Al-Muhajir's Statement Simplified

On Friday, a new 22-minute audio recording by Shaykh Abu-Hamzah al-Muhajir, leader of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq, was released on the web.

The BBC reported:

A statement purportedly from the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq hails the defeat of Republicans in the US mid-term polls.

And the Associated Press:

A new recording today attributed to the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq mocked President Bush as a coward whose conduct of the war was rejected at the polls, challenging him to keep U.S. troops in the country to face more bloodshed.

And United Press International:

Al-Qaida's new leader in Iraq issued an audio statement Friday taunting outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for "flee(ing)" the battlefield.

All of the above is apparently true, or it is as far as I can tell from cross-referencing articles. I have not heard the recording myself, and if I did I doubt my Arabic would be up to it, so like most readers in the “West,” I am largely dependent on the media to understand this message. Lucky for me then, that I found Dr. Walid Phares’s post at the Counterterrorism Blog (via Minstrelboy), which hinted that my sources of information might not be quite up to scratch:

After listening carefully to the tape, I realized that it is not just about one particular message as it was projected in the international media. Yes indeed, the most striking part was al Muhajir's statements about the results of the midterms elections in the US, and his direct threat against the White House. […] But the audiotape message included a revealing number of other important Jihadi issues.

As well as providing some detail about the language used by al-Muhajir, Dr. Phares describes the other subjects covered in the statement, which included intra-Islamic conflicts:

The rise of Iranian-Shiite power, the Sunnis who are not joining his Jihad yet and the bad Arab regimes including the Hashemites of Jordan.

and the pledging of allegiance to a higher command in the region:

Intriguing: al Muhajir, with great passion, committed 12,000 al Qaeda fighters to the "ameer al Mu'mineen" al Baghdadi. So, the Emir of al Qaeda in Iraq has pledged support to a regional "emir." Hence, the experts should be paying attention to the matter and watch for a transnational "Jihad chief" in the whole region.

Neither the BBC nor the United International Press articles mention that anything other than the Bush Administration and the U.S. elections was discussed by al-Muhajir during the 22-minute audio clip.

After sixteen paragraphs, the AP story does finally give two sentences to al-Muhajir’s comment about al-Baghdadi, but not before claiming:

The audio message appeared to be an attempt to exact maximum propaganda benefit from the results of Tuesday's midterm elections, in which the Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress, in part because of the war.

This is probably true; however, my point (or rather, Dr. Phares’s point) is that this was not the only intention of the statement.

Indeed, in their reporting, three respected news sources have somewhat simplified the news.

Malika Worrall @ November 16, 2006 - 1:33am

Thankfully, a more detailled report by AP was published on Saturday.

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