More Twists in the ‘al-Baghdadi’ Saga
Al-Jazeera aired a new tape today in which Abu Omar al-Baghdadi accused the Iraqi government of “outright lying”. In the brief excerpt that I had heard form Al-Jazeera—the original tape has not been posted yet on jihadist forums—al-Baghdadi responds to the recent televised confessions of Ahmad al-Majma’i, who the Iraqi government claims is the real al-Baghdadi.
In the new tape, al-Baghdadi highlights the “contradiction [among] the leaders of the security forces”; a likely allusion to what Sherwan al-Wa’ili had claimed about the captured man’s name and background, and the story given by the Baghdad Operations Command.
Al-Baghdadi believes that this is a “ploy” to force him to come out in a video recording that would reveal his real identity. He claims that he is known by “name and face” to many of the leaders of the jihadist groups.
'Artist's rendition' by a jihadist sympathizer on al-Faloja forum of what an 'Islamic State of Iraq' banknote would look like; note the images of Bin Laden and the Twin Towers
Al-Baghdadi adds that the voice that we’ve been hearing on his speeches is his own, and not of a spokesman or someone reading in his stead. He claims it is easy to verify that it's been the same voice all along.
This latest Al-Jazeera recording—al-Baghdadi’s seventeenth speech by my count—is likely to further embarrass the Maliki government that has made a very big deal of the alleged arrest, and have further used the ‘confessions’ to skewer the Islamic Party, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament that has been working to undermine Maliki through the threat of a no confidence vote.
Yesterday, Maliki’s press advisor Yassin Majid claimed in an interview with Radio Nawa that al-Baghdadi’s arrest was “more dangerous and more important” than Saddam’s capture. Majid called al-Baghdadi the “head of evil” and tied the arrest to the prowess of the Iraqi security forces that gives the lie to anyone who says that the Iraqis are unprepared for the aftermath of the proposed American withdrawal.
Da’awa Party MP and Maliki ally Ali al-Adib raised the stakes by stating that al-Baghdadi’s confessions tying the Islamic Party, the Ba’ath Party and Al-Qaeda together are likely to realign politics in Iraq.
And for more of the media circus surrounding this whole event, Tariq Harb, the ‘celebrity lawyer’ has announced that al-Majma’i’s wife is trying to hire him to defend her husband.
Furthermore, local officials in Diyala province now claim that the man who was shown in the confessions served as a member of the municipal council of the town of Buhriz in 2005 under the name “Ahmed al-Ahmadi.”
I just want to remind you all that I don’t buy the claim that the man who has been arrested is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Maliki’s people are digging themselves into a deeper hole with every passing day, ending up with what is potentially a major political embarrassment for a government that’s built its name and credibility of the issue of security.
I'd even go so far as saying that is episode may be an election game changer, since it will begin to sow doubts as to whether Maliki really has a handle on the security situation, not to mention the tension unleashed by accusing the Islamic Party of complicity with Al-Qaeda. This last point could be the trigger for a no confidence vote in parliament.