Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Most Influential Jihadi

A new study by the U.S. Army's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point found that the most influential jihadist thinker was the Jordanian Abu Muhammed al Maqdisi, rather than deceased Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, top Al-Qaeda strategist Ayman al Zawahiri, or even Osama Bin Laden. But whereas Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi have been subjects of numerous profiles and analyses, much less is known of Maqdisi.

Earlier this year Nixon Center Research Associate Steven Brooke wrote an in-depth analysis of Maqdisi's life and ideology (including an extremely acrimonious dispute with his former student, the late Abu Musab al Zarqawi).

"For insight into Zarqawi, one needs to understand his teacher, the Palestinian- Jordanian theologian Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Maqdisi devoted much of his life to churning out religious and polemical works that condemn democracy, attack Arab regimes for their apostasy and disbelief, and provide ideological guidance to holy warriors operating throughout the greater Middle East...This is indicative of a critical gap in our understanding of the contemporary salafi-jihadi movement, and especially our lack of appreciation for the disparate and often conflicting ideological strains within that movement. Examining Maqdisi's life and thought will help to fill in these critical gaps."

This looks a lot like those conflicts that pop up in every revolutionary movement. What I'd like to know is, how much influence does this "global salafi-jihadi movenment" continue to have on the Sunni insurgency? Is tackling these die-hard elements head-on an essential part of a lasting solution in Iraq? Or are they an especially violent Sunni faction that will become marginalized, once a viable three-sided deal is struck?
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