ROVING EYE Iraq: The civil war
bogy By Pepe Escobar
September 7 last year, President George W Bush
proclaimed on global television that Iraq was the new
frontline in the "war on terror". Before the US invasion
and occupation, it had never been.
For the past
few months, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, born Ahmad Fadeel
Nazzal al-Khalayleh in the Jordanian city of Zarqa, has
been sold by the Pentagon and the White House as the
missing link between the extinct Saddam Hussein regime
Al-Qaeda may constitute only the
military vanguard of terrorism worldwide still funded by
private and business capital from Saudi Arabia. But
Washington won't dare interfere with the internal
affairs of its solid oil ally, the House of Saud. It's
much easier to promote Zarqawi - with a US$10 million
bounty on his head - as the new Osama bin Laden of
But what is the Iraqi
resistance saying about all this?
redux Immediately after the bloody attacks on
Shi'ites in Baghdad and Karbala last week, the Abu Hafs
al-Masri Brigades - a Sunni Iraqi resistance group -
sent a letter, considered by the recipients to be
authentic, to the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi
newspaper, in which it denied any al-Qaeda involvement.
For its part, the leadership of the Allahu Akbar
Mujahideen - which includes plenty of Sunni resistance
groups - circulated a leaflet in Fallujah dismissing the
purported al-Zarqawi letter found on a computer disk by
the US stating plans for provoking a sectarian war
between Sunnis and Shi'ites. The letter on the disk is
described as "the fabricated al-Zarqawi memo", used by
the Americans "to back up their theory of a civil war"
in Iraq. In fact, the Mujahideen claim that Zarqawi was
killed in the Sulaimaniyah Mountains in northeastern
Kurdistan "during the American bombing" of Ansar
al-Islam positions in late April 2003. Zarqawi, they
claim, could not evade the bombing because of his
Ansar al-Islam, the radical
Kurdish Islamist group, is allegedly linked to al-Qaeda.
However, its leader, Mullah Krekar, in jail in Norway
since December, denies any link to al-Qaeda, but
considers bin Laden "a good Muslim". Ansar al-Islam's
aims, according to Mullah Krekar, were always "to bring
down the Iraqi regime" (including the secular government
in Iraqi Kurdistan) and "replace it with an Islamic
The US story, Zarqawi-wise, is
completely different. Brigadier-General Mark Kimmit,
deputy operations chief in Iraq, said the United States
had information showing that Zarqawi was in fact alive.
A friend of the family, the US says, went on record as
saying that Zarqawi had been in contact with his mother
until four months ago.
sources have confirmed to Asia Times Online that the
Germans have reason to believe that Zarqawi was
appointed by al-Qaeda to coordinate attacks throughout
Europe. But the Zarqawi scarecrow is a
one-size-fits-all. For the Moroccans, the group blamed
for the bombings that killed 45 people in Casablanca
last May was under contract to Zarqawi. The Turks
believe that Zarqawi was involved in the bombings that
killed 63 at two synagogues, the British Consulate and
the HSBC in Istanbul in November.
are adamant: "The truth is, al-Qaeda is not present in
Iraq." They claim that hundreds of Arabs entered the
country a year ago to fight the Americans, but now only
a few dozen remain. "We had to help hundreds of them
leave for their own protection because they were only a
burden on the resistance. It was difficult to hide
These Arab fighters were under close
surveillance by employees of the former Iraqi
intelligence service, Mukhabarat, who had been recruited
by the Americans since the fall of Baghdad last April.
Interestingly enough, one of the Mujahideen
groups, Mohammed's Army, may be an umbrella group of
former Iraqi intelligence and security agents, including
Most Iraqi resistance leaders
have identified the US tactic of configuring Zarqawi as
the new bin Laden. Asia Times Online has learned from
sources close to the Mujahideen that the Zarqawi letter
is in fact a copy of a previous letter that has been
circulating on the Internet in Arabic for quite a while
- before it was finally "discovered" by the Americans.
This original letter was written by one Sheikh
Yusuf al-Awyairi. It had nothing to do with provoking a
sectarian war, but fighting the US occupying power and
its allies by Shi'ites and Sunnis alike.
suggest that as with bin Laden, whose capture in the
Pakistan tribal areas, they suggest, involves only a
matter of timing, the apprehension of Zarqawi will occur
only when it can aggregate maximum political capital to
the Bush administration.
Wahhabis, the CIA
and Iran Legions of Shi'ites are blaming the
attacks in Baghdad and Karbala on the "Wahhabis" - a
code name for Sunni terrorists identified with al-Qaeda
and its subcontracted outfits.
It's important to
draw a parallel between the attacks in Iraq and the one
in Quetta, Pakistan - widely attributed to hardcore
Sunnis with close links with al-Qaeda. The victims in
Quetta were mostly Shi'ite Hazaras, Afghan refugees
living in Sunni-dominated Pakistan. Quetta is infested
with Taliban. This might suggest a Taliban/al-Qaeda
cooperation in the attacks.
Al-Qaeda may be
betting simultaneously on civil war in Iraq and civil
war in the tribal areas in Pakistan - thus the
simultaneous attacks. The thesis collapses when we learn
that the attacks in Quetta may have been perpetrated by
Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, the notorious anti-Shi'ite Islamist
outfit with strong connections with Pakistan's
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). But the crucial
suggestion is in fact the linkage of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi,
the ISI and al-Qaeda. Lashkar is manipulated by the ISI,
and the US Central Intelligence Agency is aware of
practically everything the ISI is up to.
attacks in Iraq certainly may have been a provocation
aimed at Shi'ite-dominated Iran. According to hospital
sources in Karbala, more than 75 percent of the dead and
90 percent of the wounded were Iranian pilgrims. There
were more than 100,000 Iranian pilgrims in Karbala last
week. It's important to note that Iranian Vice President
Mohammed Ali Abtahi said al-Qaeda considers the Shi'ites
- the ideological enemy - even more dangerous than the
political enemy, the United States.
complicate the equation even more, most Shi'ites blame
the Americans, albeit indirectly. Grand Ayatollah Ali
al-Sistani explicitly accused the Americans of not
securing borders, not maintaining internal security and
not adequately training and equipping the new Iraqi
Much more serious is the perception of
the Shi'ite street, according to which the Americans are
either allowing terrorists to organize their attacks -
to foment chaos so the occupation can be infinitely
extended - or are directly involved in the bombings.
Whether just rumor or not, such belief is a
graphic illustration of how the level of trust between
the Shi'ite masses and both the Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) and the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC)
has reached rock bottom. The CPA and the IGC insist this
series of bombings will lead to a civil war. But the
Shi'ite masses are not blaming Sunnis or Kurds: they are
blaming the Americans. And as they don't trust the
occupiers, they cannot possibly trust the new
US-sponsored draft Iraqi constitution.
resistance - Sunni and Shi'ite alike - is extremely
suspicious of shady Iraqi groups that came back from
exile after the fall of Baghdad. These groups might be
involved in the bombings, organized as a series of
preemptive attacks. The attacks evoke the specter of
civil war - feared by the Iraqi population as a whole.
So they provoke the effect desired by the occupiers: to
prevent civil war, Iraqis will adopt any US plan forced
down their throats.
The resistance may be united
- for now. But it is fighting a formidable enemy in the
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