Iraq: January 30, 2004

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The US commander in Iraq admitted that a known al Qaeda member, Hassan Gul, was captured along the Iranian border. Gul is known to work for al Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was involved in planning the September 11, 2001 attacks. There has been no official comment on al Qaeda presence in Iraq, other than to admit that the suicide bombing tactics were typical of al Qaeda and that hundreds of foreigners had been captured in Iraq. Because of the careful, and slow,  way al Qaeda has to communicate, it's necessary for the coalition to keep quiet about which al Qaeda people they have and, of course, what they know. It's believed that American intelligence forces are trying to get agents into the al Qaeda network. The many al Qaeda captives, and somewhat chaotic situation inside Iraq, provide many opportunities for intelligence agencies.

It is believed that many of the foreign fighters belong to numerous small, sometimes quite informal, Islamic radical organizations. All they have in common is the desire to create a worldwide Islamic state, and kill infidels (non-Moslems.) Most of these al Qaeda wannabes are young, and many are quite ignorant of what's going on in the world. But they are willing to participate in suicidal attacks. This, however, does not make al Qaeda all that effective. The suicide bombing attacks require a lot of preparation and technical expertise. Every day, more Iraqi police and security troops go on duty, and this makes it harder for the non-Iraqis to stay hidden. That kind of pressure makes it more difficult to prepare and launch attacks. 

The Sunni Arab rebels are also under more pressure because of the increased number of Iraqi security forces. As a result, most of the Sunni Arab and al Qaeda attacks of late have been against Iraqi security forces. Taking on the Americans is riskier, and the Iraqi police are more vulnerable. But this just enrages the majority of Iraqis. While anger against the al Qaeda "foreigners" is fine, the animus against the Sunni Arabs could turn into persecution once power is turned over to Iraqis later this year. This, in turn, could encourage more Sunni Arabs to take up arms and result in an ongoing resistance against the rule of the Shia majority. Since many of the Sunni Arabs are Islamic conservatives, an anti-Shia resistance could also result in an alliance with al Qaeda, which is basically a conservative Sunni Arab dominated organization.

 

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