Letter to Zarqawi
An article by the Washington Post suggests that Al Qaeda has finally realized how disastrous its failure to establish a united front has been in Iraq. (Hat tip, DL.) The Washington Post article is based on captured correspondence between Ayman Zawahiri to Abu Musab Zarqawi and lays out the strategic context of Al Qaeda's efforts in Iraq.
The letter of instructions and requests outlines a four-stage plan, according to officials: First, expel American forces from Iraq. Second, establish a caliphate over as much of Iraq as possible. Third, extend the jihad to neighboring countries, with specific reference to Egypt and the Levant -- a term that describes Syria and Lebanon. And finally, war against Israel.
From this basis Zarqawi is reminded that the priority is to expel the United States from Iraq. Only in the second phase will the Shi'ites be put in their place when Al Qaeda establishes "a caliphate over as much of Iraq as possible". In that regard Zawahiri has calls on Zarqawi to tone down his media message of brutality against the Shi'a presumably so that both can focus on driving out the hated Americans. In other words, it is a call for a national united front, which is always an act in two parts: cameraderie in the first followed by betrayal in the second.
... Zawahiri writes about the need to maintain popular support ... he rebukes the leader of Iraq's insurgency for its brutal tactics -- noting that hostages can just as effectively be killed with bullets rather than by beheading, officials said.
But the velvet glove only temporarily masks the iron fist. When America is driven from Iraq, Al Qaeda will turn anew on the Shi'a and Kurds and the caliphate will established over all Iraq. Moreover, contrary to the claims of George Galloway and the peace movement, an American withdrawal from Iraq will bring no end to hostilities. A retreating United States will be pursued until it is destroyed.
But bin Laden's deputy also purportedly makes clear that the war would not end with an American withdrawal and that anything other than religious rule in Iraq would be dangerous. "And it is that the Mujaheddin 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," the letter reportedly says.
(Speculation alert) Implicit within Zawarhiri's message is an admission that the insurgency is headed for defeat unless it changes it's policies and thereby its fortunes. Al Qaeda must have viewed with mounting alarm the increasing numbers of Iraqi troops that the US can field against them. The campaigns against the Euphrates and Tigris lines and the seize and hold operations now in progress must be hurting them. Therefore, despite their theological antipathy for the Shi'ites it must have occurred to them that their car bombs, beheadings, outrages and gratuitous murders -- all dutifully reported by a media thinking it might chill American resolve -- were working against them; this brutality was driving the Shia and the Kurds into American arms. And now Zawahiri admits this policy may be leading to their defeat.
It is tempting to thank all those who have made this possible, beginning with those who believed that playing up the insurgency's gruesome work on the front pages would project the 'helplessness' of America and contrast it's impotence with the puissance of Abu Musab Zarqawis 'freedom fighters'. Mention should go to everyone who argued that 'insurgent losses did not matter'; that body counts were irrelevant when following the development of an insurgency. Finally, a special award should be given to everyone who ignored the buildup of Iraqi forces and the establishment of an Iraqi State as being futile and beyond the wit and capability of the US; who believed even recently that only 1 of 3 Iraqi battalions in existence were fighting the insurgency, when in fact there were 100. Perhaps the downside of the insurgency's 'media-combined arms' campaign was that it not only fooled some of the public, but it misled themselves as well.
It is foolish to gloat because the task ahead is still great and fraught with danger. As Zawahiri's message made clear, Iraq is but the first phase in an attempt to create a global caliphate. Today Iraq, tomorrow the World. Where have we heard that before?