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December 18, 2005
Al Qaeda split?
If you want a better understanding of Al Qaeda strategy, read Thomas Donnelly's thought—provoking analysis of the letter from Bin Laden's sidekick Zawahiri to the murderous Zarqawi, who heads "Al Qaeda in Iraq."
The letter, dated July 9, was intercepted in Iraq and looks genuine. In it, Zawahiri scolds Zarqawi on the following grounds:
1. Don't chop people's heads on recruiting videos. Just shoot them.
Donnelly hints at a split between the bin Laden faction which claims to head Al Qaeda worldwide, and is concerned with public opinion in the Muslim world.
2. Don't think you're the boss.
Don't "be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and description of you as the sheikh of the slaughterers, etc." "Sheikh of slaughterers" is a term of praise in militant Islam.
3. Don't kill too many Shias.
Both Zawahiri and Zarkawi are Sunnis, and consider Shia Muslims to be deviant. Zarqawi has been bombing Shia mosques for months, desperately trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq. The elections this past week suggest that he has failed. Zawahiri tells Zarqawi that many Muslims don't support the slaughter of Shias. "[T]he Jihadist movement must avoid any action that the masses do not understand or approve."
4. The first strategic goal is to conquer the core Muslim world.
The Levant of course includes Israel. The destruction of Israel is one point of agreement between the Iranian Mullahs and Sunni Al Qaida.
5. Send money!
Apparently the extreme violence practiced by Zarqawi is a more effective way to raise money than bin Laden's worldwide notoriety. US intelligence — the parts of it that are not trying to damage the war effort — probably knows a lot about the sources of money for Zarqawi, presumably including Syria and Saudi Arabia. To the Saudis, Zarqawi is a proxy fighting for Sunni control of Iraq.
But if the election is any indication, the best they can hope for is a government in which Sunni, Shia and Kurds are all represented.
Which is the whole point of elections, of course. Democracy is the beginning of politics, not the end.