- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

The U.S. military in recent weeks has seized a “huge treasure” of intelligence materials on al Qaeda in Iraq, including a revealing document in which the terror group acknowledges its own “bleak situation” caused by losses on both the public relations and war fronts.

The documents seized in the weeks leading up to the June 7 killing of Abu Musab Zarqawi also have provided intelligence that has helped direct nearly 500 allied combat operations and resulted in the killings of 104 insurgents, the U.S. command in Baghdad said yesterday.

Al Qaeda’s acknowledged failures and the military offensive have been so successful that Iraq’s national security adviser flatly predicted that Zarqawi’s group, al Qaeda in Iraq, is at “the beginning of the end.” He said all U.S. troops could be out of Iraq by 2008.

However, al Qaeda in Iraq has promised renewed attacks in retaliation for the U.S. air strike that killed Zarqawi.

Egyptian-born Abu Ayyub al-Masri — an explosives specialist also known by the alias Sheik Abu Hamza al-Muhajer — has become the leader of Zarqawi’s terror network, Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said yesterday. Al Qaeda in Iraq is thought to number in the thousands and includes suicide bombers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan and some North African countries.

“Our initial assessment is we think he will probably continue with the same tactics and techniques that Zarqawi did,” Gen. Caldwell told reporters. “There is nothing to indicate to us that he would do differently, because he has already been here in this country for almost three, four years now, and has been a part of and associated with the … killing of Iraqi civilians.”

The Baghdad command continued to give an optimistic message on Iraq, boosted by President Bush’s surprise visit this week, even as the war’s death toll for the U.S. military topped 2,500.

“We believe al Qaeda in Iraq was taken by surprise,” said Mowaffak Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser. “They did not anticipate how powerful the Iraqi security forces are and how the government is on the attack now.” He referred to the intelligence take as a “huge treasure.”

The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. commanders this week ordered a major clampdown on violence in the capital, sending more than 50,000 troops into the streets to conduct raids and patrols.

The seized al Qaeda in Iraq document released yesterday reflects discouragement by the terror group’s leadership.

“Time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance,” the documents state.

It lists a number of allied successes against the terrorist “resistance”:

• “Undertaking massive arrest operations, invading regions that have an impact on the resistance, and hence causing the resistance to lose many of its elements.”

• “Undertaking a media campaign against the resistance resulting in weakening its influence inside the country and presenting its work as harmful to the population rather than being beneficial to the population.”

• “By tightening the resistance’s financial outlets, restricting its moral options and by confiscating its ammunition and weapons.”

• “By taking advantage of the resistance’s mistakes and magnifying them in order to misinform.”

Zarqawi’s strategy, as disclosed in previously seized letters, was to spark a civil war between Sunni Muslims, who supported Saddam Hussein, and the majority Shi’ites, who now hold political power. Zarqawi did this by recruiting foreign Sunni suicide bombers to attack Shi’ite markets, schools, mosques and other public places.

The al Qaeda document said if it is to rebound from setbacks it needs to “improve the image of the resistance in society, increase the number of supporters who are refusing occupation and show the class of interest between society and the occupation and its collaborators.”

The document also said al Qaeda in Iraq needs to build its own arms industry and to “avoid mistakes that will blemish the image of the resistance.”

The group’s major goal is to get the U.S. involved in a new war, this one against the Shi’ites in Iraq and Iran, and to provoke another war between Iraqi Shi’ites and Sunni countries in the Middle East.

One option, the paper says, is to blow up targets in the West and plant evidence that the bombing was done by Iranians.

The document concludes: “Let us hope for success and for God’s help.”

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