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Leaking the Zarqawi letter, Feb 04

The New York Times - February 9, 2004 Monday - Late Edition - Final

THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: INTELLIGENCE;

U.S. Says Files Seek Qaeda Aid In Iraq Conflict
BYLINE: By DEXTER FILKINS; Douglas Jehl contributed reporting from Washington
for this article.
SECTION: Section A; Column 4; Foreign Desk; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 1456 words
DATELINE: 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."

US Department of Defense Information - February 9, 2004

Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing from Iraq
SECTION: DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TRANSCRIPTS
LENGTH: 3942 words

†††(Participating were Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of
operations, Combined Joint Task Force 7, and Dan Senor, senior advisor to the
Coalition Provisional Authority.)
...
†††Senor: Yes, sir?
†††Q: Alan Fryer from Canadian Television. General, I'd like to ask you about
the report in The New York Times today about this letter that they reported on,
purportedly from a high-level al Qaeda person, which essentially lays out a
strategy for sparking civil war in this country by targeting Shi'a. How credible
is it and how seriously do you take it?
†††Kimmitt: We believe the report and the document is credible, and we take the
report seriously -- and we take the threat seriously as well.
†††Q: (Off mike.)
†††Kimmitt: Sorry? Use the microphone.
†††Q: I just wondered if you might elaborate a little bit. And what then might
you be able to do about it or how can you respond?
†††Kimmitt: Well, I think there's a lot that the coalition and the Iraqi people
can do about this. First of all, it is clearly a plan on the part of outsiders
to come in this country and spark civil war, create sectarian violence, try to
expose fissures in this society. And first of all, the Iraqi people have
demonstrated time after time that they are unwilling to participate in any of
these activities by and large. They are looking forward to a free, united and
sovereign Iraq. The coalition has substantial capability, along with the Iraqi
security forces, to use this intelligence and any other follow-up intelligence
to kill or capture those that would try to use this capability to create
anything but a safe and secure environment here in Iraq.
†††Senor: Yeah. I would just add that what is perhaps most striking about that
memo is the extent to which it clearly outlines that the terrorists understand
the stakes in Iraq; that is, they understand that failure to defeat us in Iraq
will be a major setback for their overall terror war. It also outlines what is
working.
†††The memo states that the buildup of Iraqi security forces is putting
increasing pressure on the terrorists. This is a trend that we've been seeing
for some time. Now that we have well over 150,000 Iraqis in security forces in
Iraq, more Iraqis in Iraq today protecting their own country than there are
Americans protecting Iraq, is making it more and more difficult for the
terrorists to operate. It shows that the terrorists are focused on the June 30th
handover of sovereignty; that they recognize that as we politically empower the
Iraqi people, the terrorists will be isolated and it will be harder and harder
for them to operate.
†††As General Kimmitt has said, their strategy is sectarian warfare in an effort
to provoke bloodshed and tear this country apart. Knowing what is working by
their own admission -- ramping up of American security forces, demonstrating
American resolve -- is a very good indication of what we need to continue to be
doing as we move forward to handing over sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
...
†††Jim?
†††Q: Hi. I was wondering, referring again to that New York Times report,
whether you've seen any attacks of this nature, sectarian-type attacks, that
would -- you might blame on al Qaeda, you might have some sort of evidence that
would point to al Qaeda. Things that stick in my mind are the two attacks in
Baqubah, the Shi'ite mosques that were -- one was attacked. There was a car bomb
that failed to go off outside second one. There were a few others. There was
something up in Samarra the other day, the Kurdish attacks, et cetera. I'm
wondering if any of those you can blame on al Qaeda or might be somehow linked
to this memo.
†††Kimmitt: Well, the memo itself says -- the author of the memo himself says
that he accomplished 25 operations since he's been here in Iraq.
†††It is clear that the type of techniques that we have seen in certain of these
attacks, such as what we've seen at the north gate, at the Assassin's Gate,
perhaps in Erbil, perhaps down -- the assassination of Hakim, perhaps the attack
on the U.N. building -- all of these have the fingerprints, as we have said,
month after month, and hallmarks of al Qaeda, fingerprints of al Qaeda and other
foreign fighters. So we can't rule out that the 25 operations claimed inside
that document are untrue. And in fact that just gives us more and more evidence
of these -- that al Qaeda is in fact conducting operations, or people who would
like to work with al Qaeda are operating inside this country.
†††Senor: Yes, sir? In the back there.
†††Q: Kevin Flower with CNN. So back to this letter. Do you think that it is --
is it your belief that Zarqawi is the author of this letter? And who is the
letter to? Was it written to al Qaeda operatives outside the country? And
finally, can we see the letter? Can we -- can you make portions of it available
to us?
†††Kimmitt: Yeah, we are persuaded that Zarqawi was the author of this letter.
It is our understanding that this letter was being taken by a courier outside
this country for delivery abroad. And it is our intent and our -- certainly our
hope that -- in the near future that this letter can be declassified.
†††Let me just give you sort of a picture of the 17 pages of it on the screen
here, not very -- it's not very clear to you. But we are hoping in the near
future to be able to release this, because this document does in fact
demonstrate what we have been assessing all along, and the impact of this letter
on our operations and as we take operations forward is very, very dramatic.
†††Senor: It's an important reminder -- just to add, it's an important reminder
of the -- of why it is so critical that we forge ahead with our plan here to
beef up Iraqi security forces, which are clearly doing an effective job in
combating the terrorists and are making the terrorists feel tremendous pressure
and continuing to move over with the hand-over of political authority to the
Iraqi people.

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