Is Hamza bin Laden Al-Qaeda’s next leader?
Is Hamza bin Laden Al-Qaeda’s next leader?
Hamza encouraged Al-Qaeda followers to launch attacks on their own and “inflict damage far beyond anything the enemy has ever imagined.” The audio message came a few days after a video message by Qasim Al-Raymi, head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who also encouraged Al-Qaeda followers in the West to carry out “lone jihad” attacks.
It was AQAP that first launched “lone wolf” attacks, when Maj. Nidal Hasan of the US Army killed 13 people at a military base in Texas in 2009. But Daesh has been more successful in this regard. The messages from Al-Raymi and Hamza are most likely part of Al-Qaeda’s efforts to regain what it has lost to Daesh.
It is clear from the messages released by Al-Qaeda in the past two years that it is trying to protect and preserve the legacy of Osama bin Laden amid the rise of Daesh.
Al-Qaeda has been greatly weakened financially and operationally over the past 15 years, due to global initiatives against terror financing and unabated attacks against its leaders, mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
The killing of Osama bin Laden struck a sharp blow to the organization’s internal structure. It is believed that Al-Qaeda today is more de-centralized. Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s lackluster persona as the current leader and his constant hiding has added to the group’s weakness.
Its branches and offshoots today are caught up in their local agendas beyond Al-Zawahiri’s influence, as seen in the Nusra Front in Syria splitting from Al-Qaeda and claiming to be a local, independent body with the same ideology. AQAP is focusing on Yemen, though it has planned attacks in the West, including the US and France.
In most of Hamza’s audio messages, he refers to Al-Zawahiri as his “emir” (leader), implying that Al-Zawahiri is a legitimate heir to his father’s legacy and that all Al-Qaeda branches should view him as such. Hamza’s audio messages are likely to have had Al-Zawahiri’s consent, which indicates that the former is still under the latter’s shadow. It is more about giving Al-Zawahiri the power he needs than preparing Hamza as the next leader of Al-Qaeda.
Hamza has released many audio messages since 2015. In most of them, he appeared very similar to his father in terms of the issues he addressed and the way he spoke, using the same tone and phrases. Although Hamza was kept very close by his father, perhaps preparing him to carry on his mission, being his son is not enough to include him in the line of contenders if Al-Zawahiri dies; other senior Al-Qaeda members are already in line.
White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king
- The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas
- Jared Kushner’s team plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them
AMMAN: President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, kicked off a swing through the Middle East on Tuesday, meeting with Jordan’s king as part of a broader effort to lay the groundwork for an expected Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
Kushner and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a key US ally.
A White House statement said the talks focused on US-Jordan cooperation, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the US efforts “to “facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
US officials have said their peace plan is near completion and could be released this summer. But it faces resistance from the Palestinians, who have cut off ties since Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and moved the US Embassy in Israel to the holy city last month. The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, accuse the US of siding with Israel in the most sensitive issue of their decades-long conflict.
Kushner’s team also plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip for an independent state. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas militants seized control of the territory two years later.
The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas. The US, Israel and Western allies shun Hamas as a terrorist group. Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem. They also fear that aid to Gaza will help strengthen Hamas’ control over the territory.
Jordan also has a stake in east Jerusalem, serving as the custodian of major Muslim and Christian shrines there. Jerusalem’s walled Old City, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967, is home to Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
Abdullah has also rejected Trump’s moves in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to relinquish any part of the city.
Netanyahu traveled to Amman on Monday for a surprise meeting with Abdullah, telling the king that Israel remains committed to the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Abdullah told Netanyahu that the fate of Jerusalem must be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and that a solution should be based on establishing a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on lands Israel captured in 1967.
Palestinian officials fear the Trump administration plan will leave them with a mini-state in the Gaza Strip, parts of the West Bank and a foothold in Jerusalem. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will reject any plan being floated by the Trump team, arguing that the US has forfeited its role as mediator because of decisions seen as pro-Israel.