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Friday, June 30, 2006

Bin Laden on Zarqawi: Having cake, eating too 


We have long argued that the United States is not the only power to suffer from "blowback" in its foreign policy. Al Qaeda does too, to its great disadvantage.

Osama Bin Laden knows this. After having embraced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he cannot deny his links to al Qaeda, but he can spin them. There are hints that he may be doing this in some of the press accounts of Bin Laden's latest audio recording, released late Thursday.

If there was a split between al Qaeda central command and the Zarkman, it turned on the desireability of slaughtering Arabs, particularly Shiites. According to the BBC's bio of Zarqawi, last updated in November 2005,

According to BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera, Zarqawi's increasingly bloody attacks on the Shias are alienating many in the insurgency, including some Sunni Muslims who are its strongest backers.

A letter released by US forces in 2005 - allegedly authored by Bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and addressed to Zarqawi - appears to support this.

In the letter, whose authenticity remains in doubt, Zawahiri purportedly cautions Zarqawi that indiscriminate attacks on the Shia are eroding support for al-Qaeda.

Zawahiri's warning came before the bombing of the Golden Mosque, the match that exploded the sectarian violence in Iraq and probably led indirectly to the deal that betrayed Zarqawi. (Coincidentally, it appears that we have just captured the Golden Mosque bombers, who were linked to Zarqawi, but perhaps not under his direct command.) Much as al Qaeda central wished he would cool it, Zarqawi loved to slaughter innocent Arabs, especially if they were Shia.

In yesterday's tape, Bin Laden wants to have it both ways. He calls Zarqawi a "lion" of Islam, and claims to be "deeply saddened" by the passing of the barberous creature. At the same time, he knows that Zarqawi's atrocities hurt al Qaeda's rep with the "street." Bin Laden says, in effect, that Zarqawi left the reservation:
In an apparent reference to a campaign against Iraq's Shias by Zarqawi, Bin Laden addressed "those who accuse Abu Musab of killing certain sectors of the Iraqi people".

"Abu Musab had clear instructions to focus his fight on the occupiers," he went on, "particularly the Americans and to leave aside anyone who remains neutral."

In other words, when he was killing Americans he was al Qaeda, but when he killed innocent Arabs he was gone rogue. It would be interesting to see whether the average Iraqi Shiite is silly enough to fall for that argument. I doubt it.

8 Comments:

By Blogger 2164th, at Fri Jun 30, 03:17:00 AM:

Interesting observation although the penultimate sentence is puzzling. A recent Pew study on Muslim socities showed on average a 50% disbelieve in Islamic involevment in 911. I believe they may be just silly enough.  

By Blogger Chris Lawrence, at Fri Jun 30, 04:00:00 AM:

"In other words, when he was killing Americans he was al Qaeda, but when he killed innocent Arabs he was gone rogue."

It actually reads more like a denial that Zarqawi ever attacked other Muslims at all. Note that it is addressed at "those who accuse Abu Musab of killing certain sectors of the Iraqi people," rather than actually acknowledging that Zark was responsible for attacks on Shiite civilians.

Of course, the average Iraqi Shiite is even less likely to buy this story from Osama-the-unviewable than the "Zark gone rogue" version, especially since A-Q in all its incarnations (not to mention its Taliban pals) has never shown any particular aversion to killing Muslims.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Fri Jun 30, 07:33:00 AM:

My thought on hearing about this latest bin Laden press release was: Isn't he a little late to the party?

I'm not sure this guy is as relevant as he apparently thinks he still is.

Maybe if he came out of his cave more?  

By Blogger The Analyzer, at Fri Jun 30, 09:05:00 AM:

Osama wants Zarqawi's body

Pretty funny stuff.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Fri Jun 30, 09:25:00 AM:

Don’t think this will change the way the terrorists in Iraq conduct their bombings a bit. You highlighted the wrong part. “Leave aside anyone who remains neutral”. Translated: “Kill everybody who aligns themselves with Americans and their puppet regime and leave behind a sea of chaos where nobody is in charge.” Americans want to leave behind a stable government with peace and prosperity and freedom. Terrorists want to leave behind a mass of murderous thugs mixed in with poor starving sheeple.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Fri Jun 30, 09:40:00 AM:

While I agree with your conclusion that UBL is spinning Zark's death even though it was a convenient outcome, I would argue that Zark's "turning point" related not to his attacking Shiites, but to his bombing of Jordanians and Palestinians (Sunnis) in Amman. I think Jordanian intel played at least as big a role in nailing him as Iraqi and AQ sellouts.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Jun 30, 10:11:00 PM:

Jordanian and Egyptian intelligence both claimed participation (unofficially, I think) in the operation soon after it was broadcast. It's not unreasonable to think that perhaps one or both countries turned or infiltrated an agent or three into AQ/Iraq, and that's the source of the "Zarqawi Betrayed" claim.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat Jul 01, 01:10:00 AM:

I don't disagree that Jordan may well have been involved -- they are supposed to have the best security agency among the Arab countries. I didn't meant to suggest otherwise. I don't think that excludes Shiite participation, though -- I doubt this was simply a matter of one piece of intelligence from a single source.  

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