What is Al-Qaeda Today? — An Interview

Posted by John Rosenthal

What is Al-Qaeda today? This is the main question that I discussed with host Mark Anderson in a 45-minute-long interview on the iSpy radio show last week. We also discussed the role of AQ in the Benghazi attacks, the place of AQ and AQ-inspired groups in the Muslim world more generally, and the responsibility of Western policies in helping to transform AQ into a heavily-armed mass movement that is far more powerful than the “core” conspiratorial AQ of Osama bin Laden’s day — among other things. Click here to reach the show page and then on the “Download the Show” icon to listen…

Benghazi: Yes, the Video — and Al-Qaeda

Posted by John Rosenthal

The famous “anti-Islam video” really did play an important role in the run-up to the 9/11/2012 Benghazi attack. The evidence recently provided by the NYTimes is weak. But (pace Fox News) the record of local social media provides clear proof. The alternative “the video or al-Qaeda” is, however, a false one. The record of local social media also shows that al-Qaeda played a role — not in planning, but in inciting the attack. This is hardly surprising, since virtually all the local militias are ideologically affiliated with al-Qaeda. Before they had gotten into an uproar about the video, the local jihadists were already in an uproar about a new statement from none other than al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. For the details, see my new article on Al-Monitor here.

The Jihadist Plot — at a Bargain Price

Posted by John Rosenthal

If you have a Kindle or Kindle-compatible device and have not yet purchased my book The Jihadist Plot, you might want to do so now. Amazon.com is presently selling the e-book version for the bargain price of just 99 cents! Keep in mind that you can also read the Kindle version on your PC with “Kindle for PC” software or on an iPad with the “Kindle for iPad” app. Click on the below image to buy…

When Refugees are Combatants: On the Zaatari Camp in Jordan

Posted by John Rosenthal

Apart from the over 100,000 people that are estimated to have been killed, the most dramatic statistic illustrating the humanitarian crisis entailed by the ongoing war in Syria is surely the over 2 million Syrians who are estimated to have become refugees in neighboring countries. Many of these refugees are being housed in camps set up under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Details in a recent French report, however, show that one of the largest such camps, the Zaatari camp in Jordan, is, in effect, being used as a safe haven for rebel forces fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The revelations are particularly significant in light of the presence in the camp of a French military hospital. Established as an ostensibly humanitarian initiative, it is clear from the details of the report that at least some of the patients being treated at the French hospital are not civilians, but rather wounded rebel fighters…

See my new article at Asia Times Online here.

Abu Anas’s “Al-Qaeda Manual”: A Blueprint for the “Arab Spring”?

Posted by John Rosenthal

In May 2000, British police raided the Manchester home of reputed al-Qaeda operative Nazih Abdul Hamed al-Raghie, better known by his nom de guerre Abu Anas al-Libi. Last Tuesday, some 10 days after having been plucked from the streets of Tripoli by US special forces, al-Libi was arraigned in a New York courthouse on charges relating to the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Among the possessions seized from al-Libi’s home in the May 2000 raid, investigators discovered a 180-page handwritten document that has been widely cited in the intervening years as a supposed al-Qaeda training manual: the famous “Manchester Manual.”

While it may help prosecutors to convict al-Libi, however, on closer inspection the manual shows that the jihadist “cause” to which al-Libi rallied nearly a quarter of a century ago is essentially the same cause that the United States and its Western allies have been supporting in places such as Libya and Syria today…

For the details, see my new article on Al-Monitor here.

Abu Anas al-Libi and the Contradictions of US Libya Policy

Posted by John Rosenthal

The seizure and rendition of key al-Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Libi in Tripoli on Oct. 5 is being hailed as a victory for American counterterrorism efforts. Given that Libi has been a wanted man in the United States for more than a decade, a victory undoubtedly it is. On closer inspection, however, the rendition operation also exposes the contradictions of American Libya policy and, in particular, the boon for al-Qaeda-linked and al-Qaeda-inspired groups that the US-backed Feb. 17 revolution against Moammar Gadhafi has represented. Indeed, the very fact that Libi could have been living openly in Tripoli is a direct result of the triumph of the anti-Gadhafi revolution…

For the details, see my new article at Al-Monitor here.

Meet Abu Omar, the “Victim” of Robert Seldon Lady

Posted by John Rosenthal

On Thursday, former CIA Milan station chief, Robert Seldon Lady, was detained in Panama and he now faces potential extradition to Italy. In 2009, Lady and 22 other Americans were convicted in absentia by an Italian court for their alleged roles in the kidnapping of one Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, better known as “Abu Omar.” The operation is supposed to have taken place as part of the American program of “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects. Abu Omar has been widely depicted in the American press as an innocent “victim” of the program.

But how many Americans will know that the “victim,” Abu Omar, is also a wanted man in Italy? A member, according to Italian investigators, of the Gama’a Al-Islamiya of the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, he is wanted, namely, as a facilitator of international terror. For the details — drawn directly from the Italian arrest warrant against him and supported by extensive translated excerpts from Italian police surveillance tapes — see my 2008 article in World Politics Review, “Who is Abu Omar? Extracts from the Italian Police Surveillance Tapes.” And for a study of the Abu Omar case and its deformed presentation in the Western media, see too my 2010 article in the Weekly Standard Online, “Selective WikiLeaks: The Untold Story of Abu Omar.”

The Video and Benghazi Revisited – And What if Susan Rice was Right?

Posted by John Rosenthal

Examination of contemporaneous chatter on Libyan websites and social media shows that locals really were in an uproar about the famous “anti-Islam video” in both the run-up to and immediate  aftermath of the Benghazi attack. This finding is all the more significant  inasmuch as the chatter in question comes from precisely the same extremist  milieu as the presumed assailants. In the hours immediately preceding the attack, local Islamists were calling on their brethren to “do something” in  response to the video. From both the source and tenor of these appeals, it is  clear that they meant something more emphatic than just a peaceful  demonstration…

For the evidence, including numerous photos and screen caps, see my new article on Al-Monitor here.

Benghazi: Security Force at US Mission Had Clear Al-Qaeda Sympathies

Posted by John Rosenthal

The February 17th Martyrs Brigade, the Libyan militia employed by the U.S. government to provide security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, featured an al-Qaeda flag in the original banner for a Facebook page it maintains. That banner was posted on June 10, 2012, i.e. just three months before the September 11, 2012 attack on the mission. Moreover, several entries on the Facebook page make clear the group’s sympathy for Ansar al-Sharia, the allegedly al-Qaeda-linked militia that has been widely accused of perpetrating the attack. Like the banner, still other entries make clear the group’s sympathy and admiration for al-Qaeda as such, as well as for other al-Qaeda affiliates like the Syrian al-Qaeda offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra.

For the details, see my new article at Newsmax.com here (including a large dose of DC-side reporting by David Patten).

Q&A with Diana West on Libya, Syria, Boston — and “The Jihadist Plot”

Posted by John Rosenthal

Diana West was kind enough to ask me to do an interview on The Jihadist Plot. Even better, Diana asked several questions that go beyond the book itself to related current issues such as the war in Syria and the Boston bombings. Here is a small excerpt:

DW: You make a strong case that on as many as three key fronts in Libya, “NATO partnered with rebel commanders who had previously collaborated with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and/or Iraq: al Hasadi on the Eastern front, Belhadj in Tripoli, and bin Hamid during the siege at Sirte.” Do you think the implications of this have registered with any American or other Western lawmaker or politician in particular?

JR: No. As far as I know, none. I gather that the implications could well register with Rand Paul. But I don’t know if he knows about the evidence. I can tell you that the staff member of the House Oversight Committee who is directly responsible for the Benghazi hearings has been in touch with me and expressed interest in reading the book. I cannot tell you if he has, since I never heard back from him. If you could quote that same passage to Darrell Issa and ask him if he is aware of the facts and their implications, I would be very interested to know his response. My impression thus far is that even the Republicans in Congress do not want go to the root of the problem. The root of the problem is not inadequate security measures at the mission in Benghazi. The root of the problem is a NATO intervention in Libya that strengthened the hand of America’s enemies.

DW: Who do you think attacked the US compound in Benghazi on 9/11/12 and why? Second, what is your guess about the purpose of the US compound in Benghazi?

JR: Elements of virtually any and all of the Eastern Libyan militias could have been involved in the attack. This includes both the militia that was supposed to be guarding the compound, the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, and Libya Shield, the militia that escorted American marines to the supposedly secret “safe house” or annex where mission personnel had taken refuge. As it so happens, the “safe house” would become the target of a second attack after the marines arrived, which suggests that it was at this point that the attackers were tipped off about the location. I cannot say for sure who perpetrated the attacks. But I do know that the focus on just Ansar al-Sharia is mistaken and misleading. The supposedly “friendly” militias like Libya Shield and the February 17th Martyrs Brigade are no different than Ansar al-Sharia. As I say, in the literal sense of the expression, they are all “Ansar al-Sharia.”

By the way, I have come across statements from both brigades suggesting that there really were protests over an “anti-Islam film” on the night of the attacks and, moreover, that the brigades themselves sympathized with the grievances of the protestors. So, it is not impossible that there was an element of spontaneity in the attacks, after all….

To read the whole thing, go here.