After almost a year of silence, Osama bin Laden has issued his third tape in less than two months. Based on excerpts from bin Laden’s latest audiotape, titled “Message to the people of Iraq,” he views the situation in Iraq as dire. Bin Laden is clearly concerned with the defection of Sunni insurgents to the Awakening movements and local security forces, the possibility of the Sunnis reconciling with the government, and the failure of al Qaeda leaders to unite the Sunni fighters under al Qaeda’s banner.
Bin Laden takes on the failure of al Qaeda leaders to recruit Sunni insurgent groups into the fold of the Islamic State of Iraq, and the defection of previous allies to the Iraqi government and Coalition forces. “Some of you have been lax in one duty, which is to unite your ranks,” bin Laden said. “Beware of division … Muslims are waiting for you to gather under a single banner to champion righteousness. Be keen to oblige with this duty.” According to the Associated Press, bin Laden said leaders should not build themselves up as the sole authority, and instead mujahedeen should follow “what God and his prophet have said.”
Bin Laden also acknowledges the grave errors made by the leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq and warned that the violators of al Qaeda’s laws should be punished. “Everybody can make a mistake, but the best of them are those who admit their mistakes,” bin Laden said. “Mistakes have been made during holy wars but mujahedeen have to correct their mistakes. … The mujahideen are the children of this nation … they do right things and wrong things. … Those who are accused of violations of God’s commandments should face trial.”
While it is unclear what “mistakes” he is referring to, it is likely he is addressing the deterioration of al Qaeda’s standing in the Sunni insurgency due to the leadership’s violent response to the slightest affronts to al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq.
He directly addresses the defections of Sunni insurgents such as the 1920s Revolution Brigades, the Mujahedeen Army, and elements of the Islamic Army of Iraq and other insurgent groups. He implored “scholars, jihadist and tribal leaders to work for reconciliation between fighting groups.” Several insurgent groups have attacked al Qaeda in Iraq for murder, intimidation, wanton violence, and the desecration of corpses. He implored these groups to uphold the “tradition of resisting” foreign armies.
He also addresses both the tribal “Awakening” movements, which have spread into former al Qaeda strongholds and have driven al Qaeda from power. Bin Laden warns that the ideology of jihad outweighs any feelings of nationalism or tribal affiliations.
“I advise myself, Muslims in general and brothers in al Qaeda everywhere to avoid extremism among men and groups [note, in this context, the extremism he refers to is adhering to nationalist and tribal loyalties]. … The interest of the Islamic nation surpasses that of a group … the interest of the (Islamic) nation is more important than that of a state.”
The direct involvement of Osama bin Laden in the leadership issues with al Qaeda in Iraq speaks volumes on the problems the terror group is facing in Iraq. Violence is down 70 percent since June and al Qaeda is being chased from its stronghold. Over the past several days a clash between the Islamic Army of Iraq and al Qaeda near Baghdad resulted in 60 dead. Al Qaeda’s much touted Ramadan campaign resulted in the death of the leader of the Anbar Awakening, killed dozens of Sunni and Shia leaders in Diyala, and missed its targets in Salahadin. But the attacks failed to break the movement, and even served to strengthen the will of the leadership and followers.
Excerpts from Osama bin Laden’s speech were compiled from the following sources:
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