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Special Report

Intercepted Letter Offers Insight into Al Qaeda

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Oct. 12, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM ERELI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I think what the letter shows clearly is that — it show s clearly the nature of the enemy we're dealing with. And this isn't a question of hearts and minds; it's a question of bodies and gore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, HOST: That's the State Department, which says the Zawahiri letter shows what a brutal organization Al Qaeda is. But at 6,000 words, is there something more in the letter than that?

For answers, we turn to Dan Senor, who served in Iraq as the coalition spokesman. You saw him earlier in Bret Baier's report. Now a FOX News analyst.

Welcome, Dan. Nice to have you.

DAN SENOR, FORMER COALITION SPOKESMAN: Good to be with you, Brit.

HUME: So what should we take away from this letter? It's 6,000 words. I did notice that there was a lot of fulsome praise by Zawahiri writing to Zarqawi about all that he had done and lots of talk about their grand goals of what Al Qaeda hopes to accomplish. But what else?

SENOR: The big point is their strategy isn't working. Zawahiri's quite clear about that.

Last January, when I was working for the coalition, a letter that was sent from Zarqawi to the senior Al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan.

HUME: I remember it.

SENOR: And it laid out the battle plan for Iraq. It was undermine the political process. He said there is no greater threat to Al Qaeda in Iraq than the development of a self-governing Iraqi democracy.

It was inflame the country in civil war. Engage in attacks against the majority Shiites in the hopes that the Shiites will respond with reprisals against the Sunnis and inflame the country in civil war. And number three, prevent the Iraqis from developing their security services, engage in attacks against recruitment facilities and their training facilities.

HUME: Which they've done.

SENOR: They've been doing all three of those things. The only problem is, none of the objectives have been met. The political process is alive and well. The Iraqi security forces are still being trained, despite major casualties. General Abizaid told me that, for every one Iraqi killed at a recruiting facility in these terrorist attacks, there's another 10 more ready to serve.

And the country has not inflamed in civil war. There's a lot of violence, but it's not civil war. So Zawahiri now is e-mailing Zarqawi back.

HUME: This is an e-mail, right?

SENOR: Yes. He acknowledges receipt of the initial document. And he says the strategy isn't working, your objectives have not been met. And let me tell you what else is going on, he says. The Pakistani security forces have us on the run in Afghanistan. We are running out of money. He actually makes an appeal to Zarqawi for money...

HUME: So this is headquarters asking the...

SENOR: Asking the satellite franchise for help.

HUME: I guess the satellite franchise now is, though, the central theater?

SENOR: That's correct. And he says that this number three, Faraj al-Libbi, who was caught not long ago, and people didn't put tremendous amount of significance on this...

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: Yes, the Pentagon kept saying that this Faraj al-Libbi, or al-Faraj, I guess, as Zawahiri calls it, was a big get. And everybody said, "I never heard of it."

SENOR: Right. But Zarqawi says this was a big get. And he says it's symptomatic of a larger problem, which is that these guys are on the run, and they're starting to catch them, and they don't have resources, and the strategy isn't working.

And the fundamental point he makes is Zarqawi's strategy of blowing up hundreds of Iraqis on a weekly or monthly basis, predominantly Shiites, is turning the local population against the Al Qaeda mission.

And he makes this sort of bizarre comparison to the American experience in Vietnam, which is, when the Americans left Vietnam, there was a vacuum, and the North Vietnamese were able to rally support of the local population to their cause. They were able to fill the vacuum.

And he says, "Zarqawi, what you're doing by killing all these Iraqis, and hostages, and the beheadings, you're turning the local population against us. So once the Americans leave, we won't be able to fill the political vacuum."

HUME: And his scenario about the Americans leaving is interesting. I mean, he seems to be — it was hard for me to tell in reading the letter whether he meant — whether he was using this scenario of America suddenly pulling out of there — which, clearly, in any unforeseeable future's not going to happen — as a point of argument to try to get Zarqawi to kind of go along with him and stop slaughtering everybody?

SENOR: That's right. He's basically saying, "We have a political program, and we need your military program," which is the insurgency, "to complement our political program," which is to build a caliphate, to build this Al Qaeda-run Muslim Islamic, you know, extreme jihadi Islam control of Iraq and the region. And, Zarqawi, you're screwing up by slaughtering all these Iraqis. We are losing Iraqi hearts and minds.

HUME: In that context, he said something about the Taliban that I thought was interesting.

SENOR: Yes. He basically says that, when the Taliban fell, the Taliban had alienated so much of the Afghan population that there's no support in Afghanistan for the Taliban. He said, "You're going to do the same thing in Iraq. You're going to have no popular support, if you keep continuing with these gruesome — you know, this gruesome violence against rank-and-file Iraqis."

HUME: Now, this letter was sent when, as far as we can tell?

SENOR: We don't know. We think it's recent. I mean, we think it's in the last couple of months, which is interesting, because the initial letter that I referred to that we released when I was working for the coalition was declassified in January 2004. And it was sent about a couple of months before that.

So we're looking at about, you know, eight to 12 months between the two communiques. So, basically, Zarqawi sends a document one way, "This is our plan," lays it out. It's almost like Zawahiri from Afghanistan is going back to Zarqawi with a report card, saying...

HUME: Or if he is in Afghanistan.

SENOR: ... wherever he may be. He's saying, "Your strategy isn't working."

HUME: And he says, "We need money." He seems to be worried about the Pakistani army. The question is, we don't see any change in the Zarqawi strategy yet.

SENOR: No. Well, so now's the time to watch. Now is the time to monitor over the next couple of months whether or not we see the mass suicide attacks against the Shiites, political figures, those signing up for the security forces, and those religious leaders...

HUME: And the other thing is, of course, they haven't been showing any pictures of beheadings lately, which may suggest that some effect is...

SENOR: We believe that the decline of the beheadings had to do with us going into Fallujah, but there may be more into it, more to it than just that. It could be that the strategy is changing.

HUME: Very interesting. Dan Senor, glad to have you.

Dan will be doing a special this weekend on FOX News on the trial of Saddam Hussein. Don't miss it.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EDT.

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