Al-Qaeda’s newly installed leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is claiming solidarity with Syria’s pro-democracy movement, telling protesters in a new video that they are part of a broader revolution to liberate Muslim lands.
Zawahiri, in a seven-minute monologue posted to jihadist Web sites on Wednesday, accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being both a corrupt tyrant and “America’s partner in the war on Islam.”
“The time of humiliation is gone, the time of deceit is over, and the rule of the thieves is finished,” said the Egyptian-born terrorist. A translation of his comments was provided by SITE Intelligence Group.
Al-Qaeda has struggled to adapt to epic changes underway in the Middle East, as Arab populations have ignored the terrorist group’s recipe for violent jihad in favor of peaceful protests. In the weeks after the start of the Egyptian uprising, Zawahiri issued statements seeking to link the movement to al-Qaeda’s quest for a restored Islamic caliphate.
In the new video, Zawahiri contends that the Assad betrayed the Arabs with his “abandonment” of the Golan Heights—the highlands occupied by Israeli in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war—and says the Syrian leader has served since that time as a tool of the United States and as “Israel’s border guard.”
“Washington today seeks to replace Assad, who sincerely protected the borders of the Zionist entity, with another regime that squanders your revolution and jihad in a new regime that follows America, takes care of Israel’s interests and grants the [Muslims] some freedoms,” he said.
Zawahiri, wearing a white turban and his trademark spectacles, expressed regret that he couldn’t be with the Syrian protesters in person.
“I would have been amongst you and with you,” he said, but “there are enough and more mujahideen and garrisoned ones.”