Deciphering Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Al-Qaeda’s Strategic and Ideological Imperatives

Sajjan M. Gohel


This research paper explores the current strategic and ideological agenda of al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. To better understand how al-Zawahiri aims to retain international relevance, survival and sustainability, the paper assesses al-Zawahiri’s speeches and actions in recent years that articulate his world-view objectives. Importantly, this paper will argue that although the “Far Enemy” remains a priority, and will not be abandoned by al-Qaeda, al-Zawahiri has renewed the terrorist group’s emphasis on the “Near Enemy” and seeks to create safe bases across the Islamic world for al-Qaeda and its affiliates to function and grow. This paper will also illustrate that it would be naive to dismiss al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda’s relevance as a global threat as the Egyptian is laying the foundations for al-Qaeda’s future. The paper also compares and contrasts al-Zawahiri’s historical motivations and how that fits into his current doctrine. Lastly, this paper dissects al-Zawahiri’s paradoxical nature and mixed messaging which could impact on al-Qaeda’s attempts to replenish the terrorist group’s ranks.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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