A battle of wills in Iraq

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Just past noon Tuesday, the news that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan took Saddam's vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan into custody and transferred him to US forces flashed across the wires. Ramadan, known as 'Saddam's knuckles' was one of the ousted leader's most enthusiastic henchmen.


The fact that the Kurdish forces are cooperating with the US military government is a clear sign that most citizens of Iraq continue to view the US and British forces as their liberators from the reign of terror and tyranny that was their lot in life before Operation Iraqi Freedom.


The truck bombing at UN headquarters in Baghdad just hours after Ramadan's capture was reported shows just how difficult the road to true stability and freedom for the Iraqi people is. Over the past two weeks, terrorist and guerrilla fighters have intensified their terror and sabotage operations countrywide in an effort to derail the US-led plans to stabilize the country and enable it to develop in freedom. The bombing of the Jordanian Embassy was followed by two bombings of the oil pipeline to Turkey that halted Iraq's oil exports. The bombing of Baghdad's water main earlier in the week left a large portion of the population without running water.


Just as the terrorist and guerrilla fighters have ratcheted up their attacks, so too have they intensified their propaganda blitz. On Monday, a taped message from al- Qaida operative Abdur Rahman al-Najdi was played on Al- Arabiya television. Najdi called for all Muslims to go to Iraq to wage jihad against US forces. A series of fatwas from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries over the previous weeks have also called on all Muslims to fight against the US in Iraq.


This week the identity of many of the terror and guerrilla factions terrorizing Iraq was somewhat clarified. The US civilian administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said in an interview to Al-Hayat newspaper that half of the guerrillas have come to Iraq from Syria. In addition, media reports have indicated that several thousand Saudi men have gone missing from the kingdom and are assumed to have crossed the border into Iraq. Iran stands accused of transferring fighters to Iraq from its territory and Saudi charities stand accused of financing the transfer of Chechen jihadists to Iraq.


It is clear from the intensified violence and sabotage that the forces fighting the US are growing in number, training, and organization.


It is also clear that they are waging a campaign to demoralize the Iraqi people by convincing them that their future lies with those fighting the coalition forces there to free them. No less importantly, these forces work to frighten international relief agencies into leaving the country and to demoralize the US and British publics.


For their part, the US and its Iraqi and coalition partners doggedly continue to hunt down members of Saddam's ruling clique and fight the guerrilla groups every day, clearly signaling that the US is not bending to their pressure. And yet, given the infiltration of fighters from the neighboring states, it is clear that simply fighting the hostile forces in Iraq will be insufficient to end their campaign. The battle must be taken to their state supporters and enablers in Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Until the coalition forces act against these terror- supporting states, stability in Iraq will remain an elusive goal.



Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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