Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Iraqi Army in Diyala Disputes Reuters Story

The command of the Iraqi Army in Diyala Province disputed today (Arabic text) a story that had appeared in Reuters yesterday concerning the discovery of 20 headless bodies near Baquba, Diyala's main city. The Iraqi Army says that the wire story is a fabrication.

The Reuters story did not appear under any particular journalist's byline, so it's up to Reuters corporate to explain itself, if it still cares to do so.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Iraqi Army Liberates 8 out of 11 Abducted Diyala Sheikhs

This is from the usually very reliable Radio Sawa (text and audio in Arabic): a unit of the Iraqi Army managed to liberate eight out of the eleven sheikhs from Diyala Province who were abducted yesterday. At least seven of the sheikhs were Shiites and the rest Sunnis. The Army is claiming that it also killed four of the abductors. The identity and political affiliation of the abductors is still unknown.

According to the report, the abductors had contacted the families of some of the Shiite sheikhs in order to agree upon a ransom, but that these families refused any offer if it didn't also secure the release of the Sunni sheikhs.

This should be an interesting dynamic to whoever has been following the whole debate about the tribes: the tribes themselves couldn't release their sheikhs, whereas the Iraqi Army did.

Finally! M-16s! Bye, Bye Kalashnikov!

Pictures from today's "Security Handover" ceremony in Karbala Province (via nahrain.com)--attended by PM Nouri al-Maliki--show a curious sight: Iraqi soldiers carrying M-16s!

It has been recently decided by the US military and the Iraq Ministry of Defense to phase-out the Kalashnikov as Iraq's basic infantry weapon, and to substitute it with the M-16.

The Kalashnikov is a great battlefield weapon, especially suited for Iraq's climate (...lots of sandstorms), but it was, how shall I put it, too cheap-looking. It was a symbol of a defunct Soviet past and the schooling of Iraq's military in the craft of Soviet warmaking. It also made no distinction between the legal military and the insurgency; both sides carried the Kalashnikov.

Sticking with the Kalashnikov was a bad decision that was taken early in the Iraq war. The roots of this decision go back to a debate around the time when people thought that the Clinton administration would really implement the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998; should Iraqi freedom fighters be equipped with surplus M-16s? Well-meaning American ex-generals advising the Iraqi opposition at the time suggested sticking to the Kalashnikov because Iraqis already knew how to use this weapon and the ammunition for it was abundantly available, and because it would not "out" the insurgents--that is, the opposition at the time.

Substituting the Kalashnikov for the M-16 is very symbolic: it is a visible psychological break with the past in terms of military doctrine. This is the new Iraqi Army: the first army of the 21st century that's being schooled, by necessity, in counter-insurgency, and being deployed in all-too-real maneuvers against a virulent and hitherto-unseen post-modern insurgency that shall be the model for future jihadist insurgencies elsewhere, probably nearer to Israel and nearer to the Persian Gulf oil wells. At the next outbreak, Iraq's military know-how will be in great demand, turning Iraq into a regional power.

Remember, you heard it here first.

One more thing: in a decade's time, the Iraqi military will likely be tasked on behalf of the world's economies to fight Wahhabi-inspired jihadists in the Persian Gulf basin. So it was make sense for the US military to leave behind the bulky equipment that's proven useful--the armored Humvies and Strykers, the BFVs, etc.--as hand-me-downs when it withdraws from Iraq. Should matters go down the toilet in Saudi, who is the world going to ask for help? The Iranians? The Qataris? Certainly the Marines can't roll-up on the shores of Dammam without further inflaming Islamic sensitivities. Who ya gonna call to bust the Wahhabis? Last time around, the Ottoman Empire called upon Muhammed Ali's resurgent Egypt of the early 19th century. Nowadays and into the foreseeble future, it's an open question as to who would Egyptian soldiers rather take orders from, Gamal Mubarak or Ayman Zawahiri? So, that leaves the Iraqis--a nation with several past and present scores to settle with the Wahhabis. Iraq's current and future rulers also happen to be the co-religionists of the people who live around the oil-wells, Saudi Arabia's 2 million-strong Shiites.

Moreover, the jihadis may inherit Saudi Arabia's decades-long build-up of western military hardware, so a well-positioned NATO airforce, based in southern Iraq, may be necessary to neutralize this future threat. Just thinking out loud, people. No need to be alarmed.

One last thing: the M-16s are making their debut in Karbala. KARBALA! The most holy of holies for the Shiites, which was sacked and desecrated by Saudi-led Wahhabis in 1802, and continued to be the target of jihadist bombers, usually Saudis, for the last four years. Isn't that poignant?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Keep Your Fingers Crossed

U.S. casualty figures for the month of October 2007 are approaching pre-insurgency levels; that is they are down to the numbers that were reported for the spring and early summer of 2003.

As of October 24th, deaths among U.S. military personnel stood at 31, including 3 soldiers who didn’t die in Iraq (1 died in the UAE, 2 in Bahrain) and 4 non-combat related deaths.

There have been dips in the casualty rates in the past: February 2004 (19), March 2005 (36), and March 2006 (33). But I believe that whereas these previous dips reflected complex variables specific to the combat conditions in Iraq at the time, today’s decreasing numbers reflect the collapse of the Sunni and Shiite insurgencies—foretold by yours truly.

The reason I believe this is due to confidential access I have to the 'correct' figures for Iraqi military and police casualty rates—they too are way down.

Let’s hope that things remain constant for the next week to come. While it is tragic to lose a life in any circumstance, especially a youthful one, the media has turned casualty rates into the bellwether of how the war in Iraq is going. Let’s see how they explain away this most recent decrease, but I think that they are likely to ignore these new numbers rather than retract the smug “Iraq is over” editorials they penned six months ago.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 3.5

I translated part of the final section that appeared on October 16, 2007 in al-Akhbar, and hopefully will put up the remaining part of the piece and my own analysis of Faisal Akbar’s testimony over the next few days:

"After the Saudi detainee Faisal Akbar confessed to the details of the operation to assassinate Rafiq Hariri, he goes back and retracts his full testimony in the same interrogation session:

Q: Through surveying the events before the attack, and we mean the security cameras that are concentrated in the vicinity of where the explosion took place, and based on deductions that are available to us, and what was forthcoming in your statement here, it turns out that the truck was moving before the attack. There is information that says that Abu Ades does not drive, and you did not tell us that you gave him any lessons on driving in the seminar your administered to him, in addition to this issue of driving, and under such circumstances, he would not have been able to control the driving of the truck at the speed that was seen on the security camera. Then it is also somewhat dangerous to parade Abu Ades in the Syrian cities, Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, and to smuggle him over the land borders and to place him in the middle of the capital, where he is from, and to risk having him identified by chance and thus ruining your plans. It was also proven that there was not DNA [evidence] indicating that Ahmed Abu Ades was at the scene of the crime. It is certain that you are an explosives expert, and we noticed this while searching the Rosheh apartment, where we found ear plugs and special eardrops for you, and that you have symptoms in your ears, as we were told by the doctor in your group. It is also clear that Abu Ades taped the video film, but it is not known what happened after that.
Now tell us how the operation took place, and what happened to Abu Ades, and who are the real participants and perpetrators and activists and look-outs who were involved in preparing the vehicle and the explosives and all the elements of the crime? Tell us about all that with honesty, and about the place where you stayed in?

A: The truth is that Ahmed Abu Ades recorded the video tape, and he was brought by Khalid al-Taha from Beirut on 16/1/2005 to Sheikh Rashid, to his headquarters in Aleppo. During this time, I had been in Beirut for two months with the operation team, and with us was Jamil and Adnan and Fawwaz and Thamir and Bassam and Muhanned, and we were staying at an apartment in the Dhahia. Khalid al-Taha joined us, afterwards, to finish-up the surveillance operation, and let it be known that the person who conducted the bombing was a Saudi youth, who arrived from the ‘Al-Qaeda in the Haramein’ [organization], and he was sent by Abu Hajer. He’s the one who conducted the operation to assassinate Hariri using the same truck that I mentioned to you. Afterwards we broke the [SIM cards] of our cell phones, and we left the places that we were at, and then we crossed over to Syria through smuggling.
The suicide bomber was called Abu Muqatil al-Asadi, and the truck was prepared [for detonation] in the ‘Ain al-Helwah Camp by Abu ‘Ubeida.

Q: Can you remember any of the [cell phone] numbers that were used by yourselves in the two month period that you mentioned?

A: No, I can’t remember any of them.

Q: We will show you a list of eleven numbers, can you recognize any of the numbers that were used in what you mentioned?

A: The numbers used were seven, and not eleven, and after perusing [your list] I can’t remember any of them.

Q: Can you inform us about the address or the full identity of Abu Muqatil al-Asadi?

A: No, I cannot inform you of that.

Q: If we took you with us, would you be able to identify the apartment in which you stayed during the preparation phase of the operation that you claimed to have participated in?

A: No, I don’t remember how to get to these places.

Q: Then why did you weave together events from your imagination or from a source you may have heard give the details if you hadn’t participated [in these events]?

A: I should tell you that Sheikh Rashid, and that was two weeks ago and we were in Lebanon in the Shati’ al-Dhahabi apartment, had asked me to inform the guys that the security services in Lebanon don’t know anything about the subject of Ahmed Abu Ades. He added that I should inform them that if any of them was detained by these [security] services, that they should not confess to the issue of Ahmed Abu Ades. On this basis, and through my close relationship and understanding of my emir, Sheikh Rashid, I imagined the details as I mentioned to you, and I put myself in these details since I thought that you wouldn’t believe that I hadn’t participated if I had told you the details without being part of their stages.

Q: We asked you repeatedly to speak with honesty and to be specific, and it was you who claimed that Abu Turab was the alias of Ahmed Abu Ades, and that he was brought to you in Syria by way of Khalid al-Taha. What is established is that the latter is connected to you, and you deliberately smuggled him into the Ain al-Helwah Camp. And after we questioned you about this Abu Turab, you informed us that you learnt that his real name later after you watched Abu Ades appear on TV.
You are the one who wanted to give this detailed information, that corresponded with the results of our investigations and many elements of the investigations so far. So do you know Ahmed Abu Ades, and did you smuggle Khalid al-Taha to the camp, and did the following [persons] attend your security seminars: Khalid al-Taha, Hani al-Shenti, Amer Hallaq, Selim Halimeh, and Bilal Za’aroureh?

A: I lied to you about the topic of my meeting of Ahmed Abu Ades. As for Hani al-Shenti whose alias is Marwan, and Bilal Za’aroureh also known as Jalal, and Amer Hallaq also known as Wasim, and Selim Halimeh also known as Samir, they underwent security seminars with me, and then they pledged allegiance to Sheikh Rashid.

Q: Why this exclusivity, since all the aforementioned knew and had a relationship with Ahmed Abu Ades, and why is he excluded from your list, given that he follows the same creed. What is the purpose of crossing him out of the list?

A: I affirm to you that I didn’t see Ahmed Abu Ades during my security seminars.

Q: Tell us about the frequency of seminars that you set up for those who requested them over the last two years?

A: I shall tell you that I gave seminars to approximately four persons every week, over the last two years. Youth from all the countries of the Islamic world would attend, including those from Lebanon and Palestinians residing [in Lebanon].

Q: Were you distracted by something during this period you talk of, and what distracted you from training the mujaheddin. If yes, tell us when and for how long and why?

A: No, I didn’t leave my work giving lectures in security seminar but once and that was for a week in June 2005, when I went to Iraq and met Sheikh Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi to discuss the matter of the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Q: Can you remember the young [men] who came to you in the first and second month of 2005, especially any Lebanese or a Palestinian residing in Lebanon, and to name him?

A: No, I don’t remember any of these guys from that period.

Q: By looking into the call logs of the seven numbers that were used from 4/2/2005 to 14/2/2005 until 1 PM, that is the time of the assassination of the martyr president Hariri, these numbers only called each other, and their geographical movements paralleled on different dates the movement of the private convoy of the martyr and the vicinity of the parliament and the St. George Hotel and the places overlooking it, and they were shut off at the moment of the explosion or seconds after that and were never active again, in addition to the cut-off in the activity of these lines after noontime on 14/1/2005 to start up again on the morning of 20/1/2005, given that Ahmed Abu Ades disappeared on the morning of 16/1/2005 and that corresponded to the time that Khalid al-Taha arrived on the evening of the 15/1/2005, and his departure from Lebanon through the Masna’a [border point] on the morning of 16/1/2005.
In addition to that, your distribution of those [tasked with] surveillance and monitoring, as you called them in your testimony, at the places that you mentioned which matched the movement of those who were using the numbers and the times of when they woke up [also matched] what you told about your movements in the apartment in Dhahia. We also, in order to verify [information], showed you a list of [phone] numbers so that you’d remember the numbers that were used as you told us, and we added four fake numbers to them, and corrected us by telling us that the numbers used were seven [in number], and not eleven, which corresponded to the aliases you mentioned: five onlookers and you and Jamil makes seven, and these facts did not appear in the news or in the media. How do you explain your knowledge of these details, and how is it that you can describe the streets of Beirut and its landmarks. Can this all be by way of coincidence?

A: It occurred to me to mention five onlookers, so I gave you made-up aliases, and me and Jamil make seven. Thus the number seven popped into my mind and I mentioned it to you. And I had no knowledge that the numbers that you say were used to in the phases of the Hariri assassination were seven.
I also concocted the places that I told you about, and that the surveillance team had been based there, and that was a figment of my imagination, and I used my knowledge of these streets and the St. George since I’ve been to Lebanon on previous occasions and I know them since then, and they would be useful to be sites for observing the place of the assassination that I saw on television. As for the disappearance of Ahmed Abu Ades, I know nothing about this subject, except what Rashid told me recently which I mentioned to you, to warn the guys, Marwan and Khalid Taha, not to tell the security services anything concerning Abu Ades.

Q: Since you are an instructor of many security seminars for the youth, and we have looked-over the content of the lessons that you would give on this manner from what was captured among the belongings of the detainees, it had become clear that there were lessons on how to mislead interrogators and other techniques, and advice to the students that in the case of investigations being conducted with them then they should deviate the course of the interrogation to waste time and to hide facts, and this was made very clear in your statement. Why do you resort to this technique?

A: It was not my intention to mislead the investigation or to hide information, and now I telling the truth about what I have to say.

Q: So you retract your testimony over meeting and interviewing Abu Ades?

A: Yes, I retract it, and I didn’t see him or meet him in any prior time. I only watched him on television on three occasions, and that was after the bombing.

Q: What else do you recant from your testimony?

A: I recant my knowledge of or participation in the phases of the Hariri assassination on 14/2/2005.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 3

Today’s translated segment first appeared in Arabic on October 16, 2007 in Al-Akhbar newspaper:

"The Saudi detainee Faisal Akbar continues to relate the details behind filming the Ahmed Abu Ades video in a secret apartment in Syria, before the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. The following is a continuation of the interrogation session with Faisal Akbar:

“We conducted the filming and Shakir was carrying the camera. Me and Khalid were standing next to him, I on the right and Khalid on the left. The camera was in Shakir’s hand who stood opposite of Ahmed. This trial work, and we displayed it on the camera screen that folds out.

Khalid called Jamil using his cell phone and told him that the film was ready. In the next day, me and Ahmed and Khaled left for Aleppo in a rented car, a Skoda pick-up, roofed and white in color. [We headed] to the farm, which is a facility that belongs to Al-Qaeda and it is managed by he who is known as Sami in the area of the Zeryeh road [Translator’s note: this should probably read Zerbeh, which is 20 Km south of Aleppo on the main highway]. We were received there by Sheikh Rashid, Nabil and Jamil.

Let me correct something for you: Jamil had arrived to Damascus on that day, and he is the one who took us in the aforementioned car. And as the four of us arrived at the farm, Jamil and Khalid and me and Ahmed Abu Ades, we were welcomed by Sami and Sheikh Rashid. After being greeted, Sheikh Rashid and Jamil took Ahmed Abu Ades aside and me and Khalid and Sami stayed outside. Their closed meeting with Abu Ades lasted for three hours, and they emerged later from the room; Sheikh Rashid and Nabil watched the film claiming responsibility for the operation through connecting the camera to the television (18 inch TV, I remember it was a Toshiba, grey in color), and Sheikh Rashid was pleased with the tape.

Afterwards, and upon Jamil’s order, me and Abu Ades and Khalid and Jamil, who drove the car, moved on to Homs where there’s a guest house managed by Jamil. It is located in the Khalidiyyah area near the Nour Mosque in a crowded area in a building with four floors: an apartment to each floor, and Jamil lived on the second floor. Next to this building was a supermarket, and we stayed in this apartment for two days while preparing to move to Lebanon prior to pulling-off the Hariri assassination.

Jamil distributed $50,000 [in cash] that he had received from Rashid. He gave me $10,000 in $100 bills, and he gave Khalid another $10,000 and kept $30,000, which were the funds for the financing the operation. During this time, Jamil had gotten hold of Syrian identification cards for us from Murad under fake names, with our pictures on them, and these were four Syrian identification [cards]. My new fake name was Hassan Al-Eid, mother’s name Ghayda’, born 1977, Syrian. As for Abu Ades and Jamil and Khalid, I did not know their fake names in the aforementioned identification [cards]. After two days, and according to my memory it was 28/1/2005, we left Homs in the Skoda car to Damascus. Jamil was driving and Abu Ades was next to him, while me and Khalid were in the backseat. We reached Damascus around 10 AM in the morning; Jamil parked the car somewhere near the Hrasta garage across from the shipping [offices] and the restaurants on the main street. I think he left the key inside the car and locked it, and it should be known that Sheikh Rashid had a copy of the keys, and he would send Shakir later to take the car back to the [rental office]. We rode in a taxi the four of us, and it should be known that the clothes and the car and the camera and the taped film remained with Sheikh Rashid at the farm.

When in the taxi, Jamil sat next to the driver, who we didn’t know, and me and Khalid and Abu Ades sat in the backseat, heading towards the Tashrin Park. We got out of the taxi, and Jamil paid the 35 Syrian Lira to the driver, and we weren’t carrying any extra clothes or belongings with us. Near Tashrin Park and on the northern corner where there is a newspaper stand, we met the smuggler who was waiting for us in a Syrian taxi, which was Mazda [mini-]bus, white in color, and new. We rode the mini-bus in the direction of Jedidet Yaboos, and there we got off with the smuggler. We paid 80,000 Syrian Lira to the smuggler in return to smuggling us over the border, whereby we crossed the Syrian side in around an hour. We began by descending then ascending the mountain then descending again. It should be known that we were transported on an old motorbike that was parked near the smuggler’s home, and he would take each of us alone for a distance of 15 minutes then he would return and get the next one. He began by transporting Jamil then Abu Ades then Khalid and finally me, and he left the motorbike during the phase of ascending the mountain, where there was a small Syrian village, the name of which I can’t remember, where the smuggler had acquaintances.

When we reached the Lebanese side in a place near the Masna’a, we walked on the main road in Masna’a. We took a red-colored Mercedes taxi to Chtoura near the money changers. We paid 4000 Lebanese Lira to the driver, Jamil paid the sum. Jamil changed $500 into Lebanese currency in an exchange office that doubled as a restaurant too. I don’t remember the name of the place, but I can show you to it. The smuggler was still with us and he was called Ahmed, and he was the same person who first brought Ahmed Abu Ades to Damascus in the beginning.

Ahmed the smuggler rented a van with a driver, and it was Hyundai as far as I recall, olive-colored. The driver was 35 years old with a moustache and his chin was clean shaven. The smuggler sat next to the driver and we sat in the back, and the journey to Beirut began; we did not stop on the way; there was a traffic choke, and the trip took two hours. We arrived in Beirut around 2 in the afternoon in the Cola neighborhood, Jamil paid the driver via the smuggler a sum of 15,000 [Lebanese] Lira, who took the smuggler with him and they both left.

We took a white-colored Mercedes taxi to the southern Dahiya to a place that I don’t know. There was a gas station and a Jammal Bank, as far as I remember. We entered a building in a souq and it consists of three floors. The appearance of the building was messy. We went up to the second floor where there are two apartments, we entered the apartment on the right and its door was wooden, brown in color. Jamil had rented it previously and had changed the lock on the door. He opened the door with a key that he had, and the apartment continued sparse furniture: six mattresses, five pillows, and six blankets, with plastic floor coverings.

We sat there, and afterwards Jamil went downstairs and was away for about an hour then he returned with food from KFC. The four of us ate, that Khalid and me and Jamil and Abu Ades, and Abu Ades had shaved his beard before we arrived to Lebanon, and we slept because we were tired from the trip.

On the next day, that is 1/2/2005, and Jamil had brought with him when he was out the night before a cell phone, a Nokia 3300 model, dark grey in color, with a Lebanese [SIM card] whose number I didn]t know; Jamil and Khalid left the apartment, and Abu Ades and I stayed inside until Jamil and Khalid returned at night. I think they got clothes and pajamas and underwear and things to eat; we ate and then me and Jamil discussed the phases of the operation, and Jamil told me that he is seeking to purchase a pick-up truck, and that his group is working to find such a car. He also told me that there is a surveillance team that has been monitoring the target for three weeks before we got to Lebanon, and that they are Lebanese and trustworthy, and they are cadres from Al-Qaeda, and their aliases were Fahed and Thamer and Adnan and Fawwaz and Bessam. This day ended like this.

On the next day, Jamil and Khalid left after having breakfast at around 12 noon, and it was our second day in Lebanon, that is 2/2/2005. They returned late at night, around 1 AM, and I didn’t talk to them. On the morning of the third day, that is 3/2/2005, I left with Jamil while Abu Ades and Khalid stayed in the apartment. We took a taxi from the Dahiya in the direction of ‘Ain al-Mereeseh. We got there around 1 PM, and we walked near the Tazej Restaurant east, passing the McDonald’s restaurant, near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, whereby the McDonald’s was on our left. We ascended an incline, to the left there is a car rental agency at the end of the street. We veered left and walked in the direction of the Holiday Inn, and when we got to the intersection we veered left, and it was a downhill street, I saw the Phoenicia [Hotel] on my left and in front of me, and lying on a lower level, was the sight of the beach where the Yacht Club is, and to its left the St. George.

Jamil was pointing out the locations to me, and giving me the addresses. We got in front of the St. George where Jamil informed me that the convoy is forced to pass in front of the St. George, and that the best spot to perform the operation would be the building adjacent to the St. George on the right hand side of the street; we discussed this spot and Jamil informed me that there is another spot in front of President Hariri’s office that could also be suitable to perform the detonation operation, let it be known that we didn’t stand near the St. George for long, rather we would stand for a moment then continue walking and then stop so as not to raise any suspicions.

As we arrived near a pharmacy in ‘Ain al-Mereeseh, we took a taxi to the Aishah Bakkar neighborhood or Verdun from what I remember. There we got out before the office at the intersection and we went downhill. While going downhill I saw a series of restaurants on the left, and there was also a bank on the left, and an Adidas store and a women clothing stores on the right hand side. We got to an intersection near the Holiday Inn and across from it on the corner was an old building surrounded by many trees and a large picture of President Hariri in the vicinity of the building. We walked on the sidewalk across from this building which was [Hariri’s] office. We didn’t stop, but rather continued walking as we walked and took note of the traffic. I saw through the open gateway the removable barrier to the entrance, and inside were parked some ordinary cars. There wasn’t any leeway to place a truck and center it in that street because it would arouse suspicions when it would stop there.

We dismissed this option and we took a taxi back towards the Dahiya. During this time, Jamil was receiving calls on his cell phone from the onlookers, I think. We got to the apartment in the evening; and I talked to Jamil about the on-the-ground scouting that we had done, and then we slept.

In the next day, that is 4/2/2005, Khalid and Jamil left and returned in the evening. Jamil told me that there is a suitable car in Tripoli, a large pick-up, white in color, that costs approximately $7000 that one of his acquaintances was [getting it out of customs] and buying. And that the shipment, that is the explosives, had arrived in Lebanon from Syria and that it originated from Iraq, and that is was TNT with Cortex ropes and ten electric detonators, and it is now in a safe place, that he wouldn’t tell me about.

During this night, I felt that Khalid al-Taha was acting out of character, for he was silent and conspicuous. He usually jokes around and smiles constantly. We went to sleep and I slept with Jamil in a room, and Khalid and Abu Ades in other rooms.

The morning of the next day, that is 5/2/2005, I don’t remember this day well, I think that Jamil got a call from his group that are assigned to buy the car, and that the car was agreed upon for $7500. As he told me he bought in a normal way, and he is to leave with Khalid to prepare the car and to prepare the explosives, and he gave me his number which I don’t remember, on the condition that I call him only in case of the most urgent emergencies, and he left.

I stayed with Abu Ades in the apartment for two days, we didn’t leave and nobody came in on us. Khalid and Jamil returned on 9/2/2005, Jamil told me that the truck had been prepared and that explosives arranged in a directed manner, and that it was appended with a switch that acts as the detonator to the explosion. Jamil and Khalid arrived in the afternoon, and Jamil told me that the delicate task is now up to the guys doing surveillance and monitoring. He was still receiving calls, and it should be known that he would turn off his phone around midnight, and when he returned to the [apartment] he would turn off the phone in the street before he went up to the apartment, and if he was in the apartment he would leave at night and turn off the line so that the geographical movements of the line are not shown.

On the 10th day we went out with Jamil and went to the St. George area to inspect the place. We arrived by taxi ahead of the St. George too, near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, and we walked in the same street. We passed by the entrance of the St. George and we didn’t see any suspicious movement or any checkpoints or patrols. We returned to the apartment at night. We talked over what had happened during our surveillance of the St. George area and we agreed that the spot after the St. George entrance in front of the adjacent building, I can show it to you, in the final point where the truck is to be parked and inside it Abu Ades to conduct the explosion operation while the convoy passes in the remaining days before 14/2/2005, the day the operation was conducted.

The surveillance and monitoring [teams] were active, and we also discussed our evacuation plan after the operation. On 13/2/2005 Jamil left and took Abu Ades with him. I stayed with Khalid in the apartment, and [Jamil] showed [Abu Ades] the pick-up car and the place where the operation is to be conducted. They returned to the apartment at night and Abu Ades was relieved and every encouraged about conducting the operation, and while me and Jamil and Khalid talked, Abu Ades went into the other room to pray and worship. The three of us, me and Jamil and Khalid, discussed the evacuation plan which was as follows: the surveillance and monitoring team would withdraw and us too towards the [American University of Beirut] –the sea entrance. We went to sleep. We got up for dawn prayers, then went back to sleep. We got up at around 10, and Abu Ades went out alone, he said goodbye and hugged us, Khalid cried. After nearly half an hour the three of us left, me and Jamil and Khalid, after Jamil had kept Abu Ades’ fake Syrian identification [card]; someone drove the pick-up while Abu Ades was next to him, and he was a member of the surveillance team and I don’t know who he was. After we left the apartment, we took a taxi towards ‘Ain al-Mereeseh. We got out near the ‘Ain al-Mereeseh mosque, we stopped on the cornice in front of the mosque, and it was around 12 noon, Abu Ades stopped and waited for the convoy to pass. And when the convoy passes, the explosion occurred, after Abu Ades blew himself up in the convoy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yeah, What Was That All About?

Someone has posted old photographs on a discussion board (via nahrain.com) showing Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (...younger and thinner) and former Saddam henchmen Ali Hassan Majid (up for a hanging any time soon after being convicted of waging genocide against the Kurds) and Izzet al-Douri (currently leading one of the insurgency's Ba'athist wings) posing for photo-ops sometime in the early 1980s.

What was Jalal Talabani--who would later have the distinction of being the only "traitor" exempted by one of Saddam's blanket pardons--doing at the time? Why was he playing host to the likes of "Chemical" Ali and Izzet the "Taxi"?

President Talabani is a very charming and gregarious man, and he's done a very fine job as Iraq's president, but one must pause and examine all those skeletons in his closet. The Western press and Washington circles are very fond of him, and there's a general tendency to romanticize the Kurds and give them a free pass; this is helped by all the frenzied lobbying being done on their behalf and on their tab...sometimes in the form of Manila envelopes packing $20,000 in cash!

Sure, he's not the only Iraqi politician with a dark past, but there are some instances that I'd like him to answer for. For example, the raid of the village of Pisht-Aashan in May 1983, where tens of civilian cadres from the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) were massacred by Talabani's PUK, ostensibly on Saddam's orders.

What's worse is that the current leadership of the ICP remains silent about Pisht-Aashan and has never demanded an official apology.

It's interesting that Pisht-Aashan is located on one of the slopes leading up to the Kandil Mountain range, where the Turkish Army intends to foray nowadays in hunt of the PKK.

As the violence subsides in Iraq, maybe it is time for the political class to re-examine their pasts: Iraqis are owed answers, the dead are owed justice.

Why? Because not everyone rationalized a temporary deal with the devil in order to survive. The fight against tyranny in Iraq witnessed incredible heroism that is yet unacknowledged. Tens of thousands of men and women chose an honorable way to go, or simply refused to break. For all the ink that's been spilled on the Iraq story, it is shameful that so many in the West still don't know the story of Iraq's struggle against a horrible totalitarian dictatorship. I'm always disgusted when high level Ba'athists being denied their pensions engender more sympathy in a U.S. news feature than a mother whose five sons were executed by the Ba'athist regime. This is partly the fault of Iraq's current leadership that have failed to bring this story to the world's attention.

Nations with historical amnesia will never let go of past hurts; look at the Turks, Armenians and Kurds today.

So as Chemical Ali deservingly ambles up to the gallows for the crimes of the Anfal Campaign, I ask President Talabani to publicly apologize for Pisht Aashan, and to set the historical record straight.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 2

Today’s excerpts come from the October 10th and the and the October 15th issues of Al-Akhbar.



Q: Tell us in detail all your observations and recollections since the first moment you received instructions to meet Ahmed Abu Ades until the last moment you saw Ahmed Abu Ades?

A: I hadn’t heard any information about Ahmed Abu Ades’ arrival to Syria until Tuesday, the date of which I don’t remember, actually I think it was 18/1/2005 and specifically in the evening, until Khalid al-Taha arrived in Damascus, to Merjeh Square, and I had received a phone call from Jamil on my mobile number that I don’t remember, whereby Jamil told me that Khalid al-Taha is due to arrive and he will discuss a certain topic with me which [Jamil] did not mention on the phone, which is what we do usually when calling each other. And verily, Khalid al-Taha got to Merjeh Square and I was waiting for him near the Victoria Cinema and the flyover.
Khalid arrived alone, and he greeted me, and told me that Jamil says that we are to receive a person coming from Lebanon the next day, and who I would have to administer to the security seminar that I give to the guys. We agreed to meet at noon on Wednesday, the next day, in Merjeh Square near the Khayyam Hotel. Then Khalid al-Taha left and I returned to my apartment in Damascus, in the Mezzeh neighborhood.
The next day, at [2:30 PM], I took a ‘service’ to [somewhere] near the Khayyam Hotel. I met Khalid there and he was wearing black jeans and a bright blue shirt. Me and Khalid conducted a surveillance check as we usually do when meeting in public streets, that is when meeting members of our group. At [3 PM], a Syrian taxi, it was yellow I think, and a compact make, stopped before it reached us, and two persons got out who approached us. I understood that the other person is the smuggler who transported Ahmed Abu Ades, and Khalid introduced me to the newcomer without giving his name, and that this is the person we are supposed to meet, and then the smuggler left us on foot. I should add that the smuggler did not get any money from us and neither I nor Khalid knew him and it is possible that Ahmed Abu Ades was the one who pointed us out to the smuggler because [Abu Ades] already knows Khalid al-Taha; Khalid told me that he was the one who had vouched for this person, that is Ahmed Abu Ades; the three of us took a Syrian Iranian-made Sapa taxi.
Me and Ahmed Abu Ades sat in the back, while Khalid sat in the front seat next to the driver, and we took this taxi without previously knowing the driver; we were in the car for about 15 minutes for the trip from Khayyam Hotel to the Rukn al-Din neighborhood. Khalid paid the taxi fare which was 35 Syrian Lira, and he was the one who gave the driver directions to the guest house. It was a white building, with an elevator, and the apartment was on the second floor, and it was the first time that I had been taken to this guest house. We got to the door of the guest house, that had a wooden door white in color, Khalid rang the bell, and the door was opened to us by he who is known as Shakir, and I knew Shakir from before since he was the one who rented apartments for us and managed the guest houses.
We entered the apartment which consists of three rooms and a salon, and it has floor coverings and mattresses (approximately six) and two brown-colored plastic chairs. We sat in one of the rooms furthermost from the door of the apartment, and we sat on the mattresses all four of us. I introduced myself to him with the name Tariq and told him that I will be the one administering the security seminar; later on Shakir went downstairs and bought some [rotisserie] chicken and we had dinner the four of us around 7 in the evening.
I left the guest house and went to my apartment in Mezzeh. Shakir also left to get breakfast supplies for the next morning, and came back and slept in the apartment. I was to return in the morning to commence giving the seminar to Ahmed Abu Ades who I had not known his name or alias to that point.


Q: We ask you to give us your testimony in the fullest and truest details, since we have managed through our searches and investigations over a period of months to prepare a study encompassing photographs of individuals, and correlating phone calls with geographical movements, and conclusions from previous investigations, in addition to detaining persons currently in our custody, which we shall show you; and we ask you to answer all these questions?

A: After Ahmed Abu Ades arrived to the guest house in the Rukn al-Din neighborhood, as I told you in my statement, and after we had had dinner in the apartment, me and Ahmed Abu Ades and Khalid al-Taha and Shakir, I left to sleep in my apartment and I returned in the morning at around 7, where I found Shakir and Ahmed Abu Ades and Khalid al-Taha. I began to give Ahmed Abu Ades the lessons of the security seminar, and this lasted until the afternoon. As such the first day of the seminar was over. We had food and we sat to chat.
Meanwhile Khalid had left to Homs to meet Jamil. This situation lasted for three days, and I had moved to live in the guest house, that is I began to sleep there with Shakir and Ahmed Abu Ades.
The seminar ended after four days when Khalid al-Taha returned from Homs, and he had black clothing with him and the cloth banner with the writing on it that appeared later behind Ahmed Abu Ades in the video film, when he declared the Hariri assassination and took credit for it. He also brought with him a Sony video camera, and Khalid al-Taha sat alone with Ahmed Abu Ades, and I think he was preparing him psychologically for the filming, and teaching him what to say. The Khalid al-Taha sat with us and told us that an order for an assassination had been issued, and that we must film that.
We began to prepare a room to film the tape. We picked an appropriate room, and it was the room where I gave the lessons, then we ate and talked between the four of us, and then we went to sleep.
On the next day, that is 24/1/2005, we woke up late. We ate, then we entered me and Khalid and Shakir to the lessons room, while Ahmed Abu Ades entered a different room, and I think he was writing parts of the statement. We had moved a wooden table to the lessons room, and had it covered with black sheets, and we put it on the wall using small black nails from the top left and right hand sides, and we put a plastic chair (brown color) behind the table, thus the room was ready for filming. We locked the door of the room after we left it, and we entered a different room. Meanwhile Khalid al-Taha received the clothes and the white turban and the paper that contain parts of the speech, which he had gotten from Jamil.
Later Ahmed Abu Ades wore the black clothes and the turban, and we entered the room where he sat behind the table and we performed a test run and filmed it. The filming wasn’t good the first time around, then we tried again for a second time on the next day. During the filming, Ahmed Abu Ades coughed, so we decided not to use this film. We stopped filming for that day, and the four of us stayed in the guest house, we didn’t leave it and no one visited us. Khalid was instructing Ahmed Abu Ades about the filming. On the third morning, we began to film, and Shakir was holding the camera, and me and Khalid were standing next to him, me on the right and Khalid on the left.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 1

I decided to translate the roller-coaster testimony made by Faisal Akbar—the Saudi citizen (...we think) who first confessed to a role in the Hariri assassination after he was arrested in January 2006 but then retracted his statement—which was published in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar over the last week.

It’s a lot of material, so I am dividing it up into four parts. This is a fascinating window into jihadist tradecraft that we don’t usually see in such open-source detail, and it should be of value to analysts interested in jihadism and related security issues. This is not the generic material in jihadists manuals, this is the real stuff.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2. I tried to adhere as much as possible to the original Arabic so that the tone and wording is not lost in translation. This makes it a bit of a clunky read.

This first translated chunk appeared in Al-Akhbar on October 10, 2007, under the byline of Fida’ ‘Itani.



[My name is] Faisal Asa’ad Hashim Hussein Akber; mother is Sheikha Hussein Ali Al-Hussein; born in the Eastern [Province] in Saudi Arabia in 1397 A.H., that is 1976 AD. I use a forged Saudi passport under the name Fahed Muhammad Hassan Al-Khadim al-Yamani, mother’s name Fatima. I also use a Syria identification card in the name (Faris Waleed) Abdel-Ghani Waleed Faris, mother’s name Khulood, born 1978, Syrian. I also use a special permit for Palestinians issued by the Lebanese Ministry of Interior in the name Hassan Nassir ‘Isa, mother’s name Hamida, born 1972, Sidon, Palestinian. I currently live in Beirut, the Ramla al-Beidha neighborhood, the Shati’ al-Dhahabi Building, 10th Floor, my Lebanese numbers are 03/938610 and 70941510, and I live in other apartments in Beirut, in Al-Besta al-Tahta, and two apartments on Tariq Jdeideh and Ain al-Rummaneh and al-Oza’i. I previously resided in Syria, in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, and at different addresses. I have a Syrian cell phone, but I don’t know its number, and it is in your possession. My address in [Saudi Arabia] is the Eastern [Province], Ras Tanoura City. I left [Saudi Arabia] seven years ago, my no. there is 0096636672750, Saudi citizen, I lost my Saudi passport in Afghanistan in 2001. I hold a university degree in the principles of religion from the Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Qasim, and I am single. Unemployed. A mujahid in the Al-Qaeda organization.


“You approached me in the ‘Ain al-Rummaneh neighborhood, in the street in front of the Sumood Building, near the Al-Huda school, you declared your official identity and the purpose of your coming. Then you insulted me, and did not find any contraband on me, and you confiscated my two cell phone and memory flash disks and my personal diary. You brought me to your headquarters, and continued taking the calls to my phones, and you arrested those who called me and who are known by me, then I showed you to the apartment that I use in Beirut, then you informed me of my right to make a phone call and to see an attorney and to undergo medical examination, and I am ready to answer your questions. Furthermore, nothing was lost or damaged or went missing of my belongings as a result of the arrest and the search, which occurred over several phases.

Q: What are the aliases that you have used for yourself and why did you use them and under what circumstances?

A: I used many aliases, of which I remember Tariq and Rani and Abu Suleiman and Salih and Fahed and Faris and Abdul-Ghani and Hassan and Al-Sheikh. And I used these aliases for security work, to disguise [myself] and not to reveal my real identity.

Q: We found on you a forged Saudi passport and a Palestinian identification [card] and a Syrian identification [card] and other papers all of them forged with different names but carrying your picture. In addition, you have told us that your real identity is Faisal Akbar, Saudi citizen, and that you had lost your original identification [card] in Afghanistan, and that you had resided in Syria, and were arrested in Lebanon?

A: I will tell you that I left my home in 1999 from Saudi Arabia and headed to Afghanistan with the purpose of [joining the] jihad, where I pledged allegiance to Sheikh Osama Bin Laden since I was a Salafist by creed. I participated in the fighting alongside the Taliban against the forces of Ahmad Shah Masoud, of course that after undergoing many military courses in the organization I belong to.

Q: Who is Jamil?

A: Jamil is a Syrian youth, approximately 27 years of age, an official in Al-Qaeda in the Levant.

Q: Didn’t this Jamil, who you mentioned, get pursued in Syria [by the authorities there]?

A: Yes, Jamil was pursued, but he was not found.

Q: Why didn’t he head to Lebanon as you and your comrades did?

A: Jamil stayed in Syria so that the organization would continue to have a presence there, and to follow-up on some matters.

Q: Tell us about the roles of your comrades who are with you in Lebanon, especially since we found two military pistols and a hand grenade and a mask and many other materials that we exhibit in front of you and which were confiscated from the Ramleh al-Beida apartment?

A: I will tell you that Marwan opened our organization’s electronic mail, and renting houses for us in Lebanon. As for Nidhal, he is a mujahid who was being pursued and he managed to arrive to Lebanon. Samer and Wasim are two mujahids from Lebanon. As for the doctor, he is our group’s doctor who was arrested with us, he was our personal physician, and he was pursued too. And you arrested Sheikh Rashid along with the doctor, and he is the head of our group, and the rest are pursued members whom we housed in our apartments to protect them, and there are others who have not been arrested. And they are in other areas of Lebanon, such as Faraj and Dani and Jalal and Nour, and all these aforementioned use aliases, so these are not their real names.

Q: Give us the identities of these persons whom you mentioned by their aliases, and we will show you pictures and personal identification [cards] for those who are in our [custody]?

A: After seeing the pictures in your possession, I can say that the doctor is Tariq al-Nasser, and that Jawher is Faysal Hassan, and that Nidhal is Jamal al-Babily, and that Sheikh Rashid is Hussam Mneimneh, and that Marwan is Hani al-Shenti, and that Samer is Amer Hallaq, and that Wasim is Salim Halimeh, and that Nour is Khalid Taha, and that Jalal—also known by the name Ramadhan—is Bilal Za’aroureh, and he who is known as Abdullah is Ziyad Ramadhan, and let it be known that all those who are in your custody were given forged identification cards through a man known by Murad, who is a Syrian and whose real identity I do not know, and his specialty is forgery and montage.

Q: According to our information, there is an activist who resided in Syria, who is called Sheikh Rashid, who used to head the organization in Syria, and testimonies were recorded saying that those who left Lebanon to fight in Iraq would pledge allegiance to this Sheikh Rashid. Is the aforementioned the same person who is in our custody, who we detained when he tried to call you under normal circumstances?

A: The person you arrested while he was trying to call me from a call center in front of Mazin Pharmacy, and this is a pre-agreed upon place that we call “maram”, is the same Sheikh Rashid who [others pledge allegiance to], and he is also known as Al-Sheikh or Muayyad or with other names that he used during his three year stay in Syria. But the Levant means Syria and Lebanon, so all the mujaheddin coming from Lebanon would pledge allegiance to the Emir in the Levant. Most of those who came from Lebanon would pledge allegiance to Sheikh Rashid, and in some other instances would pledge allegiance to Jamil or Nabil. I want to add that I do not know the full identities of Jamil or Nabil, and I do not confirm to you that Husam Mneinmeh is the real name of Sheikh Rashid, because we do not reveal our real names to each other for security reasons.
I do not know Jamil’s current whereabouts, and he is hiding in Syria, and I spoke to him last from a pay phone in the Verdun neighborhood, which I can lead you to, and his number was 096710528 and it was in the evening time, and that was two days before I was arrested, that is Saturday December 31, 2005. As for Nabil he was martyred in Iraq seven months ago in the city of Al-Qaim when he resisted an American airborne raid there.

Q: You told us that Nabil was who [others would pledge allegiance to], so how is it that he moves to join the fighting in Iraq while the rest of the Emirs who [others pledge allegiance to] don’t?

A: Nabil went to Iraq to fight due to a request from Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi. In such a case, orders are not rejected. He was informed of this by Sheikh Rashid.

Q: Tell us about the stages that you’ve witnessed concerning the movement of fighters from Lebanon via Syria to Iraq, by way of procedures?

A: Usually, the mujaheddin from Lebanon are received after they have been vouched for from persons who are already members in the group, and they are activists who have already pledged allegiance, and they are trustworthy. After someone arrives from Lebanon, he is received in Syria, and is taken to a place that we call a ‘madhafeh’ [guest house], without letting him know the route or address, and they procedures are called ‘secure transfer’. Then this person usually undergoes a security seminar, and if the reasons for an immediate transfer to Iraq are satisfied, then he is transferred. And if he isn’t transferred to Iraq, then he remains at the guest house until there is an opportunity to get him into Iraq. During this time, he pledges allegiance to the Emir, which binds him to working with the group. I should add that it the right of a mujahid to stipulate during his pledge of allegiance whether he would be a fighter or a suicide bomber, or to stipulate that he is only to fight the Americans, or to set any conditions that the mujahid may want.

Q: Tell us more about pledging allegiance, inform us is there a way to break one’s pledge, and do you have firsthand experience with anyone who has?

A: Yes, [one can] break the pledge, and that in only specific cases, such as when one of the conditions that were set are not met. As such the pledge is broken and the mujahid is liberated from the pact of allegiance. And this happened with Samer and Wasim.
The approved wording of the pledge is: أبايعك على السمع والطاعة في المنبسط والمكره

Q: After we showed you one of our photographs, you identified Khalid Taha, who you stressed was known to you as Nour, and before that by another name. Do you know where Khalid is now, and when did you last see him or talk to him?

A: After perusing the photograph in your possession, and it is a color photograph of Nour who was previously known by the name Badr, I learnt from you that his name is Khalid Taha, and he was the one who vouched for many of mujaheddin who came from Lebanon. The last time I saw him was 13 days ago in the Corniche Al-Mazra’a neighborhood near the Abdel-Nassir Mosque, and I took him to the Al-Oza’i Mosque, and delivered him to a man named Ali, who transferred him with a man named Murad to the Ain al-Helwah [Palestinian Refugee] Camp to hide there.

Q: Were you in regular contact with Khalid Taha, that is Nour, before the time you are telling us about?

A: Khalid Taha was throughout this last period in Syria with he who is known as Jamil. But after the security sweeps that were conducted by the Syrian security services, he escaped to Lebanon with Jalal towards the end of December 2005. He stayed at the Ain Rummaneh apartment with he who is known as Jalal, that is Bilal Za’aroureh, at Marwan’s, that is Hani al-Shenti, for three days. I received him from Hani in front of the Abdel-Nassir Mosque, and I delivered him to Ali with Murad who was in the Al-Bastah apartment, and Ali got them moved to the Ain al-Helwah Camp. After about four days, I received from Hani al-Shenti he who is known as Jalal and also Ramadhan, in front of the Abdel-Nassir Mosque and I took him to Kheldeh after the bridge near the Bata stores, where Ali arrived and received from me Bilal Za’aroureh and he moved him with two Syrian individuals named Abi al-Rou’a and Ahmad who had stayed in the Al-Oza’i apartment with Nidhal who is currently detained by you. The three of them were moved in Ali’s car to Ain al-Helwah Camp to hide there, per Rashid’s instructions.

Q: Who is Ali, how did you meet him, and since when have you known him?

A: Ali is his alias, I don’t know his real name. He is a Palestinian youth, about 27, from the people of the Ain al-Helwah Camp, and he works for Usbet al-Ansar. Appearance: stout, tall, black fine hair, combs his hair back, thin beard and mustache, wears jeans and sneakers. I saw him for the first time when he arrived to pick-up Khalid Taha and Murad, and I saw him next when he received Bilal Za’aroureh, Abul Rou’a and Ahmed from me. I met him for the first time per Jamil’s instructions from Syria, and I didn’t know him before. Jamil gave me his description and the place where he will arrive in front of the Al-Oza’i Mosque. I will specify to you that Jamil told me that Ali will wait for me in that neighborhood by standing in the street and carrying a small nylon bag with a unique pink color. And so it was: when I arrived in front of the Al-Oza’i Mosque, I saw a young man with such a description, carrying a small pink bag. I approached him and asked him: “Ali?” He answered: “Yes.” Then I delivered Khalid Taha and Murad to him and he left. I met him for the second time as I already told you.

Q: At both times when you delivered Khalid Taha and his companion, and in the second time when you delivered Bilal Za’aroureh and his two companions, tell us what each of them was carrying?

A: In both cases the guys were carrying their bags or nylon bags containing their personal items. Khalid Taha too his personal HP computer on the first time, and at the second time Bilal Za’aroureh took his personal Toshiba computer.

Q: Were Khalid Taha and Bilal Za’aroureh hidden away at the camp based on orders?

A: Yes, the order to hide Khalid al-Taha and Bilal Za’aroureh in the Ain al-Helwah Camp came from Rashid. Jamil coordinated with his acquaintances in the camp to hide them there. As for Murad and Abul Rou’a and Ahmad, they are wanted in Syria, and an order to hide them in the camp was also issued. Usually, an order would arrive for the youth to hide if they meet a security problem, and when the route was open from Syria to Iraq, they would be asked to move to Iraq. But lately, and since the route to Iraq has been closed and security sweeps continue in Syria, the move has been to Lebanon. This is what happened to me and Sheikh Rashid and the other guys like the doctor and others.

Q: Was any order issued to Hani al-Shenti, who is known as Marwan, or to anyone else, to hide and not show up at our headquarters when instructed to do so by us? Who issued the order and to whom?

A: The orders were issued by Jamil and Rashid when they were in Syria, and I was still there, to Marwan, that is Hani al-Shenti, to hide and not to go to the security HQ so as not to take his statement and detain him. This was told to me lately by Hani al-Shenti while I was in Beirut. Wasim and Samer, that is Amer al-Hallaq and Selim Halim[a], had hid at Hani’s in the Al-Besta apartment in expectation that they may be called to any security body in Lebanon, and that is to make sure that what information they know about the activities of the group are not divulged.

Q: Do you know a person called Ziyad Ramadhan, especially since you know Khalid Taha and Hani al-Shenti and Amer al-Hallaq and Selim Halima and Bilal Za’aroureh and others who know this Ziyad character?

A: I have never made the acquaintance of Ziyad Ramadhan, but I had heard about him when I came to Lebanon. I found out that he used to be called Abdullah, and he used to know Amer al-Hallaq and Selim Halima, as I was told by Amer and Selim, and that he used to know Khalid Taha according to what they said.

Q: How did you mention this topic?

A: During my recent stay in Lebanon, Amer and Selim told me that they are hiding because they knew Ziyad Ramadhan, and that they are worried to be called in for questioning, and in this course we talked about the details.

Q: What ties together the individuals in your statement, and when did you meet them?

A: I met Khalid Taha, who was initially known as Badr, two years ago approximately from what I recollect, when he came to Syria and underwent a security seminar that I administered to him in the city of Aleppo. Later he met Nabil and Rashid in that order to give his allegiance, and then Khalid Taha began to recruit the brothers to work with us. Thus arrived Abu Turab who I gave a security seminar to like the rest of the brothers, then Nour, that is Khalid Taha, took him to pledge allegiance to Rashid, and then Marwan, that is Hani al-Shenti, arrived after being vouched for by Khalid Taha, and also underwent my security seminar, and then gave his allegiance to Rashid. Hani vouched for Amer Hallaq and Selim Halima who came to Aleppo and took the security seminar, and then pledged allegiance to Rashid or Nabil. Amer arrived before Selim by two months as far as I remember, and the last person who arrived to pledge allegiance and to take the security seminar was Jalal, that is Bilal Za’aroureh, and that is after Samer and Halim. A while after that the security sweeps began in Syria so we moved to Lebanon and Jamil stayed back and Nabil was martyred in Iraq.

Q: You mentioned Abu Turab to us. Can you remember his appearance or will you recognize him if you see a photograph of him. Do you know his identity?

A: Yes I know the description of Abu Turab because after undergoing my security seminar he was taken by Khalid Taha to Nabil and Rashid to pledge his allegiance, and he is the same person who appeared on TV on 14/2/2005 and read the statement taking credit for the Rafiq Hariri assassination. Khalid Taha told me that his name is Ahmed Abu Ades.

Q: Is this the reason why Khalid Taha and Hani al-Shenti and the others went into hiding after we started looking for them?

A: A week after the assassination, Khalid Taha disappeared and he was not seen, as was usual, at our guest houses. I think he changed his alias from Badr to Nour in that period as far as I remember.

Q: When did Ahmed Abu Ades arrive in Syria, and through whom did you meet him and conduct the seminar that you mentioned?

A: I remember that Ahmed Abu Ades who is known as Abu Turab came to Syria in the beginning of 2005, in [January] of that year. I went to Damascus at the time, where I met him there. With me was Khalid al-Taha. Ahmed Abu Ades traveled with the smuggler that we deal with whose name is Ahmed and he is from the town of Majdel Anjar.

Q: How were you informed that Ahmed Abu Ades had arrived in Damascus, and how did you identify him, and was this the first time you see him or had you seen him before?

A: I had never met him before this time, and Khalid Taha told me that Abu Turab had arrived, and Khalid al-Taha came with me because he knew him, and we met him in Merjeh Square in Damascus whereby the smuggler handed him over to Khalid, and then the smuggler, Ahmed, left us, and Khalid, Ahmed Abu Ades and I took a taxi to a guest house in Damascus, in the Rukn al-Din neighborhood. Abu Ades spent a week there approximately, and then Khalid al-Taha took him to meet Nabil and Sheikh Rashid.

Q: Is it usual for you to personally receive arrivals from Lebanon?

A: No, usually I never receive a person coming from Lebanon in the street, and usually the person comes to the guest house where the seminars are administered.

Q: Then why was it in the Ahmed Abu Ades case that you traveled to meet him?

A: Nabil and Rashid gave me orders to go personally and receive Ahmed Abu Ades.

Q: Why this uniqueness?

A: At the beginning it was not clear to me.

Q: What became clear to you after that, and how did you justify their request of you to personally receive and accompany him?

A: Later, when Abu Ades was shown on TV, I understood the importance of receiving him because he pulled off the operation.

Q: Why are you giving information, which if true could show your culpability and your possession of further details. We advise you to answer in all truthfulness and objectivity and clarity, and to tell all the minutest details about your meeting with Ahmed Abu Ades?

A: After you detained me and detained Sheikh Rashid and members of the group, I could not hide the information that I knew about Ahmed Abu Ades and other details that we know about me and Khalid Taha and Sheikh Rashid. Therefore I will tell you with all honesty and detachment my knowledge of my meeting with Abu Ades and what happened between us.

Q: Are you undergoing any coercion or guidance, and are you giving your statement for some [unknown] purpose, or are you giving your statement in all honesty?

A: I am giving my testimony with my full consent, and without any pressure or any hints. I am telling the truth as it is.
No, I have no more to say, and this is my statement.

[The statement was read back to him, he confirmed it and signed it along with us.]

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Column: Lebanese Malaise

My new column today is about the Lebanese presidential elections; I suggest that Lebanon can live without electing a president for now.

Friday, October 12, 2007

George Packer is a phony

Both Fouad Ajami and George Packer made an appearance across from each other on the Charlie Rose Show on September 13. Ajami, who has been logging in the hours trying to get a clearer story out of Iraq, sounded far more authoritative on the topic than Packer. A week later, Packer used his pulpit at the New Yorker to punch holes into Ajami’s credibility by castigating him, in effect, as a Shiite nationalist.

With Ajami, something else is at work. Of Lebanese Shiite origin, he has a deep knowledge of Middle Eastern politics…This isn’t a case of the normal heartlessness of abstract thought. The Journal piece, along with his recent work in The New Republic, make it clear that Ajami has taken sides in Iraq, and that his pleasure comes from his sense that his side is winning…But Ajami is already declaring victory, because it turns out that he has a different idea altogether: Shiite Arab power.
But there was one little-noticed moment in that TV interview (begins 11 minutes into the linked video) that should speak volumes about Packer’s own credibility: Charlie Rose mistakenly introduced both speakers “both of you were recently in Iraq.” That’s true for Ajami, but not for Packer who hasn’t been to Iraq in a very long while. Yet Packer did not correct Rose and allowed that badge of authenticity—doing one’s homework and seriously reporting the story by going to Iraq—to stand.

Let’s just say that when it comes to psychoanalyzing the motivations and opinions of others, Packer is credibility-challenged. Case in point is his book, The Assassins’ Gate (2005), which rehashes third-hand gossip about individuals involved in the Iraq War from sources whose affiliations (…or sectarian backgrounds) are not clarified in the least.

It’s a low blow at Ajami, much like denouncing American Jews as closet spies for Israel. But Packer, and other hand-wringers, belong to a style of journalism that places more value on getting invited to hip Manhattan cocktail parties (…everyone knows that Bush-hating sophisticates have more fun) than reporting the facts.

George Packer owes us full genealogical disclosure up to his 11th great-grandfather (…both paternal and maternal), for we have no way of understanding his opinions and where he’s coming from unless we know all there is to know about his ancestry. I wonder how many times his ancestors changed their stripes to stay within the good graces of the mainstream… Marranos? Doenme? Bogomils? Maybe they were Shiites! One standing accusation against Shiites is their use of taqiyya, dissembling one’s faith so as not to be controversial…

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Zarqawi Killed Hariri

A more cautious and sensible approach would have phrased the title as ‘Did Zarqawi Kill Hariri?’ But something I read today has compelled me to throw caution to the wind.

Yesterday, the Hezbollah-friendly Lebanese daily, Al-Akhbar, began to publish the initial sworn testimonies of the Al-Qaeda-related cell members who were arrested in Lebanon during January 2006. The details broadly follow the narrative that was released in April 2007, and which I had translated here. Kindly follow that last link to get the whole background to what follows.

The timing of Al-Akhbar’s “scoop” is hardly surprising: these revelations aim to further muddy the political waters as the Lebanese inch closer towards the looming deadline for choosing a new president—an issue of much contention between the Hariri and Hezbollah blocs.

However, there are two new revelations in Al-Akhbar’s stories: the first is that Faisal Akbar’s nationality is reaffirmed as a Saudi rather than a Syrian. The second—this blew my mind—is the mention in two sets of affidavits of a character called ‘Nabil’.

Both Faisal Akbar and Hani al-Shenti mention ‘Nabil’ as a high-level member of their cell who was killed in Iraq in the summer of 2005. Al-Shenti adds that ‘Nabil’ was also known as ‘Abul Ghadieh’.

This would make him ‘Abul Ghadieh Al-Souri’, the pseudonym of Khalid Suleiman Darwish, who was killed in the town of Al-Qaim on the Iraqi-Syrian border during June 2005 in an American airstrike, and who was later eulogized by Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi.

Abul Ghadieh was a veteran of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. He was a dentist by profession. It seems that he relocated to Jordan in the 1980s where he married a Palestinian-Jordanian lady. He joined Zarqawi in the Herat camp in Afghanistan in early 2000, and was instrumental in building-up the Zarqawi network in Iraq. In many ways, there would have not been a Zarqawi had it not been for Abul Ghadieh.

This is the first time whereby Abul Ghadieh is being publicly linked to the Al-Qaeda cell that allegedly had some role in assassinating Hariri. This would mean that someone like Ahmed Abu Ades, who was shown in a video taking credit for the Hariri assassination on behalf of this cell, was not linked to second or third tier flunkies in the Zarqawi network, but was rather linked directly to Zarqawi’s right-hand man—Abu Ghadieh!

Abul Ghadieh was killed four months after Hariri was assassinated.

I had speculated back in January 2006 about a possible role for Abul Ghadieh:

Interested parries should also look into a possible role, if any, for Syrian terrorist Abul Ghadieh Al-Souri, another Zarqawi aide killed in June 2005. I'd wager that the multi-talented Al-Souri was the mastermind behind establishing Al-Qaeda's recruiting/funding/operations network in Lebanon and Syria.

This new information about Abul Ghadieh’s alleged role lends further credibility to Al-Qaeda’s culpability in assassinating Hariri: such an operation would have had to be micro-managed from the very top of Zarqawi’s network, and Abul Ghadieh would fit such a bill.

I now find that this idea—that Zarqawi was directly involved in killing Hariri—very convincing. Surely, I will get plenty of flak for this statement from those whose are wedded to allegation that the Syrian regime was behind the assassination. Maybe Syria controlled Abul Ghadieh? Who knows? But as far as I’m concerned, the “Whodunnit?” part of the murder mystery—the smoking gun and the finger on the trigger—has traveled a great distance towards being solved with today’s revelation about Abul Ghadieh’s role in all this. Who provided the gun and pointed to Hariri is a whole different mystery.

But then again, I’m of the opinion that the Zarqawi network represents a completely new paradigm for Islamist terrorism because it is fully independent of state sponsorship and/or guidance. There is currently a raging debate among intelligence and analytical circles on whether that is true or false.

I should also mention that Ahmad Fetfet, Lebanon's current Minister of Youth who was also the acting Minister of Interior during the period when the Al-Qaeda cell was being interrogated by the Internal Security Apparatus that fell under his jurisdiction at the time, vehemently dismissed any link between this cell and the Hariri assassination as a journalistic fabrication when I met him at the Grand Serrail in Beirut last July. So that's what the Hariri side is likely to say in response to Al-Akhbar's reporting.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Naziha al-Dulaimi, 1923-2007

Naziha Jawdet Ashgah al-Dulaimi, the first woman to occupy a cabinet position in the Arab Middle East, passed away this morning in Berlin at the age of 84, after battling the effects of a debilitating stroke for several years.

Al-Dulaimi, whose grandfather had left Anbar Province and settled in Baghdad in the late 19th century, was born in 1923, and graduated as a medical doctor in 1941. She joined the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) in 1948, and spent the 1950s researching and eradicating the indigenous Bejel bacteria in southern Iraq.

After the monarchy was overthrown, she was picked by President Abdel-Karim Qasim as Minister of Municipalities in the 1959 cabinet as the sole representative of the ICP in his republican government. She later assumed the post of State Minister in a later cabinet formation.

During her government career, al-Dulaimi was instrumental in turning the vast slums of eastern Baghdad into a massive public works and housing project that came to be known as Thawra (Revolution) City—now Sadr City. She also helped author the secular 1959 Civil Affairs Law, which was way ahead of its time in liberalizing marriage and inheritance laws to the advantage of Iraqi women.

Al-Dulaimi is to be buried in Suleimaniya, per her wishes for a final resting place in Iraq. She is survived by her brother Hisham al-Delaimi (in Suleimaniya) and a number of nephews and nieces, the eldest being Dr. Layth Lutfi al-Delaimi (in London). Family memorial services will be held in London, Berlin and Suleimaniya.

I wonder what the amphetamines-popping Mahdi Army thugs of Sadr City would make of this remarkable woman—a Sunni, secular woman with roots in Anbar Province—who had cured and housed their grandfathers and grandmothers.

I also wonder how the Delaimis—both of the Ba’athist and jihadist varieties—would choose to remember the legacy of Dr. Naziha, a liberal and a leftist who was one of their own.