“The darkness has become pitch black” – Osama bin Laden on Iraq situation


Banner announcing Osama bin Laden’s audiotape. Click image to view animated version.

Recent report from US commanders in Iraq have stated al Qaeda in Iraq has been set back by a combination of the latest offensive and the willingness of local Iraqis to turn on the terror group. Based Osama bin Laden’s latest audiotape, al Qaeda central command agrees that the fight against the US and the Iraqi government is not going well.

A clearer picture of Osama bin Laden’s view on the state of jihad in Iraq emerges after the release of the full transcript of Osama bin Laden’s latest audiotape, Not only does bin Laden admit errors in the Iraqi leader’s ability to unite the tribes and Sunni insurgent groups, he views the situation in Iraq as dire for al Qaeda. Bin Laden accuses his foot soldier of “negligence” for failing to properly employ IEDs, laments the unwillingness of Iraqis who do not wish to attack their brothers in the police and army, and closes his statement by saying “the darkness [in Iraq] has become pitch black.”

Al Qaeda, IEDs, and “negligence”

Bin Laden addresses a tactical failure of al Qaeda in Iraq’s IED cells. He clearly is unhappy with their performance, and indicated the failure to employ IEDs efficiently against U.S. forces is due to “negligence.” He is also concerned about the infiltration of Iraqi and American spies.

I tell my brothers: beware of your enemies, especially the hypocrites who infiltrate your ranks to stir up strife among the Mujahid groups, and refer such people to the judiciary. And you must check and verify, and avert the Hudood through doubts. You must protect your secrets and excel in your actions, for among the things which sadden the Muslims and the delight the unbelievers is the hindering of some combat operations against the enemy because of negligence in any of the stages of preparation for the operation, whether it be reconnaissance of the target, training, integrity, and suitability of weapons and ammunition, quality of the explosive device or other such arrangements. And when you lay a mine, do it right, and don’t leave so much as one wounded American soldier or spy.

US and Iraqi Security Forces have specifically focused on targeting IED and suicide bomb cells over the course of the summer. In some cases, IED cells have been captured wholesale by conventional and special forces and in other cases IED emplacers have been killed in groups of five to 15 while attempting to plant their weapons by Coalition aircraft. In Anbar province, al Qaeda in Iraq has failed to kill a single US serviceman by IED since September 10. It seems bin Laden is acutely aware of this.

Osama bin Laden is often portrayed as a spiritual leader and figurehead detached from day-to-day operations, but this recent speech merely reinforces what we already know about him. An engineer by training, bin Laden is very interested in the planning and execution of attacks and operations. The 9/11 Commission Report stated bin Laden was personally involved in reviewing the operational attack plans for the embassy bombings, the Cole, and 9/11. He immerses himself in the technical details and the tactics used by his operators, and keeps apprised of the situation on the battlefields.

A split with the insurgency over attacking the Iraqi Security Forces

While bin Laden repeatedly admonishes his leaders for failing to build the relationships with Sunni tribal groups and allied insurgent groups, he continues to push attacks on Iraqi police and soldiers. This attitude has pitted some of the more nationalist Sunni groups away from al Qaeda, as they loath to attack their own countrymen, instead viewing the US and Coalition forces as the enemy.

Bin Laden tells the Iraqi people to “beware of … those in the land of the Two Sanctuaries in particular, who forbid the Mujahideen from fighting the army and police of the traitors – like al-Alawi, al-Jafari and al-Maliki – although they know that they are tools of the American occupation helping it to kill the people of Islam which is obvious apostasy on the part of the soldiers.”

The violent attacks against the Iraqi Security Forces, particularly in Anbar province during the winter and spring of 2007, were accompanied by strikes against the families and tribes which supported the establishment police and army units. Mishan al-Jabouri, a leader in the Islamic Army in Iraq and the proprietor of Al Zawraa, an insurgent TV channel, attacked al Qaeda in Iraq for intentionally targeting members of the Iraqi Army and police forces. Al-Jabouri and other Sunni insurgents believed those joining the security forces were acting in the best interest of Iraqis.

Contempt for the Saudi king

In the next paragraph, bin Laden shows his contempt for Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who he describes as “the idol-king of Riyadh” and “the biggest promoter of the American-Zionist project in the region.”

And worst of all is that these men of knowledge consider the idol-king of Riyadh to be guardian of the Muslims’ affair, and call on the Muslims to rally around him, although they know that he is the biggest promoter of the American-Zionist project in the region, and is one of those who called on it to invade Iraq. These, “they are the enemies, so beware of them. Allah curse them, how they lie!” (63:4)

Earlier in the speech, bin Laden chastises Abdullah for backing the deployment of African peacekeepers to Darfur in Sudan. He refer to Abdullah as “the governor of Riyadh” who “again sought to convince the Sudanese president, this time to implement the demands of the United Atheist Nations to allow the entrance of Crusader forces to Darfur.” Bin Laden described the Darfur peacekeeping mission as “a brazen occupation” and stated “only an infidel apostate seeks it or agrees to it.”

Darkness. Where are the mujahideen?

While bin Laden clearly sees the situation in Iraq as dire — he said “the darkness has become pitch black” — he holds out hope that the vanguard fighters of al Qaeda can hold the line until reinforcements arrive.

In closing, I tell our people in Iraq, the patient ones garrisoned on the first line of the religion and sanctities of the Muslims: the malice has increased and the darkness has become pitch black, and with the likes of you, nations reinforce themselves and climb summits.

He calls on Muslims of the Middle East to rejoin the fight, challenging their honor and willingness to fight when they are needed.

So where are those who prefer the religion to the lives of themselves and their children? Where are the people of Tawheed and those who topple the banner of unbelief and polytheism? Where are those who find torture to be pleasant and don’t fear the blows? Where are those who find difficulty to be easy and bitterness to be sweet, because they are certain that the fire of Hell is much hotter? Where are those who go out to fight the Romans, as on the day of Tabuk? Where are those who pledge to fight to the death, as on the day of Yarmuk? Where are the soldiers of the Levant and the reinforcements of Yemen? Where are the knights of the Quiver (Egypt) and the lions of the Hijaz (western Saudi Arabia) and al-Yamamah (central Saudi Arabia)? Come and aid your brothers in Mesopotamia and relieve them by coordinating with them by way of dependable guides.

An outside view

Al Qaeda, via As Sahab Media, its propaganda arm, resists the interpretation of bin Laden’s speech. As Sahab attacked Al Jazeera for “counterfeiting” the facts of his speech. As Sahab posted the video online at the Ekhlaas forum, along with the following note in English: “Note: We are publishing the whole speech of Shiekh Osama Bin Laden After the tremendous amount of Counterfeiting of the facts and altering the purposes and objectives of the Speech by AL-Jazeerah Satellite channel which ignored all the pillars of honor professional media.”

Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of al-Quds al-Arabi who interviewed bin Laden in 1996, disagrees. Atwan stated in a published editorial that this is the first time al Qaeda admitted errors and was seeking to rectify the situation in Iraq. He noted al Qaeda’s zeal in enforcing its radical ideology on Sunni Iraqis turned the majority of Sunnis against the terror group.

“Launching diatribes against others and imposing a particular theological school of thought on everyone, has allowed al-Qaeda’s enemies to gain an advantage,” Atwan said. “In particular, it’s helped the Americans to win the trust of certain tribal leaders. In this way, for the Iraqis the enemy has become al-Qaeda and not the occupying forces.”

In Ramadi, “the city that al Qaeda leaders once declared the seat of a new Islamic caliphate and capital of the Iraqi insurgency,” the Anbar Awakening held a march honoring Sheik Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the movement who was slain by al Qaeda 40 days ago. The parade lasted four two hours and Iraqi government officials were in attendance. There were no attacks on the procession.

“Al-Qaeda never wanted to see the sons of Anbar to unite and form security forces. Now I think we have broken their back by building the police and security force,” said Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, the brother of Sattar who succeeded him as the leader of the Anbar Awakening. “Let them come forward and show their faces…. Let them come out, we will fight them.”

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



  • I certainly hope that the “Anbar Awakening” is for real, and that these foreign meddlers are losing their grip on Iraq. But how can Al Qaeda really be losing if we have not lifted a finger against the true source of that movement:
    Until we’re willing to follow this crap back to its roots, Bin Laden and his fellow Wahhabis will always be at our throats. If not in Iraq, then maybe here (again).

  • Paul says:

    Wow! This is pretty powerful I think.
    What I find most interesting is that he blasts Saudi Arabia for their assistance to the west and says they were one of several encouraging the invasion of Iraq. (Is it safe to assume he meant 2003?) It seems neither our government or the countries of the middle east like to broadcast any cooperation, so this is pretty revealing.

  • John says:

    This is good news. One can only hope that this situation keeps improving.

  • Turner says:

    The topic alone is of interest of course, but this is some of your best writing ever. Good ending, good insight, good variety, good coverage of the responses in the islamic world, and a good sense of some of the ways Osama and his fellow outcasts think.
    Now on to the comments:
    You make the point about his training as an engineer and his involvement, but he has largely been in hiding. He’s been as successfull as Patton or Lincoln would have been if they never addressed anybody or went out to walk amoung their troops. He’s basically spent the last few years hiding from George Bush. Besides, good at one profession doesn’t make you a good military leader. Ask Hilter or Saddam Hussen.
    Because he too is out of touch, he is pushing IED’s a static weapon against what is now a very mobile enemy with very good intelligence about the terrain. Yes, IED’s were a deterrent in Diyala, but that’s all they were. As the Iraqi’s have noted the Americans are patient and once we located the IED’s we ran over Al Quida in Diyala like a truck. The ring of IED’s just created a false sense of security for the mujahedin.
    And now, while he was at home, tending his garden and sending notes about IED’s over the internet, his network is riddled with leaks and informers. He has the worst challenge possible for an insurgency: They can’t openly communicate and form ranks, because they don’t know who to trust, but they must recruit and form ranks, because they’re rapidly becoming obsolete and being over-run.
    So now he has to call in outside recruits to intimidate the Iraqis because they don’t trust him, don’t like him and won’t submit to him willingly. He has to force them. He better hurry, cause Pakistan imay be starting to close in and Sudan is getting too hot.

  • Neo says:

    The first thing I’m thinking is that it’s too late for Iraq but his criticisms may set the tone for fight in Pakistan. But who knows if they hold out in Iraq in a few places and wait for a political change here in the states they may just get it Iraq served up as a continental breakfast. I don’t think Hilary is as pacifist as advertised though, and will probably make plenty of promises but drag her feet as much as possible on any troop pullout to give the Iraqi government a little more time to get it together.
    On a less serious note, I suggest Bin Laden use American and British news sources more regularly if he needs some good cheering up. A few doses of the Daily show will chase those black clouds away. That Stewart guy is a gold mine. Maybe CNN and MSNBC can reassure Bin Laden that recent developments are not consistent enough to be called a trend. According to all the academic types Al Qaeda was really never much a factor in Iraq to begin with, so I can’t really understand what all this fuss is about. I’m not real sure how Bin Laden will take that bit of information. And finally, maybe if he could help Brittany select a hajeb he could help make the world a much better place.
    Ok, I’ll understand if that bit has to go, but it’s just the thought of Bin Laden having to get real with the faithful about how badly things are going. It’s touching, especially the part about all the incompetent bomb makers. Quality control’s gone straight to heck. I guess there’s only so many competent thugs in the volunteer pool.
    I’m just wondering if any of the news outlets pick up on all these developments. I’m not so sure Bin Laden is credentialed to make such assessments though. Better call up the Brookings Institute and get some real expert opinion. I’m sure Osama’s moment of darkness will pass and he’ll get back with the program. He really needs to get more sun and get out of all those cramped spaces. It’s not healthy. Even bats need to get out of the cave and fly around a bit.
    Oh, and we should congratulate Osama on his media resurrection. I can see though why they might want to limit his air-time. Bin Laden’s droning psychopath routine gets a little stale after a time, don’t you think. Maybe they can revive the voice of Ernesto Che Guevara while they are at it. Broaden that base of appeal.
    I need to quit while I’m ahead here.

  • Neo says:

    There’s an extra “it” before Iraq in the second sentence. For those having difficulty parsing the sentence.

  • New Variants On Turmoil In The Middle East [to be updated throughout the day]

    The Iraqis are very sensibly paying a visit to Turkey, which is wise, considering Ankara’s importance and position and all.
    Turkish warplanes and helicopter gun-ships attack Kurdish rebels along Iraqi border Wednesday, order troops to cross over…

  • SFC MAC says:

    Well, it’s official:
    Bin Laden is as depressed as the Democrats. Here’s to their (joint) downward spiral.

  • Winger says:

    Lets hope it IS too late for Iraq. If the US can give that country back to Iraqis and Al Qaeda has minimal influence there, that will be a huge positive for the US in the war on terror for many reasons.
    For one, we can pull out 160,000 troops. This alone has many side benefits. We can redeploy to Afghanistan, We can rest the troops and improve their morale. That should help recruiting.
    We will be out of the battle that the Democrats and liberal media have tied their hopes of a Bush failure too. We can focus on Afganistan which the same Democrats and liberal media have identified as a war they do support because Osama attacked us. The rest of the world will be behind us for the same reason.
    We will have a “win” on our books. Democrats will have been defeated in Iraq = win # 2. Vietnam quagmire comparisons will be proven false. The money we are spending for the war in Iraq can be diverted to Afghanistan. Perhaps other countries will begin to pump money into Iraq for reconstruction so we don’t have to.
    We will have more bases in the Middle East which can be used as a deterrent to countries like Iran and Syria. That may also help Israel for the same reason and help tone down the rhetoric from Muslim countries. It may also help push the Palestinian peace process forward. And on and on and on.
    This could be bigger for us than we even know. George Bush will look like a hero the likes the world has never seen. (well, that one will bring out the Democrat firepower to do everything they can to lose so GWB can’t be a hero)
    Lets just hope Osama’s reinforcements are poorly trained, not quite as gung ho, and without effective leadership so they will perish or be captured as soon as they step foot into the country.
    On another note, the Muslims have been trying for centuries to get all their brethren to unite for the common goal. They have tried Arab Unification (Baath party), used Israel (read Jews) as a rallying cry, used the Palestinian cause as a rallying cry, tried to get Philipinos and Indonesian countries on board, demonized the West, etc.
    Nothing has worked. They can not seem to unify for a common goal. Osama thinks that he is the guy who can do it. He used the 9/11 attacks to get the attention. They have tried everything to get the billion+ Muslim masses in the world to unite and rise up to establish the gloabl caliphate. It never seems to work. It looks like this effort is going down in flames as well.
    It will be interesting to see the fallout because Osama has made an excellent effort to do it. It may just be an impossible task. Will this totally destroy that effort for many years to come or will this embolden others to regroup and try again, each time gaining momentum?
    Hopfully Osama will be seeing some real darkness soon.

  • Alex says:

    This is an interesting report as always. I will be very much looking forward to Bill’s or DJ Elliot’s next update on the status of the Iraqi military.
    Perhaps if the Iraqi Air Force purchased a squadron of F-15E’s or F/A-18s, unruly neighbors might think twice about making statements to “fill a power vacuum.” It sure beats MiG-23s or whatever leftovers that there were from Saddam’s regime.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    There were no leftover aircraft from Saddam.
    Except for the ones the Iranian’s kept.
    The few he had left in 2003, he buried and that does not preserve aircraft.
    The salvaged major combat equipment from Saddam’s time is all ground and not much of that. Enough to equip 7 Bns with wheeled and tracked armor.
    Air is going to be long term. Takes two years to train pilots and most of the pilots from Saddam’s time have been grounded too long. Need retraining.
    Ground and Naval is progressing but we are their air…

  • Halloween Terrorist, GWOT and US Terrorism Policy Update

    Here’s how we decide to go after terrorists in the criminal justice system or in the military system. Why not get them all through the criminal system? Well, it could end up like this even with phone records recording him bragging of the attacks…

  • Eric M says:

    Bill while I find your write up very well thought out I have to take issue with a few statements you make regarding Osama Bin Laden. Your interpretation of his statement that he believes the “situation in Iraq is dire”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    A careful reading of al Qaeda’s writings and speeches and internal documents captured will show that their goal isn’t to disrupt security, serve as a recruiting base or kill Americans, it is to defeat the US and make Iraq the seat of its caliphate. Osama called Iraq the “epicenter of jihad” while Zawahiri called Iraq “the greatest battle.”
    Al Qaeda doesn’t want Iraq to become another Chechnya. That Osama criticizes his commanders at this point in time is telling. And I am interested in hearing an alternative interpretation of “”The darkness has become pitch black.” Al Qaeda has always feared the rise of Iraqi security forces with a capability to fight them head on. The ISF isn’t there yet, but its happening, and they can see it. Hence the stress on tribal relations, clerical relations and relatiosn with other insurgent groups.


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