Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: Notorious Terrorist Or American Agent?

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, initially depicted as a terrorist leader, may have been instrumentalized by American interests to justify the Iraq invasion and sow internal discord, shaping the region’s volatile dynamics.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: Notorious Terrorist Or American Agent? 1

The most notorious professed opponent of the United States during the so-called War on Terror was the Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who founded Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), ranked second only to Osama bin Laden.

However, a more thorough analysis of Zarqawi’s biography and his influence on Iraqi events reveals that he was probably a creation and instrument of US intelligence.

Zarqawi was used as a pawn by neoconservative strategists in the George W. Bush administration to convince the American people that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was legal.

Furthermore, he played a key role in stoking internal strife among Iraqi resistance organizations that opposed the US occupation, which in turn sparked a sectarian civil war between the Sunni and Shia populations of Iraq.

Israel’s plan unfolds in Iraq 

Tel Aviv’s purpose of maintaining Iraq’s weaknesses, splitting the people along sectarian lines, and undermining its army’s capacity to confront Israel in the region was furthered by this calculated policy of tension throughout the country.

It has long been known that the CIA sponsored Al-Qaeda members in several wars, including Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya in the 1990s, and that Al-Qaeda was founded as part of the CIA’s clandestine fight on the Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Evidence also suggests that the CIA provided support to parties associated with Al-Qaeda during the covert war in Syria that was started in 2011 amidst the so-called Arab Spring.

Despite this background, Zarqawi and AQI are nevertheless seen by Western journalists, commentators, and historians as the US’s worst foes.

It is hard to comprehend the catastrophic role the US (and Israel) played in the carnage inflicted on Iraq, not only during the initial 2003 invasion but also in sparking the ongoing sectarian strife, without comprehending Zarqawi’s role as a US intelligence asset.

It is also critical to recognize the significance of Iraq’s ongoing efforts to drive out US forces and eliminate US influence in the nation going forward.

Who was Zarqawi?

Originally Ahmed Fadhil Nazar al-Khalaylah, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi changed his name to Zarqa, an industrial district outside Amman, Jordan, to reflect his birthplace. Throughout his early years, he would go to and from prison and would grow radicalized there.

In the late 1980s, Zarqawi went to Afghanistan to fight among the mujahideen supported by the CIA against the Soviet Union. He was imprisoned in 1992 after returning to Jordan and aiding in the formation of the Jund al-Sham, a local Islamic militant organization.

In 1999, Zarqawi returned to Afghanistan following a nationwide amnesty that saw his release from prison. According to The Atlantic, it was at this period that he first met Osama bin Laden, who thought that Zarqawi’s group had been infiltrated by Jordanian intelligence while he was incarcerated, which was why he had been released early.

In the crucial year of 2001, Zarqawi subsequently left Afghanistan for the pro-US Kurdistan area of northern Iraq, where he set up a training camp for his men.

The missing link

Bush administration officials quickly leveraged Zarqawi’s presence to cover up Washington’s geopolitical goals in Iraq, eager to link the country to the 9/11 attacks.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell declared to the UN Security Council in February 2003 that Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq demonstrated that Saddam was supporting a terrorist network and that the US had to invade.

“This assertion was later disproved, but it irreversibly thrust Zarqawi’s name into the international spotlight,” the Council on Foreign Relations stated.

Powell stated this despite the fact that Zarqawi’s facility was located in an area of Iraq that is mostly controlled by the United States. Following the Gulf War in 1991, a no-fly zone was established over the area by the US Air Force. The Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, was also known to be present there; Iran publicly acknowledges this fact and continues to exercise caution.

Strangely, even though Zarqawi’s stronghold was located deep inside Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration chose to do nothing when it had a perfect chance to neutralize him.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon had comprehensive plans to attack Zarqawi’s training camp in June 2002, but “the raid on Mr. Zarqawi didn’t take place.” Months passed with no approval of the plan from the White House.”

Chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita rationalized the inaction by asserting that “the camp was of interest only because it was believed to be producing chemical weapons,” even though the main motivation for overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s government was purportedly the fear of chemical and biological weapons ending up in the hands of terrorists.

On the other hand, the US Army’s vice chief of staff at the time, General John M. Keane, clarified that the camp was “one of the best targets we ever had,” that the intelligence on Zarqawi’s location there was “sound,” and that there was little chance of collateral damage.

Despite US General Tommy Franks citing Zarqawi’s camp as one of the “examples of the terrorist ‘harbors’ that President Bush had vowed to crush,” the Bush administration adamantly refused to approve the strikes.

The White House finally approved hitting Zarqawi’s camp with airstrikes after his presence in Iraq had served its original goal of selling the war to the American people and after the invasion had begun in March 2003. But Zarqawi had already left the area by then, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Singling out Shiites 

The cornerstone of the Bush administration’s rationale for going to war then fell apart in January 2004. The weapons inspector sent to locate Iraq’s WMDs, David Kay, officially stated, “I don’t think they exist,” following a nine-month search.

The lack of WMDs was such a severe blow to the justification for going into Iraq, according to The Guardian, that “even Bush was rewriting the reasons for going to war.”

Secretary of State Powell asserted once more on February 9 as the WMD scandal grew that Zarqawi “was active in Iraq and doing things that should have been known to the Iraqis” before the invasion. And we’re still looking for those connections and to prove those connections.”

Two weeks prior, a 17-page letter purportedly authored by Zarqawi was secretly released by US intelligence. Its author pledged to start a civil war between the Sunni and Shia communities in Iraq and claimed credit for several terror attacks. He also stated that attacking the Shia in Iraq was more essential than battling the US army that was occupying the country.

In the months that followed, US officials blamed Zarqawi for a string of heinous bombs directed at Iraq’s Shia population without presenting any proof of his involvement.

Two hundred worshippers honoring Ashura were slain in suicide strikes on Shia shrines in Karbala and the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad in March 2004. At least fifty people were killed in vehicle bombs in April in Basra, a city in southern Iraq with a Shia majority.

Al-Qaeda vehemently denied any involvement in the bombings in Karbala and Kadhimiya in a statement via Al-Jazeera, but Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), insisted Zarqawi was responsible.

Zarqawi’s purported assaults on the Shia population in Iraq contributed to severing ties between the Sunni and Shia opposition to the US occupation and planted the seeds of a potential sectarian conflict.

The US army found this useful in its efforts to keep Sunni and Shia groups from banding together to resist the occupation.

‘Dividing our enemies’

President Bush gave the order for a full-scale invasion in April 2004 to seize Fallujah, a city in the province of Anbar that had developed into the center of the Sunni resistance movement.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt led the assault with the promise to “pacify” the city, using F-15 fighters, unmanned surveillance drones, and helicopter gunships.

As a result of the Marines’ widespread civilian casualties, extensive property destruction, and mass eviction of the city’s populace, the operation gained political attention.

President Bush eventually had to abandon the attack as a result of intense public criticism, and Fallujah was designated as a “no-go” area for US forces.

Due to the inability to keep soldiers in Fallujah, US strategists resorted to using the Zarqawi card to undermine the Sunni opposition from within. A top Pentagon officer stated in June that Zarqawi “may be hiding in the Sunni stronghold city of Fallujah” based on “fresh information” that had surfaced.

The officer from the Pentagon was “cautioned, however, that the information is not specific enough to allow a military operation to be launched to try to find al-Zarqawi.”

It was no coincidence that Zarqawi and other Jihadists appeared in Fallujah at this particular moment.

In “Dividing our enemies,” a report prepared for the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Thomas Henriksen detailed how the US military leveraged Zarqawi to take advantage of divisions among its adversaries in Fallujah and other locations.

For America’s “enemies to eliminate each other,” he writes that the US military continued to pursue the objective of “fomenting enemy-on-enemy deadly encounters,” adding that “When divisions were absent, American operators instigated them.”

The Fallujah Case Study

The events in Fallujah in the fall of 2004 are then cited by Henriksen as “a case study” that “showcased the clever machinations required to set insurgents battling insurgents.”

He clarified that there was conflict between the local insurgents who were nationalists and adhered to a Sufi religious perspective and Zarqawi and his fellow jihadis because of their takfiri-Salafi beliefs. Zarqawi’s actions, which included kidnapping foreign journalists, killing people with indiscriminate bombs, and undermining the nation’s oil and electricity infrastructure, were also opposed by local insurgents.

According to Henriksen, US psychological efforts in Fallujah resulted in “nightly gun battles not involving coalition forces” because they took “advantage of and deepened the intra-insurgent forces.”

These splits quickly spread to the Adhamiya area of Baghdad and Ramadi in Anbar province, two key Sunni rebel strongholds.

The rifts in Fallujah that US intelligence created through Zarqawi enabled the US to invade the unrest-plagued city once more in November 2004, just a few days after Bush was re-elected.

2,000 bodies, including hundreds of civilians, were found after the conflict, according to BBC correspondent Mark Urban.

Urban said that conveniently, “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was not among the dead,” having escaped the US-imposed perimeter surrounding the city before the assault.

Domestic consumption 

Later on, US military intelligence admitted to supporting Zarqawi’s involvement in the Sunni insurgency against US occupation using psychological operations.

“The US military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq,” according to a Washington Post article from April 2006. This information helped “the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks.”

US Colonel Derek Harvey is quoted in The Post as saying, “Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will – made him more important than he really is.”

According to the Post, the psychological operation campaign’s internal materials “explicitly list the ‘US Home Audience’ as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.”

President Bush also benefited from the effort to support Zarqawi when running for reelection in October 2004. President Bush asserted the following in response to Democratic opponent John Kerry’s accusation that the conflict in Iraq is a distraction from the so-called conflict on Terror in Afghanistan:

“The case of one terrorist shows how wrong [Kerry’s] thinking is. The terrorist leader we face in Iraq today, the one responsible for planting car bombs and beheading Americans, is a man named Zarqawi.”

Who killed Nick Berg?

Zarqawi is said to have executed US contractor Nick Berg in Iraq. Western media agencies released a video of Berg being beheaded by a group of masked men in May 2004. Berg was wearing an orange jumpsuit a la Guantanamo.

In the film, a masked guy posing as Zarqawi said that Berg’s murder was retaliation for the US torture of prisoners held at the infamous Abu Ghraib jail.

Berg was in Iraq attempting to secure contracts for reconstruction when he vanished a few days after spending a month in US custody in Mosul, where he was subjected to many FBI interrogations.

The US military claimed to have discovered his severed head on the side of a road close to Baghdad on May 8, one month after he vanished.

However, the US’s allegations that Zarqawi killed Berg are untrue. The beheading video appears to have been produced, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time, and it contained film from Berg’s FBI questioning. It was posted online from London, not Iraq, and stayed there long enough for CNN and Fox News to download it.

Additionally, Berg was falsely claimed to have only been detained by the Iraqi police in Mosul by Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who denied that he had been in US military custody.

However, the film solidified the American public’s perception that Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda posed a serious threat to national security.

The video had such an impact in the US that, for a while, after it was released, the most popular searches on the internet in the US were for “Nick Berg” and “Iraq war,” rather than pornography or famous people like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

Sectarianism, a key US–Israeli goal

Following the bombing of the Shia Al-Askari Shrine in the Sunni city of Samarra in central Iraq in February 2006, a full-scale sectarian conflict broke out; however, the full extent of the conflict was averted due to religious directives issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful and highest ranking Shia figure in the country.

Although the organization denied any responsibility for the incident, President Bush subsequently declared that “the bombing of the shrine was an Al-Qaeda plot, all intending to create sectarian violence.”

It took several months before Zarqawi was finally taken out in a US airstrike on June 7, 2006. Wael Abdul-Latif, an Iraqi lawmaker, said that at the time of Zarqawi’s death, the US-backed Iraqi government had key officials’ phone numbers saved on his mobile phone, further demonstrating Zarqawi’s use.

The neoconservative plan to incite instability and sectarian warfare to undermine and divide Iraq had reached its zenith by the time of Zarqawi’s murder. This objective was made more difficult by the rise of ISIS, an organization that succeeded AQI and, a few years later, significantly contributed to the destabilization of neighboring Syria, stoking sectarian tensions there, and providing cover for the extension of US military authority in Iraq.

Last year, GreatGameIndia reported that millions of dollars from the United States ended up in Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, despite the Biden administration’s best attempts to keep the topic primarily under wraps.

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