Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How US fuelled myth of Zarqawi the mastermind

This is a old article that seems just as accurate today from the daily Telegraph (UK)

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader believed to be responsible for the abduction of Kenneth Bigley, is 'more myth than man', according to American military intelligence agents in Iraq.

Several sources said the importance of Zarqawi, blamed for many of the most spectacular acts of violence in Iraq, has been exaggerated by flawed intelligence and the Bush administration's desire to find "a villain" for the post-invasion mayhem.

US military intelligence agents in Iraq have revealed a series of botched and often tawdry dealings with unreliable sources who, in the words of one source, "told us what we wanted to hear".

"We were basically paying up to $10,000 a time to opportunists, criminals and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq," the agent said

"Back home this stuff was gratefully received and formed the basis of policy decisions. We needed a villain, someone identifiable for the public to latch on to, and we got one."

The sprawling US intelligence community is in a state of open political warfare amid conflicting pressures from election-year politics, military combat and intelligence analysis. The Bush administration has seized on Zarqawi as the principal leader of the insurgency, mastermind of the country's worst suicide bombings and the man behind the abduction of foreign hostages. He is held up as the most tangible link to Osama bin Laden and proof of the claim that the former Iraqi regime had links to al-Qa'eda.

However, fresh intelligence emerging from around Fallujah, the rebel-held city that is at the heart of the insurgency, suggests that, despite a high degree of fragmentation, the insurgency is led and dominated not by Arab foreigners but by members of Iraq's Sunni minority.

Pentagon estimates have put the number of foreign fighters in the region of 5,000. However, one agent said: "The overwhelming sense from the information we are now getting is that the number of foreign fighters does not exceed several hundred and is perhaps as low as 200. From the information we have gathered we have to conclude that Zarqawi is more myth than man. He isn't in the calibre of what many politicians want to believe he is.

"At some stage, and perhaps even now, he was almost certainly behind some of the kidnappings. But if there is a main leader of the insurgency he would be an Iraqi. The insurgency, though, is not nearly so centralised to talk of a structured leadership."

Military intelligence officials complain that their reports to Washington, are largely being ignored. They accuse the Pentagon of over-reliance on electronic surveillance and aerial and satellite reconnaissance carried out for the CIA.

Read the full article Here

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