Arab Media Not Too Interested in al-Qaida's Yemen Ties

Foreign policy expert Marc Lynch points out the Christmas Day bomb attempt by Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab is barely causing a stir in the Arab media.

Whether it's AQ or not, nobody in Arab media cares

I don't know what kind of contacts the failed airplane bomber did or didn't have with Al-Qaeda Central or Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and neither does anybody else who has commented since it happened. The extent of such contacts will be mildly interesting, but it surprises nobody working on CT issues that there are still people swimming in the AQ milieu who want to hit the United States, whether on their own or with support from some AQ affiliates. One of the real stories here, which has gone largely unremarked in the coverage I've seen, is that the Arab media generally couldn't care less.


Today's news and opinion is dominated by Gaza -- an issue which commands far more popular outrage, anger, and politically mobilized attention than does anything to do with al-Qaeda.

No doubt this will upset those in this country who are determined to see a vast conspiracy in everything terror-related. Like Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra who seems desperate to link Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to U.S. born Yemeni cleric Anwar al Awlaki, who exchanged e-mails with the Ft. Hood defendant Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

Or Evan Kohlman, the Doogie Howser of Terrorism Expertise, who wants to link Abdulmutallab to Naser Abdel-Karim al-Wahishi and his deputy former Gitmo detainee Said Ali al Shihri, leaders of the merged Saudi and Yemeni branches of al Qaida ( Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP), because al-Wahishi posted a missive urging attacks on U.S. airports, planes and tourists in October, 2009? See Doogie's twitter feed.

What's next? Will the Xmas day airplane bomber be linked to the 18 year old suicide bomber responsible for killing four South Korean tourists because he also wrote a letter to his parents and once traveled to the U.S.?, or because he was recruited by al-Raymi, another al Qaida person and linked to al Qaida in Yemen?

Or because some other al Qaida guy released a video four days ago urging attacks?

As Lynch points out, al Qaida is a waning force:

The Arab media's indifference to the story speaks to a vitally important trend. Al-Qaeda's attempted acts of terrorism simply no longer carry the kind of persuasive political force with mass Arab or Muslim publics which they may have commanded in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Even as the microscopically small radicalized and mobilized base continues to plot and even to thrive in its isolated pockets, it has largely lost its ability to break out into mainstream public appeal. I doubt this would have been any different even had the plot been successful -- more attention and coverage, to be sure, but not sympathy or translation into political support. It is just too far gone to resonate with Arab or Muslim publics at this point.

But I guess if you're in the counter-terrorism industry, acknowledging the declining influence of al Qaida is bad for business:

The failure of the failed plot to capture even a modicum of mainstream Arab public interest speaks volumes to the robustness of this trend... though the frankly disturbing enthusiasm for the story in some quarters in the U.S. suggests that not everybody is happy to see al-Qaeda recede.

Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano today said there's no indication Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is part of a larger al Qaida plot -- and it's unknown if he even has ties to al Qaida.

Will that stop the Hoekstras and Kohlmans? Of course not. Hoekstra needs it as political fodder to attack Obama and for Doogie, I guess it's good for business.

For us, according to Richard Clarke today, it may mean full body scans.

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    Also just part of (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 04:18:23 PM EST
    the right-wing mindset.  Everything's a conspiracy-- global warming, health care reform, commies in the State Department, Mohammed Atta and the non-meeting with Iraqi intelligence in Prague, on into U.N. world government, black helicopters, whatever.  Far-flung coordinated plots against the Righteous everywhere.  Al Qaeda's an idea, not an organization, and any doofus can claim it, just as George Bush could claim "freedom" as the justification for overthrowing Saddam.

    I thnk it's a bit naive (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by jbindc on Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 06:25:52 PM EST
    to say that AQ is "waning".  Maybe the Arab media isn't paying it as much attention, but that in no way indicates that they are waning.  

    And whether or not Abdulmutallab is really part of of AQ, another terrorist organization, or just a nutjob, it still proves the point that we need to be vigilant. Remember - the worst attacks on this country happened when we decided not to pay attention to the world around us.  Just because we decide to "play nice" doesn't mean everyone else in the world will.

    agreed (none / 0) (#6)
    by heineken1717 on Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 09:54:22 PM EST
    A majority of Arabs don't even believe al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11.  Just because Arabs are in denial doesn't mean al-Qaeda isn't dangerous.

    Does Yemen get much media attention in (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 06:37:20 PM EST
    the Middle East?

    When I lived in Saudi, the Yemeneze were the transient workers. They lived in tent cities and were hidden behind 10' high brick walls so their poverty level provisions were not visible to all.

    IIRC, they were the least significant people, and the poorest population in the region.

    The effort failed. I doubt they want to put a great deal of broadcast time into the failures.

    "The Arab media" (none / 0) (#2)
    by jondee on Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 04:40:09 PM EST
    is just a tad general isnt it?

    Whats the implication Lynch is trying to put forth: that "the Arab media" (every media figure of Arab extraction?) cares as little about ferreting out AQ connections as the NYT, the WSJ Op-Ed and The Weekly Standard cared about separating WMD truth from fiction?

    try reading his article (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 04:59:19 PM EST
    he's quite clear about who he is referring to:

    In most of the Arab newspapers which I follow on a daily basis, the failed airplane plot didn't even make the front page -- or, at best, got a small and vague story.    Gaza dominates the headlines, as it often does.   Yemen continues to command considerable attention because of the ongoing clashes between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi movement, something which has been of far more consistent interest to the Arab public than to the American.

    He gives examples, including al Jazeera and al-Arabiya, and on the other side, the Saudi paper al-Sharq al-Awsat.


    Whole body scans mean x-ray exposure (none / 0) (#7)
    by magnetics on Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 10:31:09 PM EST
    which is never good, and the harm can be cumulative.

    Is anyone minding the store on this?  The compounded harm for very frequent fliers is probably quite significant, as measured by a populace that leaves the room if someone lights a cigarette.  Speaking for myself (although I don't have suffer from tobacco phobia) , if push came to shove I would prefer a strip search to a full body x-ray scan.  

    I used to respect Clarke, but I think he's lost it on this.

    Full disclosure:  I earned a Ph. D. in x-ray crystallography -- and we had the whole bit -- lead aprons, radiation badges that were monitored monthly, etc.  

    Then we have this (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 08:35:47 AM EST
    The plot to blow up an American passenger jet over Detroit was organized and launched by al Qaeda leaders in Yemen who apparently sewed bomb materials into the suspect's underwear before sending him on his mission, federal authorities tell ABC News.


    A Michigan man who was aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 says he witnessed Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab trying to board the plane in Amsterdam without a passport.


    Kurt and Lori Haskell are attorneys with Haskell Law Firm in Taylor. Their expertise includes bankruptcy, family law and estate planning.

    While Mutallab was poorly dressed, his friend was dressed in an expensive suit, Haskell said. He says the suited man asked ticket agents whether Mutallab could board without a passport. "The guy said, 'He's from Sudan and we do this all the time.'"

    The ticket agent referred Mutallab and his companion to her manager down the hall, and Haskell didn't see Mutallab again until after he allegedly tried to detonate an explosive on the plane.


    It is becoming very clear that the terrorists was dispatched on his mission with help, most likely by al-Qaeda.

    it hasn't been corrorborated (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 11:47:57 AM EST
    according to the Dutch who are investigating the couples' allegation.

    Dutch military police say they can't corroborate Haskell's account, but are investigating the allegation.

    I doubt anyone thinks he did it all by himself. The issue being discussed in this thread is whether there is enough information to draw the assumption that all of the mentioned incidents are the product of a single group rapidly rising in power or one of the many AQ spin-offs. That he may have been accompanied by a man in a suit doesn't tell us how big or powerful or widespread the group is.


    I'm willing to think there is a new group (none / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 12:28:44 PM EST
    as I wrote:

    most likely by al-Qaeda.