Zawahiri offers window on al-Qaeda's worldview
Al-Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, weighed in this week with his annual anniversary address marking the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing the past nine years as a "blessed harvest" even while lashing out anew at Islamic governments that are hostile to the terrorist network's cause.
Zawahiri treats a Taliban victory in Afghanistan as a given. "No one doubts it will happen, not even the American-led crusader coalition itself," he says. "Rather, the argument is about 'when' and 'how.' "
He taunts a number of targets in the 44-minute recording, according to the SITE intelligence group. He describes Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari as "Mr. 10%," a reference to past allegations of graft, and praises the Jordanian suicide bomber who struck a CIA compound in Afghanistan as a martyr who "taught the treasonous Jordanian government a lesson it will never forget."
But Zawahiri also mentions many apparent sources of frustration, complaining that Pakistan is sinking into "all types of major sins," that American political allies are outmaneuvering Islamic fundamentalists in Egypt, and that Palestinians are being drawn into peace talks that amount to prostrations "at the feet of the West."
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and adviser to President Obama, said the recording is only the fourth from Zawahiri this year, "a striking contrast to previous years when the doctor put out new messages every other week."
In an e-mail to counter-terrorism experts, Riedel speculated that Zawahiri's "operational tempo has been very clearly disrupted by the CIA drone offensive."
That echoed an observation that Obama had made himself days earlier in a news conference, when he said that top leaders of al-Qaeda "have been holed up in ways that have made it harder for them to operate. . . . Even Zawahiri, who is more often out there, has been much more cautious."
| September 17, 2010; 5:23 PM ET
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