- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

President Obama’s advisers give him credit for energizing the Arab revolts and saving the Libyan rebels. For al Qaeda’s leadership, this is all a gift from Allah.

Al Qaeda central’s views are detailed in the latest issue of their English-language propaganda magazine Inspire, which features a special section on “The Revolution.” American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki writes in an essay entitled “The Tsunami of Change” that, “Our mujahideen brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Muslim world will get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation. For the scholars and activists of Egypt to be able to speak again freely, it would represent a great leap forward for the mujahideen.”

Al Qaeda has always recognized that the greatest obstacles to jihadist progress in the Middle East were what they call the “apostate regimes,” the generally pro-Western kings and authoritarian rulers who have kept a lid on violent extremists like al Qaeda and other groups. As these regimes totter and fall, the conditions are being created for the kind of radical change the Islamists have been working towards for decades.

Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri, in several pieces, exults in the various opportunities being presented by the chaos in the Mideast, and like Mr. Obama, he does not want to be tied down to a “cookie-cutter” doctrine. “I am unable here to offer a single prescription for change in every country,” he writes, “because every country has its own circumstances and conditions.” He does specify that when peaceful means of bringing about Islamist rule are inadequate, violence is mandatory.

The lead editorial, “Protest Focus” by editor Yaya Ibrahim, says that the rebellion in Libya confirms al Qaeda’s view on the utility of violence to bring about change. “If the protesters in Libya did not have the flexibility to use force when needed,” he writes, “the uprising would have been crushed.” Mr. Ibrahim takes more inspiration from the violent Libyan uprising which the United States is now supporting than from the relatively peaceful change achieved in Egypt, perhaps because the more violent the uprising, the more opportunities there are for extremists to come to the fore.

Reports of the growing influence of al Qaeda and other radical groups in Libya raise the question of exactly what Mr. Obama’s end game is for Operation Odyssey Dawn. “Protecting civilians” is an objective but not a strategy. If the Libyan uprising succeeds through the support of coalition arms and the country falls under the sway of Islamic radicals - who could well perpetrate their own bloodbath - it would be worse than if Moammar Gadhafi had been left to win the civil war two weeks ago. The question then would be what sense intervention made in the first place.

Overall, al Qaeda sees a positive prognosis for regional jihadism. “It is our opinion that the revolutions that are shaking the thrones of dictators are good for the Muslims, good for the [mujaheedin] and bad for the imperialists of the West and their henchmen in the Muslim world,” Mr. Ibrahim writes. “We are very optimistic and have great expectations of what is to come.” The al Qaeda leadership hasn’t been this excited since Sept. 10, 2001.