Ayman al-Zawahiri Leaves Behind a Weakened, but Still Dangerous, al-Qaeda

On Sunday, an American drone ended the life of Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has led al-Qaeda since Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011. Matthew Levitt and Aaron Zelin comment on the jihadist mastermind’s career, and the significance of his demise:

Zawahiri’s death portends a new era for al-Qaeda, one less certain in its senior leadership. Unlike his predecessor, he was not known for inspirational rhetoric or media savvy, showing a preference for long, boring treatises and videotaped sermons that led many to see him as a less formidable terrorist leader than bin Laden. Yet Zawahiri undeniably provided much of the intellectual foundation for al-Qaeda’s international agenda of committing mass-casualty terrorist attacks and promoting jihadist governance. Today, some of the organization’s branches, especially in Somalia and Mali, are in strong positions to continue this mission.

In addition to a penchant for indiscriminate attacks that killed civilians, his main contribution was the strategic mindset of targeting the “far enemy” in order to facilitate the overthrow of the “near enemy.” That is, by attacking the United States and other actors who supported what he perceived to be pro-Western, insufficiently Islamic regimes in the Arab and Muslim worlds, the movement could eventually unseat those “apostate” regimes.

As for Zawahiri’s leadership legacy, one cannot escape the fact that al-Qaeda has been steadily devolving from the unipolar leader of the global jihadist movement since he took over. Despite the major threat posed by certain affiliates abroad, al-Qaeda . . . is now weaker on the world stage.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Al Qaeda, Jihadism, War on Terror


Spain’s Anti-Israel Agenda

What interest does Madrid have in the creation of a Palestinian state? Elliott Abrams raised this question a few days ago, when discussing ongoing Spanish efforts to block the transfer of arms to Israel. He points to multiple opinion surveys suggesting that Spain is among Europe’s most anti-Semitic countries:

The point of including that information here is to explain the obvious: Spain’s anti-Israel extremism is not based in fancy international political analyses, but instead reflects both the extreme views of hard-left parties in the governing coalition and a very traditional Spanish anti-Semitism. Spain’s government lacks the moral standing to lecture the state of Israel on how to defend itself against terrorist murderers. Its effort to deprive Israel of the means of defense is deeply immoral. Every effort should be made to prevent these views from further infecting the politics and foreign policy of the European Union and its member states.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel, Palestinian statehood, Spain