There’s good stuff in the Times this morning, too. Like this gem tucked in the middle of John Burns’s report on Zarqawi (italics are mine):
[U.S. spokesman] Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV … told reporters at a briefing that United States commanders had identified the man most likely to take over as Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, an Egyptian militant who uses the nom de guerre Abu al-Masri. General Caldwell said Mr. Masri had been in Iraq since 2002, and had played a major role in organizing suicide bombings around Baghdad.
“But wait a minute,” you say. I thought you guys at the Times said there were no terrorists in Iraq until the Americans brought them there.”
It’s a good time to remember that there were long-standing ties between Iraq and al Qaeda before we invaded in 2003, and that Zarqawi himself was in Iraq (and had contacts with Iraqi Intelligence) well in advance of the invasion.
Steve Hayes summarized some of the intelligence in his important book, The Connection. As he wrote, drawing from a CIA senior executive memorandum dated February 21, 2003:
Close al Qaeda associate al Zarqawi has had an operational alliance with Iraqi officials. As of October 2002, al Zarqawi maintained contacts with the IIS [Iraqi Intelligence Service] to procure weapons and explosives, including surface-to-air missiles from an IIS official in Baghdad…. Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S. occupation of the city….