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Twenty Questions with . . . Ayman Al Zawahiri

10:21 AM, Jan 14, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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CQ Politics is assembling a list of possible questions for al Qaeda number two Ayman Al Zawahiri. The questions are in response to an offer made by Zawahiri about a month ago. Questions may be submitted to an al Qaeda-friendly website through January 16, and Zawahiri will answer some of them. (It's not specified whether he'll answer on the website, via video, or some other means.)

In defense of CQ, some of the questions they're suggesting would have very interesting answers:

  • After failing, with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, to topple the "near enemy," Egypt, you've run into trouble with the "far enemy," losing your base in Afghanistan to the United States and now seeing al Qaeda in Iraq being beaten back by Gen. David Petraeus. Is there a "middle enemy" you might consider shifting your sights toward? Is that what bin Laden's recent audiotaped tirade against Israel was aimed toward?
  • How closely is al Qaeda following the U.S. presidential race? Of the candidates who still have a chance to win, whom would al Qaeda most like to see take office next January, and why?
  • The Taliban set up a fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan, and the Afghan people rejected it. Now the Sunnis in Iraq are rejecting al Qaeda. How do you explain your failures there?
  • What do you see as America's vulnerabilities? If you had to carry out an attack tomorrow, what would you target and why? Are targets picked because of their vulnerability or their symbolism?
  • The scholar Bernard Lewis argues that roots of Muslim rage have less to do with the evils of the West than with the sense of humiliation at being surpassed by the West, being overtaken by modernity. Why do you think the Islamic world has failed to keep up with the West over the past 500 years?
  • Why are you taking questions instead of bin Laden?

But interesting as it might be to have candid answers to these questions, there's no reason to think the response will be anything but self-serving nonsense. So why legitimize the exercise by even participating? Why would a news organization voluntarily allow itself to become a tacit propaganda arm of the enemy?

And further, there are only two important questions that Zawahiri can answer: where are you, and where is Osama bin Laden. Everything else is trivia.