Thursday, June 15, 2006


The End(s) of Al Qaeda

Rumors have circulated about what erstwhile Jihadi compatriots might have tipped off Jordanian Intelligence and US forces about Zarqawi’s whereabouts prior to the aristrike that killed him. Several have also suggested that Al Qaeda leadership – whoever is left in leadership roles, who direct Al Qaeda elements to do their bidding -- might have increasingly viewed Zarqawi as more liability than asset.

A BBC Report, covering comments by Iraq’s National Security Advisor, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, may unintentionally have shed light on who might be those behind-the-scene Master of Al Qaeda.

Here’s the background of al-Rubaie’s statement as reported by the BBC, interestingly headlined, Al-Qaeda 'coming to end in Iraq':

The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi marks the "beginning of the end" of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the country's national security adviser has said.

Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said the seizure of documents after the raid that killed Zarqawi provided key information about the militant group and its leaders.

"Now we have the upper hand," he told a news conference in Baghdad.

Zarqawi, the former al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, was killed last week by a US air strike near Baquba, north of Baghdad.

Mr Rubaie said a pocket hard drive, a laptop and documents were found in the debris after the strike.

The documents and records revealed the names and whereabouts of other al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders, he said, adding that more information has since been found in raids on other insurgent hideouts.

"We believe that this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq," Mr Rubaie said.

"They did not anticipate how powerful the Iraqi security forces are and how the government is on the attack now."

Great news, likely true. But this last part caught my attention:

One of the documents showed Zarqawi planned to widen the rift between the US and Iran by carrying out attacks on US interests falsely attributed to Iran, the prime minister's office said.

Where have we seen anything like this reported previously? Intelligence and governmental sources have long acknowledged in one form or another that Al Qaeda in Iraq sought to foment sectarian violence by targeting the Sunni community, and portraying those attacks as perpetrated by Shia militia. Or targeting Shia, making it look like Sunni holdouts were involved.

But targeting US interests, and causing the US to blame Iran for these attacks? (Which we often do, for good reason, as Iran has been waging war against our interests for years, in one clandestine or proxy manner or another.)

I don’t know that analysts claim to understand the exact relationship between Al Qaeda and Iran. Iranian Intelligence and operatives have been busily at work in Iraq. Clearly, there share common interests and oibjectives, but how much do they coordinate their activities?

Could it be that Iran had been using Zarqawi, in an official capacity as the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, or in some manner of cooperation based on confluence of interests, all along? And it was Iran who reached the conclusion that Zarqawi was hurting their interests, more than helping?

If Rubaie’s statement is true, that Zarqawi planned to carry out attacks on the US and try to have these (falsely) attributed to Iran, and thus widen the rift between the US and Iran, that would have come at a time very critical to Iranian national interests. Would it be too coincidental that this occurs on the eve of what has widely been described as the US “backing down” on a more aggressive Iranian nuclear program? When Iran seems to be gaining the carrot without risk of a stick?

Maybe Zarqawi, as arguably the more doctrinaire among the Jihadi compared to Iran’s Mullah’s, viewed Iranian attempts to play their diplomatic brinksmanship as having too much traffic with the Great Satan, and wanted to keep pushing the US towards crossing that brink, against Iran’s desired objectives?

Could it be that Iran decided Zarqawi was more useful dead than alive? And decidedly easier to control that way.

(Cross-posted at Milblogs.)

Associated Press has picked up on the Iraqi National Security Advisor’s remarks in a report entitled, “Papers show 'gloomy' state of insurgency,” They think those papers are gloomy? Wait until they read the Al Qaeda’s rebuttal in the New York Times. (I’m sure it’s coming.)

The AP adds these details from the earlier BBC report:
The document also said al-Zarqawi planned to try to destroy the relationship between the United States and its Shiite allies in Iraq.

While the coalition was continuing to suffer human losses, "time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance," the document said.

The document said the insurgency was being hurt by, among other things, the U.S. military's program to train Iraqi security forces, by massive arrests and seizures of weapons, by tightening the militants' financial outlets, and by creating divisions within its ranks.

"Generally speaking and despite the gloomy present situation, we find that the best solution in order to get out of this crisis is to involve the U.S. forces in waging a war against another country or any hostile groups," the document said, as quoted by al-Maliki's office.

According to the summary, insurgents were being weakened by operations against them and by their failure to attract recruits. To give new impetus to the insurgency, they would have to change tactics, it added.

"We mean specifically attempting to escalate the tension between America and Iran, and American and the Shiite in Iraq," it quoted the documents as saying, especially among moderate followers of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq.

"Creating disputes between America and them could hinder the U.S. cooperation with them, and subsequently weaken this kind of alliance between Shiites and the Americans," it said, adding that "the best solution is to get America involved in a war against another country and this would bring benefits."
I note that this report adds, “and American and the Shiite in Iraq,” onto the purportedly Al Qaeda intent to “escalate the tension between America and Iran.”

This last is the more familiar strategy, but it doesn’t alter the potential significance of Al Qaeda seeking to heighten tensions between the US and Iran.

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