Saturday, May 21, 2011

Springing Somewhere

In Obama's recent Bushian-like Cairo II speech (around 28:30) he praised the free speech springing forward from the Arab Spring and vowed to support it even when America doesn't agree with what's being said. He's correct*--already the new freedom in Egypt has allowed heretofore unthinkable scenarios:
Abdel Rahman spoke this week to CNN while attending a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. That in itself would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, when Hosni Mubarak was still president of Egypt. No leading Salafist Muslim fundamentalist would have dared attend a public demonstration near one of the country's most closely guarded compounds.

Known among Egypt's jihadist community as the "Lion of Allah," Abdel Rahman is the son of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in the United States after being convicted of conspiracy following the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. He was at the U.S. Embassy demanding his ailing father's release.
For those still scratching their heads, feel free to read about the "Blind Sheikh". Yet there was his son, standing in the street outside the US Embassy in Cairo, demanding that his terrorist father be sent home. Not only that, but doing an interview with a CNN reporter lamenting on the last time he saw the new interim leader of al-Qaeda, Saif al-Adel:
Abdel Rahman told CNN he thinks al-Adl has four children with a woman he married in Kabul. He said he last saw him in 2002 in Pakistan before al-Adl made his way to Iran.

"We played football with a group of fellow jihadists, then had lunch before I left," Abdel Rahman said. "He was a really good football player, sharp and fast.
Or in other words, openly admitting he was a jihadist in Afghanistan who fought against our forces after 9/11. Some might call him an enemy combatant but he's now part of the Arab Spring where everything is sweetness and light, even when it's in darkness.

As to al-Adel, Thomas Joscelyn adds the following:
Throughout 2002 and 2003, the CIA collected disturbing intelligence on al Qaeda's pursuit of lethal weapons while holed up inside Iran. In his autobiography, At the Center of the Storm, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet writes:

From the end of 2002 to the spring of 2003, we received a stream of reliable reporting that the senior al Qaeda leadership in Saudi Arabia was negotiating for the purchase of three Russian nuclear devices. Saudi al Qaeda chief Abu Bakr relayed the offer directly to the al Qaeda leadership in Iran, where Saif al Adel and Abdel al Aziz al Masri (described as al Qaeda's "nuclear chief" by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) were reportedly being held under a loose form of house arrest by the Iranian regime.

Al Adel told Abu Bakr "that no price was too high to pay if they could get their hands on such weapons," according to Tenet. But al Adel "cautioned" against "scams," saying that "Pakistani specialists should be brought to Saudi Arabia to inspect the merchandise prior to purchase."

It is not clear if these were real nuclear devices, or black market knock-offs. Needless to say, however, al Adel's "house arrest" obviously was not too stringent if he was allowed to discuss the acquisition of the world's most dangerous weapons. Tenet says that the CIA passed information about these activities "to the Iranians in the hope that they would recognize our common interest in preventing any attack against US interests."

The message was clear: America was watching the al Qaeda network inside Iran closely.
Sounds like a possible game-changer. If nothing else, certainly a reminder of the lingering threat present without UBL around anymore. BTW, Joscelyn mentioned the elusive Ali Mohammed, heretofore the largest enigma in the GWoT. He's so elusive that even Wiki Leaks hasn't found him yet.

* - unless it involves opinions from Fox News, bloggers, or mainstream print or TV reporters who criticize the administration.

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