Asia Time Online - Daily News
Asia Times Chinese
AT Chinese

    Middle East
     Nov 22, 2007
Page 1 of 2
Bin Laden talks of victory, not defeat
By Michael Scheuer

Nearly a month since Osama bin Laden published his message to "our people in Iraq", it is worth taking a look at what bin Laden really said versus what the media, Western leaders and some prematurely mirthful pundits claim he said.

In the most obvious sense, bin Laden's October 23 statement is a post-Iraq war statement and a further development of Ayman al-Zawahiri's 2005 message to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the now dead

leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. From al-Qaeda's perspective, the war is over and Islam has won; Washington's announcement last week that it intends to begin the withdrawal of 3,000 troops, as well as the US Congress' recess without renewing war funding, will bolster this perception. Bin Laden's message is, however, a warning to all Iraqi mujahideen - Sunni and Shi'ite - that the hardest task is yet to come: namely, the creation of an Islamist state in Iraq.

Bin Laden's October 23 message builds on the July 2005 letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi. At that time, Zawahiri told Zarqawi that the mujahideen had beaten the US-led coalition and urged him to prepare for US withdrawal, which might, he added, be "precipitous". Bin Laden's October message mirrors Zawahiri's in concluding that the US coalition has been beaten, and in stating that the only unknown is the precise moment of its withdrawal.

There is nothing in bin Laden's statement that criticizes the mujahideen for not fighting well - indeed, he refers to "magnificent victories" that make Americans "prisoners of their bases and the Green Zone" - much less anything that suggests they are losing. "The world has stood stunned, amazed, delighted and wonder-struck" over the Iraqi mujahideen's effectiveness and perseverance, the al-Qaeda chief said.
Watching America the tyrannical: watching its legions breaking apart under your strikes, its brigades being wiped out in front of your raids and its battalions being obliterated by the pounding of your squadrons ... O people of Iraq ... O eminent ones of the Turks, Kurds and Arabs: the affair of unbelief [the US occupation] has been shaken and confused, and the time of his fleeing is nigh, so increase his confusion and disarray, and strike some more at his neck and hit it with a bone-cutting sword. The bearer of the banner of the cross has increased his soldiers and claimed that he will defeat the soldiers of faith, so be resolute - may Allah be merciful to you - and remember Him much, for he is watching you ... You have done well by carrying out one of the greatest of duties which few carry out: repelling the attacking enemy.
Bin Laden's words are a bit more hyperbolic than usual, but they match the presiding sense of what he described as the "amazement" that exists among both the mujahideen and Muslims generally over the fact that US-led forces have been beaten so easily in Iraq, and that they are withdrawing with what Islamists surely view as minor losses for a superpower with a population of more than 300 million.

And we may already be seeing the insurgents spreading the "confusion" bin Laden called for among US-led forces, whose leaders are perhaps too eager to see victory in statistics that show a slowing of insurgent attacks. Always students of Sun-Tzu, Mao Zedong and the great Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Iraqi insurgents and their al-Qaeda and other foreign allies are simply not taking on US "surge" forces toe-to-toe - knowing they would be crushed - and are making fewer but more targeted attacks, moving to other areas of Iraq or simply lying low to fight another day [1].

As important - and this was the Massoud model during the Soviet army's retreat - the Iraqi mujahideen have heard US politicians promise withdrawal, and they know US voters favor withdrawal. In this case, they see little sense in aggressively attacking a retreating foe, risking humiliating him, and thereby causing him to reconsider his decision to leave in favor of staying to fight.

After praising the insurgents' victory, bin Laden delivers the crux of his message and puts it frankly:
But some of you have been tardy in performing another duty which is also among the greatest of duties: combining your ranks to make them one rank as loved by Allah, who said, "Truly Allah loves those who fight in His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid cemented structure."
Bin Laden here is reaffirming al-Qaeda's consistent post-2003 position on Iraq: (a) the US-led coalition will be evicted because the Iraqi mujahideen will prolong the war and kill unacceptable numbers of US military personnel, thereby causing political discord in America; and (b), in Zawahiri's words to Zarqawi, it will be a harder struggle for the insurgents "to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill the void ..."

Bin Laden, like Zawahiri before him, warns the Iraqi mujahideen that the Islamist movement has a wretched record in consolidating victory over infidel forces, and warns them that they must be fully alert to "the full magnitude of the [infidel] conspiracies being hatched against you".

Even before US forces withdraw, bin Laden explains, "infidelity on all its levels - international, regional and local - is combining to prevent the establishment of the state of Islam", as they effectively did after the Red Army left Afghanistan, once the Taliban took power there, and after Hasan Turabi stated his intention to make Sudan an Islamic state. As always, however, bin Laden does not blame these Islamist failures on the infidels; rather, he damns the Islamists for not recognizing that only mujahideen unity can prevent the wasting of military victory. Bin Laden reminds the Iraqi insurgents:
And the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Observe the group and avoid factionalism, for Satan is with the loner and farther away from the pair. Whoever wants the comfort of the Garden must stay with the group ... Sticks refuse to break when banded together. But if they come apart they break one by one."

My brothers, the amirs of the mujahid groups [in Iraq]: the Muslims are waiting for you to gather under one banner to enforce truth. And when you carry out this act of obedience [to God], the ummah will enjoy the birth year of the group. And how it longs for this year, and perhaps it will come soon at your hands. So seek - may Allah have mercy on you - to carry out this great lost obligation.
Bin Laden goes on to urge "sincere people of knowledge and 

Continued 1 2 

The bin Laden needle in a haystack (Sep 27, '07)

1. Warnign shot for Iran, via Syria

2. Israel, the hope of the Muslim world

3.  More than 'sheets' hitting the fan

4. Pakistan put in its real place

5. Sifting schizoid ASEAN's reality from rhetoric

6. US lacks a smart nuclear policy

7. US tripped up over Iranian captives

8. Crunch time

9. Fallujah under a different siege

(24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, Nov 20, 2007)


All material on this website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written permission.
Copyright 1999 - 2007 Asia Times Online (Holdings), Ltd.
Head Office: Unit B, 16/F, Li Dong Building, No. 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, Hong Kong
Thailand Bureau: 11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110