A sequence of bizarre messages, some encoded, has appeared in the last ten days in al Qaeda’s electronic transmissions to its commanders and cell leaders. They appear to give away intelligence secrets of some of the forces operating in Iraq. But a common thread runs through them all: the clear intent to expose and damage Iranian intelligence and its alleged terrorist activities in the embattled country.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s jihadist experts speculatively interpret the messages as a form of briefing for al Qaeda’s field chiefs on the movement’s latest policy departure.
The messages imply a sharp – and very recent – turn by the fundamentalist group against its benefactors in Tehran. The rationale offered for the exposes is the claim that the US government, the Pentagon and the American military command in Iraq are systematically throwing false blame for some of Iran’s bloodiest terrorist attacks in Iraq on al Qaeda in order to conceal the true scale of Iran’s violent meddling in the Iraq conflict.
While little is known for certain about this apparent U-turn, al Qaeda’s transmissions offer chapter and verse to support it and at the same time back up its own credibility among the movement’s worldwide following. In any case, they indicate that their motives for publication are more complicated than the usual attempt to blacken America.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s al Qaeda experts suggest five:
1. Al Qaeda’s postulated U-turn may have been sparked by an unreported quarrel between Tehran and the jihadist movement – even some sort of falling-out between the Iranian Revolutionary Guards intelligence arm and the al Qaeda executives who arrange the group’s bases and sanctuaries in Iran.
2. An al Qaeda scheme to provoke a US-Iranian military showdown. Embroiling the two powers in hostilities would support the general offensive the group has launched against Iraq’s Shiites, who are regarded not just as apostates but American collaborators. Shiite ministers in Iraq’s Jaafari government tried hard to play down the terrorist hand in the 1,000 deaths at the Kadhimiya mosque Wednesday, Aug 31 – until it was claimed by the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. They appeared to believe that Al Qaeda has decided to set Sunni against Shiite to ignite a sectarian war, which they are anxious to prevent.
Tehran‘s schemes “exposed”
3. An al Qaeda gambit to drive a wedge between the Americans and the Iraqi Shiite community. Examples of reciprocal irritants are offered in the transmissions.
4. Also offered are proofs of Tehran’s schemes to destroy Iraq’s economic infrastructure. They appear alongside evidence of American attempts to cover up these schemes and prevent them from reaching public notice in Iraq and outside the country. Washington is accused here of preferring to blacken al Qaeda rather than inculpating Iran.
5. Al Qaeda seeks to exonerate itself of some of the more monstrous terrorist outrages committed against Iraqi Shiites – especially in the eyes of its own adherents and the Muslim world at large.
A peculiar kind of negative logic is employed in these electronic messages to shift the blame for some these outrages from al Qaeda to Iran. The evidence does not come in the form of a simple statistical record of al Qaeda’s versus Iranian terrorist operations in Iraq. Instead, it takes the form of communiques published from July 19, 2003 to July 18, 2005, by the various al Qaeda-linked groups operating in Iraq which disown specific terrorist operations and assign them to the “Yellow Persian Storm” – the traditional color of the Shiite flag.
July 19, 2003 is recorded as the date when al Qaeda began its current Iraq offensive.
The transmissions then painstakingly list all the groups the jihadist movement runs in Iraq, an obvious move to boost its own credibility.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s monitors have garnered the list from the mails and organized its contents for their first publication here.
In addition to Zarqawi’s main branch, eight separate groups are listed – some unheard of until now.
Al Qaeda’s most secret branches in Iraq named
The Army of Muhammed is known as the arm responsible for Baghdad, the Anbar province of northwestern Iraq and the Tikrit region, birthplace of Saddam of Hussein.
According to the al Qaeda missives examined here, the Army of Muhammed never owned up to any terrorist strikes of its own. But it did publish a total of 43 notices citing Iran intelligence as responsible for the same number of terrorist operations.
Al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers – Zarqawi’s organization ran 27 notices accusing Iranian agents of this number of terrorist acts. Iranian intelligence is in fact held responsible by al Qaeda for the entire gamut of sabotage operations and attacks on the big oil pipelines carrying northern Iraq’s oil to Turkey. The Jordanian terrorist even disclaims some of the bloodiest attacks on markets in Baghdad and other Iraqi town centers and the sabotage of water installations.
Anti-Iran communiques were also issued by the following organizations claimed now for the first time as branches of al Qaeda’s Iraq network:
The 1920 Rebellion Battalions, named for the big Shiite mutiny against British rule in Iraq in 1920.
Al Farouk Organization (meaning the victor)
The Qeaqea Organization – named for a hero in Muslim mythology
The Abu Dunjea Organization – one of the names for Osama bin Laden used by al Qaeda fighters in Iraq and its world-wide networks.
The Arabian Lions Organization. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources identify this as the framework for al Qaeda’s Saudi fighters in Iraq.
The transmissions tot up the number of disclaimers al Qaeda’s Iraqi groups have published in two years and reach a total of 57. This, they say, is the number of terrorist attacks Iran, not al Qaeda, has staged in Iraq.
Al Qaeda accuses US and Britain of covering up Iranian terror in Iraq
They go on to complain that no one in Iraq, American or Iraqi, ever takes notice of these disclosures. These complaints are spelled out.
Our monitors have translated some of them:
“A systematic Iranian campaign to destroy Iraq’s infrastructure is never picked up by news cameras. This deliberate omission could not occur without the knowledge of the Americans.”
“May 23, 2003, the Americans arrested the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards elite al Quds unit, General Qassem Suleimani and his staff at Amara (southern Iraq). They let him go and allowed him to cross into Iran.”
“The British have caught many Iranian intelligence agents red-handed committing terrorist acts in Basra. Shortly after their detention, they are set free.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and Iranian sources conform that General Suleimani is a member of the high command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and chief of the clandestine ‘Al Quds’ Jerusalem division responsible for Iran’s intelligence and operational networks in Iraq.
The al Qaeda publication also claims that General Abd al Hadi al Amari, commander of the main Shiite militia in Iraq, the Badr Brigades, whose units are spread across southern Iraq and Baghdad, is a double agent working for Tehran whose controller is General Suleimani. The messages claim Al Qaeda operatives extracted this information from Iranian intelligence agents they captured in Falluja before executing them.
They go so far as to provide a rundown of Iran’s intelligence-terror structures in Iraq, breaking an iron practice which constrains clandestine and terrorist organizations from ever exposing covert information about each other’s internal structure and secret operations.
Iran accused of recruiting 70,000 Iraqi Shiites for its secret terrorist arm
One such revelation is that the Tehran’s Iraq operation is centered in a headquarters in the Shiite shrine town of Najef south of Baghdad, which is called euphemistically “Office for the Assistance of the Shiite Poor in Iraq.” This office is a front for a regular military command center. It is guarded by a large contingent of armed Revolutionary Guards members and runs a recruiting campaign for the undercover militia the Iranians had set up in Iraq. It is called Badr 9.
By July 2005, say Al Qaeda’s sources, the Iranians had recruited 70,000 men. They are given military training and assigned to proper military units – companies, battalions and brigades. A new recruit gets a one-time $2,000 grant and thereafter a monthly wage of $200. The tasks of Badr 9 militiamen are terrorism pure and simple, according to al Qaeda. They are assigned such missions as poisoning water supplies with cyanide, assassinations of important Sunni clerics and the sabotage of oil and power installations.
Another al Qaeda revelation: The Iranians recently smuggled into Iraq half a million copies of a book by Hojeteslam Makum Ali-Karmi, which calls on Shiites to liquidate the Sunnis, to abort “the Sunni march on Baghdad” and to “bury the Wahhabi dogs,” namely Zarqawi’s men and the Saudi fighters in Iraq.
The last message DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources picked up ends with an al Qaeda statement: The time has come to expose once and for all Iran’s true face and the nature of its deeds in Iraq.