- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

Given the “tragedy TV” quality of U.S. media reporting on Iraq, it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that a large segment of Americans is demoralized about the war and that President Bush’s poll numbers plummeted. But new documents written by a senior member of al Qaeda that were captured by U.S. forces suggest that the terrorists (A) believe, contrary to prominent sectors of the American media, that they are declining in strength; and B) believe that the American military and the Iraqi government have been able to withstand terrorist attacks; and C) appear to view the foreign (i.e., American) media as easy to manipulate into portraying the insurgents as successful — even if the facts on the ground suggest otherwise.

The documents, captured in an April 16 raid and posted on Central Command’s Web site, were written by an unidentified person “of significance” in al Qaeda. Clearly, the writer is deeply worried that the Sunni terrorist networks are losing support from fellow Sunnis and may be no match for Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militias, particularly in Baghdad.

The writer warns darkly that “the Shi’ites have a power and influence in Baghdad that cannot be taken lightly, particularly when the power of the Ministries of Interior and Defense is given to them, compared with the power of the mujahidin [al Qaeda in Iraq, headed by Abu Musab Zarqawi, and Sunni terrorist groups aligned with it] in Baghdad.” Moreover, the writer laments that “the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and closer to controlling it while the mujahidin (who represent the backbone of the Sunni people) are not considered more than a daily annoyance” to the Iraqi government.

The writer also suggests that the Zarqawi terror network is hardly a match for coalition forces or the Iraqi police and military. So, rather than taking on armies, it has been reduced to finding the softest possible targets, and that this is costing them Muslim popular support: “The only power the mujahidin have is what they have already demonstrated in hunting down drifted patrols and taking sniper shots at those patrol members who stray far from their patrols, or planting booby traps among the citizens and hiding among them in the hope that the explosions will injure an American or members of the government. In other words, these activities could be understood as hitting the scared and hiding ones, which is an image that requires a concerted effort to change, as well as Allah’s wisdom.”

These are but a few of the problems al Qaeda in Iraq is facing. Taken together, the documents are a manifesto of despair. For example, “the Americans and the [Iraqi] government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad…That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the mujahidin’s control and influence over Baghdad.”

Elsewhere, the al Qaeda operative complains: that the group has run low on ammunition in Baghdad and is having difficulty resupplying its forces; that the insurgency will be further damaged by the formation of Sunni units in the Iraqi National Guard, that the United States is undercutting support for the jihadists by helping Sunnis form radio and television stations; and that al Qaeda’s preoccupation with carrying out deadly suicide attacks in order to win media attention is squandering resources that should be devoted to capturing territory — something the Zarqawi forces are finding it increasingly difficult to do.

The Sunni jihadists have been able to conceal their acute weaknesses by using what the writer says is a “media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area” — in other words, to use suicide bombings as a tactic to camouflage their failure to capture and hold territory. Thus far, however, this important story has largely escaped the attention of the mainstream media.

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