Allawi Hopes to Snare Zarqawi – and Premiership in Baghdad

The Baghdad government’s burgeoning optimism over the prospects of very soon collaring Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda’s man in Iraq, is fed from interim prime minister Iyad Allawi office.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources reveal he is telling his inner circle that the special anti-terror units under his direct command are closing in on their quarry. This drive is not divorced from his campaign to keep the job and it has produced a string of successes in the last ten days.
Talib al-Dulaymi, the trusted aide aka as Abu Qutaybah, who set up Zarqawi’s appointments with fellow terrorist chiefs, arranged safe houses and transport, was captured on February 20 at Anah NW of Baghdad with Ahmad Ismail al-Rawi, identified as one of Zarqawi’s drivers. In custody too are Mohammed Najam Ibrahim, described as leader of an al Qaeda-affiliated cell in Baqouba and responsible for a series of beheadings, and another top Zarqawi aide, Haidar Abu Bawari.
Iraqi government security services claim to have infiltrated the terrorist network with embedded policemen.
Allawi’s certainty that the Jordanian terror mastermind is almost within his grasp rests on certain events:
First, in the last two weeks, Iraqi security forces have quietly unearthed Zarqawi’s principal ammunition and explosive caches, partly helped by information obtained in the interrogations of the captured terrorists. Allawi believes that many of the archterrorist’s followers will turn themselves in when they see the wherewithal for fighting on and carrying out attacks is running out.
Second,Zarqawi has been sighted several times making his way through the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad in the direction of the Iranian frontier, indicating he is on the run.
Third,Allawi recently closed a three-way deal with the most influential Iraqi Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and the Tehran leadership for Iran to arrest him if he tries to cross the border and surrender him to Sistani in Najef. There, Zarqawi will stand trial for murdering 182 people and injuring 550 in the 2004 Ashoura massacres he orchestrated in Najef and Karbala. The Iraqi leader has not revealed how this agreement was negotiated with Tehran.
Allawi also informed his close aides he had derived encouragement from additional developments:
1. Al Qaeda’s network chiefs in Iraq have their backs to the wall but are not alone; in secret talks with Allawi, several heads of the Baathist underground guerrilla insurgency, have offered to lay down arms if Baghdad sets up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the lines of the South African forum devised by Nobel peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They want the chance to confess their crimes before the commission, repent publicly, obtain a pardon and walk free. The interim prime minister is willing to consider this option quite seriously.
2. Allawi believes a good basis for a breakthrough in negotiations with Iraq’s Sunni leaders is already in place, embodied in understandings attained by former US ambassador John Negroponte before his abrupt departure from Baghdad to take up his new appointment as director of national intelligence in Washington. debkafile‘s Baghdad sources reveal the three points agreed: The Sunnis will gain full partnership in the post-election government with ministerial appointments; they will sit on the commission drafting the new constitution, despite having no seats in parliament; and they will participate unreservedly in the next general elections.
3. Sunni leaders and the Baath underground recognize that a major US-Iraqi offensive on the lines of the Falujjah operation is in the works – either against Ramadi, northwest of Baghdad, where the action has begun, or Latafiya south of the capital, hotbed of a mixed bag of insurgent groups, including al Qaeda operatives.
4. According to our intelligence and counter-terror sources, Allawi has also sent a message to Syrian president Bashar Assad with a long list of top Syrian officials, politicians and army officers who are on the take in a big way from Baathist fugitives activating the insurgency in Iraq from their safe base in the country. The name of every Syrian bribe-taker is tagged with the amount he received and the payer’s identity.
The message stated that the Iraqi ambassador, Hassan Allawi (no relation), would not return to Damascus until Baathist fugitives were extradited. He also made good on his threat to have television run tapes of confessions by captured Syrian agents who were sent by their government to fight the Americans in Iraq.
Our Iraqi sources note that Allawi expects his momentum for bringing an end to violence in Iraq to take him far along the road to the prime minister’s office in Baghdad. He also thinks he can count on substantial Shiite support in the new national assembly and that the Kurds and Turkomen are in his pocket. The high card he is playing is the bid to prove he is the only Iraqi politician capable of drawing the Sunni factions in sharing power in the central government.

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