Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Al-Zawahiri's letter to al-Zarqawi

In We're Winning II: What the Other Side Thinks, I mentioned a letter that American intelligence had intercepted, sent by Usama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Iraq. At the time, the actual letter had not been released, so I depending on a Washington Post account of how a "senior administration official" described the letter to the Post reporter.

Earlier today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the text of the letter. You can find it here in both English and Arabic.

Several things seem apparent from my read of the letter.

1) Just as the Post reported, the goals of Al Quada are to first "Expel the Americans from Iraq," second, to "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". Third, "Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq." Last but not least, the "the clash with Israel" will occur.

2) They recognize that in order to achieve their goals they must win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people: "The strongest weapon which the mujahedeen popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq."

3) Ayman al-Zawahiri seems to think that the United States is on the verge of leaving Iraq. "Things may develop faster than we imagine", he says, and they goes on to draw a parallel to Vietnam.

The writer is either delusional, is so locked into an ideology he can't see reality, is watching too much CNN (joke alert there, liberal readers), or desperately trying to encourage al-Zarqawi, who he fears may becomming disillusioned.

4) In perhaps the most revealing part of the entire letter, al-Zawahiri fears that they are losing the battle:

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.

According to Wikopedia, Umma is defined as "the entire population of Muslims", and that "Umma is often cited by Muslim extremists as the path or the reason they engage in their struggle", where in the end "everyone converts or is converted to Islam."

5)The reason why they fear they are losing in the media becomes apparent in another part of the letter, where al-Zawahiri recognizes that many or most Muslims abhor their attacks on civilians:

>Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable - also- are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God.

Although the language is couched in the best diplomat-speak, the true meaning is clear; we've got a public-relations problem among Muslims, who as supposed to be their supporters. Worse, they have no idea how to solve it. al-Zawahiri ends up blaming it on "the malicious, perfidious, and fallacious campaign by the deceptive and fabricated media." In other words, "damn the people, they don't 'get it'"

6) Al Qaeda sees the Shia as heretics, or as they put it, as "People of discernment and knowledge among Muslims know the extent of danger to Islam of the Twelve'er school of Shiism. It is a religious school based on excess and falsehood whose function is to accuse the companions of Muhammad { of heresy in a campaign against Islam...." However, they also recognize that their attacks on ordinary Shia civilians are creating problems. Al-Zawahiri warns al-Zarqawi that "Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia", and that this really becomes a problem when mosques are attacked. Zawahiri raises many questions in the letter, but does not come to any real conclusions on the matter. He ends by simply warning Zarquai not to let his "eyes lose sight of the target", and that he is too far from the scene of battle to have all the facts.

7) The letter concludes with most of the flowery rhetoric we've seen in past writings, but also with a warning:

Please take every caution in the meetings, especially when someone claims to carry an important letter or contributions. It was in this way that they arrested Khalid Sheikh. Likewise, please, if you want to meet one of your assistants, I hope that you don't meet him in a public place or in a place that is not known to you. I hope that you would meet him in a secure place, not the place of your residence.

In other words, "the Americans have damn good intelligence."

Concluding Thoughts

Strange, then, this war. we who support our efforts blame our media for getting it wrong, and so does Al-Qaeda. We think that our media is putting a negative spin on the news, they think it's virtually an arm of the US government. Either way, apparently Al-Jazeera isn't doing a good enough job.

Further, we need to take care and not simply consult our own sources of media when trying to reach conclusions about this war. I should do more of this myself, the only other Al Qaeda document I wrote about was Osama bin Laden's 1996 Fatwa.

Other Analysis

John Hinderaker of Power Line takes down the NYT's editorial on the letter and provides his own analysis. Hinderaker concludes that

Zawahiri's letter is a valuable document. It lays out al Qaeda's strategy for victory in Iraq and the world. It demonstrates al Qaeda's growing unpopularity, its weakness and its vulnerability to American intelligence. And it protests feebly against al Qaeda's descent into unalloyed nihilism and sadism--the ultimate destination of all totalitarian creeds. The Times says that it doesn't know whether Zarqawi received Zawahiri's letter or not, but it doesn't matter. If Zarqawi got it--or if he read it in the newspaper--he tossed it into the wastebasket.

Austin Bay, as usual, has important insights: "Strategic Analysis and Discussion, and "Zarqawi's Losing Strategy"(which I linked to yesterday). Money quote:

Zarqawi's murder spree has revealed fissures among Al-Qaida fanatics. Last week, the United States released a letter coalition intelligence believes Al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sent to Zarqawi. Zawahiri describes Iraq as "the greatest battle for Islam in our era." But Iraq has become a political and information battle that Zawahiri realizes Al-Qaida may be losing.

In February 2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts and minds.

If you're not reading Bill Roggio you simply don't know what's going on. His coverage of the ground campaigns in Iraq simply cannot be found elsewhere. Roggio is cautiously optimistic:

Today's news of a compromise over the constitution must come as chilling news for al Qaeda high command...This constitutional compromise can drive a stake through the heart of al Qaeda's "hearts and minds" approach in Iraq. Al Qaeda's short-term goals of establishing a base of operations in Iraq and striking out at the greater Middle East may have to be pushed back to a mid or long term goal.

Lastly, CENTCOM weighs in on their website, providing "official" commentary and analysis.


Apparently some people have started to speculate that the letter is a fake. Andrew McCarthy, writing on NRO, doesn't think so, and offers five reasons why:

First, the letter is dated July 9, but we don’t when it was intercepted. For obvious intelligence reasons, there is always a delay between interception and public release — as there was when a letter from Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden was intercepted in early 2004.

Second, al Qaeda has been collaborating with Shiites (such as Hezbollah) for over a decade, and — as Zawahiri stressed to Zarqawi — has reason to fear a backlash from Shiite Iran if it overdoes the sectarian violence because the mullahs are harboring scores of high-ranking al Qaeda members (probably including one of bin Laden’s sons).

Third, Zarqawi has always gone his own way and often had uneasy relations with al Qaeda’s hierarchy. They embraced him because he is ruthless and effective, not because they are crazy about him. Moreover, he has long had his own relationships with Iran and Hezbollah, and thus has his own ideas (which may differ much from Zawahiri’s) about how far he can go against the Shia without risking Iranian reprisals. (The Iranians may not like the anti-Shiite terrorism, but they will abide it to the extent its effect is to cause problems for the American occupation, which is militant Islam’s goal.) Plus, Zawahiri acknowledged in the letter that Zarqawi was on the ground in Iraq while he was not, and thus Zarqawi knows the situation best.

Fourth, while al Qaeda’s leadership is on the run (and thus not easy to send a check to), worldwide jihad fundraising is pouring into the site of the great battle, Iraq — where it is undoubtedly being pooled with piles of Oil-for-Food money. It should thus come as no surprise that Zarqawi’s circumstances allow him to dispense funds while Zawahiri’s are desperate.

Finally, the ostensibly strange “send greetings to Zarqawi” is easily explained. The substance of the 6,000-word letter leaves no doubt that Zarqawi was the intended recipient. But the letter ends by telling the unnamed addressee to say "Hello" to Zarqawi in Fallujah. This plainly is misdirection. Zawahiri probably does not know where Zarqawi is, and was plainly trying to confuse anyone who might intercept the letter. Plus, to lock onto Lawrence’s theory for a moment, if someone was trying to forge a letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi in order to help the Bush administration (Lawrence’s transparent bottom line) why would that someone sow doubt about whether the letter was really intended for Zarqawi in the first place? That would defeat the purpose of the purported fraud.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Thé reason, despite all other matters, to support the President

A few days ago, on October 6, President Bush made a remarkable speech on the ‘War on Terror’. The speech is just terrific: it covers so much issues, Bush says it like it is – stepping on many toes in the process – and he doesn’t fool you: there will be no gain without pain. The speech was long overdue, but it was worth waiting for it; I have no doubt that much time and effort has gone in preparing it. I have selected big chunks from the speech, while adding my comments, but just read the whole speech yourself.

The President starts a bit dramatically:

And we remember the calling that came to us on that day (9/11), and continues to this hour: We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.
No surrender!

The images and experience of September the 11th are unique for Americans. Yet the evil of that morning has reappeared on other days, in other places.
In case you have forgotten.

Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism.
In my experience, I have never heard a politician use this phrase.

A call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus
The fact that India has been the target of terrorist attacks for many times, has been too easily forgotten.

Bush about who the enemy is:

global, borderless terrorist organizations like al Qaeda … regional groups, often associated with al Qaeda … local cells … more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command … Yet these operatives, fighting on scattered battlefields, share a similar ideology and vision for our world
We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it -- in videos, and audiotapes, and letters, and declarations, and websites.
Some prefer to remain blind to reality, while there has been a historical precedent, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The President explains:
First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. … They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.
Ouch, some of his predecessors surely will not have liked this one.

Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country. … Now they've set their sights on Iraq. … terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.
I have not been able to see the video of his speech, but I hope Bush stressed that last sentence.

Third, the militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe (wake up, euroweenies, and smell the coffee, dak), to assault the American people, and to blackmail our government into isolation.
Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. Well, they are fanatical and extreme -- and they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed.
Given our Western rationality it is tempting not to take our enemy’s motives serious.

Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously -- and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.
Inevitably this reminds me of a certain A.H. in the past, no to appeasement!

The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization
Say no to that!

They have been sheltered by authoritarian regimes, allies of convenience like Syria and Iran
"I have got two more piggies left to wash"

and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West and America, and on the Jews.
That is a special one for the Palestinians.

The militants are aided, as well, by elements of the Arab (he could have left out that word, dak) news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism, that feed conspiracy theories and speak of a so-called American "war on Islam" -- with seldom a word about American action to protect Muslims in Afghanistan, and Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Iraq
That point should be made more often.

Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 -- and al Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse.
That is one for the anti-war movement.

In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of the killers -- and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.
They target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence (And this one is for the Spaniards, dak). Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down (never!) , never give in (NEVER!), and never accept anything less than complete victory.

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century
He (OBL, dak) assures them that his -- that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride.
Always in for a good joke now and then.

When 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, or Iraqi teachers are executed at their school, or hospital workers are killed caring for the wounded, this is murder, pure and simple.
When will the media get rid of their "un-partisanship"?

Under their rule, they have banned books, and desecrated historical monuments, and brutalized women.
Let us talk more about that, instead of about Abu Ghraib of over Guantanamo.

Zarqawi has said that Americans are, quote, "the most cowardly of God's creatures." But let's be clear: It is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs, and cuts the throat of a bound captive, and targets worshipers leaving a mosque.
Eat this, sucker! I love it, when he does that.

And Islamic radicalism, like the ideology of communism, contains inherent contradictions that doom it to failure.
We didn't ask for this global struggle, but we're answering history's call with confidence, and a comprehensive strategy. Defeating a broad and adaptive network requires patience, constant pressure, and strong partners in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and beyond.
Unilateralism, you said?

First, we're determined to prevent the attacks of terrorist networks before they occur. We're reorganizing our government to give this nation a broad and coordinated homeland defense. … Second, we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes, and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation.
I hope they heard him in Iran.

Third, we're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes.
In case Syria and Iran didn’t hear him the first time.

Fourth, we're determined to deny the militants control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and a launching pad for terror.
They will have to impeach Bush before the US will leave Iraq without completing the mission.

Area by area, city by city, we're conducting offensive operations to clear out enemy forces, and leaving behind Iraqi units to prevent the enemy from returning.
Are the media paying attention?

Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified.

By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress -- from tyranny, to liberation, to national elections, to the writing of a constitution, in the space of two-and-a-half years. … Progress isn't easy, but it is steady.
Honest, but true!

And no fair-minded person should ignore, deny, or dismiss the achievements of the Iraqi people.
This one is for the media.

We've heard it suggested that Iraq's democracy must be on shaky ground because Iraqis are arguing with each other. But that's the essence of democracy
But some people seem to have a different notion of “democracy”.

Some observers also claim that America would be better off by cutting our losses and leaving Iraq now. This is a dangerous illusion, refuted with a simple question: Would the United States and other free nations be more safe, or less safe, with Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq, its people, and its resources?
Do I have to answer this one?

There's always a temptation, in the middle of a long struggle, to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world, and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder. This would be a pleasant world, but it's not the world we live in. … This enemy considers every retreat of the civilized world as an invitation to greater violence.
The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East. This is a difficult and long-term project, yet there's no alternative to it.
This man does not want to fool you: no pain, no gain.

Our future and the future of that region are linked.
We're encouraging our friends in the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to take the path of reform, to strengthen their own societies in the fight against terror by respecting the rights and choices of their own people.
I was waiting for it and finally he said it, sorry for doubting you, Mr. P.

The time has come for all responsible Islamic leaders to join in denouncing an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends, and defiles a noble faith.
Let there be no misunderstanding, no apologies.

In conclusion:
With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers. And yet the fight we have joined is also the current expression of an ancient struggle, between those who put their faith in dictators, and those who put their faith in the people. Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision -- and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure -- until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent -- until the day that free men and women defeat them.
We don't know the course of our own struggle -- the course our own struggle will take -- or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.
My dear American friends, do you realize what a wonderful President you have? He may be flawed, but the most important thing is that he is absolutely right on this oh so important, even the most important issue of our time. The world can only hope that your next leaders are cut out of the same wood.