New Zawahiri tape suggests Al Qaeda PR shift
The latest audio message from No. 2 Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri signals growing doubt among supporters, experts say.
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Agence France-Presse reports that Zawahiri said that 18 United Nations staff members who were killed in December suicide attacks in Morocco were not innocents, however, and accused the UN of double standards.Skip to next paragraph
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[The UN] "is the one which considers Chechnya an inseparable part of Crusader Russia, and considers Ceuta and Melilla inseparable parts of Crusader Spain," he said, referring to two Spanish enclaves in North Africa claimed by Morocco. The UN had agreed to the presence of outsiders, dubbed "Crusaders" by Zawahiri, in Afghanistan and Iraq and had approved the separation of East Timor from Indonesia. Yet "it doesn't recognize that right for Chechnya, nor for all the Muslim Caucasus, nor for Kashmir, nor for Ceuta and Melilla, nor for Bosnia", he said.
Noah Shachtman, a national security blogger for Wired.com, writes that Zawahiri addressed Al Qaeda's hostile stance toward Iran, saying that a protracted struggle between Iran and the US would be "in the interest" of the terrorist group, and that Al Qaeda would strike against the winning party.
Al Qaeda, a Sunni organization, has long regarded Iran, a Shiite nation, as an enemy. Mr. Shachtman emphasizes a particular passage of the Zawahiri transcript (translated by IntelCenter):
The dispute between America and Iran is a real dispute based on the struggle over areas of influence, and the possibility of America striking Iran is a real possibility. As for what might happen in the region, I can only say that major changes will occur in the region, and the situation will be in the interest of the Mujahideen if the war saps both of them.
If, however, one of them emerges victorious, its influence will intensify and fierce battles will begin between it and the Mujahideen, except that the Jihadi awakening currently under way and the degeneration state of affairs of the invaders in Afghanistan and Iraq will make it impossible for Iran or America to become the sole decision-maker in the region.
AP notes that the questioners "appeared to be as much in the dark about the terror network's operations and intentions as Western analysts and intelligence agencies," and "appeared uncertain whether Al Qaeda's central leadership directly controls the multiple, small militant groups around the Middle East that work in its name, or whether those groups operate on their own."