February 1, 2006

Az-Zawahri Tape - Andrea Mitchell Blog

Andrea Mitchell Andrea Mitchell is NBC News' Chief Foreign Correspondent. I often provide analysis for her when it deals with the Middle East. I was in New York when the latest tape from Ayman Az-Zawahri was released and provided much of the input for her article below.


Posted by Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent (04:00 pm ET, 01/30/06)

A White House official immediately said that the videotape shows that Ayman al-Zawahri is "frustrated and angry" and on the run, but the visual evidence is exactly the opposite: intelligence officials confirm that this tape shows a strident al-Qaida leader who managed to get a tape out very quickly after this month's attack in Pakistan. On the tape, Zawahri is very forceful, not only saying that the U.S. did not get him during its strike, but threatening again to deliver body bags to the Pentagon. He appears to be very self-confident and seems to feel safe in his security.

The quality of the Zawahri tape is notable in that he is clearly in a studio -- delivering a well-produced message. This is in stark contrast to the scratchy audio quality of the Osama bin Laden tape that surfaced 10 days ago. And unlike the Zawahri audio tape on Jan 20, this is clearly current, referring to the Pakistan strike. It is a "proof of life" message aimed both at his followers and at the American public.

U.S. intelligence apparently had no warning of the al-Zawahri tape, but al-Jazeera was well prepared for it. When they first broadcast the tape, NBC analyst and Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, ret., points out, they had a spokesman ready in London to reply and their own analyst, Larry Johnson, pre-positioned in the al-Jazeera Washington bureau.

The new message is clearly an attempt to undermine American support for the war in Iraq. Zawahri refers to the "truce" bin Laden offered and warns Americans that they are wasting lives and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Francona describes this and the bin Laden tape as part of a calculated al-Qaida psychological warfare effort.

Ironically, these al-Qaida tapes seem to be backfiring. Bush's support for the war on terror goes up every time one appears.