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AU/S AAS S/BOCKSTETTE/A Y12 


A CLAUSEWITZIAN ATTACK ON JIHADI COMMUNICATION STRATEGY 


BY 


CARSTEN BOCKSTETTE, LIEUTENANT COLONEL DEU AIR FORCE 


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE FACULTY OF 
THE SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIR AND SPACE STUDIES 
FOR COMPLETION OF GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS 


SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIR AND SPACE STUDIES 
AIR UNIVERSITY 

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, ALABAMA 


DISTRIBUTION A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited. 


AU/S AAS S/BOCKSTETTE/A Y12 


APPROVAL 


The undersigned certify that this thesis meets master’s-level 
standards of research, argumentation, and expression. 


Dr. JAMES KIRAS 


Date 


Dr. EVERETT C. DOLMAN 


Date 






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DISCLAIMER 

The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author. 
They do not reflect the official position of the German or US governments, the Ministry 
of Defence, the Department of Defense, the German Air Force, the United States Air 
Force, or the Air University. In accordance with Air Force Instruction 51-303, it is not 
copyrighted, but is the property of the United States government. 


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Lieutenant Colonel Carsten Bockstette joined the German Air Force in July 1993 
and began his officer training in Furstenfeldbruck near Munich. Thereafter, he attended 
the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg. From 1998 until 2000 he served as the 
Tactical Control Officer for the PATRIOT Weapon System at Eydelstedt and then served 
as the Tactical Control Director of SAM Battalion 25 in Eydelstedt. After this 
assignment, he became Aide de Camp to Lieutenant General Walter Jertz, Commander 
German Air Force Command in Cologne, serving there until May 2005. From May 2005 
to December 2007 he served as Squadron Commander of the 2./FlaRakGrp 21 PATRIOT 
NRF-Squadron in Sanitz. From January 2008 to August 2010, he worked at the George 
C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in the J5-Strategic Plans and Analysis 
Group. As of September 2010 Lieutenant Bockstette has been working in the Concepts, 
Doctrine & Development Division of the German Air Force Command. Lieutenant 
Colonel Bockstette earned a doctorate in the field of political sciences in January 2003. 


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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

The work described in this thesis would not have been possible without the 
dedicated help and invaluable assistance of many of the faculty and staff members at the 
School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. It has been an honor to work with such a 
distinguished faculty. First and foremost, I would like to thank my extraordinaire thesis 
advisor and mentor, Dr. James Kiras. Dr. Kiras’ inspiration, his trust, knowledge, 
creativity, and dedication are exemplary. His ability to motivate me to deepen my 
understanding of the field of irregular warfare was magnificent. Dr. James Kiras taught 
me the finer points of al-Qaeda in the realm of irregular warfare in an outstanding 
manner. I am thankful for the intellectual and administrative support he has provided me. 
Special thanks to my thesis reader and distinguished political scientist, Dr. Everett 
Dolman. His ideas, guidance, and suggestions are greatly appreciated. I cherish the 
professionals Sheila McKitt and Kelly Rhodes for their excellent support in all 
administrative needs. I thank all fellow learning group mates for their motivation and 
encouragement and for all their proofreading. Their vast experience and knowledge 
represent one of my most valuable assets and provided considerable amounts of 
intellectual gold dust. Importantly, I am grateful to all my friends and loved ones who 
are always a constant source of support. Especially my wonderful wife, the sacrifices she 
made for me will never be forgotten. She has helped me to become the person I am 
today. 


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ABSTRACT 

Informed by an empirical analytical framework based on Clausewitz’s theory of 
war, this study investigates al-Qaeda's strategy to highlight potentially targetable 
vulnerabilities along the critical links of ends, ways and means. The thesis depicts the 
points of vulnerability with the greatest potential to sever the critical nodes between al- 
Qaeda' s ideology, actions, messages, and audience. The examination begins with a brief 
survey of theory, applied methodology, and key definitions. This is followed by a review 
of the history and origin of jihadi terrorism. Based on this foundation, the author 
investigates al-Qaeda' s strategy. Based on this inquiry, al-Qaedas communication 
strategy is dissected. The analysis of the implications and thereof derived 
recommendations completes the exploration. The author concludes that al-Qaeda’s 
strategy and its interlocked communication strategy, primarily motivated by fear, honor 
and interest, are inherently flawed, ideologically extremely restricted, and ineffective as a 
political coercive strategy. Given time, the malfunctioning and limited terroristic strategy 
will ensure al-Qaeda 's demise. 


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CONTENTS 

DISCLAIMER ii 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR iii 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv 

ABSTRACT v 

INTRODUCTION 1 

CHAPTER 1 - THEORY AND METHODOLOGY 6 

CHAPTER 2 - AL-QAEDA’S ORIGINS 20 

CHAPTER 3 - STRATEGY 37 

CHAPTER 4 - JIHADI COMMUNICATION STRATEGY 49 

CHAPTER 5 - SYNTHESIS AND CONCLUSION 68 

ACRONYMS 80 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 81 


APPENDICES 

A. ABU MUS’AB AL-SURI PROTRACTED GUERRILLA STRATEGY.87 

B. MASTER NARRATIVE: “WAR ON ISLAM”.88 

C. MASTER NARRATIVE: “AGENTS OF THE WEST”.88 

D. MASTER NARRATIVE: “THE NAKBA”.89 

E. MASTER NARRATIVE: “VIOLENT JIHAD”.89 

F. MASTER NARRATIVE: “BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS”.89 

G. MASTER NARRATIVE: “RESTORING THE CALIPHATE”.90 


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ILLUSTRATIONS 

Tables 

Table 1. ANALYTICAL ACTOR MODEL.11 

Table 2. FIRST HALF OF THE STRATEGY COIN.48 

Table 3 AL-QAEDA 'S MASTER NARRATIVES SUMMARIZED.54 

Table 4. SECOND HALF OF THE STRATEGY COIN.67 

Figures 

Figure 1 VISUALIZATION OF THEORY OF WAR.8 

Figure 2. Al-QAEDA’S STRATEGY COIN.36 

Figure 3. CLAUSEWITZIAN ATTACK ON AL-QAEDA'S STRATEGY.78 


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INTRODUCTION 

In remarks on the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department on May 
19, 2011, US President Obama said that even before the death of Osama bin Laden, al- 
Qaeda 1 was becoming irrelevant. 


Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even 
before his death, al-Qaeda 2 was losing its struggle for relevance, as the 
overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did 
not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, 
al-Qaeda 's agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region 
as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had 
taken their future into their own hands. That story of self-determination 
began six months ago in Tunisia. On Dec. 17, a young vendor named 
Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his 
cart. This was not unique. It’s the same kind of humiliation that takes 
place every day in many parts of the world—the relentless tyranny of 
governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something 
different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaints, 
this young man, who had never been particularly active in politics, went to 
the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and 
lit himself on fire. 3 

Even though al-Qaeda 's relevance is seemingly in decline, the movement is far 
from perishing in the near future. January 2012 confirmed that a revolution’s elections 
did not follow from its causes. Commenting on the election successes of the Muslim 
Brotherhood (MB), the political scientist John M. Owen IV argued in a New York Times 
article, “Rather than bringing secular revolutionaries to power, the Arab Spring is 
producing flowers of a decidedly Islamist hue. More unsettling to many, Islamists are 
winning fairly: religious parties are placing first in free, open elections in Tunisia, 
Morocco and Egypt. ... Political Islam, especially the strict version practiced by 


1 Due to transcript translations, the spelling of al-Qaeda varies in the literature. It is also spelled al-Qaida 
and al-Qa’ida. In this essay, I will use al-Qaeda since this English pronunciation comes closest to the 
Arabic original al-qa idah (pronunciation: al-ky-dd). 

2 To ensure continuity in direct quotations and within this essay, all Arabic terms have been italicized and 
differences in spelling harmonized. 

3 Barak Obama, “Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa” The White House Office 
of the Press Secretary, May 19, 2011, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011 /05/19/remarks- 
president-middle-east-and-north-africa (accessed 24 January 2012). 





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Salafists 4 in Egypt, is thriving largely because it is tapping into ideological roots that 
were laid down long before the revolts began.” 5 The MB and political Islam existed well 
before al-Qaeda and political Islam should not be conflated with al-Qaeda. Further, as 
Tim Listener, an executive editor for CNN explains, “Even if the uprisings from Yemen 
to Tunisia were inspired by young pro-democracy pro Qutbtesters, al-Qaeda clearly 
wants to co-opt them-and sees opportunities in the instability they have caused.” 6 At the 
end of 2011, the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam 7 , an Islamist militant group affiliated with 
al-Qaeda, claimed that fighters from al-Qaeda had provided the spark for the Arab 
spring. 8 

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current al-Qaeda leader, has recently stated his support 
for the Syrian resistance, urging the opposition not to count on the West or the Arab 
League for assistance. 9 As Walid Phares, an adviser to the anti-terrorism caucus in the 
US House of Representatives, explains, “Washington doesn't believe that al-Qaeda is 
leading [the revolt in Syria], but believes that al-Qaeda is trying to take advantage of the 
long-term crisis that exists today in Syria.” 10 Osama bin Laden and other key ideologues 
may be dead, but their ideas live on. Even as they are being combated, al-Qaeda has 
found new sanctuary in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and affiliated and 
associated groups rise in power. Moreover, the continued resonance of al-Qaeda’’ s 
messages and its ability to ensure a flow of financial and human resources aids its 


4 See “1.4 Origin Jihadi Terrorism” for a deeper discussion of Salafist ideology as interpreted by al-Qaeda. 

5 John M. Owen IV, “Why Islamism Is Winning,” New York Times, 6 January 2012 
http://www.nvtimes.com/2012/01 /07/oninion/whv-islamism-is-winning.html (accessed 24 January 2012). 

6 Tim Listner, “New al-Qaeda message reinforces focus on Arab Spring, ” httv://security,blogs, cnnxom , 13 
September 2011, http://securitv.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/13/new-al-qaeda-message-reinforces-focus-on- 
arab-spring/ . 

7 Dr. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam was a Jordanian Palestinian. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood during his 
studies in Egypt and developed a radical Islamic ideology. He was one of the first Arabs to volunteer 
during the 1980s to join the Afghan jihad against Soviet Union in Afghanistan. 

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, “The Abdullah Azzam Brigades,” 
Terrorism-info.org, 1 September 2010. http://www.terrorism- 

info.org.il/malam multimedia/English/eng n/html/lebanon e005.htm . (accessed 24 January 2012). 

8 Listner, “New al-Qaeda message reinforces focus on Arab Spring,” 13 September 2011. 

9 BBC News Middle East, “Syria uprising: Al-Qaeda's al-Zawahiri lends support,” BBC.co.uk, 12 February 
2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17002573 . 

10 A1 Jazeera, “Is Syria's uprising being hijacked?” aljazeera.com, 19 February 2012, 
http://www.aliazeera.com/programmes/insidesvria/2012/02/20122196123573363.html . 


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survival. 11 Clearly, al-Qaeda remains relevant and seeks to expand on that relevance, 
and despite the fact that the al-Qaeda threat is well known; a coherent response to the 
threat has yet to be devised. This essay will trace the roots of al-Qaeda and its 
communication strategy using multiple sources discussed in detail below. 

The US Government's Open Source Center (OSC) is a prominent provider of 
foreign open source intelligence. They provide open source information and analysis 
primarily for US government employees beyond the usual media. The Combating 
Terrorism Center (CTC) is a further excellent source of primary data and secondary 
information. The CTC is an independent, privately funded, research and educational 
institution located at the United States Military Academy, West Point. Their Harmony 
Project Report, Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?, was released 3 May 2012 
and is of great importance to the researcher of al-Qaeda. It is a first analysis of 17 
declassified documents that were captured during the US raid in May 2011 that killed 
Osama bin Laden. 12 An additional key primary source for professional-level reference is 
the IntelCenter. The US based IntelCenter is privately owned company established in 
1989. The specialized on providing raw data and finished analysis of counterterrorism 
intelligence services. 

The number of academic and popular literature written about terrorism and 
especially al-Qaeda has dramatically increased since 2001. Some of the more relevant 
and current academic publications include: Fawaz A. Gerges, The Rise and Fall of Al- 
Qaeda, Oxford University Press 2011; Lorenzo Vidin, The New Muslim Brotherhood in 
the West, Columbia University Press 2010; Brynjar Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 
Columbia University Press 2008. 

For the thematic nexus of terrorism and communication strategy, the following 
works are of heightened relevance for this essay: Open Source Center, Master Narratives 
Special Report: Al-Qaeda; Al-Qaeda Master Narratives and Affiliate Case Studies: Open 


11 Bruce Hoffman, “Foreword,” in James J. F. Forest ed., Influence Warfare-How Terrorists and 
Governments Fight to Shape Perceptions in a War of Ideas (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Security 
International 2009), vii. 

12 Nelly Lahoud et al., Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined? CTC Harmony Program Report, 
(West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center 3 May 2012), Foreword. 


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Source Center 2011; Jeffry R. Halverson, H.L. Goodall, Jr., and Steven R. Corman, 
Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism, Palgrave Macmillan 2011; David Aaron, In 
Their Own Words-Voices of Jihad: Compilation and Commentary RAND 2008; James J. 
F. Forest, Influence Warfare, Praeger Security International 2008; Steven R. Corman ed. 
et al., Weapons of Mass Persuasion, Strategic Communication to Combat Violent 
Extremism. 

While resources are plentiful and a great deal of independent, academic, and 
government-sponsored research is being conducted to collect and collate data dealing 
with international terrorism and al-Qaeda, this empirical research is largely ad hoc and 
uninformed by a unified and coherent understanding of al-Qaeda’s overarching coercive 

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strategy. Furthermore, no serious study of jihadi terrorist communication strategies has 
been conducted using as its analytical framework the theories of the great Prussian 
theorist of war, Carl von Clausewitz. 

An empirical analytical framework based on Clausewitz’s theory of war can 
potentially inform a rigorous investigation of terrorist strategy and its interlocked 
communication strategy to highlight potentially targetable vulnerabilities. That is, an 
attack against their strategy communications strategy is not an attack against an 
intermediate element of their strategy; it is much more. It is an attack against the central 
element of their strategy. As Master Sun Tzu 14 stressed: “What is of supreme importance 
in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.” 15 The points of vulnerability are likely found 
along the critical links of ends, ways, and means. This thesis seeks to not only identify 
vulnerabilities in jihadi communication strategy but also to determine which of those 
vulnerabilities has the greatest potential to sever the critical links between al-Qaeda' s 
ideology, actions, messages, and audience. To properly address the salient points of the 
aforementioned, I trace and explore relevant aspects in a normative methodology. 


13 Max Abrahms, “The Strategic Influence Deficit of Terrorism,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 151. 

14 If Sun Tzu ( f\'~ f) was an actual person or a composite is not known. 

Sun Tzu, Illustrated Art of War: The Definitive English Translation, trans. Samuel B. Griffith (New York, 
NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 17-21. 

15 Sun Tzu, Illustrated Art of War, 115. 


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I begin the examination with a brief survey of theory, applied methodology, and 
key definitions in chapter one. This is followed by a review of the history and origin of 
jihadi terrorism. Based on this foundation, I then investigate al-Qaeda’s strategy in 
chapter three utilizing Clausewitz’s theory as basis for an analytical framework. From 
this analysis, the communication strategy of jihadi terrorism will be dissected in chapter 
four. The analysis of the implications in chapter five completes the exploration. 


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CHAPTER 1 - THEORY AND METHODOLOGY 

It is a trait of human nature to yearn for understanding of the world in which we live. 

- Harold R. Winton 

1.1 Theory 

A social science theory is a simplified view of a portion of reality based on 
assumptions. As the Yale political scientist Stathis N. Kalyvas eloquently states, “Its 
simplicity constitutes its great strength.” 16 It generally contains descriptive and causal 
(explanatory) statements on the portion of reality under investigation. Based on this 
descriptive and causal model, one anticipates the course events will follow and is thereby 
able to derive recommendations for action. Centuries ago, Sun Tzu advised, “If you 
know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” 17 
A key function for theory is to explain phenomena and to articulate, for example, the 
relationship between “self’ and “enemy” and thus enable victory. The Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology (MIT) political scientist Stephen Van Evera emphasizes that any 

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good theory must have significant explanatory power. As the historian Harold Winton 
asserts, “Explanation is the soul of theory.” 19 

As an abstract, conceptual model, theory can help analyze the ramifications or the 
salient aspects of a matter under investigation. One of the most notable theorists in the 
military realm was the philosopher and strategist General Carl von Clausewitz. 

Clausewitz believed that theory serves to educate. He taught, “Theory will have fulfilled 
its main task when it is used to analyze the constituent elements of war, to distinguish 
precisely what at first seems fused, to explain in full the properties of the means 
employed and to show their probable effects, to define clearly the nature of the ends in 
view, and to illuminate all phases of war through critical inquiry. It is meant to educate 


16 Stathis N. Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 
2009), 207. 

17 Sun Tzu, Illustrated Art of War, 125. 

18 Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 
1997), 17. 

19 Harold Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” in Charles D. Lutes and Peter L. Hays, eds., Toward 
a Theory of Spacepower ( Washington, D.C.: NDU Press, 2011), 19-35, 21. 

20 Frans P.B. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War-The Strategic Theory of John Boyd (New York, NY: 
Rutledge 2007), 11-12. 


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the mind of the future commander, or, more accurately, to guide him in his self- 
education, not accompany him to the battlefield.” 21 

Reflecting upon Clausewitz, the political scientist and professor of comparative 
military studies, Everett C. Dolman professes, “Theory is always necessary when 
beginning a search for meaning or truth, as there can be no sense made of the world 
without it. It is the filter through which it organizes thoughts.” 22 As Harold Winton 
explains, theory has multiple functions. It defines, categorizes, connects, anticipates, and 
it explains based upon its simplified view of a portion of reality. Winton claims, 
“Theory’s first task is to define the field of study under investigation. ... In visual terms, 
this defining act draws a circle and declares that everything inside the circle is 
encompassed by the theory, while everything outside is not.” After introducing the 
limiting factor of rationality to his theory of war, Clausewitz implicitly draws his circle 
around those elements encompassed by his theory of war as depicted the following 
Figure \, 24 when he says, “War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, 
a continuation of political activity with other means.” 


21 Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Indexed Edition, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret 
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), 141. 

22 Everett C. Dolman, Pure Strategy: Power and Principle in the Space and Information Age (London: 
Frank Cass, 2005), 12. 

23 Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” 19. 

24 Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” 19. 

Source of picture: http://infoportal-schwaben.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/generalleutnant-gerhard- 
von-schamhorst-1813 .jpg 

25 Clausewitz, On War , 87. 


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THEORY VISUALIZED 



Figure 1 VISUALIZATION OF THEORY OF WAR 

Source Harold Winton, On the Nature of Military Theory 

The second task of theory is to dissect the field of study into its constituent parts 
and categorize them in some useful taxonomy. What Winton is advocating, in a sense, is 
the perfect reductionism of Descartes and Newton. The reductionism by theory provides 
the foundation to illuminate the essence of sought knowledge in an interactively complex 
social system like warfare. 26 If one understands the pieces, one understands the whole. 27 
To illustrate, Clausewitz taught to divide war into its dynamic, temporal phases-planning 
and conduct-and its two levels-tactics and strategy. Additionally, theory connects the 
area under investigation to associated fields of study. Furthermore, theory in the realm of 
social sciences anticipates, always leaving uncertainties due to the complexities of human 
interaction. 29 However, the most important function is to explain. Emphasizing this 


26 Complexity theory says precisely the opposite; reductionism in interactively complex (as opposed to 
structurally complex) social systems cannot reveal the nature of the system since behaviors emerge from 
the interaction between elements rather than from the characteristics of the individual elements. For a 
deeper discussion on complexity theory see: 

M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (New York, 
NY: Simon & Schuster 1992). 

27 Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” 19-35. 

28 Clausewitz, On War, 231. 

28 Clausewitz, On War, 128. 

29 Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” 19-22. 


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significance, Winton states, “Theory without explanatory value is like salt without 
savor—it is worthy only of the dung heap.” 30 

The real world is far too complex to contemplate all variables. Therefore, no 

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theory can completely reproduce reality. Consequently, any theory will deviate from 
reality in some way, leaving room for evolution of theory. As Harold Winton states, 
“Theories tend to evolve in response to two stimuli: either new explanations are offered 
and subsequently verified that more accurately explain an existing reality, or the field of 
study itself changes, requiring either new explanations or new categories.” In 
awareness of these limitations, Clausewitz’s theory of war will serve for this 
investigation as methodological foundation. 

1.2 Methodology 

Using Clausewitz’s theory of war, discussed below, as a basis for an analytical 
framework, this paper conducts a comprehensive study of al-Qaeda terrorist strategy. 
Clausewitz expressed, “It is precisely that inquiry which is the most essential part of any 
theory ... It is an analytical investigation leading to a close acquaintance with the 
subject.” The reductionist analytical model of this thesis, based on the foundations of 
Winton, Newton, and Descartes, enables dissecting terrorist strategies into smaller 
elements. Descartes, who in his Discourse on Method resolved “to divide all the 
difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as many as [are] 
required to solve them in the best way” and to begin investigations “with the simplest and 
most easily understood objects, and gradually ascending, as it were step by step, to the 
knowledge of the most complex” 34 guides this investigation. This allows the analyst to 
more effectively detect inconsistencies and contradictions between political ends, violent 
ways, and terrorist means by reductionism. Clausewitz left room at the epicenter of his 
theory of war for multiple forms of political violence such as terrorism in his concept of 


30 Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” 21. 

31 Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” 22. 

32 Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” 20. 

33 Clausewitz, On War, 231. 

34 Rene Descartes, A Discourse on Method, trans. Ian Maclean (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 
2006), 17. 


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the paradoxical trinity. It is composed of means of primordial violence, hatred, and 
enmity acting on each other in multifarious ways leveraging fear to achieve political 
interests. 35 

Clausewitz's wide-ranging military theory begins with a general definition of war. 
As a basic starting point, he created a highly abstract model of war by drastically 
reducing its complexity in his characterization. The war progresses predictably in the 
direction of uncontrolled escalation of violence. This type of war, absolute war, has no 
restrictions and no historical precedent. It identifies tendencies that are present in any 
potential real war. He then increases the complexity of his theoretical model of war by 
gradually relaxing the original assumptions and abstractions; he thus brings his theory 
closer to a more realistic vision he calls real war. Clausewitz concludes his analysis not 
with a new definition of war, but with a complex theory: “War is not merely an act of 
policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on 
with other means.” 36 

I will use a reductive approach informed by a Clausewitzian theory of conflict and 
war to design conceptual building blocks for an empirical model of jihadi terroristic 
strategies and their corresponding communication strategy. This model divides terrorist 
strategies and the corresponding communication strategies into smaller elements. 

Thereby, I can systematically detect inconsistencies and contradictions between political 
ends, violent ways, and terrorist means. 


35 

36 


Clausewitz, On War, 89; Winton, “On the Nature of Military Theory,” 26. 
Clausewitz. On War, 87. 


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ACTOR 

LEVEL 

ENDS 

WAYS 

MEANS 


(Goals/Objects) 

(Concepts/ldeology) 

(Tools/Resources) 

Grand Strategy 




Strategy 

—V— ~ 






Tactic/Action 



-> 

Table 1. ANALYTICAL ACTOR MO 

DEL 


Source: Rasmus Beckmann 


A schematic description of this analytic approach is shown above in Table 1: 
Analytic Actor Model. 37 The model can be used for strategic design of ends, ways and 
means (left to right) and for systematically analyzing and drawing conclusions regarding 
tactical action, tracing those actions back to grand strategy. That is, the reductionism 
employed is assumed to operate in both directions. Grand strategy disaggregates into a 
collection of coherently connected tactical actions, and actions aggregate into an 
instrumental attempt to achieve grand strategic means. 38 The ways and means of the 
higher level serve as the end for the lower level. The interests based ends (goals, 
objectives) at each level describe what is to be accomplished. The ways 
(concepts/ideology) explain how the ends are to be reached. The means (tools/resources) 
describe the logistical and support modalities that are designated for the pursuing the 
strategic concept. For example, al-Qaeda’s end is a global caliphate, which it aims to 
reach by the way of uniting the global Muslim population through the means of terror. 

For analysis, one can go in reverse order (from right to left). Did the chosen 
actions, tactics, and strategies support achieving the grand strategy? The illustration 
depicts the analytical framework. The boxes divide the different, interrelated levels of 


37 The analytical actor model is based upon a model by Rasmus Beckmann, “Clausewitz, Terrorismus und 
die NATO-Antiterrorstrategie: Ein Modell strategischen Handelns [Clausewitz, Terrorism and the NATO- 
Anti Terrorism Strategy: A Strategic Acting Model],” A IP A University Cologne, March 2008, 1-24. 

38 Beckmann, “Clausewitz, Terrorismus und die NATO-Antiterrorstrategie,“ 1-24. 

39 Harry R. Yarger, Strategy and National Security Professional-Strategic Thinking and Strategy 
Formulation in the 2 I st Century (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008), 155-156. 


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grand strategy, strategy and tactics/actions. The political purpose funnels through the 
vertical levels and must be operationalized according to the diverse needs of these levels 
(funnel depicted in Table 1). The upper level consists of the concrete ways and means to 
each specific objective of the lower layer (the zigzag line depicted in Table l). 40 

1.3 Definitions 

Clear and consistent definitions for key terms are of fundamental importance in 
any analysis. As Confucius said: “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance 
with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs 
cannot be carried on to success.” 41 Of course, definitions occasionally prompt as many 
questions as they answer and rarely enjoy general academic acceptance, but the 
definitions given here will establish a solid foundation for this work and will underpin 
subsequent chapters. 

Since terrorism is essentially a communication strategy, the terms strategy and 
strategic communication need clarification before I can define terrorism. Strategic 
decision-making is concerned with purpose and processes. It strives for continuity. The 
art of strategy seeks to manipulate boundaries. As Dolman eloquently characterized it, 
“Strategy is confined only by the event horizon of possibilities, a horizon which expands 
anew with every action. A potentially unlimited panorama of choices may be revealed 
with the next moment. There is no beginning or end for the strategist: there is only more, 
or less.” 42 This perspective on strategy is not far from that of the Nobel Prize winning 
economist Thomas Schelling who, in his seminal work Strategy of Conflict, wrote, 
“Strategy is not concerned with the efficient application of force but with the exploitation 
of potential force” and with enough force, one may not even need to bargain. 43 Based 
upon this characterization of strategy by Dolman and Schelling grand strategy in the 
context of this paper is defined as the process by which all the means available to the 


40 Beckmann, “Clausewitz, Terrorismus und die NATO-Antiterrorstrategie,“, 1-24. 

41 Confucius, The Analects of Confucius, tr. James Legge (Adelaide, Australia: eBooks@Adelaide), Book 
13, Verse 3, http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.aU/c/confucius/c748a/ . 

42 Dolman , Pure Strategy, 13. 

43 Thomas C. Schelling, Strategy of Conflict (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1960), 5; Thomas 
C. Schelling, Arms and Influence, 2 ed ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 1. 


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terrorists are considered in pursuit of a continuing political influence. 44 With this 
definition for grand strategy in mind, strategy is defined as a plan to provide continuing 
advantage to achieve the ends of policy. 45 

Based on the above, I define communication strategy as the systematic planning 
and realization of information flow, communication, media development, and image care 
with a long-term horizon. It plans for transmitting deliberate messages through the most 
suitable media to designated audiences at the appropriate time to contribute to an 
overarching grand strategy to achieve continuing advantage. It has to bring three factors 
into balance: the messages, the media channels, and the local and global audience, 
including both intended and unintended audiences. 46 

The discipline of terrorism research is relatively young and therefore has no 
generally accepted academic definition for terrorism. Its roots can be traced back at least 
to the Peloponnesian War. 47 Twenty-five hundred years ago, in reflection upon the use 
of force between city-states, the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, 48 son of Melesias 
reporting his views of Athenian political and military views wrote, "Right, as the world 
goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and 


44 Dolman, Pure Strategy , 26. 

45 Dolman, Pure Strategy , 6. 

46 Carsten Bockstette, “Terrorist Exploit Information Technologies ‘\per Concordiam Journal of European 
Security and Defense Issues, vol. 1 issue 3 (October 2010), 11-12. 

47 Throughout history, power has been exerted via terror. Without reaching back to prehistory, which was a 
terrifying insecure state of nature, the first Mesopotamian Empire was founded on terror. Some Historians 
point out that the term terror has its origins in the French revolution, but the principal as a far broader 
phenomenon reaches back into the time of recorded history. The use of terroristic actions as description of 
ruthless illegitimate use of violence and often with a religious dimension and political aims in human 
antiquity cannot be exactly dated. 

Gerard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin, The History ofTerrorism-From Antiquity to Al-Qaeda (Berkeley, CA: 
University of California Press, 2007), vii-viii. 

48 Thucydides also serves a point of reference to non-realist interpretations in international relations theory. 
For example, Laurie M. Johnson Bagby argues that "a close reading of Thucydides will show that he does 
not agree with some of the most important emphases and conclusions of classical realist” and that "although 
there is some evidence to suggest that Thucydides understood the influence of international structure on the 
state behavior leading up to and during the Peloponnesian War. He cannot be completely identified with 
neorealism either.” 

Laurie M. Johnson Bagby, "The Use and Abuse of Thucydides in International Relations,” International 
Organization 48, no. 1 (Winter 1994): 131-153. In similar fashion, Richard Ned Lebow argues that 
"Thucydides is a founding father of constructivism.” 

Richard Ned Lebow "Thucydides the Constructivist," American Political Science Review 95, no. 3 
(September 2001): 547-560. 


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the weak suffer what they must." 49 Motivated by “fear, honor, and interest,” inter- and 
inner-state coercion 50 using violence dominated the anarchical international order. 51 
Terrorism, as a tool of asymmetric conflict is fundamentally a rejection of this idea. A 
terrorist (or other “weak” actor) takes the position that the strong do what they can, and 
so do the weak, exploiting the vacuum of anarchy to fight their war. However, they share 
fundamentally the same motivators: fear, honor and interest. 

In his 1642 book De Cive, Thomas Hobbes described the state of human nature as 
Bellum omnium contra omnes (A war of all against all, or a state of anarchy). Later, in 
1651, he reiterated this position in Leviathan, using the English phase “war of all against 
all .” 54 His books detailed a thought experiment that placed people in uncivilized 
environments and asked what would happen in such circumstances. In these situations, 
individuals have a natural right to freely do as they please, including the use of deadly 
force to preserve their life, which is ’’solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” 55 This is 
nothing more than an extreme state of individual self-help anarchy impelling the use of 
brute force for survival. As the political scientist Kenneth Waltz explains, “Self-help is 
necessarily the principle of action in an anarchic order.” 56 According to Hobbes, to 
minimize insecurity people choose to enter a social contract, giving up some of their 
freedoms in exchange for order and peace. “[E]very man ought to endeavor peace, as far 
as he has hope of obtaining it.” 57 According to Hobbes, “[A] man be willing, when 


49 Robert B Strassler, ed. The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War. 
(New York, NY: The Free Press, 1996), 352. 

50 In this essay, I use Thomas C. Schelling’s understanding of the term coercion. 

Schelling, Arms and Influence , x.; 

Anarchical in the sense of absence of government as Hedley Bull depicts it. 

Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society-A Study of Order in World Politics 3 rd ed. (New York, NJ: Columbia 
University Press, 2002), 49. 

51 Strassler, Landmark Thucydides , 1.76, 43. 

52 For a deviating view and a different focus see Stathis N. Kalyvas: 

Kalyvas, Logic of Violence in Civil War. 

53 Thomas Hobbes, De Cive, (London, GB: J.C. for R. Royston, at the Angel in Ivie-Lane 1642), 11. 
http://www.unihbrary.com/ebooks/Hobbes.yo20Thomas%20-%20De%20Cive.pdf 

54 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan or the Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and 
Civill, (London, GB: Andrew Crooke, at the Green Dragon, 1651), 

11. http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3113/hobbes/Leviathan.pdf 

55 Hobbes, Leviathan , 78. 

56 Waltz, Kenneth. Theory of International Politics. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1979), 111. 

57 Hobbes, Leviathan , 80. 


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others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it 
necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty 
against other men as he would allow other men against himself.” Hobbes provided a 
solution to his pessimistic prognosis. Through civil institutions (the instrument), as 
authorized by the people through implicit and explicit social contract, governments (the 
agents) establish a legitimate monopoly on the use of force. Hobbes used his thought 
experiment to test the legitimacy of state sovereignty as guarantor of social order. Once 
established, governments mitigate the effects of the state of nature at the individual level 
and enforce the mandates of the social contract. Between nations, however, no such 
power exists; therefore, states have rights of self-preservation, including the use of brute 
force (i.e., war). Hobbes saw emerging states confronting each other in a social and 
moral vacuum. Motivated by fear, honor and interest, this vacuum establishes the 
theoretical room for interstate and symmetric conflict as well as for state terror and 
asymmetrical conflicts (i.e., irregular warfare and terrorism) as we understand them 
today. 59 

This Hobbesian understanding of the nation-state is reflected in the Peace of 
Westphalia. The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May 
and October 1648 in Osnabriick and Munster, Germany. These treaties solidified an 
agreement regarding the rights of individual states to determine the religion of their 
respective populations according to the principle cuijus region, eijus religio. 60 They also 
codified the definitions of internal and external sovereignty and clarified the concept of 
state autonomy, including under sovereignty the right to exert political authority over a 
defined geographic space. That is, under the terms of these treaties, the state is the 
ultimate authority over a given territory and all its inhabitants. The Peace of Westphalia 


58 Hobbes, Leviathan, 80. 

59 One could also argue that if terrorism is crime, than an act can only be considered criminal if it occurs in 
an environment regulated by some social contract. Therefore, there must be a Leviathan to sit in judgment 
on the act. Therefore, if terrorism is criminal, it is not the vacuum that defines it but rather the absence of 
the vacuum. 

60 Latin for whose realm, his religion. 


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therefore established the principles of raison d'etat and state sovereignty in the 
seventeenth century. 61 

In establishing these principles, however, the Peace of Westphalia also 
inadvertently established the roots of modem terrorism. Terror as an instrument has been 
used for a long time. It is a parasitic culmination of long-term human history. City-states 
used it against each other in the Peloponnesian War and nation-states have used it against 
their enemies and even their own populations. As the terrorism expert Audrey Kurth 
Cronin states, “Over the course of recent history, terrorism has been consistently tied to 
the evolving politics and identity of the state, steadily gaining in its capacity to draw 
power from the Western nation-state and moving from a peripheral nuisance to a central 
strategic threat.” 63 

Even as the methods of terrorism have evolved over the centuries, the term itself 
first appeared in the European languages in the wake of the French Revolution of 1789. 
As the political scientist Adam Roberts explains, “The first meaning of the word 
'terrorism', as recorded by the Academie Fran 9 aise in 1798, was 'system or rule of terror'. 

... During the 19 th century, terrorism underwent a fateful transformation, coming to be 
[mainly] associated, as it still is today, with non-govemmental groups.” 64 One man’s 
terrorist can very well be another’s freedom fighter, especially if the nation-state utilizes 
a system or rule of terror. In this case, one speaks of state-terrorism. 

Founded on one of the three prime motivators enumerated by Thucydides, fear, 
the word terror comes from the Latin word terrere, which means to frighten or scare-or 
to “attack the mind of the enemy” as Sun Tzu elegantly states. 65 Terrorism is a type of 


61 French for reason of state', Gregory Brown, “Western Civilization II: European History Since 1648,” 
University of Nevada, http://facultv.unlv.edu/gbrown/westernciv/wc201 /wciv2c 10/wciv2c 101sec2.html 

62 Audrey Kurth Cronin, How Terrorism Ends-Understanding The Decline and Demise of Terrorist 
Campaigns (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2009), 3. 

63 Audrey Kurth Cronin, How Terrorism End-Understanding The Decline and Demise of Terrorist 
Campaigns (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2009), 3. 

64 Adam Roberts, “The Changing Faces of Terrorism,” BBC.co.uk, 27 August 2002), 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/historv/recent/sept ll/changing faces 02,shtml, 

65 Sun Tzu, Illustrated Art of War, 64. 


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irregular warfare. 66 And as the Yale political scientist Stathis N Kalyvas suggests, 
terroristic violence 67 is to a certain extent a reflection of human nature, as argued by 
Thucydides and Hobbes. 68 

For this essay, I define terrorism as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict 
that induces fear through the destruction of combat and noncombatant targets or iconic 
symbols. Such acts transmit messages—intended and unintended—to local, national, and 
global audiences. The technique of terrorism is to exploit the media to achieve maximum 
publicity as a force multiplier to coerce targeted audience(s) in pursuit of grand political 
strategy, the terrorists’ primary interest. 69 The aim of this coercive force is to hurt and to 
exploit an audience’s wants and fears: “To be coercive, violence has to be anticipated 
and it has to be avoidable by accommodation ... The power to hurt is bargaining 
power.” Schelling explains, “Brute force can only accomplish what requires no 
collaboration.” 71 

Terrorists do not primarily aim at producing maximum physical damage via brute 
force. They aim for the greatest possible psychological effect. As Clausewitz wrote, 

79 

“For psychological forces exert a decisive influence on the elements involved in war.” 
Sun Tzu’s theory is also apt. He claimed, “The first of [the five fundamental] factors is 
moral influence ... by moral influence I mean that which causes the people to be in 


66 Terrorism as used in this essay is a type of irregular warfare as James D. Kiras defines it: “The use of 
violence by sub-state actors or groups within states for political purposes of achieving power, control and 
legitimacy, using unorthodox or unconventional approaches to warfare owing to a fundamental weakness in 
resources or capabilities.” For a detailed discussion of irregular warfare see: 

James D. Kiras, “Irregular Warfare,” in David Jordan, James D. Kiras Understanding Modern Warfare 
(Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press 2008), 224-291. 

David Jordan, James D. Kiras, David J. Lonsdale, Ian Speller, Christopher Tuck, C. Dale Walton, 
Understanding Modern Warfare (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press 2008), 224-291, 232. 

67 1 this essay, I use Stathis N. Kalyvas understanding of the term violence: “Violence is the deliberate 
infliction of harm on people.” Kalyvas, Logic of Violence in Civil War , 19. 

68 Kalyvas, Logic of Violence in Civil War , 388. 

69 This definition is derived of the developed strategic communication definition in: 

Bockstette, “Terrorist Exploit Information Technologies 4 *, 4 and based upon Bruce Hoffman’s description 
of terrorism in: 

Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism-Rsv. and expanded ed. (New York, NY: Columbia University Press 
2006), 40-41. 

70 Schelling, Arms and Influence , 2-3. 

71 Schelling, Arms and Influence , 8. 

72 Clausewitz, On War , 127. 


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harmony with their leaders, so that they will accompany them in life and unto death 
without fear of mortal peril.” 73 Terrorists seek to destroy their enemies’ harmony and 
prestige, the second key motivator, while ensuring and enhancing their own in striving to 
achieve their interests by instilling fear. Al-Qaeda resorts to terrorism exclusively out of 
necessity because its lacks other options in exploiting the methods and means of violence 
due to its inability of effectively harnessing local discontent and grievances and 
transforming them to a greater range of irregular warefare capabilities. 74 As the al- 
Qaeda strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri says, “Yes, we are terrorists towards God’s 
Enemies. We have already struck terror in them, and we have made them tremble in their 
holes, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of agents in their security agencies, praise 
God, and this happened after they terrorized the countries and mankind, and even put fear 

75 

into the embryos in their mothers’ bellies.” 

Terrorist attacks seem to adhere to the recommendations of Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, 
and Jomini. Clausewitz wrote, “Only three things seem to us to produce decisive 
advantages: Surprise, the benefit of terrain, and concentric attack.” Terrorists regularly 
exploit the benefit of terrain and perpetrate their attack with exemplary economy of 
force. 77 Terrorist attacks are usually a surprise, which Sun Tzu also advocated, noting 
that, “Against those skilled in attack, an enemy does not know where to defend.” 78 They 
also have a very favorable ratio of space to forces at a usually undefended point. 

70 

Tactically they seek to avoid battle, thereby reversing the normal practice of warfare. 

Terrorists use the public as a vehicle and a communication channel to influence 
political decision makers. 80 Terrorists at the opponents the political center of gravity to 


73 Sun Tzu, Illustrated Art of War, 91-92. 

74 Kiras, “Irregular Warfare,” 271. 

75 Abu Mus ’ab al-Suri quoted in Brynjar Lia, Architect of Global Jihad-The Life of al-Qaida Strategist Abu 
Mus’ab al-Suri (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2008), 387. 

76 Clausewitz, On War , 360. 

77 Economy of force in the sense described by: Basil Henry Liddell Hart, Strategy , 2 nd ed. (New York, NY: 
Meridian, 1991), 322-323. 

78 Sun Tzu, Illustrated Art of War, 146. 

79 Hart, Strategy, 365-366. 

80 Angela Gendron, “Trends in Terrorism Series: Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” ITAC 
Presents, vol. 2007-2 (2007), 10, http://www.itac.gc.ca/pblctns/tc_prsnts/2007-2-eng.pdf . 

Bockstette, “Terrorist Exploit Information Technologies 44 , 11-12. 


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which, according to Clausewitz, all energy “should be directed ... Out of these 
characteristics a certain center of gravity develops, the hub of all power and movement, 

O 1 

on which everything depends.” Clausewitz continued, “The task of reducing the 
sources of enemy strength to single center of gravity will depend on the distribution of 
the enemy’s political power.” 82 Jomini also advised to focus on the center of gravity. He 
explained, “I think the name of decisive strategic point should be given to all those which 
are capable of exercising a marked influence either upon the result of the campaign or 
upon a single enterprise ... All capitals are strategic points for the double reason that they 
are not only centers of communications, but also the seats of power and government.” 83 
Each of Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and Jomini, despite their many differences, impart the 
same criticality to the identification of decisive points and the fundamental role of 
strategy in identifying and targeting them. Further, Jomini highlights for us the criticality 
of communications, emphasizing this as one significant reason for considering all capitals 
as strategic points or, in the parlance of Clausewitz, as political centers of gravity. Since, 
as Clausewitz tells us, war is a continuation of politics by other means, there is an implied 
centrality to communications in Clausewitz’s theory as well. Just as communications are 
central to the strategy of traditional warfare, so are they critical to the strategy of al- 
Qaeda. To understand al-Qaeda’s strategy, one needs to be familiar with al-Qaeda’s 
origin and ideological background, which will be covered in the next chapter. 


81 Clausewitz, On War, 595-596. 

82 Clausewitz, On War, 617. 

83 Jomini, Art of War, 78-79. 


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CHAPTER 2 - AL-QAEDA’S ORIGINS 
2.1 The Origin of Jihadi Terrorism 

Al-Qaeda's origins can be traced geographically to Saudi Arabia and historically 
to the eleventh century AD. Ibn Taymiyya ( Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyya; 1263- 
1328) was a Muslim scholar whose views in theology and fiqh 84 sought the return of 
Islam to earlier literal interpretations. Ibn Taymiyyah was a member of the school 

OC 

founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal. During his imprisonment, he laid the foundation for 
today’s most fundamentalist current, the puritanical Wahhabism Islamic school of 
thought. 86 Ibn Taymiyyah taught that “the first obligation (after the profession of faith) is 
to repel the enemy aggressors who assault both sanctity and security ... and the 
individual or community that participates in it finds itself between two blissful outcomes: 

87 

victory and triumph or martyrdom and Paradise.” Taymiyyah declared that Mongol 
rulers were not true Muslims. He issued fatwas 88 against Mongol leaders who 
incorporated tribal codes and did not dogmatically build their governance upon Sharia 19 
law. 90 Establishing the roots of the takfir concept-the practice of declaring Muslim 
Mongol leaders infidels-he argued that these rulers were thus legitimate targets. 91 

Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, an 18 th century Islamic teacher, was inspired in 
his Hanbalism by Ibn Taymiyya. The very conservative Hanbali legal tradition within 
the Sunni sect is particularly dogmatic in matters of ritual. Adb al-Wahhab criticized the 


84 Fiqh meaning knowledge, understanding, insight of the Islamic law is derived from the Koran and the 
Sunna. 

85 Trevor Stanley, “Understanding the Origins of Wahhabism and Salafism,” Terrorism Monitor, Volume 3 
Issue 14, 15 July 2005. 

http://www.iamestown.org/programs/gta/single/?txttnews%5Bttnews%5D=528&txttnews%5BbackPid 

%5D=180&no_cache=l. 

86 Riedel, Search for Al-Qaeda, 20. 

87 Shaykh ul-Islaam Taqi ud-Deen Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah, Governance According to Allaah's Law in 
Reforming (Birmingham, GB: Maktabah A1 Ansaar 2004), 27, 

http://www.archive.oIslamicBooksBvIbnTavmivvahMaqdisiAndAbdullahAzzamrg/stream//moral_doctrine 

ofJihaddj vu.txt . 

88 Fatwas : Religious decrees. 

89 Sharia : Meaning the “path” or “way” is the body of Islamic moral code and law. 

90 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report: Al-Qaeda; Al-Qaeda Master Narratives and 
Affiliate Case Studies: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb , Master 
Narratives Platform Special Report, (Washington, D.C.: Open Source Center, September 2011), 35. 

91 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report , 15. 


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superstitions that had contaminated Islam’s purity and caused, he believed, the 
degeneration of the Muslim world. He advocated the eradication of pernicious foreign 
influence and innovations. Al-Wahhab strove to change his society by purifying Islam 
because, in his view, the society was decadent and had deteriorated in its moral values. 
Al-Wahhab gave jihad a prominence in his teachings as a means and counseled the 
purging of these foreign influences in an Islamic revival. 92 In the Wahhabi tradition, the 
Prophet said, “Jihad is the ultimate manifestation of Islam, as the Messenger said ... It is 
a furnace in which Muslims are melted out and which allows the separation of the bad 
[Muslims] from the good one. It is also a pass to the Eden [Paradise] and the Eden is in 
the shade of swords.” 93 Al-Wahhab’s main interest was to spread what the “messenger,” 
in his understanding desired to communicate. For him, Islam had to be simple and pure 
in complete devotion to one God. 94 In al-Wahhab’s reading, the original grandeur of 
Islam could only be regained by strict adherence to the principles enunciated by the 
Prophet Muhammad: “our way is the way of the Salaf.” 95 Not very popular in his home 
region, Wahhab found refuge near Mecca. Here he formed a formal alliance with 
Muhammad ibn Saud. Al-Wahhab swore allegiance to ibn Saud, and ibn Suad in turn 
agreed to make al-Wahhab’s ideology that of his domain. Thereby this ideology became 
the basis for ibn Saud’s quest in unifying the Arabian tribes. 96 The Wahhabi philosophy 
was actively spread by financing the building of mosques as communication outlets for 
selected messages from the Prophet that advanced Wahhab’s ideology. Wahhab taught, 
“We must find out what true Islam is: it is above all a rejection of all gods except God, a 
refusal to allow others to share in that worship which is due to God alone {shirk). Shirk is 


92 Stanley, “Understanding the Origins of Wahhabism and Salafism.” 

93 Dore Gold, Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism , Google Books, 
(Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004), 25. 

http://books. google. de/books?id=Ui27nwe86uYC&pg=PA267&lpg=PA267&dq=dore+gold+hatred , s+k&s 

0urce^4&0ts=vgabQlnhb6&sigWMfflsWEEnlqJ5cike3HYvHMbl2s&hl=de&sa=X&ei=xCMkT4GiA4X 

ctgeFntz5Cg&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false . 

94 Riedel, Search for Al-Qaeda, 40. 

95 Al-Wahhab quoted in David Aaron, In Their Own Words (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2008), 50. 

96 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 50. 

97 Seth G. Jones, In the Graveyard of Empires-America f s War in Afghanistan (New York, NY: Norton & 
Company, 2010), 70. 


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evil, no matter what the object, whether it be ‘king or prophet, saint or tree or tomb.”’ 98 
To spread his view, communication of these messages served as the means to an end. 

As Ambassador Dore Gold, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, explained, “[Ibn 
Abdul Wahhab’s] zealotry was fed by a desire to re-create the true Islam, based on what 
he understood to be Islamic practice in the seventh century Arabia at the time of the 
Prophet Muhammad.” 99 Gold goes on to write, “One of the central doctrines of 
Wahhabism was takfir, a charge that Muslims could become infidels, or worse, by 
engaging in improper religious activities. Even a person who uttered the proclamation of 
Islamic faith... but still practiced polytheism should be ‘denounced as infidel and 
killed.’” 100 Thereby he expanded the argument that one Muslim can declare another 
Muslim an infidel, not just Mongol rulers, and thereby created a religious way of 
justification for the killing of infidels. The justification of takfir is founded upon verse 
4:115of the Koran, “And whoever acts hostilely to the Apostle after that guidance has 
become manifest to him, and follows other than the way of the believers, we will turn 
him to that to which he has turned and make him enter hell; and it is an evil resort.” 101 
As the George Washington University Professor Marc Lynch explains, “The use of takfir 
... is based on a stark, restrictive definition of Islam in which only the doctrinally pure 
merit the name Muslim. This doctrine authorizes the most extreme brutality.” 102 A 
century later, one of ibn Saud’s descendants succeeded in unifying large portions of the 

i rjo 

peninsula, which later became Saudi Arabia, with Wahhabism as state religion. 

Within the same timeframe of the unification of the Arabian Peninsula under ibn 
Saud, the MB was founded in Ismailiya, Egypt in 1928 by the Islamic scholar Hassan al- 
Banna. 104 In his view, the decline of Islamic civilization occurred due to the 


98 Wahhab quoted in Gold, Hatred's Kingdom, 19. 

99 Gold, Hatred's Kingdom , 20. 

100 Gold, Hatred's Kingdom , 23. 

101 As quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words , 79. 

102 Marc Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” in Self-Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions Within Al- 
Qa'ida and its Periphery , ed. Assaf Moghadam and Brian Fishman (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism 
Center 16 December 2010), 155-182, 167. 

103 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 50. 

104 Lorenzo Vidino, The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West (New York, NY: Columbia University Press 
2010), 18. 


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abandonment of fundamental Islamic beliefs. 105 His MB applied a modem organizational 
model to communicate the messages of the nineteenth-century reformers as way and 
mean to reach their end. Strongly opposed to colonial rale, they advocated Egyptian 
independence. As the Harvard Professor Lorenzo Vidino explains, “While most anti- 
British movements took inspiration from an array of Western-imported ideologies, from 
nationalism to socialism, the Brotherhood was basing its discourse on Islam. ... Banna 
saw the answer to the Western military-political-ethical-social invasion of the Muslim 
world as ‘resistance to foreign domination through the exaltation of Islam.’ And no 
imitation was more malign than that of Western legal systems.” 106 

Officially the MB follow the “model of political activism combined with Islamic 

i r\n 

charity work,” and their interest is to propagate the Sunni reading of the Koran as the 
“sole reference point for ... ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community 
... and state.” 108 In addition to these official pacific aims, however, Hassan al-Banna also 
created a paramilitary wing to speed up the exaltation of Islam. Their task was to the 
fight against British rule via a bombing and assassination campaign. 109 As al-Banna 
advocated, “The Islamic jihad is the noblest of endeavors” and “[w]ars are a social 
necessity.” 110 

After a failed attempt to assassinate President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954, the 
MB was banned and thousands of members were imprisoned and tortured. This clash 
with the authorities prompted an important shift in the ideology of the MB. The 
repression forced the MB underground and into exile stimulating Sayyid Qutb’s 
formulation of a much more radical Islam that finds its roots in his youth. Qutb was bom 


105 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 52. 

106 Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood, 18. 

107 BBC News Middle East, “Profile: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood,” BBC.co.uk, 9 February 2011, 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12313405. 

108 Ursula Lindsey, “Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood: widening split between young and old,” The Christian 
Science Monitor, December 21, 2009, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2009/1221/Egypt-s- 
Muslim-Brotherhood-widening-split-between-voung-and-old . 

109 Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood, 22-26. 

110 Al-Banna as quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 55. 


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in the same year as al-Banna and grew up in a renowned hotbed of extremism in Asyut, 
Egypt. 111 

Qutb’s writings, especially his 1964 work Milestones, inspired the founders of 
many radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. Qutb's work encouraged the use of 
jihad against ignorant Western and Islamic societies. 112 In Qutb’s view, the Islamization 
from below was too slow in eradicating western influence, due to the intervention of local 
authorities and foreign influence. He blended Islamic fundamentalism and Ibn 
Taymiyyah’s philosophy with Anti-Western sentiments and jihad against apostate 
regimes. 113 He saw the solution of the slow process in the concepts of takfir and jihad to 
instill fear into their opponents. Thereby Qutb expanded the concept of takfir. For him, 
takfir applies to Muslim rulers that have refused to implement Sharia and in effect have 
abandoned Islam, not just to repel Mongol Muslim influences. 114 True Muslims are 
obligated to engage in coup d'etat and kill such apostate rulers. 115 As the director of 
research of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, Scott Atran, states, “Ibn 
Taymiyyah’s philosophy and Sayyid Qutb’s example become the touchstones of modem 
jihad.’’'' 116 Sayyid Qutb is the point of divergence between the mainstream MB and its 
more radical offspring. 117 

As Lorenzo Vidino explains Qutb’s goals, “A small group of tme Muslims, 
vaguely resembling the revolutionary Vanguard envisioned by Lenin, should spearhead 
the fight against apostate rulers.” Irregular warfare expert Dr. James Kiras adds that 
Qutb saw the Vanguard concept as an essential catalyst for systemic change. 119 Qutb’s 
Vanguard concept is profoundly influenced by Leninist theory. Even as he attacked 
elements of Marxism, Leninism and Communism, Jason Burke, the south Asia 

111 Bruce Riedel, The Search for Al-Qaeda-Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future (Washington, DC: 
Brookings Institution 2008), 17. 

112 Seyyid Qutb, Milestone , (USA: SIME journal, 2005), http://maialla.org/books/2005/qutb-nilestone.pdf 

113 Aaron, In Their Own Words , 58. 

114 Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood, 24-25. 

115 Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood, 25. 

116 Scott Atran, Talking to the Enemy-Faith Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists (New York, 
NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010), 83. 

117 Marc Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 158. 

118 Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood, 25. 

119 Kiras, “Irregular Warfare,” 269. 


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AU/S AAS S/BOCKSTETTE/A Y12 


correspondent of The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, explains, “Qutb’s most 

important work, Ma ’alim fi ’l-tariq (Milestones), reads in part like an Islamicized 

Communist Manifesto.” Qutb copied major elements from these political schools of 

thought. Sayyid Qutb also encouraged Muslims to live as the Prophet had done thousand 

years before. Qutb transported and transferred the deep felt dishonor and lost security in 

Egypt into his ideology to further his interest. As Marc Lynch describes, “Qutb’s more 

121 

extreme vision ... took root within a demoralized, angry and fiercely repressed MB.” 

In 1965, the Egyptian government again cracked down on the MB and executed 
Sayyid Qutb in 1966. 122 After his execution, his ideology emerged as the blueprint for 
Islamic radicals. 123 Catalyzed by the aftermath of the crushing Arab defeat in the 1967 
Arab-Israeli war, many Arabs, including Osama bin Laden, felt a deep attack on their 
honor and security amplifying the deep resentments after Al-Nakba. As the professor 
Dr. Fawaz A. Gerges explains, “The turn to Islamist militancy was a direct result of the 
shattering defeat of the Arab states 1967. Manny Arabs came to realize that the secular 
dominant authoritarian order could not even protect the homeland. Not only did the post¬ 
colonial state ... failed to deliver the goods, failed to create effective economic and social 
institutions, it failed to protect the homeland. It failed to created authentic governments 
based on sharia Islamic state. ... Jihadism was also a revolt against the religious 

1 9 S 

establishment itself... which was coopted by the secular authoritarian decadent order.” 

Today, the MB is one of the largest Islamist and political movements in the Arab 
world, “whose members cooperate with each other throughout the world, based on the 


120 Jason Burke, “Think Again, A1 Qaeda,” Foreign Policy, 1 May 2004, 3, 
http://www.foreignpolicv.corn/articles/2004/05/01/think_again_al_qaeda . 

121 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 158. 

122 BBC News Middle East, “Profile: Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, BBC.co.uk, 9 February 2011,” 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12313405 

123 Barbara Zoller, “Prison Talk: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Internal Struggle During Gamal Abdel 
Nasser’s Persecution, 1957 to 1971,” International Journal Of Middle Eastern Studies 39 (2007): 411-433 
and Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 158-159. 

124 Al-Nakba-mQdmng the Catastrophe: The Palestinian Arabs loss of their homes and lands to the new state 
of Israel in 1948. 

Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 39. 

125 Fawaz A. Gerges, interview by Harry Kreisler, Conversations with History series of Institute of 
International Studies of the History University of California at Berkeley, 30 November 2007, 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q Ds65Rrz8c . 


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same religious worldview-the spread of Islam, until it rules the world.” 126 The MB is a 
key source of Islamist thought and political activism and advocates peaceful political 
participation. While the MB consistently denounces al-Qaeda’s ideology, rejects 
extremism, takfir, and terrorist activities in Muslim States, it supports the violent 
resistance against Israel. 128 Further, as Marc Lynch states, “... the Brotherhood remains 
deeply committed to spreading a conservative vision of Islamic society and its cadres are 
deeply hostile to Israel and to US foreign policy.” Their success is founded upon their 
powerful message. It is a form of anticolonial nationalism based on common faith 
instead of origin ethnic or heritage. 130 

The MB’s ideology, Salafism, originated as an intellectual movement in the mid 
to late 19 th Century at the al-Azhar University in Cairo. From there, Salafism was 
imported into Saudi Arabia in its Qutbist reading. At that time, Wahhabism was the 
dominant state religion in Saudi Arabia. As the Islamic terrorism expert Trevor Stanley 
clarifies, “In terms of their respective formation, Wahhabism and Salafism were quite 
distinct. Wahhabism was a pared-down Islam that rejected modem influences, while 
Salafism sought to reconcile its Islam school of thought with modernism. What they had 
in common is that both rejected the current understanding of tradition in favor of a 
deeper/older traditional teachings on Islam in favor of direct, fundamentalist 

ni 

reinterpretation.” Wahhabism has its root in rejecting modernity and Salafism is a call 
back to the basics. The Arabic root of the word Salafa is to return used as a call to return 
to the time of the ancestors the pious forefathers. 132 These righteous Caliphs are the most 
venerated religious leaders. The term Salafism 133 differentiates the creed of the first three 


126 Mohammed Akef, Murshid (spiritual leader) of the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood until 
January 2010, quoted in Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood, 39. 

127 Takfir is the practice of pronouncing a Muslim a non-Muslim and jihad is in this instance understood as 
violent confrontation. Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood , 24-25. 

128 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 155. 

129 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 155. 

130 Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood in the West , 20. 

131 Trevor Stanley, “Understanding the Origins of Wahhabism and SalafismT 

132 Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood , 17. 

133 The term Salaf literally means those from history who precede, have gone before. 

Muttaqun Online, “Call of those who preceded us,” http://muttaqun.com/salafiwah.htmh (accessed 24 
January 2012). 


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generations from subsequent variations of Sunni Islamic creed and methodology 

134 

movements. 

Trevor Stanley explains that “ Salafism and Wahhabism began as two distinct 
movements, Faisal’s [Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz A1 Saud; King of Saudi Arabia 1964 - 
1975] 135 embrace of Salafi pan-Islamism resulted in cross-pollination between Ibn Abd 
al-Wahhab’s teachings on tawhid, shirk and bid’a and Salafi interpretations of al hadith 
(the sayings of Muhammad). Some Salafis nominated Ibn Abd al-Wahhab as one of the 
Salaf retrospectively, bringing Wahhabism into the fold of Salafism .” Salafism is a 
literal, strict, and puritanical approach of Sunni Islamic theology. 

While the exiled MB members in Saudi Arabia carried with them the new Qutbist 

i 'jn 

ideas, even so the MB itself reasserted a more moderate orthodoxy. Though the MB is 
more moderate, they “both want to Islamicize the public domain and create Islamic states 
ruled by Sharia. Both are Salafi in their approach to jurisprudence, both consider jihad 
central to Islam.” 138 The mainstream MB officially rejected the core of Qutb’s ideology 
with the 1969 publication of Preachers Not Judges, but Sayyid Qutb remained influential 
with the MB. As Marc Lynch writes, “For Salafi jihadists , the rejection of Qutb is 
where the MB went decisively astray.” 140 Thereby it was the decisive point in creating 
the more radical offshoots. According to the RAND political scientist Seth G. Jones, due 
to its stunning and drastic break with the status quo Qutb’s work was eagerly read by 
younger generations of Muslims in the 1970s. 141 The young Osama bin Laden was one 
of them. 


134 Abu ’Iyad as-Salafi, “The Principles of Salafiyyah - A Brief Introduction to the Salafi Daah,” 
salafipublications .com, 

http://www.salafipublications.com/sps/sp.cfm?subsecID=SLF02&articleID=SLF020001&articlePages=l 

(accessed 24 January 2012). 

135 Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was the king of Saudi Arabia between 1964 and 1975. He advocated the 
unity of Muslims under one Islamic state (Pan-Islamism). 

136 Stanley, “Understanding the Origins of Wahhabism and Salafism.” 

137 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 158. 

138 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 160. 

139 Barbara Zoller, “Prison Talk: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Internal Struggle During Gamal Abdel 
Nasser’s Persecution, 1957 to 1971,” International Journal Of Middle Eastern Studies 39 (2007): 411-433 
and Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 158-159. 

140 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 159. 

141 Jones, In the Graveyard of Empires, 77-79. 


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During his study of economics at the King Abdul Azizy University in Saudi 
Arabia in the late 1970s, bin Laden was exposed to the Palestinian-Jordanian Islamic 
scholar Abdullah Azzam and Muhammad Qutb, the brother of Sayyid Qutb. Muhammad 
Qutb inspired bin Laden to read his brother’s manifestos. 142 Azzam, formerly a member 
of the MB and longtime follower of Sayyid Qutb, was instrumental in shaping bin 
Laden’s ideology. He was “convinced that Palestine could only be liberated through a 
unifying Islamic revolution ... [and] he was frustrated by the Arab states’ unwillingness 
to fight Israel.” 143 Abdullah Azzam “elevated the duty of jihad to a central pillar of Islam 
that informs Salafi Jihadism. ,,u4 By propagating his view of the Israel-Palestinian 
conflict, Azzam introduced Osama bin Laden to the Palestinian narrative and he played a 
pivotal role later on in the Afghan war. 145 

Next to failing in providing security, the western-supported secular Muslim 
governments were not able to provide the fundamental goods of everyday life and 
thereby served as catalyst of the Islamist movement. The culmination of the repression 
of Islamic organizations and governmental corruption and failures of postcolonial secular 
Arab governments furthered extremist developments. 146 Within the same timeframe, 
Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad Organization developed out of a Qutbist 
fragment of the Egyptian MB in the late 1970s. 147 

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 enabled Saudi elements to begin an 
active campaign in the region. One of the key facilitators and agitator was the former 
MB member Abdullah Azzam, also known as the “Lenin of international jihad .” His 
skill in political and religious agitation enabled him to attract Muslims to come to 
Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invaders. Over time, the Afghan jihad brought numerous 
Islamic radicals together. One key military instructor and lecturer who joined the fight, 


142 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 40-41. 

143 Riedel, Search for Al-Qaeda, 41. 

144 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 166. 

145 Riedel, Search for Al-Qaeda, 41. 

146 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 3. 

147 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 158. 


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was Abu Mus’ab al-Suri. He served in the Arab-Afghan training camps from 1987- 
1992. 148 

The evidence that bin Laden founded al-Qaeda in 1987 or 1988 is inconclusive. 

It seems likely that “associates appeared to have set up al-Qaeda al-Askariza, or ‘a 
training base,’ as bin Laden subsequently recalled.” 149 As Jason Burke suggests “[this 
idea of the training base] that is where the name [of the group] came from.” 150 In the 
realization that he shared similarities with Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Abdul Wahhab, and Sayyid 
Qutb, bin Laden began to see himself in their tradition and to see in the path they 
advocated his own interests. According to Seth G. Jones, the newly-formed group 
“agreed that their goal would be ‘to lift the word of God, to make His religion victorious’ 
across the Arab world through armed jihad.” 151 As Fawaz A. Gerges argues, Al-Qaeda 
was not an organization as of yet. Bin Laden’s stay in Sudan served as incubators that 
breed Salafi-Jihadi fighters that was “subsequently consummated in Afghanistan.” 152 

Sometime in late 1987 to early 1988, Abdullah Azzam formulated one of the 
central founding documents of al-Qaeda and published it in April 1988 in the journal of 
the Arab mujahedeen Al Jihad. “Every principle needs a Vanguard to carry it forward 
... There is no ideology, neither earthly nor heavenly, that does not require such a 
Vanguard that gives everything it possesses in order to achieve victory for this ideology. 
This Vanguard constitutes Al-Qa ’idah al-Sulbah for the expected society.” 154 As Jason 
Burke explains, Azzam envisaged independently acting men “who would set an example 


148 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad , 1-10. 

149 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 50. 

150 Jason Burke, Al Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam (London, GB: I.B. Tauris, 2003), 2. 

151 Jones, In the Graveyard of Empires, 73. 

152 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 53. 

153 Rohan Gunaratna, Ideology in Terrorism and Counter Terrorism: Lessons from Combating Al Qaeda 
and Al Jemaah Al Islamiyah in Southeast Asia (London, GB: Crisis States Research Centre, September 
2005), Discussion Paper no. 05/42, 4-6, 6, 

http://kmsl.isn.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/44015/ichaptersection_singledocument/0d07f910-03a4- 

4cc7-86ea-5b754a6e04fa/en/07.pdf . 

154 Abdullah Azzam as translated and quoted in Reuven Paz, “Islamists and Anti-Americanism,” Middle 
East Review of International Affairs , volume 7, no. 4 (December 2003). Abdullah Azzam, ”A1-Qa’ida al- 
Sulbah (The Solid Base),” al-Jihad , no. 41 (April 1988): 46-49. 


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AU/S AAS S/BOCKSTETTE/A Y12 


for the rest of the Islamic world and thus galvanize the Ummah (global community of 
believers) against its oppressors.” 155 

At the end of the Afghan war in 1989, none of the leading figures—bin Laden, 
Azzam, or Zawahiri—advocated an armed confrontation with the West, with whom they 
were “in the same trenches as the mujahedeen battling the evil empire.” 156 Within this 
timeframe, bin Laden’s relationship with Azzam deteriorated. Bin Laden wished to 
support terrorist action against Egypt and other Muslim secular regimes. Having lived in 
Egypt, Azzam knew the price of such actions and opposed it vehemently. Azzam was 
assassinated in Peshawar, Pakistan in November 1989. The ideological jihadist hardliner 
Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri filled the resulting ideological vacuum. Al-Zawahiri became bin 

1 rn 

Laden’s doctor, ideological mentor, principal strategist, and deputy. 

From their origins within the MB until the mid-1990s, the al-Qaeda jihadists 
were still mainly inward looking. In their interest’s they were “obsessed with replacing 
‘renegade’ secular Muslim rulers with Koran-based states or states governed by the 

1 CO 

Sharia .” Within this timeframe, the focus was not external Western states, the far 

enemy, but the near enemy-pro-Westem Muslim leaders. 159 Besides the militant Islamist 
movement known as jihadism, 160 the other MB leaders publicly eschewed fear instilling 
violence against the regime and opted for nonviolent opposition, political participation 
focusing on societal reform. 161 Even more, MB affiliated ideologists have developed a 

1 rr\ 

theoretical Islamic defense of democracy. 

A profound ideological shift in al-Qaeda occurred in the early 1990s. The US 
military intervention during the first Gulf War, the permanent stationing of US troops in 
Saudi Arabia (bin Laden’s home and the historical center of Islam), and the refusal by the 
Saudi government to accept bin Laden’s offer to mobilize a mujahedeen force in lieu of 


155 Burke, “Think Again, A1 Qaeda.,” 

156 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 46. 

157 Gunaratna, Ideology in Terrorism and Counter Terrorism , 4-6. 

158 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 30. 

159 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 31. 

160 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 30. 

161 Vidino, New Muslim Brotherhood, 25. 

162 Lynch, “Jihadis and the Ikhwan,” 168. 


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reliance on US forces agitated bin Laden. As Seth G. Jones states, “The deployment of 
US soldiers to Saudi Arabia was a shock to bin Laden and a clarion call for his 
movement. ... To have non-Arabs on Saudi soil was an affront, but for the Americans to 
lead the military assault was a grievous transgression” and a further blow to Arab and 
Muslim honor. 163 

After setbacks in Arab countries in the mid-1 990s, jihadis increasingly focused on 
Western nation states. The Islamists grew increasingly frustrated by their failure to 
change the status quo in their home countries. 164 This can be illustrated by the current al- 
Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who stated in 2001 that the United States only knew 
“the language of interests backed by brute military force. Therefore, if we wish to have a 
dialog with them ... we must talk to them in the language they understand.” 165 The 
language of fear was stimulated by terror. They believe that striking at the Western 
sponsors of apostate regimes (i.e., at the so-called “far enemy,” as opposed to their 
perceived illegitimate local governments or “near enemy”) might be the strategically 
more successful approach. 166 Al-Zawahiri sought to resolve the doctrinal dispute over 
the prioritization of the far and near enemy by blending the far enemy and the near enemy 
into one, arguing that secular apostate Muslim leaders were puppets of their Western 
masters. 167 

While al-Qaeda strives to draw a direct unbroken line between Qutb and their 
own ideology, however, Qutb never advocated attacking the “far enemy.” As Sayyid 
Eid, a longtime prison cell mate of Qutb states, “I do not ever recall al-shahid [meaning 
the one witness who is honest and trustworthy referring to Qutb] saying that we should 
wage war against America or Britain; rather he wanted us to be vigilant against the 

1 /TO 

West’s cultural penetration of our societies.” Al-Zawahiri and bin Laden substituted 

163 Jones, In the Graveyard of Empires , 74. 

164 Burke, “Think Again: A1 Qaeda,” 3. 

165 Excerpts from Ayman al-Zawahiri, Knights Under the Prophet's Banner printed in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat 
Publishes Extracts from Al-Jihad Leader Al-Zawahiri’s New Book, trans and publ. the Foreign Broadcast 
information Service, Version 2, Open Source Center, OSC document GMP20020108000197 (2 December 
2001 ). 

166 Burke, “Think Again: Al Qaeda,” 3. 

167 Aaron, In Their Own Words , 70. 

168 As quoted in Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 32. 


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“the enemy without for the enemy within, and subsequently collapse[d] all distinctions 
between the two, a testament to Qutb’s absolutist and opaque ideological categories.” 169 
With this substitution al-Qaeda coupled Qutb’s anti-US narrative and his ideology to 
facilitate their efforts to reclaim Qutb as the spiritual force behind the new transnational 
jihad. Al-Zawahiri and bin Laden adopted useful elements and modified them to fit their 
transnational agenda. 170 Zawahiri’s ideology focused on what he believed the West had 
done to the Islamic world. In other words, al-Qaeda “borrowed the concept of al¬ 
ls lam al-haraki (a pioneering Vanguard)—which Qutb coined and popularized—and 
deployed it against the religious and political establishment at home and against foreign 
powers.” 172 Especially for Zawahiri, the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1919 
weakened Islam’s position in the world. As the Senior Fellow in foreign policy at the 
Saban Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution Bruce Riedel explains, 
“Worst of all, the demise ... made possible the British Mandate that would make 
Palestine a national homeland for the Jewish people.” 174 As Al-Zawahiri states, “Zionist 
entity is a foothold for the Crusader invasion of the Islamic world. The Zionist entity is 
the Vanguard of the US campaign to dominate the Islamic Levant.” Al-Qaeda 
adapted Qutb to their needs. Al-Qaeda's anti-Western and anti-Colonial thinking 
necessitated its interest in targeting a transnational enemy, requiring the adaptation of 
Qutb to fit their propaganda. 

For al-Qaeda' s transnational jihadism, the Afghan jihad was pivotal in numerous 
ways. It served as a catalyst in accelerating and hardening the two powerful ideological 
currents into al-Qaeda' s ideological Salaji heritage. The radical Egyptian Salafi 
Islamism (Egyptian Zawahiri) and the Saudi ultra-conservative Wahhabism (bin Laden) 

1 7 

melded the ideologies to a new militant Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir practicing ideology. 

169 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 32-33. 

170 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 32-34. 

171 Riedel, Search for Al-Qaeda, 25. 

172 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 34. 

173 Riedel, Search for Al-Qaeda, 25. 

174 Riedel, Search for Al-Qaeda, 26. 

175 Al-Zawahiri quoted in Riedel, Search for Al-Qaeda, 28. 

176 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 34; Abu ’Iyad as-Salafi, “The Principles of Salafiyyah - A Brief 
Introduction to the Salafi Daah,” salafipublications.com, 


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Within the Salafi ideology, al-Qaeda represents with its extreme Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir 
interpretations merely a fringe deviant sect, whose grievances nonetheless resonate with 
many Muslims. 177 

By the early 1990s, many Arabs had left Afghanistan and infiltrated other 
countries in an attempt to convert domestic conflict into jihad, and by the mid-nineties, 
the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan and entrusted to Osama bin Laden the control of 
Arab militant groups operating in Afghanistan. In 1998 bin Laden announced the 
foundation of the World Islamic Front for jihad against the Crusaders, the formal 

launch of al-Qaeda as umbrella organization encompassing a broad pool of jihadist 
factions. 179 

According to Fawaz A. Gerges, Afghanistan was the Mecca of al-Qaeda from the 
late 1990s until 11 September 2001. The Afghan war also gave al-Suri the experience 
and room to develop his operative frameworks of decentralized jihadi guerilla strategy 
and tactics. 180 He crafted strategic doctrines on decentralized jihad based upon guerrilla 
warfare, international security, and power politics literature in the 2000-2001 timeframe, 
including The War of the Flea: Guerrilla Warfare Theory and Practice by Robert 
Taber 181 and a synthesis of ideas contained in On Protracted War by Mao Tse-Tung 182 
and Che Cuevara’s Guerilla Warfare , 183 As a strategist, he was not so much focused and 
firm in the finer points of religious exegesis. 184 His writings serve for many jihadi 
activists as a reference point for condemning the MB and furthering their interests. As 
one of the main strategists within al-Qaeda, Abu Mus’ab al-Suri’s doctrines have had 


http://www.salafipublications.com/sps/sp.cfm?subsecID=SLF02&articleID=SLF020001 &articlePaues=1 

(accessed 24 January 2012). 

177 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 4. 

178 Reflecting upon the Christian Crusades of the 1 l th -l 3 th century. 

179 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 55-57. 

180 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 1-9. 

181 Robert Taber, The War Of The Flea-Guerrilla Warfare Theory and Practice (London, GB: Granada 
Publishing, 1970). 

182 Mao Tse-Tung, On Protracted Warfare, trans. Samuel B. Griffith (New York: NY Praeger Publishers, 
1961). 

183 Che Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1998). 

184 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 9. 


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great influence on the al-Qaeda movement. 185 The jihadis were bound by a similar 
worldview and a similar tribal loyalty on which al-Qaeda depended for the survival of its 
elite Vanguard. 186 

Using Afghanistan as physical base, they trained their adherents and committed 
terroristic attacks, which instigated US reprisal attacks. Impressed by the US’s 
technological superiority, al-Suri increasingly questioned al-Qaeda' s reliance on fixed 
training camps in areas of US hegemony and threatened by US air and space dominance. 
After losing their physical base in Afghanistan in 2001, al-Qaeda altered its strategy to a 
more decentralized jihadi warfare, which conceptually had already been developed by 
Abu Mus’ab al-Suri in the early 1990s but was largely ignored by more influential al- 
Qaeda leaders until 2001. 187 

Al-Qaeda's movement since 2001 has been operating from the position of the 
strategic defensive to ensure its survival and reorganize itself to take an offensive 
position in the far future. As the terrorism expert David Kilcullen summarizes, al-Qaeda 
is “a Vanguard of hypermodem [in its use of the internet], ... making use of all the tools 
of globalization and applying a strategy to transnational guerrilla warfare, while seeking 
to organize, aggregate, and exploit the local, particular, long standing grievances of 
diverse-but usually tribal or traditional-Muslim social groups.” 188 This becomes also 
evident in tracts obtained as part of the al-Qaeda documents and communiques seized 
during the 2 May 2011 raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan. According to the CTC Report 
Letters From Abbottabad , “It was only when al-Qaeda lost its sanctuary following the 
US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that a trend of regional jihadi groups pledging 
allegiance to al-Qaeda or acting in its name emerged. Paradoxically, this may have been 
due to the fame that the 9/11 attacks generated in the jihadi world and at the same time 


185 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 22. 

186 Gerges, Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, 57-59. 

187 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 4. 

188 David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla-Fighting Small Wars In the Midst of A Big One (Oxford, NY: 
Oxford University Press, 2009), xiv. 


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al-Qaeda’s inability to be in control of its organization after it lost its sanctuary ... 
[leading] to the perception that al-Qaeda was expanding.” 189 

These documents also disclose bin Laden’s global communication and “obsession 
with ideological purity as he sought to manage the group’s demoralized and scattered 
networks in his final years. They show him seeking to reassert control over factions of 
loosely affiliated jihadists from Yemen to Somalia, as well as independent actors whom 
he believed had sullied al-Qaeda’s reputation and muddied its central message.” 190 
According to Bruce Riedel “He was not a recluse; he was the CEO of a global terrorist 
organization. ... He was receiving communications from al-Qaeda’s operatives literally 
around the world, and he was instructing them to carry out acts of terror.” 191 


189 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 10-11. 

190 Joby Warrick, “Bin Laden’s last stand: In final months, terrorist leader worried about his legacy,” The 
Washington Post, 30 April 2012, 1, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-securitv/bin-ladens- 
last-stand-in-final-months-terrorist-leader-worried-about-his-legacv/2012/04/30/gIQAStCisT storv.html . 

191 Bruce Riedel quoted in Warrick, “Bin Laden’s last stand,” 2; Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad. 


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2.2 Chapter Conclusion 

As this chapter has shown, Clausewitz’s theory of war can serve as a 
methodological foundation for an analysis of al-Qaeda 's strategy. This analysis will 
proceed by investigating the interlocking elements of the grand strategic, strategic and 
tactical level design of ends, ways, and means for al-Qaeda. The chapter also argues that 
Thucydides’ and Hobbes’ three key motivators—fear, honor, and interest—are also those 
motivating al-Qaeda 's ends, ways and means. Since al-Qaeda 's strategy is Salafi- 
Jihadi-Takfir Terrorism and terrorism is mainly a communication strategy, al-Qaeda 's 
strategic concept can be depicted as a coin with two sides: the strategy side and the 
strategic communication side (see Figure 2 below). With al-Qaeda 's origin in ideology 
depicted as baseline, their defensive strategy based on decentralized organization and the 
communication strategy that developed following the loss of their physical base in 
Afghanistan will be depicted in the next two chapters. 


Al-Qaeda’s Strategy Coin 



Figure 2. Al-QAEDA’S STRATEGY COIN 

Source: Authors ’ Original Work 


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CHAPTER 3 - STRATEGY 

Angels of mercy, escort our souls to Heaven after we fulfill 
this duty of crushing the descendants of monkeys and pigs. 
Dear father and mother, blessings of honor and respect to 
you, while you escort me to the Maidens of Paradise as a 
martyr. 

- Al-Takrouri 2003 


3.1 Al-Qaeda's Grand Strategy 

To comprehend the rage behind and ruthlessness of al-Qaeda strategic interests 
requires an understanding of the perceived humiliation felt by a number of “Muslims 
over the collapse of the Islamic civilization over the past 400 years” 1 and an 
understanding of the main sources of al-Qaeda 's ideological goal of restoring the 
Ummah's honor, as previously described. Their current ideology is fundamentally still 
based on Abu Mus’ab al-Suri’s writings: 

■ the organizational program of Sayyid Qutb, especially his principles of 
alhakimiyyah [God’s sovereignty on earth]; 

■ the legal-political doctrine of Ibn Taymiyyah and the Salafiyyah school, 
especially the basis of loyalty and innocence (A1 Wala’ Wal Bara’); 

■ the jurisprudential and doctrinal heritage of the Wahhabite call; and 

■ “some basic elements” from the MB’s ideology. 2 3 

Based mainly on this ideological foundation, al-Qaeda 's policy aims at politically 
uniting all countries with a Muslim majority into an Islamic realm through a monolithic 
Islamic religious/social movement. The way to realize the grand strategy is to 
reinvigorate the Islamic Ummah (Community). Al-Qaeda seeks to mobilize the Muslim 
Ummah in a revolutionary transformation of the Muslim world population in 
confrontation with the international order embodied by Western society. Al-Qaeda 
seeks to put an end to the international order led by the West and terminate the influence 


1 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 2. 

2 Abu Mus’ab al-Suri quoted in Brynjar Lia: “Jihadi Strategists and Doctrinarians,” in Assaf Moghadam, 
Brian Fishman eds., Self Inflicted Wounds-Debates and Divisions within al-Qa’ida’s and its Periphery , 
CTC Harmony Project, Dec 16, 2010, 100-131,108. http://www.etc.usma.edu/wp- 
content/uploads/2011/05/Self-Inflicted-Wounds.pdf. 

3 Bockstette, “Terrorist Exploit Information Technologies,” 11-13. 


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of the West over Muslim territory. 4 According to the CTC, al-Qaeda “envisaged their 
organization as an international entity, serving as a ‘wellspring for expertise in military 
training and [the art of] fighting’ ... [to] serve to enable other jihadi groups around the 
world, stating that ‘our relationship with sincere jihadi groups and movements is 
premised on cooperation [to advance] righteousness and piety.’” 5 

Abu Mus’ab al-Suri articulated how al-Qaeda can work towards its goal in the 
near term: “Our new method for jihadi operations ... is a global method and call. ... 
Likewise, the present military theory is also dependent upon moving on a global horizon. 
This is a basic factor in the military movement, besides being a strategy, political, and 
religious doctrine.” 6 

Al-Qaeda's grand strategy aims at creation of Islamic Emirates as a way to create 
a devout Islamic Caliphate in the long run. As Sheik Alaa Yousuf (Al-Ayerri) declares, 
“Thus, Muslims can have only one goal: converting the entire humanity to Islam and 
‘effacing the final traces of all other religions, creeds and ideologies.” 7 8 The 
implementation of strict Sharia law to guarantee the primacy of religion in social and 

O 

state affairs is pivotal for al-Qaeda. Establishing Islamic Emirates where Sharia law is 
the societal and governmental foundation, and uniting all Emirates to an Islamic 
Caliphate with an Islamic government of Allah, is the mainstay of al-Qaeda' s grand 
strategy. Abolishing the Westphalian state system on the way, this Caliphate will in turn 
expand to global rule. 

In essence, the ways of al-Qaeda' s strategy are Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir Ideology, the 
Sharia-based society, Sharia- based governance the seizure of territory, the uniting the 
Ummah, and establishing an initial core Emirate from which to expand to the desired 
Caliphate. Al-Zawahiri, who has had a significant influence on al-Qaeda' s grand 
strategy, stated in 2001, “[Sayyid Qutb] affirmed that the issue of unification in Islam is 
important... it is also a battle over to whom authority and power should belong-to God’s 


4 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy.” 

5 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 9. 

6 Abu Mus’ab al-Suri quoted in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 368. 

7 Al-Ayerri as quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 114. 

8 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” 8. 


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course and shari ’ah, [or] to man-made laws.. .” 9 Al-Zawahiri amplified this position, 

explaining, “[What] we seek is based on three foundations. The first foundation is the 

rule of shari ’ah. ... The second foundation: ... the freedom of the Muslim lands and their 

liberation from ... the yoke of the US and Jewish occupation. ... The third foundation: 

[T]he liberation of the human being.” 10 

The infamous (and now deceased) former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu 

Musab-al Zarqawi, drew upon Taymiyyah and Qutb in a 2006 interview and explained 

the ends of al-Qaeda’ s grand strategy in the following way, even though he was not a 

member of the al-Qaeda central leadership: 

As for our political agenda as some people call it, so we find it 
summarized richly in the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him), "I 
have been sent with the sword, between the hands of the hour, until Allah 
is worshipped alone". ... [W]e do not believe in politics in the way 
familiar with some groups that are directed by their sect, who raise Islam 
as a slogan. You find them in the parliaments, participating with the 
disobeyers in engaging the seats that rule against the law of Allah.... We 
fight in the way of Allah, until the law of Allah is implemented, and the 
first step is to expel the enemy, then establish the Islamic state, then we set 
forth to conquer the lands of Muslims to return them back to us, then after 
that, we fight the kuffar [disbelievers] until they accept one of the three. "I 
have been sent with the sword, between the hands of the hour"; this is our 
political agenda. ... For after the establishment of an Islamic nation, he 
started moving to spread Islam in the east and the west and the north and 
the south. Our political agenda now is to expel the imposing enemy, this is 
the beginning, and our agenda after it is to establish the Sharia of Allah on 
earth. ... Interviewer: Did Abu Zayed exaggerate when he said "Al-Qaeda 
aims in 100 years to take control over the world"? Zarqawi: This is not 
hidden. We are working to spread the equality of Islam throughout the 
globe, to wipe away the darkness of disbelief and the misconceptions of 
the other religions. ... In this condition, jihad becomes obligatory. Sheikh 
Ibn at Taymiyyah said, "No excuse can be used as an excuse for it". ... 

Look at what the enemy is doing to the Muslims? How they are killing 
their sons and leaving their women alive and robbing them off their honor 
and taking their money? * 11 


9 Al-Zawahiri as quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 71-72. 

10 A1 Zawahiri as quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 71-72. 

11 Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi interview by Abu Al-Baghdadi, “Dialogue With Sheikh Abu Musab Al- 
Zarqawi,” Al-Furqan Foundation for Media Production, 20 December 2006, 
http://www.kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2006/12/20/6921 .shtml. 


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Al-Qaeda senior leaders consider the current rulers of Islamic states to be 
unbelieving apostate and agents of the West. As the al-Qaeda member Saeed Ahmad al- 
Zahrani explained, “The rulers of the countries of Islam in this age are all apostate, 
unbelieving tyrants who have departed in every way from Islam. Muslims who proclaim 
God’s unity have no other choice than iron and fir q Jihad in the way of God, to restore 
the caliphate according to the Prophet’s teachings.” 12 

Along the way to achieving its goal, al-Qaeda seeks to destroy the USA, the 
Western state and societal system, Israel—the far enemy—as well as the Shi ’a ideology. 
In addition, the group also seeks to eliminate unbelievers and avenge the perceived 
oppression off all Muslims in order to restore the Ummah’s honor. However, there is a 
lack of articulated political and social ends that go beyond the establishment of the 
Caliphate and the implementation of Sharia law. Details on the desired Caliphate remain 
obscure but the seizure of territory to establish a base and to establish an Islamic Emirate 
is an obvious end. The seizure of territory serves as a way to the end of establishing an 
Emirate. In the words of al-Zawahiri, “[The] jihad is t movement needs an arena that 
would act like an incubator where its seeds would grow and where it can acquire practical 
experience in combat, politics and organizational matters.” 13 

Al-Qaeda has a very long time horizon for establishing the desired Islamic 
Caliphate. Abu-Hafs al-Masri Brigades illustrated in 2004 the time horizon for reaching 
the grand strategic end: “The enemy can be patient but cannot persevere. We, with our 
faith, creed, and love for meeting Allah, can persevere until the enemy collapses, even if 
this takes decades or centuries.” 14 Al-Qaeda sees itself as the “inciter-in-chief’ 
provoking a sustained global uprising of the Ummah for decades to come in order to 
further its Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir Terrorism Islamic Vanguard grand strategy. 15 


12 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 173. 

13 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 198. 

14 As quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 202. 

15 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla, 28. 


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3.2 Al-Qaeda’s Strategy 

Strategy is confined only by the event horizon of 
possibilities, a horizon which expands anew with every action 

-Everett Dolman 

Al-Qaeda’s adherents believe they can achieve their grand strategic and strategic 
ends only through by the way of utilizing jihadi terrorism as overarching strategy. By 
creating and exploiting the fear and anxiety of a population, al-Qaeda aims to use its 
terrorist strategy as a catalyst for instability. 16 As one of al-Qaeda’ s leaders the Saudi 
Abu Ayman al-Hilali explained in 2002, “ Jihad and martyrdom operations are our 
strategic weapon against the enemy.” 17 Its strategic way is to bleed the United States into 
bankruptcy, forcing it to withdraw from Muslim lands and the collapse of its local allies 
(apostate regimes). Al-Qaeda aims at exhausting their opponents by numerous, cheap, 
small-scale attacks to create a strategic effect by exhausting and provoking expensive 
overreactions on a global scale and exploiting safe havens. 18 Simultaneously, al-Qaeda’ s 
strategy aims at provoking and alienating effects of US intervention to rally the Ummah 
behind al-Qaeda and destroy the credibility of local (apostate) Muslim regimes. 19 

Using Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir Terrorism practicing an Islamic Vanguard concept, al- 
Qaeda aims to further its strategic objective of the removal of all secular political leaders 
who currently govern Muslim States and the destruction of the State of Israel. The 
terrorists’ aim is to install supportive Islamic regimes and transform the current fractious 
political landscape of the Muslim world into a unified community to further their grand 
strategic ends. 20 Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, advising al-Qaeda to use methods similar to those 
outlined by Mao Tse-Tung’s in his seminal guerrilla manifesto “On Protracted War,” 
wrote, 21 

The jihad of individual or cell terrorism, using the methods of urban or 

rual guerilla warfare, is fundamental for exhausting the enemy and causing 


16 Audrey Kurth Cronin, How Terrorism Ends: Understanding The Decline and Demise of Terrorist 
Campaigns (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2009), 166. 

17 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 200. 

18 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla, 296. 

19 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla, 29. 

20 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” 8. 

21 For an excerpt of Abu Mus’ab al-Suri’s strategy of a protracted guerilla, see Appendix A. 


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him to collaps and withdraw. God willing. The Open Front Jihad is 
fundamental for seizing control over land in order to liberate it, and 
establish Islamic law, with the help of God. The Individual Terrorism 
Jihad and guerilla warfare conducted by small cells, paves the way for the 
other kind (Open Front Jihad), aids and supports it. Without confrontation 
in the field and seizure of land, however, a state will not emerge for us. 

And this is the strategic goal for the Resistance project. This is a summary 
of the military theory which I already developed into its final forms and 
recorded into a lecture series in the summer of 2000. 22 

In the face of their lack of success in removing secular Muslim regimes and 
establishing an Islamic Emirate, al-Qaeda' s prioritization of strategic ends shofted to the 
“far enemy” as a way to weaken the “near enemy” as well. Well aware that no apostate 
leader has been removed thus far due to al-Qaeda deeds and that the sizeable, well- 
trained, and capable US military and security forces cannot be defeated head-on, al- 
Qaeda applies the strategy of Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir Terrorism as a way of wearing down 
the “far enemy” by luring it into a protracted conflict in Muslim lands. As Sabri 
Mohammed Ebrahim A1 Qurashi, currently held in the United States’ Guantanamo Bay 
detention camp, stated in 2002, “ Al-Qaeda follows a clear strategy. The choice to target 
the United States from the beginning was a smart strategic choice for the global jihad 
movement. The struggle with the United States’ hangers-on in the Islamic region has 
shown that these hangers-on cannot keep their tyrannical regimes going for a single 
minute without US help.” 23 

One central strategic end is the elimination of the “far enemy” United States by 
the way of luring it into conflict. The Center for Islamic Studies and Research, an al- 
Qaeda supportive organization, explained the strategy thus, “We must also understand 
that the al-Qaeda organization has adopted a strategy in its war with the Americans based 
on expanding the battlefield and exhausting the enemy, who spreads his interests over the 
globe, with successive and varied blows.” 24 The strategic object is causing a 
disproportionate US military response to rally the Ummah behind al-Qaeda. Scott Atran 
puts it thus: “That’s ... why almost no Afghans were closely associated with al-Qaeda 


22 Abu Mus’ab al-Suri quoted in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 371. 

23 Al-Qurashi quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 196. 

24 Center for Islamic Studies and Research 2003 as quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 200. 


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until after 9/11, when America bombed them into togetherness.” 25 If possible, attacks are 
also to be carried out in the United States; as al-Zawahiri states, “Therefore, we must 
move the battle to the enemy’s grounds to bum the hands of those who ignite fire in our 
countries.” 

The strategy also aims at financially draining the US as Osama bin Laden asserted 
in his October 2004 address to America: “ Al-Qaeda spent $500,000 on the September 11 
attacks, while America lost more than $500 billion at the lowest estimate, in the event 
and its aftermath ... Still more serious for America was the fact that the mujahedeen 
forced Bush to resort to an emergency budget in order to continue fighting in Afghanistan 
and Iraq. This shows the success of our plan to bleed America to the point of bankruptcy, 
with God’s will.” Sheikh Abu Bakr Naji, one of al-Qaeda's leading warfare theorists, 

argues in a similar fashion for a strategic plan that requires “a military strategy working 
to disperse the efforts and forces of the enemy and to exhaust and drain its monetary and 
military capabilities.” 28 In addition, by conducting major attacks behind the lines for the 
“far enemy,” al-Qaeda put on a show of force. This not only serves terrorist strategy but 

9Q 

also drives in the majority of the financial donations. 

As a key al-Qaeda strategic mastermind, Abu Mus’ab al-Suri’s pedagogical 
footprint is very evident. He argued for thorough, rational, long-term strategic use of 
violence. To a certain extent, he was a critical dissident and intellectual thinker with a 
hard-nosed interest based approach compared to more utopian religious dogmatic 
leaders. 30 His strategy for decentralized terrorism by autonomous cells without fixed 
bases or traceable organizational ties became the way for survival of al-Qaeda after 
losing the physical bases in Afghanistan in 2001. Al-Qaeda's decentralized cells are 

25 Scott Atran, Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists (New York, 
NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010), 99. 

26 Aaron, In Their Own Words , 197. 

27 IntelCenter, Osama bin Laden Message Analysis & Threat Assessment, 8 November 2004. 

28 Abu Bakr Naji, The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will 
Pass , trans. William McCants (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2006), 21, 
http://www.wcfia.harvard.edu/olin/images/Management%20of%20Savagerv%20-%2005-23-2006.pdf 

29 Carsten Bockstette, “Jihadist Terrorist Use of Strategic Communication Management Techniques,” 
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies , Occasional Paper Series, no. 20 (December 
2008), 11. 

30 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad , 371. 


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today mostly linked by ideology and solidarity by the means of decentralized protracted 
guerilla tactics. 31 This also becomes evident in recently declassified documents, which 
show that al-Qaeda affiliates “sought bin Laden’s blessing on symbolic matters, such as 
declaring an Islamic state, and wanted a formal union to acquire the al-Qaeda brand.” 

Even though it is an obvious contradiction of the strategic aim of luring Western 
troops into Muslim lands, a further stated strategic objective is to drive those they call 
kuffar (non-believers) from Muslim lands. One promising approach to achieve this end 
is to attack allies of the US-led coalition that are judged the most vulnerable (e.g., those 
with weak governments or poor public support for involvement to induce their 
governments to withdraw their troops). The underlying strategy is to isolate the United 
States by dividing and undermining its coalition, forcing the US and its allies to pull 
out. 34 This strategy could well have been copied from Clausewitz who stated, “The [act] 
we consider most important for the defeat of the enemy [is] the following: ... Delivery of 
an effective blow against his principal ally.” 35 This sentiment is seconded by Sun Tzu 
and his commentators, “When he is united, divide him. Chang Yu: Sometimes drive a 
wedge between a sovereign and his ministers; on other occasions separate his allies from 
him ... Then you can plot against them.” 36 

The Norwegian Defense Research Establishment provides evidence of this aim in 
al-Qaeda strategic thinking, quoting from an al-Qaeda planning manuscript on a radical 
Islamic Web site in December 2003: “We think that the Spanish government could not 
tolerate more than two, maximum three blows, after which it will have to withdraw as a 
result of popular pressure. If its troops still remain in Iraq after those blows, then the 


31 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 7-8. 

32 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 12. 

33 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” 8. 

34 Carsten Bockstette, “Taliban and Jihadist Use of Strategic Communication,” Connections-The Quarterly 
Journal, vol. VIII, no. 3, (Summer 2009): 1-24, 6-7. 

Chapter two and three are based on and contain elements of by the author previously published essays: 
Carsten Bockstette, “Terrorist Exploit Information T echnologies", per Concordiam Journal of European 
Security and Defense Issues, vol. 1 issue 3, (October 2010); Bockstette, “Taliban and Jihadist Use of 
Strategic Communication;” Bockstette, “Jihadist Terrorist Use of Strategic Communication Management 
Techniques.” 

35 Clausewitz, On War, 596. 

36 Sun Tzu, Illustrated Art of War, 100. 


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victory of the Socialist Party is almost secured, and the withdrawal of the Spanish forces 
will be on its electoral program.” 37 The tract called to exploit the March 2004 elections 
in Spain. The last Spanish troops left Iraq in May 2004. Al-Qaeda's attacks were 
aimed to serve both coercive and deterrent ends. Stathis N. Kalyvas explains how 
violence can serve both purposes at once: “Coercive violence [terrorism] may be strategic 
and tactical at the same time. Targeting a person to eliminate a particular risk is tactical, 
but using this act of violence so as to deter others from engaging in similar behavior is 
strategic.” 40 

Al-Qaeda , aiming to be the leader of a coalition of Salafi-Jihadi-Takfiri 
Terroristic groups, 41 seeks to build a mass consciousness of the Ummah via its terroristic 
strategy using its regional affiliates ( al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Arabian 
Peninsula, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abu Sayyaf Group, etc.) to co-opt and 
aggregate the effects of multiple, diverse local actors around the globe and point them 
towards the goals of its grand strategy. Al-Qaeda provides these entities, to a greater or 
lesser extent, with strategic direction, technical and logistical assistance, and 
propaganda. 42 

In awareness of al-Qaeda’s losses in 2010 in Waziristan and the ruthless conduct 
of al-Qaeda’s jihadi affiliates compelled bin Laden to reassess al-Qaeda’s strategy. He 
came to the conclusion to “ensure the safety and security of the remaining brothers” was 
of strategic importance, even if this would mean a slower pace of operations and it 
reiterated his understanding of the importance of reestablishing centralized control. 43 

3.3 Tactical Goals 

Al-Qaeda' s tactics and techniques for assessing and attacking targets underscore 
their fanatic ideological conviction. At the tactical level, al-Qaeda aims to provoke, 

37 Media Committee for the Victory of the Iraqi People 2003 quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 238. 

38 Atran, Talking to the Enemy, 195. 

39 BBC News, “Last Spanish troops leave Iraq,” BBC.co.uk, 21 May 2004, 
http://news.bbc.co.Uk/2/hi/3734751 .stm, 

40 Kalyvas, Logic of Violence in Civil War, 27. 

41 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla, 28. 

42 Kilcullen , Accidental Guerrilla, 14. 

43 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 16-17. 


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intimidate, protract, and exhaust. Al-Qaeda provokes via atrocities, prompting their 
enemies to (over-)react in ways that harm their opponent’s interests and alienate the 
Muslim population, allowing al-Qaeda to further exploit the created instability as David 
Kilcullen so eloquently describes in his work The Accidental Guerrilla , 44 Secondly, al- 
Qaeda aims at preventing cooperation with apostate governments, coercing the local 
populace by killing those who collaborate. 45 Following lines of reasoning similar to 
those used by Mao Tse-Tung and Che Guevara, the group also seeks to protract the 
conflict in order to deplete their enemies’ resources, erode their political will, and gain 
support of the Ummah while at the same time avoiding losses. Additionally, al-Qaeda 
aims to impose costs on their opponents in lives, resources, and political capital to coerce 
their enemies and further higher strategic goals. 46 

Many al-Qaeda statements sanction killing infidels and collateral damage. This 
includes the exceptional killing of Muslims in order to be able to kill heretics and 
apostates. Al-Zarqawi in 2005 justified this position, stating, “We cannot kill infidels 
without killing some Muslims. It is unavoidable ... killing of infidels by any method ... 
has been sanctified by many scholars even if it meant killing innocent Muslims.” 47 The 
focus is on maximizing the number of victims by exploiting the lethal power of the 
material and attack objects used. Suicide bombers are usually the weapon of choice. 

Their operatives go well beyond basic description of a potential target. Al-Qaeda' s 
preparation usually includes sophisticated analysis of target vulnerabilities including 
building construction and examination of the emergency response systems. Especially al- 
Suri’s works on training, preparation, weapons, and explosive manuals are widely 
referenced and applied. For example, al-Suri writes that for “shooting practices this 
must be done by creating necessary areas and suitable conditions in caves ... and 
uninhabited mountains ... vast forests ... deserts ... etc., taking great security 


44 Kilcullen .Accidental Guerrilla, 14-32. 

45 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla , 30. 

46 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla , 32. 

47 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 104. 

48 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 23. 


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precautions.” 49 Al-Suri’s strategy for a protracted war propagates the more tactical first 
stage of guerrilla warfare thus: 

The first stage: It is called the stage of exhaustion. It is the stage of small 
guerrillas and limited terrorist warfare, where the guerillas, which are 
small in number, rely upon the methods of assassination, small raids and 
ambushes, and selective bomb attacks to confuse the enemy, regardless of 
whether the enemy is a colonial power or a despotic regime. The aim is to 
reach a state of security exhaustion, political confusion, and economic 
failure. ... [The] Weapons of the first stage: Are primitive weapons and 
personal one-man weapons, such as revolvers and light and medium 
machine guns at the most, light anti-tank weapons such as the R.P.G. and 
its equivalents, hand grenades, as well as home-made and military 
explosives. 50 


49 Abu Mus’ab al-Suri quoted in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 478. 

50 Abu Mus’ab al-Suri quoted in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 471-472. 

For a complete overview of al-Suri’s stages of Guerrilla warfare, see Appendix A. 


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3.4 Chapter Conclusion 

As Table 2 illustrates below, al-Qaeda has strategic and grand strategic ends that 
have been translated down to the tactical level. Terrorist attacks utilizing Jihad-Martyr- 
Takfir tactics have caused much damage death and suffering. However, these limited 
military successes have achieved significant success in neither their strategic nor grand 
strategic goals, aside from luring the US and its allies into conflict in Muslim lands in a 
limited way. The sole focus in jihadi terrorism as overarching strategy seems, at least 
with a short time perspective, to be a failing military strategy. 


FIRST HALF OF THE STRATEGY COIN -- 

Al-Qaeda’s Strategy 

Level 

ENDS 

(Goals/Objects) 

WAYS 

(Concepts/ldeology) 

MEANS 

(T ools/Resources) 

Grand 

Strategy 

• Global Caliphate 

• Islamic Emirates 

• In Sharia fused society and 
governance 

• United Ummah 

• Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir ideology 

• Sharia based society 

• Sharia based governance 

• Seizure of territory 

• Uniting the Ummah 

• Establishing a first core 

Emirate 

• Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir T errorism 
practicing a Islamic Vanguard 
concept 

• Strategic Communication 

Strategy 

• 1. Al-Qaeda Survival 

• 2. Free Muslim lands 

• 3. Establish Sharia rule 

• 4. Eliminate the “near 
enemy” 

• 5. Eliminate the “far enemy” 

• 6. Eliminate Israel. 

• Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir 

Terrorism practicing a 

Islamic Vanguard concept 
to intimidate, protract and 
to exhaust the enemy 

• Jihad-Martyr-Takfir terroristic 
attacks 

• Decentralized protracted 
guerilla Jihad-Martyr-Takfir 
tactics 

• Economic and financial 
bleeding of opponents 

Tactics 

• Successful Jihad-Martyr- 
Takfir terroristic attacks 

• Decentralized protracted 
guerilla tactics to intimidate, 
protract and to exhaust the 
enemy 

• Recruit, train, and radicalize 
adherents 

• Deception 

• Psychological operations 

• Operations security 

• Physical destruction 

• Military deception 

• Jihad-Martyr-Takfir terroristic 
attacks 

Table 2. FIRST H 

1ALF OF THE STRATEGY COIN 


Source: Authors ’ Original Work 

However, the purpose is not to win a symmetric military confrontation at this 
time. The primary aim of the attacks is to function as an inciter to catalyze the population 
to act as a communication channel in order to intimidate, coerce and propagate aimed at 
furthering al-Qaeda 's grand political and strategic agenda. Thus, the tactical attacks are 
mainly aimed at helping in communicating messages-as will be depicted in the next 
chapter. 


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CHAPTER 4 - JIHADI COMMUNICATION STRATEGY 

We are in a battle, and that more than half of this 
battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. 

-Ayman Al-Zawahiri 2005 


4.1 Grand Communication Strategy 

Al-Qaeda's grand strategic communication ends are inseparable from its grand 

political strategy. The ends of the group’s grand communications strategy are the support 

for the grand strategic and strategic ends, ways, and means and their credibility and 

legitimacy executing its Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir Terrorism strategy as the Ummah ’ s 

Vanguard. Al-Qaeda aims to further this by the way of instilling and gaining adherence 

to Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir Ideology, ^aria-based society and governance, and uniting the 

Ummah behind their cause. Al-Suri’s significance to al-Qaeda' s communication grand 

strategy is paramount. 1 He designed the unofficial blueprint for al-Qaeda' s 

communication strategy’s ends, ways, and means, as is evident in his epic 1,600 page 

work The Military Theory of the Global Islamic Resistance Call : 

These [political] factors include the presence of a cause in which the local 
inhabitants can believe, in a way that is sufficient for making them fight a 
jihad for its sake. Also, that cause must be able to mobilize the Islamic 
Nation behind it, so that the nation will help this people succeed, and fight 
a jihad with them, with their spirit and money... and other kinds of 
support. The most suitable cause among the causes that instigate 
resistance is foreign aggression and an abundance of religious, political 
economic and social reasons for revolution and jihad. This is called 
‘revolutionary climate’ in books about guerilla warfare, and in our 
literature, we will term it jihadi climate.’ 2 

Thanks to communication technology, al-Qaeda is theoretically able to reach any 
conceivable international desired audience. This communication technology as a means 


1 The Syrian al-Suri, as a potent political and ideological figure is and at the same time is not a key al- 
Qaeda strategic mastermind. He trained a generation of jihadist at al-Qaeda’s Afghan camps and helped in 
establishing al-Qaeda s vast European networks. He crafted practical ways to implement jihadi guerrilla 
warfare including withering critiques of the jihadi movement after assessing terrorist campaigns. As a 
dissident and critic, he never became part of the central al-Qaeda leadership, but his influence as 
charismatic and prophetic strategist ensured is political impact on al-Qaeda’s strategy, especially after 
2001. 

2 Abu Mus ’ab al-Suri quoted in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 375. 


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enables them to attack governments via terrorist attacks that are far beyond its operational 
territory by influencing populations and using them as a communication channel. 3 As 
Abu Bakr Naji stated, “[W]e want to communicate our Sharia, military, and political 
positions to the people clearly and justify them rationally and through the Sharia and 
(show that) they are in the (best) interest of the Ummah." 4 The communication strategy 
serves to reach the desired end state of establishing a global devout Caliphate with a 
STtaria-based Islamic government. 

Since terrorism is essentially a communication strategy, the focus of al-Qaeda is 
therefore heavy on the communicative vs. the guerrilla aspect within the scope of 
irregular warfare. Ayman Al-Zawahiri put it thus: “I say to you: that we are in a battle, 
and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And 
that we are in a.. .race for the hearts and minds of our [Muslim nation]. And that 
however far our [military] capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth 
of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us.” 5 

The utopian elements of al-Qaeda' s grand strategy and the eschatological 
worldview of its ideology serve a significant purpose: utopia is not only the goal of al- 
Qaeda' s violence, but also serves as al-Qaeda' s moral and religious justification in the 
application of terrorism as a legitimate strategic way and tactical mean. 6 Al-Qaeda's, 
primary long-term grand communication strategy aims at the enlargement of their 
movement. Uniting the Ummah behind al-Qaeda, as a grand strategy way, is of the 
utmost importance for the group’s ultimate success. The grand strategic ways also serve 
to propagate the Sharia based society and governance as well as seeking to justify Salafi- 
Jihadi-Takfir Ideology. Abu Bakr Naji explains the ways and means thus, “Developing 


3 John Mackinlay, The Insurgent Archipelago-From Mao to bin Laden (New York, NY: Columbia 
University Press, 2009), 79. 

4 Naji, Management of Savagery, 96. 

5 Open Source Center, “ Report: Complete Text of Al-Zawahiri 9 July 2005 Letter to Al-Zarqawi,” 
(Washington, D.C.: Open Source Center, 11 October 2005), OSC document FEA20061002028254). 

6 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy;,” Steven R. Corman and Jill S. Schiefelbein, 
“Communication and Media Strategy in the Islamist War of Ideas,” in Weapons of Mass Persuasion- 
Strategic Communication To Combat Violent Extremism ed. Steven R. Corman and Angela Trethewey and 
H.L. Goodall, Jr. (New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing 2008); Bockstette, “Taliban and Jihadist Use of 
Strategic Communication,” 13. 


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the media strategy such that it reaches and targets the heart of the middle leadership of 
the armies of apostasy in order to push them to join the jihad. ... Establishing a media 
plan which seeks, in each of these stages, rational and Sharia justification for the 
operations, especially [targeting] the masses. [It must be a plan] which escapes the 
captivity of targeting individuals of the other Islamic groups, who already understand 
everything!” 7 

Creating and maintaining al-Qaeda' s social and religious viability while engaging 
in terroristic acts requires a continuous communication effort. This reinforces the image 
of communications as a central means of al-Qaeda' s grand strategy. Al-Qaeda's violent 
methods and the killing of innocent people inevitably contradict many of the teachings of 
Islam and tend to undermine the legitimacy of their ends. Al-Qaeda aims to mitigate this 
inherent limitation of their legitimacy through an unceasing communication campaign. 
Therefore, efforts to secure legitimacy through ostensible demonstration of compliance 
with Islamic law are prominent in the group’s grand communication strategy. 8 Al- 
Qaeda's grand strategic communication mean is their credibility and legitimacy in 
executing its Salafi-Jihadi Takfir Terrorism strategy as the Ummah ’s Vanguard. Without 
significant believe in its credibility and legitimacy by the Ummah, their strategy in total 
becomes powerless. 


4.2 Communication Strategy 

Based on their grand communication strategy, al-Qaeda aims to develop a 
communication strategy to further the above. Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, as an al-Qaeda realist 
and critical thinker who was acutely aware of the importance of communication strategy, 
advised, “It is ... among the strategic principles of the Global Islamic Resistance Call to 
use arguments, explanations and legal and political evidence, and logical realism not 
weapons and swords to confront this heretic group of propagandists for Satan and the 


7 Naji, Management of Savagery, 21. 

8 Bockstette, “Taliban and Jihadist Use of Strategic Communication,” 13. 


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Sultan’s clerics, who call people to the ports of Hell.” 9 Al-Zawahiri promulgated al- 

Qaeda's communication strategy and its ways and means thus: 

The media war against the regime is no less important than the military 
war, especially as the regime is thoroughly embroiled in all manner of 
corruption—ideologically, ethically, politically and financially—leaving it 
vulnerable on these grounds to media assaults. Thus it is necessary that 
the mujahedeen operations have a media orientation toward issues of 
concern to the people. The effects of the operations in this regard must 
therefore be carefully studied before they are carried out... Finally, it is 
necessary to emphasize that the Islamist movements must adopt the 
confrontation with Israel and America, so that they attract the masses to 
the fight and to the critical strike against the regime. 10 This also includes 
analyzing the enemy’s media communications, as Abu Bakr Naji 
explained, “Therefore, understanding the media politics of the adversaries 
and dealing with them is very important in winning the military and political 
battle. * 11 

Based on their ideology and strategy, al-Qaeda is knowingly or unknowingly 
using master narratives 12 as a means to propagate its message and further its agenda. Al- 
Qaeda aims to exploit deep-seated belief systems founded in ethnic, religious, and 

1 'J 

cultural identities to muster support for their grand strategic aims. This includes the 
attack of high-profile symbolic targets that have the potential of provoking enemy 
governments to over-react, harming their own long-term interests, so that al-Qaeda can 
strategically profit. 14 The master narratives and the vision they propagate serve as 
resources for the strategic rhetorical efforts toward desired audiences to align their views 


9 Abu Mus ’ab al-Suri quoted in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad , 409. 

10 Al-Zawahiri quoted in Assaf Moghadam and Brian Fishman, Self-Inflicted Wounds Debates and 
Divisions within al-Qa’ida and its Periphery (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2010), 
Harmony Project, 87. 

http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Self-Inflicted-Wounds.pdf 

11 Naji, Management of Savagery, 95. 

12 Master narratives are historically based stories that reflect a community’s identity and experiences. They 
communicate the community’s concerns, aspirations and hopes. In addition, such narratives assist in 
guiding members connect with who they are and where they come from. Finally, master narratives are 
useful to individuals in understanding unfolding developments around them. 

Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report , 6. 

13 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla , 296. 

14 Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla , 296. 


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in ways that serve al-Qaeda' s ends. 15 The intimidation and coercion of the “near enemy” 
and “far enemy” by instilling fear is an essential element for these communication 
stratagems. The strategic narratives depicted in Table 3 below were distilled by the 
author out of Open Source Center Master Narratives Report, the Master Narratives of 
Islamist Extremism and out of al-Qaeda documents: 16 


15 Jeffry R. Halverson and H. L. Goodall, Jr., and Steven R. Corman, Master Narratives of Islamist 
Extremism (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan 2010), 179. 

16 The narratives have been categorized and synthetized by the author. For a complete list of the master 
narratives as developed by OSC, see Appendix B-G. For a more broad discussion of Islamist extremism 
master narratives see: 

Halverson and Goodall and Corman, Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism. 


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Reasoning 

Ends 

Ways 

Means 

Master 

Narrative 

Messages 

Concrete ^ Abstract 

Goal 

Ends 

Restoring 

the 

Caliphate 

The creation of a rightly-guided Islamic Caliphate by God united all Muslims in 
Islam and Sharia and freed the Ummah of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance of God’s guidance). 
The Prophet Mohammed and Islam united the desert tribes to true monist Muslims. 
The Caliphate spread Islam and was designed to maintain the unity. The once proud 
Caliphate was destroyed by Western influence and deeds. Muslims have deviated 
from Sharia by abandoning the Caliphate and embracing Western thoughts. Western 
scheming and attacks divided the Ummah into a multitude of pieces. The Ummah 
needs a Vanguard to find out way back to Sharia and this correction to the path 
begins by removing Western influence from our land and then leading the Ummah 
back to the right path. Apostate traitorous Muslim rulers allowed the Caliphates 
demise. In keeping with the examples of Rightly Guided Caliphs who followed the 
Prophet Mohamed, Muslims must rebuild the Caliphate with violent jihad , restore 
the Ummah to its former glory and magnificence and end Muslim the injustices and 
suffering. 

Why 

Ways 

War on 
Islam 

From the earliest days of Islam, infidels have conspired against Muslims. The 
Ummah is threatened from all around by foreign infidel troops endangering the 
Ummah’s security. The enemies propagate falsehoods of a “moderate” Islam to 
weaken true Islam and pacify and humiliate the Ummah in face of global oppression. 
All Muslims, therefore, must adhere to the call of jihad and join their fellow 
mujahedeen . 

Why 

Ways 

Agents of 
the West 

All Muslim states have fallen from the path of true Islam. Islam’s original leaders 
were distinguished by their passion for Sharia , rejection of excess, and their love for 
jihad. Today, apostate rulers betray the legacy of these model leaders. They are 
agents of Western masters and not adhering to sharia. They behave in ways that do 
not follow the example of the Prophet Mohammad and contravene the core tenets of 
the true Muslim faith. These apostate leaders exploit Muslim’s wealth and further 
idleness. The Ummah must awaken from its slumber and free itself from corruption, 
humiliation and oppression. 

Why 

Means 

The 

Nakba 

Al-Nakba, or catastrophe, when Palestinians loss of their homes and lands during the 
creation of Israel in 1948, is an abomination on Muslim holy lands. Al-Nakba 
persists to this day, and a holocaust in Gaza is being covered up by false peace 
treaties and secularist apostate Arab leaders, incapable and unwilling to ensure the 
security of the Ummah. Muslims everywhere must rectify this injustice and 
humiliation. The blessed holy land must be returned to its rightful owners. 

How 

Ways 

& 

Means 

Violent 

Jihad 

The Prophet and his successors never neglected their duty to fight the enemies of the 
Ummah. Over time, the Muslims abandoned their obligation to jihad , allowing 
suffering and humiliation to come upon them. The apostate Muslim leaders 
neglected their religious obligations and put money and stability before Allah. 
Therefore, Muslims must rise to the defense of the Ummah instilling fear with 
violent Jihad to defeat the enemy, and avenge our Muslim brothers. 

How 

Ways 

& 

Means 

Blood of 
the 

Martyrs 

During the time of the Prophet Mohamed, mujahedeen fearlessly and willingly 
charged into battle against the enemies. Over time, the Ummah ignored the fact that 
sacrifices are needed on the road to victory and to ensure the security of the Ummah. 
Muslims must reawaken their willingness to self-sacrifice against the Ummah’s 
enemies and participate in defensive Jihad. Each martyr (mean) is a step towards 
victory in the global war. 

Tab! 

le 3 AL-QAEDa 

I’S MASTER NARRATIVES SUMMARIZED 


Source: Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report 

All publications and statements by the al-Qaeda leadership can be assessed in the 
light of this subset of Islamist Extremism narratives appealing to the basic notions of fear, 

1 7 

honor, and interest. At the core, these narratives consist of three broad strategic 
objectives that all narratives support. These objectives are: resist invaders; rebuke 


17 For a more brought discussion of Islamist extremism master narratives see: Halverson and Goodall and 
Corman, Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism. 


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oppressive apostate Muslim leaders; and, renew Islam by reversing the decline of the 
Muslim civilization via reestablishing the ^aria-based Caliphate. The narratives aim at 
being persuasive through cultural consciousness. They attempt to link al-Qaeda 's 
cultural eschatological ideological narrative with local narratives and traditions, thereby 
creating vertical integration from the grand strategic level to the tactical, local level. 18 
This communication technique can be “effective because the audience already 
understands and subscribes to the master narrative, making the argument seem natural 
and the request reasonable (not to mention the implied threat of consequences for doing 
otherwise). Collective memories of the dire consequences of invasion contained in the 
rhetorical vision also produce an emotional (fear) appeal.” 19 

Al-Qaeda's narratives provide their audiences a structured, easy to comprehend 
argument. Based on history as al-Qaeda interprets it, the group portrays a problem, 
identifies a course of required action, and offers rewards to those who follow and execute 
the required action and show what happens if not. 20 Al-Qaeda aims to legitimate their 

movement by establishing “its social and religious viability while engaging in violent acts 

21 

that on their face seem to violate the norms of civilized society and the tenets of Islam.” 
The group also propagates their ends by communicating their messages to desired 
audiences. By the same mean, they intimidate opponents including Muslims who might 
turn against al-Qaeda. At the same time, they are flexible enough to adapt to changing 
circumstances. For example, after troop withdrawals, al-Qaeda communications replace 
new military fronts in their communications, to keep their stratagems relevant. 23 If the 
desired audience, the Ummah, accepts these master narratives, “they are apt to believe 
that as bad as things are now, they can only get worse in the future. This promotes the 
belief that going back to the past will solve all problems and provides a built-in logic for 
rejecting anything in the present associated with the decline. Orienting to this idealized 


18 Halverson and Goodall and Corman, Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism, 180. 

19 Halverson and Goodall and Corman, Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism, 183. 

20 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 14. 

21 Corman and Schiefelbein, “Communication and Media Strategy,” 69. 

22 Corman and Schiefelbein, “Communication and Media Strategy,” 69-70. 

23 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 14. 


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past simultaneously helps solidify identity, creates a sense of legitimacy, and sets an 
unambiguous path ahead.” 24 

As a strategic communication means, master narratives depict the (re-) 

establishment of a Caliphate as al-Qaeda’s main objective/interest (Goal-Narrative: 

Restoring the Caliphate). The master narratives portray the external dangers that al- 

Qaeda aims to communicate as threatening the security of the Ummah (Why-Narrative: 

War on Islam). Drawing upon contemporary and historical grievances, the narratives 

paint the Ummah as being unsecure and under siege (Why-Narrative: War on Islam & 

The Nakba) and propagate the desired Muslim response (How-Narrative: Violent Jihad & 

Blood of the Martyrs). These strategic storylines exploit shared feelings of honor, 

humiliation, insecurity, fear, injustice, and social grievances (Why-Narrative: War on 

Islam & Agents of the West). As the authors of the OSC Special Report explain, 

The narratives emphasize themes of shared humiliation, injustice, faithful 
duty, and the promise of reestablishing a golden age. Further, they draw 
on a robust set of historical evidence—from the earliest days of Islam to 
today’s hot zones—applicable to diverse audiences and geographies, 
giving al-Qaeda communicators the flexibility they need to use these 
master narratives across varied strategic and communications fronts. 

Historical depth and geographic breadth makes these stories enduring, 
dramatic, and highly resilient. This resilience is likely to impact the 
success of counter-massaging efforts designed to directly combat or 
undermine these master narratives. 26 

The narratives strive to capitalize on local economic and governmental grievances 
in Muslim countries. The perceived endemic Muslim poverty and political 
marginalization by the West is a key theme (Why-Narrative: War on Islam). Al-Qaeda is 
animated by the perceived Arab dishonor at the power imbalance of the West. Angela 
Gendron, a Senior Fellow with the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies, 
explains, “[tjhis deep-seated and festering sore lies at the heart of al-Qaeda’ s ideology, 

97 

although it is couched in religious terms.” 


24 Corman and Schiefelbein, “Communication and Media Strategy,” 91. 

25 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 15. 

26 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 9. 

27 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” 7. 


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By depicting Muslim leaders as apostate Western agents (a strategic 
communications strategic mean), al-Qaeda leaders and propagandists bridge the “far 
enemy” and the “near enemies” by blaming the Muslim suffering on corrupt Muslim 
governments who exploit natural resources to enrich themselves and their Western 
masters (Why-Narrative: Agents of the West). 28 This becomes evident in a 2009 Al- 
Sahab video that states, “.. .the Crusader West aligned itself with the tyrants of the 
Islamic world, those that have carried out their roles by bringing forth an array of 
scholars, academics, media personalities, and artists to aid in the spread of defeatist ideas 
to promote inaction, spread atheisms, tinker with the Shari’ah, and spread the roots of 
laziness and idleness among the ranks of the Muslims.” 29 These videos often show 
Muslim and Western leaders together, to provide evidence of the collaboration. 
Moreover, Al-Qaeda 's leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri explained in a 2011 audio statement 
that: 


Every free and honest person must be aware of the crimes of these corrupt 
regimes, which repress our Ummah and fight its creed, prevent its 
daughters from wearing the hijab, squander its wealth, and encourage 
immorality, profligacy, and moral and social degeneration. These regimes 
are an inseparable part of a global system that aims to fight Islam and 
Muslims, led by the United States. These regimes are proxies for the 
global powers. They aid them and implement their policies represented in 
fighting Islam and the hijab, changing the education curricula, normalizing 
relations with Israel, preventing the Islamic Shari’ah from ruling the 
people, and usurping the Muslims’ resources. Thus, these global powers 
extend their support to these local regimes and overlook their crimes, 
oppression, repression, deception, rigging, and looting. 30 

The aim of connecting local, especially young audiences to al-Qaeda 's global 
objectives can persist indefinitely by the allegations of Muslim rulers acting as agents of 
the West. A key audience for al-Qaeda is the growing young Muslim generation as Abu 


28 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 15. 

29 Open Source Center, “Al-Sahab Video Discusses Economic Crisis, Arab ‘Corruption,’ Torture, Part 1 of 
2,” Jihadist Websites (Al-Sahab Media Establishment), (Washington, D.C.: Open Source Center, 22 
September 2009, OSC document FEA20091113975044. 

30 Open Source Center, “Al-Sahab Releases Al-Zawahiri Audio Message to People in Egypt, Part 3,” Ansar 
Dawlat al-Iraq al-Islamiyah (Al-Sahab Establishment for Media Production), (Washington, D.C.: Open 
Source Center, 28 February 2011), OSC document GMP20110228086002. 


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Mus’ab al-Suri suggests: “We must open the minds and hearts of the Islamic Nation’s 
youth, so that they feel commitment to the Islamic Nation as a whole. This is a 
fundament in the religion and the faith, as well as in the politics and the strategic military 
concept.” 31 

Al-Suri’s writings have a widening appeal to new audiences. These include 
especially young, well-educated Muslims in Western Societies. As Norwegian historian 
Brynjar Lia explains, “Westernized Muslims ... seem to be motivated more by a mixture 
of leftist radicalism and militant pan-Islamic nationalism than by religiosity. Just as 
Marxism’s alleged scientific basis appealed to young European students, so al-Suri’s 
works-with their explicit emphasis on rationality, scientific research, self-criticism and 
learning form past mistakes-might have some of the same impact on young Muslims.” 

Al-Qaeda uses Western troops and their military action in the Muslim world as a 
powerful visual to reinforce a crucial master narrative in its communications strategy. 
The presence of Western troops, and edited footage of their actions taken out of context 
and spliced together with quotations or exhortations, produce the desired graphic footage 
of Western occupation of Islamic nations that furthers their media-centered strategy 
(Why-Narrative: War on Islam). The strategy thrives on images and words about every 
civilian killed. Building on this, the terrorists call for the end of foreign influence in 
Muslim countries and perceived Muslim territory such as that occupied by Israel (i.e., 

IT 

Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock). 

Consequently, Ayman Al-Zawahiri repeatedly invokes the Nakba narrative 
depicted in Table 3 (Why-Narrative: The Nakba) since “the slogan which the masses of 
the Muslim Ummah have understood and responded to well for 50 years is the slogan of 
calling for jihad against Israel.” 34 Despite this narrative, however, al-Qaeda is itself not 
actively fighting the state of Israel. This creates a communication strategy disconnect. 

As a communication-channel and a vital means to the strategy, al-Qaeda 
expanded the use of the Internet considerably after 2001 and continuing advances in 

31 Abu Mus’ab al-Suri quoted in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 370. 

32 Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 8-9. 

33 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” 8. 

34 Al-Zawahiri as cited in Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 18. 


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communication technology greatly simplified this media exploitation. The 
communication revolution has enabled al-Qaeda to evolve into a global movement. The 
movement is, in the words of John Mackinlay, a Teaching Fellow in the War Studies 
Department, King's College London, “de-territorialized and globally connected.” This 
provides al-Qaeda with a robust public relations capability to communicate its narratives. 
Additionally, the group uses the internet for a variety of other purposes including 
financing, recruiting, logistics support, a means to conduct debate, provide training, and 
even resolve disputes. 36 

One of those reoccurring disputes is on the killing of innocent Muslims. As The 
Washington Post reported in 2012, a few months before bin Laden’s death in 2011, “Web 
sites linked to al-Qaeda ran excited commentary about a proposed new killing machine 
dubbed the ‘human lawn mower.’ The idea was to attach rotating blades to the front of a 
pickup truck and drive the contraption into crowds.” According to a former U.S. 
intelligence official who viewed the seized documents from bin Laden’s former hideout 
in Abbottabad “[Bin Laden] was upset about it. ... He felt it conflicted with his vision for 

'jn 

what he wanted al-Qaeda to be.” In a letter attributed bin Laden, bin Laden advised, 
that “jihadis should devote their energy not to jihad but to I’dad, or ‘preparing for jihad,' 
and ... that the longer regime’[s] cling[s] to power and fails the people, the more time 

'JO 

jihadis have for Vdad and to win the sympathy of the public.” 

Al-Qaeda also uses the internet for internal secure communication using 128-byte 
advanced encryption software with high profile algorithms. 39 User-generated content 
through means such as blogs are frequently used as they have become very popular 
throughout the Muslim world. 40 Online games are exploited for al-Qaeda conference 


35 Mackinlay, Insurgent Archipelago, 5. 

36 Dell Dailey quoted in Forest, Influence Warfare 2. 

37 Warrick, “Bin Laden’s last stand,” 1. 

38 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 32. 

39 Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, Counterstrike-The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against 
Al Qaeda (New York, NY: Times Books, 2011), 146. 

40 Aidan Kirby Winn and Vera L. Zakem, “Jihad.com 2.0-The New Social Media and the Changing 
Dynamics of Mass Persuasion,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 33. 


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calls and some analysts have suggested the group uses steganography 41 to hide 
operational and guidance documents. 42 Al-Qaeda transcended into a “new form of 
existence” by giving up the conventional network structure of their hierarchy. 43 Steve 
Coll and Susan Glasser explained the new hierarchical structure thus, “ Al-Qaeda has 
become the first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to 
cyberspace. With laptops and DVDs, in secret hideouts and at neighborhood Internet 
cafes, young code-writi ngjihadists have sought to replicate the training, communication, 
planning, and preaching facilities they lost in Afghanistan with countless new locations 
on the Internet.” 44 Embedded messages can have an insidious impact on the user, as they 
may alter values, ideas and attitudes. 45 Consequently, the Libyan religious scholar and 
frequent spokesperson of al-Qaeda, Abu Yahya al-Libi praised the “mujahedeen on the 
information frontline” stating, “May Allah bless you lions of the front, for by Allah, the 
fruits of your combined efforts-sound, video and text-are more severe for the infidels and 
their lackeys than the falling of rockets and missiles on their heads.” 46 

Al-Qaeda does not have the bureaucratic constraints of state actors, enabling them 
to have a flexible, innovative and fast decision cycle. 47 According to the US State 
Department’s counterterrorism chief and former special operator, Dell Dailey, “ Al-Qaeda 
and other terrorists’ center of gravity lies in the information domain, and it is there that 
we must engage it.” Terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman affirms, “Virtually every terrorist 
group in the world today has its own Internet website and, in many instances, multiple 


41 Steganography is the art and science of miniaturizing and hiding information within empty spaces or 
unused bits in digital formats. 

42 Schmitt and Shanker, Counter strike, 150-151. 

43 Sebastian Gorka and David Kilcullen, “Who’s Winning the Battle for Narrative? Al-Qaeda versus the 
United States and Its Allies,” in Forest, Influence Warfare , 235. 

44 Steve Coll and Susan B. Glasser, “e-Qaida from Afghanistan to the Internet: Terrorists Turn to the Web 
as Base of Operations,” Washington Post , August 7, 2005. 

45 Aidan Kirby Winn and Vera L. Zakem, “Jihad.com 2.0-The New Social Media and the Changing 
Dynamics of Mass Persuasion,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 37. 

46 Abu Yahya al-Libi, “Al-Sahab Issues Video Statement by Abu-Yahya al-Libi, English Translation,” 
(Washington, D.C.: Open Source Center, 28 March 2007), OSC document GMP20070328031003001.pdf. 

47 Forest Influence Warfare, xvii. 

48 Bruce Hoffman, “Foreword,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, vii. 


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sites in different languages with different messages tailored to specific audiences.” 49 
Dailey continues this line, noting, “The art of terrorist communication has evolved to a 
point where the terrorists themselves can new control the entire production process: 
determining the content, context and medium over which their message is projected; and 
towards precisely the audience they seek to reach.” 50 The ubiquity of the Internet as 
communication channel provides al-Qaeda with something close to its own media entity. 
Al-Qaeda does not have to rely on third party TV stations to record and distribute their 
messages. 51 By arguing that the West is intrinsically hostile to the Muslim World, al- 
Qaeda aims at strategically justifying its terrorist jihad strategy as defensive resistance 
“to halt the Western juggernaut.” 52 This communication strategy is intended to transcend 
the justification of terroristic attacks al-Qaeda 's only means to further their grand 
strategic goals-down to the tactical level. However, the decentralization inherently 
comes with the price of decreased message control for the al-Qaeda leadership. 53 

4.3 Communication Tactics 

The tactic of committing terroristic attacks is supposed to serve numerous 
purposes in order to advance strategic ends and thereby reach the grand strategic goal. 
Next to producing training materials and graphic footage for education and gaining 
experience, these attacks aim mainly at sending messages to multiple audiences. These 
tactics also include the marketing of al-Qaeda 's brand and their ideology via commercial 
products in local stores offering paraphernalia such as DVDs and t-shirts with logos such 
as “Giants of Jihad" and “Waiting for the Destruction of Israel.” 54 Abu Bakr Naji 
advised the active exploitation of media access, stating, “In this case, it is possible to use 
a quantity of explosives which not only destroys the building or even levels it to the 

49 Bruce Hoffman, “The Use of the Internet by Islamic Extremists,” Testimony presented to the House 
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (May 4, 2006), 18, http://rand.org/pubs/testimonies/CT262-l . 

50 Hoffman, “The Use of the Internet by Islamic Extremists.” 

51 Simon O’Rourke, “Online Recruitment, Radicalization, and Reconnaissance-Challenges for Law 
Enforcement,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 222. 

52 Sammy Salama and Joe-Ryan Bergoch, “Al-Qaeda’s Strategy for Influencing Perceptions in the Muslim 
World,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 301. 

53 Sammy Salama and Joe-Ryan Bergoch, “Al-Qaeda’s Strategy for Influencing Perceptions in the Muslim 
World,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 305. 

54 Atran, Talking to the Enemy, 154. 


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earth; it makes the earth completely swallow it up. By doing so, the amount of the 
enemy’s fear is multiplied and good media goals are achieved, the most prominent of 
which is the enemy's inability to conceal its losses. Similar operations have to be 
repeated over and over and a number of good results will be achieved as a 
consequence.” 55 The revolution in communication technologies provides the potential to 
mobilize dispersed and disaffected Muslims on a global scale. 56 As John Mackinlay 
explains, “The news value of an act of violence now outweighed its tactical value.” 57 
The open public availability of al-Qaeda 's training and radicalization material and 
decentralized network structure have dumbed down the sophistication and scale of their 
attacks to a usually tactical significance. 58 Large scale attacks with imitate strategic 
implications are no longer the norm. The tactical guidance often starts with 
communicating statements before an attack in order to increase its impact. As Abu Bakr 
Naji points out, 

Statements through audio or visual media prepare everyone for the 
operations before they are undertaken—without specification, naturally— 
and they are justified afterwards through a powerful, rational, sharia- 
based justification, which the addressed class heeds. These statements 
should be communicated to all of the people, not just to the elite. Most of 
the statements should include our general goals which are acceptable to 
the people, even if they are not stated explicitly: We fight in order to get 
rid of the enemies of the Umma and their agents who have destroyed the 
beliefs of the countries and plundered their wealth and made us into their 
servants. As everyone can see, they are clearly destroying everything. 

They are even extracting the cost of their murder and destruction from 
us. 59 

However, due to the ruthlessness and indiscriminate attacks and the contradiction 
to Islam, al-Qaeda has to over-proportionally invest in explaining their deeds, especially 
the killing of innocent Muslims. Consequently, less than ten percent of their internet 
communications address topics of operational significance. The vast majority is 
propaganda or of a religious nature, aimed at both justifying their actions as defensive in 


55 Naji, Management of Savagery, 69. 

56 Mackinlay, Insurgent Archipelago, 58. 

57 Mackinlay, Insurgent Archipelago, 59. 

58 Schmitt and Shanker, Counterstrike, 150. 

59 Naji, Management of Savagery, 110. 


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nature and furthering their ideology. 60 Al-Qaeda aims at tactically achieving 
justification, legitimatization, and propagation via communication of the master 
narratives through the most appropriate communication channels addressing the desired 
audiences. Al-Zarqawi attempted to communicate the master narratives in 2005 (How- 
Narrative: Violent Jihad & Blood of the Martyrs) as depicted in above Table 3 thus, “The 
shedding of Muslim blood ... is allowed in order to avoid the greater evil of disrupting 
jihad.” 61 Bin Laden even attempted to pronounce that there is such a thing as good 
terrorism (How-Narrative: Violent Jihad & Blood of the Martyrs): “Not all terrorism is 
cursed ... We practice the good terrorism which stops them from killing our children in 
Palestine and elsewhere.” 62 Thereby he also alluded to the Nakba narrative (Why- 
Narrative: The Nakba). Arguing along a similar line, Al-Zawahiri stated in 2005, 
“Reform can only take place through Jihad for the sake of Allah, and any call for reform 
that is not through Jihad is doomed to death and failure.” 63 Al-Qaeda uses one verse 
from the Koran in particular to lend legitimacy to their violent ways: “Kill the idolaters 
(polytheists) wherever you find them ... lie in wait for them at every place of ambush...” 
purposely neglecting the tempering part “but if they turn [to God] ... let them go their 
way.” 64 

Al-Qaeda is forced to constantly defend their terrorist tactics. In a 2001 

interview, Osama bin Laden attempted to justify the killing of innocents (How-Narrative: 

Violent Jihad & Blood of the Martyrs), saying, 

“They say that the killing of innocents is wrong and invalid, and for proof, 
they say that the Prophet forbade the killing of children and women, and 
that is true ... but this forbidding of killing children and innocents is not 
set in stone, and there are other writings that uphold it. God’s saying: And 
if you punish [your enemy] ... then punish them with the like of that with 
which you were afflicted ... Ibn Tamiyyah ... and many others ... say that 
if the disbelievers were to kill our children and women, then we should not 


60 Sammy Salama and Joe-Ryan Bergoch, “Al-Qaeda’s Strategy for Influencing Perceptions in the Muslim 
World,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 293. 

61 Aaron, In Their Own Words, 103. 

62 Bin Laden as quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 87. 

63 Al-Zawahiri as quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 81. 

64 Qur’an 9:5 quoted in Aaron, In Their Own Words, 38. 


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feel ashamed to do the same to them, mainly to deter them from trying to 
kill our children and women again.” 65 

Similarly, Al-Zawahiri was well aware of the counter-productive implications for 
al-Qaida’s strategic and grand strategic ends created by Al-Zarqawi’s indiscriminate 
violence against Muslims. Therefore, Al-Zawahiri tried to guide al-Zarqawi to a less 
ruthless path. In his 2005 Letter to Al-Zarqawi, he wrote: “Therefore, our planning must 
strive to involve the Muslim masses in the battle, and to bring the [ jihadist ] movement to 
the masses and not conduct the struggle far from them.” 66 Moreover, the movement 
“must avoid any action that the masses do not understand or approve...” Al-Zawahiri 
was well aware that al-Qaeda needed to gain and not lose support from the Ummah and 
Al-Zarqawi’s tactical and strategical communication failures were a major blow to that 
strategy not only in Iraq but on a global scale. Al-Zarqawi’s tactical and strategic 
blunders fundamentally endangered strategic and grand strategic aims as the US Director 
of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, stated in 2008, “The brutal attacks against 
Muslim civilians unleashed by [ al-Qaeda] and the conflicting demands of the various 
extremist agendas are tarnishing al-Qaeda' s self-styled image as the extremist Vanguard. 
Over the past years, a number of religious leaders and fellow extremists who once had 
significant influence with al-Qaeda have publicly criticized it and its affiliates for the use 

/TO 

of violent tactics.” Consequently, al-Qaeda' s name in Iraq was changed following 
Zarqawi’s death in 2006 in an attempt to mitigate the local and global public relations 
damage caused by Zarqawi’s-even by al-Qaeda' s standards-gruesome conduct of jihad 
in Iraq. 69 

The killing of innocent Muslims and the public relations damage nonetheless 
continued throughout al-Qaida s global network. Al-Qaeda’s affiliates “either did not 


65 Osama bin Laden unreleased Interview by Tayseer Allouni, 21 October 2001, 
http://www.terrorisme.net/doc/qaida/001_ubl_interview_c.htm . 

66 Open Source Center, “Report: Complete Text of Al-Zawahiri 9 July 2005 Letter to Al-Zarqawi,” 
(Washington, DC: Open Source Center, October 2005.), OSC document FEA2006100202825411, 11. 

67 Open Source Center, “Report: Complete Text of Al-Zawahiri.” 

68 Mike McConnell as quoted in Forest, Influence Warfare, 3. 

69 Sammy Salama and Joe-Ryan Bergoch, “Al-Qaeda’s Strategy for Influencing Perceptions in the Muslim 
World,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 307. 


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consult with Bin Laden or were not prepared to follow his directives. ... Bin Laden [was] 
alarmed by the ‘increased mistakes’ committed by the ‘brothers’ who are spread over 
‘many regions,’ sought to bring regional jihadi groups in line with al-Qaeda’s vision and 
code of conduct.” As the Middle East, diplomacy and national security journalist of 
The Washington Post and Pulitzer Prize winner Joby Warrick stated on April 30, 2012, 
bin Laden’s young new Lieutenant Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, in awareness of bin Laden’s 
aversion to the ‘human lawn mower’, “began trying to codify rules of behavior for al- 
Qaeda and its affiliates, warning that killings of innocent Muslims would hurt the 
organization and probably violate Sharia, or Islamic law. The killing of Americans— 
including noncombatants—would meanwhile remain permissible, even obligatory.” 71 

Bin Laden was until his death very concerned, that the unnecessary death of 
Muslim civilians was unacceptable collateral damage, endangering his grand strategy. 

As the letters form bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad show, “Bin Laden was concerned 
that regional jihadi groups had expanded the meaning of a classical legal concept [ takfir ] 
meant to be applied in rare circumstances and turned it from an exception into the norm. 
As a result, the jihadis, he worried, have lost considerable sympathy from the Muslim 
public; this loss was compounded when ‘the mistakes of the jihadis were exploited by the 
enemy, [further] distorting the image of the jihadis in the eyes of the Ummah's general 
public and separating them form their popular bases.’” Bin Laden was not controlling 
his al-Qaeda affiliate movements to the extent he desired. 

Consequently, bin Laden drafted a memorandum of broad guidelines for al- 
Qaeda ’.s' global affiliates. It included guidelines for conducting military activities and 
equally about media releases. The goal was, “not violate our words with some of our 
practices.” Indiscriminate and unnecessary Muslim killings were to be avoided and all 
media releases ought to be centralized. As the CTC Report Letters from Abbottabad 
states, “The importance of having a sophisticated and coherent media strategy was 


70 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 12. 

71 Warrick, “Bin Laden’s last stand,” 2. 

72 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 13. 

73 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 14. 


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critical for Bin Laden, believing it to be ‘a principal element of the battle.’” 74 The 
memorandum never came to fruition. 

4.4 Chapter Conclusion 

Al-Qaeda' s communication strategy is the central element of their strategic Salafi- 
Jihadi-Takfir Terrorism Islamic Vanguard grand strategy. The depicted obvious 
contradiction of the violation of civilized norms and the tenets of Islam while propagating 
the ‘true’ Islam is at the core of their grand strategy. It forces al-Qaeda to permanently 
focus on explaining the violation of civilized norms and the tenets of Islam. Providing 
for their social and religious viability while executing Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir terror seems 
nearly impossible, however. Utilizing master narratives as a mean to further their 
agenda, al-Qaeda aims to fuse its irregular warfare strategy with its communication 
strategy and mitigate these obvious shortcomings and achieve their grand strategic ends. 

As depicted in the below Table 4, solely relying on Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir attacks as 
a communication channel as a singular approach to raise awareness of its master 
narratives is insufficient. This tactical approach does not further the communication 
strategy nor, more importantly, al-Qaeda' s strategy and grand strategy. Al-Qaeda's 
communication strategy does not flow from means to ends and does not transcend 
strategic levels. 

Gaining viability as the Ummah's Vanguard while indiscrimitly killing Muslim 
members of the Ummah is not a convincing communication strategy. Gaining credibility 
and legitimacy by executing a Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir Terrorism strategy that is killing 
Muslims is an obvious communication disconnect that is incapable of promoting al- 
Qaeda as the Ummah ’ s Vanguard and the current al-Qaeda leadership is incapable or 
unwilling of preventing it. Al-Qaeda’s central leadership is aware of the fact that 
indiscriminate killing of Muslims is harming its strategic ends, but the influence on its 
affiliates is limited and attempts to increase central control failed thus far. 


74 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 14. 


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SECOND HALF OF THE STRATEGY COIN --- 

Al-Qaeda’s Communication Strategy 

Level 

ENDS 

(Goals/Objects) 

WAYS 

(Concepts/Ideology) 

MEANS 

(T ools/Resources) 

Grand 

Communication 

Strategy 

Adherence to and belief of 
the Ummah in: 

• Global Caliphate 

• Islamic Emirates 

• In Sharia fused 
governance and society 

• United Ummah 

Instilling and gaining adherence 
to: 

• Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir Ideology 

• Sharia based society 

• Sharia based governance 

• Uniting the Ummah 

• Support for the Grand 

Strategic and Strategic Ends, 
Ways and Means 

• Credibility and legitimacy 
executing its Salafi-Jihadi- 
Takfir Terrorism strategy as 
the Ummah’s Vanguard 

Communication 

Strategy 

• Support for the Grand 
Strategic and Strategic 
Ends, Ways and Means 

• Credibility and legitimacy 
executing its Salafi- 
Jihadi-Takfir T errorism 
strategy as the Ummah’ 
s Vanguard 

• Gain credibility as the Ummah’ 
s Vanguard 

• Gain legitimacy as the 

Ummah’s Vanguard 

• Communicate Grand Strategic 
and Strategic Ends 

• Master Narratives 

• Communication Technology 

• Jihad-Martyr-Takfir terroristic 
attacks 

Communication 

Tactics 

• Successful 
communication of 

Master Narratives 

• Propagate Master Narratives 
via the way of using 
appropriate communication 
channels to intended 

Audiences 

• Jihad-Martyr-Takfir terroristic 
attacks 

• Information technology, 
video equipment, media 
software 

• Internet videos, blogs, 
forums, pages, games, etc. 

• TV 

• DVDs, propagandistic 
publications, night letters, 
etc. 

Table 4. SECOND] 

HALF OF THE STRATEGY COIN 


Source: Authors ’ Original Work 


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CHAPTER 5 - SYNTHESIS AND CONCLUSION 

What is of supreme importance in war is to 
attack the enemy's strategy 
-Sun Tzu 

5.1 Synthesis of Findings 

Strategic success is heavily influenced by ideology and culture. The two elements 
act as a catalyst in the making and execution of strategy in a number of ways. Al-Qaeda 
is constrained in their approach to shaping, designing, and executing their strategy by 
ideological and cultural blinders and by their strategic preferences based on fear, honor, 
and interest. Al-Qaeda 's worldview is deterministically influenced which limits their 
strategic approaches. 1 2 Al-Qaeda's grand strategic demands are incorrigible and 

2 

implacable. They are “so extreme, that they fall outside the realm of consideration.” 
Islam, just as other religions, has repeatedly been disrupted and wracked by radical 
undercurrents. As Scott Atran explains, “One constant is that faith in a divine or 
historically transcendent purpose is often cause enough to excuse even the murdering of 
innocents.” 3 

Al-Qaeda's unresolved strategic disconnects between ends, ways, and means are 
largely unfathomable within their limited ideological worldview. This dramatically 
reduces the scope of possible strategic choices for applying ways and means to achieve 
their ends. Limited military successes have achieved neither significant strategic nor 
grand strategic ends. The sole focus in jihadi terrorism as overarching strategy seems, 
besides its short-term benefits and successes in areas such as publicity and recruiting, to 
be a failing military strategy. Besides waging jihad, al-Qaeda does not seem to have a 
profound interest in governance. 4 In other words, constant struggle has become an end in 
and of itself. 


1 Yarger, Strategy and the National Security Professional, 46. 

2 Abrahms, “Strategic Influence Deficit of Terrorism,” 161. 

3 Atran, Talking to the Enemy, 92. 

4 Aaron, In Their Own Words-Voices of Jihad, 109. 


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More than a decade since its triumphant attacks against the World Trade Center 
and the Pentagon, al-Qaeda is no more than a tiny minority among a collection of loosely 
connected, self-associated groups around the globe. These groups use the al-Qaeda 
brand and rhetoric but usually have local political aims. 5 According to the CTC Report 
Letters from Abbottabad, Al-Qaeda’s affiliates “appear to have ... more differences than 
commonalities.” 6 7 8 The affiliates do not aim primarily at achieving al-Qaeda' s grand 
strategic aims, they lack substantial military means, and they remain stuck at the infant 
stage of irregular warfare. 

As with all irregular warfare strategies in their infant stage, however, the aim is 
not to win a military confrontation exclusively with military means. The primary aim of 
attack is to incite the population; the population then acts as a communication channel 
allowing the intimidation and coercion of an adversary government and the propagation 
of the group’s ideals and ideology. In this way, al-Qaeda seeks to advance their grand 
political and strategic ends and reach the next stage of irregular warfare. Al-Qaeda' s 
communication strategy is the vital means to achieving their grand strategic ends. Since 
governments depends to a great degree on the consent of the governed, 7 al-Qaeda can 
only come closer to its strategic ends if it is able to separate governments from their 
means of control over the population. Instilling fear and uncertainty through threats 
transmitted and amplified via Internet, television, and social media is one of al-Qaeda' s 

O 

ways to achieve their strategic objectives. Al-Qaeda's terrorist strategy is aimed at 
communicating the cost of noncompliance to target audiences by attacking the civilian 
populace. 9 Al-Qaeda's communication strategy strives to polarize the populace by 
reinterpreting history, religion, and culture, distorting the associated narratives to suit al- 
Qaeda' s ends. This polarization stimulates and amplifies the grievances articulated via 


5 Sebastian Gorka and David Kilcullen, “Who’s Winning the Battle for Narrative? Al-Qaeda versus the 
United States and Its Allies,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 235. 

6 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 20. 

7 Peter Ackermann and Jack Duvall, A Force More Powerful-A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, (New York, 
NY: Palgrave, 2000), 7-9. 

8 Forest, Influence Warfare, viii. 

9 Abrahms, “Strategic Influence Deficit of Terrorism,” 164. 


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the master narratives, aiming to connect and exploit local narratives and local grievances 
common in target Muslim populations. 10 

Al-Qaeda’s actions in support of its strategy create a number of contradictions and 
paradoxes. For example, the contradictions inherent in its violation of civilized norms, as 
well as the basic eschatological tenets of Islam, in conducting suicide bombing attacks 
and killing other Muslims forces al-Qaeda to endlessly defend their actions. Legitimate 
social and religious viability for al-Qaeda, obtained through the use of master narratives, 
may be perfectly incompatible with al-Qaeda' s tactical and strategic use of terrorism, 
thereby providing a point of cleavage for attack with potential to sever the critical nodes 
between al-Qaeda' s ideology, actions, messages, and audience. 

One can conclude that al-Qaeda’s reliance on Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir attacks as a 
communication channel as essentially singular tactical approach to raise the attention to 
its master narratives is insufficient for the group to achieve their strategic ends. This 
singular tactical approach does not advance their communication strategy. More 
importantly, it does not advance their strategic and grand strategic ends. Al-Qaeda' s 
communication strategy does not allow means to achieve ends nor does it transfer across 
strategic levels. As depicted in Chapters One and Two, indiscriminate terrorist attacks 
alienate the Muslim population. In the words of Stathis N. Kalyvas, “Coercion fails if it 
merely destroys the subject whose compliance is sought.” * 11 As Zawahiri’s intercepted 
and translated letter to Zarqawi suggests, Al-Qaeda' s current leadership is well aware that 
its political message is being undermined by the excessive brutality of some terrorist 
attacks carried out in the group’s name. These attacks may rally extremists but they may 
also increasingly alienate the Ummah. As Che Guevara advised, “Assaults and 

1 O 

terrorism in indiscriminate form should not be employed” for previously these reasons. 

The previous chapters have shown, and like Angela Gendron eloquently 
expressed in her essay Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy, the utopian elements 
and eschatological worldview of al-Qaeda are unattractive for the vast majority of the 

10 Mackinlay, Insurgent Archipelago, 22: Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” 9. 

11 Kalyvas, Logic of Violence in Civil War, 27. 

12 Abrahms, “Strategic Influence Deficit of Terrorism,” 164. 

13 Che Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 91. 


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Muslim population. Gendron points out that the establishment of a global Caliphate is a 
lofty aspiration that does not connect to local grievances. 14 The notion of the global 
Caliphate even has the potential to clash with local values and customs. Establishing 
strict Sharia might cause tension with local tribal authorities. The obvious divide 
between the strategic means of Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir terrorism, and the associated vision 
for an Islamic Vanguard and al-Qaeda’ s communication strategy utilizing master 
narratives propagated via Jihad-Martyr--Takfir tactics, impedes progress toward their 
grand strategic ends. 

As the last two chapters have shown, there is no effective cohesion between al- 
Qaeda’’ s grand communication strategy, its functional communication strategy, and the 
associated communication tactics. Al-Qaeda’s communication strategy has been largely 
ineffective in gaining support from major portions of the Ummah specifically towards the 
latter’s conversion or adherence to the Salafi-Jihadi-Takfir ideology. Similarly, al-Qaeda 
has been unsuccessful in instilling a broad-based desire for or acceptance of Sharia-based 
society and governance and in uniting the Ummah behind al-Qaeda’ s cause in general. 
Al-Qaeda’s revisionist interpretation of history and world politics is not attractive for the 
vast majority of Muslims. 15 As Angela Gendron notes, “[al-Qaeda] is promoting a 14 th 
century ideology holds little appeal for the majority of Muslims, who have no wish to live 
under a repressive theocratic dictatorship of the kind [ al-Qaeda ] espouses.” 16 

The questionable legitimacy of the group’s tactics and targeting are contradicting 
Islam and counteracting al-Qaeda’ s desire to increase the number of adherents within the 
Ummah. Al-Qaeda’s terrorist tactics and strategy are neither cogent nor convincing to 
many Muslims. Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks do not amplify their political grand strategic 
messages as desired and have an inherent strategic influence deficit. In realization of 
the failing strategy, the Libyan-born al-Qaida member and young bin Laden Lieutenant, 
Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, “possessed a firmer grasp of the power of the Internet and an 


14 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” 2. 

15 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy;” Corman and Schiefelbein, “Communication and 
Media Strategy.” 

16 Gendron, “Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy,” 19. 

17 Abrahms, “Strategic Influence Deficit of Terrorism;” Forest, Influence Warfare, 164. 


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ambition to modernize al-Qaeda' s message ... emerged in bin Laden’s final year as a key 
advocate for reining in al-Qaeda- inspired carnage in Iraq and other Middle Eastern lands. 

... The two found common cause in their drive to break the group’s affiliates of their use 
of high-casualty attacks on Muslim civilians. In March 2011, less than two months 
before bin Laden’s death, Atiyah warned jihadists against bombing marketplaces, 
mosques, playgrounds and other sites where innocent Muslims were likely to be killed.” 18 

As the CTC report has shown, al-Qaeda’s former leader, bin Laden, was greatly 
frustrated “with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over 
their actions and public statements. ... [Bin Laden [was] not in sync on the operational 
level with its so-called ’affiliates.’” 19 Due to the fading influence of al-Qaeda’s central 
leadership, the killings continue and Atiyah was killed in August 2011 allegedly by a US 
Central Intelligence Agency drone strike a few months after bin Laden. The 
fundamental divide between what al-Qaeda senior leaders want and propagate, versus the 
desires and interests of local operatives, prohibits al-Qaeda from furthering its strategic 
goals. 

Terrorist movements rarely achieve their political goals, due to the poor success 
rate inherent to the strategy of terrorism. 21 As James J. F. Forest states, “Contrary to the 
prevailing view that terrorism is an effective means of political coercion, [Max Adams] 
research suggests that, first, contemporary terrorists groups rarely achieve their policy 

22 

objectives, and second, the poor success rate is inherent to the tactic of terrorism itself.” 
The indiscriminate violence miscommunicates their political objectives for mainly two 
reasons. Instead of amplifying their demands, the targeted governments are likely to 
focus on the terrorist acts rather than their rationale. Also, the terrorist’s message for the 
public often gets lost in the noise of the indiscriminate terrorist violence. Al-Qaeda is 


18 Warrick, “Bin Laden’s last stand,” 2. 

19 Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 1. 

20 Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Drone Is Said to Kill A1 Qaeda’s No. 2,” New York Times Online , 27 August 
2011, http://www.nytimes.com/201 l/08/28/world/asia/28qaeda.html . 

21 Robert Pape and Kurth Cronin offer a different view: Kurth Cronin, How Terrorism Ends; Robert Pape, 
Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (New York, NY: Random House, 2005). 

22 Forest, Influence Warfare, xiii-xiv; Abrahms, “Strategic Influence Deficit of Terrorism.” 

23 Forest, Influence Warfare, xiv. 


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incapable of bringing their messages, the communication channels, and their desired 
audiences into balance. 

Al-Qaeda’s desire to gain viability with the Ummah as its vanguard, at the same 
time as it kills its members, is fundamentally counterproductive to the group’s 
communication strategy. Gaining credibility and legitimacy via ruthless killing of 
Ummah members does not promote al-Qaeda' s ends. As the Stanford University’s 
political scientist Max Abrahms suggests, “Terrorism is an extremely ineffective coercive 
instrument precisely because terrorism is an extremely ineffective communication 
strategy. ... Terrorist organizations seldom achieve their political objectives because 
terrorist acts miscommunicate them to the target country.” 24 

Al-Qaeda's inability to achieve their strategic goals of toppling Muslim 
governments and implementing Sharia on state level prompted the alternating focus 
between the “near” and “far” enemies. As the presence of western troops in Muslim 
countries decreases, al-Qaeda ’s message theme of “occupation” as a means of recruiting 
new adherents becomes less palpable; nonetheless, the removal of Western influence is a 
strategic goal. The Arab Spring shows that popular movements can lead to political or 
social change without referring primarily to violence. The argument that the West 
manipulates local Muslim governments, particularly as Muslim populations take to the 
streets to decide their own fates, is fading. Muslim leaders are increasingly denouncing 
terrorist attacks and numerous surveys and polling data in Muslim countries show that al- 
Qaeda' s support is ebbing. 25 Osama bin Laden complained shortly before his death 
about the “negative effects” to al-Qaeda' s image, and that Jihadists were under suspicion 
in parts of the world for “reneging on oaths, and perfidy.” Furthermore, according to 
excerpts released from documents obtained during the 2 May 2011 raid that killed bin 
Laden revealed him to be “a chief executive fully engaged in the group’s myriad crises, 
[was] grappling with financial problems, recruitment, rebellious field managers and 
sudden staff vacancies resulting from the unrelenting U.S. drone campaign. In some 


24 Abrahms, “Strategic Influence Deficit of Terrorism,” 151. 

25 Abrahms, “Strategic Influence Deficit of Terrorism,” 164. 

26 Warrick, “Bin Laden’s last stand,” 2. 


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memos [bin Laden] worried about his own security, and in others he fretted about 
missing a huge potential marketing opportunity: the Arab Spring, with its millions of 
street revolutionaries looking to reshape politics in the Middle East.” Bin Laden 
wanted to incite “people who have not yet revolted and exhort them to rebel against the 
rulers.” 28 


5.2 Recommendations 

Western and other countries combating terrorism must exploit disputes and 
disagreements within al-Qaeda 's constrained mindset with its peculiar ideological 
interpretation of the drivers of strategy: calculations based on fear, honor, and interest. 

As Gabriel Weimann puts it, “The analysis of the online controversies, disputes and 
debates may tell us a lot about the mindsets of terrorists, their motivations and their 
doubts and fears.” Moving from a reactive to a proactive state is essential. Western 
security and counterterrorism institutions must have or develop the capacity to recognize 
and anticipate changes in al-Qaeda 's future modus operandi, recruitment, and targeting. 30 
One example includes efforts within the United States Special Operations Command, the 
unified command responsible for military responses to terrorism, to integrate behavioral 
influence analysis into its planning processes. 

The key of further undermining al-Qaeda’s strength and influence, in order to 
speed its decline, is by delegitimizing, marginalizing, and painting al-Qaeda in the worst 
possible light. Such an approach would attack the group’s fundamental goal of achieving 
honor, legitimacy, and viability as the Vanguard of the Ummah. Perhaps most 
importantly, nations combating al-Qaeda must resist the urge to overreact to inevitable 

O 1 

acts of terrorism and this should become the policy watchword for all of them. Instead, 
a more productive approach for countries is to aggravate existing tensions within and 


27 Warrick, “Bin Laden’s last stand,” 2. 

28 Bin Laden as quoted in Lahoud, Letters from Abbottabad, 49. 

29 Gabriel Weimann, “When Fatwas Clash Online-Terrorist Debates on the Internet,” in Forest, Influence 
Warfare, 33. 

30 Bruce Hoffman, “Foreword,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, ix. 

31 Schmitt and Shanker, Counter strike, 275. 


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between groups, further encouraging infighting and fractionalization within the al-Qaeda 
movement. 

Another approach that countries should exploit further, to undermine al-Qaeda’s 
communication strategy, is to downplay al-Qaeda' s actions. This approach would make 
the group’s actions much less sensational and it has the potential to reduce their fame and 
honor. 32 Attacks on al-Qaeda member’s personal reputations, denying them desired 
glory and publicity, could deter others from seeking glory in their communities through 
terrorism. Equally important is denying their family members the benefits obtained as a 
result of attacks, such as receiving material assets as a token of appreciation as a result of 
their kin dying as a martyr. 33 Nations must communicate via credible Muslim 
communication channels that suicide attackers will not enjoy heavenly rewards as 
promised by al-Qaida and that their families will be dishonored through their actions 
instead. This approach will aid in decreasing al-Qaeda’s influence. 34 

Al-Qaeda’s leadership can no longer effectively control its affiliates and disparate 
followers. The divergence between the central al-Qaeda leadership and its affiliates must 
be expanded. One central element in countering al-Qaeda’s strategy is to keep up the 
pressure on al-Qaeda’s central leadership in order to continue preventing effective 
centralized control. The key is to advance the disparity between what the leadership 
desires and what local recruits and followers actually do. If al-Qaeda’s central leadership 
cannot control its affiliates, its grand strategy is doomed. 

To achieve this, understanding how al-Qaeda uses the Internet and other media to 
conduct ideological debates, resolve disputes, and bridge gaps is fundamental to 
combating al-Qaeda. This includes the reduction of online postings, since this portion 
of the communications strategy has influence on the number of foreign fighters and 
donations. If potential al-Qaeda supporters cannot see the effectiveness of al-Qaeda, 


32 Atran, Talking to the Enemy, 484. 

33 Schmitt and Shanker, Counterstrike, 53. 

34 Schmitt and Shanker, Counterstrike, 58. 

35 Forest, Influence Warfare, xii. 


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they do not give their lives or provide financial donations, thereby reducing al-Qaeda’s 
flow of financial and human resources. 36 

There are limits to what Westerners and outsiders can do directly against al- 
Qaeda in the realm of communications. One indirect means to be exploited is 
countermessaging through Muslim authorities who are credible in the eyes of the 
majority of the Ummah after the killing of innocent civilians. 37 The most credible and 
therefore powerful communicator in discrediting violent ideologies and denouncing 

'J O 

radical interpretations of Islam must come from Muslim religious leaders. As James J. 
F. Forest rightfully notes, “ Al-Qaeda and fellow jihadists fear fatwas more than bullets. 

... [they] can undermine and refute the Salafi-jihadis ideology.” 39 The West, especially 
the US is to a certain extend a discredited messenger and has therefore only a limited 
ability of persuading Muslim audiences. 40 

Nations, particularly Western ones, will find it unproductive to contest master 
narratives and their rhetorical vision that they weave. Elements of the historically-grown 
narratives are deeply culturally embedded. The narratives must be combated at the 
bottom end of the vertical hierarchy, where they aim to connect to the personal narratives 
and cultural values of the audience. 41 As Scott Atran advises, “Radicalization itself, 
engages mainly from the bottom up, not from the top down. This, of course, is not how 
you stop terrorism today, but how you do it for tomorrow.” 42 

Radical Islamic religious movements have peaceful and militant strands. The MB 
offers Muslims an opportunity to channel their grievances and frustrations in a nonviolent 
manner. This observation is also supported by James J.F. Forest, who notes, “Because 
the Brotherhood draws on many of the same sources of intellectual inspiration and 
religious justification as the jihadists, it is viewed by al-Qaeda as one of the primary 


36 Schmitt and Shanker, Counterstrike, 149-150. 

37 Corman and Schiefelbein, “Communication and Media Strategy,” 90. 

38 Aidan Kirby Winn and Vera L. Zakem, “Jihad.com 2.0-The New Social Media and the Changing 
Dynamics of Mass Persuasion,” in Forest, Influence Warfare, 44. 

39 Forest, Influence Warfare, 18. 

40 Forest, Influence Warfare, 19. 

41 Halverson and Goodall and Corman, Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism, 195-196. 

42 Atran, Talking to the Enemy, 291. 


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threats to its long-term viability.” 43 Consequently, but unsuccessfully,///??^// terrorists’ 
have been claiming a role in the Arab spring to gain the population for their aims. 44 No 
matter how suspicious national leaders, and particularly Arab leaders are of the MB’s 
goals and motivation, they nevertheless should support this organization in its attempts to 
offer a credible and legitimate democratic alternative addressing grievances and offering 
viable political solutions. Real change through the MB could further disaggregate the 
Ummah and stand in stark contrast to lofty, utopian, and ultimately unachievable 
aspirations through violence advocated by al-Qaeda. 

5.3 Conclusion 

The empirical analytical framework based on Clausewitz’s theory of war 
informed this investigation of al-Qaeda 's strategy and debunked potentially targetable 
vulnerabilities at the core of their strategy. The vulnerable points have been identified 
along with the critical links of ends, ways, and means that transcend across the levels of 
strategy. The investigation in this thesis has brought to light numerous disconnects and 
contradictions between al-Qaeda’s military and communication strategy and its 
organizational control further enabling nations fighting the group to sever the critical 
links between its ideology, actions, messages, and audience. Clausewitz’s theory of war 
aided in determining how best to attack al-Qaeda 's strategy as depicted in Figure 3. 


43 Forest, Influence Warfare, 18. 

44 Rania Abouzeid, “How the Arab Spring Made Bin Laden an Afterthought”, Time World, 2 May 2011, 
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,206893 l,00.html#ixzzlV6Zy4Ryp. 


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Clausewitzia in Attack on Al-Qaeda’s Strategy 



Figure 3. CLAUSEWITZIAN ATTACK ON AL-QAEDA'S STRATEGY 

Source: Authors ’ Original Work 

Al-Qaeda must have some degree of strategic progress before it can make history 
by achieving grand strategic ends. 45 Thus far, al-Qaeda' s line of reasoning and 
approach, which are identifiable through its master narratives, have not come to fruition. 
The al-Qaeda leadership has no effective control over its affiliates. Jihadi terrorist 
attacks have not brought al-Qaeda any significant strategic successes, nor have they 
helped in reestablishing an Islamic Emirate let alone the much-desired historical 
Caliphate. The group’s grand strategy does not effectively translate to its actions at the 
strategic and tactical level. At times even the most spectacular tactical successes have 
thus far not resulted in achieving any of the group’s significant strategic or grand 
strategic aims. Even more, due to the lag of control of the tactical attacks in conjunction 
with the media work, the indiscriminate killings of Muslims are alienating the Ummah in 
a devastating manner in terms of al-Qaeda’s grand strategic ends. Lagging effective 
central control to strategically readjust or mitigate its affiliate’s blunders, al-Qaeda is 
becoming slowly irrelevant. 

The findings of this thesis show that al-Qaeda ’s terroristic strategy and its 
interlocked communication strategy is inherently flawed, limited, and ineffective as a 
coercive strategy designed to achieve political aims. However, it is impossible to totally 


45 Ackermann and Duvall, A Force More Powerful, 496. 


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eradicate al-Qaeda by military means alone. It is not possible to silence all and forever 
the voices of misguided minorities, nor find 100 per cent of all terror cells. 46 However, 
without publicity and organizational control, which is the oxygen of terrorism as well as 
the backbone of its communication strategy, al-Qaeda will eventually be its own biggest 
enemy and fade in the timeless horizon of history. Our goal must be to assist al-Qaeda in 
speeding up their own demise by effectively exploiting and attacking their legitimacy, 
credibility, and viability by exploiting the prime motivators of al-Qaeda 's strategic ends, 
ways, and means: its 14 th century based ideology. Its ideology resonates only with a 
small minority of the Muslim population, but is founded upon the abuse of the Islamic 
bedrock of honor, fear, and interest of all Muslims. As Scott Atran eloquently stated, 
"[Al-Qaeda] ... will likely extinguish itself altogether, doused by its own cold raw truth: 

It has no life to offer. This path to glory leads only to ashes and rot.” 47 


46 Schmitt and Shanker, Counterstrike, 272. 

47 Atran, Talking to the Enemy, 484. 


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ACRONYMS 

CTC-Combating Terrorism Center 
MB-Muslim Brotherhood 
MIT-Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
OSC-Open Source Center 


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APPENDICES 

A. ABU MUS’AB AL-SURI PROTRACTED GUERRILLA STRATEGY 


Abu Mus’ab al-Suri developed his strategy for a protracted war based upon Mao 
Tse-Tung’s “On Protracted Warfare.” Al-Suri outlines the conduct of guerrilla warfare in 
the following way: 

The first stage: It is called the stage of exhaustion. It is the stage of 
small guerrillas and limited terrorist warfare, where the guerillas, which 
are small in number, rely upon the methods of assassination, small raids 
and ambushes, and selective bomb attacks to confuse the enemy, 
regardless of whether the enemy is a colonial power or a despotic regime. 

The aim is to reach a state of security exhaustion, political confusion, and 
economic failure. 

The second stage: It is called the stage of equilibrium. In this stage, the 
guerrillas move to a stage of large, strategic attacks, and the regular forces 
are compelled to enter decisive battles which might lead to the 
disbandment of some of their units, and that part of their cadre, officers 
and soldiers join the guerrilla forces. A state of open confrontation is not 
yet reached, however, and the raids and the ambushes are the basis for 
guerrilla operations, even if they expand. At this stage, the guerrillas will 
carry out operations in which they will temporarily control some areas, in 
order to achieve important military, media-related, or political goals. They 
do not consolidate their positions, however. 

The Third stage: It is called the end stage or the liberation stage. At 

this stage, the guerrillas enter operations that are semi-regular and others 
that are regular, and they control some areas from which they launch 
operations to liberate the rest of the country. This happens after units from 
the regular army may have joined the revolutionaries or the guerrilla 
fighters, and after they have attained the tactical capability and sufficient 
level of armament to enter into open battles. Here small guerrilla units 
play an important role in carrying out operations behind enemy lines, to 
confuse the enemy forces by using guerrilla tactics. 48 


48 Abu Mus’ab al-Suri citedquoted in Lia, Architect of Global Jihad, 471-472. 


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B. MASTER NARRATIVE: “WAR ON ISLAM” 

With divine guidance and inspiration, Islam spread across vast lands and 
peoples like no other religion before it. From the earliest days after the 
Prophet’s revelations, however, infidels have conspired against Muslims 
through nefarious machinations and deceit. Today, the umma is 
surrounded by enemies on all sides: murtadd (apostate) agents of the West 
plunder Muslim resources while allowing infidel troops in the land of the 
Two Holy Mosques (Saudi Arabia), Zionists slaughter Palestinian brothers 
and sisters while stealing their homes and livelihood, and American 
infidels drop bombs from the sky on Muslim women and children. 
Together, these enemies attack the umma not only with violence, but also 
with lies designed to weaken and demobilize Islam through cultural 
manipulation and media propaganda. They yearn to create a “moderate” 
Islam that is a diluted, secularized, and demilitarized shadow of the 
umma’s former greatness. In the face of these enemies, Muslims must take 
up arms alongside their fellow mujahedeen and prepare themselves for the 
inevitable call to jihad. Only if Muslims heed this obligation will Islam 
deliver a crushing defeat against the forces that have conspired against the 
umma for centuries. 49 

C. MASTER NARRATIVE: “AGENTS OF THE WEST” 

The umma was once led by the Righteous Caliphs, who preserved the true 
traditions of the Prophet and laid the seed for Islam’s global dominance. 
This great generation of leaders distinguished themselves through their 
passion for Sharia, rejection of worldly excesses, and love for jihad. 
Muslims continued these traditions for centuries until traitors like Anwar 
al-Sadat betrayed the umma and initiated a tragic pattern of contemporary 
leaders putting greed before God, and the West before their own people. 
Today’s hypocrite rulers knowingly betrayed the examples set by these 
model leaders and instead have chosen to follow the wishes of their 
Western masters, who order them to rape the wealth of their own 
countries, ignore the mandate to implement Sharia, and pacify Muslims by 
spreading the roots of laziness and idleness. These murtadd (apostate) 
tyrants are the hands, eyes, and feet of the West, which pollutes the faith 
with its falsehoods, steals Muslim oil while women and children starve, 
and humiliates Muslims for the benefit of the crusader cause. These 
corrupt apostates remain in power only thanks to their infidel supporters 
and the Muslims who neglect the call to jihad. The umma must awaken 
from its slumber and assume its obligation to wage jihad against these 
regimes. Only then will Muslim lands be rid of corruption, suffering, and 
the evil influence of the West. 50 


49 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 12. 

50 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 15. 


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D. MASTER NARRATIVE: “THE NAKBA” 

Palestine has always been an integral part of Muslim territory. However, 
the Zionists conspired with Christian crusaders to forge an abomination 
state on Muslim holy land, the great Nakba (catastrophe) and a humiliating 
blight on holy soil. To this day, crusaders and Jews humiliate Muslims in 
the interest of Israel, supporting a holocaust in Gaza and orchestrating 
Muslim surrender at Oslo (Accords, 1993) and Camp David (Accords, 
1978). Worse still, the secularist Palestinian apostates reject Sharia and 
care only for their own personal interests and those of their Zionist and 
American masters. These Zionist Arab defeatists willingly participate in a 
peace process that yields only suffering for Muslim brothers. Muslims 
everywhere must stand up to rectify this humiliation and restore the 
Blessed Land to its rightful people. Violent resistance to this great atrocity 
is the only way to stop the suffering of Palestinian brothers and sisters, and 
to show the oppressors that they should not dream of peace until Palestine 
is a Muslim land once again. Through this struggle, Muslims will ensure 
retribution for this great injustice perpetrated against the umma. 51 

E. MASTER NARRATIVE: “VIOLENT JIHAD” 

Islam has always been a religion that embraces peace and shared 
prosperity. Despite this, the Prophet and his successors never shirked their 
duty to fight for the umma in a world filled with enemies and infidelity. As 
time passed, however, Muslims abandoned their duty to jihad and have 
invited suffering upon the umma. Muslims today need only look to the 
atrocities being committed against Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, 
Kashmir, Somalia, Chechnya, and China to see that the umma is under 
attack. In the face of great enemies, the umma’s sheiks have failed them 
when they are needed most as Muslims have put money before God and 
the facade of stability before the duty to their religion. If they continue to 
concede to evil, Muslims will have only themselves to blame as the 
crusader empire spreads across more Muslims lands. The umma’s women, 
homes, and mosques must be defended against the crusaders’ rampage— 
Muslims must rise to this call by taking up arms against Islam’s enemies. 
Muslims are faced with a choice: let the house of Islam bum to the ground 
or rise up to defend it. 52 

F. MASTER NARRATIVE: “BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS” 

During the time of the Prophet, mujahedeen readily plunged headlong into 
battle against the enemies of Islam and stood steadfast when selected for 
martyrdom by God, fortified by the knowledge that victory is only 
possible through sacrifice. Over time, however, the umma lost this fervor 
despite the relentless threat of its enemies, forgetting that the path to 


51 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 18. 

52 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 21. 


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victory is paved with the blood of martyrs. Instead, the umma traded cour¬ 
age and faith for money and temptation. Today, Muslims ignore the path 
to martyrdom and fail to realize that embracing the desires of this world 
leads only to humiliation, loss, and dishonor for the umma. The time has 
come for Muslims everywhere to rekindle the fervor of their forbearers, to 
steadfastly embrace battle, death, and self-sacrifice against Islam’s 
enemies, to fearlessly speak truth to tyrants, and to recognize that the 
happy one is he who God receives as a martyr. Those chosen for this path 
are touched by the divine and are rewarded for eternity. And with each 
new martyr, the umma moves one step closer to victory. 53 

G. MASTER NARRATIVE: “RESTORING THE CALIPHATE” 

God established the rightly-guided Caliphate by uniting Muslims under 
the banner of Islam and Sharia, freeing the world from the jahaliyyah 
(“ignorance” predating Islam). This unification transformed lost desert 
tribes into leaders and scholars of monotheism. The Ummayad (661-750 
A.D.) and Abbasid (750-1258 A.D.) states continued this noble work 
despite crusaders conspiring to destroy the Caliphate. After centuries, 
however, a Western scheme divided the umma into a multitude of tom 
pieces. The infidels took advantage of the umma’s weakened and fragile 
state: crusaders marched toward Jerusalem, infidels conspired to divide 
Muslim lands in the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916), and Zionists colluded 
to steal Palestinian land in the Balfour Declaration (1917). Muslim rulers 
allied with the West to stab the Ottoman Caliphate, allowing the godless 
Ataturk to destroy the last vestiges of the Caliphate for his Zionist masters. 
Today, apostate rulers continue to ally with the infidels to pollute Muslim 
minds with calls for nationalism and secularism. Muslims must join the 
fight toward the great goal of uniting the umma and establishing a 
Caliphate under Sharia from Morocco to Indonesia. Gradually and 
patiently, Muslims can rebuild the Caliphate brick by brick, putting an end 
to injustice and suffering, and restoring the umma to its magnificent 
glory. 54 


53 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report, 24. 

54 Open Source Center, Master Narratives Special Report , 27. 


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