The al Qaeda nodal network

Austin Bay:

Last Sunday, terrorist chieftain Abu Musad al-Zarqawi openly declared his allegiance to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. His website manifesto added that his "One God and Jihad" Islamist terror faction agreed with Al Qaeda's global strategy and recognized the need to unite against "the enemies of Islam." The online rant referred to bin Laden as "the sheik of holy warriors."

Zarqawi (nicknamed "Z-Man" by coalition troops in Iraq) craves TV time and newspaper headlines, and he got both by stating the obvious.

Zarqawi is Al Qaeda's man in Iraq, and -- despite blaring headlines -- this connection is very old news.

It isn't that Osama bin Laden (if he's still alive) directs Zarqawi's operations. He doesn't. There may be personal frictions between Zarqawi and senior Al Qaeda leaders; Zarqawi's and bin Laden's egos won't fit in the same room.

However, Al Qaeda works as a loose, "nodal network," where each associated faction operates with local and regional autonomy. Factions do cooperate strategically. Early last year, Kurdish militiamen snagged a compact disc containing Zarqawi's strategic assessment of his operations in Iraq. U.S. and coalition intelligence determined the CD was on its way to "Central Asia" (Pakistan or Afghanistan, most likely).

Zarqawi's intercepted message to his Al Qaeda comrades admitted that his terror band was "failing to enlist support" inside Iraq and was "unable to scare the Americans into leaving."


Zarqawi lacks political support and is increasingly desperate. His declaration of solidarity with Al Qaeda is both an emergency plea for Islamist reinforcements from Syria and Saudi Arabia, and the shrill cry of a true believer just rational enough to recognize he's caught in a political and military vise.

Since April 2004, the Sunni Triangle city of Falluja has been an outlaw town where Zarqawi's fanatics mixed with Saddmite insurgents and criminal gangs. Falluja has served as their safe haven and headquarters. Ironically, Falluja has showcased the poverty and violence produced by fascist thugs and theocrats.

Iraq's adept Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is performing a political judo act on Sunni holdouts, with Zarqawi as the fall guy.

Press sources report residents of Falluja and other cities have been providing highly reliable information about "foreign fighters," and coalition airstrikes and special operations attacks have killed scores of Zarqawi recruits.


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