The Washington Post has a report today from Baghdad, which if true (a big if), casts a fascinating light on the nexus between terrorists and state sponsors.
The article by Amit Paley begins with his assertion “that al-Qaeda is diverting new recruits from going to Iraq, where its fighters have suffered dramatic setbacks, to going to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they appear to be making gains.” The article quotes the senior U.S. intelligence officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Brian Keller, as saying, “We do believe al-Qaida is doing some measure of re-assessment regarding the continued viability of its fight in Iraq and whether Iraq should remain the focus of its efforts,” but he also adds “that the reliability of indications that recruits have been diverted has ‘not yet been determined.’ ”
If Al Qaeda recruits are being diverted that may, at first blush, support Barack Obama’s assertion that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, but if Iraq is fading in importance to the jihadists it is only because they have suffered such devastating setbacks over the past 18 months. If they had continued to make gains in Iraq–and they would have, absent the surge which Obama opposed–no doubt their Islamic Republic of Iraq would still be flourishing. The fact that they are looking elsewhere confirms how badly they have been hurt in Iraq, but, of course, if we divert resources too quickly from Iraq these supreme opportunists can always make a comeback there.
The article contains an even more eye-catching claim-that, perhaps as a result of the worsening situation in Iraq, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, an Egyptian who calls himself Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has recently traveled to Afghanistan via Iran with a number of his followers. This is based on interviews with an Iraqi intelligence officer and two Al Qaeda in Iraq members, but “U.S. officials have no evidence that top al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders have gone to Afghanistan.” If al-Masri has indeed vacated Iraq, he would simply be duplicating the strategy of Moqtada al Sadr who has decamped to Iran whenever the heat has been too intense in Iraq.
What makes this nugget particularly fascinating is the suggestion that senior Al Qaeda leaders could travel freely through Iran. That is perfectly credible, since the 9/11 Commission and other sources have reported that in the past Iran has allowed Al Qaeda safe transit over its soil and has even played host to Al Qaeda big shots including Osama bin Laden’s son. If the Washington Post report is accurate, it would be more evidence of the connections between the Shiite mullahs and the Sunni terrorists which, if you listen to the MSM, couldn’t possibly exist.
The article mentions Al Qaeda’s connections to another country as well. It says that a prominent Al Qaeda in Iraq leader who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Ghadiya is “based in Syria,” where he “controls the flow of the majority of the group’s foreign fighters, money and weapons into Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence officials.” The fact that Syria remains such a major support center for terrorism reveals how badly the Bush administration has failed in its state goal of making no distinction between terrorists and their state sponsors. In fact, Iran and Syria remain very much in the terrorism business and they have not had to pay much of a price for their activities.