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.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Al Qaeda, Jihadism, War on Terror

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism