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Al Qaeda Letter Shows Discrepancies in Jihadi Movement, Points to Role of Brotherhood
Today's Washington Post has a fascinating look into the Salafist jihadi movements. The internal letter from the al Qaeda leadership to Zarqawi from December 2005 was translated and provided by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and is available here.

The most interesting element is the dismay of the "core" al Qaeda leadership (bin Laden, Zawahiri et al) at the Zarqawi tactics of killing other Muslims, especially Sunnis, and the insistence on following a much broader overall political policy, rather than just attacking the enemy militarily.

Written by a senior al Qaeda commander using the name Atiya, the letter clearly shows that Zarqawi (and most likely his successor in Iraq) are subordinate to bin Laden and Zawahiri in the conception of the core al Qaeda leadership. This indicates a structured, hierarchical structure, at least among these groups. The letter orders Zarqawi to do many things, rather than requesting the actions. This is somewhat different than the al Qaeda often protrayed as isolated, dispersed and decentralized.

While clearly the overall jihadi movement is decentralized, self-starting etc., the core group is clearly deeply involved in Iraq and has a clear command and control structure.

The primary order is to halt attacks on other Sunni Muslims in Iraq, even if the Sunni leaders do not agree with al Qaeda and are religiously unorthodox at times, "even hypocritical, as long as they are Muslims who agree with us in the resistance and jihad."

Atiya notes that "military action is a servant of policy," not the other way around, and warns that some military victories are counterproductive in terms of winning popular support.

Zarqawi is ordered to consult with al Qaeda leaders and his own advisers, even thouse who are not mujahadeen, before tackling "comprehensive issues." Such issues include "the issue of announcing a war against the Shi’ite turncoats and killing them."

This great divide may explain why senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly Yousef al-Qaradawi, who has been working hard recently to minimize the differences among Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims as well as differences within each group. The guiding principle of the Ikwan is: Sincerely work with Islamic groups and entities on various axes and in agreement on a common number of points where "we cooperate on issue we agreed upon and excuse each other on issues we disagree upon"

It is interesting to see that al Qaeda leaders acknowledge that they have a "hearts and minds" problem in Iraq, not unlike the Coalition forces.

The leadership places a premium on getting Zarqawi to take this issue seriously, commanding him to dedicate himself to "winning over people, bringing them close, being cautious about alienating them, befriending them, helping them, accepting their foibles-which means accepting what they possess, including strengths, weaknesses, prpriety, impropriety, goodness and ill."

Quite a statement to someone who clearly relished not only attacking Shi'ites but also those Sunnis who differed with him.
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