“Why Don’t You and Him Go Fight?”

The foreign-policy blog buzz of the day is probably the story, linked by Blake Hounshell at FP, and by Noah Shachtman at Wired, about al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri’s online Q and A recently. Apparently, according to Blake’s excerpts, it’s tough out there for a jihadi:

The general tenor of the questions is sharply critical, so let me boil down the questioners’ main beefs here:

Al Qaeda talks a big game, but never attacks Israel (but we have killed plenty of Jews, Zawahiri responds)
Al Qaeda isn’t doing anything to overthrow the Egyptian regime (it ain’t easy, Zawahiri pleads, but it is inevitable)
Al Qaeda slaughters innocent Muslims (only if they get in the way)
Al Qaeda is too harsh on Hamas (just the leaders who have sold out sharia law, not the “mujahedin”)
Al Qaeda is rumored to be dealing with Iran (a charge Zawahiri has responded to before with a non-denial denial)
Influential clerics and ideologues have denounced al Qaeda (Zawahiri takes great pains to paint two in particular, Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, the subject of “Egypt’s Contrite Commander” from FP’s current issue, as Zionist-Crusader stooges)

It’s good to know that these bastards are having at least as tough a time with public diplomacy as we are. Apparently sowing mayhem and blowing up wedding parties is a bad PR move. Meanwhile, Noah Shachtman highlights Mr. al Zawahiri’s thoughts on Iran, whom, if you were listening to John McCain or the Weekly Standard on this stuff, you may have thought was an old pal of aQ:

The dispute between America and Iran is a real dispute based on the struggle over areas of influence, and the possibility of America striking Iran is a real possibility. As for what might happen in the region, I can only say that major changes will occur in the region, and the situation will be in the interest of the Mujahideen if the war saps both of them. If, however, one of them emerges victorious, its influence will intensify and fierce battles will begin between it and the Mujahideen, except that the Jihadi awakening currently under way and the degeneration state of affairs of the invaders in Afghanistan and Iraq will make it impossible for Iran or America to become the sole decision-maker in the region. (emphasis mine)

This sounds an awful lot like the old “why don’t you and him go fight?” strategy to me. Doesn’t seem like you’d be too inclined to push Iran to the brink of war with the United States if you were really working hand-in-glove with Tehran like some have been insinuating.