Thursday, 21 February 2008

AL-QAEDA IN IRAQ LOOK TO PALESTINE

Al-Qaeda Warns Iraq Will Be Base for Attacks on Israel

Jamestown Terrorism Focus
February 20, 2008 – Volume 5, Issue 7

By Michael Scheuer

“We will not recognize a state for the Jews, not even one inch of the
land of Palestine … Blood calls for more blood and demolishing calls
for further demolishing” [1]. Osama bin Laden said these words on
December 29, 2007, signaling the accomplishment of his longstanding
goal of acquiring safe haven for al-Qaeda in territory contiguous to
the Levant. They also carried more energy and specificity than any of
the organization’s previous threats toward Israel. Since bin Laden
spoke, the jihadist media have carried instructions for the
Palestinians on how to prepare for al-Qaeda’s arrival, as well as
speeches by several Islamist leaders allied with al-Qaeda indicating
that their organizations—with al-Qaeda—are preparing to come to the
aid of the Palestinians. While there is no imminent threat in any of
this material, it shows that al-Qaeda and its allies intend to
infiltrate the Levant from Iraq and then attack Israel from Jordan,
Lebanon and Gaza over the next few years. One author says that
“undoubtedly, Palestine will be the main destination for al-Qaeda
[fighters after]…the graduation of the largest class in Iraq’s history
of world-class jihad officers” [2].

Just a month after bin Laden’s statement, an essay written by an al-
Qaeda author using the pseudonym “AsadAl-Jiahd2” and entitled “The
Timing of the Entrance of al-Qaeda Organization in the Palestinian
Territories” appeared on the al-Boraq website [3]. The essay referred
to bin Laden’s late-2007 promise of aid for the Palestinians before
claiming that al-Qaeda has been preparing to engage Israel for a long
time but had not spoken publicly about its planning. He said, however,
that he could now announce that al-Qaeda is engaged in a three-year
period of preparation for operations against Israel which began in
2007 and will “conclude at the end of 2009,” when al-Qaeda will be in
position “for direct confrontation with the Jews in occupied
Palestine.” The author adds that in the post-2009 period, “the attacks
against the Jews will not be limited to occupied Palestine but will
continue to reach all the areas in which Jews have a strong
influence.”

Telling Palestinians that they must be patient, he said that “the
opening of a branch or a front of al-Qaeda in Palestine cannot happen
overnight” and would not be declared “before the end of the American
elections.” The essay then says that there is preparatory work that
the Palestinians themselves must do to ready al-Qaeda’s passage. The
author explains “the most important advice that needs to be taken into
consideration and applied by the Palestinians for the next three to
four months,” noting that “I will not ask you to perform miracles” at
this stage, but only “simple things” in which you must “remain
discreet” [4].

• Train in martial arts, how to assemble bombs and how to manufacture
explosives and rockets. In particular, “fighting and scientific
skills” should be taught as quickly as possible to “committed
Palestinian youth.”

• Establish methods and routes for bringing muhajirun (foreign
fighters) into Palestine and “protect them at the beginning and
provide them with housing.” The author says this directive is “more
particularly [addressed] to the proud people of Gaza,” where if only
350 mujahideen “could train and prepare and learn the skills of war
and join al-Qaeda, they will strongly shake the Zionist entity.”

• Acquire as many weapons as possible, store them safely and draw
“encrypted maps” of their locations.

• Learn to store essential foods for long periods and identify what
foods are most important in wartime.

• Form small, compartmented groups of no more than five individuals
and meet only once a week. Each group should have a specific task; for
example, to build explosives or to disseminate the messages of al-
Qaeda’s leaders, especially the speeches of Ayman al-Zawahiri and the
videos and lectures of “the beloved al-Zarqawi.”

• Salafist preachers should teach the people in “a lenient and
merciful manner,” and there should be no “fighting with the mujahideen
brothers in Hamas.”

Following the issuance of these instructions, two al-Qaeda-allied
insurgent leaders reinforced bin Laden’s message that military help
and manpower was on the way for the Palestinians. On February 13, a
statement by Fatah al-Islam’s leader in Palestine, Abu Abd al-Rahman
al-Ghazzawi, was published. It declared that the group “has realized
and understood God’s purpose for us and that is the need to offer our
support [to the Palestinians]” [5]. As did AsadAl-Jiahd2, al-Ghazzawi
endorsed bin Laden’s late 2007 pledge of near-term support for the
Palestinians and agreed that the cause of Palestine is central to “the
global jihad,” a cause for all Muslims that “borders and languages
cannot come between.” Al-Ghazzawi also stressed his intention to
“begin our war [against Israel] from Palestine” because the Shiite
Lebanese Hezbollah—whom he calls “the protectors of the Jews, the hizb
(party) of Satan”—has prevented Fatah al-Islam from moving into
southern Lebanon. Faced with this reality, al-Ghawazzi said that he
would bring “immigrants”—foreign fighters—into Palestine. Uniting
supporters already there, these would fight any members of Fatah
(Palestinian National Liberation Movement—not to be confused with
Fatah al-Islam), Hamas or the Shiite who would “restrain us from the
Jews.”

Then, on February 14, the purported leader of the Islamic State in
Iraq, Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi, issued an even stronger indictment of
Israel, declaring that it is a religious state, that there is no
difference between Judaism and Zionism—both are “the core and origin
of corruption”—and that Israel is “a malignant germ that has been
planted in the body of the ummah (Islamic community) that must be
extracted” [6]. Unlike AsadAl-Jiahd2 and al-Ghazzawi, al-Baghdadi
declares that President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization and the
political leadership of Hamas are as much the enemy of Muslims as is
Israel; claiming, for example, that there is “no difference between
Olmert and his criminals and between Abbas and his gang—indeed the
latter deserve more to be fought.” Like the others, he also berates
the Shiite—naming Hezbollah and Iran—and the political leadership of
Hamas, but exempts from condemnation “those sincere people in the al-
Qassim Brigades” of Hamas.

Al-Baghdadi then offers advice to the Palestinians that is much like
that offered by AsadAl-Jiahd2; namely, preach Salafism ever more
broadly and teach the young men a love for jihad; encourage the Hamas
military wing to join hands with al-Qaeda and its allies; prepare to
assist the “immigrant” mujahideen who will arrive from Jordan, Syria
and Lebanon; and devote increasing attention and resources to the
dissemination of jihadist media products. Finally, al-Baghdadi
stresses that “the cause of the al-Aqsa Mosque is an Islamic cause of
interest to every Muslim” and emphasizes the role the mujahideen in
Iraq will play in efforts to free Palestine. “As for the role of the
Islamic state in the Land of the Two Rivers in the liberation of
Palestine,” he declared:

We trust in God and pray to Him and hope that just as the state of Nur
al-Din the martyr [1118-1174] was the foundation stone in the return
of the al-Aqsa Mosque to the nation—and it was later entered by his
student Saladin as a conqueror in the Battle of Hittin, just as the
Caliph Umar entered it—the Islamic state of Iraq will be the
foundation stone for the return of Jerusalem. The Jews and the
Americans realize this, and have sought to prevent us by every means
from achieving this aim. The ferocious campaign against al-Anbar and
the excessive boasting about the weakening of operations there is due
to their knowledge that it is easy to bombard Israel from some of its
areas [7].

While it is impossible to know for sure whether al-Qaeda arranged for
the three messages discussed herein to follow and supplement bin
Laden’s December 2007 statement, the likelihood of coincidence seems
small. Like bin Laden’s message, the three subsequent communications
sharply threaten Israel and Fatah; each draws a clear distinction
between the “traitorous” political leaders of Hamas and the
praiseworthy fighters of al-Qassim Brigades; each stresses the
importance of Iraq and the Levant countries—and the al-Qaeda allies
residing therein—as bases from which military assistance can be sent
to the Palestinians; each implicitly asserts that the Palestinians
cannot defeat Israel by themselves and so need the assistance of
muhajirun; each advises patience, noting that time and clandestine
operations will be needed to insert immigrant fighters and train local
mujahideen; and each focuses on the importance of improving the media
capabilities of the Palestinians to inculcate Salafist doctrine and
military and scientific training among the young. Overall, three
conclusions seem reasonable: (a) al-Qaeda believes it has achieved a
durable strategic victory by gaining safe haven in Iraq contiguous to
the Levant; (b) Israel has assumed a heretofore unprecedented priority
on the target list of al-Qaeda and its allies; and (c) however remote
and dangerous the Pakistani-Afghan border region, bin Laden and his
lieutenants appear quite capable of arranging a coordinated propaganda
campaign over a distance of thousands of miles.


Michael Scheuer served in the CIA for 22 years before resigning in
2004. He served as the Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the
Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999. He is the once anonymous
author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror
and Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the
Future of America. Dr. Scheuer is a Senior Fellow with The Jamestown
Foundation.


Notes

1. Osama bin Laden, “The Way to Foil Plots,” al-Sahab Media Production
Organization, December 29, 2007.
2. “The Timing of the Entrance of the al-Qaeda Organization to
Palestine,” al-boraq.info, January 28.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid. The assigning of so-called “simple things” for the
Palestinians to prepare for a more intense war against Israel mirrors
exactly the kinds of tasks assigned by bin Laden in 1996 to the Saudi
population to help them prepare for a war against the United States
and the al-Saud regime. See Osama bin Laden, “Declaration of War on
the United States,” al-Islah, September 2, 1996.
5. Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Ghazzawi, “An Announcement and Statement to
the Islamic Nation,” Media Division of Fatah al-Islam, February 13.
6. Abu-Umar al-Baghdadi, “Religion is Sincere Advice,” muslim.net,
February 14.
7. Ibid.

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