By: E&P Staff
He seemed to be everywhere, at least until he was reported dead. It turns out he was nowhere and, in a sense, always dead, at least to the U.S. military, which yesterday asserted that oft-quoted Iraqi insurgent leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was a figment of another extremist leader’s imagination.
But is the military wrong in its suspiciously useful claim that an al-Qaeda leader from outside Iraq had created al-Baghdadi to make the Iraqi component seem more homegrown? It closely fits, and advances, the current administration narrative. Military claims have often proven sketchy when based on information from captured informers.
Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Askari rejects the U.S. claim. ?Al-Baghdadi is wanted and pursued,” he said yesterday. “We know many things about him, and we even have his picture.”
The Los Angeles Times today notes, “There was no way to confirm the military?s claim, which comes at a time of heightened pressure on the White House to justify keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. Critics of the Bush administration say it has been trying to provide that justification by linking the broader-based al-Qaida to the conflict in Iraq, even though bin Laden?s organization had no substantial presence here until after the U.S. invasion of March 2003.”
McClatchy’s bureau chief in Baghdad, Laila Fadel, in her blog today marvels at the Wizard of Oz scenario of a man behind a screen. One of her Iraqi colleagues suggests that in this case any Iraqi with magic slippers would wish for “a visa to Syria.”
The New York Times and other news outlets had quoted al-Baghdadi often as a “spokesman” for al-Qaeda linked groups in Iraq, often based on audio tapes or Web postings.
He was also said to have been involved in the Jill Carroll kidnapping, and also went under the name “Jabouri.”
The Associated Press quoted him at length in a July 8 article, after explaining that “Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who leads the Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing for four years to wage a battle against Shiite-dominated Iran.”