Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Major developments in Iraq.

Surprise visit

Sure, it's a PR stunt. But, give credit where it is due; President Bush has made a surprise visit to Iraq. The Los Angeles Times:
As he climbed up the rear steps of the plane, Bush, wearing a navy blue baseball cap, dark pants and blue button-down shirt, yelled out at reporters, "The POTUS is on board!" referring to the White House acronym for President of the United States.

On arrival in Baghdad, at 4:11 p.m., Air Force One pilots made a swift, spiraling descent to Baghdad International Airport to avoid anti-aircraft fire. Bush then got into an armed Black Hawk helicopter for the six-minute journey to the heavily-fortified Green Zone.

Walking into the Republican Palace, where the U.S. Embassy headquarters is based, Bush greeted Maliki, who had been informed only minutes before that Bush was visiting in person. "Good to see you," Maliki said. "Thanks for having me," Bush replied.
The New York Times on the strategy summit:
The meeting was as much a media event as it was a high-level strategy session, devised to send a message that this is "an important break point for the Iraqi people and for our mission in Iraq from the standpoint of the American people," in the words of the White House counselor, Dan Bartlett.
Securing Baghdad

It's got to be done if this new government has any chance. AP:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq's new prime minister promised Tuesday to show ''no mercy'' to terrorists and said before President Bush arrived for a surprise visit that a long-awaited security plan for Baghdad will include a curfew and a ban on personal weapons.

Bush, who was expected to be in Baghdad for about five hours, met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss Iraq's next steps.

Security officials said tens of thousands of Iraqi and multinational forces would deploy Wednesday throughout Baghdad, securing roads, launching raids against insurgent hideouts and calling in airstrikes if necessary.


Iraqi security forces planned to deploy 75,000 Iraqi and multinational forces in Baghdad as part of al-Maliki's ambitious plan to crack down on security in the capital, a top Iraqi police official said.
Violence spreading to other provinces

The New York Times on Basra:
BASRA, Iraq — Politics, once seen as a solution to the problems of a society broken by years of brutal single-party rule, has paralyzed the heart of Iraq's south.

This once-quiet city of riverside promenades was among the most receptive to the American invasion. Now, three years later, it is being pulled apart by Shiite political parties that want to control the region and its biggest prize, oil. But in today's Iraq, politics and power flow from the guns of militias, and negotiating has been a bloody process.

"We're into political porridge, that's what's changed," said Brig. James Everard, commander of the British forces in Basra. "It's mafia-type politics down here."
Attacks in Kirkuk, as reported by the Washington Post:
Two high-level Iraqi police officials narrowly escaped death this morning in a series of suicide attacks that left 20 people slain and scores more wounded.

The explosions targeted police commanders, police stations and patrols, as well as a busy food market in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi police officials said.
More oil found in Kurdistan. The Times of London:
Fears that Kurdish oil ambitions could ignite political conflict between Baghdad and Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan, were aroused last month when Hussein al-Shahristani, Iraq’s new Oil Minister, declared that all oil exploration, production and export of oil should be handled by the Iraqi Oil Ministry in Baghdad. His assertion appeared to conflict with the Kurdistan regional government’s grant of licences to foreign firms, including DNO, which in 2004 acquired exploration rights over 250 square miles of Kurdish territory.
Iraqi al Qaeda's new look

Enter the Jordanians, as reported by Borzou Daragahi and Josh Meyer of the Los Angeles Times:
After the bombings, Iraq became, and remains, Amman's primary security worry, even though Jordan also abuts the simmering tensions in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The hotel bombings alarmed the Jordanians, forcing them to seek a more active role in combating Iraq's troubles, the two intelligence officials said.

The attack also showed a skeptical Iraqi government, suspicious of its neighbors' security forces, that Zarqawi was training Iraqis for cross-border operations in Jordan, a source close to Jordanian intelligence officials said.
The new leader of AQM...

The Times of London:
Insurgent sources told The Times that al-Muhajir — a nom de guerre meaning “migrant” — was Egyptian and had fought in Afghanistan and against US forces during the battle of Fallujah in November 2004. He knows the Koran by heart and follows the teachings of Abdullah Azzam, the late mentor of Osama bin Laden.

“He has fought battles around Baghdad and was never wounded or came close to being caught . . . he’s one of the strongest members after al-Zarqawi, and that’s what won him the job,” one source said.

Another said: “He is one of those who is always wearing a suicide belt in case he is captured.”
Asia Times (very important information, my emphasis):
In a communique released on the Internet, al-Qaeda said Muhajir had been unanimously selected by the Shura Council of the Mujahideen, a coalition of six Sunni insurgency groups created by Zarqawi in January.

Some immediately speculated that the communique was a bluff, so obscure was the name.

However, Asia Times Online can confirm, via sources in Syria and Iraq, that Muhajir certainly does exist. He is an "intellectual" intelligence commander in al-Qaeda, not a hands-on military leader like Zarqawi. As the new commander of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he will be more of a "political prince".

Military strategy will be formulated by other veterans, such as Abu Aseel, 62, a former general in Saddam Hussein's army (who had been tipped to replace Zarqawi). Political strategy and day-to-day politics will now be handled by Muhajir - and possibly even by Osama bin Laden.

This information is supported by Muntaser al-Zayyat, a lawyer who works with Islamic groups in Egypt and who is an expert on al-Qaeda. Zayyat confirmed that Muhajir was among the circle of people who knew Zarqawi well and who had worked with him closely since 2001.

He is believed to have been born in 1965 or 1966 - making him about the same age as Zarqawi.

He was based in al-Qaim, a small town on the Syrian border 400 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, where he welcomed new troops and gave them orientation courses on al-Qaeda operations and objectives.

Recently, however, Muhajir moved to Kirkuk. If he is currently based in Kirkuk, it might explain the series of bombs that went off on Tuesday, killing 24 Iraqis and wounding another 40.

Muhajir's nationality, however, has not yet been identified. Some speculate that he is from Libya, while others claim he is from Yemen. One Islamic source whose name was not given was quoted in the London Al-Hayat newspaper as saying that Muhajir was an Iraqi "who had contributed to jihad in Afghanistan".

But this is strongly debated by those familiar with the internal dynamics of Zarqawi's al-Qaeda. Being a Jordanian himself, Zarqawi never fully trusted the Iraqis he was leading, fearing that they would abandon him in favor of a local Iraqi commander.

He surrounded himself by, and delegated authority to, only non-Iraqis and his closed circle, which comprised Yemenis, Syrians, Libyans and Saudis. If Muhajir was close to Zarqawi, he would have to have been non-Iraqi.

If he was hand-picked by bin Laden, however, he could be an Iraqi, since the al-Qaeda founder wants to mend the rifts within the Iraqi insurgency created under Zarqawi, who was bent on fomenting sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shi'ites.

Sunnis would welcome someone like Muhajir, especially the Sunni tribes, which played an important role in expelling Zarqawi from his former hiding place in Anbar, forcing him to seek refugee in the remote village where he was tracked down and killed by the Americans. By appointing an Iraqi as head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, bin Laden would thus be trying to win over the tribes.

The lawyer Zayyat and other al-Qaeda experts say that Muhajir worked with bin Laden and lived with him in Sudan until 1995. After that, he moved to Peshawar in Pakistan and then to Afghanistan, before settling in Iraq with Zarqawi in 2001.

Others put the date after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Since 2003, Muhajir has been in charge of recruiting young Arabs into al-Qaeda and served as chief of al-Qaeda intelligence in the Middle East and North Africa.

He travels to various Arab countries, under false passports, and meets with potential young Muslims who would be willing to join al-Qaeda in Iraq. His recruitment has reached as far as Algiers.

Since the invasion of Iraq, however, he has not been involved in Iraqi domestic issues nor in the Iraqi insurgency, concentrating on recruitment and ideological training for young Arabs. He lectures them on jihad and anti-Americanism.

Method behind the choice

The reason for the last-minute sidestepping of Abu Aseel is that since he is a former officer in the Iraqi army, Iraqis have a lot of information about him. They have his picture, his former contacts and dozens of files on him, collected over the decades. He would be a sitting duck.

Muhajir, however, is completely unknown to the Iraqis (and just about everyone else). Zarqawi had become a virtual movie star. He liked to put on a show, either directly or through a proxy, and was well known to everybody - the Americans, the Iraqis, the Syrians and the Jordanians.

As Zarqawi had been a criminal in Jordan, Jordanian intelligence had records, pictures and detailed information about his contacts, habits and character. The Saudi channel Al-Arabiya quoted a well-informed source on al-Qaeda as saying, "Muhajir has no picture or identity. He is like a ghost."

The appointment of an unknown such as Muhajir would also give bin Laden the opportunity to assert control of the Iraqi insurgency, which was forcefully captured from him by Zarqawi from 2003.

Bin Laden opposed Zarqawi's war against Iraqi citizens and the Shi'ites, claiming that this gave al-Qaeda a bad name among Muslims, preferring instead to target the Americans and those cooperating with them in the Iraqi police force and army.

Bin Laden might thus have hand-picked Muhajir as a puppet commander to ensure that he never became as strong as Zarqawi and never challenged bin Laden for command of al-Qaeda.

Since Zarqawi's death, al-Qaeda in Iraq has vowed to carry out large-scale attacks that will "shake the enemy", claiming responsibility for more than 50 attacks in the 24 hours after news of Zarqawi's killing became known.

A new face. Same struggle.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A new face. Same struggle."

That's the problem - the struggle is from within. Eventually let's hope they kill themselves off.

Maybe that's why there were no arabs in Star Trek?

1:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home