08 September 2006
A Closer Look At “An Invitation To Islam”
Editor’s Note: As the news that al Jazeera aired an al Qaeda video message today – one that was certainly not aired in its entirety, according to analyst Randy Taylor, his excellent and thorough assessment of the last video message as presented below has become even more relevant - and extremely accurate.
7 September 2006: The release of the latest as Sahab video on September 2nd, 2006, featuring al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri and the lily white jihad convert Adam Yehiye Gadahn, (a/k/a Adam Pearlman and Azzam the American), titled “Invitation to Islam” has been shrouded in some controversy.
Among the more controversial aspects of this video is that the film was not initially released through the al Jazeera Network, which historically, has been the normal media outlet for al Qaeda video messages. Also of concern and academic debate among analysts is the meaning and intention of this film, particularly as it applies to the United States and the people and countries of the Western world.
In consideration of that analysis, there is intelligent speculation that the video message is a prelude to an upcoming attack, and the film was issued in accordance with Sharia law, an Islamic concept that in this case, applies to the fulfillment of the religious and moral requirement that infidels (all non-Muslims) are to be invited to Islam before they are to be attacked and slain. Upon initial review, this appears to be a very plausible and even the most likely purpose of the film. That explanation, however, fails to address a key issue that many analysts are appearing to overlook: this specific video message was not broadcast through the normal channels.
In analyzing the latest video, I would like to address the method in which this video was disseminated. Although it is likely that this film was indeed intended for the US and the Western world, it is my professional analysis that there could be other intended recipients of this eerie message. After careful analysis, those intended recipients are the countries of Syria and Iran, along with the Ayatollah in Iran and the particularly, the Iranian Supreme Council. Consider this: could it be that the video itself was released without the consent of the ultimate Islamic authority, i.e. the Iranian theocracy and its tethered affiliates, which would address and perhaps even explain its method of initial broadcast? Taking the analysis a step further, could it be that in addition to it being released without their consent, that the video was also directed to those very Islamic countries and affiliates? Let me explain.
As a seasoned researcher of al Qaeda messaging, communiqués, chat rooms, forums, various intelligence sources and documents I have noticed a growing sense of dissention within the ranks of those individuals and factions comprising al Qaeda. There seems to be a concern in the al Qaeda structure over the growing division between the Shi’ite and Sunni sects within the Islamic following. The division is quite obvious in the Iraqi theatre and is spilling over into other regions. It is becoming increasingly obvious within the hard-core Islamic jihad sites on the internet. For example, Shi’ite computer hackers are taking down Sunni sites and Sunni hackers are taking down Shi’ite websites. There is an obvious expansion of the resentment of how Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have conducted themselves, especially in recent months. This notable division and rivalry is unacceptable to the thinkers and planners of al Qaeda as they need the Islamic cult to be whole and unified to wage war with the West on all fronts. This divisiveness would be certainly objectionable and extremely unacceptable to Osama bin Laden, if he is alive, and most unacceptable to Ayman al Zawahiri. As military commanders, both men must realize the importance of unity in Islam to wage an effective social and military campaign against non-Muslim countries as they dreamed, and set their dreams into operational plans.
The leaders of the al Qaeda movement know that the one sure way to unite Islam, and to dispel and disintegrate any division within their religion, is to attack the West and precipitate a major conflict, and perhaps the final conflict based on their system of beliefs. Remember, in the analysis of Islamic messages, one must not be confined to Western thought. In such an example, this conflict is their perceived destiny, one that they can initiate with - or without - Iran’s help.
The apparent stumbling blocks for al Qaeda currently appear to be the regimes of Iran and Syria. It is beyond dispute that Iran has long been the seat of Islam, the chief designer, implementer and financier of Islamic terrorism worldwide. They have had a plan stemming back to at least the 1970s to elevate Islam to world domination and destroy the West, primarily the United States, the UK and the rest of the non-Muslim world. It appears, however, that the current problem in the eyes of these al Qaeda leaders is that Iran is stalling, sending mixed messages and isn’t communicating very well with their own foot soldiers, cell members and their drafted operational arm, namely al Qaeda.
I recently observed how the militant chatter was very elated eventually when Hezbollah provoked a military response from Israel, causing a regional conflict that was at the cusp of a full-blown war. I also observed a serious decline in support for Hezbollah, Syria and Iran as the cease fire went into effect, causing at least a temporary cease fire between Hezbollah and Israel. It was indeed strange to observe the lukewarm support at best for Hezbollah by al Qaeda at the initial start of the conflict. Based on my analysis of the “chatter” and conversational postings among al Qaeda members, it seemed as if they felt that through their actions, Hezbollah was interfering or deviating from some sort of Islamic Master Plan by provoking Israel into entering Lebanon.
About midway into the conflict, there was a discernible shift that seemed to corral some support for Hezbollah, albeit slowly. Then, with the manifestation of the rather abrupt cease fire, support for Hezbollah again began to wane as though Hezbollah had failed, and they should have continued to wage war. Support for Hezbollah was at its apex when it appeared that the region would erupt into a full scale war, with the support of Syria and Iran acting on Hezbollah’s behalf. During the various peaks and valleys of the regional conflict, the communications read like a roller coaster as well.
To advance my observations, I sorted through numerous archived videos, messages and films to locate an al Qaeda release that lacked an al Jazeera script rolling across the bottom of the message. Sorting through gigabytes of data, the only video I located where a recognized al Qaeda leader officially released a video through a recognized media outlet other than al Jazeera was the CNN interview with Osama bin Laden.
Based on my findings, would it not be a reasonable analysis to suggest that all of the terrorist video and audio messages determined to be authentic since Osama bin laden escaped from the Tora Bora region, and distributed through al Jazeera, were done so only with Iran’s blessing? By comparing the methods of distribution (al Jazeera versus all others), could the disparity suggest that all al Qaeda messages channeled through al Jazeera were done so at the behest of, or with the blessing of Iran, while all others lacked such approval? With perhaps one exception – that being the second to last video from Ayman al Zawhiri, the remaining were vetted through al Jazeera. Otherwise and based on a careful analysis of al Qaeda’s broadcast history, their latest release could be considered outside of the normal method of broadcast.
It has been my constant professional opinion that Osama bin Laden was a rogue Islamic terrorist operator in charge of al Qaeda prior to the US troops cornering him at Tora Bora. By this I mean that in general, he was operating outside of any Iranian sanctioned operations. Following the attacks on America, Iran became concerned with his growth and ability because his aggressive nature and tactics fell just outside of the Iranian Islamic Grand Design, at least from a “timetable standpoint” for waging war and bringing about the destruction of the non-Islamic world. Once Osama bin Laden was pinned down in Tora Bora and his death or capture appeared to be most imminent, Iran reached out to him and offered him sanctuary, safety and an assured role in their well thought out plans for the destruction of Israel, the United States and the entire Western World. Following this thought process, it is likely then that Osama bin Laden accepted Iran’s offer in trade for his escape, safety and virtual protection within the borders of Iran. After all, he was the icon of al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism.
I use the phrase “timetable standpoint” as Iran is a country with minimal capability as a conventional military threat unless they have nuclear capability, something that would obviously change their threat level a great deal. Based on my research of all available intelligence material, I am convinced that Iran is working 24 hours a day underground, not to develop a nuclear weapon, as they most likely alreadyhave the basic nuclear weapons, but instead to build many more nuclear weapons and long range missiles capable of reaching the cities of the “Great Satan”, the United States. It is likely that they currently have the capability to hit Israel right now with nuclear weapons. Unless they can cripple the United States, however, it will be a very short war. Iran cannot chance their last hurrah being short in duration or capability. It would mean going back to square one and starting over somewhere else, just as they did when they took over Iran in 1979.
Al Qaeda, however, has no official country or borders, location or base of operation anymore that can be bombed or destroyed like hose in Afghanistan. Their specialties currently include their ability to blend into various areas and coordinate their highly successful hit and run terrorist tactics worldwide, especially through the use of the Internet. As a military presence and a strong Islamic ideology, it is my analysis that al Qaeda is disappointed with Iran’s overall handling of the entire Islamic world’s confrontation with the west and as such, may have sent this video out without Iran’s explicit blessing and approval. As dissension and disagreement among the ranks of killers is quite dangerous for its leadership, the outcome between the al Qaeda and Iranian methods of operation is largely unpredictable.
One might question al Qaeda’s boldness, releasing their latest video to perhaps set the stage for possible attacks against the United States and the West on their own. That boldness is reduced, however, by the lack of action consequential to the release of the video. Accordingly, I do not see it as driving a permanent wedge between Iran and al Qaeda in the long term.
There would be no set timetable from video time to attack time that is within our knowledge, so as a practical matter, it is not much different than previous threats except by it’s method of media delivery. It isn’t the first time we have been threatened nor will it be the last, as documented by Osama bin Laden’s message prior to the last Presidential elections. In contrast, however, that message was delivered through the normal channels of using al Jazeera.
It is also of particular interest that we have not seen any visual sign of Osama bin Laden for a significant period of time and as such, we really have no assurance that he is even alive at this time. It is entirely possible that Ayman al Zawahiri is currently in charge of al Qaeda. Even if he is not, there has been division, disagreement and outright independence displayed in al Qaeda’s secondary and lower tier leadership. Such an event is not new, and is illustrated in the examples of Osama bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam, who Osama had killed after the Afghan-Russian war because of their operational differences. Another, more recent example is that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who started killing Muslims in Iraq as readily and regularly as he would kill US and Iraqi government forces. Such tactics were placed on the records as being against the wishes of Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Based on such examples, the possibility of any known or even unknown al Qaeda operative becoming unpredictably aggressive, stepping out of ranks or doing something without the official “approval” of the primary Islamic theocracy would not be outside the realm of possibility.
Furthermore, resentment could grow as a result of the difference of living conditions between al Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, especially is the disparity between the two is significant. Based on accepted industry analysis, Al Zawahiri is more operationally connected and active than bin Laden, and therefore would logically receive more feedback from the foot soldiers of al Qada than does the more shielded bin Laden.
Based on his level of exposure, Ayman al Zawahiri is much more exposed and accordingly, more likely to be killed than Osama bin Laden. Al Zawahiri could feel that his time is limited and as such, might be seeking to initiate and perpetuate what he perceives as his personal destiny. Osama bin Laden, however, could well be dead, in which case all of his personal deals may have died with him.
The above, of course, is pure speculation on my part as a veteran analysis and merely a rather unique theory given that I have not seen it elsewhere in print. To my knowledge, no one else has really presented anything that addresses and answers some key questions about the release of the video, “An Invitation to Islam”.
With the broadcast of this video, there is the stark reality that Iran and al Qaeda are synonymous in all of this and we have simply been officially warned. Somehow, I think that although we have indeed been officially warned by al Qaeda, the warning is also a simultaneous message to Iran and Syria is that al Qaeda is growing tired of waiting and is anxious to attack the United States and Western non-Islamic countries. Al Qaeda is fully capable of executing terrorist attacks with or without Iran’s help. Financing and logistics are not an issue as they is plenty of financing of al Qaeda behind the scenes, much more than we will ever know about.
Regardless of the media delivery method or lack of, the potential hidden messages and the outright messages the film delivers, there are some things that can be regarded as analytical certainties.
Based on careful analysis, it is my evaluation that there were two distinct Western audiences in addition to the Islamic audience for which the video was intended. The adults among us should recognize that Ayman al Zawahiri meant this film as a serious warning, intended for mature audiences of all mankind. I most certainly caught his tone and understood his seriousness and the warnings as he delivered them quite plainly. The majority of the film, however, that which involved the less mature Adam Yehiye Gadahn appeared to focus on a much younger, more impressionable, immature or even a liberal audience, or the type of people who would not only listen, but could be influenced by him.
Although the overwhelming majority of our younger generation will never see the film in its entirety, those who do may very well heed his words. Gadahn almost has that young, rebel, anti-establishment appeal that draws the disenchanted ones to his type of thinking. This was also designed for an appeal to the young potential jihadist types in Muslim lands, as they intentionally included Arabic subtitles throughout his disrespectful dialogue.
At its most basic core and simply accepting the film simply as presented, it is very possible that the film is indicative of a serious threat to the US and other Western countries, or it could also be another well-planned distraction on the part of Iran, a country famous for distractions, especially when threatened by UN sanctions.
In summary, it does not matter who initiates the terrorist actions as they are all Islamic terrorists and will join with each other, setting aside their differences, to kill the infidels among us. All of these terrorist factions and terrorist states have the same end goal in mind. The end, of course, justifies the means.
Be well. Stay vigilant.
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