Iraq-al Qaeda Partnership to Target Gulf Oil Fields
Blix-ElBaradei arms inspection reports to the UN Security Council on their Iraq mission get briefer, more non-committal and less related to reality on the ground. Not surprisingly, their latest “findings” as presented on Friday, February 14, failed to dent established views; the advocates and the opponents of military action against Iraq remained in exactly the same positions as before.
The same fate will most likely befall the arms inspectors’ next report, scheduled for February 28, after another two weeks’ grace.
Dragging the inspection process from one loudly heralded and widely televised appearance to the next will increasingly exacerbate the transatlantic rift, weaken the arguments for war as perceived by world opinion (Tony Blair may be the first political casualty of this trend), and play into Saddam Hussein’s hands, the while further undercutting the United Nations’ reputation for coming to grips with world crises.
The United Nations is further challenged now by the prime movers in the Iraq crisis going into high gear under the noses – yet out of sight – of the arms inspectors.
debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s exclusive intelligence and military sources disclose the latest key moves on both sides:
1. While polarized Security Council members continue to argue the pros and cons of America’s demand to disarm Saddam Hussein by force, US Marines and special forces, supported by British and Jordanian commandos, have pretty much completed the conquest of western Iraq where some of Saddam’s forbidden weapons were known to be stationed.
2. Iraq neatly pre-empted Messrs Blix and ElBaradei’s teams’ hunt for weapons of mass destruction. Fearing those armaments would fall into American hands, Saddam last month sent his cousin, the Iraqi Minister of Trade, Gen. Aly Hassan Majid, to Damascus to obtain President Bashar Assad’s consent for convoys loaded with chemical and biological materials and equipment smuggled out of Iraq to transit Syria en route for Lebanon. Majid then traveled to Beirut to request formal permission from President Emil Lahoud. Next, on February 4, the Iraqi vice president Gen. Taha Yassin Ramadan called on Assad to arrange for the convoys to be secured on their way to their hiding places in north-eastern Lebanon.
Syrian foreign minister Farouk a-Sharah naturally omitted mention of this small service his country performed for Iraq when he launched his broadside against the Americans and Israel at the Security Council on Friday, February 14.
Syria is not concerned by the fact that a major portion of Saddam’s prohibited substances, with their doomsday potential for hundreds of thousands of human beings, repose in a country in which central government control is at best feeble and in which at least three major terrorist groups, the Hizballah, radical Palestinian organizations and clusters of al Qaeda fighters, run loose. This dangerous nexus no doubt partially influenced the decision last week to place Washington, London, Jerusalem and Riyadh on high terror alert, since the possibility of these dangerous materials reaching al Qaeda cells outside Lebanon cannot ruled out by counter-terror experts.
Abu Musaab Al Zarqawi, identified in US secretary of state Colin Powell’s February 5 demonstration to the Security Council of al Qaeda’s links with Baghdad, is not only the commander of the 170 al Qaeda fighters based mainly in the south Lebanese port of Sidon and formed into a brigade of the Iraqi Kurdish radical Ansar al Islam. He also officiates as supreme al Qaeda supervisor of the network’s stocks of unconventional weapons and their distribution world wide. Zarqawi uses Baghdad and Damascus as his transport hub to orchestrate the operations of cells around the Middle East, Western Europe and the Persian Gulf, with active assistance from Iraqi and Syrian military intelligence. The Syrian service is also a joint custodian of Iraq’s forbidden weapons caches in Lebanon.
The potential hazards inherent in this concatenation, pointing up the link between al Qaeda and Iraq, were not addressed by the Syrian foreign minister or the UN inspectors, although explicitly threatened in a message that reached debkafile Thursday, February 13, over the signature of a senior lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, Al Baa’ara Al-Qashy. (Read earlier article on this page.)
Al Qurashy speaks of an imminent unconventional attack on Americans in the Arabian Peninsula, noting that instructions have also been passed to “mujahiddin” cells in other parts of the world – “Praise Allah, our sheikh’s words have reached the general leadership of the Muslims and the Mujahideen throughout the world.”
However, in the last week, Bush administration officials have begun clearly referring to the approaching offensive against Iraq as part and parcel of the global war on terror.
Another sentence in the Al Qurashy message hints at a possible strike against oil installations in Saudi Arabia or one of the emirates – “The (Saudi) government, despite its paucity of information about al Qaeda cells, knows that al Qaeda can reach any place at any time, regardless of security measures taken in the land of the two temples (Saudi Arabia). But the government is not disseminating this information.”
In other words, for al Qaeda’s destructive forces, Saudi and other oil wells and installations are within easy reach. Osama bin Laden himself stated in a tape released two days earlier that he meant to ravage America’s economic might, step by step.
The threat to Saudi and Gulf oil resources ties in with another alarming development in the past week. Saddam Hussein himself is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and counter-terror sources report to have roped in the Mujahideen a-Khalq, the armed Iranian opposition group, 15,000 of whose fighters are based in Iraq, for demolition duty at Kirkuk and its oil fields. A second Mujahideen a-Khalq unit was reportedly dispatched to Mosul. They are equipped with tons of explosives, possibly also chemical and biological weapons, and orders to blow up the oil fields as soon as an American or Turkish invasion begins.
The picture emerging from these developments is of a combined Iraqi-al Qaeda sabotage plan to synchronize the torching of Iraq-Saudi-Gulf oil resources with the onset of American military action against Iraq.
This threat, to which Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei are oblivious, has brought forth direct action from the Bush administration in Washington, the US war command and its intelligence arms at home and abroad. When millions marched against war in hundreds of world cities Saturday, February 15, US military convoys were carrying American commando units into northern Iraq through the Turkish-Iraqi border crossing at Habur. They were on their way to deal with the threat to the oil fields.
A second clandestine crossing into northern Iraq was detected at the same time by debkafile‘s counter-terror sources: Some 750 al Qaeda fighters, who landed in Syria in the last few weeks, were ordered to turn around and enter Iraqi Kurdistan, pick up weapons, ammo and medical kits, break up into knots of two or three and go to ground in scattered locations, using the radical Ansar al Islam enclave as a refuge. The men, composed of Iraqi and Saudi Afghan War veterans, Pakistani Taliban members and Sepah Sahabah Sunni extremists armed and backed from Tehran, were first interrogated by Syrian military intelligence in the presence of Hizballah security men. Their mission from al Qaeda command is to target American troops in Iraq.