For months now, the Bush administration had been building up the image of a massive network of foreign terrorists using Falluja as a base for their terror attacks against targets associated with the interim government of Iyad Allawi and the US military which backs him.
One name appeared in western media accounts, over and over again: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a wanted Jordanian turned alleged "terror" mastermind. Almost overnight, Zarqawi's terrorist group, al-Qaida Holy War for Iraq, expanded its operations across the width and breadth of Iraq.
The problem is, there is simply no substance to this legend, as US marines are now finding out. Rather than extremist foreign fighters battling to the death, the marines are mostly finding local men from Falluja who are fighting to defend their city from what they view as an illegitimate occupier. The motivations of these fighters may well be anti-American, but they are Iraqi, not foreign, in origin.
There is, indeed, evidence of a foreign presence. But they were not the ones running the show in Falluja, or elsewhere for that matter. As a result, the US-led assault on Falluja may go down in history as the tipping point for the defeat of the US occupation of Iraq. The January 2005 elections are now very much in doubt, and anti-coalition violence has erupted throughout Iraq (including from sources claiming to be aligned with - no surprise - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi).
According to former Iraqi intelligence personnel I have communicated with recently, the Mukhabarat, under instructions from Saddam Hussein, had been preparing for some time before the invasion of Iraq on how to survive, resist and defeat any US-led occupation of Iraq. A critical element of this resistance was to generate chaos and anarchy that would destabilise any US-appointed Iraqi government.
Another factor was to shift the attention of the US military away from the true heart of the resistance - Saddam's Baathist loyalists - and on to a fictional target that could be manipulated in an effort to control the pace, timing and nature of the US military response.
According to these sources, the selection of al-Zarqawi as a front for these actions was almost too easy. The Bush administration's singling out of al-Zarqawi prior to the war, highlighted by Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council in February 2003, made the Jordanian an ideal candidate to head the Mukhabarat's disinformation effort.
The Mukhabarat was desperate for a way to divert attention from the fact that it was behind the attacks against Iraqi civilians. Iraqis killing Iraqis would turn the public against the resistance. It needed a foreign face, and al-Zarqawi provided it. A few planted CD disks later, and the al-Zarqawi myth was born.
So, Ritter thinks we have fallen into the trap of the Zarqawi myth and that Baathists are the real organizers of the Iraqi resistance. The latter statement is bolstered by reports published last week in the Asia Times and the Christian Science Monitor. Given the ease with which we were manipulated by Ahmed Chalabi, I would not find this at all surprising.
Comments are closed on this story.