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February 18, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Most-wanted Iraqis
The Iraqi government has compiled a detailed list of the 29 most-wanted insurgents and terrorists, offering rewards of $50,000 to $25 million for their capture.

The wanted men are in Iraq and neighboring states and are being sought for "funding and coordinating terrorist operations inside Iraq in an attempt to disrupt the country's march toward democracy and autonomous government," according to a U.S. Central Command statement accompanying the list.

We obtained a copy of the list that is the first public disclosure by the Iraqi or U.S. governments identifying the terrorists and former regime officials behind the insurgency.

Topping the list of most-wanted former regime officials is Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the former vice chairman of Saddam Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council.

"Al-Duri is believed to be the current leader of the New Regional Command and the New Ba'ath Party," the statement said. "As such he provides guidance, financial support and coordination of the former regime insurgency."

He is funding the insurgents through "expropriated" Iraqi money and is a major source of attacks on U.S. and allied forces.

The second on the list is Muhammad Yunis al-Ahmad, who is identified as a "financial facilitator and operational leader" of the New Regional Command and New Ba'ath Party.

"Yunis is charged with providing funding, leadership and support to several insurgent groups conducting attacks against the Iraqi people, the interim government, Iraqi National Guard, the Iraqi police and coalition forces," the statement said.

Another wanted former regime leader was identified as Fadhil Ibrahim Mahmud Mashadani, "a critical link between the senior Ba'athist leaders hiding in Syria and the insurgents within Iraq."

The top most-wanted terrorist on the list is Abu Musab Zarqawi, who the statement said has mobilized foreign al Qaeda terrorists and criminals in killing 500 Iraqis in the past year. Zarqawi fled Fallujah in November, the statement said. Sources previously told The Washington Times that Zarqawi fled the city the previous summer and was moving around Iraq.

Another key insurgent was identified as Muhammad Rajab al-Hadushi, a lieutenant colonel in Saddam's presidential guard and Special Security Organization.

Another key terrorist on the list is Sheik Abdalluh Abu Azzam, known as the Amir of Anbar, who has killed current government officials and was described as "a grave threat to the Iraqi people and to the rebuilding of Iraq."

Colombia's surrender
Some in the Bush administration were aghast this week to see hard-nosed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe travel to Caracas and be photographed shaking hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In fact, one senior official called it "Uribe's surrender."

The two publicly settled a dispute over Colombia's snatching of a communist rebel, Rodrigo Granda, in December in Caracas. Mr. Chavez accused Colombia of violating Venezuelan sovereignty. Colombia wondered why Granda was free in Caracas and carrying a Venezuelan passport.

Mr. Chavez, a left-wing ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro who talks of bringing a socialist revolution to Latin America, is viewed by the United States as friendly toward Granda's terror group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

There was more to this week's handshake than was readily apparent. Mr. Chavez had tightened the screws on Mr. Uribe, a strong U.S. ally, by cutting off electrical power to four remote Colombian provinces, a senior U.S. official told us.

"Now we know whether Chavez will use energy as a weapon. He will," said the disappointed official. Venezuela is the United States' No. 4 supplier of oil. Mr. Chavez has done more than align himself with communist Cuba. In an interview on the Arab-language Al Jazeera TV station, he also supported the terrorists in Iraq and the radical mullahs in Iran.

"We are not on the defensive," he told Al Jazeera, according to a British Broadcasting Corp. transcript. "I am a soldier and I studied in detail the tactics of war, and now we are in a political war. We are on the offensive. Please do not look at me as a boxer who is cornered against the ropes and is defending himself. No, I am on the offensive, because attack is the best form of defense. We are waging an offensive battle."

Iran's choice
A hope previously expressed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is that freedom-loving young Iranians some day will take back the country from harsh, terror-supporting mullahs.

Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defense for policy, now says Tehran might be nudged toward reform by the Libyan example. Libya has given up its weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorism, after watching ally Saddam Hussein fall in Iraq.

"There is an example available and that is the Libya case," Mr. Feith recently told a group of defense reporters. "Libya was a country that was pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missiles and a policy toward terrorism that presumably it thought was good for itself. It came to understand that Libya would be a lot better off abandoning its nuclear program, its chemical program, its missile program, changing its policy on terrorism, and that that was a much better path for serving Libya's interests. And one hopes that the Iranians will take note of that."

Moscow-Caracas axis
The Washington Times reported last week that the Bush administration secretly had protested to Russia its plan to sell Venezuela more than 100,000 AK-47 automatic rifles.

The story included an anonymous State Department official saying the fear is the weapons will be used to arm militias in Venezuela and left-wing rebels in South America.

The story had repercussions. The day it ran, the State Department put on the record to reporters its objections to the sale. Both Moscow and Caracas lashed out at the State Department. And then, the designer of the ubiquitous assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, spoke out. Interfax caught up with him this week in Abu Dhabi.

"We have been blamed and will be blamed for many things," Mr. Kalashnikov said. "We need to treat these accusations critically, as they are, as a rule, prompted by the Americans' desire to bar us from entering new markets."

He added, "I believe we need to continue to promote our Russian weapons on foreign markets, because they must safeguard peace and friendship between nations."

State Department foreign service officers (FSOs) don't always have the best reputations within the Pentagon. Military officers view them as too conciliatory when tough talk, or action, is needed.

But John D. Negroponte, nominated yesterday as the first director of national intelligence, is a different breed of FSO cat, insiders say. A former Army Green Beret recalls dealing with Mr. Negroponte when he was an FSO in the American Embassy in Saigon.

"My recollections of him are as a tough-minded guy who understood the Vietnam insurgency," the ex-Green Beret said.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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