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Iraq and al-Qaeda, Victory and Caution

There is an understandable temptation to declare victory over al-Qaeda in Iraq. And while Iraqi and American forces have teamed to drive them from every sanctuary al-Qaeda had carved - including now the "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad - and deliver a decisive blow to the terrorists, the state of the terrorist fighters in Iraq is not permanent or final considering the sources of their foreign origins and outside support.

From another excellent symposium panel at FrontPage Magazine, my friend Daveed Gartenstein-Ross contributes a paragraph of thought that boils the entire important discussion down, providing the salient point that busy readers will want to take away from it today. In the latest symposium on Iraq, "Crushing al-Qaeda," while there is much talk of declaring victory over al-Qaeda in Iraq, beaten back as they are, Daveed offers words of wisdom - and caution.

Those improvements are indeed occurring, but as my colleagues capably point out, it is too early to declare AQI’s defeat. I spoke with a military intelligence officer who recently returned from Iraq, and spoke of AQI’s resilience. Part of the reason for this is that AQI draws its support from a broader transnational movement: AQI can be completely crushed inside Iraq yet still regenerate based on the support it draws from beyond the country’s borders. Recent events clearly demonstrate the links between AQI and the broader al-Qaeda movement. For example, the recently captured Khalid Al Mashadani, who was considered the most senior Iraqi in AQI’s network, had served as an intermediary between AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Key al-Qaeda leaders have made it clear that they view Iraq as a central front in their war against the U.S. And when U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed an al-Qaeda financier named Muthanna (described as the emir of the Iraq and Syrian border area), they uncovered a list of 143 al-Qaeda fighters who were en route to Iraq. These fighters came from all over, including Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and Yemen. This emphasizes the human resources that AQI can draw upon to replenish its ranks.

If you have time, do read the entire symposium, as it is well worth your while. If you do not have the time or for some other reason cannot read it in full, be sure to take the above paragraph from it at minimum.

Also of particular interest today on Iraq, Iran and al-Qaeda is the latest from Michael Ledeen at National Review. From his article, One Happy Mob, Ledeen highlights Iranian support for Sunni terror groups inside Iraq: Money for attacks on Americans, more if with video of it.

If you read down to the small print, you will find that the most important Treasury target, Brigadier General Ahmed Foruzandeh of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, also works with Sunnis.

In early April 2007, Foruzandeh provided ($25,000 U.SD) to two men claiming to be members of a Sunni terrorist organization in Iraq, promising...additional funds if they would deliver videos of attacks against Coalition Forces.

A very well informed person in the intelligence community tells me that the “Sunni terrorist organization in Iraq” is a big deal, is in many ways coextensive with al-Qaeda in Iraq, and clearly shows what I and others have been arguing for a long time: Iran supports al-Qaeda. To have discovered that the Revolutionary Guards are in cahoots with al-Qaeda in Iraq is enormously important, because it reminds us once again that we are engaged in a broad war in the Middle East, of which Iraq is simply one front. And it shows once again that the considerable efforts by many in Washington to gainsay Iranian support for the terror war against us are misplaced, and potentially very dangerous for our troops on the ground.

Iranian strategy requires al-Qaeda's mayhem, al-Qaeda's strategy requires all or parts of Iraq for the restoration of the caliphate, and both can pour in from many directions. Let's not be too quick to declare an entity defeated that can reconstitute itself from elsewhere and with state support in relative short order.

Applaud and praise our success. Don't walk off the ledge in premature celebration.