Al Qaeda, which some U.S. officials had called irrelevant to the revolts sweeping the Arab world, has made a slick bid to claim the revolutions with the newest issue of its English-language magazine.
The newly released fifth issue of "Inspire," which appeared on Islamist websites overnight, is called "The Tsunami of Change," and includes the first post-revolution messages from wanted American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri.
In the cover story, al-Awlaki calls the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya a boon to al Qaeda and Islamic militants, and dismisses Gadhafi as a "lunatic." Al-Zawahiri's message lauds the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, but does not mention Libya. Another story mocks Gadhafi as a "clown" and urges the rebels in Libya onward: "We ask our brothers and sisters in Libya to continue standing up against the regime and to show patience in the face of [Gadhafi's] tyranny until he falls."
A full-page poster mocks Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh by showing an unflattering picture of Saleh and asking, "Hey Ali, Mubarak just fell -- guess who's joining the party next?" The bottom of the page says, in small type, "This ad is brought to you by A Cold Diss."
"Inspire" is the English-language magazine of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is battling Saleh's regime. The trademark joking pop culture references are thought to be the work of American-born jihadi Samir Khan, who apparently launched "Inspire" after moving to Yemen.
U.S. government officials and terrorism experts have largely declared the recent Arab revolutions a sign of al Qaeda's demise, saying the Islamist terror group is unable to garner significant popular support. For months, few, if any messages from al Qaeda leaders have commented on the removal of Arab regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya or the unrest in at least four other Arab nations.
Al-Awlaki's four-page article, "The Tsunami of Change," is an effort to spin the recent events as good for Islamic militancy and radicalism. He quotes U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in an effort to refute their shared assessment that the uprisings in the Middle East exposed al Qaeda's lack of relevance.
"The Mujahidin around the world are going through a moment of elation," al-Awlaki writes. "I wonder whether the West is aware of the upsurge of mujahidin activity in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, [Saudi] Arabia, Algeria and Morocco?"
Referring to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of Washington for 30 years, al-Awlaki said the Americans "trashed him." The cleric then quotes a famous American Muslim: "As Malcolm [X] would have liked to say, 'He's been bamboozled.' America duped him, then dumped him."
But the Yemeni-American cleric acknowledges that it is too soon to know whether the various revolutions will result in the creation of Islamic states.
"The outcome doesn't have to be an Islamic government for us to consider what is occurring to be a step in the right direction," al-Awlaki writes. "Whatever the outcome is, our mujahidin brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Muslim world will get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation."
"No matter how pro-Western or oppressive the next government [of Libya] proves to be," writes al-Awlaki, "we do not see it possible for the world to produce another lunatic of the same caliber of the Colonel."