YWT: The latest al Qaeda tape: kidnap Westerners
JIM CLANCY: All right.
We're going to begin our report, though, in Iraq and that 20 minute audiotape that was posted on Islamic Web sites. The speaker makes a conditional amnesty offer to Sunni tribal leaders in the country.
CNN's Michael Ware joins us now from Baghdad.
This offer to tribal leaders, this is a direct bid to compete with the U.S., isn't it?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, very much, Jim.
Since we saw the first introduction of al Qaeda in Iraq, or in its first manifestation under Zarqawi, before he joined al Qaeda, there's been friction between these foreign elements and these very much extremist Sunni elements and the local Iraqis. From the beginning, the U.S. forces have been trying to play on that friction.
This statement from the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi's replacement, is just one more twist in this very winding road. He's trying to counter a recent push from Iraqi tribes, vowing allegiance to the Americans and fighting -- agreeing to fight against al Qaeda -- Jim.
CLANCY: Now, in addition to this, he's making a call to kidnap foreigners. He's saying that he wants to exchange them for Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is being held over the links to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
When you look at this threat to kidnap foreigners, is it really going to have any impact at this stage?
WARE: Well, I mean, this is the Ramadan offensive. I mean, we expected all of this from al Qaeda and many other groups with the insurgency. This is the traditional spike in attacks and this kind of activity.
So, in calling for a new level of offensive, I mean, I think most alarmingly or most chillingly, from Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, is his call that we will now launch a military campaign to uproot the infidel. He also calls upon every free Mujahid to summon his strength and to take a Christian, imprison them, and trade them for the sheikh. This clearly is him stepping on to the stage and taking things up a little, if not for Ramadan, then beyond -- Jim.
CLANCY: Well, he does make -- and some people perhaps found it surprising -- he does say and admit that 4,000 foreign fighters, more than that number, have been killed.
WARE: Well, we've seen al Qaeda in Iraq and its earlier incarnation al Tawhid, under Zarqawi, often publicize its deaths. I mean, they celebrate the deaths of these young men as heroic martyrs.
They're to be honored, and that's what they do. So we have seen them be relatively frank about deaths in battle. We've even seen very sleek documentaries produced by their media wing in dedicational memorial to some of the more famous martyrs.
So, to hear him admit 4,000 have died is not so outside the ballpark of the numbers of foreigners that the U.S. military intelligence believes are entering Iraq every month -- Jim.
CLANCY: All right.
Michael Ware reporting to us there live from Baghdad.
Michael, thank you, as always.