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Iran's domestic crisis: Its youth[Excerpt]
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
An impending danger is haunting Iran. While an intense debate, both domestic and international, has been carried out in the past year over the Iranian nuclear program, another issue that merits even more attention is being ignored: the waste of a generation of Iranian youth. This tragedy merits our attention because of the human resource being squandered.
Last July, the Research and Planning Institute for Higher Education, an Iranian government agency, conducted research on Iranian youth. The project focused on young Iranians with an average age of 21. The results are alarming: 53 percent of the participants see death as a way out of their lives and more than 77 percent believe there is no future for them. While one would expect further analysis and research in order to better understand the issues and to come up with solutions, few public debates have made it their central focus.
Where will this hopelessness of Iranian youth lead? How will this affect the hopes for a democratic future of the country? We all know that apathy precludes participation and empowerment, the two essential building blocks of democracy.
When you actually talk to Iranian youth as I have, you get a sense of their emotions, which are much like their western counterparts. You also see that their aspirations are depressingly absent. I've visited the neighborhoods and parks where I spent my teenage years, and I've spoken to many young people in order to compare how they feel in contrast to my own generation. While they have trouble identifying the future, they are not rejecting their past, nor are they denying the importance of Islamic values to their identity. But I've realized this is a generation that for the most part is being overlooked and, even worse, abandoned.
The Iranian government has not invested in the country's youth in terms of instilling leadership qualities or a sense of mission and aspirations by providing equal opportunities. In the 1970s, people in the United States talked about the "me" generation. In Tehran in the 1970s, people talked about the children of the shah's generation, in whom some of the oil money was invested. Many of us were sent to the best European and U.S. universities to receive higher education and return to take the country to the "gates of the great civilization." ...
Today's youth are different. They are without ideals or role models such as intellectuals, artists, poets, scientists or anyone who has excelled at something. They have no spokesperson.
The poems they recite and the literature they read are the ones my generation recited and read. Their sources of inspiration are a generation old! This is a generation that is apathetic about its leaders, and none of the many I interviewed aspires to lead the country one day. Most important, this is a generation that does not have a sense of national pride and identity. At a time when nationalism and a sense of national purpose are on the rise throughout the world -- from China and India to Brazil -- Iran stands out as one of the great civilizations whose destiny is ignored by its own people.
One university professor, who had studied in Germany and is now teaching in Tehran, compared Iran's young people to the German youth directly after World War II. He explained that the same hopelessness, sense of shame and lack of national pride had crippled that generation of Germans for years.
Iranian youth are an untapped resource who comprise more than 60 percent of the population -- perhaps a greater asset than the natural wealth of the nation.
If we care about the future of democracy in Iran, what should be done? The United States should encourage Iran's leaders to invest in that nation's youth in the following ways:
-- Acknowledge that the apathy crisis among Iranian youth exists. This may seem trivial to Americans, but it is really an important step, yet not taken. The conservative domestic media portray Iranian youth as happy, hopeful and committed to the Islamic ideals of the nation's leaders. But this oversimplification is far from the truth.
-- Shift the emphasis from religious values and traditional beliefs to individual freedom and to values that relate to their Persian identity. In other words, let the young be young and discover life for themselves.
-- Channel some of Iran's surging oil wealth into the basic needs of the younger generation. One simple issue stressed by the young people I talked to was the lack of youth centers and other places where they could socialize outside of family gatherings.
-- Finally, instill a sense of hopefulness by creating a level playing field in job opportunities and financial self-sufficiency.
Investing in the nation's youth would be a much more secure path to greatness than a nuclear program.
Elahe Enssani is chair of civil engineering at San Francisco State University. A documentary film of the interviews she conducted in Iran is in post production.
The Tidal Wave!
Thursday, December 30 @ 13:00:00 EST
By Ramin Parham
December 30, 2004
Photography showing an Islamist poster depicting a US hostage, Iran 1979. The subtitle reads: "Others talk, we get the job done!" Imam Khomeiny. Photo by Abbas/Magnum.
Seeing a tsunami in your dream, represents that you are being overwhelmed by some repressed feelings or unconscious material that is rising up to the surface. You are experiencing some unhappiness and emotional instability in some waking situation. Definition of Tsunami in Dream Dictionary, Hyperdictionary.com
Liberty is not a natural state. It is a constructed human aspiration. In the jungle as in the savanna, rabbits, elephants, and crocodiles are anything but free. They are submitted, for life, to the ruthless rules of nature and their respective predators in a pyramid of fear. Human beings are free for it is in their destiny to use their cortical rationality to manufacture freedom as the most complex system of social interaction and stability. And, if recent history teaches us anything, that freedom, with responsibility as its corollary, remain to be constructed. For us, human beings, survival is intertwined with the ability to create more value with fewer resources so to satisfy increasing demand. Such inventiveness is not possible in the absence of free thought and exchange of ideas. In the game of probabilities and certainties, in the occurrence and collision of quasi infinite and unpredictable events, liberty and responsibility are the surest ingredients of higher survivability. Miscalculation in this game has a price.
Our century was heralded by a probability inflated, some would say, to indisputable certainty: Y2K. IT buggers would argue otherwise, for it goes of their debugging business says the naysayer! They would say that the preventive implementation of integrated software systems and Enterprise Resource Planning packages forestalled the anticipated collapse of electronics-driven systems. No one is in any measure to rewrite that what-if-history and the would-have-been consequence of date-impacted binary fields in trillions of lines of cross-functional code throughout the world. However, the aftermath of the bug-that-never-came was littered with outraged papers decrying the puffed up threat. Y2K was not the only inflated IT fantasy. The dot com crash that did come, this time for good, following a fanfare of juicy numbers, saxophone, sex and cigars, was the paroxysmal staging of human blindness and white collar arrogance.
Heralded by an inflated probability that didnt materialize, our century was born in the rubbles of an underestimated certainty that did come into embodiment, with dust and flesh, bones and blood: 9/11. Yet, from the attacks on the barracks of US Marines in Lebanon, on October 23, 1983, to the car-bombing that shook, ten years later, on February 26, 1993, the Twin Towers, to the bombing of Khobar barracks on June 25, 1996, there should have been little statistical doubt that the chain reaction which had started on November 4, 1979, when Marxist-Islamist militants took over the US Embassy in Tehran, would, sooner or later, mushroom in a deadly climax. The certainty could and should have been perceived with more acuteness if one had considered that the chain follys heartland is quite fertile to the burgeoning and propelling of mystics and lunatics, the frontier being often blurred, to the apex of power. True, you can patch a date field on a computer mother board without crying havoc, but you cant [app]-ease the ideological fever of a Hasan Sabbah, flooded with oil-dollars and armed with Boeing technology, with diplomatic bandage. You eliminate the tumor, eradicate the metastases and engage in preventive medicine or pay sky-rocketing curative diseasecare and count the dead. Healthcare is preventive care.
Heralded by Y2K, midwifed by 9/11, our new born just celebrated its 4th anniversary: Tsunami. Though, US and French advanced warning systems had detected the looming threat, with at least a 2-hour margin, no South-Asian socio-political system was able to alert local populations of the present danger. On this sad birthday, candles were blown off for good by the tens of thousands. Politically speaking, the affected countries were mostly democratic systems in various stages of maturity. Yet, all of them proved dysfunctional at a critical juncture, unable to fulfill their primary duty which consists of protecting their citizens. Democracy is not just about elections. It is a functional whole that integrates all economic, infra-structural, educational, and other social sub-systems into an ever evolving, responsive and adaptive system. Underestimating the necessity to implement this holistic approach to human organization will have devastating consequences.
As the century rolls out, from towering architectures that no longer scrape, but the bottom of city basements, to paradise beaches where cadavers rub shoulders in a ghastly dance of death, devising and implementing a global advanced warning system is the safest bet as we engage uncertainty. No such system could ever see the day without a global trust environment powered by the shared values of freedom and responsibility in a network of partners.
Today, as yesterday, liberty remains a utopia. Yet, today, unlike yesterday, the realization of that utopia has become a possibility. It is no longer a matter of technical feasibility to manufacture a world of free individual enterprise and group responsibility. It is a matter of political will.
"Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear." Happy New Year!
Muslim Convert Preaches Politics, Predicts Democracy in Iran
Former Iranian Shiite Muslim Donald Fareed, now an evangelical Christian pastor and head of Persian Ministries International, has preached a radical religious and political message to millions of Muslims over satellite television in the face of religious persecution. He predicts that Iran, not Iraq, will undergo regime change and become the first democracy in the Middle East, and urges America to support the Iranian pro-democracy movement.
San Jose, CA (PRWEB) December 30, 2004 -- Donald Fareed, a former Iranian Shiite Muslim and founder of the San Jose-based Persian Ministries International (PMI) (www.Persian Ministries.org), today announced his prediction that Iran, not Iraq, will undergo regime change to become the first democracy in the Middle East within just a few years.
In the face of political and religious persecution that includes the torture and martyrdom of associates, and being blacklisted by the Iranian government, Fareed, now a U.S. citizen and evangelical Christian pastor, has preached a radical, combined message of religion and politics. For years, his non-profit organization Persian Ministries International (PMI) has had a weekly series of television programs through which he reaches up to 30 million Farsi-speaking Muslim viewers not only with the message of the Christian gospel, but also with the message of democracy, encouraging them to press the fundamentalist Iranian regime for religious freedom and referendum using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s principles of civil disobedience and non-violent, passive resistance.
Fareeds programs broadcast into the heart of the "10-40 window" around the Persian Gulf in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the Southern part of Iraq where nearly 90 million Farsi-speaking Muslims live. His unique, combined spiritual and political message has attracted many to hear the Christian gospel in the context of what is relevant to their struggles with Islam, particularly the fundamentalist version.
"The situation in Iraq has led many Americans to believe that having democracy in the Middle East is impossible," says Fareed. "But Iran is ready for democracy, and America needs to know that." In claiming Iran is ripe for regime change, Fareed points to its predominantly pro-West, secular population, which is fed up with Islamic fundamentalism. He also points to 70 percent of Iran's population, which consists of young intellectuals under age 30 and women who have suffered under fundamentalist Islamic law, with whom his message is especially resonating.
Recently, Iran has undergone many internal changes. The constitution is being re-written by pro- democracy groups, people are protesting for regime change through civil disobedience, and there is a huge movement for referendum. PMI is also planting home churches inside Iran, where one of the largest house church movements in the Islamic world is growing among students, according to a December 4 issue of Voice of the Martyrs.
"With the positive response we are getting, and growth of home churches in Iran, we are making significant strides in the Muslim world. I believe we will have one million Muslim converts in Iran by the end of 2007, and that Iran will be a model of democracy in the Middle East in just a few years," Fareed says confidently.
Fareed is also convinced that the defeat of Islamic fundamentalism as a premise for government in Iran will greatly contribute to the defeat of Islamic fundamentalism everywhere, but insists that time is of the essence. "The majority of Iranians are pro-democracy, and claim their only hope is President Bush. As Americans, we need to encourage our government to actively support the Iranians," urges Fareed. "If America supports the pro-democracy movement in Iran, it will lead to the downfall of the current Iranian regime, and that will send shockwaves throughout the entire Muslim world. It will be a huge wakeup call that Islam, particularly the fundamentalist version, isn't working," he says enthusiastically.
Although Fareed has been involved in the evangelism of Muslims since he converted to Christianity 14 years ago, he only felt compelled to add a political agenda to his message after the martyrdom by the Iranian government of a close associate, the Bishop of the Assemblies of God Church in Iran. Fear of meeting the same fate as a Muslim apostate kept him from preaching politics actively for years, but a later diagnosis with an incurable muscular disease made him realize he had nothing to lose.
Facing certain death, Fareed did not hesitate to confront the Islamic government of Iran with their atrocities, encourage Iranians to push for religious freedom and referendum, and talk about his religious conversion from Islam to Christianity. As a result of his courageous broadcasts, millions of Muslims around the world have heard the Christian gospel, and thousands have converted to Christianity, and the pro-democracy movement in Iran has been encouraged.
Preaching against the Islamic-controlled Iranian government put Fareed in a precarious position, however. His first convert in Iran was caught by the Iranian secret service and tortured. Once released, there were two attempts on his life, forcing him to flee the country. Soon the Iranian government blacklisted Fareed, and Iran National TV aired his photograph, accusing him of "anti-Islamic activities with the intent to topple the government of Iran." "Due to several incidents at one point, I told my board of directors, 'I think my time is up,'" recalls Fareed.
Iran has made tremendous political strides within a short time, and Fareeds health has improved as well, yet he continues to deal with the inherent risk of his activities as well as chronic pain.
Each day brings new battles. Fareed found himself in the middle of a media controversy a few weeks ago after being invited to preach a message entitled, "Why I Am Not a Muslim" at the Sunnyvale Nazarene Church in Sunnyvale, CA. Some community members considered the message "offensive," and AP News picked up the story, as did the network affiliates in the San Francisco Bay area.
About Persian Ministries International (PMI)
Persian Ministries International (PMI) is an evangelistic non-profit Christian organization with a vision of reaching over 100 million Persian-speaking Muslims for Christ worldwide, and encouraging Muslims around the world to press their governments for religious freedom and democracy. PMI is also encouraging Muslim-Christian dialog, working to bring the Church to an awareness of the needs and opportunities for ministering to Muslim people in the U.S. and around the world, and challenging and equipping the Church to love Muslims and reach them for Jesus Christ. For more information, please visit www.Persian Ministries.org.
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Other Releases by this Member
Iran launches Hebrew radio stationBy ORLY HALPERN
Persian-accented Hebrew has been flowing across the airwaves as the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcast Corporation recently began broadcasting a Hebrew radio station which can be accessed through the internet.
"Kol David" broadcasts its main news show every evening from 7-7:30 Greenwich time and has two other half hour broadcasts.
In a two-minute recorded introduction accessible from the webpage, an up-beat Iranian radio host tells Hebrew-speaking listeners that the broadcasts are directed to "Falestina and America."
Yet, in a blatant break with state rhetoric, the "Kol David" radio website refers to Israel by name. Its news articles, which appear to be copied in some instances from the Israeli Hebrew press, never use the more common Iranian phrase "Zionist entity." The only obvious difference in language is the use of 'immigrant' instead of "olim" and that the Israeli Defense Ministry is called the "Ministry of War."
At the top of the webpage, which can be accessed at http://www.irib.ir/worldservice/hebrewradio/default.htm, the Hebrew date slides across the screen. The site provides limited news, with most of it about Israel. The articles describe controversial events on the conflict. Dilemmas such as the psychological effects of the intifada on Israeli children are also posted.
The site does provide some daily world news, such as the tsunami disaster and events in Iraq. There is no news about Iran on the site, but links on the side of the webpage connect readers to Iranian news stations and to Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei's official website.
Hebrew-speaking Arab radio stations are meant as propaganda efforts to influence Israelis' view of their own society, but there can be other side effects, says Gerald Steinberg, the director of the Conflict Management and Negotiation program at Bar-Ilan University.
"I have discovered that [Egyptian and Jordanian Hebrew-language broadcasters] have gained a reasonable understanding of Israeli society through their language training," said Steinberg. "Perhaps these [Iranian] Hebrew speakers will help to provide some understanding about Israeli perceptions, and create some lines of communication with the centers of power in Teheran."
The station encourages feedback from Israelis.
After every internet article the word "response" is written in red and pressing on it leads to an e-mail address of the radio station. The word "E-Mail" dances on the side of the webpage, calling readers to press on it and write.
Dec. 30, 2004 23:45
Venezuela, Iran to sign cooperative agreementsBy ASSOCIATED PRESS
Iran will provide equipment and technology to Venezuela for use in agriculture, petrochemicals, construction and health care, an Iranian official said Thursday.
A series of cooperative agreements will provide Venezuela with "plants, machinery and technology," Iranian Vice Minister of Industry Valiallah Afkhami told reporters after a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Afkhami said the agreements would be signed Friday. He also said Iranians would help set up farms with special irrigation systems and plants for making bricks.
He said next month a delegation will come to Caracas to discuss cooperative projects in petrochemicals.
The Iranian official began his one-week visit to the South American oil producer on Monday.
Chavez also visited Iran in November as part of an international tour.
Last Update: 31/12/2004 04:29
PM holds meeting on Iran's nuclear program
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held a meeting last night to discuss Israel's response to the Iranian nuclear program. A senior Israeli source said this week that Israel is leaning toward a diplomatic option. The same source said that the military option has a very low priority and that diplomacy is believed to be the best way of delaying Iranian movement toward nuclear arms. Sharon has said in recent weeks that the question of the Iranian nuclear program should be brought before the UN Security Council and should not be handled solely by the European Union.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Iran conducts battlefield test of Shihab-3 missile, spends $1.5 billion on WMD warhead
Iran conducts battlefield test of Shihab-3 missile, spends $1.5 billion on
Geostrategy-Direct, www.geostrategy-direct.com, December 28, 2004
Iran has successfully tested its enhanced intermediate-range missile under
U.S. officials said Iran demonstrated its ability to fire a Shihab-3 missile
within hours of an order. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps tested the
Shihab-3 on Oct. 20 under the most realistic battle conditions yet,
Iranian Defense Ministry sources also provided details of Teheran's efforts
to develop a weapons of mass destruction warhead for the enhanced Shihab-3
missile. The sources told the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat on Nov. 26 that
the Zelzal comprised a five-stage program to develop a biological, chemical
and nuclear warhead.
The sources were quoted as saying that the warhead was developed for the
Shihab-3, which traveled 1,990 kilometers during the October launch. The
project cost $1.5 billion, derived from oil revenues, they said.
A WMD warhead has also been developed for the new Makar rocket. The sources
told A-Sharq Al Awsat that the 355-mm rocket could carry a biological or
"The test was meant to show everybody of Iran's capability to fire the
missile at a moment's notice," an official said.
Officials said the October Shihab-3 launch was not meant to achieve the
maximum range of the missile, which flew about 1,300 kilometers, but is
capable of continuing for an additional several hundred kilometers.
"They didn't seek to obtain the maximum range," the official said. "When you
try to get to the maximum range, you have a certain telemetry that we didn't
The Oct. 20 launch was the first actual test firing of the enhanced Shihab-3
missile under battlefield conditions. Officials said the modified Shihab
contained a range of Iranian-developed subsystems, including a liquid-fuel
In August, the enhanced Shihab-3 was used in a command and control
demonstration that did not seek to fly the missile to any significant range.
Officials said the missile was aborted within seconds of launch.
U.S. officials confirmed the Iranian claim that Teheran could begin serial
production of the Shihab-3. But they said they doubted this would take place
over the next few months as development of the intermediate-range was
A-Sharq Al Awsat quoted the Defense Ministry sources as saying that in late
2003 Iran achieved the capability to produce what they termed small atomic
The sources said Iran's aim was to produce a nuclear warhead, a process that
they estimated would take no more than 18 months.
Some Persians find Hollywoods Alexander not so great(AFP)
31 December 2004
SHIRAZ, Iran - Some Iranians are up in arms again at the United States -- this time because of Hollywoods version of Alexander the Greats conquest of ancient Persia.
According to Hassan Moussavi, who teaches history at Shiraz University, Oliver Stones latest blockbuster is merely the latest in a long line of affronts to the national esteem of the Persians.
There is not even any proof that this Alexander even existed, asserted Moussavi, who said he was fed up with historys ongoing fascination with the Macedonian king, who died in 323 BC at the age of 32 after capturing most of what was then the known world.
We should be clearer about which Alexander we are talking about. There are 300 of them in our history books, but no archaeological relic proves the existence of this particular one, said Moussavi.
Grave historical errors
The movie Alexander has yet to appear in Iran, but here in Shiraz -- not far from the ancient city of Persepolis that Alexander destroyed along with the Persian empire of Darius III -- it is likely to upset a people who prefer to see their Persian forefathers as the founders of civilisation and a matter of national pride.
Furthermore, Iranians have so far had to make do with a one-sided account of Alexanders exploits, given that historians say that Darius III -- who while on the throne was proclaimed the king of kings -- left little in the way of historical documents.
So viewers will have to make do with watching the Persian king suffering defeat at the hands of the lesser-numbered Macedonian forces, and then flee in his chariot from the young blond-haired conqueror played by Irishman Colin Farrell.
For Moussavi, Oliver Stones film is built on a biased and partisan vision of history, and will only add to centuries of distrust towards the West.
Another Iranian historian, Kaveh Farrokh, has also complained of grave historical errors.
Rewriting history to entertain
In a report in the Internet site of Irans National Heritage Organisation, he compained that the ancient Iranians are portrayed in a way that is comical, if not insulting.
Roxana, the Persian wife of Alexander portrayed in the film by African-American actress Rosario Dawson, was not black just like Alexander was not a Scandinavian, Farrokh complained over what he sees as the films depiction of a Nordic blond defeating dark-skinned people.
Choosing Dawson to play Roxana, he said, is just like choosing an Asian to portray Queen Victoria.
It seems that when it comes to the Iranians and their identity, we are permitted to rewrite history to entertain, he said, adding he was hoping for the day when a film would tackle the life of Sassanid king Shapour I (241-272 AD) who defeated three Roman emperors.
But according to Iranian archaeologist Shahryar Adle, Iranians should stop worrying about Alexander and instead embrace him as a man who came, married and never went back.
The Europeans and the Greeks have seized on Alexander as a champion of the West against the East, he said. But it was not Europe which won, because he was transformed into a Persian prince.
Our nation has defeated so many others, added Mohammad Moghaddam, the maker of a documentary on Alexanders travels through Iran, that we should not be weighed down by one or two defeats.
The End of the Affair[Excerpt]
December 31, 2004
The Wall Street Journal
Review & Outlook
It is fitting that this was the year Yasser Arafat died. When the history of the war on terror is written, 2004 will be remembered as the moment when the romance of the terrorist finally faded away.
Arafat was the romantic terrorist par excellence, the man who was given the podium of the U.N. General Assembly in 1974, just months after Palestinian gunmen had murdered 26 Israeli schoolchildren in Ma'alot. For the next three decades, an ever-broadening patch of the West came to see Arafat and his associates as militants, not terrorists, worthy of Nobel Prizes and White House overnights and states to call their own.
Arafat's rejection of Israel's partition offer at the 2000 Camp David talks should have finished this romance, but it did not. Nor, really, did the attacks of September 11. For some people, terrorism directed against Israel or the U.S. will always have some justification, because Israel and the U.S. are ipso facto the world's original aggressors. ...
* * *
In 2004, then, the world finally awoke to the fact that the only line worth taking against terrorists is a hard one, and this was reflected in political trends. In the U.S. and Australia, George W. Bush and John Howard decisively won contests framed as referendums on their handling of the war on terror. In Britain, Tony Blair survived every effort by the antiwar lobby to bring him down and looks set to win a third term in 2005. In France, the most popular politician today is Nicolas Sarkozy, who is outspokenly pro-American and pro-Israel. Only Spain proved an exception, and that now looks like the result of clumsy post-attack news management by the former conservative government, which might otherwise have held on to power.
All this has had knock-on effects, particularly in the Arab world. While al-Jazeera continues to propagandize on behalf of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, another line of Arab commentators began this year to ask some previously taboo questions. "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims," Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the manager of the Al-Arabiya news channel, wrote last summer. "Does all this tell us something about ourselves, our societies and our culture?"
Last week, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas kicked off his presidential campaign by saying "the use of weapons is unacceptable because it has a negative impact on our image." It's an instructive choice of words: Mr. Abbas does not reject terrorism because it is immoral, but because it no longer sells the cause abroad. Still, even in Ramallah the message is getting through that terrorism is a self-defeating course of action. The romance, in other words, is gone.
There is another way in which 2004 witnessed the fading of the romance, and this has to do with the myth of terrorist invincibility. In March, Israel killed Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin, a measure immediately condemned as certain to incite Palestinians to new heights of retributive fury. Instead, Israel experienced the first sustained lull in suicide attacks since the intifada began, demonstrating that countries that take tough action against terrorism get results. The same went in Colombia under the leadership of President Alvaro Uribe, who rejected negotiations with the narco-terrorist FARC in favor of a military strategy, bringing terrorist incidents down to about 800 in 2004 from a high of 1,642 in 2002.
Now the lesson is being relearned by the Bush Administration as it fights battles from which it flinched in April for fear of provoking a wider Sunni uprising. In fact, the Administration's most provocative act in 2004 was in not taking action then, creating a perception of American irresolution that emboldened Sunni and Shia insurgents throughout the summer. Notably, when Fallujah was finally retaken in November, the only voice to be heard from the proverbial Arab street was that of Zarqawi himself. "You have let us down in the darkest circumstances," he berated Muslim clerics for their failure to raise an army to his cause. Both their failure and his remonstrance are a good indication that, in Iraq, things are gradually turning America's way.
* * *
Elsewhere in the world, the year's news in the war on terror tended to be good. A.Q. Khan's nuclear-proliferation network was rolled up. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is disbanding itself as democracy takes root. There will be more genuinely democratic elections in the Arab world next month than there have been in the past 40 years. Even the U.N. managed to propose (if not yet adopt) a commonsense definition of terrorism. The main worry is Iran , which continues to bankroll Hezbollah and harbor al Qaeda while moving toward a nuclear bomb. Here the Administration's failure to announce, much less conduct, a coherent policy is leading toward crisis.
In "Armageddon," British historian Max Hastings reminds us that the closing months of WorldWar II were by far its bloodiest. Surely in this war there will be more awful surprises, and possibly reverses. But in 2004, it became clear that the civilized world would not soon again succumb to the fatal attractions of terror.
Special Analysis: The 12/04 Bin Laden Tapesby Dan Darling at December 30, 2004 07:29 AM
Reading through the rants of Osama bin Laden is not the way I imagine most people would want to spend the week before New Year's, but I figure somebody has to it, so why not yours truly?
And my is there a lot of a bile to sort through this time around, so I apologize in advance for the length of this post. All the same, I've been out of circulation for awhile so I hope to make it worth your while.
The Saudi Tape
- The Dec. 16 message to the Saudi People
- The Dec. 16 message: International Dimensions
- The Dec. 16 message: A Saudi Ultimatum
The Iraqi Tape
- Bin Laden's message to the Iraqi People
- The Saudi Fatwa Calling for Jihad in Iraq
- Orders to the Iraqi al-Qaeda
- Zarqawi & the Iraqi Elections
Having gone through the transcripts of all 3 of bin Laden's most recent messages, I see each as being directed to a different audience: the American people, the Saudi people, and the Iraqi people respectively. I went through the pre-election message on Winds of Change and while there was no comparable analysis of his December 16, here are some of the highlights:
To the Muslims in the land of Al-Haramayn [the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina] in particular and to Muslims in other lands in general, this is a message about the dispute between the rulers of Riyadh and the citizens of the homeland, and the means to resolve it. There has been much talk in the land of Al-Haramayn on the need for security and safety and the inadmissibility to shed the blood of Muslims and those [foreigners] whose security has been guaranteed [by the state]. There has also been talk about the need for harmony and union and the danger of disunion and feuds. They [not further identified] claimed that the mujahidin are to blame for what the situation has become in the land of Al-Haramayn.
They concealed the clear fact that the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the regime, which ceded the conditions necessary to protect security and blood, harmony and union through its disobedience and its committing of great sins, which expose the land to God's punishment. God told us the stories of the disobedient ones and the punishment they received for us to learn a lesson.
This is the first time, at least to my knowledge, that bin Laden has set out to explain to the Saudi public (which supports him by fairly sizeable margins over the monarchy, according to most public opinion polls) why attacks inside the Kingdom are taking place after years of peaceful co-existence between the Saudi government and al-Qaeda - the very people bin Laden refers to as "the mujahideen." At least some of this is done by attempting to counter the charge leveled by the Saudi government that it's al-Qaeda who is responsible for the recent violence in the Kingdom by saying that it's the Saudi government, not his followers, who are to blame.
The intended audience for this message is rather obscure, as it was linked to from a post made by a member of the al-Qalah message board, which belongs to a website that supports al-Qaeda and its objectives. Given that al-Qalah and its sister forums are one of the few places where Gulf radicals are able to express their political views overtly without fear of the government, I suspect that this was as much a message to bin Laden's "base" (as well as his network of Saudi financial backers such as Khalid bin Mahfouz) as it was to the Saudi general public. Another possibility is that this message was intended to be downloaded by Saudi al-Qaeda members and sympathizers for public distribution at various Saudi mosques and bazaars throughout the Kingdom - if so we'll likely see an attempt by the Interior Ministry to stop its distribution in the very near future.
The sins committed by the regime are very huge. The regime went beyond committing mortal sins to deeds that lead to one becoming non-Muslim. It went beyond oppressing people, undermining their rights, showing disregard for their dignity, making light of their minds and feelings, and tampering with the nation's public funds. Nowadays, millions of people suffer from poverty and deprivation, while millions of riyals go into the accounts of the influential senior members of the [Al Sa'ud] family. This is despite the fact that services are inadequate, lands are being seized, and people are forced to give [royal family members] a share in their trade without being compensated, and so forth.
The regime went beyond all that to the deeds that lead to one becoming non-Muslim. The regime supported the infidel America against Muslims and made itself a rival of Almighty God, telling people what is religiously right or wrong. It is known that this is one of the 10 things that lead to one becoming non-Muslim.
The aforesaid is the most important reason for the dispute between Muslims and the rulers of Riyadh. Resolving this dispute is easy and is known in Almighty God's religion, provided the ruler is honest about his desire for reform -- if he has this desire in the first place.
Bin Laden's litany against the Saudi royal family may seem familiar precisely because, minus the accusation of apostacy, it has occurred in just about every break-down of the gross social and economic inequalities that occur in the Kingdom. Yet despite adopting much of the language and rhetoric of a Western human rights activist, bin Laden makes it quite clear just a few sentences later that it the Saudi apostacy through its alliance with America, not its draconian police state, that place the current government so far beyond the pale for him. This is not simply a Manichaean denunciation of the Saudi leadership as jahili, however - bin Laden seems quite clear that if the Kingdom wants out of its current status quo with attacks such as that on the US consulate in Jeddah, all they have to do is comply with his demands.
To put it quite simply, this is a businessman looking to strike a deal.
But what does he want the Saudis to do? Well, further down in the tape he kind tells us ...
Can the rulers follow the orders of God for the governed to be loyal to them and for people to enjoy life in matters of living and religion? Some people say yes they can. They have started with the National Dialogue Center and the municipal elections. But this would not change anything when it comes to the main causes of the disease and misfortune.
Their best chance is to enter into the election game, which is the case in Yemen, Jordan, or Egypt, entering a vicious circle for scores of years. This is not to mention the sanctity of entering into polytheistic legislative councils. Therefore, if we want to solve the dispute in a real, scientific, and practical manner, we must know its reality, roots, and dimensions.
Here bin Laden appears to be addressing both the accomodationist and confrontationist schools of al-Qaeda thought, perhaps best personified by Khalid al-Harbi on one hand and Saad al-Faqih on the other. Al-Harbi, who was brought in at the behest of the Saudi rulership of Iran with the understanding that he could control the Saudi al-Qaeda in the wake of the death of al-Muqrin, has argued that al-Qaeda should focus principally on fighting the US in Iraq rather than on bringing the Islamic revolution home to Saudi Arabia. The late Abu Walid al-Ghamdi appears to have held to a similar position as well. Those in the accomodationist camp have argued that their attacks have forced the Kingdom to institute the most rudimentary of democratic reforms and that one day the organization will be able to ride themselves to power through the same "one man, one vote, one time" process that they attempted to manipulate FIS into in Algeria.
Not so fast, says bin Laden, pointing to the fact that where elections are actually held in the Arab world they are nothing short of transparent scams - Saddam's 2002 "reelection" being only the most blatant. Al-Qaeda coming to power in Saudi Arabia via the ballot box is a pipe dream, he argues, claiming that any election held under Saudi auspices are going to be nothing more than ritualized affirmations of what the princes have already decided.
He's probably right, too.
Having dealt with that, we get to learn what bin Laden's real problem is with the Saudi regime. And, no surprise here, neither human rights or economic inequalities seem to top his concerns, starting with the perspective from which he sees the war on terrorism and ending in a nice denunciation of King Fahd:
This conflict is in part an internal territorial conflict. However, in its other dimensions it is a conflict between international infidelity, which includes those benefiting from US support, on the one hand, and the Islamic Nation and its vanguards, the mujahidin brigades, on the other hand.
These collaborator tyrannical ruling families in the region today that suppress every reform movement, and impose policies on their people that are contrary to their religion and their world, are the same families that supported the crusaders against Muslims a century ago. They are doing this on behalf of America and its allies. This forms a continuation of the previous crusader wars against the Muslim world.
Looking at the internal policies of our countries, we see the level of the Crusader-Zionist control over them. The US interference in the internal affairs can be talked about endlessly. A king or his deputy cannot be appointed without the approval of America. This is based on agreements between the former kings and the US Government.
Moreover, the farce of the current government in the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia] takes place with the approval of America to prevent the situation from getting out of hand, and the disputes between princes from becoming worse, especially during these latest critical stages. The situation of the rule in the land of the two holy mosques is a situation unprecedented in history.
After the death of its ruler, a people may be ruled for hours or days using his name, which is what happened in the case of Shajarat al-Durr [an Islamic figure during the Mamluk period who concealed her husband's death when the crusading armies of France were threatening Egypt]. However, for an entire country to be ruled in the name of a king that is no longer aware of anything for a decade is amazing.
His reign has not only fallen according to the Shari'ah by committing acts incompatible with Islam, but his reign has also fallen for his incompetence and losing the necessary mental ability to manage the simplest of matters, in addition to governing a country and human beings. His brothers should not burden him with what he cannot handle.
They insist that he should remain, because they refuse that their half brother Abdallah should be the king of the country, diminishing their authorities, and monopolizing the situation. He cannot overcome them because they are in control, especially the Ministries of Defense and Interior, in addition to the intelligence. What is more important is their control of the Royal Court, enabling them to issue a royal decree by the alleged ruler removing him from office, and appointing a substitute. This severe dispute within the family, in addition to their tyranny over the people, has enabled America to exaggerate its blackmail of rival princes, especially Prince Abdallah, with its demands.
He knows for certain that if he does not comply with its requests, then his fate, in the best of circumstances, is to be deposed by his brothers, who previously deposed their brother King Sa'ud. He is aware that his opponents have prior experience, and that they are prepared to carry out something greater than deposing him, if necessary.
Whoever wants a near and real example of the US role in the decision to depose, they can look at Prince Hasan Bin-Talal in Jordan. After remaining as the regent for several decades, his brother Husayn returned from America, days before passing away, bringing with him the decision to depose his brother, which he did. He surrendered to the situation and became politically worthless. This is what scares Prince Abdallah should he disobey his master America. Therefore, it is obvious that makers of decisions in great matters are in the United States.
Bin Laden arguing that the Saudi monarchy is a US puppet government, of course, is nothing new - he's been saying pretty much the same thing ever since he set up the Advice and Reform Commission in London (the same organization, it might be worth noting, that Iraqi intelligence documents from the mid-1990s list him as being in charge of - this is what he was widely known for prior to his debut in 1998 as the modern face of international terrorism). The reference to the divisions in the Saudi royal family is also something of a cheap shot, as the monarchy prefers to adopt a "united front" when addressing the locals no matter how much the princes plot and scheme against one another behind closed doors.
But here again, being a US puppet does not appear to be the only problem bin Laden has with the Kingdom:
What indicates the level of Crusader control over our countries is these deputies' implementation of the changes imposed by the authorized. Even in our educational curriculums, the objective is to erase the nation's character and westernize its sons, which is an old project that began decades ago in Al-Azhar's curriculums in Egypt. America then demanded that the remaining collaborator countries change their curriculums to dry up the fountains of knowledge. It demanded that Yemen close its scientific institutes over two decades ago. America also demanded that the rulers of Riyadh change the religious curriculums, and so it took place in compliance with its request. All this took place over a decade and a half before the New York and Washington attacks. This is in addition to further new changes that the regime has also adopted, in addition to removing imams and preachers.
This Crusader interference in changing curriculums is definitely one of the most dangerous interferences in our affairs, because, in short, it is changing the religion, but religion is an inseparable whole. Whoever believes in a part of the book [Koran] and disbelieves another part, is a true infidel. Polytheists hold the same beliefs. They had previously said the same thing to the prophet of God, God's prayer and peace be upon him, and God described them and said: "But when Our Clear Signs are rehearsed unto them, those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, Say: "Bring us a reading other than this, or change this," Say: "It is not for me: if I were to disobey my Lord, I should myself fear the penalty of a Great Day (to come)." The rulers of Riyadh, however, feared America and changed the curriculum.
It is clear that the consequence of changing religious curriculums is a loss for religion and the world. As for religion, you know it is an unbridled apostasy. And as for the world, then the curriculums will produce for the countries educated slaves who are champions of America, sell the interests of the country, and are good at smiling in the face of the American, while he occupies the land and violates their honor, on the pretext of freedom, equality, and UN resolutions. This is an example of the US interference in the internal policy.
Under heavy international pressure and long-standing criticism, the Saudi government has since May 2003 made some tentative steps towards removing some of the viler pieces of incitement from its educational curriculum. This is the same curriculum, it is worth noting, that is packaged and distributed to Wahhabi institutions worldwide. While most Western observers, myself included, would argue that Riyadh still has a long, long way to go in this regard, even the slightest hint towards moderating the curriculum appears to be too much for bin Laden.
This is actually not quite as irrational a complaint as it might sound on the surface. Bin Laden derives most of his recruits in the Middle East and South Asia from a number of Saudi-funded educational institutions (Binori Town in Pakistan being only the most notorious example) where the level of fanatical indoctrination is absolutely key to producing the next generation of al-Qaeda operatives. Any toning down of the curriculum might result in a loss of recruits for al-Qaeda, something that bin Laden at this point can ill-afford.
Predictably enough, bin Laden's next charge against the Saudi regime concerns the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and its tentative (and arguably duplicitous given Saudi funding of Hamas) steps towards peace with Israel:
As for its interference in the foreign policy, the ruling families have obeyed America and are carrying out their role with their treacheries. King Husayn continued the march of treachery, which his grandfather Abdallah Bin-al-Sharif Husayn and his father began against Palestine. Here is his son Abdallah II who comes after him on the same path. Here is Muhammad VI in Morocco, walking on the same path of treachery, which his father and grandfather previously treaded.
Their implementation of Crusader colonies continues. There is no room to explore them in this message, but we will remind of some due to their importance.
The government of Riyadh has entered into an international alliance with the infidel Crusaders lead by Bush against Islam and its people. This also took place in Afghanistan. Moreover, these conspiracies in Iraq have begun and not ended yet. They have opened their bases for the US forces so that they can invade Iraq, which assisted them and made it easier for them to occupy it.
On that day, the Saudi foreign minister went out disparaging the religion, blood, and minds of Muslims, admitting that his country has opened its airports for the Americans for humanitarian purposes, as he alleged. Here they are today showing us a new link in the chain of conspiracies with America, which they called the initiative to send Arab and Muslim forces to safeguard security in Iraq. This is a great betrayal.
They were not content with supporting the infidels in their occupation of the lands of Islam, so they came with this initiative to give legitimacy to the US occupation ...
... What has made the matter and the ordeal worse for the people, is that many thought that when Prince Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz was chosen to lead the country he would rescue it from [word indistinct] and management, financial, and media corruption, and dependence on America. However, as people waited for good, he came with his evil. While America was sending its armies to the Gulf to invade Iraq, the regime in Riyadh was deceiving the nations with its statements, saying that it refuses US use of force against Iraq. A short period before the invasion, Prince Abdallah proposed an initiative which he claimed to be humanitarian, which is that Saddam should leave for exile to prevent bloodshed, as he said, clearly meaning to surrender Iraq in its entirety to America on a cold silver plate.
This is in fact like a criminal that comes in your way, sending you one of his slaves in the form of a reconciler and adviser, saying to you: I advise you to leave your family and money and save yourself.
Thus, the thief takes the money of the people of Iraq and violates their land and honor without exerting any effort, backed by the support and advice of the Arabian ruler. True, Saddam is a thief and a renegade, yet the solution can never be taking Iraq from the hands of the local thief to hand it over to the international thief, because helping the infidel and backing him in controlling Muslims and taking their lands is one of the ten deviations from Islam.
I'm assuming the charges leveled at King Mohammed of Morocco has to do with his own efforts against the al-Qaeda affiliate Salafi Jihad and promoting a moderate version of Moroccan "state Islam" in the wake of the Casablanca bombings. Bin Laden's charge that the US used Saudi bases in attacking Iraq strikes me as being somewhat unusual to me given that it was Kuwait, Qatar, and other smaller Gulf states that provided far more aid and assistance to the US invasion (even to the points of sending troops under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council to aid in the fighting) than the Saudis ever did.
Interestingly enough, bin Laden's argument as to why it was bad to overthrow Saddam Hussein seems to more or less boil down to, "He's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch!"
Far more disturbingly, it would also appear that bin Laden has either read or is else familiar with Bob Woodward's Plan of Attac, which again should be no surprise given how he has sought to make himself familiar with his enemy, hence the references to such things as the Florida voting controversy in 2000 or the charges against President Bush made in Fahrenheight 9/11.
Furthermore, before the invasion, Prince Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz gave publicly a malicious and deceitful statement, in which he said that the US massing [of forces] is not meant for war ... Similarly, his nephew Bandar Bin-Sultan, their ambassador in the United States, had said publicly that he met with the US vice-president, defense secretary, and chief of staff who showed him the secret plans for the invasion of Iraq, and so forth. These statements were given following the publication of a book which revealed that Prince Abdallah pledged to provide support for the United States and urged it to invade Iraq. Thus, his previous statements before the invasion, including the ones in which he said that he feels that the US forces did not come to the Gulf with the intention of waging war, mean that he was knowingly and intentionally lying and deceiving the nation; thus, acting on behalf of the United States in implementing the first phase of the psychological war against Iraq and its people, to lull them so they will not prepare for war, and to spread among them the spirit of submission and surrender to the enemy, so that the US forces will not be subjected to any significant resistance. What shame!! What infidelity and treason! What treachery and collaboration!
Out of curiosity, does anyone know if Plan of Attack has been reprinted overseas or translated? If so, where and into what languages? While it's just as possible that bin Laden is working off of summaries of the book that occurred in media reports following its publication, it's quite possible that he obtained a copy of it for the purposes of better understanding his enemies.
The rest of the tape is pretty much a long diatribe against the Saudi regime for its alleged collaboration with the US that is then extended to the Jordanians and the Egyptians. Interestingly, note bin Laden's dismissal of what the Saudi press says about him in contrast to his actual popularity within the Kingdom:
For example, the Jordanian regime is an infidel blasphemous regime, but the rulers of Riyadh used to support King Husayn. If a writer or a speaker described King Husayn as an agent for the Jews, the regime of Riyadh would punish such person according to laws issued for this purpose. However, when King Husayn entered into alliance with Saddam when the latter invaded Kuwait, King Fahd disavowed his former ally, and the newspapers of Riyadh were filled with documents and photos proving Al-Husayn Bin-Talal's collaboration with the Jews. When they deemed this to be true, it became true. Similarly, the Jordanian newspapers were filled with documents and photos proving that the rulers of Riyadh were agents of the English and then for the Americans, which is also their right.
References in Iraq are few and far between in this statement, in large part because it is addressed to a Saudi audience, likely bin Laden's supporters, for the purpose of countering the charges that have been leveled against them in the Saudi press. The new Iraqi government, predictably enough, isn't something bin Laden is too happy with:
We are not talking about a ruler practicing some licentious acts. Rather, we are talking about apostasy and subservience to the infidels. As there is no difference between Bremer, the former US ruler in Baghdad, and Allawi, the current ruler, in the implementation of America's policies in Iraq, there is no difference between Bremer and the rest of the rulers of the region in implementing the US policy. The scholars of Islam have agreed unanimously that imamate cannot be approved for an infidel. If a ruler becomes an infidel, his imamate becomes null and void, and it would become required to take up arms against him.
Also, in a direct attack on the domestic legitimacy of the Saudi regime, bin Laden argues that it is al-Qaeda, not the monarchy, that upholds and defends Islam in contrast to the corrupt and decadent lifestyles of the princes:
Who are the people espousing misguided thinking and the corrupt clique? Are they those who are defending Muslims, their honor, and their property in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Chechnya, or are they those who entered into the global infidelity alliance against Muslims, not to mention the looting of the ummah's public funds? To show this, it suffices to note the big arms deal, or let us say, the big theft -- which are synonymous -- the so-called Al-Yamamah deal, which amounted to more than $30 billion. This deal was concluded five years before the start of the Gulf war. When the Gulf war broke out, this deal and other hundreds of deals were not shown to have had any positive effect. You opened the doors of the country wide [for foreign troops] to defend you. Then, the number of the unemployed was small. Let us estimate that 100,000 persons were unemployed then. If the amount of the deal, which was $30 billion, were to be distributed among the 100,000 persons, each would obtain 1.125 million [Saudi] riyals. Had this money been invested in joint-stock companies to be used in religiously permitted activities, such as finding employment for the jobless, and spending on those who deserve alms, such as the poor, those in want, and those in debt, the people's conditions would have improved.
He also seeks to counter the bizarre charge leveled by Crown Prince Abdullah and others that al-Qaeda is backed in some fashion by the Israeli government:
One of most strange wonders and falsehoods was the charge leveled at the young men by the regime of the cardinal sins, such as saying that Zionism is the party that supports the mujahidin. What falsehood is this and how do they belittle the people's minds? All Muslims and infidels everywhere know that the arch enemies of Zionism are the young men who carry out jihad. However, the regime accused us of the flaw it is having. Almighty God says: "But if any one earns a fault or a sin and throws it on to one that is innocent, He carries (on himself) (Both) a falsehood and a flagrant sin. " [Koranic verse] This is as the saying goes: "She accused me of the fault she is having and then she sneaked away."
Here I want to remind and ask the Riyadh rulers: Who supported Arafat with $100 million to suppress the mujahidin's first intifadah? Who supported the Jews against the oppressed in Sharm-al-Shaykh in 1996? Who opened the military bases for the invasion of Iraq? Who pledged to pay the cost of training Iraqi Police to fight the mujahidin in Iraq? Wasn't it you the launcher of the Beirut initiative in which you recognized the Zionists and their occupation of the land of Palestine? Where has your mind gone O you the commander of the National Guard and where is your shame when you accuse the mujahidin of these false and lowly charges? God's messenger, may peace be upon him, said: "Almighty God will not speak to three persons on the Doomsday, will not support them, and will not look at them, and they will receive a painful torture. They are an adulterous old man, a liar king, and an arrogant poor person." This was narrated by a Muslim.
You asked the preachers not to pray to God to support the mujahidin in Chechnya. Instead, you asked them to pray to God against the young men of jihad in the land of two holy mosques, the agents of Zionists as you allege, while you are lying and you know that you are lying. The preachers and poets who support your falsehood are also lying and they know that you are treacherous and a liar.
Also, bin Laden's benediction should give us at least some idea of where al-Qaeda is most active these days:
We beseech God to have mercy on our brothers the martyrs everywhere in Palestine, Iraq, the land of the two holy mosques, Maghreb, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. May God have mercy on Shaykh Yusuf al-Uyayri, Abu-Ali al-Harithi, Khalid al-Hajj, Abd-al-Aziz al-Muqrin, Isa al-Ushan, and all their brothers.
The Maghreb region of North Africa is home to the GSPC and like-minded groups, while the addition of Nigeria and Thailand to the places of activity by the "mujahideen," while troubling, only serves to confirm what has long been suspected by international observers.
As for the dead al-Qaeda operatives named, Yousef al-Ayyeri was bin Laden's ghost writer and the leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, with Khalid al-Hajj and Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin being his respective successors. Isa al-Ushan is a new one for me, though it may just be a matter of how it was Romanized.
The Saudis clearly recognize the nature of their state of affairs, but as a result they seem to be focusing more on getting ahold of Pakistani nukes or renting elements of the Pakistani army to fight for them than they are at actually confronting the problem head-on. Another image comes to mind here - a man hanging from the edge of a cliff, trying desperately to keep from falling to their death. Not exactly an envied position to be in, I think, especially given today's events in Saudi Arabia.
I titled this post "Proxy War" for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that as I read the transcript of bin Laden's most recent audiotape posted in the internet forum of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), a London-based al-Qaeda front organization that has recently been designated as such by the US and British governments and contrasted his message to statements issued by President Bush, I was struck by just how much Iraq in general and the Iraqi elections in particular has become a proxy war for ideologies and ideas. How does the average Iraqi, one can't help but wonder, feel knowing that the future of US democratization efforts in the Middle East or the first step in establishing an Islamist empire in the region lies in their hands?
In any case, bin Laden's opening statement leaves the listener with little if any goal as far as who is ultimately running the Iraqi insurgency:
I salute our patient kinfolk in Baghdad, the house of the Caliphate and its environs, and I salute our Mujahidin brothers in Ba'qubah, Samarra, Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Al-Latifiyah and its sisters, Bayji, Balad, and the other Jihadist cities and villages. I also salute the free people on the land of Al-Anbar, particularly the residents of the heroic city of Al-Fallujah which is standing firm in the face of falsehood and refusing to submit to the leader of all unbelievers. The city has taught him lessons on how to stick to principles and that the power of faith is stronger than artillery shells and air bombardment. This city has also revealed the nature of his democracy and exposed him as treacherous, liar, and butcher.
The "leader of all unbelievers," of course, is none other than President Bush. Al-Anbar, the Iraqi province in which Fallujah is located, has been one of the strongholds of insurgency since it first began in the summer of 2003. Baqubah, Samarra, Mosul, Kirkuk, Tikrit, and Latifiyah have all served as bases for the insurgency at one point or another and Bayji and Balad have both emerged as hot spots since the fighting in Fallujah started to die down.
What is the difference between tyrant Saddam's massacres in the city of Halabjah and Bush's massacre in Al-Fallujah? If Saddam killed several thousands of our Kurdish brothers, may God have mercy on them, in the name of rotten pan-Arabism, the Pharaoh of the age killed several thousands in Al-Fallujah alone, wounded and crippled doubles of that figure, and displaced and terrorized hundreds of thousands. All this took place in the name of the Zionist crusaders, who are thirsty for blood. Muslims should realize the reality of this war. Besieging and bombarding an entire city, which has hundreds of thousands of inhabitants under the pretext that it shelters hundreds of resistance men, is an all-out war against Islam and Muslims. I ask God to accept our killed brothers as martyrs and grant recovery to the wounded.
Conflating what the US did in Fallujah with what Chemical Ali and the Iraqi military did in Halabja is, of course, an exercise in cognitive dissonance and moral equivalency of the first degree. However, it is interesting to note that bin Laden takes note of the suffering of the Iraqi Kurds here - Zarqawi's letter to him was dissmissive of the Kurds, regarding them much the same way that Hezbollah regarded the Lebanese Maronites who sided with the Israelis. I suspect that this because bin Laden is quite familiar with the history of Ansar al-Islam and its evolutionary predecessors Jund al-Islam, the Second Souran Unit, and the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, all of which were at one point or another funded or allied with bin Laden. While the leadership in some cases were Sunni Arabs, the backbone of these movements were made up almost entirely of Kurds.
It would also seem that bin Laden isn't much of a fan of the UN either, in case anybody is curious about why his jackboots bombed it earlier this year:
... Those proud great men [the Iraqi insurgents] came with their matted, dust-colored hairs and their piety, rising above worldly pleasures, sticking to God's promises, and rejecting the fact that people worship other people in the name of the so-called international legitimacy or the New World Order and its satellite regimes.
bq. They came to destroy the cornerstone of that tyrannical regime, whose existence is based upon the implementation of the arbitrary decisions of the Security Council and the UN resolutions against oppressed countries. That infidel organization, which creates a relationship of slavery between the masters of the veto, at the forefront of which is America, and the slaves of the General Assembly, then speaks falsely and untruthfully of justice, equality, and freedom.
This is the first time, to be quite honest, that I've ever seen bin Laden reference the "New World Order," which, in his conception at least, appears to conflate both the unilateral policies of the Bush administration with the multilateralism overwhelmingly favored by (not to put too fine a point on it) most of Western Europe. Just how many wheels is this conspiracy supposed to have, anyway?
Also, as I think is unquestionably clear at this point, bin Laden is quite familiar with US political rhetoric and even the debate over whether or not US policy-makers were too polyannish in their assessment of how the war in Iraq would turn out. One of the things that our political polemicists are going to have to deal with over the next several years is that if you make a particularly good or even particularly loud argument against the policies of whichever party is in power or the president, bin Laden is likely to use it as his own.
The signs of dawn are looming on the horizon, the prowess of the faithful has begun to show results, and the wagers of the infidels are loosing. No doubt, you recall the words of the conceited one who said "I will settle the battle in six days or seven weeks." You recall Bush's words, when he said "the major operations are over," just a few weeks after the beginning of the war. They think that the people in front of them are sheep and that the whole thing is a picnic in Panama. They did not know that the lions of Al-Shara and Khiffan [locations in Arabic literature] are in the field, carrying their souls on the palms of their hands. They are trained on patience and endurance. Their victory is joy and their death is martyrdom.
Interestingly enough, if one reads this statement as praise to the Iraqi al-Qaeda contingent, the implication is that the US occupation of Iraq would have gone much smoother were it not for their actions. Whether or not that is in fact true (though the first major bombings inside Iraq during the summer of 2003 were unquestionably the work of Abu Musab Zarqawi), thus far the Baathist component of the resistance has been fairly lacking in publicizing itself outside of Iraq, thereby creating an information gap in which al-Qaeda can thrive.
I now address my speech to the whole of the Islamic nation: Listen and understand. The issue is big and the misfortune is momentous. The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation. It is raging in the land of the two rivers. The world's millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate.
The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries; the Islamic nation, on the one hand, and the United States and its allies on the other. It is either victory and glory or misery and humiliation. The nation today has a very rare opportunity to come out of the subservience and enslavement to the West and to smash the chains with which the Crusaders have fettered it.
Our nation reached rock bottom due to this subservience that led to backwardness in all religious and world fields. The Crusaders put a chain around our Islamic world and tightened it in every capital through stubborn agents who suppress faith, manhood, and courage, support the infidels, and spread harlotry.
Many people became frustrated and lost confidence in themselves and their nation. They lost faith and thought that there was no way out of the enslavement to the West ...
O subjects of God, our enemy came to our land and broke his own rules and shattered the chain with his own hands. He came with his most powerful weapons and destroyed them in Baghdad. Thus, God made his plans turn against him and his might destroy him. The chain loosened and matters got out of control, contrary to what the enemy thought.
The nation was in a huge prison with iron chains on its gate. This is the gate that Chirac referred to when he said: "Iraq opened the doors of hell." He meant that the chains on the gate that shut in the oppressed Muslims had been smashed. It is the same gate that shut in their fathers for decades in the Islamic World.
Thus, their crafty Jew, Kissinger, cried out to Europe: "Help us, join us in the Iraq War. The defeat of the United States in this war will be a defeat for the entire West."
In this context also, came Blair's statement on this war, saying it is historic. It is indeed historic, and this is what Bush and his administration have confirmed by their state of affairs and words that the frontline in the war against Islam is in Iraq.
Statements like this by Osama bin Laden are the primary reason why I labeled this post "proxy war." For him, the war in Iraq is simply the latest step in a Western campaign against Islam that has been going on since at least the end of the Ottoman Empire, the 80 years of humiliation that he referred to in his first videotape released in October 2001. He sees al-Qaeda as being the vanguard of Muslim resistance to this campaign, a Spartacus-style slave rebellion against an international conspiracy against Islam. That is why he conflates Chirac, Kissinger, and Blair, three men of extremely diverse political views, to make it seem as they are all in lockstep behind one another as far as their actions and policies are concerned.
It is important to understand when reading diatribes of this nature that bin Laden is both intelligent and sophisticated as well as well-informed as to the nature of his adversaries. One might forgive the average Sunni Arab living in the Middle East from being of the opinion that France and Britain hold to the same position on Iraq, but bin Laden is far from being the average Arab. There are different political viewpoints and then there is the case of what one might plausibly refer to as "the Big Lie." This, in my mind, is clearly a case of the latter.
Did not Bush say that Iraq is one of the states of the axis of evil? To the Christians, this description means that we are infidels and useless. This explains their occupation of our land and their killing of us. This also explains the atrocities that their soldiers committed in Abu-Ghurayb prison, Guantanamo, and elsewhere against our brother prisoners; atrocities which moved the whole of mankind.
Those who are of the opinion that the broadcast of graphic images of prisoner abuse from Abu Ghraib gave al-Qaeda the myth of an American gulag that it needed to further its recruiting efforts can be relieved - such a concept already existed within the organization's worldview the moment we established Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay as can be seen from the demands that were leveled at the US government by the kidnappers of Daniel Pearl. Unfortunately, what the amount of media exposure, both US and Arab, of the abuses at Abu Ghraib did was to make such things seem sensible to the average Middle Easterner as well as providing a basis from which al-Qaeda could articulate even loonier conspiracy theories. I don't want to get into arguments over Abu Ghraib or how suspected al-Qaeda members should be held or interrogated (though I think the case of Abdullah Mehsud is compelling enough for me to desire that there be a thorough vetting process before any suspected al-Qaeda, even the cannon fodder variety, gets released into the wild), but at the same time it should be understood that our enemy will attempt to use whatever methodologies we utilize against us as a bid to garner popular support.
And after finishing his rant against those who have dared to question his interpretation of Islam, it is quite interesting to note that he answers their charges as far as where he is getting the authority to say what he does:
And beware of those who want to tell wrong and shroud the truth with their wrong to deceive people. Jihad in Palestine and Iraq today is a duty for the people of the two countries. If these people failed or showed reluctance to perform Jihad, then it would be the duty of the people close to them [in other countries], and so on until the circle [of Jihad] covers the entire countries of Muslims. The countries of Muslims are like one country.
These are the Fatwas [Islamic religious rulings] of the scholars, God have mercy upon them, who did not take into consideration the whims of the agent rulers in the surrounding capitals, such as Riyadh and Amman. Since it is clear there is failure [to conduct Jihad] in Palestine and Iraq, Jihad is the duty of those close to them, like the people of Al-Haramayn [the two holy mosques in Saudi Arabia], Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, and Kuwait. If those fail, then it is the duty of those who are close to them.
Jihad in Iraq and Palestine is right and discouraging it is wrong. And beware of those who sneak into your midst, defying God and the Prophet with their ideas and whims, and claiming this is in the interest of the [Islamic] predication. This is impossible. In their ideas lie destruction and waste.
The ulema (Islamic scholars) that bin Laden is referring to here as having issued fatwas in support of his views are the 26 Saudi scholars who just last month issued an open letter urging Iraqis to battle the US. The leading light in issuing this statement was Safar al-Hawali, bin Laden's spiritual advisor and the head of the Supreme Council of Global Jihad, a body of 225 Islamist clerics who apparently function as al-Qaeda's "brain trust." Al-Hawali, it is worth noting, was also among the "theologians of terror" cited in a letter by 2,500 Muslim intellectuals calling the prosecution for such individuals. It is indeed an interesting phenomenon that moderate Muslims know who the bad guys are even if the Western media remains ignorant of such things.
Bin Laden quotes from the Saudi statement at length to support his position:
Here I recall some rulings, the most important and serious of which are:
bq. First: The ruling on those who support the infidels against the Muslims.
Religious scholars have unanimously agreed that supporting the infidels against the Muslims is one of the major causes for departure from the Muslim faith, and is considered one of the 10 major violations of Islam. This is the case whether the infidel is foreign or Arab, ruled or ruler. Supporting America or Allawi's renegade government, or Karzai's government, or Mahmud Abbas' government, or any other renegade governments in their fight against the Muslims is tantamount to infidelity and a cause for departure from the [Islamic] nation. Included among those are also the owners of companies and the workers who transport fuel, ammunition, food supplies, and any other needs. Everyone who aides and supports them in any kind of way has defected from religion and must be fought. Study, if you will, what God has said in the holy Koran: O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust. [Koranic verse]
In addition to Allawi, Karzai, and Abbas, one could probably add Mubarak and other pro-American rulers in the Middle East. Erdogan, no doubt, is also apostate in the opinion of Hawali and his clerics.
And what consolation does bin Laden give to the hundreds if not thousands of Iraqis murdered by Zarqawi's acolytes by bomb or by gun, far more than the number of Palestinians killed during the course of the Intifada?
Those Iraqis who get killed, and who belong to Allawi's renegade government -- such as members of the Army, the security agencies, and the National Guard -- are like Abu-Jahl, the Qurashi Arab. Their killing is sanctioned and they are infidels. Muslims should not pray for them. They do not give inheritance, and they are not entitled to any inheritance. Their wives should be divorced from them. They should not be buried in the Muslims' cemeteries.
To back up his point, he quotes from al-Tibyan fi Kufr mann Aan al-Amerikan, a book written in 2001 by the Saudi cleric Nasser bin Hamad al-Fahd, the same cleric who recently gave bin Laden a lengthy fatwa authorizing him to use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against civilian targets in Western countries.
He then continues quoting from the fatwa issued by al-Hawali and his associates:
Religious ruling concerning participation in the upcoming elections, whether in Iraq, Palestine, or in Afghanistan and the likes.
First of all, it is no secret that the selection of emirs [rulers] or presidents is the right of the nation. However, this right is governed by conditions, whose absence makes participation in the selection of an emir prohibited. Then, people exert efforts to install a Muslim emir who would rule in accordance with the law of God. Among the most important of these conditions are that the emir should be Muslim and Islam should be the religion that people would be ruled by. This means that the only source of these laws and regulations is Islam.
It is well-known that the constitution, which was imposed by US occupier Bremer, is a man-made and pagan constitution, which insisted that Islam should not be the sole source of legislation. Therefore, if we suppose, for the sake of argument, that 90 percent of the laws and regulations are derived from the Islamic Shari'ah and 10 percent are derived from man-made legislation, then this constitution, according to Islam, is a constitution of infidelity ...
... In addition, these elections will be held upon the United States' orders and under the shelling of its warplanes and tanks.
Based on this, if anyone participates in the above-mentioned elections knowingly and willingly, he would then have rejected God Almighty. "There is no power and no strength save in God" [Koranic verse].
Beware of the imposters, who speak in the name of Islamic parties and groups, and who urge people to participate in the elections in a defiant apostasy. Had those people been honest, they would have tried day and night to be faithful to God Almighty and would have dissociated themselves from the apostate government. They also would have urged people to be engaged in Jihad against the Americans and their allies. If they cannot, they should renounce that deep in their hearts and avoid participating in the programs of apostates or sitting in the seat of apostates.
Whatever we mentioned about Iraq fully applies to the situation in Palestine. Palestine is under occupation and its constitution is man-made and pagan, and Islam has nothing to do with it. Candidate Mahmud Abbas is Baha'i, agent, and apostate. He was brought after he and his companions had wasted ten years of the lives of Muslims in Palestine through the Oslo conspiracy, not to mention other conspiracies. Abbas was brought so as to send people into further loss, to offer more concessions in this round, to tame the Intifadah, and to repress jihad and resistance.
When the Iraqi constitution was first written, there was widespread concern in various quarters over the role assigned to Islam in it for fear of an Algeria-style situation developing. If we are to take bin Laden at his word (a dubious prospect at the best of times), he considers the very concept of a constitution and the very idea of elections to be entirely beyond the pale as far as his definition of Islam is concerned. Interestingly enough, while bin Laden's denunciations over the Iraqi elections were rightly interpreted as an attack on Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who has called upon Iraqis to vote, what slipped under many observers' radar was his similar denunciation of voting in the Palestinian elections that are to be held in January and his direct attack on Mahmud Abbas as a Baha'i (?!?!) sent in to put an end to the Intifadah.
So if I am to understand this correctly, if there is a huge turnout in the Palestinian elections can we then infer that the majority of Palestinians are now apostate in the eyes of bin Laden and his ilk? If that is in fact what he is saying here, it would seem that the US has a major propaganda opportunity by highlighting such statements throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Before concluding, I advise myself and the Mujahidin to fear God in private and in public, and to refer to and read the Koran, and to pray humbly to God. I also urge you and myself to exercise patience and avoid betrayal, for every traitor will be marked with a banner on the Judgment Day. And be very aware of killing innocent people, except for what is permissible by religion, such as the innocent who are used as shields, without going to excess, and this issue should be left to the judgment of the Mujahidin scholars. We should seek the help of God through compliance and steering away from disobedience.
I urge you to strike supply routes and oil lines, and to plant twice as many mines that leave behind no wounded, and to assassinate company owners who provide the enemy with supplies, whether in Riyadh, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, or other places.
That first paragraph appears to address the issue of Zarqawi's mass killings of Iraqi civilians. Some commentators, such as Juan Cole (whose comments I'll deal with in more depth further down the line) have claimed that by aligning himself with Zarqawi bin Laden is opening himself up to charges that he supports the mass murder of Iraqi civilians (he does, but he's politically savvy enough to know not to say it out-right). I disagree (though in all fairness to Cole, that part of the speech wasn't among the excerpts broadcast on al-Jazeera) and would say that the first paragraph was likely placed in there specifically to counter such charges.
Most interestingly, bin Laden appears to side against Zarqawi in the ongoing dispute between Zarqawi and the Iraqi Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islami (Islamic Scholars' Front, Association of Islamic Clerics, etc.) over whether or not it is licit to kill civilians. Whereas Zarqawi is quite vocal in his belief that killing civilians is permissible on the grounds that they are collaborating with the US by not taking part in his jihad, Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islami tends not to be nearly as overt in supporting the murder of innocents. Given that their organization is overwhelmingly Iraqi while Zarqawi's upper ranks are populated by Syrians and Jordanians, this is not in of itself all that surprising.
And with the exception of Kuwait, all of the targets named by bin Laden have been subject to attempted or actual terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and its satellite groups. Riyadh was attacked just today, for example. And disrupting Western access to Iraqi oil is featured prominently in Iraq al-Jihad, the al-Qaeda strategy document that also called for the Madrid bombings in Spain.
You should become diligent in carrying out martyrdom operations; these operations, praise be to God, have become a great source of terror for the enemy. They have perturbed its movement, frustrated its plans, and challenged its weapons and soldiers. These are the most important operations.
We have been through wars, and are aware of what they involve; the most difficult of which is for the United States to deliberately kill our women and children, and then deny it. If it became exposed, then it would claim that the killings happened by mistake. This is what came to pass in Afghanistan, including the killing of many of our brothers, sisters, and children, as well as killing the wife of Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, his daughter, and only son, may their souls rest in peace.
Al-Zawahiri's wife and children, in case anyone is curious, were killed during the bombing of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in 2001. And here again bin Laden appears to be arguing that while the frequency of suicide attacks occurring inside Iraq is wonderful, he is also quite aware that a high body count could easily kill his desire to lengthen the conflict there beyond our ability to sustain it. As Rohan Gunaratna so presciently wrote in Inside Al Qaeda in 2002, bin Laden has long sought to draw the US into a protracted guerrilla warfare conflict where he can defeat them the same way he believes he defeated the USSR in Afghanistan or that Hezbollah claims to have defeated Israel in Lebanon. But to accomplish that objective will require the on-scene al-Qaeda leadership in Iraq to be more discreet about where and when they strike - something nearly impossible from bin Laden or his top lieutenants to dictate from afar. This, as Joe and others have noted, is one of the reasons why having a decentralized terrorist network ain't all it's cracked up to be.
Far more troubling are statements such as this:
Know that the weakness and powerlessness of the enemy have been exposed. You have heard that they were forced to seek an emergency budget. Their adversities have increased. They have countless problems. Their economy is declining and their dollar is constantly becoming weaker. Their deficit has hit record numbers, and despite that, Bush has signed a bill for an $800 billion debt limit.
As for their inability to provide trained soldiers qualified to fight this fierce war, reports show that 50 percent of soldiers come from units unqualified to fight in this war, such as the US National Guard. This is in addition to their failure in providing alternative military units, which resulted in forfeiting soldiers' leave, thus leading to a rise in suicide rates and psychological illnesses. Iraq has become a cemetery for US mercenaries and the thugs who came with them. So, we express our gratitude and thanks to God.
My extremely limited knowledge of economics aside here, I am fairly that drawing a correlation between the war in Iraq and the current US deficit is erroneous. However, the fact that bin Laden knows enough about American politics to comment (abeitly somewhat inaccurately) on such issues as the growing deficit, the decline of the dollar, troop overstretch problems, etc. This goes back to something I myself have said all along: these are not the words of a man who lives in a cave. Indeed, these are words of an enemy who knows and understands a lot more about the US and the Middle East than half of the analysts who get trotted out for the talk shows.
... The expenses of Al-Qa'ida Organization in Al-Rafidayn country [Mesopotamia, Iraq] are estimated at 200,000 Euros weekly not to mention the expenses of other groups. So, support all the groups and don't let the Mujahidin be attacked from your front. You should know that this is a great war that will have results.
And that's just the Tanzeem al-Qaeda fi Bildad al-Rafidayn, not the attendant satellite groups like Ansar al-Islam or its larger splinter groups like Ansar al-Sunnah. 200,000 euros is, if I recall the exchange rate right, roughly $250,000 US, correct? If so, that adds up to about a million every month, which tracks with what bin Laden told the Taliban leadership at a terrorist summit in April 2003: that $1.5 million of their monthly stipend was being tapped to pay for the jihad in Iraq. $1,000,000 for the core al-Qaeda force and another $500,000 or so to cover expenses or perhaps to shill out to the various satellite groups.
<a name="zarqawi"Zarqawi and the elections ...
Scrolling down a little bit, we get to hear bin Laden's opinion of Zarqawi:
A prophet tradition states: A group of my nation will continue to fight seeking justice until doomsday.
So, make sure to be among this group. I believe that the Mujahid Amir, dignified brother Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, and the groups affiliated with him are good, and are from the group that fights according to the orders of God. God sufficeth them. We were pleased with their daring operations against the Americans and Allawi's renegade government. We were also pleased by their response to the orders of God and the prophet, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, with regard to unity and adhering to the covenant of God. We, in the Al-Qa'ida Organization, warmly welcome their union with us. This is a great step toward rendering successful the efforts of the Mujahidin to establish the state of right and annihilate the state of injustice. We hope that God would accept and bless this step. It should be known that Mujahid brother Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi is the Amir of the Tanzim al-Qa'idah fi Bilad al-Rafidayn [Al-Qa'ida Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers]. The brothers in the group there should heed his orders and obey him in all that which is good.
Unfortunately, this isn't too likely to end any of the debate over Zarqawi's ties to bin Laden, though I think it's pretty much consistent with my own view of man. I would note the reference to the "union" between the two men is not only is bin Laden welcoming Zarqawi's al-Tawhid wal Jihad organization into the fold but also the numerous smaller groups that fight under his aegis or his direction against the US occupation and until recently met in the Fallujah Mujahideen Shura. Designating Zarqawi as the top al-Qaeda leader inside Iraq would also seem to clear up any lingering disagreements such as those referenced in Zarqawi's January 2004 letter to bin Laden found on Hassan Ghul of in-fighting for power between the various extremist groups active in the country that was hindering the establishment of a unified command and control for the Iraqi insurgents. During the fighting in Fallujah, members of al-Tawhid got involved in a gunfight with members of the Iraqi Jaish Mohammed and Ansar al-Sunnah (perhaps similar to the fighting between the Orcs and the Uruk-hai in The Two Towers?) over who would man the bunkers and who would defend the neighborhoods in the southern part of the city.
I would like to remind the Mujahidin that uniting under banner of "there is no God but Allah" is not a supererogatory task but is a leading duty that should be given due attention. Mujahid groups should coordinate amongst them in order to unite their ranks under one banner. Ibn Taymiyah (1263-1328, Muslim theologian and Jihad theorist,] the Shaykh of Islam, said: Once people abandon some of God's orders, enmity and hatred would befall them. If a nation divides, it would become corrupt and then perish. If a nation unites it would be competent and would rule because unity is mercy and division is torture.
Things in Iraq are moving, thanks to God, quickly and confidently and are escalating at a delightful pace. The enemy is incurring significant losses in souls, equipment, and money. All their plans have failed. Where have their operations that have resounding code names such as Iron Fist, Iron Hammer, and Big Snake, and so on, gone? All these operations have withered with the wind, thank God.
The Mujahidin, thank God, possess the necessary will and power to implement the biggest operation in broad daylight in central Baghdad and elsewhere.
Thank God, the resistance is growing. God willing, we will make the leaders of Romans -- Bush and his followers, forget the insinuation of Satan through the leaders of Muslims; namely, Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and his brothers.
I would point out that the various military operations which bin Laden so jeeringly mocks have cost him a great deal of men, equipment, and resources. Cannon fodder may come and go, but operatives like Abu Marwan, Saleh Arugayan Khalil, Bassem Mohammed Hazim, Hassan Ibrahim Farhan Zayda, Abu Said, Moayad Ahmed Yassin, etc. are not easily replaced - and that's just since October! Now granted, many of these individuals are only mid-level operatives and will be replaced over time (though if Abdullah Janabi and Omar Hadid were killed during the Battle of Fallujah as some reports have suggested I'd definitely consider that a major victory), but thus far I would say that for bin Laden isn't about to claim victory in Iraq, not by a long shot.
The remainder of the message is mostly a combination poetry (including an old Arab poem about a battle against the Byzantines with another verse added by bin Laden to reference the destruction of the WTC), praise of the Iraqi al-Qaeda for their actions against the US, and an argument, presumably directed at the Sunni Arab population of Iraq, that elections are not the way to go and should be boycotted in order to deprive them of legitimacy.
Juan Cole is the only person so far who offered an analysis of the audiotape - all of the other pundits appear to be more or less saying that bin Laden is now as much a politician as a terrorist, that his alliance with Zarqawi comes with the price of embracing his anti-Shi'ite rhetoric, and that there's a difference of opinion over what these tapes mean.
I'll take these one-by-one.
Juan Cole: Likely only saw the excerpts of bin Laden's tape as they were aired on al-Jazeera, hence some of the conclusions he draws in his analysis don't bear up under examination of the statements in their entirety. Bin Laden directly addresses the issue of the Iraqi civilians who have been killed by Zarqawi's attacks. He does condemn support for the elections and by extension Grand Ayatollah Sistani, but then the Iraqi Shi'ites were never bin Laden's intended audience to begin with. The Sunni Arabs are and they aren't likely to think to fondly of their southern bretheren over recent events in al-Anbar, a point that Cole himself has raised on occasion in his regular summary's of the day's news. Claiming that nationalist Iraqis will object to a foreigner interfering in their affairs is a red herring for two reasons: they already have one (Zarqawi is Jordanian) and bin Laden's message is distinctly anti-nationalist Pan-Islamic in a way that somewhat mirrors Trotsky's idea of "smash the state" in favor of the ummah organized in the form of a global or at least regional caliphate. The claim that Zarqawi is widely hated inside Iraq for attacks perpetrated by his organization is somewhat interesting given that Cole, whom I normally go to for an opposing view on the situation in Iraq, was musing back in September that al-Tawhid wal Jihad (or Monotheism and Holy War as he calls it there) could easily be a "plot device" so that the Bush administration could continue to link Iraq and al-Qaeda - if that train of thought has occurred to Cole, it's likely also occurred to Iraqi Sunni Arabs as well. I have no doubt that Zarqawi is reviled by good Kurds and Shi'ites alike (to which we might add both Turkmen and Christians), but bin Laden isn't planning to recruit from their number. There is a certain retroactive quality to Cole's analysis in that he muses that the only way that al-Qaeda could hope to profit from such statements would be if Sunni Arabs went over to the organization in large numbers - this is already occurring and has been ever since the capture of Saddam Hussein last December, most prominently in the form of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and his sons who ditched Sufism in favor of Zarqawi's Wahhabism. Bin Laden's ultimate goal is to drive the US out of Iraq in order to accomplish what he views the war in Afghanistan as having done to the USSR - Gunaratna and any number of other scholars of al-Qaeda are all agreed on this. The fate of the Iraqi people, even the Sunni Arabs, are only peripheral in bin Laden's agenda. The same can be said of Palestine, why is exactly why neoconservative commentators frequently point out that al-Qaeda doesn't truly give a damn about the plight of the average Palestinian. Bin Laden's recent tape is full of references to them, but for him they, like the Iraqi Sunnis, are nothing more than a rhetorical device and a rallying cry that serves as a means to his ultimate end of evicting Western influence from the Middle East.
Bin Laden as a politician: Bin Laden has always been as much a politician as he has been a revolutionary, a terrorist, an administrator, or any of the other terms you want to give to him. All of his messages are innately political, as is anything he says. It is primarily for this reason that one should regard his statements with a grain of salt when he makes comments that are clearly designed to influence US domestic politics, such as the pre-election videotape. Some have argued that him issuing such a tape meant that he is no longer in any active command and control capacity and can only cheer things on from the sidelines. I take issue with this characterization, just as I do Juan Cole's comparison of al-Qaeda as nothing more than the Baader-Meinhof Gang with a further geographic reach. Rohan Gunaratna describes him as follows in Inside Al Qaeda:
In the spectrum of contemporary terrorist leaders Osama bin Laden has no equal. As a leader who has employed violence in pursuit of his political aims and objectives, he stands out in many ways. First, he is the only leader to have built a truly multinational terrorist group that can strike anywhere in the world. For over a decade Osama has inspired, instigated and supported Islamist guerrillas and terrorists ... Second, he has built a popular following throughout the Islamic world, being almost revered in Muslim circles in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and among the first- and second-generation migrants in North America, Europe, and Australia. Nor has his popularity waned despite evidence that he masterminded the worst terrorist attack in history. He continues to be regarded as the supreme symbol of resistance to US imperialism. Third, Osama's disposition towards his enemies has not mellowed in the face of the imminent threat to his own life and to his organization ... the tone of his statements has remained constant, if not more strident. To his admirers he sets an example of fearlessness; he is unrelenting; neither he nor Al Qaeda will comprise.
This man is not an opponent, at least in my mind, to be under-estimated. And every time we do, whether it be in the case of Juan Cole or the intelligence or government officials quoted in either the recent Newsweek piece or in a polyannish assessment of al-Qaeda printed up in the Washington Post right after the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), something bad seems to happen. I'll consider bin Laden no longer a threat when he's behind bars or in the ground, not beforehand.
Bin Laden having to accept Zarqawi's anti-Shi'ite credentials: I think that this is something of a false dilemma because I never had any real questions about Zarqawi or his relationship to al-Qaeda: once you accept that, I think it's pretty easy to see how the anti-Shi'ite stuff balances itself out. The main architect of Zarqawi's ideology is Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (Abu Musab al-Suri) who is vehemently anti-Shi'ite if you listen to his audiotapes but with whom there doesn't appear to be any kind of disagreement as to his al-Qaeda affiliations. Even if one accepts the line of thought that at one point Zarqawi was a rival to bin Laden, it is quite clear from the tone of both men's statements that he is the junior partner in the relationship. As such, it is bin Laden's ecumenism that is going to be influencing Zarqawi, not vice versa, and indeed there are already tentative signs of this having taken place.
What the tapes mean: Hell if I know, but then I don't get a copy of the threat matrix every morning. Based on the Newsweek piece, I tend to agree with Scheuer (for the first time in awhile) that both bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are likely feeling pretty cocky these days - you don't try to influence a US presidential election, meddle in Saudi dynastic squabbling, and cheer on Zarqawi when being on the run is the first thing on your mind.
- Washington Post has a pretty good reader on the obstacles facing al-Qaeda as far as actually obtaining a nuclear weapon. They do mention, however, that there are a number of quite plausible scenarios in which al-Qaeda could end up with one very, very quickly and we wouldn't know about it until the mushroom cloud started rising. They also have a another piece on the area of bio-warfare, though this one I'm extremely disappointed in since they don't get into what was found to that effect on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's decrypted computer (a story the Post first broke!).
- As I learned at the terrorism conference a few weeks ago, that one of hurdles al-Qaeda faces in the bio-terrorism arena is that the head of their WMD program, Midhat Mursi, only has a background in chemical rather than biological warfare. The arrest of Yazid Sufaat has also played a role in dealing a blow to al-Qaeda's bioterrorism designs.
- In a similar vein, I see another warmongering puppet of the Bush administration (for those who don't want to register, it's Susan Rice) is of the opinion that Iran is harboring al-Qaeda operatives and up to no good in Iraq. But what does she know ...
- One of the criticisms of my counter-terrorism conference post was that it didn't touch much on the issue of Pakistan. For this I apologize, primarily because of the limited amount of time I had to ask questions at the conference. I will be sure and ask more about Pakistan the next counter-terrorism conference that I happen to attend. I figured the Lashkar-e-Taiba stuff would be helpful in this category.
- On a similar note, I should probably clarify what I meant in that post about Judge Garzon. What I meant to say was that his position isn't a political appointment, so he continues in his previous position as Spain's resident anti-terrorism guy despite the shift in governance from Popular Party to Socialist. Al-Qaeda regards him as a major threat to their operations in-country, which is probably why they wanted to mount an operation to kill him and destroy his evidence.
- I've gotten a lot of e-mail while I've been away (300+, all of which will be answered in due course) about Ansar al-Sunnah, the group that carried out the suicide bombing in Mosul that killed 22. Michael Rubin has an outstanding primer on them that he did for MEIB awhile back that bears reading.
December 31, 2004
Al Qaeda : Democracy is ApostasyFrom the AFP via ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :Radical Islamist groups in Iraq said in an Internet statement Thursday they considered democracy "farcial and un-Islamic" and warned that no-one who took part in next month's polls would be safe.
"Those who participate in this dirty farce will not be sheltered from the blows of the mujahedeen," said a statement posted on an Islamist website signed by the Al Qaeda linked Ansar Al-Sunna, the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Army of the Mujahedeen.
"Democracy is a word of Greek origin meaning the sovereignty of the people... this concept is considered apostasy, contrary to the doctrine of one God and Sharia (Islamic law)," the statement from the three groups said.
"Democracy is a farce created by our enemies to confer what they call legitimacy on the new government which is subservient to the crusaders and executes their orders."
"To try to ensure these elections succeed would be the greatest gift to America, the enemy of Islam and the tyrant of our time," it added. The group said democracy could lead to the adoption of laws considered un-Islamic, such as homosexual marriage. "By virtue of democracy, members of parliament become gods themselves."
Earlier Friday Iraq's electoral commission, charged with administering the country's January 30 polls, vigorously denied an al-Jazeera television report that its 700 members had resigned in the troubled northern city of Mosul fearing attacks.
E.U. moves to profit on Iran: Will Bush stand alone to protect U.S.?
Posted: December 31, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
Yesterday, the European Union announced that economic negotiations with Iran will resume on Jan. 12, 2005. So, the European Union isn't wasting any time. The International Atomic Energy Agency just concluded at the end of November a new agreement that Iran will stop enriching uranium, and now the Europeans are moving in to profit.
The mullahs must be rubbing their hands in delight. Privately, officials in the Iranian government are letting the word out that they have pulled a big one over on the world a political and diplomatic victory ... that's how the mullahs see it. Iranian President Khatami is quoted as saying: "The fact that we prevented our nuclear dossier from being transferred to the U.N. Security Council is a victory for us." The agreement to stop enriching uranium is only temporary and the agreement calls for even the temporary cessation to be voluntary. There is no legally binding commitment in the agreement that was negotiated out in the last hours of wrangling.
Moreover, the mullahs feel the IAEA agreement announces to the world that Iran has a national right to pursue nuclear technology. This not only amounts to a significant boost in national pride, the agreement gives further credence to the mullahs as legitimate rulers of Iran a considerable distance from the United States' designation of Iran as a rogue state, part of the "axis of evil." Tehran also is taking great glee that the agreement further isolates the United States from the world diplomatic community, while serving to drive even further the wedge that is separating the United States from the European Union.
The focus of the January economic talks with the European Union will be oil. Iran has made a concerted effort in the last few years to conduct explorations for oil. As recently as 2000, Iran's proven reserves amounted to 96.4 billion barrels of oil today that total exceeds 130 billion barrels of oil. There is no danger looming on the horizon that Iran will soon run out of oil. With current production hovering around 3 million barrels a day, Iran at that rate has about 130 years of reserves, just with what's been found to date.
The economics compel the politics in Iran's relationship with the European Union. Over 80 percent of all Iranian exports to the European Union are oil. In 2003, oil was averaging around $26 per barrel. As 2004 comes to an end, the average price for a barrel of crude has held at around $45 per barrel. Let's roughly estimate that Iran has $150 million a day in gross oil proceeds. With Japan, China and the European Union buying an increasing quantity of oil from Iran, those windfall profits will probably stay high. Oil companies in the United States are screaming that the only impact of our sanctions is to keep the United States out of the Iranian oil bonanza.
With oil profits surging at these levels, the banks are certain to hover around. Some two dozen European, Asian and African banks announced this week that they plan to arrange an estimated $50 billion of corporate loans to Iran. One of the banks moving in to participate is BNP Paribas, infamous recently for its role in moving money around for our international friends involved in the oil-for-food scandal at the United Nations. Once again, three of the world's biggest lenders Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., and JP Morgan Chase are shut out of the action because of the U.S. sanctions ... something these three are certain to resent.
The pressure on the United States to eliminate the sanctions on Iran is certain to build in 2005. So, why don't we just give up and join the world party? One reason: Iran is certain to continue building nuclear weapons clandestinely. When Iran gets a nuclear weapon, the terrorist mullahs will gain even more power. Oil plus nukes is a formula certain to appeal to the mullahs who support Hezbollah and the suicide bombers that continue to represent a threat to Israel.
Even here, much of the world doesn't care. The United Nations passes or threatens to pass resolution after resolution that favors the Palestine Liberation Organization. Besides, Israel doesn't have any oil. So why don't we just give in and abandon Israel?
If John Kerry had been elected president, this is most likely the direction in which we would be moving. Remember, in the first presidential debate, Kerry advocated giving the mullahs nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, as a test, to see if they would keep their word and just pursue nuclear energy, not bombs. This formula didn't work for North Korea, but that didn't seem to bother the Democratic Party. After all, it was President Clinton and his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who came up with the idea that rogue nations like North Korea could be trusted with nuclear fuel.
Has everybody forgotten how the mullahs like to chant "Death to America" and "Death to Israel"? Or, do we just think they're kidding? Terrorists don't make jokes. Take a look at pages 240-241 of the 9-11 commission report and read the text under the heading, "Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to al-Qaida."
We are in for a big fight in 2005. Israel cannot be expected to sit tight while their sworn enemy puts nuclear warheads in their Shahab-3 missiles. For 25 years we have been hearing that a freedom movement is building in Iran and that the mullahs are increasingly unpopular. That may well be true, but the mullahs still know how to use terror tactics to suppress dissidents within, as well as attacking enemies without.
President Bush will need understanding from the American people if he is to continue a hard-line approach toward the mullahs. He won't get any support from our banks, our oil companies, or the Democrats. If President Bush takes the Democrats' advice and drops the sanctions on Iran, he will still get the blame for any terrorist attack that hits us from Iran. The 9-11 commission tried hard to excuse the eight years of the Clinton administration and pin all the blame on Bush, despite being in office for less than one year when the attacks came.
The Democrats are ready to play the blame game. The president has no choice but to protect the United States, even if he has to stand alone to do so.
Jerome R. Corsi received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972 and has written many books and articles, including the No. 1 New York Times best-seller, "Unfit for Command Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry." Dr. Corsi is an expert on political violence and terrorism and is currently writing a new book titled, "Atomic Iran," due to be released in 2005 by WND Books.
Iran, Syria to snub Iraq neighbors meetingBig News Network.com Friday 31st December, 2004
Iran and Syria are planning to downgrade their representation at the upcoming meeting of Iraq's neighboring countries in Amman in January, reports said Friday.
Beirut's daily As-Safir said the two countries' foreign ministers -- Iran's Kamal Kharazi and Syria's Farouk Sharaa -- would not attend the meeting aimed at discussing the role that neighboring countries could play to help the political process in Iraq, especially elections slated for Jan. 30.
The paper did not say who would represent the two countries if they decided to attend.
The meeting in Amman is scheduled for Jan. 6 and will be attended by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the host country, in addition to Egypt.
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