On Point: Sunni vs. Shia: The Rich Boys' Plan

by Austin Bay
February 10, 2004

The videotape captured in Kabul in late 2001 provided a candid insight into the enemy's world.

Though too tedious for the networks, C-SPAN played Osama bin Laden's home movie unexpurgated. Filmed by a theo-fascist groupie, Bin Laden greets a visitor. The holy boys sit on the hovel floor, chat and laugh about 9/11. "God is great" is all-purpose slang, roughly equivalent to "that's cool." These are rich kids -- poverty didn't produce their terrorism. The self-absorbed bullies believe they've sucked America into an Afghan war that they and their Taliban pals will win. The visitor asserts Islam's religious-political appeal is increasing.

Watch that bull session and a fair mind will conclude Bin Laden's boys are vicious fantasists waging global war. Their ultimate aims are imperial, a "new caliphate" with bin Laden as Caliph. Their 9/11 was no plea for understanding but the first strike in a series aimed at destroying the West and such unholy notions as individual liberty and the separation of religious authority from secular authority.

Now, certain sectors might call that tape a fake. Its home-movie boredom and banality argue for authenticity. So does the fact that in fall 2001, Al Qaeda was pursuing the strategic goal of global Arab and Islamic uprising ignited by 9/11's "revelation" of American weakness and vulnerability. Al Qaeda's strategic operations align with the tape's chitchat.

Now U.S. intelligence in Iraq has snagged a compact disc containing a strategic assessment possibly penned by Jordanian Al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi may have served as a contact point for Al Qaeda, Baathist intelligence and Ansar Al Islam (the Islamist cadre based in north Iraq).

The New York Times saw and summarized the document. Its text asserts radicals "are failing to enlist support" inside Iraq and "have been unable to scare the Americans into leaving." It "laments Iraq's lack of mountains in which to take refuge." Perhaps that lament echoes its author's experience in Afghanistan or north Iraq. Members of Ansar al Islam holed up in mountains near Iran, until the Kurds destroyed their base.

The Times reported this could well be an "inside account of the insurgency and its frustrations ... it also charts out a battle to come."

The document asserts one strategic solution to Al Qaeda's failure is to attack Iraqi Shias and start a "sectarian war" that will "rally the Sunni Arabs" to Al Qaeda. This war against Shiites "must start soon -- at "zero hour" -- before the Americans hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis."

This document's desperation argues for its authenticity; in certain hothouse sectors, however, the fact that it suggests the coalition's strategy is successful demonstrates it's a phony. The Times' summary indicates Al Qaeda once again seeks an Arab uprising. In Mesopotamia, the Iranian, Kurd, Arab and Turk worlds collide. (Note these groups are predominantly Muslim.) The demographic tectonics get dicier. For eight decades Iraq's Sunni minority put a vicious boot to Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority. Hence Al Qaeda's plan: Provoke the Shias into attacking the Sunnis, who then ally with Al Qaeda.

And the Americans lose, QED?

Not quite. Al Qaeda senses defeat unless it spills lots of blood very quickly. After Iraqis run their own government, U.S. troops will remain, the document says, "but the sons of this land will be the authority ... This is the democracy. We will have no pretexts." Iraq's new army and police will link with the people "by lineage, blood and appearance." Al Qaeda fears an American and Iraqi strategic victory -- a democracy defending itself against terrorists.

Could Iraq become three states? Sure, though Turkey says it will never allow an independent Kurdistan. However, a national federation with Shia, Sunni and Kurd regions running local governments is more economically and politically stable than three separate states. A lot of Iraqis know that. Al Qaeda's strategy is, in fact, a recipe for Sunni defeat and thousands of Sunni dead. Those left alive would inhabit a Sunni ghetto.

But do Al Qaeda's rich kids care? Check the battlefields and mass graves. Dead Muslims don't matter a whit to Al Qaeda's trust fund babies.

Read Austin Bay's Latest Book

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


On Point Archives:

On Point Archives: Current 2022  2021  2020  2019  2018  2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close