Please find below an example of UPI's continuing coverage of al-Qaida
and related matter. A much shorter version appears on A of Wednesday's
Washington Times. I hope you find it interesting. You may link to it on
the web here:

I will circulate part two when it is completed and published later this

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Thank you,

Shaun Waterman
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor
Tel: 202 898 8081

The Zawahiri letter, part one: Is it real?
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- President Bush's unprecedented inclusion in
his weekend radio address of a direct reference to a letter he said was
written by al-Qaida's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, highlights the
fascinating insights it appears to offer into the inner workings of the

But there are nagging questions about the document -- which U.S.
intelligence officials say is a private communication between Zawahiri
and the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- in the minds
of many experts. Indeed, despite the high confidence that those
officials say they have in its authenticity, some scholars believe it
may be a fake. 

And even the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., has cautioned against
"reading too much into a single source of intelligence." 

In the letter, Bush said Saturday, "Zawahiri lays out why al-Qaida views
Iraq as 'the place for the greatest battle' of our day." 

The letter outlines a four-stage strategy for the mujahedin -- Islamic
holy warriors -- in Iraq. 

After successfully expelling the Americans, it says, Zarqawi should
"Establish an Islamic emirate... over as much territory as you can... in
Sunni areas" of Iraq. 

This has to be done swiftly, "in order to fill the void stemming from
the departure of the Americans" before they can be pre-empted by
"un-Islamic forces." 

But the emirate, the letter acknowledges, will be "in a state of
constant preoccupation with defending itself"; a state of permanent war
with "foreign infidel forces" and their local supporters. 

The third stage is to spread the jihad to neighboring countries, and the
fourth is all-out war with Israel, though this final stage "may coincide
with the one before." 

The Arabic text uses the word Israel, terrorism analyst Stephen Ulph
told United Press International. 

Ulph, who works with the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, said
that typically, jihadists like Zawahiri would use a term like "Zionist
entity" to refer to the Jewish state. 

"But it could be," he acknowledged, "that in a private communication,
you use it just for brevity." 

Ulph has other reservations about its authenticity -- like the way the
four stages of the war are spelled out in such detail, when that concept
is part of the shared ideology of contemporary Mujahedin. 

That same point was echoed by Raymond Ibrahim, a scholar of Arabic
history and language. "That would be a given," he told UPI. "There's no
reason to set it out in so much detail." 

Ibrahim, who prepared a forthcoming collection of newly translated
al-Qaida documents, and who has read a great deal of Zawahiri's writing,
both public and private, said that the style of address was both "too
chummy and too deferential." 

Usually, he said, Zawahiri's tone was "more masterful, more commanding."

"He is the elder, he is the sheikh," said Ibrahim of Zawahiri,
describing parts of the letter as almost a supplication. "He wouldn't
take that tone." 

At one point, the author urges Zarqawi to cease the televised beheadings
which have become his gory trademark -- and which "the Muslim populace
who love and support you will never find palatable" -- because hostages
can be killed just as easily with bullets. 

But to demonstrate his jihadi bona fides, the author confides that he
"has tasted the bitterness of American brutality," and that his
"favorite wife," son and young daughter had been crushed when the house
they were in was leveled -- presumably by the U.S. military -- and he
does not know where the bodies are. 

"Were they brought out of the rubble, or are they still buried beneath
it to this day?" the author plaintively inquires. 

Ibrahim points out that Zawahiri and Zarqawi are not exactly old friends
-- some believe they have never actually met. 

"His other letters, even to people that he does know very well, don't
have such intimate revelations in them," he said. "It doesn't sound too
much like him." 

On balance, Ibrahim said, "I tend to think it is a forgery." 

But Yosri Fouda, chief investigative correspondent for the Arabic
satellite news channel al-Jazeera, said he believed the letter was
probably genuine. 

"It is Zawahiri's style, linguistically and ideologically," he said. 

Fouda also explained an odd phrase in the letter, right at the end,
where the author sends his "greetings to all the loved ones... and the
rest of the folks I know," closing with "especially: By God, if by
chance you're going to Fallujah, send greetings to Abu Musab

As a number of commentators have pointed out, this is a rather odd thing
to say in a letter supposedly addressed to Zarqawi, and an official
authorized to speak for the director of national of intelligence told
UPI "We don't know what to make of that sentence." 

"It is poetry," explained Fouda, saying the form sprung from southern
Egyptian folk tradition. "When people were leaving these isolated
communities, their companions would gather round and sing to them 'By
God, if by chance you're going to such-and-such place, send greetings to
such-and-such a person.' 

"It is like a quotation. He is not asking Zarqawi to send greetings to

Nonetheless, the fact that intelligence officials, having published the
letter, could offer no explanation of this odd statement, bemused some

Ben Venzke, a terrorism analyst who consults with U.S. agencies, told
UPI, "One could reasonably anticipate... that question coming up. It
seems strange that they have not prepared a response." 

Fouda added that the passage illustrated perfectly the need for "people
who understand the culture as well as the language" to be involved in
the interpretation of such documents. 

In his statement last week, Rep. Hoekstra was not trying to cast doubt
on the authenticity of the letter, said intelligence committee spokesman
Jamal Ware. 

"His intention was to warn that this was a single piece of intelligence"
upon which it was unwise to rely too heavily. "He would like to see some
additional corroboration," said Ware. "It's not definitive." 

"There will be significant discussion over the coming days and weeks as
to its exact nature," Hoekstra said in his statement, saying that the
"alleged communication" was "under review" by intelligence officials. 

This open-ended assessment was in notable contrast to the tone taken by
an official authorized to speak for the office of the director of
national intelligence. 

"Numerous agencies studied (the letter) over a protracted period of
time," he said. "We have the highest confidence in its authenticity." 

"'Who knows?' is the short answer," said terrorism analyst and author
Peter Bergen when asked if the letter was genuine. He added that it
seemed politically consistent with Zawahiri's other writings. 

Ulph agreed that without more information about the provenance of the
document, it was impossible to be sure about its authenticity one way or
the other. "It's a just a gut feeling," he said of his skepticism. 

He pointed out a number of odd things about the Arabic manuscript, a
typewritten document placed as a PDF file on the Web by the director of
national intelligence. 

For example, the @ sign appears after the name of Mohammed -- where one
would expect to see the Arabic phrase "peace and blessings be upon him."

"It almost looks like some kind of macro," said Ulph, using the
technical terms for a keyboard shortcut that produces a pre-programmed
phrase of text in a word processing application. 

Officials have remained tight-lipped about the source of the letter, and
intelligence experts say that such information, involving sources and
methods, would be very tightly held, especially if it involved so-called
signals intelligence -- eavesdropping on telephone, Internet and e-mail

Ulph said it would be useful to see the original document. "Is what
they've put up there (on the Web) an image of the actual letter?" 

The official authorized to speak for the director of national
intelligence would not address the question of whether the image was
that of the original letter. 

"All I can tell you is, what you see is what we got," said the official.
"Nothing has been added or taken away." 

Whatever their view of the letter's authenticity, all of the half-dozen
experts consulted by UPI agreed that the letter -- if real -- offered a
fascinating and novel insight into the inner world of al-Qaida's
second-in-command and chief ideologue. 


In part two, what the letter tells us about al-Qaida, Zawahiri, and
looming splits in the global jihadi movement.

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