Osama bin Laden's deputy Ayman Zawahiri has sent a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the militant leader in Iraq, setting out a blueprint for taking control of the country when American troops leave, according to US intelligence officials.
The plans are set out in a 6,000-word letter dated July 9 this year from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian-born doctor who is regarded as al-Qaida's second-in-command.
The existence of the letter to Zarqawi was disclosed by the US last week but its full contents have only now been made public. The office of the director of national intelligence in Washington, which posted the letter on its website, has given no details of how it fell into American hands beyond saying it was "obtained during counterterrorism operations in Iraq".
"This lengthy document provides a comprehensive view of al-Qaida's strategy in Iraq and globally," the director's office said. "The document has not been edited in any way and is released in its entirety in both the Arabic and English translated forms. The United States government has the highest confidence in the letter's authenticity."
The letter sets out a four-step plan beginning with the expulsion of US forces from Iraq, followed by the establishment of "an Islamic authority or amirate" covering as much Iraqi territory as possible.
The third stage would "extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighbouring Iraq". Finally, would come "the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity," the letter says, reports Gardian.
The letter further says that more than half the battle is taking place in the media, and that it is a race for the hearts and minds of the Islamic world.
At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said the letter shows the media-savvy of al-Qaida, but also clearly reveals the evil nature of the enemy being faced in Iraq:
"This isn't a question of hearts and minds, it's a question of bodies and gore, quite frankly. Meaning that this is a network and this is a confederacy of evil that will stop at nothing to advance its radical agenda. And that agenda was made very clear: it's a caliphate that will start in Iraq and move to take over Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and practice the kind of abuse and intolerance and perfidy that we saw under the Taleban in Afghanistan, which was in cahoots with these guys," Mr. Ereli says.
Mr. Ereli said the best evidence of what al-Qaida and its allies are all about is their own writing.
He said the United States released the letter so that those claiming to be speaking in the name of Islam can be seen by Muslims for what they are, in his words, perverters of that religion, informs VOA.