Magazine article Insight on the News

Foreign Jihadists Add Fuel to the Anticoalition Fire in Iraq

Magazine article Insight on the News

Foreign Jihadists Add Fuel to the Anticoalition Fire in Iraq

Article excerpt

Byline: Notra Trulock, SPECIAL TO INSIGHT

The March 2 suicide-bomb attacks on Shiite holy sites were the deadliest since the fall of Saddam Hussein and part of an ongoing campaign to destabilize Iraq and interrupt the country's transition to democracy. Coalition officials in Baghdad attributed the attacks to foreign terrorists affiliated, loosely or otherwise, with al-Qaeda and specifically to Jordanian-born Palestinian Abu Musab Zarqawi. The U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, told Congress that he had seen "intelligence that ties Zarqawi to the attack."

Coalition officials in Baghdad say suicide attacks, like those on March 2, most likely are the work of foreign terrorists or "internationally professional killers," in the words of Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq. The Associated Press (AP) reports that there have been at least 19 suicide-bomb attacks in Iraq since last August. Zarqawi claims credit for 25 "martyrdom operations," and Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director for coalition operations, told reporters, "There is certainly a body of evidence that would point to Zarqawi as the perpetrator of those crimes. "

Gen. Abizaid also told Congress that there is evidence that Zarqawi and other foreign terrorists are "in close coordination with former Iraqi intelligence service people." That is particularly ominous, since last fall the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) reported that, since 1996, the Iraqi Intelligence Service had controlled a clandestine network of biological-warfare labs and facilities. The ISG has yet to uncover stockpiles of biowarfare agents, although before the war Secretary of State Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council that former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said the Iraqis had never accounted for the thousands of liters of anthrax the United Nations estimated they had produced.

But as with the weapons of mass destruction issue, many in the media now openly dispute the coalition's assessments of foreign terrorists being behind the suicide bombings. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, for example, Patrick McDonnell and Sebastian Rotella challenge what they claim is "the widely held view that Iraq's suicide bombers are exclusively foreign jihadis." Rotella, who attends coalition press conferences in Baghdad, also charges that U.S. officials are exaggerating the role of Zarqawi, and foreign terrorists in general, in attacks such as those conducted against the Shiites on March 2. He cites U.S. commanders as saying, "Their foes are mostly Iraqi." He writes that a U.S. Army major told him, "It's clearly wrong to pin all the attacks on Zarqawi or suggest that this is exclusively a foreign-fueled, foreign-initiated insurgency, because that's not the case. …

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