A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Al-Qa‘ida After Bin Laden

What happens now to the central leadership of Al-Qa‘ida, with Bin Laden gone? A lot of people are offering opinions: Foreign Policy has a round table discussion by many hands here; a useful piece in The Guardian here; there will be many more. I'll urge you to read those analyses, and throw in my own two cents here.

Even though Usama bin Laden had probably not been engaged in day-to-day operational leadership for some time, he was a potent symbol. Ayman al-Zawahiri is not. He's an ideologist and intellectual of the movement, but not a fighter. He lacks charisma. He also suffers from the fact that, as an Egyptian, he is said to not be fully trusted by some of the Gulf Arabs in the movement. He may be challenged by other, younger leaders.

Bin Laden was a showman, and in that role he may be irreplaceable. It wouldn't surprise me if the various regional Al-Qa‘ida franchises simply went their own ways, and Central became more and more irrelevant.

No comments: