It’s almost like he knows no matter how well intentioned some of the protesters are, in the end it won’t be democracy that prevails, rather a hard-line theocratic Islamic state.

(LWJ)Ayman al Zawahiri’s top deputy, Thirwat Salah Shehata, has released a statement praising the Egyptian people and calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.

Shehata is a longtime member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a core part of al Qaeda, and has served Zawahiri since the 1980s. In the statement, which was released on jihadist message boards known to carry al Qaeda propaganda, Shehata calls on the Egyptian people to “remain steadfast” and refuse to settle for economic concessions from Mubarak’s regime.

“Indeed, the Pharaoh and his rotten party must depart,” Shehata says.

There is no evidence that the EIJ has played any role in Egypt’s turmoil. In fact, Shehata laments his organization’s inability to be “on the front lines sharing this honor.” The EIJ was “forced to leave the country after the regime’s war against us,” Shehata says, “and we ended up participating with the mujahedin on other fronts.”

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi publication, an anonymous source close to the EIJ said that Shehata’s “statement was issued from Tehran where Shehata is currently residing.” Shehata and other top EIJ operatives received shelter in Iran after the Sept. 11 attacks.