Last week I spent a few minutes discussing the letter US intelligence intercepted. As you recall it was from Ayman al-Zawahiri and sent to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a copy of the letter in both Arabic and English.
You can find a copy here.
What this letter does is reaffirm my personal beliefs and that of many others regarding the future plans of Al Qaeda. One of the challenges we face is in conducting an analysis that is not based upon our cultural values and ideas.
The letter should not be read and understood the way that a Westerner does. Instead we need to try and understand it as it is understood by the author and intended recipient. If we work at that and do what we can to gain a better understanding we can be more effective at fighting the war of ideology.
I’d like to share a couple sections from the English translation with you.
“C-If our intended goal in this age is the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet and if we expect to establish its state predominantly-according to how it appears to us-in the heart of the Islamic world, then your efforts and sacrifices-God permitting-are a large step directly towards that goal.
So we must think for a long time about our next steps and how we want to attain it, and it is my humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals:”
This is where he reaffirms that the end goal is to establish a caliphate. And then he outlines the steps to achieve this goal.
“The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.
The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill this void, whether those whom the Americans will leave behind them, or those among the un-Islamic forces who will try to jump at taking power.
There is no doubt that this amirate will enter into a fierce struggle with the foreign infidel forces, and those supporting them among the local forces, to put it in a state of constant preoccupation with defending itself, to make it impossible for it to establish a stable state which could proclaim a caliphate, and to keep the Jihadist groups in a constant state of war, until these forces find a chance to annihilate them.
The third stage: Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.
The fourth stage: It may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.
My raising this idea-I don’t claim that it’s infallible-is only to stress something extremely important. And it is that the mujahedeen 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. Instead, their ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection.”
As it says there it doesn’ t end with a pull out of troops. And if you read the letter and other things that have been written you can see that this has been a goal for a long time. Some argue that AQ hated Saddam and that we did them a favor by taking him out.
I think that it is fair to say that they had severe philosophical differences, but none so heavy that they would have refused to work together. AQ is patient and will use whatever tools they have access to. They could have tried to use Saddam until such time as their power was at its peak and at that point tried to oust him themselves.
“D-If we look at the two short-term goals, which are removing the Americans and establishing an Islamic amirate in Iraq, or a caliphate if possible, then, we will see that the strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy – after the help and granting of success by God – is popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq, and the surrounding Muslim countries.
So, we must maintain this support as best we can, and we should strive to increase it, on the condition that striving for that support does not lead to any concession in the laws of the Sharia.”
He understands the power of the media and is very concerned about what impression is given off. This suggests to me that there are opportunities here that we can and should be exploiting to our own advantage.
A couple more sections to share with you.
“My answer is, firstly: Things may develop faster than we imagine. The aftermath of the
collapse of American power in Vietnam-and how they ran and left their agents-is noteworthy. Because of that, we must be ready starting now, before events overtake us, and before we are surprised by the conspiracies of the Americans and the United Nations and their plans to fill the void behind them. We must take the initiative and impose a fait accompli upon our enemies, instead of the enemy imposing one on us, wherein our lot would be to merely resist their schemes”
They are not stupid. They read and think. They look to history and try to use it to their advantage. We mustn’t allow ourselves to underestimate their intelligence or their resolve. I think that in Afghanistan they fell victim to a problem I addressed earlier about cultural misunderstandings, but you can be assured that they are working on overcoming that.
“However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma.”
Again, the media is mentioned. If this is an opportunity for them it is for us as well. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be working on things that will improve our image. Get into more places in Iraq and do what we can to improve life for the ordinary citizen and it will pay off. We can do better and we can use the media to help make the situation at large better.