Newsweek: Osama/Zawahiri power struggle at top of AQ? Update: Pakistani anti-terror offensive crumbles

posted at 1:44 pm on September 23, 2007 by Allahpundit

Not the first story Newsweek’s run this year about Zawahiri stepping on people’s toes. We’ll know it’s true when news breaks about him being killed in an airstrike thanks to a hot tip from sources in whom the U.S. has “unusual confidence.”

Lonely, marginalized and suddenly suspicious that he was losing his grip over the organization he helped create, Osama bin Laden finally decided that enough was enough. At least that’s the explanation sources close to him are giving for why, after three long years of silence, the Qaeda leader has released one video and two audiotapes in the past month, including last week’s audio message calling for a jihad against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. According to Omar Farooqi, a Taliban liaison officer with Al Qaeda, bin Laden recently learned that a faction within his own organization had been conspiring to sideline him, insisting—unnecessarily, bin Laden now believes—that he remain secluded for security reasons. CIA officials told NEWSWEEK they could neither confirm nor reject the theory.

Bin Laden had long been chafing at this imposed gag order, says Farooqi, who learned from Sheik Saeed, Al Qaeda’s senior leader in Afghanistan, and other top operatives that bin Laden became “extremely upset” earlier this year when he discovered that some of his lieutenants feared he was dead…

Farooqi refused to say which faction bin Laden believes is responsible for the so-called conspiracy, though several Taliban sources pointed to Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy, suggesting that he might have been trying to solidify his own authority.

Verrrry suspicious that Farooqi, who was also the source for the story about Zawahiri feuding with Al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Yahya al-Libi, keeps spilling these damaging stories of infighting to Newsweek. I can’t imagine what propaganda goal he hopes to accomplish by it; after the fiasco in Anbar province, AQ needs good PR right now among Muslims more than anything else and reports of dissension within the ranks do them no favors. The latest blow comes from Wahhabist cleric Salman al-Odeh, a Saudi fundamentalist whom Fawaz Gerges describes as Osama’s “mentor” and who’s now urging him publicly to rein it in before any more Muslims get killed.

Al-Oadah is a prominent Salafi preacher with a large following in Saudi Arabia and abroad. In the 1990s, he was imprisoned by the Saudi regime along with four leading clerics for criticizing the kingdom’s close relationship with the United States, particularly the stationing of American troops there after the 1991 Gulf war.

It is worth noting that the decision to post American forces in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, was the catalyst for bin Laden’s murderous journey. Throughout the 1990s, he frequently cited al-Oadah as a critic of the Saud royal family and fellow Salafi who shared his strict religious vision and world view…

[T]he attack on bin Laden and his group by a respected religious authority is lethal, especially coming at a critical juncture for Al Qaeda and like-minded militant factions worldwide.

Gerges says Odeh’s Salafist credentials are impeccable, which is why this might carry some weight. I’m skeptical that any fundie would turn against violence, at least without some strong “pressure” from the Saudi government, but here’s hoping. Click the image to watch.

osama1.jpg

Update: Seriously, it’s time for Musharraf to go. If he’s too politically weak to hammer Al Qaeda then let’s make a deal with Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif that trades U.S. support for their leadership in return for sustained operations in the tribal areas. The question is, even if they’re more popular than Musharraf is, (a) will that popularity hold up if they go after the Taliban, and (b) will the Pakistani military follow orders? There’s reason to doubt.

Political turmoil and a spate of brazen attacks by Taliban fighters are forcing Pakistan’s president to scale back his government’s pursuit of Al Qaeda, according to U.S. intelligence officials who fear that the terrorist network will be able to accelerate its efforts to rebuild and plot new attacks…

“We are worried,” said a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official who closely monitors Pakistan’s pursuit of Al Qaeda in the rugged frontier region. The official, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter…

“In the next few days, we’re probably going to see a withdrawal of forces that the Pakistanis put there,” the intelligence official said, adding that the move could solidify a “safe haven, where the [Al Qaeda] leadership is secure, operational planners can do their business, and foreigners can come in and be trained and redeploy to the West.”…

The unfolding situation has put Washington in the conflicted position of either pressing for democratic reforms in a nation where doing so is likely to undermine efforts to apprehend Bin Laden, or pushing to shut down terrorist camps linked to a series of plots against Western targets.

Polls in Pakistan suggest that Bin Laden is more popular than many of the Muslim nation’s politicians, and analysts say it is extremely difficult for the beleaguered Musharraf to remain aligned with the U.S.


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Maybe Farooqi is trying to drive the wedge? If Bin Laden’s looking like he can’t keep Al-Qaida under his control it’ll further weaken his grasp on the organization. Could be a lot of things, really.

Bad Candy on September 23, 2007 at 1:59 PM

Hopefully they’ll split into two camps, you know, like the sunnis and shiites did, and they start killing each other off.

I got 10 bucks on Team Zawahiri !

Tony737 on September 23, 2007 at 2:10 PM

Well I finally figured out who stole my dish towels.

On a more serious note, It is interesting to see a muslim cleric arguing against war. Do you think it may be because they are facing ultimate failure in all they do?

Islam is suffering ever increasing hatred from non-muslims and facts are meeting the fiction of Islam in ways that weren’t possible before. Most non-muslims were oblivious to islam prior to 9-11. Every day since then has brought the darkness which is Islam into the light of rational thinking.

Could these attacks on Osama by like minded muslims be acts of self preservation? Are they trying to stop the hemmoraging of their jihadists and supplies? Funny how on the eve of 9-11 all these trash talking muslims were on Osama’s side. Funny that after they have had their asses kicked all over the middle east that NOW they don’t agree with him anymore.

Guardian on September 23, 2007 at 2:11 PM

Flashback, Berlin April 1945.

tmitsss on September 23, 2007 at 2:13 PM

So where has Al-Oadah been these past six years? Are they now facing the reality that if the US pulls out of Iraq that the Saudis will be face to face against the Aryans? The Saudis must know they have been getting flabby and that their housekeepers are not going to fight their war for them. They had better get things settled down in Iraq in a hurry because without the US there, the fighting will move to downtown Mecca.

pedestrian on September 23, 2007 at 2:32 PM

This is great news, which ass wipe gets control of the paper?

leanright on September 23, 2007 at 2:38 PM

Osama would be much more secure as the leader of Al Qaeda if he weren’t long dead.

LegendHasIt on September 23, 2007 at 2:45 PM

There’s reason to doubt.

This is what happens when they are Muslim first, Pakistani second.

The Soviets had to send money, tanks, troops, “advisors”, pilots and airplanes to spread Communism and turn a country into a satellite.

All these guys need to do is send in a few zealots, scare the locals and wait….

reaganaut on September 23, 2007 at 4:02 PM

Wasn’t Al Libi the guy we held at Bagram for years then suddenly one day he basically somehow just walked out? Maybe all those triple black projects about mind control “Manchurian” candidate finally paid off.

Just kidding,,,, but seriously AQ you guys should think about that, actually Zawahiri was once held by Egypt US apostate ally hmmmm

What is so stupid about Hollywood to me is that how this GWOT is fought in large part in the shadows their really is no limit to the movies that could be spun off. But then I guess having the good guys win US would be carrying Bush’s water so we get never ending LLL garbage that has pulled the lowest box office numbers ever. Pitiful..

C-Low on September 23, 2007 at 4:12 PM

let’s make a deal with Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif that trades U.S. support for their leadership in return for sustained operations in the tribal areas.

But it’s not Musharraf’s role as president that gives him power; his role as Chief of the Army does that. Without the support of the Army Bhutto or Nawaz will look good on TV giving orders no one will follow. The army is under-motivated to fight in the tribal areas to say the least. The same ethnic divisions that split the nation split the army.

There are no official figures about the ethnic background of officers or men, yet according to Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution and Prof Hasan Askari Rizvi, Pashtun representation in the army is between 15-22 percent among officers and between 20-25 percent among men. Pashtuns from the NWFP and tribal areas together comprise only 16 percent of the country’s overall population, while Punjab, which represents 56 percent of the population, provides 65 percent of officers and 70 percent of men.

Nawaz is seen as a shill for Punjabi business interests, and a corrupt one at that. Bhutto’s husband is known as “Mr. Ten Percent” because of his massive kickback scheme. These figures will not unite Pakistan and may actually make things worse (gulp).

The best we can hope for is a compromise with Bhutto as president (if they drop the outstanding corruption charges against her) and some non-Pashtun general as Army Chief. Then Musharraf can quietly fade into exile abroad. That is a delicate dance to pull off. The odds are small and the window of opportunity short. Presidential elections are scheduled for 10/6 with general elections some time after. That’s if Musharraf doesn’t declare martial law and drive Pakistan to the edge of an unprecedented disaster.

Thomas the Wraith on September 23, 2007 at 5:12 PM

….It is interesting to see a Muslim cleric arguing against war. Do you think it may be
because they are facing ultimate failure in all they do?

….prior to 9-11. Every day since then has

brought the darkness which is Islam into the light of rational thinking.

Could these attacks on Osama by like minded muslims be acts of self preservation? Are they trying to stop the hemmoraging of their jihadists and supplies? Funny how on the eve of 9-11 all these trash talking muslims were on Osama’s side.

Funny that after they have had their asses kicked all over the middle east that NOW they don’t agree with him anymore.

Guardian on September 23, 2007 at 2:11 PM

Dam you’re good!…. So good it needed more highlighting.

It’s definitely an oblique admission of defeat on the jihadist’s part.

Thanks AP, for posting this, your humor and your analysis of the subject.

Mcguyver on September 23, 2007 at 5:52 PM

We’ll trade one worthless leader for another, arm him to the teeth and line his pockets with billions to do our bidding, then end up fighting him sometime in the future resulting in many of our troops ending up dead at the muzzle end of American made and provided weapons.

Same old shitty song and dance. When are we going to learn?

SilverStar830 on September 23, 2007 at 6:46 PM

I was all fired up after watching the Packers 4th quarter comeback. But this story, along with the one before it, has completely destroyed that. Life would be so much easier if I didn’t read the news.

BadgerHawk on September 23, 2007 at 7:23 PM

On a more serious note, It is interesting to see a muslim cleric arguing against war. Do you think it may be because they are facing ultimate failure in all they do?

They need time to regroup and so propose a temporary ceasfire just like Muhammad’s Treaty with the Meccans at Hudaibiyyah. Pretty standard Muslim tactic.

aengus on September 23, 2007 at 7:45 PM

Just make a phone call and we will take care of Osama for you. Then you will have Al Qaeda all to yourselves.

SoulGlo on September 23, 2007 at 9:11 PM

Musharraf could have the sweetest golden parachute in the universe if he could arrange the quiet sale of his fissile material to uncle sam. I’m personally in the buying mood. Let’s get those chips off the table before the next hand is dealt.

That or we could all throw our support behind Obama, I guess.

TexasDan on September 23, 2007 at 10:05 PM

The Pakistanis can leave the area so that they won’t get hurt when the US AIRFORCE pounds some prairie over there.

Mojave Mark on September 23, 2007 at 10:29 PM

I am always leary of people who wear Pizza Hut Table cloths out of the restaurant without paying the bill.

Are they both reading the same book and interpreting it differently, or are their two books like the “Old and New Testaments” where one chooses the meanings of their chosen deity.

MSGTAS on September 24, 2007 at 9:51 AM