Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the fourth edition of its Inspire magazine online in recent days. As with the previous three editions, the PDF publication is a combination of deadly serious threats and the comical, with American street slang mixed with jihadist ideology. For instance, a piece written by a self-described “Al Qaeda Chef” and entitled, “Destroying Buildings,” has the words “Jihad 4 eva” scrawled in the background.
As in past editions, there is a lot of rambling about the “Jews and Christians” who supposedly pose a mortal threat to Muslims everywhere. And, as I’ve written previously, we should never forget that at the heart of al Qaeda’s terrorism lies a completely irrational conspiracy theory centered on a cabal of “Zionists and Crusaders.” It is not that different from the Nazis’ insistence that Jews were an eternal enemy to the Aryan race, or the Communists’ belief that capitalists were out to get members of the proletariat everywhere they may work. Much blood has been spilled in the name of absurdity.
AQAP’s cheap anti-Semitism (which is almost always coupled with anti-Christian rhetoric) is plain to see. The editors of Inspire approvingly cite one reader’s note: “With the current media under control of the Jews, it is a great change to have news that are from the ummah to the ummah.” Unfortunately, this type of thing has substantial currency around the globe.
While Inspire vol. 4 does contain the usual conspiratorial nonsense, it is noticeably lacking any mention of Guantanamo. (Former Gitmo detainee Ibrahim Rubaish, who is AQAP’s chief theologian, is mentioned by name at the end of the publication as having released new messages online. But the editors did not even point out in this brief mention that he was once held at Gitmo.)
As recently as last month, President Obama and his advisers insisted that Guantanamo is “probably” al Qaeda’s “number one recruitment tool.” With respect to al Qaeda Central’s messaging, emanating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan, that is clearly not true. Nor is it true for al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, which is seeking additional recruits in the West.
Vol. 4 of Inspire lacks any mention of Guantanamo, as did the last edition, which was released to commemorate AQAP’s failed cargo plane bomb plot.
It is true that the first two editions of Inspire referenced Guantanamo, but it was not used as a recruiting tool per se. Instead, the detention facility was woven into the stories told by some of AQAP’s top leaders, several of whom are former Gitmo detainees. And, contrary to President Obama’s previous claims, Guantanamo was not a “rationale” for AQAP’s reemergence in early 2009.
While transferring detainees from Guantanamo has clearly replenished AQAP’s ranks, there is no evidence that AQAP has used Guantanamo to earn a large number of recruits. Put differently, the number of former detainees now serving AQAP is probably far greater than the number of recruits who were convinced to join AQAP in the first place because of Guantanamo’s mere existence.
Future editions of Inspire will almost certainly mention Guantanamo, just as previous editions have. But there is no evidence that it is a major recruiting tool for AQAP.
It is so inconsequential, in fact, that the editors of Inspire failed to even mention it for the second time in a row.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.