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As the ripple effects of revolutionary change continue to be felt throughout much of the Arab world, al-Qaeda has been conspicuously silent.

The group, which has for years denounced autocratic Arab leaders as puppets of the West, appears to have watched from a distance, as events continue to unfold - from Tunisia, to Egypt, following the ouster of presidents Zinel Abedine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.

Osama Bin Laden has not uttered a single word about the changes sweeping the region. And when Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two, spoke recently, he reiterated the group's known stance.

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, says those protesting against him are led by al-Qaeda. He claims an Islamic state has been established in the eastern provinces of his country. 

Is al-Qaeda a factor in the Arab revolts of 2011, or is its specter simply a tool used to forestall the march of history? Are they a player or a spectator? And how will change in the Arab world impact al-Qaeda's influence in the region?

Inside Story, with presenter Ghida Fakhry, discusses with Robert Grenier, the former director of the counter-terrorism unit of the CIA; Kamal Helbawy, the founder of the Muslim Association of Britain; and Phil Rees, a terrorism expert and author of Dining With Terrorists: Meetings With the World's Most Wanted Militants.

This episode of Inside Story aired from Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

Source: Al Jazeera