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The recently released letter from a senior al-Qaeda "advisor" to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (captured in the aftermath of the strike that killed him) confirms the strained relationship between the factions of the terrorist organization.
While media analysis has focused on the group leadership's dismay with Zarqawi's attacks on fellow Sunni Muslims, few analysts have gone beyond that surface issue to the deeper leadership strategy and long range plans endangered by Zarqawi's actions and revealed in the text of the document:
Since this is necessary, it is highly advisable to be polite and to show complete respect, regret, compassion, and mercy and so forth. You must incline yourself to this, and be humble to the believers, and smile in people’s faces, even if you are cursing them in your heart, even if it has been said that they are “a bad tribal brother,” and what have you.It's not the attacks on Sunni Muslims that concerns the al Qaeda leadership - its just thepriority of the attacks, and in the eyes of the senior leadership Zarqawi has misjudged the urgency. There will be plenty of time later to deal with Sunnis who disagree with al Qaeda's goals, as the author assures Zarqawi:
Among the most crucial of things involved is exercising all caution against attempting to kill any religious scholar or tribal leader who is obeyed, and of good repute in Iraq from among the Sunnis, no matter what. Instead, we should confront anyone evil by many other means of discourse and fervor of speech, and such, and with a bit of wisdom, patience, and deliberateness. We should continue in our jihad, and when God opens the way, and we have the wherewithal, then we can behave differently in accordance with what is appropriate for that time.
Thus, as I previously mentioned, there is no harm in a certain amount of keeping quiet, overlooking things, forgiving, and reserving things to a time of an end to weakness and the attainment of complete authority...In short, work with them now, kill them last.
(Note: This is part one of a series examining recent and little-known developments within al Qaeda, focusing on "public relations" efforts within the group. The next entry, detailing al-Qaeda's efforts to win back the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and the response they received, can be read here.