From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
Qaeda in Iraq in Credibility Crisis Over Imaginary Political Leader
By ELI LAKE / July 19, 2007
WASHINGTON – Al Qaeda’s organization in Iraq may suffer a credibility
crisis now that American officials have learned that the head of Al
Qaeda’s shadow state in Iraq is a fiction.
Yesterday, Brigadier General Kevin Bergner said a captured senior
leader of the group – Fatah Da’ud Mahmud al-Mashadani – has confessed
that for more than a year, the Islamic State of Iraq, Al Qaeda’s
governance wing, has put forward an imaginary Iraqi named Umar al-
Baghdadi as the group’s political leader. The terror organization’s
deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, even addressed the nonexistent Mr.
Baghdadi in speeches.
But it was all a ruse, General Bergner said at a press conference
yesterday for the Arabic and American press, and the voice of Mr.
Baghdadi was actually that of an Iraqi radio actor named Abu Abdullah
al-Naima. Mr. Naima pretended to be Mr. Baghdadi and reported to the
Egyptian chief of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu-Ayub al-Masri, the American
general said, citing information gleaned during the interrogation of
Mr. Mashadani, a man described as the most senior Iraqi terrorist in
Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch.
The emergence of Umar al-Baghdadi was intended to make it appear that
Al Qaeda in Iraq was now being headed by an Iraqi – a strategic shift
for the group founded by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who hailed
from Jordan. In an October 2005 letter, Mr. Zawahri urged Zarqawi him
to include more Iraqis so as not to alienate the population.
“We don’t want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted
participation in governance to the students and the people of Kandahar
alone. They did not have any representation for the Afghan people in
their ruling regime, so the result was that the Afghan people
disengaged themselves from them,” he wrote.
General Bergner added: “Mashadani confirms that al-Masri and the
foreign leaders with whom he surrounds himself, not Iraqis, make the
operational decisions for AQI. To be clear, Al Qaeda-Iraq is run by
foreigners, not Iraqis.”
He also said yesterday that Mr. Mashadani had disclosed that many of
the operational decisions of Al Qaeda in Iraq were made by the group’s
In the psychological war with Al Qaeda, the news could be a death
knell for the organization’s aspirations to establish a branch of the
Islamic Caliphate in Iraq. And an Iraqi government official said many
Iraqis were still digesting the news.
“The tide is turning on Al Qaeda and has been for some time. But if
this story turns out, it could be a final blow,” the official said,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
The news from the capture could also help bolster Republicans in
Washington who yesterday fended off the latest efforts from Senate
Democrats to force a vote on withdrawal from Iraq.
After debating defense authorization legislation through Tuesday
evening, the majority leader, Senator Reid, a Democrat of Nevada,
withdrew the bill after he could only muster 52 votes to end the
debate – eight short of the 60 votes needed.
Mr. Reid said he might bring up the defense authorization bill at
another point in the Senate legislative calendar, but it is likely
that the debate over withdrawal amendments will not resume until
September when the White House is expected to ask for additional funds
for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.