Ideas for a new strategy for America’s war on terror were exhaustively thrashed out at the three-day White House get-together of the Bush administration’s top policy advisers and strategists ending Tuesday October 28. The Sunday-Monday Ramadan bomb blasts in Baghdad added to the urgency of the deliberations. They also provided an unsavory foretaste of the impact continuing violence in Iraq would have on the president’s coming re-election campaign.
One principle clearly emerged, as articulated by George W. Bush on Tuesday, October 28. The administration would not be frightened into backing off from its policy goals in Iraq. Most immediately, the conference resolved to accelerate the mass recruitment of Iraqis for security units the American administration was setting up. The recruits would be trained by American and Jordanian instructors. The President stressed that he wanted to see this Iraqi force holding down security and intelligence functions without delay in every corner of the country.
Aside from the new urgency, there is nothing new in the policy of handing these tasks from the American military to Iraqi units as soon as possible.
However, four separate events took place three weeks before the high-level White House confabulation. All were highly confidential and all deeply disturbing to the Bush administration. Although each has potentially momentous implications for America’s course in Iraq, they have all been kept under tight wraps and none has so far found expression in updated US decision-making.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s exclusive sources uncover the four events:
President Bush took the advice of vice president Richard Cheney and in mid-September sent a strategic expert he recommended, the New York lawyer Noah Feldman, who is close to the Cheney circle and known for his original cast of mind, on a top-secret mission to Iraq for a fresh assessment of the situation on the ground. Defense secretary Rumsfeld approved the highly confidential mission.
Feldman returned with four disturbing conclusions:
Whatever policies America enacts in Iraq, the long-term result will be the same: Iraq will never embrace the path of democracy but will end up as a Muslim state.
The text of a constitution the US-appointed interim governing council is now compiling will never be accepted by the Iraqi people; it will ultimately make way for Islamic law, the Sharia. Even before America finishes shaping a democratic regime in Iraq, it can already be said that democracy has no chance of taking hold in the country.
That being the case, Feldman states his view that Iraq will not evolve into a pro-Western nation and American’s hopes in this regard will never be realized.
Neither is there any short-term or long-term prospect of Iraq ever signing a peace treaty with Israel. The Bush administration had hoped that the new Iraq would blaze the way for the old Arab regimes to make peace with Israel on a more amicable basis than the Egyptian-Israeli accord. Feldman advises Washington to abandon that hope.
The latest secret intelligence rundown of foreign combatants in Iraq has been laid before President Bush. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources reveal that the report finds as few as 200 to 400 foreigners fighting alongside Baath guerrilla forces. They are mostly Syrians, Chechens, Saudis, Sudanese and Yemenis. Most entered through Syria and are in close communication with their parent cells or bases on either side of the Iraqi-Syrian frontier. Their participation in attacks on American forces and suicide bombings is scaled as follows: the largest number is carried out by Chechens, followed by Syrians and Saudis. DEBKA-Net-Weekly 121 first revealed the presence of Chechen terrorists in Iraq on August 15 in an article captioned “International Islamic Guerrilla Force is Fighting US Forces in Iraq.” The units were sent to Iraq by the commander of Saudi forces in Chechnya, Abu Walid.
Last week, CIA director George Tenet reported to President Bush that a high-ranking Iranian defector had landed in Prague and brought a proposition to the CIA station in the city. In exchange for protection, American citizenship and a large cash reward, he would hand over the names of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who masterminded the most disastrous terrorist outrages in Baghdad, the August 7 bombing at the Jordanian embassy – the first large-scale attack on a non-American target – the August 19 suicide blast at UN Headquarters in which UN special representative Sergio de Mello died, and the August 29 Najef massacre and assassination of the venerated Shiite leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al Hakim and 100 others.
The defector claimed that those strikes were carried by the Al Quds Battalions, special units set up inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and under the direct command of its senior officer, Gen. Yaha Rahim Safavi.
(On August 28, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 123 reported on the Al Quds Battalions and their support for al Qaeda.)
The Iranian defector offered to lead the Americans to these units’ secret base in Iran at a location that is readily accessible to the Iraqi frontier. The units headed out of this base to carry out their big operations in Iraq.
Under exhaustive investigation to establish his bone fides, the Iranian defector awaits word from Washington in Prague.
If this defector’s information checks out, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s analysts believe it is capable of turning Washington’s counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq on its head, including the decisions reached at this week’s White House conference. It would mean that the guerrilla-terrorist war rampant in Iraq may well be run by Syria and Iran rather than Saddam Hussein and his Baathists. If so, how would the Bush administration handle this altered threat?
At his Rose Garden news conference Tuesday, October 28, Bush stressed: “Military action is our last resort.” He acknowledged that he is capable of “looking at the enemy and adjusting” in Iraq and presumably elsewhere. “We’ve chosen to put together a multinational strategy to deal with Mr. Kim Jong Il. Not every action requires a military response.”
These words have left everyone guessing.
Senior US government officials, including CIA officers, spent most of October in an unusually intensive effort towards creating conditions for Turkish troops to join the coalition forces in Iraq, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and counter–terror sources. High-ranking Americans stationed in Baghdad and Mosul traveled to the northern Iraqi Kurdish town of Kandil to negotiate with Osman Ocalan, brother of Turkey's Kurdish Workers’ Party-PKK-Kadek leader, Abdallah Ocalan, who is confined for life on a Turkish island-prison in the Sea of Marmora
For the Americans, this was an unusual encounter since the organization Ocalan represents is listed as a dangerous terrorist group by the FBI and the State Department. It was set up by a small local Kurdish faction that calls itself the Social-Democratic Party, with the knowledge of the Turkish government in Ankara, for the purpose of extracting a promise from Ocalan that his men would not attack Turkish troops entering northern Iraq on their way to deploy in western Iraq.
Our sources report that six American-Kurdish encounters took place and ended without results.
Ocalan said his forces would hold their fire against Turkish contingents passing through northern Iraq if the Americans offered guarantees that the Turkish troops would not lay hands on them or take them captive. He also wanted Ankara to reduce prison sentences of Kurdish rebels and allow his brother better prison conditions.
These terms were turned down by Ankara.
The breakdown of the American initiative elicited the statement on Wednesday, October 29, from President Ahmed Sezer and prime minister Tayyip Erdogan: “No step has been taken to place Turkish soldiers in Iraq since the necessary conditions and agreement were not settled.”
For the time being, therefore, America has forfeited the only trained non-American military force willing and able to undertake combat missions in Iraq’s war zones. The Bush administration has not given up hope of bringing the Turks and Kurds together at some point. But for now, the Americans have suffered a setback to their plans for bringing order to Iraq by first vanquishing the pro-Saddam resistance.
Their willingness to do business with terrorists may cost dear; terrorist groups operating in Iraq may be encouraged to keep up the pressure on coalition forces in the hope of eventually forcing the Americans to talk terms with them.