Architect of Global Jihad by Brynjar Lia
Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of al Qaida Strategist Abu Mus’ab al-Suri is Brynjar Lia’s definitive biography of the shadowy terror theorist, Islamist intellectual and sometime jihadi, Mustafa bin Abd al Qadir Sitt Maryam.
Sitt Maryam, who went by al-Suri in jihadi circles, was a red haired, fair-skinned Syrian renegade from the Muslim Brotherhood who was trained in military tactics and explosives in Saddam Hussein’s terrorist camps, passing on his skills to fellow “Arab Afghans” during and after the Soviet War. Attracted to secular military theory, guerrilla warfare tactics and strategy rather than theological disputes, hating the West but despising Salafist radicals, Lia’s Abu al-Suri is an isolated and anomalous figure in “the jihadi current” of the 1990’s and post-9/11 era.
“A born critic” with a grim and unsmiling demeanor who entangled himself in acrimonious personal feuds with leading jihadis, including Osama bin Laden, al-Suri failed to win many adherents to his insightful “system not organization” (nizam la tanzim) theory of jihad until his arrest caused his writings, especially his magnum opus The Global Islamic Resistance Call to go viral in the Islamist darknet.
A true intellectual, widely read in western literature and military writings, al-Suri crafted a stategy of jhad that adapted arguments of 4GW, “leaderless resistance” and classical Maoist insurgency to suit Islamist purposes and conditions while rejecting secret, hierarchical, organizations and al-Qaida’s “Tora Bora mentality” as historical failures. Self-radicalization and “sudden jihad syndrome” among alienated Western Muslims was the stuff from which al-Suri hoped to build a massively decentralized, open source, self-sustaining campaign of terrorism.
A hundred and forty some pages of text in Architect of Global Jihad are devoted exclusively to excerpts from al-Suri’s 1,600 page treatise on terrorism operations and strategy. He was a serious and determined opponent of Western civilization’s core values, despite having enjoyed long stretches of reasonably comfortable Western exile in Spain and “Londonistan” to such a degree that al-Suri was in no particular hurry to rejoin the jihad and even acquired the unenviable (and inaccurate) reputation of only being a “pen jihadi”.
Musab al-Suri, who is likely dead at the hands of Baathist jailers, is best described as an Islamist parallel to Vladimir Lenin before the Bolshevik Revolution. The similarities are striking, the irascible temperment, formidible intelligence, the frustrating politics of exiled revolutionary communities, the ideological marginalization both men endured as radicals in a community of already extreme activists and the embrace of terrorism (tactically in Lenin’s case, strategically in al-Suri’s). al-Suri and Lenin, despite wide ideological differences, as revolutionaries represent the psychological type Eric Hoffer termed “true believers” – pitiless, absolutely committed, intellectually rigid on matters of principle but tactically flexible and creative in terms of method.
Such men are dangerous, to themselves as well as to society.
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