Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Bin Laden statement taken as a climb-down from the ISI concept


The audio tape of Bin Laden broadcast yesterday on AlJazeera is
being widely interpreted as a combination of two new points: (1)
confession that some members of the AlQaeda affiliate in Iraq has
made "errors" (or commited "wrongdoing": same word) and should be
brought to justice, following due process; (2) that among the errors
has been a failure to appreciate the urgency of establishing unity
among all of the jihadi factions; and in connection with this Bin
Laden urges religious, tribal and other creditable authorities to to
their utmost to try and bridge differences between factions.

AlJazeera itself, in the summary on its website,
notes immediately that the official spokesman for the so-called
Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance (the recently-announced
union of Islamic Army in Iraq et al, with Hamas Iraq and an
affiliate) has said this was a good statement

Noting that some of these errors have been lethal to some resistance
factions, and these errors need to be corrrected. He referred in
particular to the establishment of the so-called Islamic State of

Abdul Wahab al-Qassab, described as an Iraqi political analyst, told
AlJazeera this acknowledgement of problems has been a long time
coming, noting that a big mistake was the original idea of trying to
impose a system that large sectors of Iraqis find unacceptable. He
said AlQaeda, having lost its popular base early on, is now trying
to hook up with the Iraqi resistance, which has a clear program
fighting the occupation and turning away from splintering Iraq, to
re-uniting it. And in a similar vein they quote a specialist in
Islamist groups, Diya Rashwan, who said Bin Laden has come to
understand the crisis of AlQaeda in Iraq and elsewhere, and is
trying to turn the program toward flexibility.

Given the fact that the spokesman for IAI and other resistance
groups is taking the latest Bin Laden statement as a possible
admission that the whole Islamic State in Iraq episode was a bad
idea, it is worth taking a closer look at the text of what Bin Laden
said. The following is my rendition of transcript excerpts published
on the Islamicnews.net website.

I advise myself and all Muslims and particularly those in AlQaeda
everywhere to avoid the clannishness (taassub) of persons or of
groups or of the homeland (watan). The truth is what has been said
by God and by his messenger...and everything that is derived from
that and responds to the messenger [is good]. But O, your
understanding of this question has been theoretical only, but you
deviate from it in actual practice. You should refer whatever anyone
says to the book of God and to the acts of the messenger, and
whatever accords with the truth, take it up, and whatever does not,
leave it....It is the brotherhood of belief that binds Muslims
together, and not the membership in a tribe or in a homeland or in
an organization. The good of the group is prior to the good of the
individual; and the good of the Muslim state is prior to the good of
the group; and the good of the ummah is prior to the good of the
state....We repeat these things in order to dispel the proliferation
among some of them of the glorification of the group and of its
leadership, where they imagine that one of them is necessarily
infallible, and they behave, in practical terms, with him as if he
were a sacrosanct manifestation, even though they understand [in
theory] that only the messenger is holy. They cling (yataassub) to
the group and to its leadership, and they are not guided by any of
the holy writings or of the sunna. And I advise myself and my
brothers to have strength and patience...

And I say to my brothers, beware of your enemies, particularly
hypocrites who have penetrated your ranks to spread fitna among the
mujahid groups, and if someone repents of this shame refer him to a
court, and you should require corroboration, and avoid judgments on
mere suspicion.

Building confidence among the people in [our] teaching and our jihad
with strength, and not with relationships or organization--this
depends on a return to our purpose. Erring is in the nature of human
beings, and the messenger of God says: "All children of Adam err,
and the best of those who do wrong are those who repent..." And
perhaps those with a sickness in their hearts follow the failings
and oversights of the mujahideen, and amplify them, and perhaps they
attribute them to a worship of jihad under the rubrics of violence
and terror. May God deal with them, because the mujahideen are part
of this ummah, [and some of them do wrong, and if any are accused
let them be brought before a court]. There is no place for fights
between Muslims who are genuinely devoted to the cause of God... All
matters and all disputes are referable to God almighty and to his
messenger, and it is incumbent on clerics, and persons of jihad, and
sheikhs of the tribes, that they exert every effort to conciliate
between differing factions, and it is incumbent on the factions that
they respond to the exhortations for improvement of creditable men
of knowlege.

[Addressing "my brothers the mujahideen of Iraq", Bin Laden says you
have lived up to one of the great obligations, and that is to beat
back a powerful enemy, but "some of you have been slow" in living up
to another equally important obligation, and that is to unify your
ranks, and he cites scripture to drive home the importance of this.
Then he concludes:] My brothers in the mujahid groups: Muslims are
waiting for you to unify under a single banner in order to bring
about the right.... How great is the yearning for that. So hurry and
fulfill this great obligation, may God be merciful to you. And it is
incumbent on those of knowledge and virtue that they exert every
effort to unify the ranks of the mujahideen, and to see that they do
not deviate from the path that leads to that. And I pray that God
strengthen them.

There you have it. As an initial reaction, I think you could say
there could be a strong reading and a weak reading of this. The
strong reading would be that among those BL is urging to get
involved in reconciliation are the likes of Harith Al-Dhari of the
Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq, but for that to be the case,
political reconciliation would have to involve major concessions
from the traditional AQ position, and at least a tacit admission
that whole ISI scheme was a mistake from the beginning. Fans of an
even stronger reading might think of the "hypocrites" who
have "penetrated the ranks" as including the likes of Abu Omar al-
Baghdadi, self-appointed head of the ISI. On the other hand, Bin
Laden did couch his warning against "taassub" as a warning against
not only the clannishness of groups and factions, but of nationalism
too. The weak reading assumes Bin Laden was referring only to
individual killers in the AQ network, and on the organizational
level, only to the inability to deal with other groups, not to any
fundamental mistake built into the whole ISI concept.

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