Bin Laden's latest, posthumous audio message just released largely concentrated on the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, congratulating the people on over throwing their dictators. At the same time, he notably left off any mention of the democracy movements, giving most of the praise to the "lions" in Tahrir square.
"Tunisia was the first but swiftly the knights of Egypt have taken a spark from the free people of Tunisia to Tahrir Square," said bin Laden, adding: "It has made the rulers worried."
He barely mentions Syria or Yemen nor Bahrain. Bahrian's lack of mention is obvious. This is a Shi'ite revolution with potential connections to Iran, though this may only be a chimera in order to make it look like Iran has more political power than they do. Still, it would be unlikely that Al Qaeda would make any attempt to support a Shia' rebellion against a Sunni government.
What is more telling is the continued references to Egypt, not only this from bin Laden, but also Zawahiri's last several messages. What has been even more interesting is the selection of al Adel, an Egyptian, not Zawahiri, to be the "interim" head of al Qaeda. It isn't completely surprising as the Egyptian contingent has held the largest number of seats on the Shura or Quetta council. However, as suggested yesterday, this may not be just a political move for the general al Qaeda organization.
This is possibly a greater political move to make the organization more palatable to a wider array of organizations not directly linked to al Qaeda. More specifically, in Egypt where Zawahiri was particularly hard on the Muslim Brotherhood and Gamaa al Islamiya (the Islamic Group) who had eschewed violence to achieve their goals. Gamaa al Islamiya (Jama'at al Islamiya) had absorbed the remaining Egyptian Islamic Jihad after it had split and parts of the organization joined al Qaeda in 2006.
There are several other Salaf organizations in Egypt with a varying degree of organization, political involvement and ideology as to whether they should engage directly in politics or force others to adhere to their ideology of strict interpretation of sharia. The Muslim Brotherhood itself cannot be lumped under one umbrella of "moderate" Islamists as much as they try to portray themselves as that and many in the West are hoping.
Within their own organization there are at least four trends from the truly moderate to the hardline, more closely associated with Salaf ideology. Keeping in mind that Gamaa al Islamiya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad are offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood and that the Brotherhood has recently made an agreement with these organizations for political purposes.
The greater body of the revolution rejects any attempts by Al Qaeda and bin Laden to take any credit for the revolution. However, this misses the point. Al Qaeda's interests are in the outliers and the young men who are, in a word, interested in re-invigorating Islamic ideology in it's strictest form. Those who have been slowly indoctrinated with the Salafis message as they have taken over a number of mosques in recent years.
What makes this more apparent is that the Mujihaden Electronic Network is now calling for attacks on the Coptic churches in Egypt on June 2nd, day of the Ascension (of Mohammed to Paradise). This may be a cynical attempt to latch onto the ongoing sectarian events inside Egypt to make it appear that al Qaeda has a greater reach at this moment then it already has.
However, it may also be an attempt to actually direct any unaffiliated Salaf vigilantes to take action in the name of the Greater Global Jihad. This would not be an unusual tactic for the organization that has used the internet to "radicalize" (or, more likely motivate already radicalized) youth to act.
What should be most concerning is that this message appears at the same moment as bin Laden's message. Another attempt to reach out to the Egyptian Salafis and possibly those organizations in Gaza and the Levant region. Coupled with the selection of Saif al Adel as the head of Al Qaeda, this may be the trifecta that indicates their over all intent to pick up operations in the area with the slowly deteriorating security situation.
Add to that the Palestinian Facebook Page "Third Intifada" that plans on marching "peacefully" on Israel's borders this Friday and we may have a perfect storm. Any overt violent reaction may cause the spark to ignite a greater sectarian war. On the other hand, Israel may not be able to avoid it for long.
One of the other issues here is that the increasing "sectarian attacks" do not just show the underlying problems within Egypt's society, but indicate the greater weakness of SCAF to control the country. That becomes the power vacuum in which Al Qaeda chooses to operate and does so effectively (see Iraq).