Saturday, July 15, 2006

Abu Mus'ab al-Suri's Call for a Global Islamic Resistance: Why?

Abu Mus'ab al-Suri
(The Intelligence Summit, Copyright © IHEC 2006)

Back in April of this year, a friend of mine, Greg Rhoades, emailed me an article by Dr Brynjar Lia: "The al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus'ab al-Suri: A Profile" (pdf). I finally found the time to read it yesterday, and it presents a fascinating portrait of the brilliant jihadist strategist Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, better known by his pen name: Abu Mus'ab al-Suri.

A jihadist intellectual, al-Suri has written a history of recent jihadist groups around the world, a 1600-page tome, The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance (Da'wat al-muqawamah al-islamiyyah al-'alamiyyah), analyzing the weaknesses of these groups and proposing ways of overcoming these weaknesses.

In his text, al-Suri identified three types of jihadist warfare (cf. pp. 16-17 of Lia's article):

1. Tanzims (Organizations): secret, hierarchical, regionally based groups, e.g., Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

2. Open Fronts: large-scale insurgencies against an occupying power, e.g., Chechnya.

3. The Jihad of Individualized Terrorism, e.g., Ramzi_Yousef.

The tanzims, according to al-Suri, are outmoded because they can be so easily countered by attacking those states that provide sanctuary or by taking advantage of the weakness inherent in hierarchical organizations. The open fronts, as insurgencies, still have a role to play -- as the jihadist insurgency in Iraq shows -- especially for recruitment and gaining experience, but the real future of jihad, according to al-Suri, lies with the jihad of individualized terrorism. Jeffrey Cozzens, at Counterterrorism Blog, excerpts a passage from Lia's paper (p. 17):

Al-Suri's slogan is: nizam, la tanzim, 'System, not organisation'. In other words, there should be 'an operative system' or template, available anywhere for anybody, wishing to participate in the global jihad either on his own or with a small group of trusted associates, and there should not exist any 'organisation for operations'. Hence, the global jihadist movement should discourage any direct organisational bonds between the leadership and the operative units. Leadership should only be exercised through 'general guidance' and the operative leaders should exist only at the level of small cells. The glue in this highly decentralised movement is nothing else than 'a common aim, a common doctrinal program and a comprehensive (self-) educational program'.

The same goal of decentralisation is applied to financing and training. All cells should be self-sustained financially, with the possible exception of start-up money from jihadist activists termed 'cell builders'. The latter category include skilled jihadists whose primary task is to create new independent cells, without connecting them to any organisational structure. The 'cell builder' is an Achilles heel in the system, and various precautions are taken to minimize the risk associated with his role. He is supposed to disappear from the scene before any operative activity commences, either by going to another country, going completely underground, or participating in a martyrdom operation.

These cells need guidance, training, and money, which the cell builder supplies but which consitutes their weak point, as Lia notes above.

I want to note something else. Such a decentralized jihad cannot seek to increase the territory of the realm of Islam, which has traditionally been an aim of jihads, so what is its goal? Lia mentions al-Suri's concept of "resisting the occupation," but the occupation of what? The world? Withdrawal from the world would be rather difficult. That leaves conversion as a possible aim, but Lia doesn't speculate on this.

If the aim is to foment widespread terror, then the logic might be this: a terrorized population is already half in submission to "The God Terror." Yet, terrorism often has the opposite effect, steeling people's nerves against the terrorists, much as the wartime bombing of civilians has often raised morale and resistance. Moreover, "al-Suri strongly cautions against operations in which many ordinary Muslims, or non-hostile non-muslims, are killed" (Lia, p. 18).

So ... what's the point of the terrorism?

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At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the war however Britain didn't have a media and establishment telling them day after day that they were losing and were to blame for all the ills in the world.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, you need to clarify some things for me. Which war do you mean? WWII? Also, can you tell me what point in my post you were commenting upon? I ask because I didn't actually refer to Britain.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:00 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

If I were to speculate on what the aims of Al-Suri are, although I must admit I'd never heard of him until I read your posts, I would guess the destruction of Israel or the exile of the Israelis from the Middle East, and an end to America and other global powers' support for governments in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia which aren't sufficiently Islamist.

So, since we're addicted to oil and Israel is not going anywhere, it seems we'll be dealing with jihad for a significant time. I'm afraid these jihadist groups are kind of like the hydra, if you cut one head off, another springs up. As long as America is at war in a country where Islam is the major religion, the jihadist groups will always be able to point to that while recruiting new members.

At 5:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're undoubtedly correct, Herr Richter, but even if Israel didn't exist and America were totally isolationist, the jihad -- in my opinion -- would go on because it's not purely defensive (as my more recent post on Abu Bakr Naji shows).

Jeffery Hodges

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