Mullah Krekar denies Baghdad-Al Qa’ida link
Mullah Krekar, the spiritual leader of the Islamic insurgent group Ansar al-Islam, operating near the Iranian border in Iraqi Kurdistan, has denied that his group is a link between Baghdad and the al Qa’ida terror group.
“I never had links with Saddam Hussein’s family, Saddam Hussein’s government, Saddam Hussein’s party, not in the past, not now, not in the future, and not inside Iraq or outside, not directly, not indirectly,” he told the BBC in Norway after he spent four months in a Dutch jail. “As a Kurdish man, I believe that he is our enemy, and as an Orthodox Muslim also, I believe that Saddam Hussein and his group are outside of Islam’s zone.”
He also repeated past denials that Ansar has ties to al Qa’ida. This is almost assuredly a lie. The various Islamist parties are a destabilizing force in the PUK region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Used to be, there was only one party, called the Islamic Movement, with its leader, Ali Abdul Aziz. But about three years ago, a splinter group, led by Ali Baper, broke off to form the Islamic Association of Kurdistan. Now, both the Islamic Association and the Islamic Movement had their own peshmergas with the Islamic Movement having a special force of fighters called “Suran Force” under the influence of Abu Baker al Tawhed. (Al Tawhed came to Kurdistan in 1988, soon after the Halabja massacre, by way of Afghanistan.)
Thrown into all this mix was an independent group of fighters led by Krekar, a Norwegian Muslim. Krekar’s boys teamed up with al Tawhed’s Suran Force to form a group of assassins. Many officials in the Kurdish enclave believe
Suran Force, with Krekar’s fighters, killed Franso Hariri, father of Fowzi Hariri of the KDP, in February 2001. The assassination was a trigger and one week after the killing, Al Tawhed’s group split with the Islamic Movement and formed Jund al Islam (“Soldiers of Islam.”)
So you now had the Islamic Movement, led by Aziz, the Islamic Association, led by Baper and Jund al Islam, led by Tawhed. Krekar was running around as a wild card. Naturally, all these groups prepared to kill each other in the Iranian border regions around Halabja. Alarmed at the thought a miniature civil war in its territory, the PUK sent a small military force to the region to keep order. But Jund al Islam didn’t take kindly to the PUK’s interference with what they saw their region, so they claimed the PUK was un-Islamic since it was fighting fellow Muslims. In October 2001, they attacked a group of PUK soldiers in a small village called Kheli Hama outside of Halabja and captured 42 fighters. They marched them to the village center where they first shot them in the head and then decapitated them.
After a month of fighting the PUK, Jund al Islam joined formally with Krekar’s fighters to form Ansar al Islam (“Supporters of Islam.”) Krekar has the deepest ties with Osama bin Laden’s al Qa’ida group. He claims to have fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Kosovo, and in an interview with a Norwegian magazine, Krekar as much admitted to being a member of al Qa’ida.
All that said, the fact that an al Qa’ida cell is operating in Iraqi Kurdistan, getting backing from both bin Laden and Saddam, does not logically lead to the charge that Saddam is linked with bin Laden. The White House’s reasoning seems to go thusly: Al Qa’ida backs Ansar al-Islam. Saddam backs Ansar al-Islam. Thus, Saddam and al Qa’ida are linked and work together.
While it may be true that Iraq and al Qa’ida are linked, this is not the argument that makes the connection. I talked about this here. Think of it this way: The Soviet Union supported some mujahadin groups while they were in Afghanistan. The United States supported some of the same groups. Ergo, the United States and the Soviet Union were allies in the 1980s. See my point?
Look, I’m not saying Saddam isn’t a wicked man and that war is never justified. Sometimes it is. The American campaign in Afghanistan was a just war and I supported it. (I even — briefly — considered enlisting until I remembered I have a problem with authority.) I can imagine scenarios in which I would support an invasion of Iraq (building democracy and liberating the Kurds and Shi’ites, for example.) But the White House’s drive for war with Iraq is the wrong time and the wrong enemy. Many around the world don’t trust the motivations of the Bush Administration, which too often asks America to judge it by its intentions not by its actions. Many don’t trust Team Bush to do anything substantial to help the Kurds or other Iraqis, and I don’t think the Kurds do either. (Which is why the Kurds, while gunning for a showdown with Saddam, are deeply suspicious of American intentions.)
Look for the White House to really start playing up the Ansar angle, and remember, it might not be true.