Primed for new bat­tle

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

“They are get­ting ready for a dif­fer­ent fight I think. We have a lot tougher days ahead of us than peo­ple think. “al-Qaeda on steroids,” said Tal­a­bany.

“We saw why they were smarter. Al-Qaeda never con­trolled any ter­ri­tory. They will be smarter.”

Nu­mer­ous re­ports sug­gest­ing that Bagh­dadi had been killed have raised ques­tions about who might re­place him as head of a di­verse group com­prised of Iraqis and other Arabs as well as hard­core for­eign fight­ers.

Iraqi in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers who served un­der Sad­dam Hus­sein have been de­scribed as the mil­i­tary strate­gists in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing an Is­lamic State reign of ter­ror.

Tal­a­bany said it was hard to know which top Bagh­dadi aides were alive or dead, but he be­lieves most of the lead­er­ship is in Syria, south of Raqa.

A younger gen­er­a­tion of Sad­dam’s for­mer al­lies were ex­pected to take key po­si­tions.

“These are the peo­ple in line,” he said. “The younger gen­er­a­tion is al­ways more dan­ger­ous.”

Se­cu­rity ser­vices face the daunt­ing chal­lenge of break­ing up sleeper cells, typ­i­cally made up of two fa­cil­i­ta­tors and two op­er­a­tors.

“You don’t need a lot of guys to set a bomb off. We con­tinue to bust these sleeper cells,” said Tal­a­bany.

“Ev­ery­body we cap­ture was get­ting ready to set up to carry out at­tacks in the re­gion.”

Tal­a­bany left Iraq when he was a 12-year-old boy, at a time when Sad­dam Hus­sein was op­press­ing the Kurds. His rel­a­tives were wag­ing a guer­rilla cam­paign from moun­tain hide­outs.

Asked to com­pare the chal­lenges then com­pared to those now as Is­lamic State tries to re­cover and sec­tar­ian ten­sions threaten Iraq’s se­cu­rity, he said:

“We have a lot more free­dom now. But the prob­lems are a lot tougher.”

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