19 October 2004

Zarqawi and al-Qaeda, unlikely bedfellows

But the letter doesn't make sense when one considers the bitter strategic split between Jordanian Zarqawi and bin Laden. This is the first time ever that al-Tawhid wal-Jihad has even considered abdicating its ruthless sovereignty. The al-Qaeda nucleus is a mix of hardcore Saudi Wahhabis and the Egyptians of Ayman al-Zawahiri's Islamic Jihad. Zarqawi's group contains basically Jordanians, Palestinians and Syrians. They are Salafis, Islamic purists. The incompatibilities are not only ideological, but also methodological: al-Qaeda never attempted kidnappings or beheadings of Muslims. On the other hand, the black and orange brigades in Iraq are growing - these are disgruntled Sunni Iraqis increasingly attracted by the hardcore methods of al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, whose symbol is black and orange.

European Union experts from a counter-terrorism special cell in Brussels tell Asia Times Online, 'We are working on the possibility that the letter may be an attempt to justify the current offensive by Iyad Allawi's government against the Sunni insurgency.' That's also the predominant popular view in the Middle East. But counter-terrorism experts also worry about the likelihood of a code message for al-Qaeda fighters - assuming the letter is authentic. The Brussels experts are particularly intrigued by the mention of Ramadan as the 'month of gifts and triumphs'. Fundamentalisms are mutually attractive. The key consequence of Bush, a born-again Christian, invading secular Iraq has been the convergence of all sorts of Islamic fanatics in Mesopotamia. As much as apocalyptic Christians view the 'war on terror' as a mission from God, apocalyptic Islamists would view 'Zarqawi's' allegiance to al-Qaeda as transcending a mere war and placing the whole thing as a do-or-die clash of civilizations.

In the end, this could be merely another US intelligence 'black operation'. Allawi wants Fallujah to hand him Zarqawi. Fallujah tribal leaders say Zarqawi is not in the city. Now, with alleged 'proof' in writing of a Zarqawi-bin Laden link, there are no holds barred to leveling Fallujah. This October surprise from 'the land of two rivers' is far from being the last.

It's a theory. It fits the facts somewhat better than Zarqawi suddenly getting struck by lightning on the road to Damascus. After all we know this White House is an empire that creates its own reality.

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