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Homeland Security

19 March 2003

U.S. Success in Iraq War Could Nip Possible Rise in Global Terrorism

(U.S. officials debate the status of al-Qaida in congressional
hearing) (690)
By Afzal Khan
Washington File Special Correspondent
Washington -- The debate over the possibility of increased terrorism
when U.S. and Coalition forces invade Iraq arose at a March 18
congressional hearing on "Diplomacy and the War on Terrorism" that
included witnesses from the State Department, the Treasury Department
and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Questioned by Senator Chuck Hagel (Republican from Nebraska) of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Under Secretary of State for
Political Affairs Ambassador Marc Grossman said, "the success of the
war was the most determining factor" in deterring the spread of more
terrorism. He added that there would be "more cooperation than less
over time" from Arab states if the war against Iraq went according to
U.S. plans.
John S. Pistole, FBI's Deputy Assistant Director of the
Counterterrorism Division, said that the FBI "anticipates" terrorist
attacks when the Iraq war begins and that already 200 personnel have
been moved from its Criminal Investigation Division to the
Counterterrorism Division to prepare for that eventuality.
Pistole said that since the September 11 terrorist attacks, there have
been nearly 4,000 threats against the United States. He said the State
Department through its missions abroad has helped tremendously to
"verify the credibility" of those threats. The FBI maintains 45 Legal
Attache (Legat) offices at U.S. embassies staffed by 126 Special
Agents and 74 support personnel. He said that by the end of the
current fiscal year, the FBI has proposed that the staffing level
increase to 145 Special Agents and 83 support personnel because of new
offices opened in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.),
Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Sana'a in Yemen, Tbilisi in Georgia, and
Tunis in Tunisia. In addition, three sub-offices will be created in
Bonn, Germany; Milan, Italy; and Toronto, Canada. Also, six existing
Legat offices will be boosted with additional staff. They are in
Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Islamabad, Pakistan: Manila, Philippines;
Ottawa, Canada: and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Treasury Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary Juan C. Zarate,
who heads the Executive Office for Terrorist Financing and Financial
Crimes, said that $125 million has so far been blocked or frozen from
known al-Qaida accounts.
However, he said frozen accounts belonging to the toppled Taliban
regime in Afghanistan have been unfrozen for use by the Interim
Government of President Hamid Karzai.
Answering Committee Chairman Senator Richard Lugar, Zarate elaborated
that it was very difficult to detect how al-Qaida finances its
terrorist operations because it was now using "traditional" methods
such as seeking donations to umbrella charity organizations, setting
up "trade-based money laundering" in South East Asia and the Gulf, and
using other traditional financing methods used by criminals.
In answer to Senator Hagel's question on whether al-Qaida was joining
forces with other terrorist groups to form a bigger league against the
United States, Zarate said that al-Qaida has approached local
terrorist groups in need of money in Somalia, Chechnya, South-east
Asia and Iraq. He noted that the pro-al Qaida group Ansar-ul Islam
operates in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq close to the Iranian
border. However, Zarate said he had not seen any major grouping of
other terrorist groups with al-Qaida.
On the same subject, State Department's Coordinator for
Counterterrorism, Ambassador Cofer Black, said that the U.S. pressure
on al-Qaida has been "very effective" and that he does not see other
terrorist groups such as Hezbollah "embrace" al-Qaida. "They have
competing agendas," he said.
FBI's Pistole said he had not seen any association of domestic
extremists with al-Qaida. However, he cautioned that the invasion of
Iraq could give rise to sentiments such as "support for the underdog"
and sympathy for Muslims. He said such known "sympathizers" have
indicated interest in terror acts against the United States following
an Iraqi invasion. But such intentions were in the "talking stage" and
not operational. However, fund-raising and recruitment was going on
for such causes, he said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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