On September 27, 2011, the media wing of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the seventh issue of the English-language jihadist magazine Inspire.
The cover of the 20-page issue, which is dated Fall 1432 (2011), shows an image of the World Trade Center made out of dollar signs. The cover story, written by editor-in-chief Yahya Ibrahim and titled “The Greatest Special Operation of All Time,” is dedicated to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The magazine was released 16 days after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and was provided exclusively to the Al-Fida forum, which is operated by Al-Qaeda’s media company Al-Fajr. It can be assumed that the venue was Al-Fida because the main jihadi forum Shumoukh Al-Islam, which released all previous issues of Inspire, went offline on September 26, 2011, after loading slowly for several days. A message posted by one of its administrators on Al-Fida claimed that Shumoukh Al-Islam had been shut down for maintenance and would be back online shortly. However, Al-Fida members speculated that Shumoukh had been the target of a cyber attack. The magazine was released about 24 hours after Shumoukh went offline.
Shumoukh reappeared online about five hours later, and this incident is similar to what happened prior to the release of the first issue of Inspire, in June 2010. According to media reports, a debate was underway about Inspire magazine within the U.S. government and military; there were also reports of the U.K. government’s handling of online jihad, and Inspire magazine in particular. A June 2, 2011 article in The Guardian revealed that U.S. Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander had argued that blocking the online release of the magazine was a legitimate counterterrorism objective, while the CIA argued that such an action would expose sources and methods and disrupt an important source of intelligence. According to the report, the CIA won out, and the proposal to block the magazine’s online release was rejected. But as the debate was underway within the U.S. government, British government cyber-warriors went ahead with their own plan, and corrupted the original release.
The following is a general review of issue seven of Inspire:
Letter From the Editor: 9/11 is “Merely An Episode in a Long, Protracted War”
Issue VII of Inspire includes a letter from editor-in-chief Yahya Ibrahim stating that this issue is a “special supplement to the great events of the Expeditions of Washington DC and New York, as Shaykh Usama would call it, or simply 9/11. As America mourns and we celebrate this glorious event, we look into what 9/11 means ten years on.” He praises Osama bin Laden, noting that “9/11 has left a permanent scar on the American psyche and will live long after in the hearts of every American. The pain, suffering and agony that Shakyh Usama brought to America is fair payback.” He also warns that 9/11 was “merely an episode in a long, protracted war that started at the time of the Messenger of Allah.”
Al-Qaeda Criticizes Iran for Promoting 9/11 Conspiracy Theories
An op-ed by “Abu Suhail” – which, according to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and as noted in a previous MEMRI report on Issue V of Inspire, is an alias once used by American Al-Qaeda operative Adam Gadahn – claims that Iran has promoted conspiracy theories about who is really behind 9/11 because it is envious of Al-Qaeda’s prowess and accomplishments: “Iran and the Shi’a in general do not want to give Al-Qaeda credit for the greatest and biggest operation ever committed against America because this would expose their lip-service jihad against the Great Satan.”
This article is the latest in a dispute between Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Hizbullah. In April 2008, Al-Qaeda’s media wing Al-Sahab released a two-hour audio recording by Al-Zawahiri that was a response to questions posted on Al-Qaeda forums for him to answer, earlier that year. One question concerned “the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.” Al-Zawahiri accused Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television of starting the rumor, saying, “The purpose of this lie is clear – (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it.”
Yahya Ibrahim on “The Greatest Special Operation of All Time”
In the cover article, titled “The Greatest Special Operation Of All Time: The Expeditions Of Washington D.C. And New York,” editor-in-chief Yahya Ibrahim sets out the reasons behind the 9/11 attacks and the consequences of the attacks for the U.S. Ibrahim says that the 9/11 attacks were catalyzed by decades of American aggression [against Muslims], and by U.S. support for the state of Israel – support, he said, that is the main reason behind the continued Israeli occupation of the Holy Land. He enumerates further reasons for the 9/11 attacks: the U.S. attack and subsequent embargo of Iraq in the first Gulf War, which led to the deaths of over a million and a half Iraqis; the desecration of the Arabian Peninsula by its stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia; and U.S. support for authoritarian regimes [in the Arab world].
Samir Khan Praises Online Jihad
In another lead article, U.S.-born Samir Khan hails Al-Qaeda’s “media jihad” as a component in the war against the U.S. that is equal in importance to actual attacks on it. Khan asserts that Al-Qaeda has won the preliminary stages of the battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims, thus ensuring that the organization’s ideology will live on. One of the reasons for this victory, he explains, lies in the fact that the West and the media present Al-Qaeda’s ideology as nothing but terrorism, whereas the organization’s creed is that of Islam, a fact that earns it the support of Muslims. Khan concludes the article by listing the four key elements which enable Al-Qaeda to win the media war: the technological savvy of Al-Qaeda’s media operatives, the U.S.’s failure to respond to Al-Qaeda’s propaganda, the U.S.’s media “blunders” which damage its image in Muslim public opinion, and the general suspicion with which Muslims view the U.S.
A Decade in Photos – From 9/11 To Today
This section of Inspire comprises 10 pages of photos of the 9/11 attacks, with quotes from Al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Khalid Hussain, Abu Musab Al-Suri, and Anwar Al-Awlaki. Also included are quotes from leaders of Al-Qaeda offshoots AQAP and Al-Shabab.
A Threat Against New York?
The last pages of the magazine include a quote by Faisal Shahzad, perpetrator of the failed May 1, 2010, Times Square car bombing: “Brace yourself for war with Muslims. I am just the first drop in what will be a flood.” The quote is superimposed on a photo of Times Square.
The last page is an image of Grand Central Station in New York City, with text noting that “coming soon” is an article by Anwar Al-Awlaki, titled “Targeting the Populations of Countries That Are At War with the Muslims.” Also promised as “coming soon” is an exclusive interview with Adam Gadahn, titled “The Arab Intifada, Hopes, Concerns and Dangers.”
It should be noted that Issues V and VI of Inspire promised an upcoming Q&A with Anwar Al-Awlaki that has not yet materialized. The announcement read: “Send your questions to Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki. We will hold an exclusive video interview with the Shaykh where he will answer your questions. See the contact page for details on sending an e-mail to al-Malahem.”
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to Readers: “How to Communicate With Us”
As in previous issues, Issue VII offers readers encryption codes for directly contacting them. They also note to readers that they have changed their public encryption code.
*Steven Stalinsky is the Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch Report No. 4166, “Uncertainty on a First-Tier Al-Qaeda Forum After Apparent Cyber-Attack – Followed By Release of Issue 7 of AQAP’s ‘Inspire Magazine’,” September 27, 2011.
 The Guardian, June 2, 2011.
 See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Report No. 680, “Issue V of ‘Inspire,’ the English-Language Magazine of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – A General Review,” March 30, 2011. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5155.htm
 BBC, April 22, 2008
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch Report No. 4168, “Inspire Editor Yahya Ibrahim On 9/11: “The Greatest Special Operation Of All Time,” September 27, 2011. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5681.htm
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch Report No. 4169, “Issue 7 – American Jihadi Samir Khan: ‘A Powerful Media Production is as Hard-Hitting as an Operation in America,'” September 27, 2011. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5680.htm
 See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Report No. 704, “Al-Qaeda’s Embrace of Encryption Technology: 2007-2011,” July 12, 2011. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5457.htm