News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Zawahiri's Letter to Zarqawi

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Zawahiri's Letter to Zarqawi

The full text of this letter is now available on the web. The letter has generated much discussion, if not simply because it outlines a grand plan of al-Qaeda and its long-term goals in the Mideast. Only fragments of this letter were originally published by the US govt., so a full text of it is important.

The text of this letter can appear pretty ominous. Yet, in understanding its implication, you should bear in mind the possibility that Zawahiri's text is a way to better "morale" of the troops in Iraq. While his long-term plans sound quite grand, the question is how realistic they are. Therefore, I think the following article presents a pretty clear analysis of Al-Qaeda's transnational pretensions--in a nutshell, it encapsulates the grand illusions of the extremists and the realities of the world situation.

I wonder how many of the so-called terrorist plots and otherwise are not really a way to boslter the notion that "we" are to fear some 1984-like enemy, whose face is bib-Laden but whose identity is completely blown up out of proportion to the actual threat. Indeed, there is some evidence that security forces in Indonesia actually carried out the Bali bombing, and was not an al-Qaeda operation, contrary to vast media reporting around the world.

I believe that Francis Fukuyama has addressed this issue, as have others who have attacked the notion that the jihadis in any way represent anything but a minisucle minority within the 1.3B Islamic population.
A transnational umma: reality or myth?
Fred Halliday
7 - 10 - 2005

The notion of a global jihad animating a universal, boundary-dissolving Islamic community is compelling to many. Fred Halliday assesses its truth.

In the four years since 9/11 much has been written, in the west and in the Islamic world, about the emergence of a new “transnational” and militant Islam, a community of jihadis who operate independently of states, recruit from many countries, and whose operations are not confined to any particular state. Al-Qaida, for example, has had fighters from dozens of countries – from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Morocco, to Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines and Pakistan (and, on occasion, Britain, France, and Australia also).

In one sense, there is nothing particularly Muslim about this phenomenon. The facility of virtual and physical movement today means that many ideas, symbols, and causes are transmitted globally and near-instantaneously. British surprise that the 7 July bombers were “homegrown” missed the fact that there very few purely “homegrown” things left – and that, in any case, at least one of the bombers had been exposed to Pakistani Islamist, if not al-Qaida, influence.

. . . . . . .

The limits of universalism

Al-Qaida’s current status as an apparently free-floating and stateless group, it must be recalled, is for Osama bin Laden and his cohorts very much a second best. Al-Qaida began life and long continued its operations with the support of states:

* 1980s, phase one: activity in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States
* 1990-96, phase two: work alongside the Islamist revolutionary regime in Sudan to export revolution to Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea
* 1996-2001, phase three: operations from Afghanistan, as an ally of the Taliban government

Al-Qaida is a state-centred group in a further, highly important, sense: its goal is to take power in specific Islamic states and establish a new form of authoritarian government, a caliphate. The preferred option and long-term goal of al-Qaida is therefore not something different from “transnationalism”

The Muslim world is not, nor ever has been, defined wholly or mainly in terms of the umma or transnational linkages and identities. To be sure, forms of solidarity over Muslim-related political conflicts and issues – such as Palestine, Kashmir and now Iraq – do exert a hold on many people, and inspire some to radical activism. But just as the international communist movement after 1917 masked sharp internal differences of culture, politics and interest, so today’s global jihadi movement contains such fissures. The umma may not be as stateless, fluid or international as it appears.

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