The Blog

Obama Wrong On Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's "Rationale"

11:12 AM, Jan 6, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

In fact, after briefly discussing “Cuba,” al Shihri returns to this theme. He says that he and his fellow travelers have pledged allegiance to AQAP’s leader “so that we will serve as a buttress for the jihad to expand from the [Arabian] Peninsula to Palestine, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the Muslim countries, in order to defend our lands and that which is sacred to us, so that the religion shall be for Allah alone.”

 

So, again we have an “explicit rationale” for joining forces under the AQAP banner and once again it is not Guantanamo.  The rest of al Shihri’s rant deals with the Jews and their supposedly nefarious influence throughout the Muslim world, including the complacency of Muslim rulers in the face of the Jews’ incessant plotting.

 

Mohammed al Awfi, another former Gitmo detainee, utters the last reference to “Cuba” when he says that the Saudis sent a “delegation of psychological investigators” to “conduct psychological examinations” on the detainees. Al Awfi says that these methods are commonly used in Saudi Arabia “in order to persuade us to stray from Islam.” He is thankful for having endured these methods because it has given al Qaeda “insight into our enemies and to understand their fighting methods.”

 

Even al Awfi’s comments are not a rationale for AQAP’s terror. Al Awfi brings “Cuba” up in the context of warning his “imprisoned brothers to avoid the ‘attention and advice program’ which is administered” by the Saudi regime. That is, he is telling his fellow jihadists not to be dissuaded from their cause by Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program. Over 100 former Gitmo detainees have been entered into that program, alongside hundreds of other terrorists.

 

That’s it. After the narration ends, AQAP’s leaders make four (4) references to Gitmo and Cuba. By way of comparison, the following key words and phrases related to the imagined Christian-Zionist conspiracy against Muslim lands are mentioned far more frequently: Jew(s) (11 times), Zionist Jews (2), Gaza (14), Jerusalem (7), Palestine and Palestinian (10), Christian (9), Christian-Zionist (1), Iraq (4), Afghanistan (4), etc.

 

The other two AQAP leaders in the video, who were not held at Gitmo, do not even directly mention Guantanamo or Cuba at all. AQAP’s military commander, Abu Hurairah Qasim al Rimi, is focused entirely on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

 

Nasir al Wuhayshi, the head of the group and a longtime ally of Osama bin Laden, is also focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He says that the entire Muslim world’s eyes are on Jerusalem. Wuhayshi does thank Allah for granting “the prisoners freedom.” This could possibly be taken as an indirect reference to Guantanamo, as he is probably thanking Allah for the two Gitmo detainees in the video who had then returned to jihad’s ranks. But here is the context in which Wuhayshi thanks Allah for the return of his brethren:

 

“Allah has gathered us in the land of Afghanistan to fight the Christians, and we have established there an Islamic Emirate, and the entire world has gathered against us -- Jews, Christians, apostates, and pagans -- in an alliance whose likes the world has never before witnessed. From us came delighted martyrs, mujahideen who stand guard on the frontier, and the suffering prisoners. The war continued and our determination continued until Allah granted the prisoners freedom, and Allah wanted us to gather once again to aid the religion, to establish the rightly-guided caliphate, and to fight against our enemies.”  

 

This is the real reason for AQAP’s terror. The AQAP’s leaders believe they are facing a worldwide conspiracy against Muslims the likes of which “the world has never before witnessed.” Similar comments are made throughout the video. Gitmo is barely referenced – and certainly never as an “explicit rationale” for AQAP’s rebirth.

AQAP’s propaganda is all about a delusional conspiracy theory. President Obama and his team need to figure out how America can counter this messaging in the Muslim world, instead of pretending that closing Gitmo is necessary to rebut AQAP’s propaganda. And even if AQAP did exclusively and mainly point to Gitmo as the reason for its terror then this would just be a pretext. AQAP, like al Qaeda proper has always done, will just move onto the next pretext.

If there is another lesson that the Obama administration should learn from AQAP’s propaganda it is that in the Bush administration’s haste to transfer detainees from the facility it ended up freeing some very dangerous men, such as Said al Shihri and Mohammed al Awfi. They were al Qaeda jihadists all along. In fact, al Shihri admits in the video that it was his commitment to jihad that got him locked up in the first place. The Obama administration would be wise to learn from the Bush administration’s mistakes and not repeat them.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.