Sunday, October 07, 2007

Suicide for hire

Ahmed. That was the nom de guerre of the first of several characters featured in a London Times story today detailing the suicide bomber pipeline between insurgents in Damascus and Iraq.

Since these interviews don't happen without a reason we have to assume they wanted some propaganda passed along. While we can't trust much from a terrorist there are sometimes a few nuggets of enlightenment as to the nature of the enemy, especially in context with recent reports about Syria's role. Here's my take:
The young man calls himself Ahmed. He is 23 and he has a degree in chemistry. He knows all about explosives.
Yet another educated terrorist.
His network includes the imams who drum up the volunteers and forgers who create new identities for their journey across the 390-mile border with Iraq. Then there are the officials he bribes to turn a blind eye, and insurgent groups ranging from the pan-Arab, fundamentalist Al-Qaeda in Iraq to the Iraqi nationalist 1920 Revolution Brigade, started by former members of Saddam’s armed forces.
Both are stocked with former regime members. It's interesting they didn't mention the Islamic State of Iraq, which has few. OK, moving on to another character now:
Abu Ziad appears to receive no help from the Syrian authorities,
Yes, but admitting such could be a tad problematic, eh? Let's remember these people were likely cleared to speak by handlers and providing a direct link to Assad would be a quick trip to meet Allah, no doubt. Back to Ahmed:
Ahmed is an Iraqi whose small, dark eyes reflect the horrors he has witnessed. He comes from a military family. While he studied for his degree in Baghdad, he served in the Fedayeen, or “Men of Sacrifice”, a paramili-tary group loyal to Saddam.
Connecting the dots could certainly lead one to an impression that the Fedayeen was stocked with fundamentalists, leading to speculation about Saddam's pre-war dabblings. But wait:
It was in prison that Ahmed first heard about suicide bombing.
Ah yes, the disclaimer. We were told Ahmed attended university in Baghdad, where Saddam allowed Palestinians to live in government housing and paid stipends to the families of their suicide bombers. So all in all not a very believable statement but it prevents that leap being made between Saddam, Islamists and the Fedayeen.
His men objected, reasoning that as their “emir”, or commander, he was too valuable to be sacrificed.
As always.
Ahmed now made his fateful decision. To show the men that he valued them as much as his own flesh and blood, he chose his brother for the attack.
How thoughtful. Sounds more like a gang initiation rather than a religious decision.
According to academics who have studied the Sunni insurgency, the main aim is not to avenge the destruction inflicted by US forces, but to broaden the sectarian divide, perpetuate the cycle of hatred and undermine confidence in the ability of the Shi’ite-led government to restore order.
Which makes Assad's balancing act all the more bizarre. He's allowed Syria to become an international terrorism bizarre bazaar where everyone amazingly "gets along", all working in harmony to disharmonize Iraq. Now on to another perp, Abu Ibrahim:
Abu Ibrahim’s radicalisation came in two stages. “I had no Islamic inclinations at the start of the war,” he said softly.
That may indeed be true but more likely propaganda, which has to be considered as the main reason to allow the interview at all. In other words we're getting to the meat, a reinforcement of the "Bush created more terrorists by invading Iraq" meme that plays into the western media quite nicely. Oh, and Saddam wasn't involved with radical Islam, which explains the following:
He described with bitterness how he witnessed the defeat of Saddam’s forces near Mosul
If indeed he "got religion" due to our shock and awe why shed tears for the apostate dictator? Seems he'd be rejoicing at the thought of the coming caliphate.
“Wahhabi tradition sees the ascendancy of Shia as [a] worse evil than occupation by infidels, because Shia are heretics and apostates,” said Hafez.
Again, this coming from someone in Syria, the main facilitator of Shi'a Hizballah. Refer back to balancing act; Arabs working together; we are the world, etc. Yet another perp:
It was the hanging of Saddam, whom he regarded as one of the greatest symbols of the Arab world, that made Sayeed resolve to become a suicide bomber
Yet, Sayeed is a Shi'ite:
Months of discussion followed with handlers in Amman before Sayeed, a Shi’ite, was admitted to the Sunni network that will smuggle him into Iraq.
In other words, this suggests a non-sectarian pan-Arabism is developing, something Saddam favored before his death. Maybe. Or maybe just evidence of classic Ba'athist manipulation. The author notes this dichotomy but doesn't expand on it.

But the past is the past--it's the future that counts. Even if Saddam was up to his neck in Islamic terrorists--even al Qaeda--it doesn't change our current predicament. We still have no effective defense against suicide attackers and we're not capable of winning if we can't engage Syria or Iran.

Many desire a retreat to Baker/Hamilton dialogue, however the problem all along has been a lack of carrots or chips to take to the table, made plain by the vulnerabilities illustrated in this story. But perhaps we've finally gained one--maybe a big one--with Israel's successful violation of Syrian (and hence Iranian) airspace. If a regional peace meeting suddenly breaks out it might be a sign.

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