When Opposites Attract…

While the newly elected President Obama has been bombarded with letters, messages and advice, a message from Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al- Zawahiri has struck an unlikely harmony between the terrorist organization and neoconservatives in the US.

The terrorist leader’s statement included discriminatory remarks toward President-Elect Obama as well as a charge of America’s military defeat in Iraq and a possible Iranian/US dialogue that would include bilateral cooperation over Afghanistan.

The slurs used toward the President-Elect, whether racial or religious, are discriminatory and disgraceful, and will likely prove counterproductive for the terrorist group, given the not only national but global enthusiasm over Barack Obama’s victory.

Zawahiri’s point that the planned withdrawal of American troops before 2011 means an American defeat in Iraq is misguided.  Americans are leaving Iraq because we are not colonizers or imperialists as al Qaeda’s leaders often claim.  We are leaving because Iraq and its people can stand on their own, with the U.S. as friends, not occupiers.  We leave not with “tails between our legs” but with the accomplishment of a free Iraq.  Therefore, it is Al Qaeda who has lost.  The passing of the SOFA agreement and the past Al Anbar uprising where Iraqi Sunnis singlehandedly expelled Al Qaeda from their cities and towns are proof of their defeat.

On Iran, Prof. Juan Cole, co-author of the Joint Experts’ Statement on Iran, responded to Zawahiri’s message stating that “The terrorist mastermind is even more scathing toward Obama’s hopes of talking to Iran and of sending more troops to fight in Afghanistan.” In al-Zawahiri’s view, “[Dialogue with Iran] has failure written all over it.”  With the possibility of open dialogue, a partnership between Iran and the U.S. would prove a significant setback for Al Qaeda, which is nearly as hostile to Iran as it is to the US.  This option is quite plausible because a stable Afghanistan would be in the best interests of each country and could serve to unite the two countries.

Al-Zawahiri is often referred to as “the real brains” of al-Qaeda and is on FBI’s Most Wanted list, though terrorists are rarely a voice of reason.  So if that’s the case, then the United States would be wise to prove Zawahiri wrong by successfully engaging in dialogue with Iran.

To me, it’s interesting to note the unlikely similarities between al Qaeda’s opposition to US-Iran dialogue and that of the hardline neocons–it’s not everyday that politics produces such irony.

Posted By Joseph Ward

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