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Guest Thinkers

The Saudization of AQAP

I finally carved out some time today to read over the transcript of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman Sulayman al-Rashad’s recent audio tape. This is the second anti-Shi’a screed from AQAP in a short time. I wrote about the first one, from Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, here.

It is significant, I believe, that both of these have been written or delivered by Saudi members of al-Qaeda. We know al-Rubaysh is a former Guantanamo detainee, but given what al-Rashad said I wonder if he spent time in Iraq. He makes a few references to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and spends a great deal of time talking about how the Sunni fighters (read: al-Qaeda) were the only ones to protect Sunnis from the Shi’a.

At least from my reading, the Iraq case seems to be one that is particularly close to his heart. He certainly doesn’t know anything about the Huthis, claiming they are looking to take over Kuwait, Bahrain and al-Qatif. But not knowing anything about the Huthi conflict should never stop anyone from talking about it regardless of the language.

The main thing that I take away from al-Rashad’s audio tape is the changing tone from AQAP. Why this focus on the Shi’a? This has never been a major part of the group’s platform in Yemen, not when it was al-Qaeda in Yemen or al-Qaeda in the South of the Arabian Peninsula or any other incarnation. This is something recent and new and, I think, indicative of the growing Saudi influence in the organization.

As I pointed out in an earlier post today, Saudi’s Mufti, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al al-Shaykh has just given the religious cover to fight the Huthis, which in Saudi Arabia are described as Shi’a. So while al-Rubaysh’s article and al-Rashad’s statement fit very well within a Saudi context, they are both quite grating within the Yemeni context.

What exactly this means, or even whether this is indicative of a growing trend is difficult to say, but I do think this is something that will hurt the organization in Yemen and it is something, I continue to believe, that given the right direction from an appropriately intelligent individual can be exploited to weaken AQAP.

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