Today’s session with Yosri Fouda was fascinating.
C-Span is re-playing the 2 hour segment tonight at 9:56 p.m. and then again at 1:52 a.m. (for those recently back from Asia).
Fouda outlined, despite his characteristic modesty, some startling and important new observations about al Qaeda’s leadership. Specifically, he argued that the most recent tape from Ayman Al-Zawahiri showed some yearning to move out of the dominant shadow of Osama bin Laden. He also suggested that he didn’t think that Al-Zawahiri knew where bin Laden was.
Al-Zawahiri’s recent loquacious, 6000-word letter to Abu Masab al-Zarqawi in Iraq also indicates some subtle discomfort regarding the public relations impact of public executions by Zarqawi. Al-Zawahiri also decries the seeming lack of control or organization of attacks by al Qaeda led or inspired operations and also implies a need for money or more resources.
Fouda also indicated that he had knowledge from those who know the al Qaeda network that bin Laden himself may not be happy with how things are going and “feels a need to speak.” Fouda mentioned that a colleague of his has been approached by those who have some knowledge of bin Laden that he would like to be interviewed by al Jazeera.
Yosri Fouda also made a long roster of compelling points. First and foremost, though he agreed with those who want to knock out the “careerists” in the Al Qaeda network, Fouda thinks that we need to do a better job of listening to what the terrorists are saying about their objectives and course of action. Fouda argues that they are more transparent than most Americans and other observers believe. He says that the challenge is to strip them of their “believers” by deconstructing what the believers think that they are getting from someone like bin Laden and directing their aspirations and hopes another direction.
Fouda implied that the kind of public diplomacy Karen Hughes was initiating at the State Department, though well intentioned, is not enough. America needs to rethink its “entire strategy with the Muslim world, particularly the Arab Muslim world, and initiate a new, serious, constructive approach.” He suggested that even then, so much has gone wrong — and there are such “deep roots” of ill will and problems — that the situation will not improve for some time.
There is much more I could add — and will — at a later time. Suffice it to say that I think that Yosri Fouda is worth watching if you haven’t seen it — and re-watching if you have.
Although I am having trouble with the link, apparently one can find the Fouda event listed here and then click the link to watch over the web at one’s convenience.
Yosri Fouda will also be appearing on C-Span’s Washington Journal Tuesday morning from 9:30 – 10:00 a.m. (tomorrow).
Fouda’s remarks at my recent terrorism conference can also be heard here (just scroll down page to the 11 a.m. panel on the “Grievance Challenge” and click link).
— Steve Clemons