Al-Qaeda chief ideologue predicts America’s defeat





By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent, in London

Financial Times, 11 September 2004

Al-Qaeda’s chief ideologue has marked today’s third anniversary of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks by issuing a rare statement in which he predicts the defeat of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The statement by Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy to Osama bin Laden in the al- Qaeda hierarchy, was broadcast by the Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera.

The statement was the first by an al-Qaeda leader since June, when Mr Zawahiri condemned US policy in the Middle East.

Mr Zawahiri, an Egyptian, was responsible for al-Qaeda’s decision in 1997 to make the US the main target of the organisation’s terrorist campaign. In the statement broadcast on Thursday he said: “The American defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan has become just a question of time.”

He went on to say: “In the two countries the Americans are between two fires. If they remain there they will bleed to death, and if they withdraw they will have lost everything.”

The tape may have been at least 10 days old, as it did not mention the killing of 330 people by Chechen rebels at the school at Beslan in North Ossetia, Russia, nor Thursday’s bomb in Jakarta.

However, it did refer to the continuing crisis in the Sudanese province of Darfur.

Mr Zawahiri attributed the violence against US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to “mujahideen” – or holy warriors – in both countries, though without claiming that al-Qaeda itself was responsible for the violence.

He said that the fighters in Afghanistan were in a “strong position”, and that in Iraq they had turned US plans “head over heels”.

Referring to the crisis in Sudan, where al-Qaeda was based from 1991 to 1996 under the protection of the government, Mr Zawahiri described US pressure on the government as a wish to “split the Arab and Muslim world”.

Several previous statements issued by al-Qaeda leaders have been swiftly followed by attacks, though officials did not raise alert levels in advance of today’s anniversary.

Mr Zawahiri did not hint at an imminent attack, although he declared in part of the tape that was not broadcast: “The age of security has passed for Americans, and they will not have security until they stop their crimes against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.”


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.