AQAP leader cites U.S. Capitol riot as evidence of America’s supposed decline

In a newly released video, Khalid Batarfi, the emir of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), cites the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Trump as evidence of America’s supposed decline. The production demonstrates that Batarfi was not detained in October of last year, as claimed in a recent U.N. report.

The video, produced by AQAP’s Al Malahem Media, opens with a montage of scenes from the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C. Nearly 11 minutes in, Batarfi discusses the political discord in America, portraying it as a sign that Allah is making the U.S. pay for its supposed misdeeds.

“The incident of breaking into the Congress is only a little bit of what will happen to them by permission of Allah,” Batarfi says, according to the rough English transcript provided by Al Malahem. “And whoever thinks that this matter will be ceased at this limit, or that somebody can stop the overwhelming imminent collapse of America, certainly he is mistaken and deceived.”

Earlier in the video, Batarfi discusses the coronavirus pandemic, and decries the decision by “Arab tyrants” to normalize relations “with the worst enemy of Islam and Muslims, the Jewish occupiers,” meaning Israel.

Much of Batarfi’s speech is dedicated to the reasons he says America’s fall has been preordained.

“Today, who is more oppressive than America the sponsor of disbelief, the promoter of dissoluteness and corruption, and the supporter of tyrants to overpower human beings everywhere,” Batarfi rhetorically asks. “What is happening today in America is a definite result” and “an inevitable destiny” due to its “unjust policies and to its continuous support to every criminal and enemy not only to Islam and Muslims,” but also others who are “completely dependent on her.”

Batarfi goes on to portray a series of calamities and natural occurrences as evidence of Allah’s will. He cites “hurricanes and tornados,” as well as “diseases and epidemics, which are concentrated on them such as anthrax.” He also points to the “economic crises, which paralysed her and baffled her politicians.”

Of course, there are other, rational explanations for each of these problems.

Batarfi also says that it is “worth mentioning the Torment of Allah that hit America by the hands of his slaves, the Mujahideen.” He lists a series of terrorist attacks, including in Riyadh in the 1990s, as well as “the first bombingof the World Trade Center in New York in the year 93,” the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 USS Cole bombing, the 9/11 hijackings and other operations.

The AQAP leader also trumpets the fact that the U.S. sought to negotiate with the Taliban. The jihadists have succeeded in “bleeding” America “militarily and economically in Iraq and Afghanistan, which forced her to negotiate with [the] Taliban movement.” In addition, America’s soldiers were targeted in Somalia and “individual operations [on] the ground of America” (a reference to lone jihadist attacks) have taken a toll as well.

The AQAP man further cites America’s racial and economic divide as evidence for his claims.

“Today, America takes the lion’s share of [the coronavirus] epidemic and comes at the top of the list of the perished, which has reached more than 400,000,” Batarfi says. “And whoever thinks that these disasters and adversities have nothing to do with the practices of America, certainly has no knowledge of the way of Allah on the oppressors and how Allah [punishes] them and then seizes them with a severe punishment.” 

The video concludes with a clip of Osama bin Laden threatening America as footage of the 9/11 hijackings is shown on screen. This is followed by footage of operations by the “mujahideen in Afghanistan,” Shabaab in Somalia, jihadists in Syria and the Islamic Maghreb, as well as an image of Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani (Al-Shamrani). The clips shown are undoubtedly intended to underscore the idea that al Qaeda maintains a cohesive global network, despite the setbacks it has suffered.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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