Captured Suspect Had Letter for Al Qaeda Leaders

By John D. Banusiewicz

Saying it illustrates a calculated effort by foreign terrorists to derail democracy in Iraq, coalition and Iraqi officials in Baghdad earlier released a 17-page letter intended for al Qaeda leaders that a courier was carrying when he was captured last month.

Officials have described and characterized the letter in previous news briefings this week, but released a transcript in Arabic and a key-point English translation to reporters at the briefing.

Analysts have determined that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian believed to be behind various terrorist acts in Iraq, wrote the letter to seek help from al Qaeda’s top leadership in stirring up violence among Iraq’s ethnic groups. This way, they say, he hoped to quash the country’s progress toward stability and democratic self-government.

The coalition today doubled to $10 million the bounty it will pay for information leading to Zarqawi’s death or capture.

Dan Senor, senior spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, said the letter lays out a plan for provoking civil war in Iraq. It warned al Qaeda leaders that foreign fighters will lose their pretext for waging terror in Iraq if the Iraqi people take effective control of their country.

Senor said the letter also provides a blueprint for how the terror strategy will fail. "It is very clear it will fail if we continue to ramp up the number of Iraqis serving in security services," he said. "It is very clear that the terror strategy will fail if America continues to show (the) resolve the coalition has demonstrated over the past 10 months. And the terror strategy will fail if we hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30, as outlined in the Nov. 15 political agreement."

The fact that the Zarqawi letter specifically references that time frame, Senor continued, underscores that elements associated with al Qaeda feel threatened by the prospect of a sovereign, democratic Iraq.

An "encouraging detail" in the letter, Senor said, is Zarqawi’s frustration at his inability to find many Iraqi sympathizers, who he wrote are "as rare as red sulphur."

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, said releasing the letter lays out Zarqawi’s plans for terror in Iraq for all to see. This, he said, will increase awareness that foreign terrorists are operating in Iraq and will encourage vigilance among the Iraqi people Furthermore, it will enhance the likelihood that Iraqi citizens will recognize terrorists for what they are and turn them in.

Mohsen Abdul Hamid, current holder of the Iraqi Governing Council’s rotating presidency, joined Senor and Kimmitt at the coalition headquarters podium for the briefing. He said the Iraqi people have a message for the terrorists who in the past two days have targeted Iraqi army and police recruits with car bombs, killing 100 people.

"Let there be no doubt that we are going ahead with our plans to regain sovereignty and establish democracy," Hamid said. "Our determination to proceed with our plans is undiminished. Our people are united behind us. The (United Nations) and all peace-loving people are also with us, and these acts of cowardice will not succeed."

It’s clear what the terrorists are trying to do, and that the Iraqi people won’t let it happen, Hamid said.

"Obviously, Zarqawi is betting on Iraqis fighting each other," he said. "But this is not going to happen. We are all one nation."

Hamid cited the September assassination of Shiia cleric Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim as a previous failed attempt to turn Iraqi against Iraqi, perpetrated in the hope that Shiia Iraqis would blame another ethnic group and retaliate. "In fact, the people of Iraq were united when a Shiia leader was assassinated," he said.

Kimmitt said intelligence is the "coin of the realm" for precise operations by coalition military and Iraqi security forces that kill or capture foreign terrorists and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime. One goal of releasing the Zarqawi letter, he said, is that with the terror plan and the terrorists’ sinister intents laid bare, even more information will surface that brings the country closer to security and stability.