View Full Version : A Split on Strategy?

12-17-2005, 04:14 PM
16 Dec. American Enterprise Institute - A Split on Strategy? (http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.23592,filter.all/pub_detail.asp).

On Oct. 11 the White House released a translation of a communique from al-Qaida's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The letter, dated July 9, was intercepted as the result of a raid conducted shortly thereafter in Iraq. That the administration chose to publish the letter so quickly--indeed, at all--indicates not only a White House scrambling to bolster its poll numbers but a hopeful belief that the letter reveals an enemy in some disarray.

There certainly is a dispute over tactics between Zawahiri and Zarqawi. But at its core, it would seem the real issue is one of strategy, and because it is reasonable to presume Zawahiri speaks for Osama bin Laden, the difference is probably a profound one. The view from al-Qaida headquarters in Pakistan is that Zarqawi's extremely violent tactics in Iraq are counterproductive: "Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace will never find palatable," writes Zawahiri, "are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages."

Zawahiri acknowledges the psychic satisfaction of chopping Americans' heads off, but presses Zarqawi not to "be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and description of you as the sheik of the slaughterers, etc." This is hardly an injunction to show mercy: "[W]e can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts." To be blunt, "We don't need this."

Bin Laden, Zawahiri and the senior al-Qaida leaders see themselves, as does the Bush administration, in a large and long war for the future of the region, beyond Iraq. Zawahiri admonishes Zarqawi that "we are in a battle, and that more than half this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media."...