In an interesting shift, al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahri, has offered to respond to any and all questions submitted to him by January 16th. In an apparent bid to raise his prestige and come across as a leader who is willing to engage in dialogue, the al-Qaeda leader promised to let people post questions and he would respond. The offer was issued by the group’s media arm, Al Sahab, an islamic web site which invited, “individuals, agencies, and all media” to submit written questions by sending them to web forums ordinarily used by Al Sahab. Respondents were promised that questions would be forwarded from the forums to al-Zawahri “with no changes or substitutions, no matter whether they agree or disagree” with the question. The open invitation most probably would allow any person to submit a question.
This is definitely a media ploy to attract attention and provide al-Zawahri an international forum in which to present his ideas to those who ordinarily don’t read his pronouncements. The offer also makes him come across as a dominant force in al-Qaeda. Wouldn’t it be interesting if leaders from other nations responded to the responses of al-Zawahri with their own comments? This would create a modern version of dueling banjos.