Outside Influence: Are Terrorists Flocking to Iraq?

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, August 21, 2003. Watch On the Record  weeknights at 10 p.m. ET.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: They're getting more sophisticated and yet far more deadly. How do we stop the terrorists seeking American blood in Iraq (search)?

Joining us from London is Fox News foreign affairs analyst Mansoor Ijaz, and here with me is Bill Gertz, national security reporter for The Washington Times. Welcome to both of you.

Mansoor, Iraq seems to be getting much more dangerous -- at least for our coalition. Now we've had the U.N. bombed yesterday. Are outside groups definitely coming in?

MANSOOR IJAZ, FOX NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: In my judgment, there's no question about that, Greta. I think we have a very dangerous confluence of factors, where clearly, the suicide bombers and people who want to martyr themselves are now ready to come in from Saudi Arabia (search). They're not coming in directly from the Saudi border into Iraq, but they're, in fact, going into Syria and Jordan first, and then infiltrating across those borders before they come in.

And they're joining that capability of manpower with enormous amounts of explosives and other types of materials that are coming west from the Iranian border. And that's a very dangerous confluence of factors, and I think it really has the chance of getting out of control.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bill, that is a very dangerous situation. Good news, at least today, "Chemical Ali" (search) Well, we had the bad news of the U.N. building. "Chemical Ali" was arrested. Who is he, and why is he so important?

BILL GERTZ, WASHINGTON TIMES: Yes. As you said, there is a "good news, bad news" story in Iraq today. But "Chemical Ali" is one of the good-news stories. He was clearly one of the top henchman for Saddam Hussein. And more importantly, he was someone that has used weapons of mass destruction in the past. Namely, in 1988, he was behind the campaign to destroy the Kurds. By some estimates, as many as 100,000 people died, including nerve gas attacks.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's presumed that if there are weapons of mass destruction -- chemicals that they had -- that he'd be in the know.

GERTZ: Right. He was an operational commander. I mean, he knew how to use this stuff, so he's got to know about this. The other thing that's important about "Chemical Ali," is that he was behind a lot of the resistance early on. Back in March and April, when the Fedayeen Saddam were basically doing what amounted to suicide runs against tanks and armored vehicles, he was behind that. He was believed killed back in April in a bombing strike. Then later on, they got intelligence that he was alive, and it's still somewhat mysterious. The Pentagon is withholding details on how they captured him, but he is in custody. And they are grilling him now to try to get information out of him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mansoor, step back and look at the big picture. We have the U.N. building being blown up yesterday, lots of loss of life. Today "Chemical Ali," which is a major, major arrest. How do you assess Iraq and where we are in this campaign?

IJAZ: Well, it's clear that we're getting what I would call the micro details right, meaning that we've got, you know, enough people on the ground that are individually chasing the bad guys that we're after, that we're, you know, ferreting them out one by one.

But I think in the broader context, what we're missing here is that, politically, our enemies -- and I refer to now Iran as a clear enemy, and I think there may be a silent enemy in Saudi Arabia -- these two countries that have an enormous role, potentially positive and negative, to play are now both playing a very negative role in terms of helping us to stabilize Iraq.

And the more dangerous thing here is that as, you know, we fail to get basic supplies up and running, water and power and basic services and so forth, what's happening is that Saudi Arabia's negative elements and Iran's clearly negative elements are putting enormous amounts of money and other types of things into Iraq to essentially take advantage of whatever it is that they think their ideology and whatever it is that they want to purvey there. And the Iraqi people are getting hurt in the process.

And I think the administration needs to concentrate a little bit more on the broader picture and get the big stuff right because chasing the bad guys right now may not be, in fact, the most important thing we need to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Bill, Mansoor mentions Iran and Saudi Arabia. What about Syria?

GERTZ: At the Pentagon briefing Thursday, there was talk about what they call the "foreign fighters." These are people that are going into Iraq to support the opposition to the U.S. forces there. In many way, it's become a very complex situation. General John Abizaid, the Central Command commander, said the one known Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, Ansar al Islam, has moved from the northern part of Iraq and is in Baghdad.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of, though, Syria, I mean, there was an allegation today by Israel that the truck that was used to blow up the U.N. building was a truck that had originated in Syria. Do you have any information on that?

GERTZ: Well, I had heard those reports. I don't have any more than what has been out there. The intelligence community is still in the dark as to who is behind that attack. Again, one of the leading suspects is Ansar al Islam. The other is the remnants of the Ba'athists, and of course, then there's Al Qaeda and the foreign fighters. Based on the munitions involved, which seem to be a bomb fashioned out of military munitions, my guess is that it was probably Ba'athists, probably former Ba'athists.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And I should note that, Syria, of course, has vehemently denied that they had any connection to that truck.

Last 30 seconds we have left, Mansoor. Can we expect more? I hate to ask that question. And will it be expect more in Iraq, or can we expect more in other parts of the world?

IJAZ: Well, I'm still very worried about what could happen in Southeast Asia. It's very clear to me that other attacks are being planned. And I think they will continue to plan in Iraq. And frankly, everything that Bill just said is consistent with the fact that Saudis are going in through Syria, these Al Qaeda fighters are, in fact, going in. And there's no question that Syria is not being helpful here at all.

The thing that we've got to concentrate on is making sure we don't lose sight of the politics of having our allies in the region help us and containing our enemies in a much, much more effective way than we've done so far.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, gentlemen, thank you both very much.

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