The phenomenon of Global Jihad, Al-Qaeda being its most prominent player, has been present in the Middle East for more than two decades; however, to a great extent, it was and still remains an enigma. The number of opinions as to the gravity of this threat today equals the number of researchers. Opinions range from total dismissal and a conclusive determination that this is a marginal phenomenon and an organization that has become a thing of the past, to viewing it as a material and undefeated threat, which could undermine the very foundations of the Western world’s existence.
In the first decade of its existence, Al-Qaeda was characterized by being a centralized organization, aggressively operated by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. However, when the more the threats against it intensified in Afghanistan, particularly after the September 11th 2001 terror attacks, the need (and on occasion the opportunity) to operate in a number of theaters simultaneously arose. Following the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the organization started gradually moving from a centralized structure to a decentralized organization.1 However, it should be noted, that the first signs of the decentralization policy were also present during the centralized period – the reliance on strong allies (initially on countries such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan, and later on organizations such as the Taliban and presently, on allies on the tribal level) and delegating operative responsibilities to the entities perpetrating the attacks (the leadership determined the target of the terror attack and the operatives in the field determined the characteristics of its actual execution).