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In a letter to his top deputy in
Iraq, al-Qaida's No. 2 leader said the United States "ran and left their agents" in Vietnam and the jihadists must have a plan ready to fill the void if the Americans suddenly leave Iraq.
In a letter taking up 13 typed pages in its English translation, al-Zawahri also recommended a four-stage expansion of the war that would take the fighting to neighboring Muslim countries.
"It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established ... in the heart of the Islamic world," al-Zawahri wrote.
The letter laid out his long-term plan: expel the Americans from Iraq, establish an Islamic authority and take the war to Iraq's secular neighbors, including Lebanon, Jordan and
The final stage, al-Zawahri wrote, would be a clash with
Israel, which he said was established to challenge "any new Islamic entity."
At times, the letter got personal. Al-Zawahri said he tasted the bitterness of America's brutality, noting that his "favorite wife's chest was crushed by a concrete ceiling" during an apparent U.S. attack. His daughter died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
To this day, he wrote, he did not know the location of their graves.
The letter then switches to the court of public opinion.
"More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media," he wrote. "We are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our umma," or community of Muslims, he wrote.
The line is an apparent reference to a phrase — "hearts and minds" — often used by