In Fallujah Al Qaeda Reminds Americans of Mogadishu

Nine Americans died in and around Fallujah 30 miles west of Baghdad in a particularly horrendous spasm of blood-letting Wednesday, March 31. Exactly one week after assuming responsibility for the most intractable town in Iraq in a troop rotation, the California-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force suffered the loss of five men in a single attack: a bomb exploded under their vehicle in a village near Fallujah. Inside the city, gunmen attacked two civilian cars carrying four US civilian contractors. The cars were torched by a dancing lynch mob which screaming Islamic slogans dragged the bodies through the city, dismembered and decapitated them and hanged them by their feet. To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE.
This was a calculatedly vicious action executed by al Qaeda to remind the Americans of their Mogadishu debacle October 1993.
Fallujah is the most extreme Sunni Muslim city in Iraq. Some of the medressas closed down in Afghanistan and Pakistan ended up in Fallujah and Damascus.
It is the obvious launching pad for the threatened al Qaeda spring offensive against the US presence in Iraq. Since the Marines landed, insurgents have been testing their mettle in running attacks, killing 8 US servicemen in two weeks. The four-day blockade on the city for house to house raids was finally lifted Wednesday, March 31 with dreadful results.
On March 19, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 150 reported from its exclusive counter-terror sources that the Moroccan psychiatrist Dr. Abu Hafiza, member of the tight Osama bin Laden-Ayman Zuwahiri elite that rules al Qaeda and tactical mastermind of the Madrid rail bombings, compiled a strategic blueprint to govern the network’s steps in 2004. He predicted that the Madrid rail attacks would scar the Spanish psyche sufficiently to turn the electorate away from the government and set off a domino effect that would rebound on Britain’s Tony Blair, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and eventually US President George W. Bush.
“After knocking over one domino after another,” Hafiza wrote, “We will stand face to face with the key domino, the United States.”
Iraq, he said, will be al Qaeda’s main battle arena and its direct confrontation with the United States is ordained to take place on Iraqi soil.
In April or May 2003, Dr Hafiza, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s exclusive sources, slipped undetected between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where he collected a contingent of Saudi Al Qaeda combatants and brought them to Fallujah.
There, he put together the first part of his report by answering the questions put to him by Bin Laden and Zuwahiri on the following subjects:
1. The US political and military situation in Iraq.
2. The standing of coalition forces in Iraq.
3. The condition of the Iraqi Ba’ath party and Iraqi guerrilla fighters.
4. Where the Shiites stand in relation to the fast-moving events in Iraq.
5. The quickest way to push US forces out of Iraq.
6. The most expedient method of toppling Bush and Blair.
Hafiza spent nearly four months posing as a teacher at a religious school or madressa, on the outskirts of Fallujah. He traveled the length and breadth of Iraq, returning occasionally to Fallujah to draft reports for the two al Qaeda leaders.
In mid- or late August, Hafiza returned to Pakistan the same way he came, meeting bin Laden and Zuwahiri at a rendezvous in the mountains of Waziristan on the Pakistani-Afghani frontier to deliver his recommendations.
The document was published by a body which no one has ever heard of called “The Information Institution for the Salvation of the Iraqi People, Center for Services to Combatants.”
It is packed full of an astonishing amount of intelligence data, especially on the Americans, which the author draws on freely for his situation evaluations. He determines the weak points of the US military and civil administration in Iraq, sketching psychological profiles of policy-makers running institutions al Qaeda has targeted and for simple and clear operational recommendations.
Two examples are instructive:
One, Hafiza calculated the cost of maintaining US forces in Iraq and the dollar losses al Qaeda is capable of inflicting on the Americans through terror attacks. Two, before recommending the attack in Madrid, he analyzed the results of all Spain’s elections since 1982, one by one and drew lessons. He noted that the 9/11 attacks in America gave Spain its first chance ever to distance itself from the dominant European axis of France and Germany and align with the United States.
He did not recommend action against the Polish force, which attracts little international notice and whose presence in Iraq plays no role in domestic politics in Warsaw. However, once the Spanish and Italian forces are gone, he foresaw Tony Blair coming under heavy pressure at home to remove the British contingent from Iraq too. Aside from the British stake in the oil resources of southern Iraq, the writers found that the UK derives little benefit from its military presence in the country. Blair, confronted with a choice between oil and staying in office, will undoubtedly opt for the latter, removing the last prop holding up the US presence and strategy in Iraq.
The Moroccan psychiatrist conceded that America is very strong and al Qaeda’s resources relatively puny. He therefore recommended following the strategic doctrine laid down by the Saudi Sheikh Yusuf Avivi, one of al Qaeda’s most outstanding commanders in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Avivi refuted the “conventional al Qaeda strategy” of striking large-scale enemy concentrations to prevent them from settling in one place, like the Americans in Iraq or the Russians in Chechnya. He propounded a reverse strategy, guerrilla forays to harass large enemy forces and drive them to shelter in their bases where they become easy prey for terrorist attack. In Iraq, he recommended propelling American troops into the cities, where terrorist strikes can inflict the largest number of enemy casualties.
Hafiza advised al Qaeda to adopt the following steps in Iraq:
1. Pinning the US army down in the main Iraqi cities after security is turned over to Iraqi forces. This increases its vulnerability to terror. The car bomb attack that destroyed Mount Lebanon Hotel in downtown Baghdad on Wednesday, March 17, was one of the most savage Iraq has known. A whole block of apartments was gutted by flames that burned for several hours.
Al Qaeda agents in the Iraqi capital were aware that US forces are in the middle of redeploying in eight bases outside the city having delegated security in the town to Iraqi forces. They know that as long as terror attacks are rampant, US forces are in no position to hand security over to the Iraqis. This prevents them from pulling back to perimeter bases and keeps them confined en masse inside Baghdad, so falling into the positions prescribed by Sheikh Avivi.
2. Refraining from interfering with essential utilities such as water, electricity, bridges and food supply centers so as not to upset the tenor of everyday life in the country and make enemies of the people.
3. Counting on the shortcomings of Iraqi recruits to the new army and security services as dedicated and efficient operational barriers to al Qaeda’s campaign. These shortcomings will not be overcome by massive US investments in money, equipment and logistical resources.
4. Establishing a dense network of terrorist cells in the main Shiite cities of Karbala, Najef, Basra and parts of Baghdad as well as the medium sized towns, al Amara, Naseriyah, Hilla, Baquba and Dawaniya. Abu Hafiza proposed bypassing the existing Shiite parties and militias which follow Muqtada Sadr and the Ayatollahs Hakim and Sistani, and creating a new Shiite Islamic party under al Qaeda’s guidance.
5. Reporting on his findings in Iraq, the Moroccan psychiatrist judged that US forces after quitting the cities planned to focus on protecting the oil fields, installations and pipelines, and securing the highway network linking the cities and airfields – all soft targets for al Qaeda.

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