The Westgate Nairobi Attack: A Sign of the Diversified Threat from Al-Qa’ida

My contribution about the Westgate attack for my home institution RUSI. Tries to put the incident within the bigger context of trends we are seeing within al Qaeda and terrorism internationally. I did quite a bit of media around the Nairobi attack, a lot of questions about the mythical ‘White Widow’ Samantha Lewthwaite: the New […] Read more »

Beware the Al Qaeda phantom in Syria

As Hafez al Assad stares down at the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria from that special place in heaven for Syrian dictators, surely the thought that a Libyan styled intervention happening in Syria would have crossed his mind. As much … Continue reading Read more »

Ridiculing AQ’s Irrelevance in the Arab Spring

by Steven R. Corman A few weeks ago I did a keynote speech at a public meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission in Public Diplomacy.  Later in the meeting I heard a presentation by Ambassador Richard LeBaron, Coordinator of the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC).  The topic of his talk tied together several topics recently discussed on COMOPS Journal, and accordingly I want to share it with readers. Presumably in response to […] Read more »

Zawahiri’s Curious Recollection of Karbala in Bin Laden Eulogy

by Jeffry R. Halverson The Karbala master narrative is one of the most rich and influential in the Islamic world, specifically among Shi‘a societies. We devoted an entire chapter to it in the book Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism, and Kamran Scott Aghaie has penned a wonderful study of it in relation to the history of Iranian identity and nationalism. There is a terrific documentary too, examining the narrative in contemporary Iran and Iraq, which […] Read more »

With bin Laden Dead Let’s Kill the Binary Narrative

by Scott Ruston As details pour in regarding this past weekend’s daring raid in which U.S. Navy SEALs  killed elusive al-Qaeda leader and world’s most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden, the exact details of the events keep changing slightly. The New York Times titled an article covering a recent revision to the sequence of events and details about the operation as “White House Corrects Bin Laden Narrative”. I would argue, however, the “Bin Laden Narrative” […] Read more »

Narrating the Death of bin Laden and the Afterlife of bin Laden’s Narrative

by Bud Goodall Sunday night President Barack Obama officially declared Osama bin Laden dead.  He began his speech with these words: Good evening.  Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. It was nearly 10 years ago […] Read more »

Getting Beat in the War of Ideas

by Steven R. Corman A new study of public opinion in Muslim countries was released this week by  The study was conducted between July and September of 2008, using in-home interviews of around 1100 people in each of Egypt, Indonesia, and Pakistan, plus “supplemental polling” of 500-1000 people in each of Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, and Nigeria. The headline results are that about 75% of those polled think it’s acceptable for al Qaeda […] Read more »

2008 Strategic Communication Achievement Awards

by Steven R. Corman With the end of the year, it’s time for some shout-outs to five individuals who made significant achievements in strategic communication during 2008.  They are (in alphabetical order): Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who had the good sense to put some serious money into social science research through the Minerva project.  Despite a somewhat disappointing five-year allocation that is less than the cost of two Joint Strike Fighters, the Secretary deserves […] Read more »

Rumors of Zawahiri’s Demise Questionable

by Steven R. Corman The U.S. Predator strike in South Waziristan earlier this week is reported to have killed not one but two important al Qaeda operatives.   Some are hopeful that it bagged a bigger prize.  Yesterday CBS news reported that the strike may also killed or seriously wounded Ayman al Zawahiri. Before you pop the champagne corks, there are good reasons to take the news with a grain of salt.  Bill Roggio at […] Read more »

Back to Square One with a Hand Tied Behind Our Back

by Steven R. Corman I remember arriving in Karlsruhe, Germany on March 17, 2003.  It was two days before the Iraq invasion.  I didn’t know the date certain of the invasion, of course, but I knew for certain it was coming.  I was quite worried (needlessly, as it turns out) about how I would be received by the Germans.  They, like the rest of “Old Europe,” were vehemently against the war. So was I.  It […] Read more »