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09 February 2004

Memo on Terrorists' Strategy in Iraq "Revealing," Powell Says

Intercepted document seeks external help in fomenting violence in Iraq

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Writer

Washington -- Secretary of State Colin Powell has described a memo recently intercepted in Iraq as "very revealing" of the strategy of terrorists in trying to undercut coalition efforts there.

During a February 9 press availability in Washington with the Dutch foreign affairs minister, Powell said the memo, first revealed in the New York Times, indicates that the terrorists in Iraq "haven't given up."

It shows they are trying to get more terrorists into the country, he said, and create additional terrorist organizations in order to defeat the mission to turn sovereignty over to the Iraq people in June. "But they will not succeed," Powell declared.

During a February 9 press conference in Baghdad, the U.S. military official in charge of coalition ground forces in Iraq said the document, which seeks external help in fomenting sectarian violence, was intercepted in the hands of a courier inside Iraq who planned to take it to alleged al-Qaeda operatives outside the country.

U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director for coalition forces, told reporters the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) takes seriously the threat of outsiders trying to spark a civil war in Iraq as called for in the 17-page memo.

Kimmitt said those who have read the translated memo are convinced that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is its author. Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian thought to be in Iraq but suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda forces outside the country. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for his capture.

CPA spokesman Dan Senor told reporters at the same press conference that the memo underlines the fact that "the terrorists understand the stakes in Iraq" and that their failure to defeat the coalition in Iraq "will be a major setback for their overall terror war." It also reveals that the terrorists are under increasing pressure as a result of the buildup of indigenous Iraqi security forces, now numbering over 150,000.

Many of the questions that Kimmitt and Senor answered were prompted by the front page February 9 New York Times article headlined "U.S. Says Files Seek Qaeda Aid in Iraq Conflict." The article says the memo suggests that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find supporters in Iraq to oppose the coalition but takes credit for some 25 recent attacks -- all of which Kimmitt says have the fingerprints of al-Qaeda and foreign fighters.

"What is clear to us is that this author takes great pride in the fact that he has carried out small, individual, spectacular types of attacks [but] that they haven't had the effect that he wanted, which is to destroy coalition resolve, prevent the stand up of an effective Iraqi security apparatus, and prevent the uniting of Iraq: north, south and center. He is disappointed...in his lack of success," Kimmitt said.

The memo also reflects the author's concern about Iraqis providing useful intelligence information to the coalition. He has reason to be concerned, Kimmitt said, "because the amount of intelligence that we're getting from the average Iraqi on the street is getting greater...every day as they continue to renounce any kind of terrorist presence inside this country." The coalition is determined to pursue intelligence that will bring foreign fighters to justice, Kimmitt said.

Senor said the strategy of the terrorists appears to be to promote "sectarian warfare in an effort to provoke bloodshed and tear this country apart." They are also fixated on the looming June 30 deadline for the CPA to hand over sovereignty, he said, "because they recognize that as we politically empower the Iraqi people" they will be isolated and it will be more difficult for them to operate.

The memo, uncovered in a raid in Baghdad in January, was in the hands of an unidentified courier who was said to be taking it to Afghanistan. Kimmitt said efforts are under way to try to declassify the document.