Whose Interest?

WHOSE INTEREST?….Marc Lynch draws our attention to a letter sent last year from al-Qaeda’s high command to Abu Musab Zarqawi in Iraq. It was recently translated and released by the Counterterrorism Center at West Point and suggests that al-Qaeda is extremely eager for the war in Iraq to continue:

The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness and firm rooting, and that it grows in terms of supporters, strength, clarity of justification, and visible proof each day. Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest, with God’s permission.

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The Iraq war is al-Qaeda’s best recruiting tool, and as Ron Suskind noted in The One Percent Doctrine, the CIA has known for some time that Osama bin Laden wants the war to continue and deliberately times public messages to help George Bush’s electoral chances. Here’s a description of a CIA meeting in October 2004, right after a bin Laden tape had been released to al Jazeera:

What they’d learned over nearly a decade is that bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons ? and those reasons are debated with often startling depth inside the organization’s leadership. Their assessments, at day’s end, are a distillate of the kind of secret, internal conversations that the American public, and by association the wider world community, were not sanctioned to hear: strategic analysis.

Today’s conclusion: bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reelection.

At the five o’clock meeting, once various reports on latest threats were delivered, John McLaughlin opened the issue with the consensus view: “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President.”

Around the table, there were nods….Jami Miscik talked about how bin Laden ? being challenged by Zarqawi’s rise ? clearly understood how his primacy as al Qaeda’s leader was supported by the continuation of his eye-to-eye struggle with Bush. “Certainly,” she offered, “he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.”

But an ocean of hard truths before them ? such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected ? remained untouched….On that score, any number of NSC principals could tell you something so dizzying that not even they will touch it: that Bush’s ratings [in the U.S.] track with bin Laden’s rating in the Arab world.

Iraq has been so mismanaged that almost anything we do now will be disastrous. But some things are more disastrous than others, and it’s well to keep in mind that al-Qaeda seems pretty certain that a continuing war there is in their best interests. Is it in ours?

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