Dead men tell no tales, but luckily for intelligence analysts, live women do.
Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi was not able to detonate her bomb at the wedding party and fled with the guests as her husband exploded himself. Now, she is in the custody of the GID, Jordan’s intelligence agency. By all accounts, the interrogation is going slowly. Still, enough information is emerging for us to draw some lessons for the triple bombings in Amman, Jordan, on November 9.
Mrs. al-Rishawi’s family history reveals just how effective the U.S. military has proven to be in eliminating insurgents. Jordanian intelligence has learned that three of her brothers were killed by coalition forces in Iraq. Her brother, Thamir al-Rashawi, a member al-Zarqawi’s inner circle, was killed in April 2004 in Fallujah, when a missile fired from a U.S. aircraft struck his pick-up truck. Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan al-Mu’ashir described her brother, Thamir, as “the emir [commander] of the Al-Anbar region [of the Iraqi insurgency] in the Al-Qa’idah of Jihad Organization in the Land of Two Rivers. He was the right hand of Abu-Mus’ab al-Zarqawi.”
Her other two brothers, Ammar and Yassir, died in separate battles with U.S. forces in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2005.
Mrs. Al-Rishawi’s sister had been married to a Jordanian explosives expert, Nidal Mohammed Arabiyat, also killed by U.S. forces in Iraq, according to Agence France Presse.
Though the American media is slow to report it, U.S. forces are relentlessly destroying Zarqawi’s senior leadership. A November 2 air strike killed two senior al Qaeda operatives in Iraq: Abu Zahra, the so-called Emir of Husaybah, ran all insurgent operations in that Iraqi city, and Asadallah, Zarqawi’s key recruiter. U.S. forces have now confirmed the identities of both dead terrorists.
On October 23, U.S. forces captured Abu Hassan, the head of al-Zarqawi’s media cell. Hassan was responsible for producing video tapes of insurgent attacks to give to al-Jazeera and other television networks. Hassan even produced forged police and press passes to allow insurgents to case targets and film the devastation following insurgent attacks.
Following these air strikes and captures, Zarqawi ordered the Amman attacks. Was it a sign of desperation? Was he trying to regain the initiative from weeks of reverses?
Another sign of desperation: Consider who Zarqawi sent to run the Amman operation, Mrs. Al-Rishawi’s husband. He also a member of Zarqawi’s inner circle. He is now dead. Why did Zarqawi send a top officer to die? He has already lost so many. It suggests that either he’s running short of suicide bombers (typically Saudi recruits) or he’s running short of people he trusts. Either way, it’s a sign of desperation.
Meanwhile, Mrs. al-Rishawi is alive and apparently talking. She can certainly tell her interrogators the location of the other insurgents and perhaps Zarqawi’s hiding place.
Task Force 626, established last year by the Defense Department, is still searching for Zarqawi. At least three times in the past year, U.S. forces just missed capturing the archterrorist, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We truly believe that Zarqawi’s days are limited,” Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, deputy chief of staff of the multinational force in Iraq, told the Times. At least seven members of Zarqawi’s inner circle have been killed or captured. Another 38 regional insurgent commanders have been seized or slain as well as some 71 insurgent leaders that the military refers to as “tier three.” “Given [the] many, many sources of intelligence and information, we have great success at killing or capturing his leaders, his cell leaders, his coordinators and his lieutenants, and this chart just continues to expand, and eventually, he’s going to be on this chart,” Lynch said.
Time is running out for Zarqawi. And the Amman blasts may have only sped up the inevitable.