Last week, Alhurra–an Arabic-language television station that is funded by our government–broadcast a taped interview with a terrorist named Moayad Ahmed Yasseen, the leader of Jaish Muhammad (Muhammad’s Army). He was captured nearly two months ago in Fallujah during the liberation of the city.
Yasseen had been a colonel in Saddam’s Army, so he was a fighter of some importance. He told Alhurra that two other former Iraqi military officers belonging to his group were sent “to Iran in April or May, where they met a number of Iranian intelligence officials.” He said they also met with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and were provided with money, weapons, “and, as far as I know, even car bombs” for Jaish Muhammad.
Yasseen also said he was told by Saddam himself, after the liberation of Iraq in the spring of 2003, to cross into Syria and meet with a Syrian intelligence officer to ask for money and weapons.
So here we have a high-ranking member of the “insurgency,” a textbook case of the sort of Saddam loyalist said to compose the bulk of those fighting against the Coalition. And what does he tell us? He tells us that he has been working closely with Iran and Syria, and that this close working relationship was directed by Saddam. Moreover, his organization, Jaish Muhammad, is an ally of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, himself a longtime resident of Tehran.
In other words, while there are certainly plenty of Saddam loyalists among the terrorists fighting against us, they are receiving support from Damascus and Tehran. Yasseen’s testimony is one of the first bits of intelligence from the Fallujah campaign to reach the public. If we had truly investigative journalists out there, they would be all over this story, which is only one of many that came out of Fallujah. About a month ago, a letter from an Army officer who had fought in Fallujah circulated on the net, and, like Yasseen’s tape, it helps dispel some of the myths clouding our strategic vision.
“In Fallujah,” we learn, “the enemy had a military-type planning system…Some of the fighters were wearing body armor and Kevlar, just like we do. Soldiers took fire from heavy machine guns (.50 cal) and came across the dead bodies of fighters from Chechnya, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, and so on. No, this was not just a city of pi**ed off Iraqis, mad at the Coalition for forcing Saddam out of power. It was a city full of people from all over the Middle East whose sole mission in life was to kill Americans. Problem for them is that they were in the wrong city in November 2004.”
We killed more than a thousand terrorists in Fallujah, and nearly an equal number surrendered, many of whom provided our military with useful information. Presumably Yasseen’s information has been exploited before letting the Syrians and Iranians know that he has told us all about them.
Perhaps these revelations will help outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell get on the right side of history before he rejoins civil society. Last September, in an interview with the Washington Times, he said “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Iranians are involved and are providing support (for the terrorists in Iraq). How much and how influential their support is, I can’t be sure and it’s hard to get a good read on it.”
Perhaps now he’s got a better read. But of course, he chose not to know many things about Iran. He insisted that the Bush administration shut down a channel to a source of information about Iran, even though he knew that the source was reliable, and that information from that source–information concerning Iranian support for anti-American terrorists–had saved American lives in Afghanistan. Had the flow of information continued, we might have had a better picture of our enemies’ intentions and capacities. And such a picture might have convinced Powell that Iran was not, as his deputy Richard Armitage put it, “a democracy,” but a bloodthirsty tyranny that delights in killing Americans, Iraqis, and its own citizens.
Yet, in his final weeks in office, Secretary Powell has unfortunately continued to chant his mantra, “we are not working for regime change in Iran,” as if he were proud of it. He, and his colleagues at State, the National Security Council, the Pentagon, and the CIA, should be ashamed. The mullahs are active supporters of terrorism all over the world, including Iraq, and we cannot expect to win this war so long as they remain in power.
Let’s hope that Dr. Rice is paying close attention to the Yasseen confession, and the many others that will help her realize that there is no escape from the regional war in which we are engaged.
–Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.