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Al Qaeda Leader's Letter Questions Zarqawi Tactics

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2005 – A letter from al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, intended for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda terrorist leader in Iraq, chided Zarqawi for some of his tactics.

The letter, intercepted before it reached Zarqawi, listed incremental jihadist goals. The first is to "expel the Americans from Iraq."

U.S. intelligence authorities have the "highest confidence" in the authenticity of the letter, which they say was intercepted during a counterintelligence operation in Iraq.

The 13-page letter, released Oct. 12, questioned Zarqawi's attacks on innocent Shiia in Iraq and his "slaughtering" of hostages.

Zawahiri tells Zarqawi that the battle against the "crusaders" - a term he uses repeatedly in the letter - is being fought in the media. "We are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of the Umma (the followers of Islam)," Zawahiri wrote.

This is the only way al Qaeda can win this war, the senior al Qaeda leader wrote. He said in the letter that no matter what al Qaeda's capabilities "they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the Kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us."

This media battle is why Zawahiri wants Zarqawi to stop attacks on Shiia in Iraq and slaughtering the hostages - they look bad on television. Zawahiri wants Zarqawi to build a larger base in Iraq, and killing innocent men, women and children is not the way to go, the al Qaeda leader said.

Zawahiri did not suddenly discover a love for the Shiia. In the letter, he continually calls them collaborators with the crusaders and a people who have sold out to the Americans. Zawahiri - an Egyptian follower of Osama bin Laden - simply wants Zarqawi to concentrate on the Americans before moving on to the Shiia.

Zawahiri sets other incremental goals for Zarqawi in Iraq. He wants Zarqawi to establish an Islamic amirate in Iraq and support it until it achieves the level of caliphate. The caliphs were the successors of the Prophet Muhammed.

Once the Islamic government is established in Iraq, Zawahiri calls for it to expand into neighboring countries. "It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world, specifically in the Levant, Egypt, and the neighboring states of the peninsula and Iraq," Zawahiri wrote.

But the step toward the al Qaeda's version of a perfect world starts with expelling the Americans from Iraq. He asked Zarqawi to begin preparations for that day immediately.

"Things may develop faster than we imagine," he wrote. "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam - and how they ran and left their agents - is noteworthy."

Zawahiri counseled Zarqawi to continue political action while conducting "military" action - terrorist attacks. He warned Zarqawi not to separate his organization from the masses of people in Iraq.

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Related Sites:
Letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi


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