Al Qaeda and the Arab Spring -- an ideological assessment
Lewis, W. Kimball
Robinson, Glenn E.
Burkett, Randy P.
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The Arab Spring of 2011 resulted in widespread unrest as Muslims protested against long-standing, oppressive regimes. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain found themselves at a crossroads between reform and chaos. The Muslim Ummah was ripe for influence from provocative voices such as Al Qaeda. Al Qaedas rhetoric failed to capitalize on this golden opportunity, however. It issued a number of statements to the people of the Muslim world that demonstrated its inability to find relevance during this time of change. Its narrative of jihad against the Far Enemy failed to resonate with Tunisians who sought greater economic opportunity, with Egyptians who wanted greater self-determination, or with Libyans who were joined by Western nations to topple Gaddafi. To Bahrainis, who underwent a struggle for change against King Khalifa and his security forces, Al Qaeda was notably silent. Al Qaeda and its affiliates missed this golden opportunity to reverse the decline in support it had experienced since September 11, 2001. Its statements reveal a lack of new ideas and older ones that are often inconsistent among its affiliates, and expose fissures within the network. As its messaging demonstrates, Al Qaeda likely will experience continued decline and marginalization in the years to come.