March 1, 2011 -- A new audio message released by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee calls for the uprisings in the Middle East to continue until Islamic states are established.
The 10-minute audio message, newly released on the web but recorded after the Tunisian government fell in January, is the first major communiqué from al Qaeda recorded after the tumult in the Middle East began, and has been seen by some analysts as the terror group's attempt to stay relevant.
The message, purportedly from Saudi national Ibrahim Sulayman al Robaysh, an al Qaeda operative released from Guantanamo in 2006, warns Tunisians that the removal of long-time president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was laudable, but likely to result in another "tyrant" taking his place if Tunisians don't create a state based on Islamic law, or sharia.
"I am happy, like the others, that this tyrant has fallen," al Robaysh said. "But I don't think that these events will be beneficial to the plight of Muslims. For it could be that they have replaced a horrible situation with a not so bad one. Or replaced one tyrant with another."
The release of the message coincides with the recent resignation of Tunisia's prime minister, who was a holdover from the previous regime.
Al Qaeda's long silence amid revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, and now Libya has been seen by U.S. government officials as a possible sign of the terror organization's waning influence in Arab world. The revolutions have been largely secular and non-violent .
'Al Qaeda Has Lost Currency'
"Al Qaeda has lost currency simply from the fact that there has been a major political change in the region, in which the extremists didn't play a role," said Paul Pillar, a former top analyst for the CIA and now a professor at Georgetown University. "It's something the U.S. should be happy about."
Pillar cautioned that al Qaeda's silence during the revolts was not necessarily the end of violent Islamic extremism. He warned that if the new governments were not proactive enough in responding to popular demands, al Qaeda and other groups could find an audience calling for violence and fundamentalism.
Al Robaysh, who is believed to be operating from Yemen, also encouraged Saudis to rise up against the Saudi royal family.