a feedback on whats going on in the world, I see people comment inflammatory remarks and generalize Muslims and people who are Arabic "theres a difference." Read all the soundoffs and comments in all the news (Fox News, Newsvine, Yahoo, etc); you'll see that Americans bash Muslims and Arabs while focusing on maniacs like Ayman al Zawahiri as if he is Darth Vader. The sad reality is that the infamous and dictators will be watched more than normal folks.

        September 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |

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