Al Qaeda will forever view each new conflict as another Afghan War, an opportunity to win martyrdom by driving off the infidel. Similarly the Afghan War will remain the original and definitive jihad, the battle that defined an era, even more so than the terror attacks of 9/11.
Of course the truth is no great Islamic harmonic convergence occurred in Afghanistan. At best the War Against Northern Infidel Aggression was a marriage of convenience, which included the CIA as fifth wheel. Indeed the Soviet troops had barely finished saying "dosvidan'ya" before the Northern Alliance and those groups that would become the Taliban were at each others' throats.
Al Qaeda's grasp on reality seems not to have improved with its latest broadcast, this one starring second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri's latest straight-to-VHS release portrays the transfer of control to Iraqi security forces in Basra as evidence that the British and Americans are losing the war.
"Reports from Iraq point to the increasing power of the mujahideen and the deteriorating condition of the Americans," he says. "And the decision of the British to flee is sufficient [proof]."
The U.S., too, is looking for a way out of Iraq due to public opposition to the war, he says. To facilitate this al-Zawahiri encourages unity among Iraqis, militants and tribes to support the mujahideen.
The facts tell a different story. The Pentagon on December 18, issued its quarterly report on Iraq, showing overall signs of real progress. Notably weekly IED attacks have dropped 68 percent since June. U.S. troop deaths from IEDs fell to the lowest level since January 2006.
For Iraqis, inflation through October 2007 stood at 4.2 percent down from nearly 53 percent in 2006. Electricity production was up 14 percent over last year. The report also pointed to several achievements by the Iraqi parliament.
Mr. Al Zawahiri, of course, dismisses all such reports as mere propaganda. "Either the US administration is lying outrageously," he says, "or the Americans have not learned anything from four years of war, as they did not learn from their defeat in Vietnam."
THE AL QAEDA PLAN for World Domination has failed miserably, and it is plain from this latest video that its leadership is in serious denial. Evidence of this can be seen in the loony conspiracy theories Mr. al-Zawahiri conjures to justify his group's loss of prestige.
Al-Zawahiri alleges foreign agents have infiltrated the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq, the al Qaeda affiliate. These groups, sympathetic to the US and Britain, commit atrocities in al Qaeda's name in the hope of forcing Sunni groups to ally themselves with the Americans, he says.
Since when does al Qaeda consider atrocities in its name a bad thing? Just yesterday, al Qaeda had hoped that continued sectarian violence would force the American troops out, and that in the ensuing chaos, death and destruction al Qaeda would find itself with a welcoming Talibanesque regime.
For awhile that scenario seemed likely. It seemed that Iraq Sunnis and Shias were hell-bent on butchering not just coalition troops, but each other. Yet that didn't pan out. Al Qaeda badly misjudged its support among Iraqis, who view the foreign hotheads as a worse threat than the infidel's armies. When the last American troops leave, the Iraqis do not want to have to deal with hordes of al Qaeda madmen, demanding to use their country as a base, and getting very little in return. Sadly it took Iraqis four years to get the message.
As Jason Burke, author of Al-Qaeda: the True Story of Radical Islam, pointed out in a recent Guardian piece, al Qaeda's unpopularity is part of a trend. Al Qaeda has failed at its persistent attempts to bring over factions in Bosnia, in Chechnya, in east Africa and in the Maghreb, in the Far East and in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Palestine. Al Qaeda attempts to "piggyback" on these conflicts are not proving particularly successful. With one exception.
"[O]ne place where al Qaeda does appear to have some purchase is among Muslim populations in the West, particularly in the UK," notes Burke.
One other aspect of the video seems to reinforce the notion that al Qaeda's brass feels more isolated than ever. Al-Zawahiri seems intent on alienating everyone, even other fundamentalist hotheads like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Al-Zawahiri denounced Ahmadinejad for "stabbing the Islamic nation in the back" by recognizing the U.S.-backed government in Iraq and "empty propaganda" against Israel. Were Ahmadinejad sincere about wiping Israel off the map Iran would not remain a member of the United Nations, whose charter defends the sovereignty, territorial integrity and well-being of all members, he said.
Al-Zawahiri also called for Muslims to overthrow Pakistan's Musharraf, and this on top of previous calls for the assassination of the Saudi royals and the Afghan president and just about any one else you can name. Lonely are the mad -- if you don't count their allies in the U.S. Congress and on most major American campuses.
Christopher Orlet is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator online.
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