DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri said a U.S. congressional bill calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq was proof of Washington’s defeat, according to a Web video posted on Saturday.
“This bill reflects American failure and frustration,” Zawahri said. “But this bill will deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in a historic trap.”
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the video, which comes four days after U.S. President George W. Bush vetoed a $124 billion congressional war-spending measure that would have required a troop pullout from Iraq to begin by October 1.
“We ask Allah that they only get out after losing 200,000 to 300,000 killed, so that we give the blood spillers in Washington and Europe an unforgettable lesson to motivate them to review their entire doctrinal and moral system,” Zawahri said on the video, posted on Web sites used by Islamists.
Zawahri denied that al Qaeda and other Sunni Muslim insurgents were stirring up sectarian strife in Iraq, blaming instead the Shi‘ite-led Baghdad government.
“The ones who have stirred up strife in Iraq are those who today are begging the Americans not to leave,” said the white-turbaned Zawahri, sitting next to bookshelves and an assault rifle.
Zawahri mocked Bush for saying that a U.S.-backed security plan for Baghdad was showing signs of success.
“The success is only for his pocket and Halliburton,” he said, referring to the company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Zawahri also called on African-American soldiers to refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying America had only changed the “appearance of the shackles and chains” of their slave forefathers.
Zawahri repeatedly praised Black Muslim leader Malcolm X on the video which included footage of the American militant’s speeches, interspersed with documentary scenes of police action against blacks in the 1960s and poor blacks in urban ghettos.
Zawahri’s last public comments were on March 11, when he criticized the leadership of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas over its Saudi-brokered deal with the U.S.-backed Palestinian faction Fatah.
In the new video, the Egyptian cleric renewed his criticism of Hamas and other Islamist groups for adopting a more moderate “culture of compromise”.
Additional reporting by Chris Baltimore in Washington