Rita Katz, "The Coming New Wave of Jihad," Boston Globe (March
13, 2006): A11.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has suddenly disappeared. As briskly as he has
emerged, the Jordanian high school dropout who became the undisputed
leader of the Iraqi insurgency has descended into obscurity. Where is
the man who singlehandedly created from scratch a formidable guerrilla
army in occupied Iraq and whom Osama bin Laden called the Emir of Al
Qaeda in Iraq?
A year after it assumed the name Al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers
(Iraq), Zarqawi's group took a back seat. In an Internet message posted
Jan. 15, Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, the group's spokesman, announced the
establishment of the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, an alliance of
six Salafi jihadi groups created to lead the "fight to face the infidels
and their followers of the converters," unify the mujahideen as per
Sharia [Islamic law], and "clear the mist off people's eyes."
A few days after the council was established, Al Qaeda in Iraq ceased to
post communiques. Abu Maysarah temporarily signed the new council's
communiques, but then he, too, stopped. The baffled jihadi community
initially believed that Zarqawi headed the new council. But on Jan. 20,
the council posted a communique crowning its emir: Abdullah Rashid
Why, then, did Zarqawi's group surrender its position and succumb to the
integration? The answers may be found in
a letter from
Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda's second in command, to Zarqawi, from
After congratulating Zarqawi for his jihad in Iraq, Zawahri described Al
Qaeda's plans: "The jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals.
The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage:
Establish an Islamic authority or emirate . . . a caliphate over as much
territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas.
The third: Extend the jihad wave. . ."
The first stage is a result of the US invasion of Iraq. The second
stage, it appears, is beginning. The establishment of the council may
well be its opening bell. Zawahri also describes how and by whom the
plan will unfold: "Americans will exit soon, Allah willing, and the
establishment of a governing authority . . . does not depend on force
alone. Indeed, it's imperative that, in addition to force, there be an
appeasement of Muslims and a sharing with them in governance and in the
Shura [consulting] council and in promulgating what is allowed and what
is not allowed . . . This must be achieved through the people of the
Shura and who possess authority to determine issues and make them
binding, and who are endowed with the qualifications for working in
Therefore, to advance the plan, Iraqis must be in leadership positions;
so must be their emir.
"And it does not appear that the mujahideen, much less Al Qaeda in the
Land of the Two Rivers, will lay claim to governance without the Iraqi
people. Not to mention that that would be in contravention of the Shura
methodology . . ."
Thus Zawahri explained why Zarqawi must give up his position. He then
addressed the timing of the changes: "Things may develop faster than we
imagine . . . we must be ready to start now, before events overtake us,
and before we are surprised by the conspiracies of the Americans and the
United Nations and their plans to fill the void behind them. We must
take the initiative. . . . This is the most vital part. This authority,
or the Sharia emirate that is necessary, requires fieldwork starting
now, alongside combat and war."
Following these instructions, Zarqawi abdicated his position. He had not
intended to remain in Iraq forever anyway; he used Iraq only as a
springboard for his long-term goal establishment of a global caliphate.
Zarqawi said in a January 2005 audio message: "The caliphate is the
entrustment [of Allah] on Earth, the guidance of people to the path of
Allah, and the implementation of His world in life. . . . This group has
no other choice but to be patient and endure [the hardship of] the path
it has followed, and consider with Allah, the leaders and members it has
lost, and must follow their path; for Allah has chosen this Ummah
[Muslim nation], therefore it must not be impatient, as victory is
Toward that goal, attacks by Zarqawi's group have expanded beyond Iraq's
borders. His group participated in the rocket attack on US Navy ships at
the Jordanian port of Aqaba on Aug. 19, 2005, the rocket attack on the
Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona on Dec. 27, 2005, and the suicide attack
on Western hotels in Amman on Nov. 9, 2005. Thus, Zarqawi and his Al
Qaeda in Iraq are not gone; they have simply moved to the next stage of
their jihad against the West.
Rita Katz is director of the
SITE Institute, an international terrorist-investigation and