Al-Qaida No. 2 says US failing in Iraq

Zawahri says mujahedeen increasing in strength, denounces US-backed Sunni tribal forces as "traitors."

Ayman al-Zawahri 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file] )
Ayman al-Zawahri 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file] )
Al-Qaida's No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri warned of "traitors" among insurgents in Iraq and called on Iraqi Sunni Arab tribes to purge those who help the Americans in a new videotape posted Monday on the Web. Al-Zawahri's comments were aimed at undermining so-called "awakening councils" - the groups of Iraqi Sunni tribesmen that the US military has backed to help fight al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies. Some Sunni insurgent groups have fought alongside American forces, and the US military has touted the councils as a major factor in reducing violence in war-torn regions like Iraq's Anbar province. In the 90-minute video, al-Zawahri warned of the "presence of hypocrites and traitors among the ranks of the mujahedeen, working and fighting for the Americans." The mujahedeen "must throw out the bribe-taking collaborators from among their ranks, those who sold out their faith and fight under the banner of the cross. They must expose them to the Muslim world," al-Zawahri said. "Those who support the Americans are despicable scum," he said, calling on the "noble tribes of Iraq, those that defend Islam, to stand up to this scum." "The tribe or clan that does not cleanse itself of traitors and apostates will be remembered in history for generations as one of the collaborators and traitors," he warned. "But any clan or tribe that defends Islam and crushes traitors ... will be remembered in Arab history with pride and glory." The video was made in the form of an interview of al-Zawahri by Al-Sahab, the media arm of al-Qaida. In the footage, Al-Zawahri - wearing a white turban and robes - sat in front of shelves of Islamic theology and law books, answering questions from an unseen interviewer. Earlier this month, the Islamic State of Iraq - the insurgent coalition in Iraq linked to al-Qaida - announced a new campaign against members of awakening groups. The founder of the awakening movement, Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, was killed in a bombing in September in Ramadi 10 days after meeting President Bush at a US base in Anbar. Fifteen people were killed that same month when a suicide bomber struck a US-sponsored reconciliation of Shiite and Sunni tribal sheiks. At the same time as the awakening councils have arisen, the Islamic State of Iraq has faced disputes with other insurgent groups that continue to fight the Americans - groups that accuse al-Qaida of trying to intimidate their fighters into joining their groups. In an October message, al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden called on Iraqi insurgents to unite and avoid dangerous "extremism" in their allegiances to their factions. Bin Laden said all groups - including al-Qaida in Iraq - should admit mistakes and resolve differences. Al-Zawahri on Monday took a tougher stance, saying that insurgents should focus on purging "traitors" rather than making accusations against the Islamic State of Iraq. "The mujahedeen should end their disputes by turning to scholars to judge between them by Islamic Sharia law," al-Zawahri said. "I can't say any side is innocent or guilty in a case where I haven't heard both sides. But I say the Islamic State of Iraq is not guilty of having a political ideology that allows the slaying of innocents," he said. "Even if we suppose that the accusations are true, is the Islamic State the only one that has made mistakes?" he said. "Most importantly, do the acts that it and other jihadi groups are accused of reach the level of ... other groups that have collaborated with the Americans and fought alongside them?" Al-Zawahri said the Americans have failed in Iraq and will withdraw soon. "The reports from Iraq tell of the growth of the mujahedeen and the collapse of the Americans' circumstances," he said. "The American forces are defeated and looking for a way out. Their government is faced with an incredible popular demand to withdraw," he said, adding that the US forces would abandon Iraqi troops "to their fate." "No matter how much the gigantic propaganda machine in America tries to deceive the people, the reality is stronger and worse than all the deceptions," al-Zawahri said. In the wide-ranging interview, al-Zawahri also denounced mainly Shiite Iran for its help to the United States in overthrowing Afghanistan's Taliban rulers in 2001 and he accused it of backing the US occupation of Iraq because of Tehran's backing for the Shiite-led Baghdad government. "Iran stabbed the Muslim nation in the back, recording a historic mark of shame against itself and all of the Shiites who follow it," al-Zawahri said. He also criticized Iran's Lebanese ally, Hizbullah, saying the Shiite guerrilla group showed an "extremist nationalism" by being more concerned with liberating Lebanese land than freeing the Palestinians from Israeli rule. He also denounced Egypt, saying it had become a "base for the crusader campaign against the mujahedeen," and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, calling him an American tool and accusing him of "selling Palestine." Al-Zawahri also said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf "and his regime are staggering into their final days." He referred to the Nov. 3 state of emergency declared by Musharraf and the arrests of opposition leaders that followed, calling the declaration "a fruitless American attempt to stop the deterioration in the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan."