Al Qaeda’s roars back in Iraq against double target: US and Iranians
Hillary Clinton said on arrival in Baghdad Saturday, April 25, for her first visit as US secretary of State that the wave of suicide killings which accounted for more than 250 lives this month were “a tragic signal that Iraq was on the right path.” She made it clear that the pullout of US troops from Iraq’s main cities in nine weeks was still on track.
Many of the victims were Iranian pilgrims visiting Shiite shrines. Saturday, Baghdad closed the main border crossing from Iran until further notice.
Clinton’s visit coincides with the arrival of the United States’ new ambassador, Christopher Hill.
Friday, US Middle East commander Gen. David Petraeus told a House panel in Washington that attacks in Iraq will continue for some time and they may be the work of a network of foreign fighters from Tunisia. He said that four recent suicide bombers in Iraq were from that North African country. Officials captured one who planned an attack.
According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, Al Qaeda is attempting a comeback in Iraq with the help of reinforcements moved long-distance from its Maghreb (North African) branch to bolster the remnants of its Iraqi strength. These fresh forces have re-extended the jihadis’ reach from Mosul in the north, hitherto the last al Qaeda bastion, to Baghdad and other cities..
This development is seen by debkafile‘s sources as instructive on two points:
1. Al Qaeda has not given up on Iraq. Encouraged by the coming US troop withdrawal for Iraqi towns in summer, it has pulled in reinforcements from far away for fighters whose faces are unknown to US and Iraqi intelligence and are spoiling for battle in the new arena.
2. By targeting Shiites and Iranian pilgrims with (female) suicide bombers, Osama bin Laden is warning Tehran and Washington that their unfolding bid to bracket their resources together for ending the Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts will precipitate fresh trouble not only in those arenas, but also in Iraq. To this end, al Qaeda has launched a second offensive on a third front.
debkafile‘s military sources report that a major change in Iraq has opened the door to al Qaeda’s recovery. The 100,000 commanders and fighters of the Awakening Councils, the strong arm of the US surge strategy for crushing al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents, has dropped out of the war.
After Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered mass detentions of the Sunni-dominated force’s members, Awakening Council leaders suspect him of planning to disband it as soon as US troops are out of the main cities.
Their suspicions have gained ground from US restraint in halting the detentions. Awakening Council leaders now fear that in their haste to leave Iraq, the Americans will forget their promises to continue to protect their erstwhile allies and their rights and pay their salaries after the war on al Qaeda was won.
Therefore, for the second time in five years, armed Iraq Sunni strength and al Qaeda share an interest in battling central government in Baghdad, as well as the US and Iranian influence in Iraq.
In these sharply deteriorating circumstances, it has hard to agree with Clinton’s assessment that Iraq is on the “right path.”