The Washington Post is running an article today in which it relates the details of a letter from Osama Bin Laden’s boy Ayman Zawahiri to Abu Musab Zarqawi.
The letter is from this past July and provides some interesting and noteworthy information. Let’s look at the pieces of the article.
“But the letter, described by one senior administration official as a “treatise” from Ayman Zawahiri, also warns Abu Musab Zarqawi against alienating the Islamic world, and virtually reprimands the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda for beheading hostages and then distributing videotapes, officials said.”
These are not stupid people. It appears to me that they have some concerns about alienating the Muslim world. We are going to need their help, so I have to admit that I am not happy about their recognition of this, but so be it.
The letter then supplies an outline of their goals:
“The letter of instructions and requests outlines a four-stage plan, according to officials: First, expel American forces from Iraq. Second, establish a caliphate over as much of Iraq as possible. Third, extend the jihad to neighboring countries, with specific reference to Egypt and the Levant — a term that describes Syria and Lebanon. And finally, war against Israel.”
“U.S. officials say they were struck by the letter’s emphasis on the centrality of Iraq to al Qaeda’s long-term mission. One of the two excerpts provided by officials quotes Zawahiri, a former doctor from Egypt, telling his Jordanian-born ally, “I want to be the first to congratulate you for what God has blessed you with in terms of fighting in the heart of the Islamic world, which was formerly the field for major battles in Islam’s history, and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era.”
“But bin Laden’s deputy also purportedly makes clear that the war would not end with an American withdrawal and that anything other than religious rule in Iraq would be dangerous.
“And it is that the Mujaheddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us,” the letter reportedly says.”
“In one indication of tensions between the al Qaeda leadership and its Iraqi division, U.S. officials said, Zawahiri writes about the need to maintain popular support. He is critical of Shiite Muslims and says a clash between the Sunni-dominated movement and the Shiite sect is inevitable, officials said, but he rebukes the leader of Iraq’s insurgency for its brutal tactics — noting that hostages can just as effectively be killed with bullets rather than by beheading, officials said.
The letter may indicate al Qaeda’s recognition of Muslim public opinion, said one Middle East scholar.
“If the letter’s true, it’s new because they haven’t shown any particular avoidance of certain ruthless tactics. It says to me they are concerned about the way they are being perceived in the Muslim world,” said Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland.
“The vast majority of people in the Arab world sympathize with al Qaeda only because it champions their issues and speaks their language and it’s seemingly effective against their enemies. But most would not want al Qaeda to be the rulers. They would be repulsed to have someone like Zarqawi, who is beheading people, to head their government,” he said.
Zarqawi appears not to have heeded the message, because insurgents have continued the beheadings, including two this week.”
“Bin Laden’s deputy has spoken before about the broad plans for the al Qaeda movement. In a book smuggled out of Afghanistan in December 2001, Zawahiri said the goal of jihad is to establish a religious state throughout the Islamic world and “reinstate its fallen caliphate and regain its lost glory.”
The long term goal for the West has got to be finding a way to marginalize AQ so that its philosophy is not considered to be important and or significant. We have to find opportunities to provide a safe and secure platform for moderates to use, that is assuming there are real moderate voices in the Muslim world. This is a hope of mine, but I am not convinced yet that these people exist.