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Droukdel, who is also known as Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, wrote of a tactical need for deception in trying to hide behind a “front” of a local separatist movement in Mali. “Better for you to be silent and pretend to be a ‘domestic’ movement that has its own causes and concerns,” he wrote to the estimated 2,000 fighters of his group, which is known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. “There is no reason for you to show that we have an expansionary, jihadi, al-Qaeda or any other sort of project.”
But even that tactic failed as the alliance with the local rebels erupted in fighting.
His 10-page letter reveals many fatal flaws of Al Qaeda. Beyond AQIM’s deception and grab for power by force, the group also denied the equal dignity of every person, especially women. It failed to honor the freedom of individual conscience.
The letter shows how much the group violates the Quran’s requirement that rulers be held accountable by the community. Most of all, it shows how much Al Qaeda believes it deserves to hold the keys to power because it claims to have the keys to heaven.
These are the seeds of its eventual decay. The same may be true in Iran where supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rules in defiance of any popular will, or regard for pluralism and a balance of power between competing ideas of a good society.
If bad ideas do indeed collapse on their own fallacy, as Kennan and many others have advised, then the short reign of Al Qaeda in Timbuktu shows just how well that truth holds up.