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28 April 2010


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William R. Cumming

Curiosity Dr. Siverman as I find you posts unusually accurate analytically. To what extent does the US still factor into Iraqi politics and polity? What is the best document now extant that describes how US might related to Iraq after troop drawdown? Has any other country other than Iran evidenced an active role in Iraqi politics now?


Maybe it is the other way around: Maliki and State of Law is sending a message to INA to tell them to hurry up with the endorsement, instead of flirting with Allawi.

Would explain why they're so quick to blame AQI.


I would think that message was crystal clear.


WERE THERE "two AQI leaders" left in Iraq?

SunKommander Dred

Thank your for your cogent and detailed analysis. I do have a question regarding the two high level AQI operatives who were supposedly killed recently. Perhaps I am just a cynical SOB, but I seem to recall that every so often, the Pentagon or the White House (first under Bush, now under Obama) make some grand statement about how some important 'made man' in Al Queda has been whacked, and what a blow for the forces of democracy and freedom it presages, only to be followed some days, weeks or months later that in fact, the dude in question remains alive and well, if indeed he ever existed in the first place. Is that indeed the case in this instance?

Pete Deer

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Deer and Jonst: We seem to kill a lot of #3 guys in al Qaeda. This has led to speculation that there are thousands of al Qaeda guys at #4 in the depth chart, they live in real terror of being promoted, or we have trouble actually figuring out what is going on with al Qaeda. I'll provide a link below to some of this debate, but I think its definitely the latter - we have trouble figuring out what is going on with al Qaeda. As we tried Moussawi for being the 20th hikacker, we had at least two other people identified as the 20th hijacker; one of whom was in custody in GITMO. I would have loved to have seen that habeus hearing: Prosecutor - "Your honor we need to hold this man as he's been identified as the 20th 9-11 hijacker?" Judge - "You're serious? Because just down the hall we're trying some mentally unstable guy who wants to die for being the 20th hijacker. So counselor, which is it they both can't be the 20th hijacker? Prosecutor (with a straight face) "Your honor this man has been identified as the 20th hijacker."

Or the whole Osama bin Laden is on dialysis thing. I'm officially throwing the BS flag! I don't care what intel we have, how high up it is on the clearance scale, did someone have a doctor or anyone who has ever lived with someone with kidney failure look at it? My late father died of end stage kidney disease. He was on dialysis three days a week as an outpatient at a designated dialysis center. Once done with a treatment, one's system crashes - you're absolutely useless for at least 12 hours. It was all he could do to get home, eat something light, and rack out. Those who have in home dialysis, or in bin Laden's case "in cave", have to set aside an entire room (corner of the cave?) to be turned into a sterile and clean environment and the dialysis, because the home machines aren't as powerful, has to be more frequent. Dad looked into this and decided he didn't want to turn his house into a med clinic and my mom into his nurse. And the risk for clogged and/or infected dialysis ports is always there. There is virtually no way that bin Laden is sitting in a cave somewhere getting dialysis on a regular basis.

Same problem with AQI - there were how many months when we thought Zarqawi had a fake leg, and the reports kept moving it back and forth: right, no left, no right, no left. Oh and he got it in Tehran! Because that's where all good Sunni extremists go for surgery.

We can't match the names to the faces (one of the most wanted guys from AQ had the same name as some extreme Imam in London, but they were different guys), we have no standard translation or transliteration conventions for their names, and honestly no one wants to really get their heads around the fact that AQ is a logistical support network; it finds talent, trains it or funds the training, helps with planning, but by and large you're looking at Lone Wolf cells. There were only 4 guys on 9-11 on those planes that were involved in planning, the rest were muscle. And Atta went looking for a contact to help him out with money, training, and planning (bin al Shib) after he became reactionized as a grad student in Germany.

Our press corps by and large asks the wrong questions of elected officials and to quickly takes at face value the self declared experts into this stuff both in terms of them being experts and knowing what they're talking about. Having actually knowledgeable folks like COL Lang or Dr. Giraldi on TV, radio, or quoted in print is few and far between and has been for a while.

Here's that link I promised:

And here's one to a debate about whether or not there was really an Iraqi 9-11 style plot against the Shi'a mosques last month. Competing members of the GOI can't get their stories straight:

Patrick Lang


That's true. We have been shoved off the MSM. pl

FB Ali

Dr Silverman

Do you think the intelligence is any better in Afghanistan? Or Pakistan's FATA?



I'm reading one of the books on the Crusades you recommended, it sounds like the same fractional politics has been going in the Mid-East for centuries. No wonder no-one in D.C. knows what is going on there.

Dr. Silverman:
"There were only 4 guys on 9-11 on those planes that were involved in planning, the rest were muscle." If memory serves Colin Powel said essentially the same thing in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. Only a few days later the Bush administration changed directions and this fact got lost or suppressed.

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Ali: I honestly have no way of knowing. I don't work in the Intel world, never have in the past either. I understand how its supposed to work, have been trained on that and have taught about, but my job was all on the open source and unclassified side of things. What I do know, because its been mentioned in the press and was the subject of a report by MG Flynn issued through CNAS, that we have an information flow and knowledge management problem. While I did a response for Tom Ricks on this as a guest post, the problem is that even if we do have good intel or information, the fact that we can't get it where it needs to be for analysis or get the results packaged in usable formats and disseminated to the people that need to see that material to make proper decisions is a major problem! My educated guess is that we've got a combination of some really good people that no what they're doing, but not enough of them, an overwhelming amount of information as no one wants to have too little anymore, and systems that are hit and miss for filtering, processing, and disseminating the output to the decision makers.

Adam L Silverman

Fred: I seem to recall that as well. Essentially the desire to build al Qaeda into an existential threat and fit it into the really shoddy (in an empirical data sense) Clash of Civilizations framework meant that al Qaeda couldn't be what it really was: a group that either trained Muslims to go fight in insurgencies or revolutions in various parts of the world (Chechnya for instance) or that identified, funded, trained, and provided some operational support for individuals and small groups of reactionized Muslims to commit terrorism. If you watch the training videos that were all shown on the news or put up on the web, they're not for training terrorists - they're for training guerillas. In short order al Qaeda was being spoon fed to the press, via the media, as al Qaeda Incorporated; with picnics and office parties and vacation plans. Newsweek ran with that as a lead story at one point, which was the week that I cancelled my Newsweek subscription! It was all just silly. The really organized Islamic groups are actually the ones that grew off of existing Islamic social movements: Hamas from the Muslim Brothers, Hezbullah's armed wing, JAM from the Sadrists - groups like that. These are properly organized social movements, which also means that the solution to their problem is to engage the normative sides of the movements so heavily, give them so much responsibility, that they have little to no time or energy to work with the violent wing. The research we have on deradicalization of jihadis reinforces this conceptualization. None of this fits into the political narratives built around and after 9-11. Suddenly every previous attack was al Qaeda - even when it wasn't. The first WTC bombing attack led by Abdullah the Red, backed by Sheikh Rahman, with a bomb built by Ramzi Yousef, wasn't al Qaeda. The only real contact to al Qaeda is that Yousef is Kalidh Sheikh Mohammed's nephew. They was no evidence or even argument that this was an AQ job until several months after 9-11. As a result we've made al Qaeda into something it isn't. Virtually no one in the US actually knows why they attacked, because they didn't bother to check out AQ's own list of grievances, and the media certainly wasn't going to report on it. Rather they just repeated the Bush Administration's line that it was because of our freedom and our shopping malls.

I've seen fancy video presentations that are peddled to law enforcement and intelligence by big name folks that completely conflate Sunni and Shi'a movements (not the same thing), make every act of Islamic extremism violence part of a world wide campaign to destroy America, which ignores the very localized nature of the Algerian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Chechen, and Iraqi extremist movements, as well as the differences between Sunni and Shi'a drivers. The people peddling this stuff include a former DCI, a former Assistant SecDef, etc. And these have become the go to guys in the press for a lot of its information. Ignorance isn't bliss, in this case its deadly.


Nice, ironic graphic. Tawhid--union.



We(the US) made al Qaeda a better know brand than McDonald's. If you want to see some real fear imagine what you can do with this technology reported by
Fast Company today:
Dutch Government Uses Augmented Reality to Shame Citizens

Protest not well attended? Add a few to the crowd.
Somebody giving you problems? Put them in a live crime scene.
Politician to goody-two-shoes? Add embarrassing circumstances.
Terrorist won't talk? Stage the live kidnapping of their family.
Gulf of Tonkin too quiet to pass a war resolution? Augment with enemy gunboats.

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