UPDATED: America sets its sights on a new Public Enemy No. 1 - Today's Robert Fisk article

JUAN COLE SAYS: Saturday, February 14, 2004

"Zarqawi" Letter

I have had a chance to examine the letter the Coalition forces say they found on a Compact Disk on the person of al-Qaeda courier Hasan Ghul.

The fax of the letter that I received, unlike the version published in the Arabic newspapers has "from" after the invocation of God, and three ellipses showing that the name has been deleted. If the original said Zarqawi there, it is odd that it is deleted, because the CPA announced Zarqawi as the author.

I cannot confirm that the letter was written by Zarqawi. For instance, it calls the Americans "Amrikan", whereas in the Levant the colloquial plural is Amrikiyin. Amrikan is an Iraqi and Gulf way of referring to Americans. Likewise, the letter's attitude to the Kurds seems strange if the author actually had trained dozens of them to fight the secular parties in Kurdistan. The letter puts the Kurdish issue on the back burner, in a way I can only suspect Zarqawi would not have. Finally, Zarqawi is said to have not finished high school, whereas this letter is extremely literate, using a high-flown vocabulary and chaste classical literary style. It would be like finding a letter purportedly written by a Mafioso who dropped out of high school that sounded like it was written by Paul Theroux.

I can, however, confirm that it was written by a radical Sunni Muslim, who hates Shiites and wants to fight the Coalition troops in Iraq in the most effective way. I did not see any false notes in it that might suggest it is a fraud. The author suggests attacking Shiites so as to provoke an ethnic civil war that would amake it easier to push the US out.

As I suggested in my refutation of Safire's calumn, the letter is very contemporary and does not refer to Saddam, and does nothing to suggest a Baath-al-Qaeda link.
posted by Juan Cole at 2/14/2004 09:10:59 AM

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America sets its sights on a new Public Enemy No 1
Robert Fisk
12 February 2004

As Iraq reeled beneath savage and almost daily suicide bombings, US forces yesterday doubled the reward - from $5 million to $10 million - for the capture of Musab Zarqawi, an obscure and little-known associate of Osama bin Laden whom they claim is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq.

Zarqawi, who is indeed inside Iraq, is trying to organise further bombing attacks on US troops and US-paid Iraqi police forces by using exclusively Iraqi Sunni Muslim insurgents. But, despite what Washington would like the world to believe, he has no senior leadership position in al-Qa'ida.

Although a letter that the Americans claim to have found in Iraq in which Zarqawi - real name Ahmed Fadil al-Khalaylah - allegedly calls for attacks against Iraq's majority Shia Muslim population, impeccably reliable sources close to al-Qa'ida say that bin Laden's organisation wants to concentrate on the occupiers, their "collaborators'' and foreigners in Iraq, not members of other Muslim communities.

America's new focus on Zarqawi came as a suicide car bomb killed 47 people at an army recruitment centre in Baghdad. Within 24 hours the death toll of Iraqis working with the US occupation forces has reached 100.

The new police and new army recruits are vital to Washington's plan to hand back power to Iraqis by 30 June. The suicide bomber came well-prepared, carrying a bomb with 300 to 500 pounds of plastic explosives mixed with artillery shells - to maximise the "kill effect" according to US Colonel Ralph Baker at the scene."


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