Al Qaeda Propaganda: To Be Believed Only When It Supports A Conservative Narrative

decoder-ring.jpgMarc Lynch has a great post on the recent statement from Al Qaeda #2 Ayman al Zawahiri, noting that Zawahiri “sounds about as happy as I can remember hearing him of late. He probably can’t believe his luck.”

Israel’s assault on Gaza has really created an almost unbelievable no-lose situation for al-Qaeda. If Hamas “wins”, then al-Qaeda gets to share in the benefits of the political losses incurred by its Western and Arab enemies (Zawahiri mentions Mubarak and the Saudis in this tape, but not the Jordanians) and can try to take advantage of the political upheavals which could follow. If Hamas “loses”, al-Qaeda still wins. It will shed no tears at seeing one of its bitterest and most dangerous rivals take a beating at Israel’s hands or losing control of a government that they have consistently decried as illegitimate and misguided.

The Weekly Standard’s Thomas Joscelyn apparently disagrees, saying that “we should be careful reading too much into al Qaeda’s propaganda, which is exactly what this latest message is.”

For some reason, I’ve seen analysts treat these messages as if they provide deep insights into all aspects of al Qaeda’s mindset. There are lessons to be learned, for sure, but there is also a lot of foolishness in al Qaeda’s messaging.

Got that? It’s just propaganda. Foolishness. Interestingly, here’s Joscelyn in 2007, arguing that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, based upon sources he insists “cannot be ignored: al Qaeda’s two principal leaders.”

Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri have repeatedly called Iraq the “front line” in their war against Western civilization.[…]

According to bin Laden and Zawahiri, the war in Iraq is the “most important and serious issue today for the whole world” and “the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era.”

To sum up: Al Qaeda statements regarding Iraq? Totally true. Al Qaeda statements regarding Palestine? Hot air. If you can’t tell the difference, that’s probably because you don’t have an Official Weekly Standard Terrorist Propaganda Decoder Ring ™.