CAIRO, Egypt - The deputy leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahri, told the
United States it is negotiating with the wrong people in Iraq, suggesting in a
video released Wednesday that his terror group was the real power broker in the
The terrorist chief warned
that al-Qaida would keep fighting US troops in the Muslim world and target
Western nations in retaliation. But he also criticized rival Islamic militant
groups, such as the Palestinian Hamas, for being too soft in waging "jihad" or
An image grab taken from a video
broadcast on Al-Jazeera television shows Al-Qaeda number two Ayman
al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri has vowed in a videotape that his group will pursue
attacks on the United States and slammed Palestinian Hamas for joining the
political process. [AFP]
"The mujahedeen (holy warriors) will keep their weapons pointed at you until
you leave our lands and cease backing our corrupt leaders," al-Zawahri said,
addressing Americans in excerpts of the video aired on Al-Jazeera television.
The video - which bore the logo of al-Qaida's media production house
al-Sahab ¡ª was the 14th time this year that al-Zawahri has issued a statement.
As in previous videos, he appeared in a black turban and white robe with a rifle
behind him leaning against a plain brown backdrop. He frequently wagged his
finger at the camera for emphasis.
In his comments on Iraq, al-Zawahri appeared to suggest that Washington
should be negotiating with al-Qaida over the fate of the country. The Bush
administration has been reaching out to numerous players in Iraq and to allied
Mideast governments in an attempt to calm escalating violence amid calls in the
US for a troop reduction.
"I want to tell the Republicans and the Democrats together ... you are trying
to negotiate with some parties to secure your withdrawal, but these parties
won't find you an exit" from Iraq, al-Zawahri said.
"It seems that you will go through a painful journey of failed negotiations
until you will be forced to return to negotiate with the real powers," he said,
referring to al-Qaida's branch in the country, which has allied with some Sunni
Arab insurgent groups.
But Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on radical Islamic groups, said al-Qaida
had no intention to negotiate with Washington over Iraq. Al-Zawahri's statement
was largely rhetorical and aimed at destabilizing US opinion, he said.
"He's just trying to tell the American public that their government is
failing in peace as it has failed in war in Iraq," Rashwan said.
In a January audiotape, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden offered a "truce" to
the United States for unspecified conditions - the only previous suggestion
of a negotiation with Washington. But al-Zawahri said in a later video the offer
was retracted after the US rejected it.
In Wednesday's video, al-Zawahri vowed that al-Qaida would "never stop
striking" at the United States and other countries that sent soldiers into
Muslim nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
He addressed a range of topics in a video that appeared aimed at emphasizing
al-Qaida's leadership of jihad and mobilizing support against the US and a range
of Middle Eastern players - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah,
Hamas and Iran and its Shiite allies in Iraq and elsewhere.
Al-Qaida's leaders "see the jihad as a global effort and all issues as
interconnected," said Ben Venzke of the US-based IntelCenter, a US government
contractor that studies al-Qaida messaging. He noted that al-Zawahri was
increasingly responsive to regional developments and fast at broadcasting
al-Qaida's take on recent news events.
Al-Zawahri made references to the call made by Abbas for early elections,
indicating the video was made since the Palestinian president spoke out on
A technical analysis of the tape indicated that the voice was al-Zawahri's,
said one US intelligence official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity
because he was not authorized to speak about it on the record.
Al-Zawahri, who is largely regarded as al-Qaida's main theoretician,
criticized Abbas for calling early elections and Hamas for having participated
in January elections, then forming a government after it won.
"Aren't they an Islamic movement? Aren't they campaigning for the word of God
to be supreme?" he said, adding Hamas should have insisted on "an Islamic
constitution for Palestine."
Al-Zawahri "wants to remind the Muslim world and radical militants that jihad
should not compromise with democracy," Rashwan said. But the attack on Hamas
could backfire, because many Arabs may reject criticism of the Palestinian
movement, he said.
Al-Zawahri's comments were expected to have little influence in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. Hamas has distanced itself from al-Qaida, saying its struggle is
against Israel, not the West. In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum brushed off
"Our Palestinian institutions are in need of reform, and to fix them we need
to participate in the parliament and other institutions," Barhoum