Al-Zawahiri Releases New Message with Focus on the Levant and Iraq

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 30

Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri

Jihadi web forums released a new audio message on July 19 from Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of al-Qaeda. [1] The message, entitled “Al-Quds Will Never be Judaized,” is only the second from al-Zawahiri since last December and the first since last May.  Al-Zawahiri started his message saying the resistance of the Taliban in the February clashes in Marjah, Afghanistan proved the February arrest of Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had not damaged the movement. The mention of these two events suggests that his message was recorded several months ago. Most importantly, however, was the message’s focus on the Levant and Iraq after two years of decline by al-Qaeda and affiliated Salafist-Jihadi groups in these regions.

Al-Zawahiri begins his message by congratulating the Muslim ummah (community of believers) and the Amir al-Mu’minin (the Commander of the Faithful), “the patient mujahid, Mullah Omar” for his “imminent victory” and his “steadfastness against infidels and tyranny." Al-Zawahiri renewed his bay’at (allegiance pledge) to Mullah Omar, saying, "We renew our vow of allegiance to you… on the path of jihad in the name of Allah.” In this context, al-Zawahiri criticized the "Arab and international media" because they broadcast "little about the numerous and various operations of the mujahideen in the all parts of Afghanistan. In contrast, if Hezbollah released a captive or launched a missile, festivals will be held and hours on the [satellite] channels will be given [to discuss that].” This explains al-Zawahiri’s constant praise for the “knights of jihadi media” in their efforts to support jihad.

Building the overall picture of the jihadi movement, al-Zawahiri shed light on the enemies beside U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the “Arab Zionists” who “are more dangerous than the Jewish Zionists,” according to al-Zawahiri. “Who is besieging our people in Gaza and is surrounding them with an underground metal fence? Is he not the chief of Arab Zionists [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak? …Who is providing his intelligence service to serve U.S. intelligence and [Israel’s] Mossad? Is he not the heir of traitors, Abdullah, the son of [late King] Hussein of Jordan, and who is aiding Mossad to kill the Mujahideen and capture them? Is he not the Arab Zionist [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas?"

Al-Zawahiri also criticized the presence of Muslim troops in Afghanistan:

"It is shameful that there are, among the followers of the Crusaders and their servants in Afghanistan, governments that falsely claim to be affiliated to Islam. In addition to the government of thieves and bribes in Pakistan, there are in Afghanistan troops from Turkey, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt. Not to mention the international cooperation to hunt down the mujahideen everywhere and the media campaigns against them, throwing various charges at them, as well as intelligence cooperation in investigation, torture and recruitment; all these have been done by these countries [who have enmity against] Islam."

Demonstrating the importance of the jihadi movement’s presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and their alliances there, al-Zawahiri vowed to the Kashmir people that support will come soon from the mujahideen. Al-Zawahiri also hailed the emergence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), describing this as a result of the jihad against the United States. A video version of al-Zawahiri’s message produced by as-Sahab Media Productions (al-Qaeda’s media arm) added footage of TTP leader Hakimullah Mahsud stating the movement is waging jihad against the Pakistani army and the “kaffir” [infidel] government of Pakistan to achieve two goals: to invalidate all treaties with the United States and to establish an Islamic Shari’a state in Pakistan. [2]

The Afghanistan-Pakistan region plays a large part in the overall Salafi-Jihadist movement’s strategy. Al-Zawahiri said “imminent victory” will result from the defeat of the Pakistan government and its army. Al-Zawahiri also hailed the “victories” of jihadi movements in Yemen, Somalia, the Caucasus, the Islamic Maghreb and Iraq, which the Salafists now aim to recreate as a jihadi hub in the “liberation of Palestine.”

Regarding al-Quds (Jerusalem), al-Zawahiri criticized Arab leaders for not stopping what he called the “Judaization” of Jerusalem. Al-Zawahiri claimed that Arab leaders dedicated half a billion dollars to support people there, which it had not yet paid, while Israel spent 17 billion dollars for “works of Judaization”.

Al-Zawahiri aims to link Iraq to what he calls the “mujahideen in Palestine,” indicating that Iraq is still an important landscape for Salafi-Jihadists. He directed part of his message to the emerging Salafi-Jihadist movement in Palestine, saying, “The jihad of the Islamic State of Iraq represents a real hope for changing the situation and [to serve the] quest for the liberation of Palestine. So, hasten to build bridges between you and them [the Iraqi mujahideen].” Al-Zawahiri urges the “mujahideen of Palestine” not to replace the concepts of “the role of Shari’a,” “the brotherhood of faith” and “jihad” with destructive concepts such as “sovereignty of the people,” “national unity” and “national liberation.” Al-Zawahiri seems to be criticizing Hamas, without mentioning the movement by name, adding, “If Chechnya – for example – is a Russian internal affair, so too can Palestine be an internal affair of Israel.”

Al-Zawahiri also urged President Obama to admit defeat in Afghanistan:

"Poor Obama comes to Kabul pledging that the Taliban will not return to power… You threaten the Taliban [but] you are just a puppet of the tyrants… We will see who will not return to Kabul because he will flee it hastily in fear. Obama, whether you admit it or not, Muslims have defeated you in Iraq and Afghanistan and will defeat you in Palestine, Somalia and the Islamic Maghreb."

Taking into consideration the considerable volume of literature from jihadist leaders since 2003 that considers Iraq a golden opportunity to confront American troops and to use it as a launching pad to “liberate Palestine,” it is obvious that al-Qaeda continues to consider the Levant and Iraq as the most important elements of the movement’s political and geographical ambitions. Since al-Qaeda has lost the positions it gained in Iraq between 2004 and 2007, it is possible that the Salafist-Jihadis will renew their focus on that region in the near future.

Note

1. As-Sahab Media Production, July 19, the tape was downloaded from al-Fallujah Islamic Forums, July 19, temporary website. From this link: http://110.4.44.55/~faaall3s/vb/showthread.php?t=126233. All quotes in this article are from al-Zawahiri’s mentioned audiotape.
2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAam_QH_5KU