Friday, July 01, 2005

Reviewing Knights Under the Prophet's Banner:

Part II: Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi, and Iraq

When people think "Al Qaida" the first name that comes to mind is "Bin Laden". Ask anyone on the street if they know who Zawahiri is and find out what kind of answer you get. If you're lucky, someone might tell you that Zawahiri is the "number two" man in Al Qaida.

The truth is, Zawahiri and bin Laden share the organization, much like a corporation. He's the CEO and Bin Laden is the COO. They have nearly equal footing in AQ, but they have different responsibilities.

Bin Laden is the Face Man. In every organization, there is the man who is the "face" of the corporation. He might not be the guy making all the decisions, but he has the image that attracts others. He reperesents something that the company wants to present to the world.

A wealthy man that eschews his wealth and decides to become a "poor brother mujihadeen" living as they do, experiencing their hardships, submitting himself to Allah instead of the decadence of wealth. He was relatively young and energetic. He had education, but it did not stop him from believing in the "one true God and Mohammed is his only messenger". He was a hero of the Afghan wars.

The message you want to send to young men everywhere, poor, middle class or wealthy. Allah first, everything else will pass away.

Bin Laden had one or two other abilities that came in handy: management and organization skills. But, he lacked one crucial area and that was ideology. While he might "believe" and have studied Islam in school, he was and by no means is, a scholar that could formulate the "mission" of the company. While he had the ability to inspire men and organize resistance in guerilla operations, covert, long term and high profile operations such as the USS Cole, were not his long suit. His message was also limited to the Afghan movement and did not have "universal" appeal or a "universal" goal. The mission of a greater Islamic movement.

That's where Zawahiri comes in. He has street creds and can be considered one of the "elders" of the Islamic movement. Particularly when so many in Egypt were imprisoned or killed or even some have decided to try to go through the political process in Egypt to win legitimacy which Zawahiri later laments in this book and several others.

Fundamentalist sources maintain that "Al-Zawahiri's signing of the statement of 'The Global Front for Fighting Jews and Crusaders' in February 1998 was an ill-omened act for Al-Jihad Organization because it caused the rapid downfall of the most prominent leaders of the group who were residing abroad, and members of the group who were living in other Arab countries were extradited to Egypt. [snip]

The fundamentalist sources add that the US authorities' pursuit of the organization's leaders after the bombings of the Nairobi and Dar el Salam embassies in August 1998 led to the collapse of the organization's secret bases in Western capitals. Several of the organization's most prominent leaders were arrested in Albania and deported to Egypt in connection with the "returnees from Albania" case. What made the organization's ordeal worse was the unexpected appearance of prominent Al-Jihad figure Ahmad Salamah Mabruk, Al-Zawahiri's right-hand man, at the Huckstep Military Court north of Cairo, against whom an earlier death sentence had been passed in absentia. During the new trial Mabruk revealed damaging information about the group's leaders.
Knights Under The Prophet's Banner: Bin Laden's Physician

Al-Zawahiri never failed to comment on the positions adopted by other fundamentalist movements, such as the Islamic Group that was behind a strategic turning point when it adopted a historic decision in March 1999 to halt all military operations inside and outside Egypt, in response to a peace initiative that the Islamic Group's traditional leaders presented in July 1997.
Part One

Zawahiri also has connections throughout the Arab world with the extensive Muslim Brotherhood and Jihad Al Islam in Arab countries around the region. Bin Laden's connections were mostly based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where his family name was known.

Zawahiri had experience in creating "cells", the prefered method of operation in an Egypt with a hostile government and creating operations in such environments.

Zawahiri spent three years in an Egyptian prison on suspicion of conspiracy to committ the murder of Anwar al-Sadat in 1979. He was convicted in 1981 and released in 1983. In 1985 he volunteered to go to Peshawar, Pakistan as a physician to help treat the mujihadeen. It was there that he met bin Laden and is credited with organizing the Afghan Arab resistance.Part One.

There are many questions about whether Al Qaida was in Iraq prior to or directly after September 11, 2001, whether they had support from Saddam in Iraq, financially, materially or operationally. There are questions about whether Iraq, specifically Saddam, prior to the current insurgency had any thing to do with September 11, 2001. The 9/11 Commission dismissed claims that Saddam had any direct link to the Al Qaida plan for September 11, 2001. However, others have focused on the other links between terrorists in Iraq that were connected to Al Qaida, in particular Zarqawi, Ansar al-Islam, etc prior to the invasion and just after September 11. There are questions about whether Al Qaida or any such affiliates would work with Saddam Hussein due to ideological differences.

Aside from the current situation in Iraq with mujihadeen infiltrating from all over the region or any issues of Saddam and WMD or connections to terrorists, Iraq had a central role to play in the war on terror and its development to date.

In 1989, Zarqawi had traveled to Afghanistan to join the Mujahideen against the USSR. By then, the USSR had begun withdrawal of troops. Zarqawi spent time writing for an Islamist magazine, eventually returning to Jordan. In 1992 he was arrested and convicted of conspiring to overthrow the monarchy in Jordan. He spent seven years in a Jordanian prison.

In 1990, Saddam had invaded Kuwait. Bin Laden had offered to drive Saddam from Kuwait with the help of his Mujahideen that were recently unemployed as Russia had begun withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. Bin Laden was rejected for a number of reasons by the Saudi Royal family. Not the least of which was that they did not trust bin Laden as he had spent time in Saudi Arabia in the 1980's, while recruiting for the mujahideen, making speeches against the decadence of the royal family and had long considered them to have "used" the wahhabi tribes, bin Laden's family tribe, and then discarded them. The Saudi's feared that allowing the mujahideen on their soil would be tantamount to incubating their own civil war. Instead, they took the offer of the US and its coalition partners to come to Saudi Arabia, defend it and beat back Saddam.

Saddam was kicked out of Kuwait in 1991, but was not taken from power in Baghdad. What ensued was ten years of sanctions by the west against Iraq, resulting in the Oil for Food Scandal where Iraqis were deprived of medicine, food and basic services while Saddam and western corporations and buearocrats made off with millions, if not billions, of funds meant to provide for the Iraqi people.

That is known history. What is often forgotten is 1998.

In 1994, bin Laden's Saudi citizenship was withdrawn after he spent the three years, post Gulf War I, preaching in Saudi Arabia against the Regime. His organization was blamed for planning or supporting the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. The Saudis were under pressure from the US to take him into custody. The Saudis were reluctant since his family had close ties with the Royal family and had been instrumental in saving them from financial destruction in the 60's. He left Saudi Arabia for Sudan after his brother helped negotiate a deal with Prince Naif for house arrest.

If you have read here before, Prince Naif is still the current minister of security forces and the morality police in Saudi Arabia. He was also responsible for arresting a number of westerners in 2000 at the outbreak of Islamist terror attacks, accusing the westerners of bombing each other in a turf war over illegal alcohol. Prince Naif continued to hold these men even after additional bombings occured and Al Qaida took responsibility in blatant denial of insurgents within their midst.

Prince Naif also controls the ministry in charge of mosques and religious studies in Iraq that are largely responsible for preaching the wahhabist doctrine that supports recruits to organizations such as Al Qaida and its affiliates. There were even rumors that he may have allowed certain terrorist figures to escape in Saudi Arabia and negotiated "amnesty" for others.

In the meantime, Zawahiri had returned to Egypt for "personal reasons" largely thought to be due to an illness in his immediate family where he was arrested. Bin Laden paid for his bail in 1996 and they both left for Afghanistan where they began to plan the simultaneous bombings of the Kenyan and Nairobi US embassies. They are also thought to be involved in recruiting mujahideen for the KLK in Albania to fight the Serbs in Herzogovenia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

At the same time, the battle with Saddam over allowing UN inspectors into Iraq was ongoing. Reports were being circulated over the condition of the Iraqis due to the sanctions.

February 23, 1998, bin Laden issued the Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. While many have focused on bin Laden's complaints against American forces in Saudi Arabia, several of his statements are in direct relations to Iraq:

If some people have in the past argued about the fact of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula have now acknowledged it. The best proof of this is the Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.

Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million... despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation.

So here they come to annihilate what is left of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.

Third, if the Americans' aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.

In October 1998, President Cliinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act. In November 1998, UNSCOM returned and reported to the UN that Saddam was not complying with their requests for information and with destruction of his WMD. Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq in response to this report.

It is theorized that bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed began to plan 9/11 in late 1998 or early 1999.

In 1999, Zarqawi was released from prison in Jordan. Some reports indicate that he may have traveled to Europe during that time. What is known is that he was again arrested in 2001 in Jordan for conspiring to blow up the Radisson Hotel in Amman. He was soon released and returned to Afghanistan. He set up a camp in Herat, Afghanistan which many believe was a rival to bin Laden. This is unproven, but may have some validation as their were rumors he disapproved of bin Laden's strategies. Based on his strategies in Iraq, the argument may have had to do with "purging" the group and supporters of non-Sunni/Wahhabi and possibly taking the war directly to the Afghani citizens. (He later gained permission to use this tactic in Iraq). He took part in the fighting in Afghanistan against the US invasion after the September 11 attacks. He was wounded there and eventually left.

There are differing claims about his where abouts during the intervening time. Some indicate that he travelled to Iran to reform his al Tawhid group before traveling to Iraq. Others indicate that he traveled to Baghdad and was cared for at the main Ba'athist hospital, reserved for important Ba'ath members, suggesting that Saddam's regime knew that he was inside Iraq and had given him tacit permission to come to and operate within the borders. Whichever is the case (or both), it is known that he was in Iraq and operating with Ansar Al Islam in 2002.

Ansar Al Islam was a conglomeration of several Islamist groups in the Kurdish north that came into being a month before the September 11 attacks. Some sources have indicated that Al Qaida had provided Ansar Al Islam with a grant of $300,000 to become operational and some 30 Al Qaida members had joined the group while additional fighters made their way through Iran from Afghanistan during the fighting there. While the leader of Ansar Al Islam insists that he did not have any links with Saddam Hussein, Kurdish sources indicate that Ansar Al Islam participated with Saddam in attacking the PUK in Kurdistan. [source; source; ME Forums]

Ansar al-Islam made headlines in September 2001 when it ambushed and killed forty-two PUK fighters. This alarmed the Kurds, who quickly established a conventional defensive front. It was soon understood that the Kurds were the target of a new jihadist war.

A wave of violence erupted in spring 2002, beginning with a politically motivated plot. Ansar al-Islam attempted to murder Barham Salih, a PUK leader. Five bodyguards and two attackers were killed in the ensuing gunfight.[20] Ansar al-Islam's tactics became bloodier, with the aim of inflicting as much damage as possible. In June, Ansar bombed a restaurant, injuring scores and killing a child.[21] In July, the group killed nine PUK fighters.[22] In a move reminiscent of the Taliban, the group destroyed Sufi shrines.[23] In December, Ansar launched a surprise attack after the PUK sent 1,500 soldiers home to celebrate the end of Ramadan.[24] According to Ansar's website, they killed 103 PUK members and wounded 117.[25] Gruesome pictures of the group's victims were posted on the Internet.[26]

Whichever was the case, after Zarqawi's arrival, Ansar Al Islam began to attack the Kurdish the year before the US invasion. What is certain is that the PUK believed that Saddam was supporting this group:

Some reports indicated that Saddam's regime helped smuggle weapons to the group from Afghanistan.[34] Kurdish explosives experts also claimed that TNT seized from Ansar al-Islam was produced by Baghdad's military and that arms arrived from areas controlled by Saddam.[35] Another link was said to be a man named Abu Wa'il,[36] reportedly an al-Qa‘ida operative on Saddam's payroll.[37]

CS Monitor reports April 2002:

New details about Ansar's contacts with Al Qaeda come from Rafed Ibrahim Fatah, an Iraqi Arab held by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Mr. Fatah agreed to be interviewed in an interrogation room at a PUK security complex in Sulaymaniyah.

Mr. Fatah says he fled from Baghdad to Iran in the mid-1980s, and was in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Tehran. There, in 1989, he says he met two Iraqi brothers who had returned from mujahideen centers in Pakistan explicitly to make contact with another Kurdish faction, the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK), "because there was jihad in Peshawar, [Pakistan], and they were fighting jihad here." The IMK is a broad political party that splintered in recent years; the breakaway extremists first created Jund al-Islam, then changed their name to Ansar.[snip]

Fatah says one of the brothers, Abu Ayoub, called himself a "military cadre working for Osama," and visited Iraqi Kurds in northern Iran for two weeks. Fatah made the trip with him, spending most of his time with Abu Ayoub's lower-ranking brother, Najjem, who he said did not attend the "big meetings."

Those ties continued in later years, Fatah says. An Iraqi Kurd called Abu Jaffar also visited from Pakistan twice a year during the 1990s, to recruit jihadis

The Al Qaeda-Kurdish ties appear to have grown closer by the summer of 2000, when Al Qaeda was well established, and Jund al-Islam was taking root in Kurdistan. Fatah was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when he heard about a high-level delegation of Iraqi Kurdish militants. He says a friend introduced him to Abu Wa'el and two other Jund al-Islam leaders. They were staying in the guest house of a Taliban minister known for his support of Arab jihadists in Afghanistan, and were surprised when Fatah and his Iraqi friend showed up.

"They wanted to present themselves as a jihad group, and they were concentrating on Al Qaeda," Fatah says, recalling a conversation that took place in his presence. "They said they had already received money once from Abu Qatada, to elicit more support from Al Qaeda." Abu Qatada is a London-based sheikh who went underground earlier this year, and has been convicted in a Jordanian court of conspiring to attack US and Israeli interests.

In February 11, 2003, just prior to the March 2003 invasion, bin Laden issued a statement via al Jazeera:

Bin Laden has encouraged Islamist insurgents to work with “Socialist” groups(Baathists) and compared cooperation between Islamists and Baathists to Arab andPersian collaboration against theByzantineempirein the7thand 8thcenturies [source]

The actual statement:

Regardless of the removal or the survival of the socialist party or Saddam, Muslims in general and the Iraqis in particular must brace themselves for jihad against this unjust campaign and acquire ammunition and weapons. [snip]

Muslims' doctrine and banner should be clear in fighting for the sake of God. He who fights to raise the word of God will fight for God's sake.

Under these circumstances, there will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders, despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists.

The jurisdiction of the socialists and those rulers has fallen a long time ago.

Socialists are infidels wherever they are, whether they are in Baghdad or Aden. [source

Opponents and proponents of the war and links between Saddam and Al Qaida have used this statement to support their beliefs that either bin Laden would or would not make an alliance with Saddam.

It is clear by this statement and many others that bin Laden was pragmatic enough to decide that, in the battle against the greater enemy, the United States, while holding to his basic doctrine of only fighting for Allah, it was still permissable to make alliances with and fight with the Socialists. By his statements, he believed that they were "fallen a long time ago" or basically no threat to the future Islamic state that he invisioned.

In February 2004, Zarqawi issued a letter to bin Laden regarding the situation in Iraq and his plans. Shortly after that, it was announced that Zarqawis al Tawhid group had formerly changed its name to Al Qaida in the Land of the Two Rivers in Iraq or Al Qaida in Iraq for short.


free0352 said...

Yeh I gots all tha two rivers shit down Kat. Ya know the real reason were takin it to em over there? So we can turn em to haji mist befor them even thinkin about abortions an suckin off the welfare tit takin ma money like here. Light em up! Then well be able to do tha here.

Mixed Humor said...

Good read and agree with alot of valid points. It is true that al-Zawahiri had his own Iraqi contacts within the government and secret services, and is believed to have visited Baghdad twice previously. When looking for a high ranking Iraqi official that had connections to Islamic fundementalists and radicals, look no further than Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, still on the run and likely in Syria.

Thanks for the read.