GIS Special Topical Studies
Iraq War 2003: Background, Lessons and Follow-On

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June 21, 2004

Iraqi Ba’athist Forces Formally Submit to Islamist Control

Exclusive. By Yossef Bodansky1, Senior Editor, GIS. Saudi Arabian intelligence officials have a highly reliable eye-witness to an even which, on June 18, 2004, marked a major new chapter in the Saddam-bin Laden saga: the hand-over of the mantle of the anti-US struggle in Iraq from the Ba’athists to the Islamists-jihadists affiliated with Osama bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden’s key deputy in Iraq, Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi, traveled to the city of ad-Dur — 100 miles north of Baghdad — for a meeting with key members of the Ba’athist élite as well as local Islamist-jihadist commanders (both Iraqis and other Arabs). At the end of the meeting, former Iraqi Vice-President Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri recognized al-Zarqawi as the leader of the anti-US jihad and vowed allegiance to the Islamist-jihadist cause.

Al-Duri also pledged to dedicate all the money, weapons and men of the Ba’athist movement to the joint struggle against the United States and new Iraqi Government. Izzat swore on his family's old Qu’ran before al-Zarqawi and the gathered commanders, pledging his allegiance and that of three of his sons to Zarqawi and the jihad “until martyrdom”.

Al-Duri told al-Zarqawi afterwards: “You are the commander and we are your mujahedin-soldiers.” Those three of al-Duri's sons who had committed to Zarqawi — Ahmad, al-Miqdad, and Ibrahim — remained with al-Zarqawi and received senior command positions in the Islamist-jihadist fighting forces. Later that day, al-Duri arranged for the delivery of large quantities of weapons, ammunition, explosives and funds from Saddam's old stockpiles. These were distributed among Al-Zarqawi's veteran jihadist forces as well as al-Duri's former Ba’athist forces now under the Islamist-jihadist command.

These supplies arrived in preparation for the next escalation phase in the confrontation with the US, the Coalition forces and their Iraqi Government colleagues.

Significantly, the US bombed al-Zarqawi's hideout in Fallujah at the very same time he was in ad-Dur. Innocent civilian casualties aside, this was not a good testimony to the quality of US intelligence, and suggested that the targeting information for the US strike may have been deliberately tainted.


Yossef Bodansky’s major new book, The Secret History of the Iraq War, was published on June 15, 2004, by Regan Books.