The news regarding Al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, has been somewhat confusing this week. The speculations are varied; there are reports that he has been wounded, others that he has been killed. Some state that he escaped and fled to Iran, and others believe that he continues to lead Al-Qaeda operations in Iraq against the “thunder” operations in Baghdad. Who knows the truth? And who knows the real Al-Zarqawi?
From the days he wondered the streets of Zarqa in Jordan, as a young man, to his rise into a position of leadership within a brutal terrorist organization in Iraq, Al-Zarqawi’s life has had its ups and downs. Al-Zarqawi’s extremist activities began when he was still in Jordan, where he was indicted for his participation in an attempt on the life of an American diplomat in Amman. He was also a co-founder of Bay’at Al-Imam (The Vow of Allegiance to the Imam) organization, which was perhaps more extremist that some other Jihadist organizations. Al-Zarqawi was then imprisoned, but was released in early 1999 and traveled straight to Afghanistan.
While in prison in Jordan, Al-Zarqawi established a close relationship with Abu Mohamed Al Maqdisi (Essam Barqawi), a Palestinian-Jordanian Sheikh and theoretician of the Salafiyyah Takfiriyyah. There are reports that Al-Zarqawi had made this Sheikh’s acquaintance before being imprisoned, however he became absorbed in the extremist Salafiyyah Takfiriyyah principles, which centre round the excommunication of all Arab and Islamic governments. The Salafiyyah Takfiriyyah suggests that its followers have an incumbent duty to depose existing Arab and Islamic governments, as they combat Islam and Shari’ah, and replace them with their own “Islamic Government”.
It seems that Al-Zarqawi’s tendencies towards leadership began early in his life. A famous letter to Al-Zarqawi from Al Maqdisi, described how he had given up the Imrah (political Islamic leadership) to the favour of Al-Zarqawi, and described Al-Zarqawi’s Imrah tasks as most qualified. This news may not be new to many, especially since Al-Zarqawi gained a high media profile. What is new however, are the details published on fundamentalist internet sites, of a testament made by Seif Al-Ad, the leader of Al-Qaeda’s security committee.
In his testament, Al-Adl describes how he first became aware of Al-Zarqawi, through following his trial in Jordan. Al-Adl explains how Al-Zarqawi defended his views on excommunication. On leaving prison, Al-Zarqawi travelled to Qandahar, Afghanistan with his close aides, Khaled Al-Arouri and Abdel Hadi Daghlas. Al-Adl discussed how they did not approach Al-Zarqawi immediately out of caution. However after receiving a letter of recommendation from Abu Qatadah, the Palestinian Sheikh, based in London, they made contact.
Al-Adl identified a “rage” in Al-Zarqawi, that was born of his extremism. Imagine, that Seif Al-Adl, the “Sword of Al-Qaeda”, who was overjoyed with the September 11 attacks, considers this man an extremist. He did however believe Al-Zarqawi to have integrity.
Al-Adl asked Bin Laden and Al Zawahri permission to deal with Al-Zarqawi. He wanted to find a sound method to cooperate with him, in order to ensure they gained the best of his abilities. So as to appear flexible, Al-Adl, did not even request Al-Zarqawi to pledge allegiance for Al-Qaeda.
According to Al-Adl, after laborious discussions, Al-Zarqawi moved to Heart in West Afghanistan. This was as a result of several factors, including the narrowing down of the Pakistani government on the Arab and non-Arab Afghans who were flooding Al-Qaeda, and the Turkey-Iran-Afghanistan road option. In Herat, Al-Zarqawi founded a group which was strategically based in an old camp, close the areas in Iraq, Syria and greater Syria, where Al-Zarqawi was asked to be active.
September 11 brought about a total shift in the fate of Al Zarqawi. In the internet document published, he said, "Al Zarqawi had not been informed of the attacks nor of the aims. We had, however, explained what his aims should be, and discussed important details of the next phase and targets. We also gave him a presentation on the expected response of the United States. Our estimation was that the strike of September 11 would only succeed in achieving 20 percent of what we had planned, however this rate of success was enough to make the Americans respond, which was desired". I do not need to add the detailed confession of files of other evidence that indict Al-Qaeda with the September 11 attacks, since these have become well known facts for all except those who are in denial.
The United States did not delay its response, and began bombing the camps of Afghanistan as it waged a “third world war” on terrorism. In response to the bombing, Al-Qaeda members decided to “melt the land”, however this was not before Al-Zarqawi, renown for his imprudence and passion, returned to Qandahar to participate in the symbolic combat against American mortars. During this time, Al-Zarqawi was injured, after the house he was in collapsed on him, causing his ribs to break. On his recovery, he escaped with Al-Adl and other fighters to Iran. On arriving in Iran, they stayed in the houses of Hizb Islami, a follower of the former Afghani leader, Qalb Al Din Hekmatyar. There is an unspoken understanding that the Iranians, or at least Iranian Intelligence, were aware of the situation.
Let us leave Al-Zarqawi to one side for the time being in order to discuss Al-Adl further, since he is quite clearly a controversial figure. There have been disputes with regards to Al-Adl’s true identity, since there are some who believe that he is Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Mekawy and others who allege that he is an officer in the special-forces or the army. There are also suggestions that he is the man in a famous photograph publicized by the American authorities.
If he is, as some propose Mohamed Mekawy, then it is understood by observers of the Jihadist organizations (such as Diaa Rashwan), that he broke away from the Jihad group and Al-Zawahri in 1993. This was a time when the leadership shifted from Abdel Qader Abdel Aziz to Zawahri and Ahmad Agiza, the founder of the Jihad military wing (The Armies of Conquest). Al-Adl was interviewed in August 1993 by Al Wasat magazine. When asked, “What is your relationship with Ayman Al-Zawahri?” he answered, “We split from Dr Ayman Al-Zawahri approximately three months ago. We declared the Islamic Jihad Movement. The armies of conquest have no relations with Al Zawahri”.
What were the reasons for this separation? It seems that the Egyptian Jihad Organization, under the leadership of Al Zawahri, believe in the excommunication of elite Muslims for trivial reasons and they call for the fight against Muslims. There is not a focus on the regime.
Al-Adl’s identity is actually quite confusing, since in a documentary about the Egyptian fundamentalists in Peshwar, made by the BBC in the 1990s, a photograph of Mekawy is shown, which different from the famous picture [of Mekawy] distributed by the Americans. This may be a deliberate attempt by Al-Qaeda to confuse, in order to weaken the legitimacy of American information. Whatever the truth, there surely exists an influential man called Seif Al-Adl. According to reliable Saudi information, it was Al-Adl that gave the signal for the attacks on the residential compounds in Riyadh, in May 2003. However it was Khaled Haj, the Yemeni ex-leader of Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, that conveyed this message on behalf on Al-Adl.
Returning to Al-Zarqawi, it seems that as the Iranian government received increasing criticism from the Americans, for harbouring Al-Qaeda members, he began to lose his patience. According to Al-Adl, the Iranian government began tightened up their approach, and Al-Zarqawi lost 80 percent of his men. Consequently, he moved on to Iraq, first going to the extremist Kurdish Islamist organization, Ansar Al Islam in the North of the country. What followed is widely known.
The document published on the internet allows an insight into the mind of Al-Zarqawi, and for this they are valuable. It highlights his unwavering determination to wage fundamentalist revolution before September 11 and the American invasion of Afghanistan had even taken place. It becomes ever clearer that in founding an extremist organization that considers parliamentary experience as un-Islamic, he cannot accept other powers as partners with God. This was identifiable in his attacks on Jordanian and non-Jordanian Islamists who engaged in parliamentary acts. This reveals that the current fundamentalist crisis is essentially as crisis of concepts and rationality.
I will conclude with the following recommendation made by Al-Adl to Al-Zarqawi in his testament, he said “You must clearly and sincerely announce that your goal is to resume Islamic Life though the establishment of the Islamic State that will solve all the problems of the nation”.
This is the foundation of fundamentalism – there is nothing but such slogans. And may Allah execute what has been ordained.