16 October 2003

The rise and fall of Ansar al-Islam

Washington fingered Ansar as a terrorist group experimenting with poisons, and used its tenuous links to Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda to help justify the war against Iraq.

US officials were triumphant last spring, even as the broader Iraq invasion was still underway, after a three-day assault. Gen. Tommy Franks declared that a 'massive terrorist facility in northern Iraq' had been 'attacked and destroyed' by a joint US-Kurdish operation.

But today US officials assert that Ansar not only survived - like Gharib, who barely escaped after a four-hour bout with a US sniper - but that it is regrouping. They say Ansar is reinfiltrating Iraq with Kurdish and Arab militants from Iran, and, along with Saddam loyalists, is behind an increasing number of anti-US attacks across Iraq.

Actually, if I remember correctly the massive terrorist facility was destroyed almost as often as the town of Umm Qasr fell to the coalition. The MTF was centrepiece of Powell's speech to the UN, even though journalists established within days it was actually a broken down place without power or running water in American-protected Iraqi Kurdistan.

Well, now we need Ansar al-Islam back for propaganda reasons so apparently the destruction declarations are officially inoperative.

I was strongly tempted say the massive terrorist facility was a bit like the Holy Roman Empire in that it was not massive, terrorist or a facility but that would be wrong. Just a pleasing literary allusion. Like calling a smoking gun a mushroom cloud.

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