Al-Zawahiri: kinder, gentler jihad?

A July 9 letter from al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to the organization’s supposed leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has allegedly been obtained by US forces in Iraq. The letter, released to the media, calls for the establishment of local emirates as an interim measure towards re-establishment of new Caliphate. It also appears to take issue with the tactic of mass murder of Shi’ites, even while demonizing Shi’ites as collaborators with the “Crusaders.”

DEAR brother, We received your last published message sent to Sheikh Usama Bin Ladin. The summer started hot with operations escalating in Afghanistan. The real danger comes from the agent Pakistani army that is carrying out operations in the tribal areas looking for mujahedeen.

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.

It is my humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several goals. Expel the Americans from Iraq. Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate. Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighbouring Iraq. The fourth stage: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.

The strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy – after the help and granting of success by God – is popular support from the Muslim masses. The victory of Islam will not be accomplished by the mujahed movement while it is cut off from public support.

Our planning must strive to involve the Muslim masses in the battle. The movement must avoid any action the masses do not understand or approve. We must not throw the masses – scant in knowledge – into the sea before we teach them to swim.

The Americans will exit soon, God willing, and the establishment of a governing authority – as soon as the country is freed from the Americans – does not depend on force alone. Indeed, it is imperative that in addition to force, there be an appeasement of Muslims and a sharing with them in governance. It does not appear that the mujahedeen, much less the al-Qa’ida in the Land of Two Rivers, will lay claim to governance without the Iraqi people.

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.

We don’t want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance to the students and the people of Kandahar alone. They did not have any representation for the Afghan people in their ruling regime, so the result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them. When the invasion came, the amirate collapsed in days, because the people were either passive or hostile. You must become a consensus, entity, organisation or association that represents all the honourable people and the loyal folks in Iraq. I repeat the warning against separating from the masses, whatever the danger.

The Shia’s history in co-operating with the enemies of Islam is consistent with their current reality of connivance with the Crusaders. The collision between any state based on the model of prophecy with the Shia is a matter that will happen sooner or later. This is the judgment of history. The majority of Muslims do not comprehend this and possibly could not even imagine it. For that reason, many of your Muslim admirers among the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia. The sharpness of this questioning increases when the attacks are on one of their mosques. My opinion is that this matter won’t be acceptable to the Muslim populace however much you have tried to explain it, and aversion to this will continue. Questions will circulate among mujahedeen opinion makers about the correctness of this conflict with the Shia. Is it something that is unavoidable? Or is it something that can be put off until the force of the mujahed movement in Iraq gets stronger? Is the opening of another front now in addition to the front against the Americans and the government a wise decision? Or does this conflict with the

Shia lift the burden from the Americans by diverting the mujahedeen to the Shia, while the Americans continue to control matters from afar?

And if the attacks on Shia leaders were necessary to put a stop to their plans, then why were there attacks on ordinary Shia? Won’t this lead to reinforcing false ideas in their minds? And can the mujahedeen kill all of the Shia in Iraq? Has any Islamic state in history ever tried that? And why kill ordinary Shia, considering that they are forgiven because of their ignorance? And do the brothers forget that we have more than one hundred prisoners – many of whom are from the leadership who are wanted in their countries – in the custody of the Iranians? And even if we attack the Shia out of necessity, then why do you announce this matter and make it public, which compels the Iranians to take counter-measures? And do the brothers forget that both we and the Iranians need to refrain from harming each other at this time in which the Americans are targeting us?

Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable 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. 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 favour and blessing of God. And your response, while true, might be: why shouldn’t we sow terror in the hearts of the Crusaders and their helpers? And isn’t the destruction of the villages and the cities on the heads of their inhabitants more cruel than slaughtering? And we would spare the people from the effect of questions about the usefulness of our actions in the hearts and minds of the general opinion that is essentially sympathetic to us. And I say to you with sure feeling and I say: that the author of these lines has tasted the bitterness of American brutality, and that my favourite wife’s chest was crushed by a concrete ceiling and she went on calling for aid to lift the stone block off her chest until she breathed her last, may God have mercy on her and accept her among the martyrs. And to this day I do not know the location of the graves of my wife, my son, my daughter and the rest of the three other families who were pulverised by the concrete ceiling.

Despite all of this, I say to you: 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 hearts and minds. And that however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us. And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don’t need this.

Your loving brother,
Abu Muhammad

From The Australian, Oct. 14

See our last post on Iraq, and al-Zawahiri.