Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Reaffirming Al-Baghdadi’s Alleged Identity

Talisman Gate would like to affirm the following:

-‘Abu Omar al-Baghdadi’, the ‘Prince of the Faithful’ in Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq, is not a fictitious character as he’s been repeatedly characterized by US officials and military officers.

-‘Abu Omar al-Baghdadi’ is the pseudonym used by Khalid Khalil Ibrahim al-Mashhadani, who should not to be confused with Khalid Abdel-Fattah Daoud al-Mashhadani, who allegedly told American interrogators that ‘Al-Baghdadi’ is a fictitious character after he was arrested on July 4.

-Khalid Abdel-Fattah Daoud al-Mashhadani, ‘Abu Shehed’, is not as senior in the hierarchy of the Islamic State of Iraq as claimed by US officials. He should not be confused with ‘Abu Muhammad al-Mashhadani’ who is the ‘Minister of Information’ for the Islamic State of Iraq. Abu Shehed’s first cousin, Adel al-Mashhadani, is more senior, for he leads Al-Qaeda’s battalions in the Fadel neighborhood.

-Talisman Gate would like to apologize for characterizing Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq’s Vice-President, as a member of the Mashhadani clan; there is a notable sub-branch of the Mashhadani clan in Baghdad that uses the Hashemi surname, but Tariq al-Hashemi belongs to a branch of the same name with ethnic Turkmen roots.

Talisman Gate does not claim to have better intelligence than the professional Americans and Iraqis operating in Iraq, but I do trust my sources, and they are still adamant that what was released about ‘Abu Omar al-Baghdadi’ was inaccurate.

According to these sources, Al-Baghdadi is now hiding in the Niba’i area north of Baghdad.

The Islamic State of Iraq issued a communiqué on July 23 denying US claims that ‘Al-Baghdadi’ is a fictitious character (via al-Hesbah).

Same Old Problem: Neglecting to Mention Al-Qaeda’s Responsibility

In today’s Washington Post, Megan Greenwell wrote-up an account of the recent successive bombings in the Karrada district without mentioning Al-Qaeda’s claim of responsibility for at least three of these bombings on July 23rd.

Greenwell and her editors set aside 240 words for this (Blast Kills at Least 25 in Long-Secure Baghdad Neighborhood,The Washington Post, July 27, 2007):

The explosion was the latest in a string of car bombs in Karrada, a largely Shiite district long considered one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods. More than 50 people have been killed in seven car bomb attacks in the neighborhood this month. There was no significant violence in Karrada in June, police records show.

Since the war began, Karrada had been one of the few places in Baghdad to have escaped intense sectarian violence. Sunnis and Shiites driven out of other areas of the capital flocked to the neighborhood, willing to pay higher rents for the prospect of safety.

A sprawling set of streets with dozens of produce stalls, clothing stores and restaurants, Karrada is especially known for its jewelry stores, selling products from cheap costume bracelets to gold rings. Thursday afternoons are one of the busiest times in Karrada, as people finish their shopping before the midday curfew Friday, the Muslim holy day.

The sudden wave of attacks jarred many Baghdad residents, who had come to regard Karrada as a place where they could spend a leisurely few hours with relatively little fear. Police said they will increase patrols around the area, especially after the Iraqi soccer team plays in its first Asian Cup championship Sunday.

"I used to feel comfortable and secure when I went to Karrada," said Shaymaa Hassan, 24. "I liked to shop for clothes and shoes there. Now I don't go unless I have to."

Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq issued a communiqué on the same day (via Al-Hesbah) claiming credit for the three simultaneous car bombs on July 23rd:

“Allah enabled the soldier of the [Islamic State] to explore a car bomb against a congregation of the gangs of the [Mahdi Army] at their headquarters in central Baghdad, which led to killing many of them, and after more [Mahdi Army] members gathered around the corpses of the dead, two bombs were exploded, through the power of Allah, which had been prepared as an ambush, leading to the death and injury of tens of them…"
In Al-Qaeda's worldview, all lay Shi'ites are members of the Mahdi Army or the Badr Corps.

Is it any wonder, then, if congressional leaders seem incredulous when President Bush talks-up Al-Qaeda’s dominant role in the Sunni insurgency? It’s because their morning papers are neglecting to give them the full story. Is it being done on purpose? Hell yeah, for after four years and several US-based services devoted to translating and sharing insurgent propaganda, this sort of info is readily available to these journalists and editors, yet they choose to ignore it. If that’s not a form of editorializing a news story, then what is?

Anywhere in the world, the first investigative step undertaken by news bureaus after a terrorist attack is to wait for a claim of responsibility. But that is not the usual conduct of journalists covering the Iraq insurgency, even though Al-Qaeda makes it convenient by quickly posting communiqués online.

BTW, for all the ink that’s been spilled on the recent ‘cooperation’ between American forces and the 1920 Revolution Brigades in Diyala Province, no journalist has looked into the continuing claims of responsibility being issued by the ‘Brigades’ for attacks on US and Iraqi forces.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Iraq Makes It to the Asian Cup Final

It's been several hours since Iraq qualified after defeating South Korea during a penalty shootout. The celebrations of Iraqis all over the country, and in the foreign countries where they congregate, have been truly remarkable. But it seems that most foreign news agencies, which cover every nitty gritty about Iraq, are not interested in the jubilant spectacle.

The images are amazing, Al-Iraqiya TV has been doing a good job reporting on the happy, spontaneous carnival, and from around Iraq, including Mosul.

Everyone who grabs the microphone is shouting out a positive message, and the recurring theme is that all Iraqis are united on this day.

Civil war? Despair? "Iraq is lost"?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Quickly, for the record...

I logged online here in Beirut International Airport, and found that my name had been circulating in the press.

Ooooh, what a mess.

For the record:

-The "Khalid Mashhadani" that I identified as "Abu Omar al-Baghdadi" on this blog is "Khalid Khalil Ibrahim Mashhadani" whereas the Americans said they captured "Khalid Abdullah Fattah Daoud Muhammad Mashhadani". These are two different people.

-The captive Mashhadani was taken into custody on July 4th whereas "Abu Omar al-Baghdadi" released his fifth speech on July 9th.

-The captive Mashhadani was caught in Mosul, whereas 'my' Mashhadani operates in Ridhwaniya (west of Baghdad) and Dhulu'iyyah (Diyala Province).

-The American military claims to have confessions alleging that "Abu Omar al-Baghdadi" is a fictitious character. I believe that the post-Zarqawi 'Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia' leadership would NOT likely pull off such a trick; the issue of declaring the Islamic State of Iraq and picking a descendant of Qureish as the 'Prince of the Faithful'--with all the caliphal connotations this step carries--was too ideologically daring for a simple enough stunt ostensibly meant to confuse the Americans about the composition of Al-Qaeda's leadership. The caliphate is a much bigger deal for the Zarqawists and the wider jihadist world than the day-to-day effort of staying a step ahead of the Americans.

-I am still convinced that 'my' Mashhadani is 'Abu Omar al-Baghdadi'.

More when I get settled in Istanbul. And I promise, this blog will get active again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Apologies for the lull...

I've been traveling for the last month, and I'm currently in Syria. Too many shrines, and castles, are still on my itinerary, distracting me from my blogging/writing duties. Fun fact: there's a shrine for a certain Prophet Hamza near the village of Banjara (closest town, Sheikh Badr). The Prophet Hamza? Who knows...