Although `Atiyah praises Zarqawi’s military success against coalition forces in Iraq, he is most concerned with Zarqawi’s failure to understand al-Qa`ida’s broader strategic objective: attracting mass support among the wider Sunni Muslim community. `Atiyah reminds Zarqawi that military actions must be subservient to al-Qa`ida’s long-term political goals. Zarqawi’s use of violence against popular Sunni leaders, according to `Atiyah, is undermining al-Qa`ida’s ability to win the “hearts of the people.”
According to `Atiyah, Zarqawi’s widening scope of operations, culminating with the November 2005 hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan, has alienated fellow Sunnis and reduced support for the global al-Qa`ida movement. In this vein, `Atiyah instructs Zarqawi to avoid killing popular Iraqi Sunni leaders because such actions alienate the very populations that al-Qa`ida seeks to attract to its cause.3 `Atiyah also encourages Zarqawi to forge strategic relationships with moderate Sunnis, particularly tribal and religious leaders, even if these leaders do not accept Zarqawi’s religious positions.
`Atiyah instructs Zarqawi to follow orders from Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri on major strategic issues, such as initiating a war against Shiites; undertaking large-scale operations; or operating outside of Iraq. `Atiyah goes on to criticize Zarqawi’s board of advisors in Iraq for their lack of adequate political and religious expertise, and he warns Zarqawi against the sin of arrogance. Because al-Qa`ida is in what `Atiyah calls a “stage of weakness,” `Atiyah urges Zarqawi to seek counsel from wiser men in Iraq— implying that there might be someone more qualified than Zarqawi to command al-Qa`ida operations in Iraq.
`Atiyah closes with a request that Zarqawi send a messenger to “Waziristan” (likely, Waziristan, Pakistan) in order to establish a reliable line of communication with Bin Laden and Zawahiri. `Atiyah confirms in the letter that al-Qa`ida’s overall communications network has been severely disrupted and complains specifically that sending communications to Zarqawi from outside of Iraq remains difficult. Interestingly, he explains how Zarqawi might use jihadi discussion forums to communicate with al-Qa`ida leadership in Waziristan.
`Atiyah’s unequivocal confirmation of the Zawahiri letter’s legitimacy, his authoritative tone, and his insider knowledge, indicate that he is among the highest ranking leaders in al-Qa`ida. But unlike most of al-Qa`ida’s known senior leadership, who remain isolated in the tribal areas of Pakistan or under house arrest in Iran, `Atiyah appears to have remarkable freedom of movement and a functional communication network.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
CENTCOM's translation of Atiyah's letter to Zarqawi
CENTCOM just posted a translation of a letter found past June. Here is CENTCOM's commentary on it. A translation follows (it's long letter). HT The Anchoress.