25 March 2007

Congress loses the will for anything

In the great and grand wisdom of Congress to issue its Joint Reslolution for the Authorization of the Use of Force Against Iraq in 2002, the Congress set this Nation on a path to fighting a war to do many things. This was a very broad use of the War Powers for the Armed Forces of the United States, but did lack in many of the concepts of actually committing the Nation to a real war. In WWII, as an example, Congress stopped Civilian production of things like automobiles and stoves and such, to change the Nation to a war-time production capability for things like tanks, military aircraft, guns, bullets, and all sorts of things necessary to provide clothing and food to the draft military. Land was taken to create new Arsenals and other buildings to produce wartime needs, and even huge construction projects were begun, like the Pentagon. Further the entire National treasury was raided for all of its silver to be used, not as cash, but to create huge electromagnets to separate isotopes of uranium.

That is what Congress can do when it declares war, which is exactly what a Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force *is*.

The broad scope and sweep of this Congressional Authorization was to do *more* than unseat a tyrant and *more* than stop all WMD programs in Iraq. With ties between Iraq and a multitude of terrorist organizations known by Iraqi training and supplies to such organizations, the reach of Iraq into the terror realm was huge by the web of personal contacts seen. Captured Foreign Ministry archives from Iraq, plus documents captured in Afghanistan, show a far reaching ability of Iraq into far corners of the planet, to ensure that money, weapons, training and supplies could be afforded by Iraq against those that were seeking to limit its power. Just how far did this stretch? Well some points to ponder:

Center for Defense Information looking at FARC-IRA connectivity finds this in the report of 5 JUN 2002:

Long before Osama bin Laden’s Islamic organization achieved notoriety through its attacks in America on Sept. 11, 2001, other terrorist groups established operational bonds with their counterparts and sponsors across the world. Such collaboration flourished in the 1990s, and members of the international terrorism community are believed to have trained in many countries, often — but not always — with local government approval. The list of countries in which such training has occurred includes: Afghanistan; Bosnia-Herzegovina; Chile; Colombia; Iran; Iraq; Lebanon; Libya; Mexico; North Korea; Pakistan; Peru; Russia; South Africa; Sudan; Syria; and Turkey.
And then a bit later in:

According to Gen. Fernando Tapias, chairman of the Columbian Joint Chiefs of Staff, nationals from Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, Ecuador, El Salvador, Venezuela, Israel and Germany have been identified by FARC informants and deserters as carrying out recent training for the Columbian terrorist group.
Transnational terrorism is a diverse and multi-level support inter-network, which has multiple points of training of which Iraq was seen as involved in that during the 1990's and later. This can be seen in this report in the Independent story (H/t: Cheatseeking Missiles) Revealed: IRA bombs killed eight British soldiers in Iraq on 16 OCT 2005 showing IRA bomb technology working its way into Iraq today through various channels:

Eight British soldiers killed during ambushes in Iraq were the victims of a highly sophisticated bomb first used by the IRA, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The soldiers, who were targeted by insurgents as they travelled through the country, died after being attacked with bombs triggered by infra-red beams. The bombs were developed by the IRA using technology passed on by the security services in a botched "sting" operation more than a decade ago.

This contradicts the British government's claims that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is helping Shia insurgents to make the devices.

The Independent on Sunday can also reveal that the bombs and the firing devices used to kill the soldiers, as well as two private security guards, were initially created by the UK security services as part of a counter-terrorism strategy at the height of the troubles in the early 1990s.

According to security sources, the technology for the bombs used in the attacks, which were developed using technology from photographic flash units, was employed by the IRA some 15 years ago after Irish terrorists were given advice by British agents.

"We are seeing technology in Iraq today that it took the IRA 20 years to develop," said a military intelligence officer with experience in Northern Ireland.

[...]

But a former agent who infiltrated the IRA told The Independent on Sunday that the technology reached the Middle East through the IRA's co-operation with Palestinian groups. In turn, some of these groups used to be sponsored by Saddam Hussein and his Baath party.

The former agent added: "The photographic flashgun unit was replaced with infra-red and then coded infra-red, but basically they were variations of the same device. The technology came from the security forces, but the IRA always shared its equipment and expertise with Farc guerrillas in Colombia, the Basque separatists, ETA and Palestinian groups. There is no doubt in my mind that the technology used to kill our troops in Basra is the same British technology from a decade ago."

Even more alarming is the claim that the devices were supplied by the security services to an agent inside the Provisionals as part of a dangerous game of double bluff.
Notice the path for the technology is *from* a botched UK operation and went to the IRA and then to Palestinian organization and then to Iraq during the 1990's. The IRA shared that technology outwards to other organizations, too. No one said that learning terrorism was a one-way street, and once the technology is known it can be passed on via training to other organizations. Mind you the IRA worked on and *perfected* the technology, but those are mere variants of the original that weave a tangled web.

Saddam had been funding Palestinian terrorists for years, with money to the families of suicide bombers, slowly increasing his payouts from $10,000 to $30,000 just before the overthrow of the regime there. More than just Hamas or the PLO, were members of Islamic Jihad that also got this blood money. Thus the cooperative back-link can be used as means to get new information TO Iraq, be it INTEL or new weapons technology.

Within Iraq, itself, to go around the 'no fly/no drive zone' put in place to protect the Kurds, Saddam helped al Qaeda set up an affiliate there, from the MIPT Terror Knowledge Base:

Ansar al Islam

Ansar al-Islam is an Islamic fundamentalist organization headquartered in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. Ansar was created in December 2001 from the merger of Jund al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam) and an unnamed group led by Mullah Krekar. Jund al-Islam was itself a conglomerate, formed from smaller groups that had broken off from the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan in the mid-nineties, such as Hamas (not the Palestinian group), the Second Soran Unit, and the Tawhid Islamic Front. Evidence suggests that al-Qaeda played a role in the formation of Ansar and that it continues to provide some funding and training. Ansar al-Islam's founding philosophy called for the establishment of a Kurdish theocracy under sharia, or strict Islamic law. Its radically religious stance put Ansar at odds with Kurdistan"s secular parties, such as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). In February 2003, members of Ansar al Islam assassinated Shawkat Hajji Mushir, Kurdish parliamentarian and PUK founder, as he left a meeting. The gunmen also killed two officials accompanying Mushir, and then proceeded to open fire on the village of Oamesh Tapa where the meeting had taken place. The group has also been accused of involvement in a failed 2002 assassination attempt against Kurdish leader Barham Saleh.

The foundations of Ansar al-Islam are part Kurd, part Saddam, mostly al Qaeda and truly horrific. We ignore these connections at our peril, as they show a larger web of which Iraq was a *part* not the *whole*. We have some idea of the scope of what was being looked at when an Iranian born smuggler switched sides after the fall of the Taliban and told of his contacts with Saddam's regime in this 03 APR 2002 CSMonitor report by Scott Peterson:

Mr. Shahab spoke last weekend in an intelligence complex run by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of two rival armed Kurdish factions that control northern Iraq. He did not appear coerced to speak, and bore no physical signs that he had been mistreated since his arrest on May 16, 2000.

Still, shaking nervously and swallowing repeatedly, he at first refused to answer questions, saying that he was concerned about his family's safety in Iran. Two days later – after learning that part of his smuggling history and role in several killings had already been made public in the New Yorker magazine – he agreed to describe information that he had previously withheld, about Iraq's plan to target US warships.

"If this information is true, it would be in the interest of the US, and of all the world, for the US to be here to find out," says a senior Kurdish security officer involved in the case. Kurdish investigators were initially skeptical of some parts of Shahab's story. But the investigators say they later independently confirmed precise descriptions of the senior Iraqi officials Shahab says he met, by cross-examining a veteran Iraqi intelligence officer in their custody, and checking other sources.

Wearing a pale-green military jacket, dark-blue sweat pants and worn plastic sandals, Shahab softly recounts how he smuggled arms and explosives for Al Qaeda and the Iraqis. He at times flashes a boyish smile – the same disarming grin he uses in images on a roll of film he was carrying when arrested. Shahab also claims to be an assassin. The photos – shown to the Monitor – show Shahab killing an unidentified man with a knife. He grins at the camera as he holds up the victim's severed ear.

During a two-and-a-half-hour interview, Shahab describes the origin of the plot to blow up US warships, while his hands work nervously. He received an urgent phone call early in 2000, from a longtime Afghan contact named Othman, who told him to go to a meeting in Iraq. In February 2000, Shahab says he was taken to the village of Ouija, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein near Hussein's clan base at Tikrit, in north central Iraq.

At the meeting, he says, were two influential Iraqis, fellow clansmen of Saddam Hussein: Ali Hassan al-Majid – Mr. Hussein's powerful cousin and former defense minister – and Luai Khairallah, a cousin and friend of Hussein's notoriously brutal son Uday. Mr. al-Majid is known among Iraqi Kurds as "Chemical Ali," for his key role in the genocidal gassing and destruction of villages in northern Iraq that killed more than 100,000 Kurds in 1987 and 1988.

The Iraqis said they considered Shahab to be Arab, and not Persian, and could trust him because he was from Ahvaz, a river city in southwest Iran rich with smugglers and close to the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Kuwait. It is known as "Arabistan" because of the number of Arabs living there.

Nine missions

Al-Majid and Mr. Khairallah spoke of the nine operations: "We've allocated $16 million already for you," Shahab remembers them telling him. "We start with the first one: We need you to buy boats, pack them with 500 kilograms of explosives each, and explode US ships in Kuwait and the Gulf."

The plan was "long term," Shahab says, and meant to be carried out a year or so later, in early 2001, after he had carried out another mission to take refrigerator motors to the Taliban. Each motor had a container attached holding an apparently important liquid unknown to Shahab. He says he doesn't know if all nine operations mentioned were similar to the boat plan, or completely different. Some were to take place in Kuwait.

The attack against a US vessel, Shahab recounts al-Majid and Khairallah explaining, was to be "a kind of revenge because [the Americans] were killing Iraqis, and women and children were dying" because of stringent UN sanctions, which the US backed most strongly. "They said: 'This is the Arab Gulf, not the American Gulf,' " Shahab recalls, referring to the large US naval presence in the area.
Not in and of itself confirmatory, but it is not the only reports that have come out of the area. As the story notes this plot sounds very similar to the failed USS The Sullivans plot and the later USS Cole plot. Also note that mission #2 to the Taliban was to smuggle in some sort of liquids encased inside refrigerator motors, items unlikely to be closely inspected for much of anything. So on to Johnathan Schanzer at The Weekly Standard in this 01 MAR 2004 article on Saddam's Ambassador to al Qaeda:

Before recounting details from my January 29 interview, some caution is necessary. Al-Shamari's account was compelling and filled with specific information that would either make him a skilled and detailed liar or a man with information that the U.S. public needs to hear. My Iraqi escort informed me that al-Shamari has been in prison since March 2002, that U.S. officials have visited him several times, and that his story has remained consistent. There was little language barrier; my Arabic skills allowed me to understand much of what al-Shamari said, even before translation. Finally, subsequent conversations with U.S. government officials in Washington and Baghdad, as well as several articles written well before this one, indicate that al-Shamari's claims have been echoed by other sources throughout Iraq.

When I walked into the tiny interrogation room, it was midmorning. I had just finished interviews with two other prisoners--both members of Ansar al Islam, the al Qaeda affiliate responsible for attacks against Kurdish and Western targets in northern Iraq. The group had been active in a small enclave near Halabja in the Kurdistan region from about September 2001 until the U.S. assault on Iraq last spring, when its Arab and Kurdish fighters fled over the Iranian border, only to return after the war. U.S. officials now suspect Ansar in some of the bloodier attacks against U.S. interests throughout Iraq.

My first question to al-Shamari was whether he was involved in the operations of Ansar al Islam. My translator asked him the question in Arabic, and al-Shamari nodded: "Yes." Al-Shamari, who appears to be in his late twenties, said that his division of the Mukhabarat provided weapons to Ansar, "mostly mortar rounds." This statement echoed an independent Kurdish report from July 2002 alleging that ordnance seized from Ansar al Islam was produced by Saddam's military and a Guardian article several weeks later alleging that truckloads of arms were shipped to Ansar from areas controlled by Saddam.

In addition to weapons, al-Shamari said, the Mukhabarat also helped finance Ansar al Islam. "On one occasion we gave them ten million Swiss dinars [$700,000]," al-Shamari said, referring to the pre-1990 Iraqi currency. On other occasions, the Mukhabarat provided more than that. The assistance, he added, was furnished "every month or two months."

I then picked up a picture of a man known as Abu Wael that I had acquired from Kurdish intelligence. In the course of my research, several sources had claimed that Abu Wael was on Saddam's payroll and was also an al Qaeda operative, but few had any facts to back up their claim. For example, one Arabic daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat, stated flatly before the Iraq war, "all information indicates [that Abu Wael] was the link between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime" but neglected to provide any such information. Agence France-Presse after the war cited a Kurdish security chief's description of Abu Wael as a "key link to Saddam's former Baath regime" and an "intelligence agent for the ousted president originally from Baghdad." Again, nothing was provided to substantiate this claim.

In my own analysis of this group, I could do little but weakly assert that Wael was "reportedly an al Qaeda operative on Saddam's payroll." The best reporting on Wael came from a March 2002 New Yorker article by Jeffrey Goldberg, who had visited a Kurdish prison in northern Iraq and interviewed Ansar prisoners. He spoke with one Iraqi intelligence officer named Qassem Hussein Muhammed, whom Kurdish intelligence captured while he was on his way to the Ansar enclave. Muhammed told Goldberg that Abu Wael was "the actual decision-maker" for Ansar al Islam and "an employee of the Mukhabarat."

"Do you know this man?" I asked al-Shamari. His eyes widened and he smiled. He told me that he knew the man in the picture, but that his graying beard was now completely white. He said that the man was Abu Wael, whose full name is Colonel Saadan Mahmoud Abdul Latif al-Aani. The prisoner told me that he had worked for Abu Wael, who was the leader of a special intelligence directorate in the Mukhabarat. That directorate provided assistance to Ansar al Islam at the behest of Saddam Hussein, whom Abu Wael had met "four or five times." Al-Shamari added that "Abu Wael's wife is Izzat al-Douri's cousin," making him a part of Saddam's inner circle. Al-Douri, of course, was the deputy chairman of Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council, a high-ranking official in Iraq's armed forces, and Saddam's righthand man. Originally number six on the most wanted list, he is still believed to be at large in Iraq, and is suspected of coordinating aspects of insurgency against American troops, primarily in the Sunni triangle.

Why, I asked, would Saddam task one of his intelligence agents to work with the Kurds, an ethnic group that was an avowed enemy of the Baath regime, and had clashed with Iraqi forces on several occasions? Al-Shamari said that Saddam wanted to create chaos in the pro-American Kurdish region. In other words, he used Ansar al Islam as a tool against the Kurds. As an intelligence official for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (one of the two major parties in northern Iraq) explained to me, "Most of the Kurdish fighters in Ansar al Islam didn't know the link to Saddam." They believed they were fighting a local jihad. Only the high-level lieutenants were aware that Abu Wael was involved.

Al-Shamari also told me that the links between Saddam's regime and the al Qaeda network went beyond Ansar al Islam. He explained in considerable detail that Saddam actually ordered Abu Wael to organize foreign fighters from outside Iraq to join Ansar. Al-Shamari estimated that some 150 foreign fighters were imported from al Qaeda clusters in Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Lebanon to fight with Ansar al Islam's Kurdish fighters.

I asked him who came from Lebanon. "I don't know the name of the group," he replied. "But the man we worked with was named Abu Aisha." Al-Shamari was likely referring to Bassam Kanj, alias Abu Aisha, who was a little-known militant of the Dinniyeh group, a faction of the Lebanese al Qaeda affiliate Asbat al Ansar. Kanj was killed in a January 2000 battle with Lebanese forces.

Al-Shamari said that there was also contact with the Egyptian "Gamaat al-Jihad," which is now seen as the core of al Qaeda's leadership, as well as with the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which bin Laden helped create in 1998 as an alternative to Algeria's Armed Islamic Group (GIA). Al-Shamari talked of Abu Wael's links with Turkey's "Jamaa al-Khilafa"--likely the group also known as the "Union of Islamic Communities" (UIC) or the "Organization of Caliphate State." This terror group, established in 1983 by Cemalettin Kaplan, reportedly met with bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1997, and later sent cadres there to train. Three years before 9/11, UIC plotted to crash a plane into Ankara's Ataturk Mausoleum on a day when hundreds of Turkish officials were present.

Al-Shamari stated that Abu Wael sometimes traveled to meet with these groups. All of them, he added, visited Wael in Iraq and were provided Iraqi visas. This corroborates an interview I had with a senior PUK official in April 2003, who stated that many of the Arab fighters captured or killed during the war held passports with Iraqi visas.

Al-Shamari said that importing foreign fighters to train in Iraq was part of his job in the Mukhabarat. The fighters trained in Salman Pak, a facility located some 20 miles southeast of Baghdad. He said that he had personal knowledge of 500 fighters that came through Salman Pak dating back to the late 1990s; they trained in "urban combat, explosives, and car bombs." This account agrees with a White House Background Paper on Iraq dated September 12, 2002, which cited the "highly secret terrorist training facility in Iraq known as Salman Pak, where both Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs receive training on hijacking planes and trains, planting explosives in cities, sabotage, and assassinations."

Abu Wael also sent money to the aforementioned al Qaeda affiliates, and to other groups that "worked against the United States." Abu Wael dispensed most of the funds himself, al-Shamari said, but there was also some cooperation with Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Zarqawi, as the prisoner explained, was al Qaeda's link to Iraq in the same way that Abu Wael was the Iraqi link to al Qaeda. Indeed, Zarqawi (who received medical attention in Baghdad in 2002 for wounds that he suffered from U.S. forces in Afghanistan) and Abu Wael helped Ansar al Islam prepare for the U.S. assault on its small enclave last year. According to al-Shamari, Ansar was given the plan from the top Iraqi leadership: "If the U.S. was to hit [the Ansar base], the fighters were directed to go to Ramadi, Tikrit, Mosul . . . Faluja and other places." This statement agreed with a prior prisoner interview I had with the attempted murderer of Barham Salih, prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. This second prisoner told me that "Ansar had plans to go south if the U.S. would attack."

Al-Shamari said the new group was to be named Jund ash-Sham, and would deal mainly in explosives. He believed that Zarqawi and Abu Wael were responsible for some of the attacks against U.S. soldiers in central Iraq. "Their directives were to hit America and American interests," he said.

Al-Shamari claimed to have had prior information about al Qaeda attacks in the past. "I knew about the attack on the American in Jordan," he said, referring to the November 2002 assassination of USAID official Lawrence Foley. "Zarqawi," he said, "ordered that man to be killed."
Now here is a man high up in Saddam's regime retelling of his contacts with multiple terrorist organizations and naming names, dates, places and typifying the work done. It is unlikely, in the extreme, that any individual would have knowledge of the workings of multiple terrorist organizations nor be able to point out the role of individuals both within the ruling circle of Saddam and the external contacts unless that individual was inside that ruling circle.

In a 15 JAN 2003 article by Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington Institute on Ansar al-Islam and its ties to Saddam and al Qaeda looks at the overview of what is known about the organization. The depth of this goes beyond the mere few hundred thousand dollars, arms and ammunition being supplied by Saddam, and looks at the advanced chemical weapons training that was available to Ansar al-Islam from the Saddam regime.

This Voice of America article by Nick Simeone on 20 AUG 2002 highlights one of the captures of chemical weapons:

Administration officials tell reporters the Pentagon recently considered a secret military attack against the small Islamic Kurdish group known as Ansar al-Islam, operating in Iraq's northern no-fly zone and outside territory controlled by President Saddam.

It was there that U-S officials say they believed the group appeared to be experimenting with deadly chemical or biological agents tests similar to those recorded on video by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network in Afghanistan and obtained by C-N-N.

On those tapes, a dog appears to be suffering an agonizing death shortly after a poisonous substance is released.

It's unclear what motive the Iraqi group might have had for experimenting with poison gas but a U-S official tells the Associated Press some of its members trained in camps in Afghanistan and were in contact with al-Qaida.

Early in the war in Afghanistan, coalition troops found manuals for making chemical agents in abandoned al-Qaida strongholds in Kabul.

At the Pentagon Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeated his belief that al-Qaida militants are in Iraq with Baghdad's knowledge -- but would not comment on any administration discussion concerning a strike on the suspected test site. But Administration officials who ask not to be identified say a decision was made not to target the facility after it was determined to be too rudimentary to pose a serious threat, one sufficient -- at this time -- to warrant the risks of a military operation to take it out.
From this the linkages for chemical weapons and supplies can be inferred to be a knowledge sharing arrangement with al Qaeda spreading knowledge to its affiliates, with the most likely source State being that of Saddam's regime. This is followed on 20 JAN 2003 at the Globalsecurity.org Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty archives with two reports:

ANSAR AL-ISLAM LEADER VOWS TO USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS IF U.S. TROOPS INVADE IRAQ.

The new leader of Ansar Al-Islam, Mullah Muhammad Hasan, has said, "If America invades Iraq, we will attack its troops," London's "The Sunday Telegraph" reported on 12 January. Hasan's comments were made to Turkish journalist Namik Durukan in the town of Biyare (northern Iraq). Ansar apparently has stores of chemical agents, including cyanide gas, ricin, and aflatoxin. A former Iraqi Mukhabarat agent named Abu Wa'il is reportedly responsible for smuggling the chemical agents into northern Iraq. "Ansar has taken chemical weapons left over from the Iran-Iraq war," according to Kurdish official Muhammad Aziz. "We feel the pressure of waiting in fear that [Ansar] will throw chemicals on us again and hell will return," Aziz added.

Other Kurdish officials have reported that the group is carrying out chemical-weapons testing on animals and humans, and has dispatched suicide bombers targeting Kurdish leaders on at least one occasion, according to the newspaper report. The 2,000-strong group claims to have killed 1,000 Kurdish peshmerga since last year. Durukan reported that he observed hundreds of foreign fighters in the region, many of them believed to be Taliban, walking the streets with their families in tow. In addition, Western intelligence officials observed members of the Iraqi Republican Guard in two Ansar-run villages last year, "The Sunday Telegraph" reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-QAEDA DOCUMENT FOUND IN KABUL HIGHLIGHTS ANSAR AL-ISLAM STRUGGLE IN KURDISTAN.

A memorandum found in an Al-Qaeda guesthouse in Kabul highlighted the struggle for Kurdistan by Islamic militants. The memorandum, dated 11 August 2001 and from a group called the Iraqi Kurdistan Islamic Brigade, points out that the "Islamic Brigade [ketibe] has already succeeded around Halabja and will try to establish an Islamic order [Shariah]" according to a translation of the document appearing in "The New York Times" on 13 January.

The "Islamic Brigade", known as the Jund al-Islam but later changed its name to the Ansar al-Islam, has been fighting for control of an area around Halabja along the Iranian border with Iraq for two years (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September 2001) against PUK forces. The memorandum asks the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan to cut its links to the PUK and apply the Shari'a in areas which it controls.

Also, "Yekgirtu" of Irbil on 10 January carried an interview with Umar Abd-al-Aziz, a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union Political Bureau, with regard to the anticipated changes in Iraq. While conceding the necessity of changing the regime, he stated: "We are not for foreign interference and the imposition of a military governor. We believe that such procedures will further complicate the political conditions in Iraq."

A recent article in "The New York Times" on 12 January highlights the fighting around Shinirwe Mountain which overlooks Halabja. The basic issue is not that the Ansar al-Islam has so many troops (the article assumes some 600), but that they would endanger U.S. troops if there is, in fact, an armed confrontation with Saddam Hussein. A U.S. official has confirmed that Ansar al-Islam is linked with Al-Qaeda. (David Nissman)
These things are not just spurious reports, they point to linkages of ongoing work from more than al Qaeda, which is on the run at this point in time, and sourcing chemicals and equipment is not something a band of rag-tag terrorists in the hinterland of Kurdish Iraq should be able to easily accomplish. In point of fact anyone wishing to say that this was not happening, that there are no connections and that a high level al Qaeda operative could get into Iraq and a hospital run by one of Saddam's sons and then *leave* and raise no suspicions in a police state, is then trying to back up Saddam's own spokesman, which does not leave one in good company.

Another individual cited for the connection of Ansar al-Islam and Saddam's regime is Qassem Hussein Mohamed, who claims to have worked Mukhabarat for the secret police in Iraq. This article from the Institute for Counter-Terrorism by Yael Shahar, looks into this with a report on 23 MAY 2003:

According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, new details on Ansar al-Islam’s connections with al-Qaida were provided by the interrogation of Rafid Ibrahim Fatah, an Iraqi Arab currently held by the PUK. Fatah was interviewed by the magazine’s reporter at a PUK security complex in Sulaymaniyah. He said that the group had received money once from Abu Qatada, a London cleric linked to bin Ladin’s European network. He also reported that an Ansar delegation had met with Mohammed Atef, alias Abu Hafas al-Masri, bin Ladin’s military chief, but that bin Ladin rarely met personally with such groups.

The PUK claims that Ansar al-Islam also has ties to agents of Saddam Hussein operating in northern Iraq. The CSMonitor quoted a long-time veteran of Iraqi intelligence as saying that the Iraqi government secretly provided cash and training to Ansar, in a bid to destabilize the “safe haven” and weaken armed Kurdish opponents:
Qassem Hussein Mohamed, who says he worked for Baghdad’s Mukhabarat intelligence for two decades, says that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has clandestinely supported Ansar al-Islam for several years. “[Ansar] and Al Qaeda groups were trained by graduates of the Mukhabarat’s School 999 — military intelligence,” says Mr. Mohamed, in the Sulaymaniyah interrogation room. Kurdish investigators say they are convinced — based on other, confirmable parts of his story — that he is a Mukhabarat agent. “My information is that the Iraqi government was directly supporting [Al Qaeda] with weapons and explosives,” he says. “[Ansar] was part of Al Qaeda, and given support with training and money.”
Qassem Mohamed compared Baghdad’s role to the overt help Iraq gives the anti-Iran Mujahideen e-Khalq forces, which are known to be completely controlled by Iraqi intelligence within Iraq’s borders. Several of the group’s leaders, he says, were on the Iraqi intelligence payroll, and served as liaisons between Baghdad and al-Qaida.

Observers point out that Saddam Hussein has a history of supporting proxy groups as a way to undermine his enemies. Supporting Ansar may provide him with a way to deal with his Kurdish enemies at very little cost to his own forces. “The government does not like this ‘safe haven,’ and wants to destroy and destabilize everyone, everywhere,” Mohamed says. “They are using [Ansar] as a base to destabilize northern Iraq, and assassinate and kill people. Baghdad will never give up supporting them.”

Thus, Ansar al-Islam is able to burn the candle at both ends, taking money and resources from the secular dictator Saddam in exchange for help against the Kurds of northern Iraq, while at the same time giving safe-haven to al-Qaida fighter in furtherance of the global Islamic Jihad.

Non-conventional weapons

Ansar al-Islam became front-page news last August, when reports surfaced that the group was experimenting with poison gas and toxins. According a report by ABC News, the experiments were ordered and financed by a “senior al-Qaida official, who was providing money and guidance from elsewhere in the region.”

Most of the experiments reportedly dealt with ricin, a deadly toxin derived from the castor bean. According to the report, members of Ansar al-Islam tested ricin water, as a powder, and as an aerosol. “They used it to kill donkeys, chickens and at one point allegedly exposed a man in an Iraqi market. They then followed him home and watched him die several days later, sources said.”


Yet another citation of training and support given by Saddam, purely secular, to al Qaeda, IslamoFascistic, to go against a common enemy. This is not surprising in the least, and it is those that propose otherwise that need to begin demonstrating how multiple individuals give separate and independent accounts of this from multiple directions that all cross-confirm each other.

Just after the Colin Powell speech at the UN Eric Felton interviewed Matt Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Mark Mazzetti of U.S. News and World Report; and Magnus Ranstorp of St. Andrew's University about a nexus of connections showing up between Iraq and al Qaeda on 15 FEB 2003:

Host: How solid is the evidence presented by the U-S that Zarqawi is heading up a cell of terrorists?

Ranstorp: Well, it's very clear that he has sought refuge in Iraq. In fact, he was previously in Iran. It became a hot political issue behind the scenes. During the time when Bush was declaring his "Axis of Evil" speech, Zarqawi was actually in Iran. It is, of course, very troublesome. I think that the strongest linkage is really with the assassination of Lawrence Foley in Jordan. Zarqawi is Jordanian. He has a great interest in trying to not only create problems for the Jordanians, but also his network stands out from influences in there. In terms of the case Powell has made, I think that it is a serious cause of concern. Zarqawi is a serious operative. I'm not so sure how strong the linkages are with the European cells, particularly because some of those arrests have been very fresh and it would be extraordinarily surprising to me if they'd been able to backtrack that back to the person of Zarqawi.

Host: What do we know about the London case involving ricin? Is there much information available at this point about that?

Ranstorp: Well, the ricin case is very troublesome. I think through the unraveling of the European network, beginning particularly with the French, there have been troublesome linkages between all these European countries and it will take a lot of time before we can establish a formal link between all these different groups. And I think that therefore we have to be very cognizant of this fact. I think the real question is: what degree of control does the Iraq regime exercise over Zarqawi? It is very clear that they have allowed him to operate, to use the infrastructure necessary to be able to cause some serious problems. But there is no real evidence of the fact that the Iraqi regime is controlling Zarqawi.

Levitt: Powell said specifically that that's not what they're claiming. But that of course the definition of state sponsorship does not necessarily include that you are operating the cell. Tolerating [and] providing refuge [to terrorists] is sufficient. And I think one of the reasons that we know so much about this network including its links to Europe is because of the arrest of one key Zarqawi lieutenant in particular, who in a really interesting demonstration of lack of being careful, right after the assassination of Foley couldn't help himself and called one of the assassins on a satellite phone from his car as he was leaving Iraq towards the Turkish and Syrian borders to congratulate the assassins and said: "I'm in my car and I'm driving out of Iraq." And he was subsequently captured. So the interrogations of this particular lieutenant who is senior player are providing a great deal of information. And as I understand it, is one of the key issues that led Powell and the U-S government to decide to include the Zarqawi material to convince them of the veracity of the link.

Host: Mark Mazzetti?

Mazzetti: Yeah, I mean, I think it is important to point out this purported link between al-Qaida and Iraq -- at least according to U-S officials, really has been gathering evidence, strong evidence, only during the last few weeks or couple of months. I mean, back in November and October when we were asking about this link, you talked to people and they said, well, we don't have a whole lot of this evidence. This guy Zarqawi, we think was in Iraq. It's really within the last, you know, few weeks where, as Matt was saying, they've gotten more and more interrogations and they think this link is stronger and stronger, as we saw, because Powell would actually say it publicly. So, at least according to them, the case gets stronger by the day.

Levitt: There is another detainee that Powell mentioned specifically in his remarks to the United Nations, again, where he said a member of the Zarqawi's network admitted to dispatching terrorists to Europe to conduct chemical attacks.

[..]

Host: Magnus Ranstorp, you mentioned Iran before and as Matt Levitt expanded on that to talk about how groups that traditionally were thought not to have shared interests -- certainly Iran and Iraq, no love is lost between the two -- and the idea that bin Laden would be opposed to Saddam Hussein because of Saddam Hussein being very secular. Are those traditional barriers between cooperation falling down?

Ranstorp: Well, I think Matt was making the point earlier that the traditional boundaries between ideological grounds are not a very valuable tool today to look at whether groups would cooperate or not. We're talking about individuals who are working together. And I think a very worrisome signal came around May and the summer when you had a conference of these forces, including Zarqawi's associates, making an alliance with Hezbollah, making alliances and going through Syria and Lebanon and trying to make actually, a mega, catastrophic terrorist event inside of Israel. We should not forget that prior to this, one of the al-Qaida targets was an Israeli tourist resort as well as trying to shoot down an airliner. And I think that there has been an effort to try to include Israel in this equation. I think that will influence very much the ferocity of an al-Qaida campaign and like-minded associates that will possibly continue to try to inflict their pain and suffering against the United States. Let me just make one other comment. Previously [we talked] about the weapons of mass destruction. It's not only Iraq. I mean, Iraq had this conference of forces between Saddam and W-M-D and Zarqawi, but a major concern that even comes outside of this war with Iraq, and that is the expectation from security forces, particularly in Europe, that if you're talking about radiological weapons, they will not come from Iraq, but a lot of them from the former Soviet Union.

Host: And is there evidence that al-Qaida has been trying to get its hands on such weapons?

Ranstorp: Well, we know Chechnya is becoming a new Afghanistan. I think our attention, even after Iraq, will be upon it. It's going to focus our attention toward that area. There's a lot of radiological material there. There's the expertise. Even certain terrorist groups have been casing nuclear warhead facilities in the former Soviet Union. So there's a great concern that they may come through that direction as well. And of course, Zarqawi has links to that region in this network and we should be equally concerned about that area as well.

Host: Matt Levitt, Magnus Ranstorp mentions this meeting that was held with Zarqawi and Hezbollah. What connections are there among Zarqawi, Hezbollah, Iraq, and Hamas?

Levitt: Well, I don't think you can map out a clear organizational chart and give titles and everything and say exactly what the relationship is. Again, it's a network, and like Magnus said, it's relationships. And they have built relationships that they will call on. People in the administration talk about ad hoc tactical, specifically on training and logistical support, relationships between members of al-Qaida and Hezbollah. Hamas is somewhat of a different story operationally, but even between groups like al-Qaida and Hamas that don't have operational links, there are very significant financial and logistical links. And if you look at many of the banks and the front organizations and the preferred methods of raising, transferring and laundering funds, many of those systems are the same, like the al-Taqwa banking system, which was originally shut down after September 11th for its links to al-Qaida, but has subsequently been linked very strongly to Hamas and many others. The director of the C-I-A, George Tenet, said in response to a question about the fact that Sheik Yassin, the head of Hamas, has come out and said in an open letter on February 7th, in the event of a war with Iraq, all good Muslims should conduct attacks against the West and specifically the United States. The director said, indeed, the time when we used to make [distinctions] between terrorist organizations is over. And I think that's very, very significant. These are different groups. They're not all necessarily doing the exact same thing the exact same way. There are links between them. There are relationships between their members and they are significant.

[..]

Host: Magnus Ranstorp, with regard to Ansar al-Islam operating in the north of Iraq, we recently had the assassination of a Kurdish parliament leader there. Is there any evidence linking Ansar al-Islam to Iraqi operatives?

Ranstorp: Well, this is alleged by Powell. I'm not so sure. You know, I spoke to several individuals as well, long before Ansar al-Islam came on the radar screen. In fact, very few Ansar al-Islam operatives have been actually to Afghanistan to train there. There were efforts by al-Qaida before, about a year, a year and a half ago to try to connect to Ansar al-Islam. So it's a very difficult area. Powell is claiming that the Iraqi intelligence have operatives in there. It's entirely feasible. But certainly they will become one of the first casualties once the war will commence.
Ansar al-Islam had been morphing prior to that, of course, but the stature it suddenly gains in a short period of time and continued support leading up to the war is something very difficult to pin directly on al Qaeda as it was being pushed out of Afghanistan. At some point al Qaeda did decide to leave the Afghanistan situation up to the Talibe, so it would be natural to expect a shifting of resources. Also brought up is that Abu Musab al Zarqawi was running his own independent affiliates but took up with Ansar al-Islam under directions of al Qaeda. By 25 MAR 2003 RFE/RL reports on what was happening in the North of Iraq, also looking at some of the others then known to be in the area:

COALITION FORCES TARGET ANSAR AL-ISLAM.

Coalition forces hit an Ansar Al-Islam stronghold close to the Iranian border in northeastern Iraq overnight on 21-22 March, AP reported. The group controls about 18 villages close to the Kurdish village of Halabjah. According to AP, five coalition missiles hit an Ansar base; "The Christian Science Monitor" reported on 24 March, however, that Ansar villages, as well as villages held by the Kurdistan Islamist Group (KIG) -- a.k.a. Komala Islamiyya -- were struck in two waves of attacks. The move appeared to precede a ground offensive launched by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) opposition forces. "We have begun attacking their positions with rockets," one PUK official said on 22 March, adding, "There is no way that we can move south during the liberation with them in place; we have to be able to protect our backs," Reuters reported. Retaliation appeared to come quickly -- a car bomb was detonated at a Kurdish checkpoint outside Halabjah on 22 March, killing three Kurds, an Australian cameraman, and the bomber, and injuring another two dozen people, "The Christian Science Monitor" reported on 24 March. The United States has linked Ansar Al-Islam (Supporters of Islam) to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. The KIG, headed by Shaykh Bapir Ali, is less radical than Ansar, and has been operating under an agreement with the PUK, receiving a monthly stipend of $250,000 from the PUK, according to "The Christian Science Monitor."

Meanwhile, London-based "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on 20 March that as many as 2,500 "Lebanese fundamentalists" and approximately 700 "Algerian volunteers" have been residing in camps inside Iraq for the past six months. The fighters reportedly entered Iraq with the permission of the Iraqi regime. The Lebanese and Algerians, along with Al-Qaeda-related groups, are reported to have an agreement with the Iraqi government, which allows them to undertake suicide operations, against U.S. troops in northern Iraq, according to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat." The fighters would operate "not under the Ba'ath Party banner" though, as they "refuse to fight under the banner of a secular party."

Speaking on the presence of "volunteers," Iraqi Information Minister al-Sahhaf told reporters on 24 March: " The volunteers are numerous. They are from our glorious Arab nation, the friends, Muslims, and the world. They are too many. We welcome all of them. God willing, they will serve to demonstrate a sign of solidarity between the Arabs and all free men in the world," Al-Jazeera reported. Iraqi officials have made several statements in recent weeks regarding offers from Arab and Muslim volunteers to fight on the behalf of Iraq. However, it should be noted that the Iraqi government, and specifically President Hussein, has been criticized by Muslim religious leaders for decades for its secular, anti-Islamist stance. Only in recent years has the Iraqi leader attempted to make use of religious rhetoric to appeal to the Iraqi people and Muslims worldwide for support for Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)
The question is not *if* Saddam was providing safe haven, training and support to multiple terrorist organizations. The question is how extensive were the contacts, what was passed along them and what are the subsequent movements of knowledge outwards into the larger transnational terror internetwork?

This slowly brings us right back around to Congress. As so many are fond of stating, this is a 'Long War'... and everyone loves to think of the Cold War paradigm. There is no equivalent of the USSR in the world of Transnational Terrorism: no such thing exists. Standing up to this is more than just manning military bases, buying weapons and accumulating vast numbers of nuclear devices on a State-to-State showdown. Without an opposition State there is no defined military organization to go against. What can be seen, however, is that States that have abundant natural resources that are able to utilize such for commerce can become not only State supporters for terrorists or, especially in 'failed' or weak States, harbor terrorists and be unable to do anything about them. When State based sponsorship takes place, the full panoply of an organized government utilizing its power to arm, direct and even operate terrorist groups allows for the long term lethality of those groups to increase. Iran has been doing that for decades and now has affiliates in Lebanon, Bosnia, Algeria, Chechnya, Argentina, Venezuela and elsewhere. The Iranian threat with WMDs is not as a Nation, but in using that distributed affiliate operation to gain such weapons and increase their lethality by two or three orders of magnitude *per incident* if not higher. Iraq not coming *clean* on WMDs, continuing operations of programs to support WMD production and working directly with a broad gamut of terrorists was utilizing that network to achieve their State-based ends. Organizations like al Qaeda that wish to end Nation States, will utilize any means it can get to continue its goals and target Nations and Peoples so as to remove such Nations and support for *having* Nations.

When an organization like FARC can run and continue to expand a military operation based on narco-terrorism, plus some other sidelines like kidnapping for ransom and extortion, the threat seen from Nations able to supply multiple times the amount of ready cash leads to far worse situations that are endemic in nature. Strong Nation States that can ensure their borders and enforce the rule of law internally, while working with other Nations to marginalize and hunt down and *kill* these organizations and remove other Nations from supporting this must happen. The system of Nation States was formed to allow internal religious decisions but to not enforce religion upon individuals. When Nations move *from* that, as is the case of Saudi Arabia, they may get a 'purity of religion' but they also get a Totalitarian State. The Western conception of the Westphalian State requires that minimal freedom for individuals, even if few other liberties apply. When the Congress moves to say that fighting for this is not worth the cost in blood or money, they are saying that they are willing to cash out the Nation State system. If the United States cannot promote liberty and take down those that would seek to end the Nation State system as a whole, than no matter how mighty the military force the US has, can this Nation stand. When the rest of the world starts to sink into Imperial mud, the ties that the US has will drag this Nation down with them.

While the US may stand apart as a Nation, we stand *with* the entire community of Nations.

Removing dictators and tyrants requires the US to help those who had been under such rule to stand up for themselves so they can protect themselves thereafter. That is a good and honorable way to deal with the world, and once those we have helped to stand up on their own can do so, then we will accept their judgment on the worthiness of our work.

Congress and much of those that support it have decided that such work cannot be done by the Nation.

When the United States declares war, we turn from such fights at our peril.

But I will say this: if the President accepts the terms and conditions given then there is one, and only one option in a war we will not fight.

We should surrender to Iraq.

I think they would understand that by this point in time.

Because Congress no longer has the will to allow for victory, and so the only other option is defeat.

And I think they are better *losers* than the current crop of Americans are *winners*.

When you go to war those are your choices, as the Spartans remind us.

There are long term consequences to defeat and the US has been dying a slow death since that last defeat.

This Congress wishes to kill the Nation with another such defeat.

And civilization along with it.

2 comments:

Ikez said...

Excellent comments on Saddam's terror links.

Take a look at www.regimeofterror.com for more info on that subject.

A Jacksonian said...

Ikez - My thanks and wonderful work there! I am in amazement at how many people are in a state of denial about Saddam's support for terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular. One does not need 'operational control' to aid and abet such things, and his cash infusions and support with training and equipment goes far beyond merely sitting by and watching.