George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden's right-hand man agree on one thing, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. They're both certain that 'œIraq is the central battlefield' in the war between al Qaida and the West. U.S. officials last week released an intercepted letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's second in command, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaida's self-appointed leader in Iraq. In the 6,000-word letter, al-Zawahiri emphasizes the importance of Iraq to al Qaida's long-term goal—establishing a fundamentalist Islamic regime in the region—and reminds al-Zarqawi that 'œmore than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.' For this reason, al-Zawahiri counsels the hotheaded terrorist to stop killing Shiite Muslims and focus on American troops. His core advice is to be patient. If the Vietnam War is any guide, he says, the U.S. public will demand a premature withdrawal—giving the insurgents, and al Qaida, a huge victory.
But is the letter authentic? asked Eli Lake in The New York Sun. Some experts have their doubts. The language in the letter lacks al Qaida's usual rhetoric; al-Zawahiri refers to Israel rather than the 'œZionist entity,' for example, and to America rather than 'œthe crusaders.' I noticed something else that's strange, said Fred Kaplan in Slate.com. At one point al-Zawahiri tells the recipient, 'œif by chance you're going to Fallujah, send greetings to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.' But this letter was supposedly sent to al-Zarqawi. Surely, al-Zawahiri wouldn't 'œtell Zarqawi to send greetings to himself.' Some experts speculate that the letter may have been forged by Shiites, to convince U.S. forces to stay in Iraq.
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