From the GlobalSecurity page on the town of Hama, Syria:
By 1997 some reports suggested that China had assisted Syria in the modernization of Scud-B missiles, with North Korea and Iran (with Chinese assistance) participating in constructing underground facilities near Aleppo and Hama for the joint production of Scud-C missiles (under North Korean technology and M-9 missiles under Chinese technology).Note that the targets of the CW attack were the Sunni population supporting the Muslim Brotherhood based insurgents. They were seen as threatening the Alawite based regime of Assad in 1982, a regime that was aligning itself with Iran and would produce Hezbollah. Isn't it lovely that Ba'athist regimes see their own populations as worth of targeting? First Hama and then Saddam Hussein with the Kurds.
Four chemical weapons production sites have been identified, one located just north of Damascus, and the second near the industrial city of Homs. The third, in Hama, is believed to be producing VX agents in addition to sarin and tabun.
The first and by far only Syrian employment of a chemical warfare agent took place in 1982, in a conflict between Islamic insurgents of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Shiite Muslim sect, which with just a tenth the country's population had ruled Syria for three decades under the late President Hafez al-Assad. The lethal cyanide gas used by the Syrian regime in the slaughter of Sunni residents of the city of Hama. In February 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood ambushed government forces who were searching for dissidents in Hama. Several thousand Syrian troops, supported by armor and artillery, moved into the city and crushed the insurgents during two weeks of bloodshed. When the fighting was over, perhaps as many as 7,000 to 35,000 people lay dead, including an estimated 1,000 soldiers. In addition, large sections of Hamah's old city were destroyed.
Previously I have done a much longer piece of work on the Muslim Brotherhood, and its long ranging goals and plans, when I looked at Rep. Steny Hoyer trying to find moderates amongst terrorists. In that review one of the most problematical things to come out was the beginning of Saudi funding for the MB to destabilize the Nasser regime. That was done as Arab Nationalism was seen as a threat by the Wahabbi nation of Saudi Arabia, to Islam being the unifying force in the Middle East and the world. To counter that, the previous Muslim Brotherhood was funded and received training and schooling by Saudi sponsored clerics and the already radical student organization began to gain in power and radicalize further. And that 'insurgent group' in Hama, Syria?
That organization is the 'armed wing' of the Muslim Brotherhood: HAMAS, which was founded in 1967. HAMAS is a direct affiliation group with the MB and a number of individuals from the MB move to the Palestinian areas to further spread the money and the radicalism of that organization. That said, HAMAS, itself, is willing to take in donations from any source, and utilizes a distributed network of organizations to do that. GlobalSecurity sums that up with their view on HAMAS funding:
3. The Financial Assistance InfrastructureFor all that it is an outgrowth of Saudi sponsorship, HAMAS takes in money from Iran. There is some level of cross-training between Hezbollah and HAMAS and some utilization of foreign affiliates by them, also. Anyone who contributes to Palestinian organizations affiliated with HAMAS is contributing to a pool of resources money divided up as HAMAS sees fit: there is no 'special category' for humanitarian relief.
The Hamas has an extensive network of financial sources, operating within the framework of Dawa activity, with a total value of tens of millions of dollars a year.
It is not possible to separate the Dawa activities conducted for humanitarian purposes from the direct and indirect funding of terrorism: All the monies flow into a common fund, and are then channeled to the relevant activities, in accordance with needs and in coordination with the functions of the organization in the territories and abroad. The monies are transferred using the following means: bank transfers, moneychangers, private money services, unofficial networks for the transfer of funds and "unsuspecting" assistants. Thus, in view of the great difficulty in tracing the source of the money, its address and the motives behind the transfer of funds, it is essential that a strict and vigilant approach be adopted towards the entire fundraising network, operating within the framework of Dawa activity.
- Gulf States - A considerable proportion of the aforementioned funds originate from various sources in the Gulf States (The Gulf Cooperation Council States). Most of the funding is from Saudi Arabian sources, with a total value of $12 million a year.
- Iran - Its contribution is estimated at $3 million a year.
- Charitable associations in the Territories - Funds are raised for the Hamas through the mosques (a convenient domain for fundraising and recruitment of members) and through charity associations and foundations.
- Charity associations overseas.
- Fundraising abroad and in the territories.
Beyond that the Muslim Brotherhood runs its *own* set of charities as front organizations for their wider spread of Islam, both via terrorism and through undermining legitimate Islamic associations not only in the Middle East, but globally. This has not been mere idle work, either, of 'spreading the word' but has had plain and dangerous consequences for decades. The House Republican Research Committee on 10 AUG 1992 looked at the case of Sudan and the overthrow of its democratic government by Islamic extremists that had just happened the previous year:
Thus, Iraq realized that Iran and Syria constituted the key to any long-term importation of military assistance, crucial to keeping Saddam Hussein in power. The use of Iran and Syria as the ports of entry for all forms of sanction-busting imports remains beneficial to Iraq because there is no Western oversight in these countries and both are hostile to the US and in cooperation with all international bodies. In pursuing this option, Baghdad is fully aware of the extremely high strategic price it has to pay for securing these lines of communication.The ability of Saddam to use his influence to go around sanctions also gave rise to routes for the Muslim Brotherhood to expand its influence and Hassan al-Turabi would be key in this as he had been in past work for the Brotherhood. Also note that Sa'ad al-Takriti from Iraq would be the financial go-between for Saddam Hussein. This, in 1991-2 just after the First Gulf War had ended. Also in the time period of Saddam putting down the Shia uprising in Iraq, to the tune of 300,000 dead. Apparently Iran didn't care about that, over much and worked with Saddam to ensure that inspection regimes would be thwarted via ports in Syria and Iran.
In the meantime, Sudan has emerged as an instrumental intermediary in the negotiation of the new Iran-Iraq strategic deal. During the Gulf Crisis, Sudan was one of Iraq's closest allies and, in fact, a large Iraqi expeditionary force for the seizure of Islam's Holy Shrines in the Hijaz and the blocking of the Red Sea was deployed there. This was the outgrowth of the coming to power, in 1991, of Hassan al-Turabi and the Muslim Brotherhood, who transformed Sudan into an Islamic Republic, thereby naturally shifting its allegiance to Iran in the process.
Thus, in due course, the first meaningful contacts between Iran and Iraq were revived in Khartoum in April 1991. Iranian officials discussed issues concerning cross-border trade with Iraqi intelligence officials concealed among representatives of an Iraqi Trade Union delegation then participating in a conference in Khartoum. In these discussions, Sa'ad al-Takriti emerged as a major figure in the Sudanese-Iranian-Iraqi negotiations. A longtime colleague of al-Turabi, Sa'ad al-Takriti was involved in such clandestine operations as the financing of the Egyptian Islamlist networks via Sudan.
On 01 FEB 1993 would come this further review of the extent of MB influence in Pakistan:
TASK FORCE ON TERRORISM & UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE[There is another Hassan Turabi in Pakistan: Secretary General Tehrik-e-Jafriya Pakistan Allama Hassan Turabi, who was killed in 2003 by a splinter group and was Shia affiliated with Iran]
House Republican Research Committee
(Chairman: Bill McCollum, Florida)
February 1, 1993
Inversely, the Jammu and Kashmir Students Liberation Front [JKSLF] has transformed into an Islamist organization, now calling itself Ikhwan al- Muslimeen [Muslim Brothers], and is rapidly expanding. Its leader, Hilal Ahmad Beig, is currently at the forefront of the struggle for "the Islamization of Kashmir."Beig is also in command of the armed branch of the Muslim Brotherhood of Kashmir which is increasing its involvement in terrorism.
For example, some 30-35 Libyan expert terrorist trainers arrived in Peshawar in November 1991 with the declared objective "to train national liberation forces" in mujahideen camps, mainly those of Gulbaddin and Sayyaf. By March 1992, now in a Sayyaf camp in the Kana area, Nangarhar Province, these Libyans became devout Islamists and joined the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of Shaykh Nur-ad-Din.
It is noteworthy that the Armed Islamic Movement also player a major role in the consolidation of the capabilities of the Islamist terrorists. In the spring of 1991, 18 Kashmiri Islamists were accepted for about 6 months of highly specialized terrorist training in Sudan under the personal supervision of the Sudanese leaders Turabi and Mustafa Uthman. By then, AIM's leader, al- Turabi, had already visited Pakistan and Afghanistan in September 1991 to coordinate terrorist support activities.
Indeed, Jama'at-i Islami (Pakistan), Hizb-i Islami and Jamiat-i Islami (Afghanistan) and Hizb-ul Mujahideen (Kashmir) had all become members of the Turabi-led Popular International Organization [PIO], and, in this capacity, provided assistance to, and closely cooperated with, Islamists from Egypt, the HizbAllah in Lebanon, FIS in Algeria, and NIF in Sudan. PIO members exchanged experts and cooperated in joint support and training activities. Meanwhile, Turabi also worked to expand the international relations and mutual cooperation of the terrorist infrastructure in Sudan. Thus, by late-November 1991, Turabi had consolidated arrangements for the exchange and dispatch of trainees to Islamist, mainly Muslim Brotherhood, sites in Peshawar.
Of note is al-Turabi on the coordination of actitivies front, again, this time arranging wider networking in Pakistan for the MB. This semi-umbrella organization would mark the first crossing of Islamic radical terrorist organizations over sectarian lines. That list of organizations and backers that al-Turabi put together is quite astounding: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan. The extended structure of this organization would be recognized by one Ayman al-Zawahiri and his followers in the Muslim Brotherhood. Before al Qaeda, there was this base already in formation and it is not centered on al Qaeda, but on the Muslim Brotherhood.
A network structure like this, as represented by al-Turabi and his dealings with high level individuals in multiple Nations, points to one major problem in our current understanding of terrorism and the current problems attacking it: al Qaeda is not the source of internetworking on the Islamic side of things, but a direct operations management group. While al Qaeda has its own funding sources, derived from multiple organizations that it has helped set up, the main backing for it on the ideological and human capital side is from Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Turabi would have long standing problems staying in the halls of power in Sudan and by 2000 the government had changed hands to a less extremist Islamic group, although it still looked to wage jihad in its southern provinces. Turabi would then be under house arrest from 2001-03 in Sudan then charged with offenses against the State of Sudan in 2004 for plotting a coup. But for those looking to cast aspersions and blame for Darfur, one need step no further than al-Turabi, as seen by this Congressional Research Service 2004 document Sudan: the Crisis in Darfur:
The Current Crisis. At the core of the current conflict is a struggle for control of resources. The largely nomadic Arab ethnic groups often venture into the traditionally farming communities of Darfur for water and grazing, often triggering armed conflict between the two groups. Darfur is home to an estimated 7 million people and has more than 30 ethnic groups, although these groups fall into two major categories: African and Arab. Both communities are Muslim, and years of intermarriages have made racial distinctions impossible. Fighting over resources is one of several factors that has led to intense infighting in Darfur over the years. Many observers believe that the NIF government has systematically and deliberately pursued a policy of discrimination against and marginalization of the African communities in Darfur, and has given support to the Arab militia to suppress non-Arabs, whom it considers a threat to its hold on power. In 2000, with the ouster of the founder of the NIF, Hassan al-Turabi, and a split within the Islamist Movement, the government imposed a state of emergency and used its new authority to crack down on dissidents in Darfur. By 2002, a little known self defense force of a largely Fur-dominated group emerged as the SLA, challenging government forces in Darfur.Yes, yet another set of groups, factions and increasing unrest and killing and the source of it? Mr. Turabi! So handy to have armed factions with ex-Army officers running around to make the government back down on charges against you, isn't it? Apparently the 'Crisis in Darfur' is a manufactured one by Mr. Turabi, using some socio-ethnic problems and expanding upon them with cash from his donor base across the Middle East and Pakistan. Apparently trying to outlaw Turabi's party and get peace started has had its own history, starting in 2005, and still not coming to a conclusion much of anywhere. Outmanned and outgunned, with bin Laden threatening jihad against the UN if it tries to do anything... there are some difficulties in this entire business and the Leftists wanting to 'do something in Darfur' had best look to Iraq and Afghanistan for what will be found there. Save that the socio-ethnic differences are a world away from those two Nations and Darfur has complexities that not only cross borders, but are directly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood. Still, if the Left will own up to that and take on the MB...
With the NIF regime internally in turmoil and mounting international pressure to end the North-South conflict, the SLA and JEM were able to gain the upper hand in the initial phase of the conflict against government forces in early 2003, and appear well prepared and armed. The rebels also enjoyed the support of the local population as well as officers and soldiers in the Sudanese army. A significant number of senior officers and soldiers in the Sudanese armed forces comes from Darfur. The SLA benefitted from outside support, including from fellow Zaghawa in Chad and financial support from Darfur businessmen in the Persian Gulf. The government of Sudan has accused Eritrea and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) of providing support to the SLA. The government of Sudan also accuses the founder of the NIF, Hassan al-Turabi, of having links with JEM. Some observers say that Turabi, through his supporters, provides political and financial support to JEM. In late March 2004, Turabi, along with a number of senior army officers, was arrested. The government claimed that Turabi was behind an attempted coup, although officials in Khartoum seemed to back away from that claim by mid-April 2004.
Richard Clarke would testify to this in his examination of the build up of al Qaeda to attacking the US:
TESTIMONY OF RICHARD A. CLARKE
NATIONAL COMMISSION ON TERRORIST ATTACKS UPON THE UNITED STATES
March 24, 2004
4. Sudan: While bin Ladin was in Sudan, he was hosted by its leader, Hasan Turabi. Under Turabi, Sudan had become a safe haven for many terrorist groups, but bin Ladin had special status. He funded many development programs such as roads and dined often with Turabi and his family. Turabi and bin Ladin were ideological brethren. Following the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Mubarek, the US and Egypt successfully proposed UN sanctions on Sudan because of its support of terrorism. Because of the growing economic damage to Sudan due to its support of terrorism, bin Ladin offered to move to Afghanistan. Sudan at no time detained him, nor was there ever a credible offer by Sudan to arrest and render him. This is in contrast to Sudan’s arrest of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, who the Sudanese then handed over in chains to French authorities.
Notice the discrimination between Carlos the Jackal and Osama bin Laden? Turabi would cooperate with other organizations and operators, but Islamic forms of terrorism to meet his long term views was what he supported. That move by Osama in the early 1990's back to Afghanistan was a critical one, in which the organizations started by Turabi in Pakistan would play a major role in the outcome of events in Afghanistan with bin Laden helping to coordinate there. This is part of the MB method of operation: when it is necessary to further its agenda, it will cooperate with nearly anyone, but when it comes to defending something, only those of the MB get defended.
This has been how HAMAS has viewed the world from early on, where it would cooperate with PLO for a period of time, but slowly shift to undermine the PLO and seek to gain key support not only in the Palestinian territories but outside of the MB itself. Its support from the Gulf States stems from local activism and outreach for support there, not only in monetary means (via charities and other front organizations) but also for skilled personnel. The work with Iran, on the other side of the sectarian divide, should set us straight on how Islamic terror groups operate: they are not independent but inter-dependent, they cross support each other while having their own aims. HAMAS, in particular, has had some run-ins with Hezbollah (backed by Syria and Iran) but is able to get support from Iran, also. This may be due more to final geographic placement with the PLO driven from southern Lebanon than anything else, but the shared goal leads to support from 'the other side'.
Finally there are charities and fundraising strictly by HAMAS or in coordination with MB. Together the front groups from these combined organizations is global, with no continent without some small charitable front or company to funnel funds to them. While funds from Palestinians is large, the overseas support is also important not for the cash, but the logistical support from other countries. Wherever a company or charity can find a perch, that opens another conduit for supplies to MB and HAMAS.
While Turabi in Sudan has lessened in his direct power over organizations inside Sudan, his ability to utilize his contacts still remains present, which is why al Qaeda has been shifting some training and support to Sudan. The early 1990's contacts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with Kasmiri Islamic groups, allows the slow funneling of personnel and funds from those areas to Turabi from al Qaeda. The inherent difficulty of tracing out those webs of contacts is a major concern and of prime importance to the West. If al Qaeda is spinning up a different training base outside of the Waziristan area of Pakistan, and it is not northwards into the southern 'stans around Russia, then Africa makes the sensible destination. Part of that deals with the existing infrastructure that al Qaeda had there and may still have from the early 1990's.
In the West we are not used to dealing with organizational structures like this: it is not structured as a private organization with chairpersons and rules of order, nor is it like an investor run organization with elected board and CEO, nor is it 'team' with coach and players. This distributed organizational type has been put down as a 'franchise' operation, but it really isn't that, either, as the various local cell groups are self-sufficient and self-guiding. Entire organizations, such as Abu Sayyaf are 'allied' to al Qaeda but not part of al Qaeda, although funding, support and personnel are shared between them. That local organization structure geared towards similar, local goals, but via local means and only cooperating on larger projects to keep the 'al Qaeda brand label' operates more along the lines of a consortium or conglomerate organization.
OPEC, as a general consortium, is delimited by Oil Producing Exporting Countries and have guidelines for production and quality of product. When a Nation or Nation runs afoul of the consortium, it utilizes concerted action to support things like price minimums and maximums, and to cut off supply if they believe it to be in their best interest. What has undermined OPEC is that not oil exporting countries take part in the organization and the global oil market from all producers has removed much of the bite of OPEC. In fact OPEC is now facing one member, Iran, that no longer meets export quotas and is causing other parts of OPEC (mostly Saudi Arabia) to export its reserves faster. The inability to meet contract quotas may force OPEC to expel Iran and put it onto the global market and its price fluctuations as it no longer meets up to OPEC expectations. While some may see this as a loss for OPEC, it is a stabilizing outlook for it, so that it can maintain reputable cohesion over its supply goals. When it becomes untrustworthy, then a marketplace cost can be seen in lower contract pricing or even shifting away from long term contracts to short-term or 'spot' contracts for all of the organization.
On the conglomerate side, any company that has a large number of loosely related or unrelated subsidiary companies serves as an example for this. Conglomerates run by utilizing overall management practices that bring continuity across a wide array of products and utilize that control to inter-market and co-market loosely related products. Often conglomerates will not even go that far and will be a management expertise controlling agent amongst many companies that were either bought out (due to failings or needed strength in the conglomerate) or spun up from research on new ideas to attack markets within the conglomerate's own multi-company structure. While the local brand gets top name, one will often see 'a subsidiary of...' or 'part of X family of companies' or similar branding. Here the attempt to show quality of output via management control is a prime concern.
I would argue that instead of 'franchises' (which can be part of a company in a conglomerate structure) that al Qaeda acts as a loose conglomerate organization providing larger expertise base not only for the affiliated sub-organizations, but facilitating training and cooperation between them. The al Qaeda management outlook, that of radical salafist Islam derived from the Muslim Brotherhood and Ayman al-Zawahiri, allows not only larger organizational efforts by al Qaeda (such as the African Embassy Bombings or 9/11) but also more lethal localized organizational efforts (Madrid Bombings and London Bombings). The organizations beyond al Qaeda involved in these, including ones from Algeria, Germany, Britain, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, allowed a wide array of talent to be utilized in a distributed fashion. As an example: GIA, from Algeria, not only attempted the multiple millenium bombings that were stopped, but also operates a criminal operation in North America (mostly out of Montreal) that allowed it to 'case' sites without notice. While al Qaeda's direct fingerprints on the attack are not on this, the overall structure of attempting multiple, near simultaneous attacks is an al Qaeda trademark (one that they lifted from Aum Shinrikyo).
Almost all other terrorist organizations, with the exception of Hezbollah and HAMAS, do not have this level of sophistication and coordination, and neither of those has the highly adaptable al Qaeda distant cell spin-up cycle via remote training ability that is also an al Qaeda hallmark (as opposed to trademark, as it is a method of operation that is replicated, but not very well). The trademark type attacks of al Qaeda, when not as an active resistance movement, is that of long-term plans, study of targets, screening out personnel and targets, working out distributed surveillance, then getting an attack organization put together for the actual one-time 'event', and then sending a limited exposure 'clean-up' crew to try and get rid of any major back-traces to them. While not greatly successful in the 9/11 attacks on the final part, they were much more capable of erasing their ties to London and Madrid, while emphasizing their ties to the African Embassy bombings. In outlook this is using a sprinkling of 'professionals' or dedicated operatives to leaven a larger number of 'amateurs' or single-use personnel for greater projects.
Between the USSR retiring from Afghanistan to disintegrate at home and 2001, what al Qaeda started to lose was field combat operatives. The distribution of same for other works (Bojinka, Riyadh bombing, African Embassy Bombings, Yemen infrastructure during its civil war then for the USS The Sullivans botched attack and the USS Cole attack) or lending them out to other organizations for more localized training (Abu Sayyaf, Moros, various Kasmiri groups, Ansar organization) all shifted key combat experienced personnel outwards so that when the US retaliation to 9/11 hit, al Qaeda had very little to counter with. Part of that was the same problem Saddam had in Iraq: the US did the unexpected and did not dither. By being unable to bring highly experienced personnel closer to operational centers, they were left exposed and over the next two years they were picked off. The Taliban lost Afghanistan due to asymmetrical warfare turned against them (precision airpower enabling the relatively weak northern alliance to triumph) and al Qaeda lost face by not being able to do *anything* to stop this as the US did not go through a long 'build-up' and 'deployment', but acted in a wholly opportunistic fashion to bring the regime down. The last of the highly experienced terrorists in field capable areas, were then sent to reinforce local cells (Morocco, Germany, Britain, Iraq, Sudan) so as to distribute lethality and expertise.
At the very top of al Qaeda there are mutiple councils to oversee the overall operations of the organization. The Security, Intelligence, Media, Recruitment/Training and Finance ones are the most well known, along with their 'spiritual advisor' system and COINTEL organizations. In each of these areas some of the most skilled operatives of al Qaeda have been lost: trusted couriers, skilled and inventive bomb makers, combat veterans, financial advisors, funding personnel, recruitment personnel, trainers (and 'train the trainers'), cyber operations specialists and media have all suffered heavy setbacks in the years since 9/11. When these individuals with skills in clandestine operations, person-to-person finance, acquisition networks, distribution networks and overall security and COINTEL are lost (often taken alive with large data stores), then al Qaeda has a serious erosion in their ability to operate in the way it did pre-9/11. Even worse is that in Afghanistan and Iraq there has been no opportunity to train up and get skilled replacements for those lost. The 'street fighting' smarts of al Qaeda were mostly gone by 2004-05, putting Zarqawi in charge of operations in Iraq (and utilizing his network in Europe) demonstrated lack of long-range planning and cohesive strategy. The pleas from local organizational cells (the 'sheikhs') in Iraq and bin Laden's response to them, points to this problem and the counter-productive strategy of Zarqawi that was geared towards societies with lower amounts of local cohesion (African tribes are nothing like Iraqi tribes, nor are the tribes in Jordan quite as cohesive as those in Iraq, either).
By not knowing how to adjust his fighting style, and being unwilling to shift from a strategy of 'killing your way to obedience', Zarqawi started the slow process of self-isolation for al Qaeda in Iraq that has turned into a long-term strategic disaster. It took quite a lot of al Qaeda to alienate *their* base in the Sunni sect, and yet that is exactly what they have done to the point where Iraq tribes have sworn 'blood enmity' against al Qaeda. By being neighbors to the Kurds for so long, Iraqi Arabs have learned that this is not a joke and adhere to it in ways that only the Scots and Norsemen of old could easily understand. Blood feuds usually end up with one side seriously dead, no matter the cost to the other.
[Actually, if the US were a bit more astute we would be asking the Iraqi government to help cross-train with the Afghani government, with Kurdish help: the Kurds and Afghans are far closer in their societal outlook to each other, and that could be a long-term combat tie against al Qaeda and even Iran that will bring them together. After the Gurkhas, the next two most cohesive combat cultures on the planet are, arguably, the Afghans and Kurds, with the nearby Arabs around the Kurds falling into that due to survival needs. The tribes of Iraq and Afghanistan are now much closer in their outlook than had been true at any point in history, and a historic meeting of tribal leaders from both regions might start ironing out a few topics and lead to joint and cooperative force outlook against terrorism. Such an outlook would give transnationalists conniption fits, but it actually *is* a multi-culti outlook... a WARRIOR multi-culti outlook. I do digress.]
For the al Qaeda trademark and brandname to have high credibility, it must not cross its own underpinnings (in this case attacking Muslims) and be highly successful (via attacks that cannot be countered on the large, showmanship scale). Until the post-9/11 world, al Qaeda had strong credibility and boasted that it was ready to face down the evil United States and the rest of the West. That credibility and bravodo, however, have been frittered away with relatively low lethality attacks (Madrid and London), multiple botched attacks (Bojinka II, Ricin takedown in London, cell takedowns in Germany and other parts of Europe), and being unable to actually fight successfully against the US on the ground. In every stand-up fight that al Qaeda has been in, they have been removed from the battlefield in large numbers, mostly dead. While many trump the Tora Bora escape, they miss the fact that Tora Bora was something akin to a mountain fortress and al Qaeda had to *evacuate it*. Coming back to it *now* due to the threat of having training camps bombed, long after it has been researched, mapped out and all the rest by the US and Afghanis is nothing more than inviting a death trap for those in it: never cross a region that the US Army Corps of Engineers has studied first hand. And the only place that al Qaeda has done damage is not against the US, nor even the Iraqi Army after it got to 10% operational status, or even the Iraqi police after they passed that same mark. It has been against Muslim *civilians*. That has fouled their own nest, made al Qaeda seem weak and has spent all of their showmanship and operational adherance. Today, outside of the Palestinian territories, suicide bombing is at the highest level of disrepute EVER due to al Qaeda and al Qaeda ALONE.
al Qaeda, over time, has run training facilities in: Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Algeria and the Tri-Border Area of South America (mostly in cooperation with Hezbollah). While still having a wide number of associated elements on a global scale (from the tiny organizations in Trinidad to large ones like Jemaa Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf) the actual ability to leverage them has waned due to lack of cohesive message control and coming to be seen as 'a weak horse'. With that said the basics of al Qaeda, remain strong as there has been no hard and fast break with MB, which is the source of new disciples and terrorist recruits for multiple fanatical Islamic killers.
There are localized problems with the organizations affiliated with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as he is not as puritanical as al Qaeda and their interactions have led to friction over time. al Qaeda has looked to shift into Kasmir via Hekmatyar's organizations and local separatist organizations, to some degree of success, but that is limited due to the presence of so many small organizations that seem unable to come to any common accord between them. Looking further east to those organizations in Bangladesh is some help, and al Qaeda has had influence there for some time but with a relatively weak infrastructure due to that of Bangladesh. Helping the Talibe solidify Warziristan has been a prime concern, outside of Iraq, but fleeing camps due to having them targeted demonstrates acknowledged limits on how openly al Qaeda can operate. Locally, the only other area of interest is China, which has a large, poor population that has served as a basis for smuggling goods through China, but there has only been a few hints of activity in China due to al Qaeda... mind you that is still a surprise as the expected level is zero.
Outside of the local region and excluding MB recruiting, al Qaeda has had difficulty in Somalia via the Islamic Courts organization, which has been thrown back by Ethiopian military and local Somali warlords with assistance by the US. Algeria has had a slow simmering due to local politics which has been trending away from Islamic fundamentalism, causing problems in al Qaeda recruitment and training options. Chechnya, where al Qaeda had great early success, has been beaten back by the Russians and the local population realizing that supporting radical Islamic groups tends to get you dead: if not by the terrorists then by the Russians. Georgia has been a long-term but low profile organizational point for al Qaeda, but the remote training areas are far too remote to allow any influx of personnel to train there.
Bosnia has worked out to a greater or lesser extent due to Iranian and Saudi influence, with local pushback by traditional Islamic groups the only real threat to ongoing training and logistics from there. The Balkans from Albania northward must be considered one of the prime logistics spots of al Qaeda due to the organized crime infrastructure there. It is in that region that the outward export of guns and munitions is most seen, even if the actual goods, themselves, never transit the region. Those support contacts to Africa and the Americas, along with Europe, are the major nexus for al Qaeda support outside of Saudi funds and funds gained via religious support wherever they can make it happen. Of the work in the Americas, not much is known about al Qaeda, save their contacts in the Caribbean and Latin America and working with Hezbollah and HAMAS in Arab ex-pat communities.
A look at the spiritual side of al Qaeda sees that Zawahiri is the spiritual leader of Osama. He became part of MB in the 1970's and soon formed his own splinter group within it, that Osama gravitated towards during the 1980's. From the MB view, al Qaeda is a major operational group centering on subisidiary beliefs held by Zawahiri. While the West may question the lack of bin Laden in media releases, and question his living status, such media releases are not aimed at the West, even when addressing the West. Putting Zawahiri up more and more frequently is an appeal to the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood to show that al Qaeda has *not* strayed from their system of outlook and is worth supporting.
Even with MB getting backing from Saudi Arabia, the control of the Wahabbi Imams is not as high as those of localized Imams for MB, thus they are less swayed by Saudi clerics issuing fatwas against al Qaeda and will remain so as long as the cash flows in. The moment the cash *stops* then the question of 'who is more serious about being devout' will come around making all of the past al Qaeda and other MB inspired attacks there seem miniscule in comparison. By feeding this creature so regularly, MB, HAMAS and al Qaeda are no longer under Wahabbi control and the only way Saudi Arabia keeps from being the target is by paying their once voluntary funds to MB. One wonders just how 'voluntary' they are these days, with so many foreign workers in Saudi Arabia.
MB, by seeking its own distributed funding sources locally and globally (as its terror section HAMAS has) can no longer be directly controlled by Saudi Arabia due to cash alone. By the House of Saud pulling in this radical religious sect so early on now faces the long term consequences of doing so: the new generation of radicals is no longer adhering to the views of the Saudis *or* their allied clerics. One of the larger worries has to be that unsuccessful al Qaeda terrorists that exfiltrate Iraq may decide that Syria isn't the best place to wind up. It is no wonder that the Saudis are talking about installing a border fence between it and Iraq: not to keep fighters from going to Iraq, but to keep disillusioned terrorists from coming *back* to Saudi Arabia.
I don't think this is what Saudi Arabia had planned when they started out in the 1950's supporting a radical student group in Egypt to counter Nasser. They thought they could *control* the spiral of death and destruction by controlling funds to it. Little did they know that the early seed money, then, has bought them something that will seek revenge upon them if they stop supporting it... or if they are seen as less than pure by the radicals they have enabled. How very strange that Islamic Nations, like Iraq and Afghanistan, may be the ones to repel the winds of fanaticism and force it back and closer to its origins... in the oilfields of Saudi Arabia.