Zawahiri’s been doing some heavy reading (yes, of course it’s a Photoshop job)
It is not at all clear that Al-Qaeda has “altered its central message,” as is asserted here — it is much likelier that Al-Qaeda has shifted its emphasis away from terror attacks and more toward stealth jihad efforts. In any case, the claim — however inflated — that Al-Qaeda caused the global financial crisis is noteworthy on a number of levels: there is the will to deceive and terrify the enemy, as well as a possible signal that more economically-oriented attacks will be in the offing.
“The Economic Crisis: Al-Qaeda’s Response,” by Richard Barrett for Policy Watch, March 9 (thanks to David):
The deepening global financial crisis has focused international attention on failing companies, rising unemployment, and diving stock markets. Little attention, however, has been given to the downturn’s significant effect on terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, which has altered its central message and is facing dwindling financial resources. Although the economic situation has likewise affected government and private-sector counterterrorism efforts, steps can be taken to improve the current counterterrorism financing regime even in these troubled times.
Al-Qaeda’s immediate reaction to the financial crisis has been to claim credit for the economic misfortunes of the West. The group argues that today’s financial problems are the consequences of the September 11 attacks and the cost of the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leaders have always regarded the West’s consumerism as a key vulnerability and have consistently espoused attacks against economic targets. Despite complaining that the Muslim world’s resources benefit Western countries and their allies more than they do the Muslim community, terrorist leaders regard oil as the treasure of their future caliphate.
It was notable that both Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri issued statements encouraging attacks on oil refineries in the months before the failed attack on the Abqaiq oil-processing plant in Saudi Arabia in February 2006. Considering that Abqaiq is the largest facility of its kind in the world and represents 60 percent of Saudi Arabia’s daily output, a successful terrorist attack there would have significantly disrupted global energy supplies. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula issued a statement following the attack, stating that it was part of “the war against Christians and Jews to stop their pillage of Muslim riches.”
Al-Qaeda’s focus on economic targets will likely sharpen under the current economic conditions, prompting more strikes on oil facilities on land or against ships at sea — a capability already demonstrated by the attack on a French tanker off the coast of Yemen in October 2002….