Monday, May 04, 2009

From Iraq to 'AFPAK' : Analyzing Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri's Latest Video Statement

PART OF A SERIES OF RESEARCH NOTES FROM MY CURRENT PROJECT, "The Art of the Martyr & Mujahid" (all materials copyrighted):



Banner advertisements for new video productions. These are used on the major Salafi Sunni jihadi online discussion forums to announce new press releases, both on video and in writing.

In mid-April, the Egyptian medical doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, the chief ideologue of al-Qa'ida "Central" (AQC)*, was featured as the chief narrator of the latest video "press"/propaganda release from the organization's sophisticated media wing, al-Sahab (The Clouds). On May 2, an official English transcript was posted on the Ansar al-Jihad Network forums. It was produced by the Global Islamic Media Front, one of several media outlets associated with AQ Central.

The transcript, which runs to 16 pages typed and covers a range of topics, from Palestine to Afghanistan-Pakistan, could be the focus of quite a lengthy post. However, I will focus here on a few key statements made by al-Zawahiri with regard to AQC's current areas of focus. The organization, and its regional affiliates (often loosely affiliated), has publicly announced that its key areas of operational concern presently are: (1) Afghanistan-Pakistan, and (2) Somalia.

A spate of recent, deadly attacks in Iraq, primarily targeting Iraqi Shi'is and foreign Shi'i pilgrims near religious shrines, suggest that jihadi groups in Iraq see a potential opening now that the focus of the U.S. military and government is shifting to Afghanistan-Pakistan. The release is entitled "Six Years since the Invasion of Iraq, 30 Years since the Signing of the Peace Accords with Israel," the latter referring to the U.S.-brokered "cold" peace between autocratic Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and hardline Israeli Likud prime minister and former Irgun militant Menachem Begin in 1979.

Not surprisingly, al-Zawahiri is intensely critical of the Egyptian-Israeli peace accords, which he argues precipitated the increasing refusal of Egypt, as well as other Arab states, to support the Palestinians and, in effect, support Israeli military occupation and wars against its neighbors (the Palestinians, Lebanon, Iraq):

" of the most important results of the accords was the exclusion of Egypt from the Arab‐Israeli conflict. Thus, Israel became stronger in the region. It attacked Lebanon a number of times, it struck the nuclear reactor in Iraq, and finally, it perpetrated murder, destruction and ruin in Gaza. The Arabs, especially the Egyptian government, watch silently; rather, many of them encourage and support Israel."

The segments with al-Zawahiri's narration (there is no "live" video footage) are interspersed with video clips from a variety of news sources, ranging from Arabic satellite TV interviews to clips of interviews, in English, with former U.S. soldiers discussing President Barack Obama's "trading" of one war and occupation (Iraq), for another (Afghanistan, and by extension, Pakistan).

With regard to Iraq, al-Zawahiri says:

"As for Iraq, the land of the ['Abbasid] Caliphate, six years have come to pass since its invasion by the Christian Crusaders. All praise is due to [God], six years of loss and failure and [six years of] American being stuck in the quagmire of two wars in the Islamic world. They have no idea how to get out of them without defeat, loss and economic drain."

The 'Abbasid Caliphate, from its capitals of Baghdad and Samarra (alternating), ruled much of the central Middle East from 750-1258, though from 950-1258 the 'Abbasid rulers (caliphs) were mostly figureheads.

"These six years has seen the formation of resilient Jihadi groups in Iraq which caused and still continue to cause the failure of the American Crusader plan in the heart of the Islamic world. Honorable and defiant Jihadi groups have formed, the Islamic State of Iraq in their lead, may Allah bring it victory. Arab and non‐Arab forces of evil have all joined forces and wealth to fight and conspire against them, defacing them and causing strife within their ranks, torturing their members and desecrating their honor. Despite all this, the forces of Jihad in Iraq, especially the Islamic State of Iraq, have remained resolute and high like a lofty mountain unshaken by calamities or storms, by the Grace and Favor of [God]."

The recent discord between Iraqi Arabs and Kurds, and the Shi'i-dominated Iraqi government and the majority-Sunni "Awakening" councils (tribal militias) do not bode well for the much-needed political stability in Iraq. Renewed attacks on Shi'i civilians and pilgrims also could damage the increased security achieved in recent months.

Flying in the face of bogus allegations made by American Neoconservatives and conservatives that AQC and the Islamic Republic of Iran are "secret" allies, he accuses the Shi'i-majority and led state of being an ally in the U.S. occupation and assault on Iraq and Afghanistan:

"These six years have exposed the reality of those who claim to follow Islam, at the same time working with the invading Crusaders to occupy Muslim lands in Iraq and Afghanistan. These six years have exposed the dangerous role played and which continues to be played by Iran and the forces under its leadership, by working with the Crusader occupiers against the Muslims of Iraq and Afghanistan. How can it be that the leading legal authorities of the Shi’ites, who regard themselves as general agents of the 12th Imam, never issued even one fatwa stating the obligation of Jihad against the Crusader infidels who have invaded the Muslim lands of Iraq and Afghanistan."

Perhaps the most interesting of al-Zawahiri's statements is the following, which is addressed to AQ in the Land of the Rivers and its allies, primarily the Islamic State of Iraq, a loose umbrella of Salafi jihadi groups:

"Receive the good news that your brothers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are making the Crusader enemy and its agents to taste the bitterest of punishments, and they are inflicting such harm on them that even the whispers of Satan have ceased. Deal with them forcefully where you are, for your brothers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are dealing with them forcefully here."

The message is clear: Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban and local groups using the name "Taliban" (though most are probably not intimately connected to "the" original Taliban and AQ's cadres in those two countries) are resurgent, are AQC's new central focus. The organization's attention seems to have shifted with President Obama's. The conflict in those two countries is being used here as a motivator for the jihadis in Iraq.

"Islamic State of Iraq: [The] Islamic State, with God's Permission,
[Will] Remain(s)"

Copyright. From the author's personal collection.

Al-Zawahiri attacks those Muslim religious scholars ('ulama) and jurists who do not support the goals of AQC and those who have actively opposed them (the vast majority). He calls for the "truthful scholars" to support the organization's wars:

"I specifically call out to the truthful scholars of this Ummah who openly speak the truth, exposing the realities for the Ummah, clarifying who are the traitors who sell it to the Crusaders and the [Israelis] and who are the truthful Mujahidoon who sacrifice their lives, wealth and everything they own for its honor and nobility."

The Arabic word "Ummah" means "nation," and specifically here as the global Muslim community, a community which is ideally (but not in practice) "unified."

"I call upon the truthful scholars of the Ummah to expose those who barter the religion, the traitors who worked with the Crusader occupiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, those who to this day have not even given one verdict stating the obligation of fighting the Crusaders in Iraq and Afghanistan. How can they give this verdict against those who brought them on the points of their spears to seats of power? I call on them to encourage the Ummah to set out to the various battlefields of Jihad, especially Iraq, for it is the gateway to Jerusalem, [God] willing. I call upon them to warn the Ummah from the demoralizing scholars, those who ask them to remain behind and leave the Mujahidoon to face this Crusade when the Mujahidoon have never stopped encouraging them."

He dispels any notion that Obama is better, or even that different, from the former U.S. "Decider," George W. Bush:

"Six years after the invasion of Iraq and more than seven years after the invasion of Afghanistan, you have tasted, are still tasting, and will continue to taste the results of the stupidity of Bush and his criminal gang. However, your new president, Obama, has not changed the way the Muslims and the weak and oppressed view America in the least.


America is still the one killing Muslims in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is still the one
stealing their resources, occupying their lands, and supporting corrupt traitorous thieves in power in their lands. So the situation has not improved, rather it may worsen.


Kill, torture and imprison whom you wish, but this will never lessen the severity of the Jihad
against you the least. You are facing an Ummah which believes in Jihad, Tawheed, and staying garrisoned which rose to stand against your oppression and crimes. Obama seeking to increase military presence in Afghanistan and to continue to launch airstrikes in Pakistan is only pouring fuel into an already ignited fire, exposing you to even more losses, deaths and handicapped. Obama’s claim that he can compromise with moderate elements of the Taliban is a false notion, one which he is either using to fool you, fool himself, or both."

Al-Zawahiri closes with a message to Americans about "Obama's 'good' war" in Afghanistan and Pakistan:

"The Taliban and all the Mujahidoon in Afghanistan and Pakistan are fighting under the leadership of the Ameer Al‐Mu’mineen, Mullah Muhammad Omar – may Allah protect him, the heroic Muslim Mujahid who challenged you with the Power and Help of Allah, and so Allah made him steadfast. Here you are today being defeated by his Mujahidoon. Mullah Omar – may Allah protect him ‐ made a statement which ought to be written in the history of Islam and humanity with golden ink. He said it in the most difficult of times, when the Crusader storm had laid siege on Afghanistan. He – may Allah protect him – said: “Bush has promised us defeat, while Allah has promised us victory… we will see whose promise is more truthful." O Americans! Haven’t you learned anything? Or are you still lost in your materialism, scrambling behind Obama who is leading you to the same fate as the British and the Russians in Afghanistan? Obama’s claim that he can solve the problem of Afghanistan and Iraq by coming to an understanding with Iran is another false notion with which he is fooling you. Iran is not bold enough to even take a step into Afghanistan, as it knows more than others about the Afghanis and their history. All it can do is to supply aid, weapons and money to its agents in Afghanistan, but this is something the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has already faced, gathering its agents together into 5% its land area. As for Iraq, Iran with its limited strength and after implanting so much hatred for it in the hearts of the Muslims and Mujahidoon cannot succeed in something which you totally failed in despite all your strength and tyranny. Rather, your cooperation with Iran has tainted its face in front of all Muslims. The more you work with it, the more the Muslims hate it. Thus, it is a plan which is bound to fail, for it only instigates the Muslim Ummah and encourages it even more, and exposes the extent of Iran’s dangerous role to stab the Ummah in its back even more."

This renewed focus on Afghanistan-Pakistan by AQC's chief ideologue, and the individual, more than Usama bin Laden, who is the real "brains" behind the organization, is important to note. With the scheduled drawdown of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and the rapid increase of military forces in Afghanistan, together with a thus-far pliant Pakistani regime led by the corrupt president, "Mr. 10%" Asif 'Ali Zardari, AQC is shifting its focus, and presumably the bulk of its resources, to the "new old" war in Southwest Asia. With numerous regional affiliates and independent insurgent groups in Iraq and North Africa, AQC will still be able to influence events in the central Middle East and North Africa while bleeding U.S., NATO, Afghan, and Pakistani forces in "AFPAK," the war which now belongs to Obama, he of "change."

Al-Sahab video stills from a video about an August 2008 coordinated "martyrdom" operation in which a team of Taliban fighters, including six kamikaze bombers, stormed the U.S. military base of Camp Salerno in southeastern Afghanistan, very close to the country's border with Pakistan.


Al-Zawahiri's sharp focus on Afghanistan-Pakistan is part of a clearly discernible pattern in the publishing of AQ and its regional allies and affiliates, such as the Taliban, during April. In addition to his video, AQ media outlets have released a slew of new video and written messages, including ones from Shaykh (leader) Mustafa 'Abd al-Yazid, commander of the Arab jihadis in "AFPAK," and a lengthy treatise penned by Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan jihadi commander on the ground, in which the state of Pakistan is identified as a legitimate target due to its long alliance with the U.S. 'Abd al-Yazid also penned a recent statement entitled, "The Looming Victory in Afghanistan."

Spear to Fight Pakistan (Yahya Libi)
The cover of al-Libi's treatise, entitled, "The Spear to Fight the Government and Army of Pakistan." CLICK HERE.

A video dubbed in Urdu was just released by al-Sahab, showing "martyr" testimonies and then their "martyrdom operation," a vehicle bombing.



Media outlets affiliates with the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the old name for the country under the Taliban, have released a video of guerilla operations in the country. It is one of the few videos not predominantly in Arabic. I have not yet identified the language(s), but I am guessing this video, entitled "Nasr min Allah" (Victory from God), is in both Pashtun and Dari (the Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan). The video features statements from guerillas and video footage of attacks on Afghan, Pakistani, U.S., and NATO positions and vehicles. Some of the attacks have been verified by U.S. and NATO military forces.

A monthly Internet magazine, al-Samoud, is also published in Arabic under the imprint of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." Short booklets of photographs depicting guerilla attacks have also been produced. Urdu language magazines are also produced.

Al-Samoud 35

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