TSR: More on terrorist ties and allies
Click photo to play
WOLF BLITZER: Let's get to that new al Qaeda tape linking the terrorist group's battle against the western world to the Middle East crisis. Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, lashing out at Israel's battles against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and Hamas militants in Gaza. And he says al Qaeda will not stay silent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL QAEDA NUMBER TWO: The dangerous events going on in Gaza and Lebanon are proof to any sane person that the Crusader/Zionist war is targeting us. No one budged for 10,000 prisoners in Israeli jails, however the whole world went up in arms for three Israeli prisoners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The al-Zawahiri tape aired on Arab language television station Al-Jazeera. Now let's bring in CNN's Michael Ware. He's covering the warfare in Beirut. He's reported extensively on al Qaeda in his earlier days as "Time Magazine's" bureau chief in Baghdad. Michael, this coalition, if you will, between al Qaeda and Hezbollah and maybe Hamas, what do you make of this videotape that just was released by Ayman al-Zawahiri?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Wolf, it's clear that al Qaeda feels that within its jihadi, militant constituency it can't be seen to be standing idly by. However, we know that Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda have had very prickly relations. I mean, apart from some early reports in the early 90s, during al Qaeda's Sudan days, when there are stories of training exchanges between al Qaeda and Hezbollah, largely they have not been partners.
They come from opposite sides of a political divide. And in fact there has been much criticism going both ways. And I think if you study what's said in this tape today by al Qaeda's number two, he doesn't specifically refer to Hezbollah and he doesn't specifically refer to any geographic domain where al Qaeda will become involved in this crisis.
In fact, he says they attack us everywhere. We shall attack them everywhere. That says to me that he's giving al Qaeda a license to respond against American and perhaps Israeli interests in a domain much broader than the current conflict here in Lebanon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How much of this is related, this strain in the past, at least, al Qaeda being largely Sunni dominated, Hezbollah largely Shia dominated. The sectarian strain that's clearly evident between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq, how much is spilling over among various terrorist groups?
WARE: Yes Wolf, you very much hit the point here. I mean, that is the natural schism between these groups. There's also issues about doctrine, tactics, methodology. But fundamentally, this is a sectarian divide. Now, in the early days of al Qaeda, we knew they operated in Afghanistan in the 80s alongside Shia groups, but as al Qaeda developed and matured, as increasing Egyptian influence came to hold sway, there was a growing anti-Shiaism.
But within classic al Qaeda, that led by Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri himself, that's always been moderated at least to some degree. I mean, we see an ongoing, complicated relationship with Iran. However, this new generation of al Qaeda -- that for which Zarqawi, recently killed by American forces, was the midwife -- is vehemently anti-Shia. That would clearly be playing in here with Hezbollah.
However, don't discount the common enemy being Israel. Al Qaeda has never really had traction on the Israeli issue, the Palestine issue. They are looking to capitalize on this now, but I suspect it won't be in the area itself.
BLITZER: It gets rather complicated, all these moves. Thanks very much, Michael Ware on the scene for us in Beirut.