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June 15, 2006



How would you have handled it, using your Public Dimplomacy angle?

The one intriguing part of the documents is al-Qaeda's alleged grand plan to foment a war between the United States and Iran.

Which, according to your reasoning, would seem to be evidence that the documents may be legit, since Iran is the top thing on the US agenda right now, and the US would not have planted such a story. Right? Or did I forget to jump out of the loop at the right time?


nothing in america is real. its just a big pr stunt on the world


Before that update, your post was actually total speculation. In fact, it was annoyingly speculative and completely discredited by its own nature. You based your speculations on what you would do if you were in Psy Ops. Thanks. That was pointless.

Why don't you just post the Washington Post's article and note that Zarqawi was pretty much illiterate. Then, maybe, note that picking a fight with Iran would be a massive departure from the shrine bombing campaign obviously otherwise underway.

At that point, give the conspiracy theory a rest. Your choir no doubt likes it, but the congregation is leaving the church.

J Thomas

The US side is real real lucky the iraqi insurgents have a reputation for killing journalists. That's the only thing that keeps this war from being a PR disaster for us.

No Preference

I think you meant "principal theater of conflict".


That's the only thing that keeps this war from being a PR disaster for us.

Hmmm...? You watching the same war I am?

J Thomas

I dunno. Does your war have a whole lot to keep it from being a PR disaster, or is it a PR disaster?

Nur al-Cubicle

From L'Orient Le Jour:

The identity of Abu Ayub al-Masri, a Egyptian Jihadist claimed by the US military to be the new chief of al-Qaeda in Iraq, remains an open question in Egypt.

"His true name is Yussuf al-Dardiri, approximately 38 years old, and he originates from Upper Egypt", said Montassir al-Zayat, a lawyer defending radical Egyptian expremists tracked down during the 1990's. Suppressed without mercy, their militants were killed, put in prison or have fled abroad. It is believed that the leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq are all Egyptians, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two.

But a source tells APF that "Egyptian intelligence services know of no terrorist named Abu Ayub al-Masri."

Dhia Rashwan, an expert in Islamism at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, affirmed that "There is no trace of such a nom de guerre in the Egypian archives of radical Islam. The Americans have furnished details on his past, saying that he joined Islamic Jihad in 1982 and was a founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq, but without discovering his real name! That's difficult to believe", say Rashwan. For Egyptian intelligence personnel and analysts, it is not possible to base intelligence on names announced by the Americans or al-Qaeda because they are not family names....

Moreover, a photo released to the press by US spokesman General William Caldwell leads analysts to believe that he is not Egyptian. "The American are in a hurrry to give a non-Iraqi identity to Zarqawi's successor for political reasons (...) They need an international symbol of Jihadism to justify the occupation of Iraq", says Rashwan. Yassir al-Sirre, Director of the Islamic Observatory in London tends to agree. "We're told that the new lead of al-Qaeda in Iraq is Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Baghdad, but that's also a nom de guerre. If this turns out to be true, the selection of an Iraqi would demonstrate al-Qaeda's desire "Iraqi-ize" the movement while keeping their international Jihadist reputation".

the aardvark

Wow, I was surprised to come back online and discover how much attention this post got. Some critics complained that I had no evidence (Chris's comment above is the funniest - he seems to think that I'm right, but didn't like the style of the post. OK.) For the record here's what I based my assessment on: the language used (especially to describe the Shia) is not typical of the Sunni jihadi language with which I'm familiar; the argument closely mirrors the talking points of Iraqi Shia politicians; the response on the jihadi boards I follow has been skeptical; and Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwafak al-Rubae released the letter rather than the US military. Could I be wrong? Sure - heck when I saw that Michael Ledeen arrived at the same conclusion as me about the likely origin of the document, I immediately suspected I might be wrong.

The real issue here is blowback: that however useful these docs might be for demoralizing and confusing the Iraqi insurgency, they will inevitably circulate back into the US (say, as a Ralph Peters column). It's a bit embarrassing to even have to say this, but serious analysts need to be able to distinguish between propaganda and reality. Blowback isn't just illegal, it's dangerous. If you want to portray al-Qaeda as in disarray in order to demoralize the jihadists, fine... but don't then base your own strategy on the belief that al-Qaeda is in disarray. Tell everyone that Dwayne Wade is on crutches if you want to keep Dallas guessing, but don't actually design a game plan with Wade on the bench.

If information could really be contained to a theater, as the laws against domestic propaganda assume, this might not be such a problem: confuse the jihadis, but let Americans know the truth. But of course that's not possible. A note on a jihadi internet site is picked up by al-Arabiya, distributed to the wire services, and shows up on the front page of the Times. And a document publicized by the Iraqi national security advisor becomes a matter of American national discourse almost instantaneously. Blowback is not just a possibility, it's a certainty. Now, for some of the critics, the problem really seems to be that they like the blowback, the sweet, reassuring blowback... but I can't help them with that problem.

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