Thursday, June 15, 2006

Zarqawi Killing Directly Linked to Iranian-Provided Intelligence

Jason Fuchs, GIS UN Correspondent:
While Washington and Baghdad claimed a joint triumph in Iraq with the June 8, 2006, killing of al-Qaida in Iraq’s leader Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi, GIS sources revealed details of the events leading to Zarqawi’s discovery and killing that could affect not only Iraq, but the entire region. GIS sources have confirmed that the intelligence which led to the exact targeting of Zarqawi — commander of the al-Qaida Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers — had been provided to Coalition Forces by one of the jihadist commander’s chief sponsors: Iran.

GIS sources added that the information provided by Tehran had not been given to the Coalition directly. Instead, the critical intelligence was filtered through Palestinian intermediaries (specifically HAMAS) and from them passed on to the highest levels of the Jordanian Government. Amman then forwarded this intelligence to Washington and, GIS sources noted, then played a “hands-on rôle” in the military operation itself with strong indications that Jordanian Special Forces had been present on the ground for the attack itself, although it remained unclear in precisely what capacity. READ MORE

A Jordanian Government official later on June 8, 2006, confirmed that Jordan had played a role in the operation.

What GIS sources could not determine based on hard intelligence — and what remained most critical to the regional equation — was what had triggered Zarqawi’s fatal split with Tehran. Whatever the cause, it had already been clear by late May 2006 that something had fundamentally changed in Zarqawi’s relationship with Iran. The most public result of the dispute had been the release of an audiotape by the Jordanian militant on June 2, 2006, in which Zarqawi lambasted the Iranian Pres. Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad for “screaming and calling for wiping Israel from the map” while doing nothing material to realize those aims. Of the Iranian-sponsored HizbAllah, with whom Zarqawi also had a long-standing operational relationship, Zarqawi charged that the militant group acted as a “shield protecting the Zionist enemy against the strikes of the mujahedin in Lebanon … HizbAllah is an independent state inside Lebanon. It puts forth lying slogans about Palestinian liberation when in fact it serves as a security wall [for Israel] and prevents Sunnis from crossing its borders.”

The tape had been released with a disclaimer that it had been recorded two months before its early June 2006 release, but had had its release delayed because of “circumstances” which were not described.

Iranian sponsorship of the Iraqi intifada remained a key component of Tehran’s national security policy regardless of Tehran’s involvement in Zarqawi’s removal from the scene. Doubtless, Tehran would quietly seek to portray its “help” in resolving the Zarqawi matter as a part of a newly-oriented, more cooperative policy vis-à-vis Washington in the “war on terror”, but it appeared certain that the Iranian decision to remove Zarqawi had been first and foremost about securing Iranian strategic priorities. Most significant of these priorities was the removal of the threat of US military attack against Iranian nuclear and command and control facilities.

The fact that Washington would interpret such a move as a reciprocal gesture to the most recent package of incentives offered by the US and EU would be a welcome additional benefit, most especially if it bought the Iranian Government further time to pursue its indigenous nuclear weapons program.

HAMAS, for its part, appeared to have leapt at the opportunity to soothe recent tensions with the Jordanian Government. April and May 2006 had seen a series of arrests in the Kingdom of HAMAS operatives captured with weapons and explosives which were alleged to have been used against Jordanian Government targets throughout the country. According to the Jordanian Government, the HAMAS weapons caches included automatic weapons, submachineguns, ammunition, hand-grenades, mines, different types of explosives, GRAD missiles, LAW anti-tank missiles, and Katyusha rockets (some of which were reportedly Iranian made).

Jordanian TV aired footage on May 11, 2006, of captured HAMAS operatives who confessed that their orders had come from the HAMAS high command in Damascus. One operative, Ayman Naji Saleh Hamdallah Daraghmeh, 34, from Al-Hashimiya in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s hometown of al-Zarqaa, detailed:

I got involved with HAMAS through a friend of mine, Tawfiq Al-‘Abushi. He told me he worked for HAMAS and … told me I had to go to Syria. I went with him to Syria and we stayed at a hotel. In Syria, we met a HAMAS official called Abu Al-‘Abd … I began a course in security, which included interrogation, not breaking down under interrogation, safety in communication and in travel, personal security and many such things. I also underwent a military course. Then I went back to Jordan.1

Such provocative operations into Jordan from HAMAS bases in Syria would not have occurred without approval from Damascus. Equally, Damascus would not have undertaken such levels of attempted strikes — the second of their kind attempted and foiled in the Kingdom in as many years from Syrian bases — without serious consultation with their most important strategic partner, Tehran.

Certainly, HAMAS’s role in the killing of Zarqawi — and by extension the roles of Iran and Syria — would be received in Amman as a goodwill gesture on behalf of the Damascus-based HAMAS leadership, the Syrian Government itself, and the Iranian leadership. HAMAS, in particular, as it fought for international legitimacy and aid, had to hope that this affair would soften the West’s stance on its nascent Palestinian Authority Government.

Tehran’s ability to “reach out and touch” as elusive a figure as Zarqawi at the whim of strategic necessity spoke to the depth of Iranian involvement in Iraq and its centrality to the global jihadist movement in general.

The Iranian Government deliberately selling out one of its former assets — even though Zarqawi was nominally an al-Qaida leader — has direct parallels to the deliberate selling out of the al-Qaida leader in Saudi Arabia, Saleh al-Oufi, in August 2005. When Saleh al-Oufi disobeyed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and persisted with attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure instead of supporting the major effort of the time, to escalate the Iraq conflict, the bin Laden leadership leaked al-Oufi’s whereabouts to the Saudi security forces. Saleh al-Oufi and several of his colleagues were killed in firefights with Saudi security forces on August 18, 2005. The direct parallels between the al-Oufi and Zarqawi incidents raise the question once again of the depth of Osama bin Laden’s links with Iran, and whether bin Laden himself is still in Iran and coordinating his actions with those of Iran.

As well, the impact must be assessed of Zarqawi’s death on the two other major al-Qaida sectors he had come to dominate: “The al-Qaida Organization in the Land of the Berbers” (North Africa), and the operations in Europe, centered around Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Kosovo. Moreover, there is little question but that Tehran (and for that matter, the Osama bin Laden movement) would not have betrayed Zarqawi unless it had alternative plans for the leadership and operations of their terrorist and militant networks in Iraq, North Africa, and Europe.


Alan Peters is reporting the same with more details.