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An Omission of Note

Iraq, Iran, and al Qaeda's master strategist.

12:00 AM, Jun 2, 2006 • By DAN DARLING
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LAST WEEK the Washington Post featured a story on Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, the Spanish-Syrian al Qaeda strategist who wrote the 1,600 page Call for a Global Islamic Resistance. The Post story provided a revealing look at Nasar who, despite his capture, remains the leading ideological architect of al Qaeda's war against the United States. But the Post also missed a number of important points in Nasar's career.

The Post describes Nasar as having been "born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1958 and studied engineering. In the early 1980s, he took part in a failed revolt by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood against Syrian strongman Hafez al-Assad. According to his own written accounts, he fled the country after that, then trained in camps in Jordan and Egypt. Later, he said, he moved to Europe when it became clear that Assad was firmly entrenched in power."

But according to Murad al-Shishani's profile of Nasar during this same period for the Jamestown Foundation:

Nasar was initiated into al-Tali'a al-Muqatila (Fighting Vanguard), a Jihadist group linked to the Syrian Muslim Brothers, founded by the late Marwan Hadeed. Nasar received training from Egyptian and Iraqi officers and additional training in camps in Jordan and Baghdad during an era when Arab regimes were on a collision course with the Syrian Ba'athists. He was also a member of the higher military command of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement that was established in Baghdad after the Syrian Brothers fled from their country. According to unverified sources Sheikh Saeed Haowa was head of that military command.

Following the events in Hama in 1982, when the Syrian army successfully suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood uprising, Nasar left the movement, after declaring his opposition to the Brotherhood's alliance with sectarian movements and the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. He headed for Afghanistan where he met with Abdul-Kader Abdul-Aziz writer of the book entitled The Master of Preparations, which is regarded as a reference point for the jihadis, and also met with Sheikh Abdullah Azzam.

This resentment towards the Iraqi regime, which Nasar believed had co-opted the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood for their own purposes and stymied their revolution, is reflected in Lessons Learned from the Armed Jihad Ordeal in Syria, in which Nasar discusses the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's alliance with Saddam Hussein and warns prospective jihadis to ensure that their own organizations are self-sufficient. Al Qaeda seems to have taken Nasar's advice to heart concerning any dealings with Saddam Hussein, which the CIA assessed (according to p. 322 of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on pre-war Iraq intelligence):

In contrast to the patron-client pattern between Iraq and its Palestinian surrogates, the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida appears to more closely resemble that of two independent actors trying to exploit each other--their mutual suspicion suborned by al-Qaida's interest in Iraqi assistance, and Baghdad's interest in al-Qaida's anti-U.S. attacks . . .

THIS DYNAMIC appears whenever al Qaeda involves itself with state actors; which may be a result of Nasar's influence. As Dr. Reuven Paz notes in his discussion of Nasar's 1,600 tract (Nasar is using the nom de guerre "Abu Musab al-Suri"):

Al-Suri also surprises his readers by sending requests to North Korea and Iran to continue developing their nuclear projects. It is most unlikely for a Jihadi-Salafi scholar to hint at possible cooperation with countries like Shi'ite Iran or Stalinist North Korea, both of which are generally regarded as infidel regimes. However, Al-Suri seems to advise that Jihadi Sunni readers should cooperate with the devil to defeat the "bigger devil."

. . . Al-Suri does not see much benefit from the guerrilla warfare waged against the U.S. by al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Hence, "the ultimate choice is the destruction of the United States by operations of strategic symmetry through weapons of mass destruction, namely nuclear, chemical, or biological means, if the mujahideen can achieve it with the help of those who possess them or through buying them." One other option, he says, is by "the production of basic nuclear bombs, known as "dirty bombs."