D. A. NECHITAILO
Candidate of Political Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Al-Qaeda Keywords:. Arab spring, revolt
Al-Qaeda has never considered Libya as a priority area for its activities, both in terms of propaganda and terrorist attacks here. The Libyan Islamic Militant Group (LBIG), despite statements made in 2007. The idea of joining al-Qaeda was far from the strategic goals of the global jihad movement. The ideological accents of Libyan Islamists and Salafists from Al-Qaeda have different directions.
A HISTORIC CHANCE FOR RADICALS IN LIBYA
The ideology of al-Qaeda does not imply support for the opposition under the leadership of the Transitional National Council (TNC), in which various groups are represented. Western support for NTC armed groups also reduced the likelihood of al-Qaeda's cooperation with a NATO-backed political force. The beginning of the civil war in Libya and the death of Gaddafi, the disillusionment of the rebels with the results of the war against the regime can contribute to the growth of the influence of radicals who offer an alternative to secularism and democracy.
In the eastern regions of the former Jamahiriya, conditions have historically developed for the perception of radical ideas. Here, the population is more susceptible to the ideology of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations. Currently, the Libyan Militant Islamic Group, which officially announced its creation in 1995, is strengthening its position here.
The LBIG mujahideen have long established ties with local Salafi extremist organizations in the Maghreb. During the Algerian civil war in the 1990s, they worked closely with the Armed Islamic Group (VIG) and the Salafi Preaching and Jihad Group. At the same time, the Libyans sought not only to gain combat experience in this way, but also to subsequently use the territory of Algeria to conduct military operations in Libya itself. Along with this, in 2001 they actively participated in combat operations in Afghanistan, as well as since 2003 in Iraq against coalition forces.
The spiritual leader of LBIG A. asSaadi received the title of "Sheikh of the Arabs in Afghanistan" from the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar1. Al-Saadi was known for his performances in front of cadets of military training camps located on the territory of the country. During the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, about 1,000 Libyans were trained to fight the Gaddafi regime. Many LBIG leaders fought alongside Al-Qaeda leaders in the 1980s and 1990s and were personally acquainted with bin Laden, assuring him of his loyalty to the ideals of Salafism and universal jihad.2
After the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq, the Libyans became the second largest group of foreign fighters, after the Saudis, who spoke out on the side of Al-Qaeda. Most of the Libyan volunteers come from Benghazi, a traditional center of Islamists who were opposed to the Gaddafi regime.3
At the same time, the organization's ideological guidelines were far from those of Al-Qaeda's global jihad. The Libyans, in contrast to this international structure, focused on the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. On this basis, they have repeatedly had conflicts with Al-Qaeda and the Algerian Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
Islamist radicals will try to maintain their presence in Libya, as well as "Islamize" certain units of the former rebels, subsequently declaring another hotbed of jihad.
The conflict in Libya has significantly strengthened the position of extremists who do not hide the fact that after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, they intend to create an Islamic state in Libya. They are suspected of being involved in the September 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya in connection with the provocative video "Innocence of Muslims".
In contrast to organizations of a secular orientation extra-
Ending. For the beginning, see: Asia and Africa Today, 2012, No. 9.
The Mistas have emerged as the single most organized force in the country. Even now, Islamists have an absolute majority in the Supreme Council for the Defense of the Revolution in Tripoli, headed by Abdel Hakim Belhaj. He is one of the leaders of the "Libyan Islamic Fighting Group", which has been linked to al-Qaeda since the jihad against Soviet troops in Afghanistan.4 Islamists, who have the most combat-ready units among the combat units of the Libyan National Security Service, intend to demand an impressive share of seats in the executive body of power. At the same time, they make it clear that they intend to defend their political claims with weapons in their hands.
Belhaj spoke out against NTC Chairman Mahmoud Jibril and his supporters, who worked closely with politicians in Western Europe and the United States. "The role of the NTC is exhausted due to the fact that it is a fragment of the old regime. All its members must resign, " echoed Ismail al-Salabi, one of the most influential Islamist warlords. The point of the extremists ' actions is to force the West to recognize them as the only political force in the new Libya.5
On the eve of the elections, four centers of power were identified in the country: the NTC, which was kept from reprisals only by NATO, fundamentalists, supporters of the former regime, and influential local tribes. Moreover, armed clashes often occur between political opponents, which can plunge the country into another round of civil war. In this case, the flow of Islamic radicals from various countries to Libya may increase, making it another epicenter of jihad. At the same time, none of the warring parties will be able to guarantee uninterrupted supplies of hydrocarbons, which is important for the West. In the meantime, radical Islamists are trying to impose Sharia law on the entire country.
AL-QAEDA SEEKS REVENGE IN SYRIA
In February 2011, protests were held in Syria demanding the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad and the end of the rule of the Baath Party. The protesters insisted on the peaceful nature of their political movements, but at the same time, radical Islamist elements were increasingly visible in their ranks, clearly focused on destabilizing the situation in the country.6
Al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri indirectly confirmed the intention of Islamic radicals to support their ideological supporters among the opposition in Syria. In his statements, he notes that Al-Qaeda currently considers it a priority to strengthen the positions of Salafists in Egypt and Libya. However, if a certain resource is released, its mujahideen are ready to join the armed forces in Syria.7 Their participation in the war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad has become a fact.
The military measures that the Syrian regime is forced to resort to in order to counter the extremists are often accompanied by the death of civilians, which inevitably leads to an increase in the protest potential and contributes to the influx of new opponents of the ruling regime into their ranks.
The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was instrumental in increasing the number of Syrian jihadists. The Syrian government turned a blind eye to the creation of terrorist infrastructure in the regions bordering Iraq. In particular, the Abu Kemal region has become a transit point for international Mujahideen on their way to Iraq. Military training camps were also set up here for those who wanted to wage jihad against Americans in a neighboring country. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was also very interested in establishing branches of the organization in neighboring countries that he could rely on.
Since then, the number of Syrian jihadists has increased. For example, among foreign jihadists in Iraq, the share of immigrants from Syria was up to 13% of the total number of volunteers.8
There is also movement in the opposite direction. Hundreds of armed al-Qaeda sympathizers from northern Iraq are being flown to Syria to join the fight against the security forces of the Assad regime. Terrorists use the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh and Anbar as transshipment bases, which have become corridors for transporting weapons and ammunition to Syria from the significant arsenals accumulated by radical Islamists over the years of the armed conflict in Iraq. Financing of Islamist groups is carried out from the countries of the Persian Gulf 9.
When the Americans increased the number of troops in Iraq in 2007, radical Islamists moved their bases to neighboring Syria. In 2009, it was widely speculated in the press that Eastern Syria was beginning to turn into Northwestern Pakistan, where al-Qaeda, along with the Taliban, coordinated attacks on US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The activities of Syrian jihadists are not limited to Iraq and Syria. They have also formed a high proportion of jihadists operating in Lebanon. At the time of the 2007 Nahr al-Barid camp clash, Syrians accounted for about 13% of jihadists, Saudis for 16%, Palestinians for 31% , and Lebanese for 33% .10
In addition to the growing number of Syrian radicals from Islam, it is worth noting the serious work of theorists of the world jihad movement, who talk about the measures of radical organizations to overthrow the ruling regime in Damascus.
Abu Musab al-Suri, a well-known ideologist of radical Islamism, has written several books about jihad in Syria and his vision of the region. In particular, he considers the current authorities in the SAR as apostate, which opens the way for fighting them; calls for "uprooting and uprooting from the conceptual apparatus such words as Assad and Baath" 11.
In his book People of the Sunnah in Syria, he focuses on two main issues:: Alawite domination in Syria and the Syrian state apparatus. In general, while supporting the revolutionary changes in Arab countries, al-Suri calls on supporters of "pure Islam" to use the current events, focusing on the overthrow of the Alawite regime in Damascus.12
Another equally well - known ideologue of jihad, Hussein bin Mahmoud, in his article "Damascus: the base of jihad" calls Syria "the best territory of faith and science, the home of the best soldiers on earth, the best place to revive the caliphate" 13.
At the same time, H. bin Mahmoud points out that 80% of the Syrian population is made up of Muslims, who are subjected to repression by the non-Muslim Alawite minority. He asks the question: how did " a despicable, humiliated minority become the superiors of the best soldiers on earth?" In his own response, Ben Mahmoud says that "Syrians were humiliated when they replaced the banner of jihad with the banner of national resistance and the teachings of Islam with nationalism and Baathism." 14
Like most jihadists, there is no solution to the Syrian issue.ben Mahmoud sees in the armed struggle. In his opinion, the people of Syria should play a decisive role in this: "When the people of the region return to righteousness and young people start shouting 'Allahu Akbar' to the sound of bullets in the squares and the voices of minarets start calling for jihad, only then will the infidels be destroyed. " 15
Both ideologues are in favor of playing the interfaith card in the "solution" of the Syrian issue, which in reality means provoking clashes between Christians, Sunni Muslims and supporters of Shiism. Thus, the state, on the one hand, will have to spend a significant resource on resolving inter-communal clashes, and on the other, Islamists will be able to demonstrate to the population that the country's authorities are unable to defend the interests of citizens and ensure their safety. In an atmosphere of chaos, they believe that Islamists will be the only force capable of taking control of the opposition movement in the country.
In fact, the extremists are operating under this scheme. For example, in the village of Karak, near Deraa, Salafists forced rural residents to join anti-government protests and remove photos of President Assad from the facades of their homes. The young man who refused to remove the portrait was found hanged in front of his home the following morning.
Islamists incite sectarian hatred directed against the Alawite regime, Christians and Druze. In Deraa, 20 masked men on motorcycles opened fire in a Christian neighborhood, shouting anti-Christian slogans. Churches receive letters with threats and demands to join the protesters.
Thus, the extremists manage to successfully implement a model in which, at the initial stage of the "revolution", peaceful residents participate in protest actions, joining only with socio-economic requirements. Then their ranks are "diluted" by representatives of politicized Islam. After that, the nature of the performances takes on a qualitatively different shade. The emphasis is shifted to
armed struggle against the regime. The response of the authorities, as a rule, is forceful, provoking the crowd. Here, the radicals become the" locomotive " of the speakers, offering a program of political changes in the country.
The conflict in Syria continues to gain momentum. The country was plunged into a bloody civil war. The movement of political Islam has a clear program of action, and it has the necessary resources to strengthen its position, while state institutions in Syria are weakening.
Currently, in Libya, the extremists have managed to use the emerging political situation to some extent, replenishing their military arsenals from the warehouses of the former Gaddafi regime, "passing" their militants through the conflict.16 In Tunisia and Egypt, moderates have succeeded, but not radicals. In Syria, Al-Qaeda is trying to seize the initiative and take revenge for lost opportunities in North Africa.
WILL THERE BE AN "ARAB SPRING" IN ALGERIA?
At the beginning of the Arab Spring, Algeria was considered a candidate to follow the path of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. However, this did not happen, although there were reports of demonstrations, strikes and clashes in the country. We cannot rule out destabilization in Algeria, a new alignment of political forces due to the president's poor health, as well as a generally difficult socio-economic situation, rising prices, high inflation and corruption. Al-Qaeda is also focused on the parliamentary elections held in May 2012 and the presidential elections scheduled for 2014 in Algeria.
Unlike Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, Algeria has already witnessed a large-scale insurgency since the rocky 1991 elections. The significant human losses caused by the civil war, as well as the atrocities of extremists who literally slaughtered entire settlements with axes and knives, are still fresh in the memory of the people. Although this did not lead to the fall of the ruling regime, it has now become a serious deterrent to the wave of mass protests, as well as to the strengthening of the positions of radical Islamists in the country. Accordingly, this reduces the ability of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to incite protest moods in Algeria.
In late November 2011, Al-Qaeda released a video of al-Zawahiri, its leader, calling for a focus on the fight in Algeria. According to him, this state pursues a policy that meets the interests of France and the United States in the Mediterranean. In this regard, the ideologist of the world jihad movement calls for the implementation of the "Arab Spring" scenario in Algeria, the removal of President A. Bouteflika and the choice of an Islamic path of development.17
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the state has used the long - accumulated financial resources from the sale of hydrocarbons to reduce social tensions in society (increased wages in the public sector, provided more generous food subsidies)-a situation that differs from the period of the late 1980s, when Algeria found itself in a difficult economic situation due to a sharp decline in the world oil prices.
In the case of Libya, the main external players - France, Britain, the United States and Italy - were interested in overthrowing Gaddafi. In the case of Algeria, this factor is less effective, since this country has recently become a partner of Washington in the fight against terrorism in the Maghreb and the Sahara-Sahel region. In addition, Algerian energy resources are important for the energy needs of Italy, which is currently in a financial crisis. External players are less interested in destabilizing the situation in Algeria.
Although Algeria remains an authoritarian country, its political system is more open than it was 20-25 years ago, which helps to avoid an unexpected explosion of political and social conflict, as happened in countries more affected by the Arab Spring.
Demonstrations, strikes and protests are characteristic features of Arab revolutions. At the same time, the opposition in Algeria is not able to present an ideological alternative that is widely used
with the support of the country's population. In addition, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is not popular in Algeria because it is associated with armed groups that plunged the republic into the bloody chaos of the 1990s. 18
At the same time, the conflict in Libya has had a negative impact on security in all neighboring States. Al-Qaeda takes into account that AQIM has significantly increased its combat potential due to the military arsenals of Gaddafi, as well as the Mujahideen who were released from Libyan prisons.
Islamist radicals can also benefit significantly if the process of building a State in Libya is prolonged and accompanied by armed conflict. Even now, the AKIM has gained access not only to modern weapons from the warehouses of the former regime of the Jamahiriya, but also the ability to recruit new members to its ranks. At the same time, the extremists are creating military training bases in Libya, where they train their fighters. They have established cooperation with Libyan radical Islamist groups, which operate almost without hindrance in the republic, including the capital of the country.
In July 2011, the number of terrorist operations carried out by the AKIM increases. The main targets of sabotage are state and military facilities: the town of Borj Menail, 60 km from the Algerian capital; the attack in August on the Churchel Military Academy. These attacks were a demonstration of their capabilities after they received new weapons of "Libyan origin".
Islamist radicals carefully avoid the topic of foreign aid to overthrow the ruling regimes. It was in Libya that the Salafists were actively involved against the colonel's government forces. The Mujahideen see secular rulers in Muslim countries as even " more evil "than NATO troops, so they are allowed to fight together against" apostates", while solving the tasks of replenishing their military arsenals and" running in " recruits. At the same time, while mercilessly criticizing the West, they avoid the main reason for the victory of the opposition in Libya - the serious military support of the United States, NATO and their allies, including from Muslim countries, for propaganda reasons, trying to make themselves more important on the "Arab street".
The events that took place in Tunisia and Egypt have largely called into question the credibility of extremists in the eyes of the general public. The effect of the efforts made by the ideologues of Al-Qaeda, who called on the people to fight against the" near enemy " - local apostate regimes, was much lower than the protest sentiments of the broad masses who opposed Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gaddafi. At the same time, the radicals from Islam could not influence these spontaneous revolutions.
The overthrow of local leaders, with the exception of Libya, took place without the participation of Salafists. Radical Islamists can now only take advantage of the emerging political situation, regroup their forces in order to create bases for training militants in some areas "for their services" in the future.
The flow of refugees and the lack of strict control by the authorities in countries affected by popular protests significantly increase the mobility of Al-Qaeda militants and expand the opportunities for creating terrorist cells.
The wave of protests that has spread to the Middle East has significantly changed the political situation in the region and created new opportunities for Al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations. However, calls for democracy, fair elections, and transitional governments in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen run counter to the Salafist ideology that sees democracy as a "form of idolatry." The new political situation provides Islamist radicals with a certain scope for strengthening their positions in Arab countries.
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