al Qaeda’s assessment of the state of affairs in Baghdad, “the epicenter of jihad”

The latest internal al Qaeda in Iraq document, which was captured in conjunction with the video outtakes from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s latest tape, highlights the state of affairs of al Qaeda in Iraq. The document is titled “A glance at the reality of Baghdad in light of the latest events.” It provides a blunt assessment of al Qaeda’s strategy and tactics in the battle for Baghdad. Combine this document with the “Al Qa’ida in Iraq Situation Report” released in April, which discussed the state of affairs in Anbar province, and it becomes clear al Qaeda in Iraq is very concerned about their strategic situation and the desertion of influential Sunni tribes and political groups. Some highlights from the document:

– The state of affairs in Baghdad and Anbar is far worse than they were years ago as the Coalition and Iraqi government have absorbed the terror blows. In the unnamed commander’s words: “every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin’s control and influence over Baghdad.” The increased participation of Iraqis in security forces and political process is exactly what Zarqawi feared when he wrote his letter to Osama bin Laden in 2004 outlining the strategy to incite a Sunni-Shiite civil war.

– al Qaeda in Iraq fears the influence of Iraqi Islamic Party, the Islamic Scholars Committee, the Sunni tribes, and their cooperation with the government, as they possess a media wing and have dominance at the mosques: “The role that the Islamic party and the Islamic Scholars Committee play in numbing the Sunni people through the media is a dangerous role. It has been proven from the course of the events that the American investment in the Party and the Committee were not in vain. In spite of the gravity of the events, they were able to calm down the Sunni people, justify the enemy deeds, and give the enemy the opportunity to do more work without any recourse and supervision.”

– AQIZ is mired in a tactical game of car and suicide bombings to influence the American media, however the campaign has so far failed to destroy the will of the Iraqi government and Coalition. The foreign media is only group influenced by the bombings -” the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them… What is fixed in the minds of the Shiite and Sunni population is that the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and closer to controlling it while the mujahidin (who represent the backbone of the Sunni people) are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shiite government.”

– There is a lack of a cohesive strategy to control territory in Baghdad. No effort has been made to stockpile weapons caches in and around Baghdad for the battle. Communications at the tactical and strategic level are poor. The majority of the terror cells are organized as “assassins without any organized military capabilities.” AQIZ has problems with obtaining manpower in Baghdad. The three districts only contain 110 al Qaeda operatives, and there are questions about where more can be obtained.

While al Qaeda assesses their position in Baghdad and Anbar province, influential Iraqi parties continue to push for a unity government and reconciliation. Iraqi-American Haider Ajina provides a translation of an article in the Iraqi newspaper Almada, which reports “Over 200 Iraqi tribal leaders will meet in Baghdad on Wednesday may 10th to sign an honor compact to denounce and reject terrorism and sectarian violence.” The Washington Post puts the number at 50, and stated it included “Baghdad’s most senior Shiite cleric… tribal leaders and Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurdish clerics.” The Iraqi police and various independent security services are being reorganized under a single command under the Ministry of Interior with the intentions of increasing accountability.

Osama bin Laden, in his latest videotape, referred to Baghdad as “the epicenter of jihad.” An al Qaeda in Iraq commander has just given a grim view of the AQIZ’s ability to influence events in the epicenter of jihad.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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