An interview with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?s ?chief aide? and supervisor of military operations in western Iraq, Abu Hafsa al-Ansari, conducted in al-Ramadi by the Lebanese magazine al-Watan al-Arabia and published February 23, 2006, was recently posted to a password-protected al-Qaeda-affiliated forum. As the first part of the interview focused upon the groups relations with the Iraqi people, financing and composition, the second half concentrates on al-Qaeda in Iraq?s goals and demands, and issues related to the political process, targeting civilians, and grand military operation success and failures. Amidst the discussion, Abu Hafsa al-Ansari relates an account of Zarqawi suffering injury and the use of chemical weapons to abet his removal from the battlezone.
Abdullah al-Tamimi, the interview from al-Watan al-Arabi, pointedly asks al-Ansari for his comments regarding the group?s killing of innocent people and seemingly denial of the personal freedoms of Iraqis, to which he responds that people are not targeted indiscriminately and apologizes for their deaths. Particular incidents such as those in New Baghdad of killing children and killing workers in al-Kazamiya, al-Ansari declares innocence and believes them to be perpetrated by the Shi?ites and Iraqi government. Concerning the interference into the Iraqi people?s rights, he posits the necessity of holding to Islamic law and states: ?As if we are living in Monte Carlo, Texas or London; as if you did not read the Qur?an or the Prophet?s Sunnah. We are Muslims and we have our constitution.?
To both the political process and negotiations by those who represent the Sunni people in Adnan al-Dulaimi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, Abu Hafsa al-Ansari condemns them for abrogating Islamic Shari?a and notes that if the American forces to withdraw from Iraq and a political vacuum ensures, the mujahideen have prepared a ?comprehensive Islamic program? that forms a just government and does not contract the principles and values of Islam. He further states: ?We are working together through a combined leadership with al-Qaeda and coordinating with all these countries and in the future we will see big operations that will shake the unbelieving thrones at there own homeland and will force them to surrender and admit the prevailing of Islam over all of them.?
Concerning questions of military strategy and operations, al-Ansari claims that Iraq?s borders are ?wide open? and the group has the capability of moving one million fighters and heavy equipment into the country. He then goes into great detail and length into what he considers the most ?outstanding military operations? executed by the group, including an attack on the barracks of the National Guard in al-Ramadi, in which Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had participated although he was advised to remain behind; an attempt to storm the American base in al-Habbinya, destroying buildings full of army personnel and high-ranking officers; storming Abu Ghraib prison and nearly freeing the prisoners; and defending al-Tharthar training camp, allegedly killing hundreds of the enemy, despite media reports claiming the number at fifty-seven dead.
Most interesting is Abu Hafsa al-Ansari?s description of storming an American base along the Euphrates River in al-Ramadi, in which Zarqawi participated and was injured. Due to the amassment of a large number of troops and American?s aerial bombings, the mujahideen sought to retreat and three managed to allow for Zarqawi?s escape. It was then the group decided to use a chemical weapon to abet the flight from battle. Al-Ansari states: ?We decided to hit the Americans to make our way out with a chemical weapon. We produced it in our labs with our own experience to punish the Americans and as a response to using internationally prohibited weapons in al-Fallujah like the white phosphorous, burning weapons and prohibited bombs. We killed large numbers of them.? Zarqawi was allegedly taken to a hospital and retreated in a short span of time, and then subsequently moved to a ?safe place?.
The final segment of the interview questions losses in the second battle of al-Fallujah and retreat from al-Qaim, that al-Ansari accepts as expectations in battle and notes the dysfunction and unpreparedness of those groups collaborating with al-Qaeda in Iraq, especially the Army of Muhammad. In conclusion, he states: ?Be sure that the American Army is living now in a swamp of blood and suffer a state of collapse. Also, the government forces are corrupt and psychologically falling apart. It will flee and soon as the Americans announces the withdrawal of their forces, and this will happen very soon, Allah willing. The battle of Iraq will be the beginning of other battles in the area to topple the idols allied with Satan.?
A translation of the interview is provided to our Intel Service members.