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US reveals 'al-Qaeda Iraq plot'
BBC, 9 Feb 2004
US officials in Iraq say they have uncovered what they believe is a plot by a militant linked to al-Qaeda to foment sectarian violence there.
The Americans seized a memo thought to be from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected Jordanian militant.
The message laments the failure to expel US troops from Iraq - but suggests igniting the Shia-Sunni conflict could rescue the resistance.
Iraq's majority Shias were persecuted under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni.
US officials say the message was contained on a computer disk confiscated during a raid on a Baghdad house in mid-January.
That coincides with the arrest in Iraq of Hassan Gul, a Pakistani man suspected of working as a courier for al-Qaeda.
The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of this land will be the authority 'Al-Qaeda' message "There is clearly a plan on the part of outsiders to come into this country and spark civil war, breed sectarian violence and try to expose fissures in the society," US military spokesman Brigadier-General Mark Kimmit told a news conference in the Iraqi capital on Monday. The 17-page document, parts of which were seen by the New York Times, was apparently intended for the al-Qaeda leadership and is believed to say attacks on Shia targets could create a backlash against the Sunnis.
This, in turn, would radicalise the Sunnis, driving fresh recruits into al-Qaeda's ranks.
"If we succeed in dragging them [the Shia] into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands of the Shia," the document reads.
The author of the message admits the resistance against US occupation is struggling to recruit Iraqis and says this campaign must start before the "zero hour", when the US hands over power to an Iraqi administration in June.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington said the letter added "credence" to US pre-war claims about connections between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi leadership.
While addressing the UN before the Iraq war, Mr Powell said Mr Zarqawi was in Iraq and his presence showed Saddam Hussein's regime was courting al-Qaeda. The charge was denied by the Iraqi government and by Ansar al-Islam, the Islamist militant group in northern Iraq with whom Mr Zarqawi is said to have been allied.
The BBC's Barbara Plett in Baghdad says not all US intelligence statements about al-Qaeda's role in Iraq have been substantiated.
But if this report is true, she says, it would explain a number of sectarian incidents that do not fit the routine pattern of attacks against US soldiers and Iraqi police.
These include the bombing of mosques and the killing of the Shia religious leader, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, last August.
Mr Zarqawi has been accused by the US of masterminding a number of attacks in Iraq.
The author of the intercepted message admits responsibility for "25 of these operations, some of them against the Shia and their leaders, the Americans and their military and the police".
Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/3473881.stm
Published: 2004/02/09 21:46:54 GMT
© BBC MMIV
U.S. Says Files Seek Qaeda Aid in Iraq Conflict
By Dexter Filkins
New York Times, 9 Feb 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 8 — American officials here have obtained a detailed proposal that they conclude was written by an operative in Iraq to senior leaders of Al Qaeda, asking for help to wage a "sectarian war" in Iraq in the next months.
The Americans say they believe that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has long been under scrutiny by the United States for suspected ties to Al Qaeda, wrote the undated 17-page document. Mr. Zarqawi is believed to be operating here in Iraq.
The document was made available to The New York Times on Sunday, with an accompanying translation made by the military. A reporter was allowed to see the Arabic and English versions and to write down large parts of the translation.
The memo says extremists are failing to enlist support inside the country, and have been unable to scare the Americans into leaving. It even laments Iraq's lack of mountains in which to take refuge.
Yet mounting an attack on Iraq's Shiite majority could rescue the movement, according to the document. The aim, the document contends, is to prompt a counterattack against the Arab Sunni minority.
Such a "sectarian war" will rally the Sunni Arabs to the religious extremists, the document argues. It says a war against the Shiites must start soon — at "zero hour" — before the Americans hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis. That is scheduled for the end of June.
The American officials in Baghdad said they were confident the account was credible and said they had independently corroborated Mr. Zarqawi's authorship. If it is authentic, it offers an inside account of the insurgency and its frustrations, and bears out a number of American assumptions about the strength and nature of religious extremists — but it also charts out a battle to come.
The document would also constitute the strongest evidence to date of contacts between extremists in Iraq and Al Qaeda. But it does not speak to the debate about whether there was a Qaeda presence in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era, nor is there any mention of a collaboration with Hussein loyalists.
Yet other interpretations may be possible, including that it was written by some other insurgent, but one who exaggerated his involvement.
Still, a senior United States intelligence official in Washington said, "I know of no reason to believe the letter is bogus in any way." He said the letter was seized in a raid on a known Qaeda safe house in Baghdad, and did not pass through Iraqi groups that American intelligence officials have said in the past may have provided unreliable information.
Without providing further specifics, the senior intelligence officer said there was additional information pointing to the idea that Al Qaeda was considering mounting or had already mounted attacks on Shiite targets in Iraq.
"This is not the only indication of that," the official said. The intercepted letter also appears to be the strongest indication since the American invasion last March that Mr. Zarqawi remains active in plotting attacks, the official said.
According to the American officials here, the Arabic-language document was discovered in mid-January when a Qaeda suspect was arrested in Iraq. Under interrogation, the Americans said, the suspect identified Mr. Zarqawi as the author of the document. The man arrested was carrying it on a CD to Afghanistan, the Americans said, and intended to deliver it to people they described as the "inner circle" of Al Qaeda's leadership. That presumably refers to Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The Americans declined to identify the suspect. But the discovery of the disc coincides with the arrest of Hassan Ghul, a Pakistani described by American officials at the time as a courier for the Qaeda network. Mr. Ghul is believed to be the first significant member of that network to have been captured inside Iraq.
The document is written with a rhetorical flourish. It calls the Americans "the biggest cowards that God has created," but at the same time sees little chance that they will be forced from Iraq.
"So the solution, and only God knows, is that we need to bring the Shia into the battle," the writer of the document said. "It is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us. If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands" of Shiites.
The author offers his services and those of his followers to the recipients of the letter, who American officials contend are Al Qaeda's leaders.
"You noble brothers, leaders of the jihad, we do not consider ourselves people who compete against you, nor would we ever aim to achieve glory for ourselves like you did," the writer says. "So if you agree with it, and are convinced of the idea of killing the perverse sects, we stand ready as an army for you to work under your guidance and yield to your command."
In the period before the war, Bush administration officials argued that Mr. Zarqawi constituted the main link between Al Qaeda and Mr. Hussein's government. Last February at the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said, "Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants."
Around that time, the Americans believed that Mr. Zarqawi was holed up in the mountains at the Iranian border with Ansar al Islam, a group linked to Al Qaeda that is suspected of mounting attacks against American forces in Iraq.
Since the war ended, little evidence has emerged to support the allegation of a prewar Qaeda connection in Iraq. Last month, Mr. Powell conceded that the American government had found "no smoking gun" linking Mr. Hussein's government with Al Qaeda.
In the document, the writer indicated that he had directed about 25 suicide bombings inside Iraq. That conforms with an American view that suicide bombings were more likely to be carried out by Iraqi religious extremists and foreigners than by Hussein allies.
"We were involved in all the martyrdom operations — in terms of overseeing, preparing and planning — that took place in this country," the writer of the document says. "Praise be to Allah, I have completed 25 of these operations, some of them against the Shia and their leaders, the Americans and their military, and the police, the military and the coalition forces."
But the writer details the difficulties that he and his comrades have been experiencing, both in combating American forces and in enlisting supporters. The Americans are an easy target, according to the author, who nonetheless claims to be impressed by the Americans' resolve. After significant losses, he writes, "America, however, has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes."
The Iraqis themselves, the writer says, have not been receptive to taking holy warriors into their homes.
"Many Iraqis would honor you as a guest and give you refuge, for you are a Muslim brother," according to the document. "However, they will not allow you to make their home a base for operations or a safe house."
The writer contends that the American efforts to set up Iraqi security services have succeeded in depriving the insurgents of allies, particularly in a country where kinship networks are extensive.
"The problem is you end up having an army and police connected by lineage, blood and appearance," the document says. "When the Americans withdraw, and they have already started doing that, they get replaced by these agents who are intimately linked to the people of this region."
With some exasperation, the author writes: "We can pack up and leave and look for another land, just like what has happened in so many lands of jihad. Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases.
"By God, this is suffocation!" the writer says.
But there is still time to mount a war against the Shiites, thereby to set off a wider war, he writes, if attacks are well under way before the turnover of sovereignty in June. After that, the writer suggests, any attacks on Shiites will be viewed as Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence that will find little support among the people.
"We have to get to the zero hour in order to openly begin controlling the land by night, and after that by day, God willing," the writer says. "The zero hour needs to be at least four months before the new government gets in place."
That is the timetable, the author concludes, because, after that, "How can we kill their cousins and sons?"
"The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of this land will be the authority," the letter states. "This is the democracy. We will have no pretexts."
Douglas Jehl contributed reporting from Washington for this article.
Excerpt from Colin Powell's Press Conference, 9 Feb, 2004
QUESTION: I'd like your reaction to the letter that was found in Iraq, that linked Al Qaida to encouraging attacks on minorities in Iraq.
And does this go back to the connections that you made with al- Zarqawi last year at the U.N.?
POWELL: It certainly lends, I think, some credence to what we said at the U.N. last year, that he was active in Iraq in doing things that should have been known to the Iraqis. And we're still looking for those connections and to prove those connections.
With respect to the letter itself, it's very revealing. They describe the weaknesses that they have in their efforts to undercut the coalition's effort. But at the same time, it shows they haven't given up. They're trying to get more terrorists into Iraq. And they're trying to create more terrorists organizations to try to defeat our purposes. But they will not succeed.
But it was a very revealing letter into the thinking of at least one part of this insurgency.
Brigadier General Kimmit, Deputy Director of Operations CJTF-7 and Dan Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA,
Baghdad, 12 February 2004
KIMMITT: Good afternoon. Today the Coalition Provisional Authority and Combined Joint Task Force 7 announced that the award for information leading to the apprehension of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected leader of terrorists in Iraq, will increase to $10 million.
Abu al-Zarqawi and his organization are closely linked to the Al Qaida terror network. Zarqawi, born in Jordan, is the most capable terrorist in Iraq today. And his network and contacts extend to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Jordan convicted Zarqawi in absentia for his role in the October 2002 assassination of USAID representative, Lawrence Foley, in Amman, Jordan, and the December 1999 millennium plot to attack western tourists.
Zarqawi is a prime suspect in several terrorist attacks in Iraq to include the August 2003 bombings at the Ali Mosque in Najaf, which took the life of Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim. And he's also implicated in the U.N. headquarters' bombing in Baghdad.
The full resources of the coalition are focused on those who conduct or support attacks on the people of Iraq. Zarqawi will be brought to justice or justice will be brought to him.
There is no safe place to hide. Terrorists would do well to turn themselves in, as we will continue to hunt them relentlessly until they're killed or captured.
SENOR: Over the days ahead, the coalition will be launching a public information campaign on Mr. Zarqawi that will be as elaborate and as wide-spread as the public information campaigns launched with regard to Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay Hussein.
Outside, we have available to you a number of the products that will be distributed throughout the country. We will be alerting Iraqis to the wildcard, Mr. Zarqawi. We will also be ensuring that every Iraqi is intimately familiar with this blueprint for terror in Iraq document, Mr. Zarqawi's memorandum, his action plan to tear this country apart.
We will be highlighting certain messages that come directly out of his plan that are his words, Mr. Zarqawi speaking in his own words, for his plans for various Iraqis.
Some of the messages that come directly out of his document that we will be highlighting to the Iraqi people include, quote/unquote: "We were involved in all of the martyrdom operations, in terms of overseeing, preparing and planning, that took place in this country. I have completed 25 of these operations, some of them against the Shia and their leaders, the Americans and their military, the police, the military and the coalition forces."
Another quote: "The Shia, in our opinion, these are the key to change. Targeting and striking their religious, political and military symbols will make them show their rage against the Sunnis and bare their inner vengeance. If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands of these Sabeans, or the Shia."
Another quote that we will be communicating directly from Mr. Zarqawi: "So the solution, and God only knows, is that we need to bring the Shia into the battle, because it is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us."
Another quote we will be communicating: "The Shia menace is looming. And this is a fact that we should not fear, because they are the most cowardly people God has created. Killing their leaders will weaken them. And with the death of the head, the whole group dies."
Finally, one more quote from Zarqawi: "As far as the Shia, we will understand suicide operations and use car bombs to harm them."
These are Mr. Zarqawi's words, communicating his plans for Iraq, communicating his efforts to tear this country apart and turn it into an ethnic bloodbath. And we will be communicating through a very elaborate and comprehensive public information campaign Mr. Zarqawi's words for his plans for the Iraqi people.
With that, we will be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: It seems that before -- well, a few months ago, President Bush was saying, "There's no firm evidence of a link between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein here in the country." And now we're seeing this letter here and al-Zarqawi is trying to recruit people and have terrorist, sort of, operations here. It seems -- is it possible -- I mean, it seems the war has fostered Al Qaida's presence here. What's your thought on that?
SENOR: The question is, has the war fostered Al Qaida's presence here?
QUESTION: It seems after the war, there's obviously a presence here of Al Qaida, whereas before, even the president was saying there wasn't a clear link between Saddam Hussein or Iraq and Al Qaida.
SENOR: Well, I won't comment on the pre-war issues. We're focused on the post-war. And what we have said all along is that Iraq has become the central front in the war on terrorism.
Yes, we have seen an influx of foreign fighters that have come into the country since the war, because we believe the terrorists have declared Iraq the central front in their war.
However, Mr. Zarqawi's presence in Iraq and connections to Iraq, we believe predated the liberation of Iraq.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The question is for General Kimmitt. The newspapers are saying that an attack has happened against (inaudible) Mr. Abizaid. A number of the newspapers or reporters, they confirm, regarding the attacks that happened about a few hours ago, some of them said that (inaudible) trucks that were loaded with 600 pounds of explosives, they drove inside the (inaudible). Can you give us some information on it, please?
KIMMITT: If you're talking about an attack that we had here in Baghdad this afternoon, is that the one you're referring to?
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): It happened about two hours ago.
KIMMITT: Yes, I can tell you that eight mortar rounds impacted the vicinity of a forward operating base of the coalition forces here in Baghdad today.
KIMMITT: The first round was smoke. Seven others were high explosive. There were three vehicles with shrapnel damage, and some other equipment was punctured. We did have a number -- three persons were wounded. And it looks as if one has already returned to duty and the other two are being treated -- I take that back. In fact, those two are already returned to duty, as well.
So it was a minor mortar attack, eight total rounds. Three persons were wounded. All three of those coalition soldiers have already returned to duty.
QUESTION: I really just wanted follow up on a question he was asking about Fallujah. We're hearing reports on our way over hear that General Abizaid involved in some sort of a fire fight. If you can elaborate on that?
KIMMITT: Sure. Today at 13:30 in Fallujah, General Abizaid and General Swannack were visiting the local Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion headquarters compound when three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at their convoy from rooftops in the vicinity.
No soldiers or civilians were injured. And both coalition and Iraqi Civil Defense soldiers returned fire and pursued the attackers.
A local mosque was thought to be harboring these attackers. And Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers conducted a search of the mosque without result.
I talked to General Swannack before I came in, and he attributes the attack to a small number of personnel and unrepresentative of what he believes to be 95 percent of the people in Fallujah who are fully supportive of the coalition.
QUESTION: The recent bombings, what affect are they having on the morale of enlisted Iraqis, and more specifically, on potential recruits?
SENOR: The bombings that you're referring to occurred in the last 36 to 48 hours, so it is -- we believe it's too early to draw any real conclusions about the effects on morale and on recruiting.
But what we can tell you is what our experience has been in the past. This is not the first time that Iraqi security services have been targeted by terror. There have been multiple occasions. Some 300 Iraqis police officers have been killed in the line of duty or being targeted. A number of Iraqi police chiefs have been targeted.
And yet after each -- and police stations have been targeted too -- and after each one of these incidents, we have not seen a change in the recruiting trend line and the pattern. It's been a constant upward slope.
We find that despite attacks, Iraqis seem to be fully engaged and interested in playing a part in the security of their own country.
And so when we talk to Iraqis and they talk about a sense of national pride, and they talk about a sense of patriotism, about being involved in the security of their own country, we believe that these sorts of attacks tend to strengthen that sense of unity, that sense of patriotism, that sense of call to public service. And that continues.
I will add, again, I refer you to this document, because Mr. Zarqawi is a very good resource on issues relating to the morale and effectiveness of Iraqi security forces.
And the exact quotes he uses is -- and I quote Mr. Zarqawi, "With the spread of the army and police, our future is becoming frightening."
He also later on says when he refers to the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps -- he doesn't refer to them by name -- he says, "In what they call the Sunni Triangle, the army and police are spreading out in these regions, putting in charge Sunnis from the same region. Therefore, the problem is you end up having an army and police connected by lineage, blood and appearance to the people of the region. If we fight them, that will be difficult because there will be a schism between us and the people of the region."
He also says later on, he says, "Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information services. By God, this is suffocation."
So the Iraqi security services are a threat to Mr. Zarqawi and these Al- Qaida -type terrorists in this country. And despite these attacks that we've seen, many of which have the fingerprints of Al Qaida and its affiliates on them, the effectiveness of the Iraqi services continue. And we believe the trend will continue, whereby Iraqis continue to step up to play a major role in the security of their own country.
QUESTION: Dan, Reuters is reporting that after a two-hour meeting with Ayatollah Sistani, Lakhdar Brahimi said that he and the U.N. agree 100 percent with Sistani's call for elections and that they feel that elections are unnecessary. What the CPA's reaction to this?
SENOR: I haven't seen the report, so we will wait for the report from the U.N. team before we have an official reaction to any recommendation. We haven't received any recommendation from the U.N. at this point.
Obviously when we do have recommendations and observations from them, we will be prepared to react to them.
QUESTION: This is for General Kimmitt. I just want to go back to your statement about the August bombing in Najaf and the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and Mr. Zarqawi's role. Can you give us more specifics why you're saying he is? And also, I'm a little confused about why do you think he is here now. And has that been spelled out?
KIMMITT: We have intelligence and we have evidence which links Zarqawi to those specific attacks. And in his letter himself, he admits that he participated in 25 major operations here within the country.
We believe that the letter is further confirmation of some of the evidence that has been gathered in both of those. And we intend to continue to pursue those leads to where they take us.
SENOR: Yes, again, in his letter -- just to what General Kimmitt was referring to -- he says, "We were involved in all the martyrdom operations in terms of overseeing, preparing and planning that took place in this country. I have completed 25 of these operations, some of them against the Shia and their leaders."
QUESTION: If I could just follow up on that?
QUESTION: I guess I'm asking if he is saying that -- are there methods and procedures and, you know, something that you physically see in the investigation of these bombings that show a tie to all of the bombings beyond him perhaps boasting in that letter in order to recruit people?
KIMMITT: In terms of when we start to think that these types of attacks are not from local Iraqis and former regime elements is, as I said before, the three Ss: suicide, spectacular and symbolic.
Now clearly, when you're attacking a police station in Iskandariya, with a car bomb delivered by a suicide bomber, you're attacking with a suicide bomber, something that we don't typically associate with the vast majority of attacks being conducted by former regime elements; spectacular, clearly large explosion, going after for the maximum amount of casualties you can inflict on civilians; and symbolic, trying to go against one of the fledgling institutions, security institutions, of this country for the sole purpose of trying to drive a wedge between the people of Iraq and their fledgling institutions.
QUESTION: Related to my colleague, apart from the fact that he alleged that he did 25 attacks here, is there any intelligence else that makes you believe that he was involved in that terrible U.N. bombing and the Najaf affair?
And for you, Mr. Senor, so far what kind of communications did the CPA have with Mr. Brahimi's team in the U.N.? And could you like give us, like, what kind of conversations you had with that team?
KIMMITT: To answer the first question, we have had Mr. Zarqawi as one of the lead suspects in the Najaf bombing and the U.N. bombing for months now, long before we had this letter that was boasting of those 25 attacks.
SENOR: As for our interaction or discussions with the U.N. team, we have made it clear from the beginning since the U.N. team's arrival, that we would make available technical assistance, logistical support and security to the extent that they need it. And we have provided all three.
Otherwise, the U.N. has conducted its own research and fact finding independently of us in this country and operated independently without any coordination with us.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): This operation, there's people who believe that finding the letters and confirming the presence of Zarqawi, that helps delay the elections and delaying the (inaudible) and delay the transition -- helps of the U.N. team. And the responsibility of the coalition, they're presenting the documents now for a purpose. What do you guys think about it?
SENOR: You mean, we're presenting the document as a means to delay the election?
SENOR: To delay the handover to sovereignty?
QUESTION: He does not (inaudible)
SENOR: We -- yes, it's exactly as General Kimmitt just said, it's just the opposite. We are focused on handover of sovereignty on June 30th, as explicitly outlined in the November 15th agreement between the coalition and the governing council.
And Mr. Zarqawi references that handover date himself when he says, "How can we kill their cousins and sons," referring to the Iraqis, "How can we kill their cousins and sons and under what pretext after the Americans start withdrawing? The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of this land will be the authority. This is a democracy. We will have no pretext."
Mr. Zarqawi also says later on: "If, God forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go somewhere else again where we can raise the flag again or die if God chooses us."
So, we recognize that we are focused like a laser beam on handover of authority this summer. And Mr. Zarqawi is clearly focused like a laser beam on our handover date.
We are not moving around that date. Mr. Zarqawi understands that. And it is especially important that in light of the fact, as evidenced by this memorandum, in light of the fact that Mr. Zarqawi recognizes that one of the greatest bulwarks against his efforts to spread terror in Iraq will be Iraqi control of the government. It is especially important that we stick to our plan and move forward with its implementation.
QUESTION: How much is the -- how many people does Al Qaida have here? I mean, do you have any idea about the size of the organization? And what are you doing against them? Let's say there are 25 suicidal attacks. How many people did you catch, if you caught any, before they managed to do a suicidal attack?
KIMMITT: On the issue, first of all, we have deterred a significant number of terrorist attacks by the amount of equipment that we've picked up, by the types of equipment we've picked up, by the variety of equipment. When we start finding mechanisms for detonation, remote control devices, large caches of explosives, every one of those have the potential use of conducting or being used for a car bomb, for an IED, for any kind of attack on Iraqi citizens or on coalition forces.
We have said from this podium for a number of months, we have a number of people that we suspect have either received training or used tactics and techniques characteristic of Al Qaida. It was not until recently when we captured a known Al Qaida operative in mid-January, that we actually believed that there was irrefutable evidence of the presence of Al Qaida inside of this country.
As to the numbers, as to future attacks, you can be assured that that's what we're trying to determine. Our intelligence analysts are working overtime on the very matter. And we will continue to attack -- to kill or capture those before they attack citizens of Iraq or coalition forces.
QUESTION: On the attack in Fallujah today on General Abizaid's party, is looks, at first glance, anyway, that the insurgents had some, sort of, foreknowledge that Generals Abizaid and Swannack would be at this compound. We're wondering if you have any clues as to how or where the information might have leaked out about this visit and if you are investigating whether there was a leak and perhaps querying ICDC members at that compound or other Iraqi employees of the U.S. military in the area.
KIMMITT: Well, first of all I would challenge your assertion that there was foreknowledge of this, that General Abizaid and General Swannack would be there. I would like to say this is the first time we sit at this podium and reported rocket attacks in Fallujah; it is not. Whether we can directly link this attack to any foreknowledge that General Abizaid and General Swannack were going to be there, I think is a bit of a leap that we're not prepared to make at this time.
QUESTION: I was just wondering, Dan, if you could elaborate a bit on where this letter was found and how you've gone about establishing its authenticity.
KIMMITT: Sure. I mean, we have said numerous times that this letter was provided to us as part of a capture of a known Al Qaida courier that happened in mid-January. We have had independent intelligence confirmation of this letter that would give us reason to believe that this is a credible letter and a credible report.
QUESTION: Are you certain or can you state one way or the other whether the suicide attacks are being carried out by foreigners? And can you also talk a little bit about the efforts, how successful your efforts have been at stopping infiltrations or foreign jihadists coming across the Syrian border or whatever else?
KIMMITT: First of all, I would not stand up here and say we're certain of anything. The enemy has as much reason to keep his information away from us as he does -- as we do from him.
So certainty is not a word we're ever going to use.
With regards to how effective we've been on keeping the jihadists out, one jihadist inside this country is too many. We would prefer to keep them all out. That's probably unreasonable, but we're going to continue to use every method possible along the borders, inside the cities, using technical means and human means to try to discover when they come in and prevent them from carrying out attacks.
I think it's unreasonable to expect that we will damp this down to a number close to zero, but we're going to continue working on that.
QUESTION: Are you afraid that by reading those quotations of Musab al-Zarqawi, it might cause in a certain way a degeneration between Sunni and Shia in Iraq?
SENOR: That it might what? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: It might cause degeneration in the relationship between the two communities, the Sunnis and the Shia.
SENOR: Most Iraqis we speak to talk about a unified Iraq, that they're not interested in an Iraq divided up by ethnic enclaves or by ethnic civil war. Most Iraqis want a country that is sovereign, independent, democratic, united. And it is important for Iraqis to be aware that when there is an attack against their community, that could be characterized as ethnic-warfare-motivated attack, that it is actually not an ethnic group that's attacking them, but actually is one individual and his terror network that are trying to tear this country apart and pit one ethnic group against another.
It is important for Iraqis to have a crystal clear understanding of this game plan so that when they are attacked, they are aware that it's not their fellow Iraqis attacking them. It is a foreign terrorist with ties to Al Qaida that is trying to turn this country upside down and promote bloodshed and tragedy.
QUESTION: Dan Senor, can you tell me what the plans or preparations are for the elections, selection, caucuses to chose a parliament before the July 1st handover?
SENOR: What are the plans right now that we are working on? Right now there are refreshments -- what we call refreshments -- going on in a number of the provincial and city and town councils to improve them and make them more representative. And those councils will have a hand in selecting members of the organizing committees for each caucus. Each caucus will have 15 members, a 15 member organizing committee that will effectively recruit or solicit delegates to the caucus. And the organizing committees, five members will be chosen by the governing council, five members will be chosen by the provincial councils and five members will be chosen by the five largest cities or towns, the five largest city or town councils in a particular province.
And so right now we are in the process of, on a province-by- province basis, refreshing the provinces and working with the governing councils and the local communities to refresh the city and town councils in preparation for the organizing committee's selection of delegates for the caucuses. That's going right now.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up, is there any sense of a date when those selections and those members of parliament will be selected?
SENOR: Well, the date by which the transitional national assembly -- the parliaments, to use your words -- the date by which that body must selected is June 1. And so it is between February 28, which is the deadline for the passage of the basic law, the interim administrative law, is between February 28th and June 1 that all of that work must be completed. June 1 is when the members of the transitional national assembly will be sent to go to perform -- to work in the national body.
And then it's between June 1 and July 1 that that transitional national assembly will elect a government, an executive branch, if you will.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Do you have a question, General Kimmitt, that Mr. Zarqawi's group, are they performing these attacks by themselves or by help of some the Iraqis? Can you name some of the organizations who are helping Mr. Zarqawi?
KIMMITT: I think the question you asked was: Is Mr. Zarqawi and his associates responsible for these attacks, or have they enlisted Iraqis to assist them? Is that your question?
I would -- unfortunately I think it's sad to recognize that, in fact, the terrorist networks have to find sanctuary, they have to find support and they have to find equipment in their place of operation. That happens to be the country of Iraq in this case.
We would suspect that they're being greatly supported by a small number of Iraqis who, for whatever motivations, whether it's a desire to see a return to the pre-Saddam times or for whatever reason, are providing support for them.
It's sad, but I think we must all acknowledge that we do have Iraqis that are facilitating these foreign fighters to carry out these deeds against their fellow citizens.
QUESTION: General Sanchez stood up here two weeks ago and told us that you have been unable to identify the nationality of a single suicide bomber who succeeded in his mission. Also, Time Magazine printed a report having viewed a video CD of suicide bombers preparing to launch attacks, some who appeared to be Iraqis.
I wonder how you can be so certain that all of these attacks are being carried out by foreign fighters?
KIMMITT: We can't be 100 percent certain. However, as we take a number of detainees, as we've captured a number of foreigners involved collaterally in some of these operations, there has been no suggestion that the vast majority or even a majority or even a minority of the attacks were carried out by citizens of this country.
It is more characteristic that the types of people that would be responsible for carrying out these attacks are those that come from a particularly extremist bent that we have not seen, in general, any of those types of extremist bents inside this country. And so it continues to be our ascertain that the vast majority of these persons that carry out the suicide attacks are, in fact, religious or terrorist extremists that come from outside the country, enlisted for the sole purpose of carrying out these attacks.
SENOR: And again, we would just ask you to read the Zarqawi letter, which -- take him at his word: "We were involved in all of the martyrdom operations that took place in this country. I have completed 25 of these operations."
We believe this document is credible, and he speaks for himself on this front.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): (OFF-MIKE)
KIMMITT: On the first question about the explosives that are often used, these types of explosives that are used in attacks are a very common throughout the country, throughout the region, throughout the world. I don't think you can specifically point to one country to one region on the types of materials that are being used.
PE4, TNT, artillery rounds are fairly generic and can be found in most any country. So I don't think you can try to link the explosives used with the country that the persons might have come from.
And the second issue, we had -- as you might imagine, first of all -- to go through the process of translating any documents when we capture any prisoner. We have to go through a long process of translation, interpretation, verification.
So I think it was just a matter of time that caused us to make -- caused the intelligence services to delay for a period before they could one, properly translate it; two, verify it; and, three, put some credibility behind the document.
QUESTION: Returning really quickly to the Fallujah attacks, so is it your belief that these were just random attacks that happened to hit the two generals?
KIMMITT: No, I'm not suggesting that at all. But neither am I suggesting that these were planned in advance.
If I was a small squad with three or four RPGs, I think the last group that I'd be going after is somebody with the military experience of both General Abizaid and General Swannack. Those guys have a long, long military career, fairly robust combat records, surround themselves with people that are extraordinarily capable. And that would not be a fight that I be expecting to win if I went one on one with them.
QUESTION: Is there an investigation then to see if there was, in fact, someone who gave prior notice that these two high-profile individuals would be in this area?
KIMMITT: Anytime we have an attack...
QUESTION: Within the military establishment or someone who works with -- closely with the military.
KIMMITT: Any time we have an attack on coalition forces, any time we have an attack on Iraqi civilians, we're going to take a hard look at what happened. We're going to see if there is any kind of intelligence breach. We're going to see if there was any kind of pattern that we were displaying that might have provoked an attack in terms of our profile, how many vehicles, so on and so forth.
So we're certainly going to do an after-action review of this incident.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): General Kimmitt, I would like that you explain further the element that you have captured, that belong to the (inaudible) Black Victory and their location. That is the first question.
The second question, they continue the (inaudible) Is that a weakness or failure of security policy that the coalition forces, or the Iraqi police are committing or following?
KIMMITT: On the first question, asking about the group Black Victory, I'm not familiar with that organization.
Let me take that question and we'll try to do some research to see if we can answer your questions.
On the second, does the presence of a terrorist attack, such as we've seen in Iskandariya, such as we've seen here in Baghdad -- let me tell you that every time we have one of those attacks, we do a very, very conscious and deliberate review of the force protection measures that were in place.
We want to ensure that if there is something that has been discovered as we look through the whole event, something that as we review the circumstance surrounding that, if the enemy has found a particularly weakness that could be exploited again in the future, you can be certain that the commanders are going to take a hard look at that and make sure they put into effect force protection procedures to prevent that or mitigate the risk of that happening again.
But we've said many, many times, we're fighting a clever enemy. And this is something that is faced in every country in the world against -- by the terrorists. They're going to look very, very hard to try to find patterns and weaknesses. They're going to try to exploit them. We're going to catch them most times. We're going to catch them the vast majority of times.
However, to suggest that we're going to catch the terrorists every time, I think is a standard that nobody will be able to keep and maintain.
QUESTION: There were reports yesterday on the BBC that the Zarqawi might be held in a prison in Iran. Are you ruling that out, first of all? And secondly, if he is somewhere in Iraq, which forces will be involved in whatever kind of manhunt will be undertaken? Will it be special forces or other groups that were involved in the hunt for Saddam?
KIMMITT: Well, first of all, we have no reports suggesting that he's in Iran. If he's being held in a jail in Iran, that's probably a good place for him to be held. And I suspect there will be some diplomatic contacts made between countries and Iran to provide for extradition and to bring him to justice.
SENOR: That was our last question. Just a couple of quick administrative...
QUESTION: The other part of the question was answered. If you are hunting for him in Iraq, who will be involved in that hunt? Which forces would be involved in that hunt?
KIMMITT: Yes, let me tell you what forces are going to be involved in the hunt for Zarqawi. Every coalition force is on the hunt for Zarqawi. Every Iraqi Civil Defense soldier is on the hunt for Zarqawi. Every Iraqi policeman is on the hunt for Zarqawi. Every border policeman is on the hunt for Zarqawi. Every soldier that belongs to the Iraqi armed forces is in the hunt for Zarqawi.
Every citizen in the country of Iraq should be in the hunt for Zarqawi and provide intelligence to the coalition forces and the security services so that we can ensure that this terrorist is hunted down and brought to justice.
So that's about 25 million forces that we have inside this country hunting for Zarqawi.
SENOR: And they're already proving their effectiveness. Again, if you refer to the Zarqawi letter, he says, "With the spread of the army and police, our future is becoming frightening."
He says later on: "Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation."
That intelligence information is coming from the Iraqi people. We have seen a clear improvement in the quality of intelligence we are getting from the Iraqi people. And that's the suffocation that Mr. Zarqawi is talking about.
Just a couple of quick administrative items before we go.
One, we have waiting for you when you depart, CDs with the English translation of the Zarqawi document, the original Arabic Zarqawi document, as well as a number of the products that will be distributed nationwide in the days ahead in the hunt for Mr. Zarqawi. That's all contained on a CD. We have multiple copies for all of you.
We also have copies of the card and what we call the wild card, the Zarqawi wild card, which includes the $10 million wanted information, the bounty.
Tomorrow, there will be a press conference in this room at 3:00 p.m. It will be held by a senior CPA official. We'll be announcing that tomorrow in terms of who that will be, but it will be an important press conference. That's tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.
One other administrative item, the Iraqi Medical Society Conference will be holding its February conference on Saturday. Exact details of time and location will be issued tomorrow. This is a conference that is designed to help establish medical speciality societies. This initiative will bring the level of hospital care in Iraq to international standards. The society has been traveling around the country to inform specialists about the benefits of forming medical specialist societies. They've acquired 100 free memberships from the American Medical Association for distribution at the conference.
They're organized a shipment of 15,000 medical journals from AMA for distribution. They've extended invitations to 700 Iraqi physicians and medical specialists and 30 expatriate guest speakers. And they've received $110,000 through in-kind contributions to prepare for the conference.
Again, it's being held tomorrow. They've received a $250,000 grant through USAID.
And finally, as of tomorrow, you will be able access the Zarqawi documents, both the English translation and the original Arabic documents, as well as some related information on the CPA Web site, http://www.CPA-Iraq.org/Zarqawi -- http://www.CPA-Iraq.org/Zarqawi.
NOTES: [????] - Indicates Speaker Unknown [--] - Indicates could not make out what was being said.[off mike] - Indicates could not make out what was being said.
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