Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Al-Zarqawi's Pledge of Allegiance

The announcement by Abu-Mu'ab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad Group in Iraq, that pledged allegiance to the Al-Qaida Organization of Osama Bin-Ladin has generated a variety of interpretations.

"Linking Al-Zarqawi to Al-Qa'idah adds some legitimacy to Bush's claims about Saddam's cooperation with Al-Qa'idah and subsequently adds legitimacy to his occupation of Iraq."
Husayn Bin-Mahmud

Louis Meixler of the Associated Press published an analysis on Tuesday suggesting that the pledge may be a sign of weakness rather than strength. The article quotes Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute, who argues that the pledge may show that Al-Zarqawi, while politically strong among Islamic militants, may be desperately in need of money and people after the pounding he is taking from the U.S. military.

In the statement appearing on an Islamic Web site last weekend, al-Zarqawi said he regarded bin Laden as "the best leader for Islam's armies against all infidels and apostates" and pledged "allegiance of Tawhid and Jihad's leadership and soldiers to the chief of all fighters, Osama bin Laden."

Predictably, during this election season, the AP concluded with someone skeptical of the timing of the announcement:

"If al-Zarqawi were the manager of the Bush campaign, this would be the right statement at the right time," said Diaa Rashwan, a terrorism analyst at Cairo's al-Ahram Center. "It's timing ... only serves the interests of the Bush election campaign."
The BBC Monitoring International Reports published several reactions to Al-Zarqawi's announcements that were originally published in the London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi on October 19 as "Al-Zarqawi's pledge of allegiance to Bin Ladin draws extremely contrasting interpretations." Here are three selections from the sources quoted in that report:

• Yasir al-Sirri, director of the London-based Islamic Observation Centre, says that the pledge of allegiance shows that "the US allegations about a relationship between Al-Qa'idah and Saddam Husayn through Al-Zarqawi are incorrect."
• Abd-al-Bari Atwan, chief editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, says: "This pledge of allegiance eliminates with certainty any doubt about Al-Zarqawi's connection to Bin-Ladin. Al-Zarqawi has come under the wing of Al-Qa'idah. Al-Zarqawi is a graduate of Bin-Ladin's school. He received training in Afghanistan and went to Iraq where he established a branch for the organization. Today, the branch rejoins the mother organization. The Al-Qa'idah Organization is a horizontal and not vertical organization and Bin-Ladin is the spiritual father."
• Husayn Bin-Mahmud, an expert in the Islamic World Information Centre, wrote an analysis recently published on Islamic Internet sites. He says: "Al-Zarqawi is a mysterious personality. He is the ideal person for attracting the attention of the American public. He also justifies the viewpoint that Bush gives to his people that this war was not launched only against Iraq, but also against international terrorism." Mahmud says that Al-Zarqawi is also Bush's "justification for staying in Iraq." He says: "Linking Al-Zarqawi to Al-Qa'idah adds some legitimacy to Bush's claims about Saddam's cooperation with Al-Qa'idah and subsequently adds legitimacy to his occupation of Iraq."

UPDATE: The Associated Press reports that Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad has changed its name to "al-Qaida of Jihad in the Land of Two Rivers" [the Euphrates and the Tigris].

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