Al-Qaeda will this year significantly step up its global operations after centralizing its leadership and reviving its financial lifelines. Crucially, al-Qaeda has developed missile and rocket technology with the capability of carrying chemical, biological and nuclear warheads, according to an al-Qaeda insider who spoke to Asia Times Online.
While al-Qaeda will continue to operate in Afghanistan and Iraq, it will broaden its global perspective to include Europe and hostile Muslim states, Asia Times Online has learned. For the first time since its attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, this could be al-Qaeda's year on the offensive.
Wonderful. The plan?
According to the contact, "The time has come for a message to be communicated to Europe." Asked what kind of message this would be, the contact simply smiled.
Nevertheless, he stated that with Western forces trapped in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was time to open up new fronts in Somalia, Algeria, Egypt, Palestine and other places.
"In each place, al-Qaeda has its own command and control apparatus, including Palestine, and all those fronts will be opened up very soon," the contact said.
Interesting that the focus of this particular informant is Europe, not the US. As many of us have been trying to say for a few years, this isn't really about "the Great Satan", it's about the West. And it doesn't take a rocket-scientist to determine whether the US or Europe is most vulnerable to attack or which would be the most likely to capitulate to demands more quickly. See Spain.
Our boy Osama? According to the contact, doing quite well and very active in the planning of the new offensive:
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has not appeared in a video since October 2004 or on an audio tape since January 2006. He is by no means out of the al-Qaeda picture, although his deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, claims the media spotlight.
Reportedly recovered from ill health, bin Laden - possibly even sporting a trimmed beard - is active in al-Qaeda's planning, according to the contact Asia Times Online spoke to. "He could be in Chechnya, Somalia or Iraq," the man said coyly, obviously not about to divulge bin Laden's whereabouts. Or even in Iran, some insiders hint.
Apparently when the US went after al Qaeda after 9/11 it was successful in hurting it both financially and structurally. However, surviving al Qaeda leadership has been working to adapt to those realities, recruit and refinance its efforts.
Over the course of many hours of conversation and information exchanges in several locations, the contact - who has a sound track record of being informed of developments within al-Qaeda - explained how bin Laden and Zawahiri had rebuilt al-Qaeda over the past year or so.
Since 2005, the al-Qaeda leadership had been talking to many groups, including Egyptians, Libyans and the takfiri camp (which calls all non-practicing Muslims infidels). Al-Qaeda paid for differences in tactics and ideology among these groups as its structure unraveled and the organization developed into an "ideology" rather than a cohesive group.
As a result, al-Qaeda's global agenda was largely shelved and the international community's financial squeeze definitely hurt. This problem has been overcome, according to the contact, although he would not give any details. Even US intelligence agencies concede that the group's finances have improved, but they have no idea how. All the same, they have pressured Pakistan to clamp down on some charitable organizations in that country.
The Jamiatul Muqatila (Libyan) led by Sheikh Abu Lais al-Libby, the Jabhatul Birra of Ibn-i-Malik, also Libyan, the Jaishul Mehdi, founded by slain Abdul Rahman Canady, an Egyptian, and now led by Abu Eza, the Jamaatul Jihad, an unnamed Libyan group once led by Sheikh Abu Nasir Qahtani from Kuwaiti, who has now been arrested, and the takfiris under Sheikh Essa, an Egyptian, have once again joined forces with "Jamaat al-Qaeda" under the leadership of bin Laden.
The contact insisted that since two major tasks - regrouping and finances - had been completed, major operations could now be planned. But in addition to this, to ensure that 2007 would be "the year of al-Qaeda", a "great compromise" had to be made.
And that deal or compromise. If you know anything about the area, it doesn't come as a particular surprise:
Before the "Mother of all Battles", the Gulf War of 1991, bin Laden offered to help the Saudi monarchy fight Saddam Hussein's forces in Kuwait. The Saudi royalty ignored the offer and opted instead for US military assistance. The presence of these troops in the land of the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina inflamed bin Laden, and he split with the Saudi royalty.
Nevertheless, the growing influence of Shi'ite Iran in the Middle East, especially in Iraq after the US invasion of 2003 and Lebanon, concerned al-Qaeda and the anti-Shi'ite Salafi Saudi oligarchs, which included the royal family, scholars, tribes and the state apparatus.
In this environment, a speech by bin Laden was aired on Al-Jazeera television in which he called the Saudi monarchy extremely corrupt, the most contemptuous aspect of which was its alliance with US interests. Having said that, he asked the Saudi monarchy to step aside, saying that the mujahideen did not at that stage want to confront it. Rather, the Saudis should leave al-Qaeda alone to fight against Americans in Iraq.
The speech was, in fact, the beginning of dialogue between al-Qaeda and the Saudi royal family through various Muslim scholars at numerous places in the Middle East. Eventually, the Saudis agreed to turn a blind eye to Maaskar al-Battar (al-Qaeda's training camp) in Saudi Arabia on condition that the fighters would not carry out any operations in Saudi Arabia and go straight to Iraq.
The contact Asia Times Online spoke to said that al-Qaeda is so powerful in Saudi Arabia that the monarchy had no choice but to strike a deal. Similarly, it was al-Qaeda's choice, he said, that it concentrate this year on Iraq.
The way that al-Qaeda sees it, it will consolidate in Iraq to the extent that it and the "coalition of the willing" have their respective and identified occupied areas from which to fight each other.
The Saudi front is thus only deferred until al-Qaeda gains sufficient ground in Iraq.
The "arrangement" between al-Qaeda and the Saudis reveals a diplomatic double-step by Saudi Arabia, which Washington considers an important ally in the "war on terror" and in helping establish a Sunni front against rising Shi'ite power in the region, led by Iran.
And, of course, the "Sunni front" is al Qaeda. Duplicitious doesn't at all begin to describe Saudi Arabia's role in all of this. We talk about Iran and Syria, but the Saudis too are players against our best interests in the area. And the 'arrangement' underscores the complexity of the situation and the depth to which religious and ethnic divisions go.
So what goes on at the al Qaeda camp in Saudi Arabia:
Al-Qaeda uses Maaskar al-Battar in Saudi Arabia to train youths in guerrilla warfare, including the use of SA-7 surface-to-air missiles. Research is also conducted at the camp, as well as in Afghanistan.
This includes work on "Abeer" rockets to carry nuclear or chemical weapons. Last October, the insurgent group Islamic Army in Iraq claimed to have successfully built and tested a rocket with a range of 120 kilometers. It was named Abeer after the 14-year-old Iraqi girl raped and killed by a US soldier who last month received a jail sentence of 100 years.
In video footage released online, the group said the Abeer rocket could carry a payload of 20 kilograms. Iraqi engineers linked to resistance groups are now developing Abeer rockets with upgraded accuracy and payload capabilities.
According to the Asia Times Online contact, basic work on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons has now been completed and the main task now is to mount them on suitable missiles - which it is hoped the upgraded Abeer now is.
In the meantime, the Maaskar al-Battar camp is preparing to send an additional 10,000 trained youths into Iraq by the middle of the year.
So you have a safe haven in Saudi Arabia in which missile technology is safely developed while cannon fodder is trained to go into Iraq. Now obviously it is possible that the report on the numbers of those trained and the capabilities of the rockets are open to question. But it doesn't strike me as at all far-fetched that this sort of thing might be going on in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis wouldn't be the first government who believed it could, if it wanted too, reign in this sort of thing if necessary. In the meantime, though, al Qaeda provides the 'Sunni' front that the Saudis so desperately want in Iraq (and even threatened to open themselves if a better job of protecting Iraqi Sunnis wasn't done).
So what does this all mean?
This coincides with al-Qaeda organizing all segments of the Iraqi resistance under its umbrella. It has already declared an "Emir of the Islamic Emirates of Iraq" comprising Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Ninawa, and in other parts of the governorate of Babel. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi has been declared the emir of the state.
This development signifies that in the coming months, al-Qaeda's epicenter will shift from the Pakistani tribal areas of South Waziristan and North Waziristan to Iraq and its neighborhood, including parts of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.
It also means that the almost-independent "al-Qaeda in Iraq", once headed by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by the US, will not function as an entity.
Although many Arab fighters left Afghanistan and Pakistan after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 to join hands with the Iraqi resistance, others are now following. These include al-Qaeda's Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, who moved from Waziristan.
This will further weaken the link between al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the latter's decision to strike a deal with Pakistan. According to al-Qaeda sources, it is only a matter of time before the entire al-Qaeda leadership abandons its bases in the Pakistani tribal areas and moves to the Middle East.
Something holding them back at present is a logistical matter. Previously, Iran allowed al-Qaeda members to pass through its territory on the way to Iraq or other places. But in the wake of the sectarian troubles in Iraq, Tehran is somewhat hostile toward al-Qaeda.
So it remains unclear whether Iran will facilitate al-Qaeda entering Iraq and destabilizing a Shi'ite government that is pro-American, but certainly also friendly with Iran.
Interesting information. And on cursory examination, I see nothing in particular to raise the BS flag on except perhaps this belief that AQ is going to be able to successfully establish itself in Iraq (al Anbar? I don't think so) or that it has "successfully" developed WMD.
I would guess all of this pretty much flies under the radar in reporting here since it is complex and hard to sort out and explain. You also have to factor in a bit of overstatement from the "contact(s)" and some outright propaganda thrown in for good measure. But it certainly does strike me as a distinctly credible story/narrative on the "big picture" side of things.
Al Qaeda plans on going on the offensive next year against the West (namely Europe) and offending Muslim nations. Saudi Arabia has a sort of shaky truce with AQ, allowing them to train without interference in SA because it serves their purposes at the moment to do so. AQ is shifting its locus from Pakistan to the Middle East as it attempts to further influence the "battle" there (Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, Algeria, Palestine).
* 24 February Saudi security forces have thwarted an attempted suicide attack at an oil processing facility in eastern Saudi Arabia, Saudi security sources told CNN. Two pick-up trucks carrying two would-be bombers tried to enter the side gate to the Abqaiq plant in the Eastern Province, the largest oil processing facilities in the world (more than 60% of Saudi production), but the attackers detonated their explosives after security guards fired on them, according to statements from Saudi’s interior and oil ministries. According to Saudi sources, the plant was not damaged and only minor damage to one small (1.5 inch) pipeline was caused by splinters, along with serious injuries among security guards and minor injuries among a few Aramco plant workers.
The dead suspects were later named as Muhammed Al-Gaith and Abdullah Al-Tuwaijri. Two members of the security forces were also killed in the fight.
* 27 February In a series of predawn raids sparked by the attack on Abqaiq, Saudi security forces killed five unnamed terrorists (in Al-Yarmouk) and captured another (in Al-Rawabi). In addition, three people were killed by the police at a vehicle checkpoint.
Initial reports indicate that the checkpoint incident was a mistake, as those killed were Filipino guest workers.
* 26 October Security services announce the arrest of 44 Saudi nationals in Riyadh, Al-Qassim and Hail.
* 2 December Security services announce the arrest of 136 Al-Qaeda suspects, including 115 Saudi nationals. Calling the arrests "preemptive," they claim that at least one cell of terrorists were on the verge of making a suicide attack in the Kingdom.
I think there is no deal, but that the Saudis are happy when the jihadis go to Iraq rather than stay at home.
There are deals and then there are deals, Harun. I’m not saying that they’ve officially agreed to anything, but I am saying that tolerating AQ’s presence serves their purpose right now as it is an organization which represents their desires to protect the Sunni population of Iraq.
And, of course, these attacks may have been in reaction to AQ feeling that SA was about to do something overt to interfere with their operation and they felt a little reminder of their capabilities was due should SA do so.
Saudi needs to export its young male population, which is large and unemployable (in a kleptocracy where royals steal everyone blind) or fight a war. If nothing is done there will be a revolution in Saudi, they need Al Qaeda.
this isn’t really about "the Great Satan", it’s about the West.
No. It is about Saudi Arabia (and every other screwed up Muslim country) having an exploding birth rate, a male majority and no jobs. All politics is local, even theirs.