This Associated Press account interprets al-Zawahri’s latest communique as calling for Sunni-Shi’ite unity against the US and Israel, taking a tip from the cementing of the Hamas-Hezbollah conjunction since the Lebanon crisis. If so, al-Zawahri’s followers in Iraq don’t seem to have gotten the word. From AP, July 28:
Al-Qaida’s No. 2 expands call for holy war
CAIRO – Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader called yesterday for Muslims to unite in a holy war against Israel and to join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from “Spain to Iraq.”
Ayman al-Zawahri’s taped message, the first from al-Qaida since Israel began offensives against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, was a sweeping recruiting effort that even called on non-Muslims to join the Islamic cause.
Addressing the world’s “downtrodden,” al-Zawahri said non-Muslims should join Islamic militants in the battle against “tyrannical Western civilization and its leader, America.”
The White House dismissed the tape as propaganda.
“It is hardly new for Mr. al-Zawahri, from his place in hiding, to issue threats,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said. “One of the weapons is to use the media, and use the Internet and use mass communications as a way of fomenting hatred and encouraging violence, and this certainly fits into that pattern.”
Kamal Habib, a former member of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad militant group who was jailed from 1981-1991 along with al-Zawahri, said the appeal to non-Muslims was unprecedented and reflected a change in tactics.
“This is a transformation in the vision of al-Qaida and its struggle with the United States. It is now trying to unite Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims and calling for non-Muslims to join the fight,” he said.
Al-Zawahri said al-Qaida planned to attack opponents wherever they are vulnerable.
“All the world is a battlefield open in front of us,” he said in portions of the tape broadcast by Al-Jazeera television. “Like they attack us everywhere, we will attack them everywhere.”
But the Egyptian-born militant saved most of his vitriol for Israel.
“The war with Israel does not depend on cease-fires…It is a jihad [holy war] for the sake of God and will last until [our] religion prevails…from Spain to Iraq,” al-Zawahri said.