According to a Spanish investigative judge, Islamic radicals operating in Europe and North Africa have direct connections to Ansar al-Islam, the terrorist network in Iraq headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Baltasar Garzon’s allegations put new light on Europe’s stance regarding Iraq and the fight on terror:
Armed Islamist militants that operate in Europe are also helping support the armed insurgency in Iraq, one of Europe’s foremost experts on such groups told Reuters.
Spanish High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon, who has been investigating Islamist militants in Spain since 1991, warned that groups such as the Algerian Salafist movement and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group were particularly dangerous for Europe.
“They are groups that have membership inside and outside Europe and in any case we have to keep close watch on the relationship these groups have with others like Ansar al-Islam,” Garzon told Reuters in an interview late on Friday.
“It’s obvious that this type of terror groups are perfectly operative … The threat from this type of terrorism is real, it’s constant, it’s current and it will continue to be.”
I doubt that this will see much exposure in Europe’s media, and for good reason; the notion that all of these groups connect back to al-Qaeda, through Iraq, demonstrates that the US had it right all along. Ansar al-Islam established itself in Iraq well before the invasion, with its leader Zarqawi traveling through Baghdad on a number of occasions to conduct business with the IIS. In his book The Connection: How Al-Qaeda’s Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Endangered America, Stephen Hayes dissects the connections between Iraq’s intelligence services, Ansar al-Islam, and al-Qaeda (pages 162-3):
The first detailed reports about Ansar al-Islam came not from US intelligence but from a groundbreaking report in The New Yorker magazine, the same story that established Zarqawi’s 1992 trip to Baghdad. Jeffrey Goldberg, in northern Iraq to report a story about the Iraqi regime’s repression of the Kurds, was given access to several prisoners at a Kurdish jail in Sulaimaniyah. The Kurds had been trying for months to convince the CIA to visit the facility and interrogate the detainees, who were being held for their role in attacks against the Kurdish interests. According to the Kurds, the CIA had been unresponsive.
Goldberg’s article contained the explosive testimony that connected the dots, in the phrase used by the 9/11 Commission over and over again, more than two years ago:
The allegations include charges that Ansar al-Islam has received funds directly from Al Qaeda; that the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein has joint control, with Al Qaeda operatives, over Ansar al-Islam; that Saddam Hussein hosted a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Baghdad in 1992; that a number of Al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan have been secretly brought into territory controlled by Ansar al-Islam; and that Iraqi intelligence agents smuggled conventional weapons, and possibly even chemical and biological weapons, into Afghanistan. If these charges are true, it would mean that the relationship between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda is far closer than previously thought.
When I asked the director of the twenty-four-hundred-man Patriotic Union intelligence service why he was allowing me to interview his prisoners, he told me that he hoped I would carry this information to American intelligence officials. “The F.B.I. and the C.I.A. haven’t come out yet,” he told me. His deputy added, “Americans are going to Somalia, the Philippines, I don’t know where else, to look for terrorists. But this is the field, here.”
That article demonstrated an odd absence of curiosity about a connection between Saddam and AQ, almost as if the CIA wanted to avoid finding one. Now, however, even the Europeans have noticed a connection between their terrorist threat and Iraq, one that existed prior to 2003 or even 9/11, nullifying the notion that the American invasion is what created the new security problems for Europe. If Garzon has the evidence he claims, then Saddam Hussein himself at least abetted the terror threat against the Continent as well as the United States.
Will Europe act in its own defense? Western Europe, save the British and the pre-Zapatero Spaniards, certainly showed no inclination to do so. They sat on their hands and decried American militarism. Garzon’s findings give them a second opportunity to defend themselves by going on the offensive against Zarqawi and Ansar al-Islam. At the very least, they could acknowledge the connection and stop ankle-biting George Bush and Tony Blair while the two of them save Western Europe’s collective bacon. If they fail to recognize Garzon’s work and continue to wring their hands about supposedly false intelligence linking Saddam’s Iraq to al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam, then we will confirm (again!) that the leaders of Western Europe have descended from the lesser lights of Neville Chamberlain and Eduoard Daladier instead of Winston Churchill.