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Al Qaeda No. 2 blasts 'traitors'

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. commanders have touted the help of Sunni Arab tribal leaders in western Iraq
  • Al-Zawahiri calls those who support Americans "scum and the lowly ones"
  • 97-minute video had little new information
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(CNN) -- Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant warned in a video statement released Sunday that Iraqi tribal leaders who side with U.S. troops against al Qaeda fighters would face reprisals when Americans leave Iraq.

An image of al-Zawahiri taken from an earlier videotape.

"I warn those individuals from among the armed factions who have been involved in cooperation against the Mujahedeen that history is recording everything, and that they will lose both their religion and life," Ayman al-Zawahiri said.

"The Americans will soon be departing, God permitting, and won't keep defending them forever. And let them look at the fate of America's agents in Vietnam and the fate of the Shah of Iran. Intelligent is he who learns from other's mistakes," he added.

Al Qaeda's No. 2 called such Iraqi leaders "traitors" and "scum."

U.S. commanders have touted the decision in late 2006 by Sunni Arab tribal leaders in western Iraq to turn on Islamic jihadists loyal to al Qaeda as a major breakthrough in the Iraq war. Top U.S. officials have cited the leaders' cooperation as a sign of the "bottom-up" progress made in Iraq despite the inability of the central government in Baghdad to reach a political settlement in the nearly 5-year-old conflict.

In his statement, the fugitive al-Zawahiri called the U.S. position in Iraq deteriorating, "despite their desperate attempts to deceive and mislead." And he characterized Iraqi tribal leaders such as Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha, who was assassinated in September, as paid agents out to undercut the "Islamic State of Iraq," an al Qaeda front group.

"Those who have supported the Americans are the scum and the lowly ones, and their history is known to all," he said.

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Al-Zawahiri also criticized Lebanon's Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, for agreeing to let the Western-backed Lebanese government determine whether the disputed, Israeli-held territory known as Shebaa Farms belongs to Lebanon or Syria.

"In this, he is not talking about the individual duty of jihad, for the liberation of the lands of the Muslims, but is talking about a narrow, nationalistic partisan concept unknown to Islam," al-Zawahiri said.

The criticism marked a reversal for the al Qaeda leader, who had praised Hezbollah's performance in the month-long 2006 war between the Shiite militia and Israeli troops.

The 97-minute video, produced by al Qaeda's media arm As-Sahab, contained little new information. Its only time reference was the reference to Abu Reesha's killing.

The statement was also released two days after that of an audiotaped statement attributed to Zawahiri criticized Middle Eastern leaders who participated in the peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, last month. The CIA said Friday it was analyzing the recording to determine its authenticity, which had not been independently verified by CNN. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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