- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The White House said yesterday that a letter from al Qaeda’s second in command to his top deputy in Iraq shows that leaders of Osama bin Laden’s terror group are concerned that Iraq is slipping out of their control.

The 6,000-word letter from bin Laden’s chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri, to Abu Musab Zarqawi, the insurgent leader in Iraq, gives a detailed critique of the war to date and criticizes insurgents for attacking fellow Muslims.

“The letter reflects Zawahri’s concerns that developments in Iraq are turning against al Qaeda,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

In the letter, al-Zawahri questions Zarqawi about his beheading of hostages, warning that Muslims will “never find palatable … the scenes of slaughtering.”

The July 9 letter, released this week in English and Arabic by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which said it had “the highest confidence” of its authenticity, recommends a four-stage expansion of the war that begins with Islamic radicals taking over Iraq and then waging war with neighboring Muslim countries.

“It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established … in the heart of the Islamic world,” wrote al-Zawahri, who was forced underground after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

He lays out a systematic plan: Expel the Americans from Iraq, establish an Islamic authority and take the war to Iraq’s secular neighbors, including Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

The final stage, al-Zawahri wrote, would be a clash with Israel, which he said was established to challenge “any new Islamic entity.”

“If we look at the two short-term goals, which are removing the Americans and establishing an Islamic emirate in Iraq, or a caliphate if possible, then, we will see that the strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy — after the help and granting of success by God — is popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq, and the surrounding Muslim countries,” al-Zawahri wrote.

“However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma,” the Muslim community or people, considered to extend from Mauritania to Pakistan.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the letter “shows clearly the nature of the enemy we’re dealing with.”

“This isn’t a question of hearts and minds; it’s a question of bodies and gore, quite frankly — meaning that this is a … network and this is a confederacy of evil that will stop at nothing to advance its radical agenda, and that agenda was made very clear,” he said.

“It’s a caliphate that will start in Iraq and move to take over Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and practice the kind of abuse and intolerance and perfidy that we saw under the Taliban in Afghanistan, which was in cahoots with these guys,” Mr. Ereli said.

“Those who claim to be speaking in the name of Islam and representing Islam can be seen by Muslims to be the perverters of the religion that they are,” he said.

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