Happy (Anti-Imperialist) Campers
by Lorenzo Vidino and Andrea Morigi
National Review Online
April 21, 2004
While many Europeans have been vocally opposed to the war in Iraq, there is evidence that some have gone beyond simple disapproval and are actively supporting armed resistance against U.S. forces. In fact, throughout Europe, hardcore fascists and Communists have formed an unusual coalition whose purpose is to morally and financially support terrorist organizations, and, in particular, the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance: a coalition of Iraqi groups carrying out attacks against American and allied targets.
The IPA is a small group of mainly Communist Iraqi dissidents spread throughout Europe. It was virtually unknown before November 2002, when its leader, Abdul Jabbar Kubaisi, travelled to Baghdad to meet with high-ranking Iraqi officials. The move was part of Saddam Hussein's strategy to bury the hatchet with opposition groups and put together the widest coalition possible in case of an attack from the United States. According to IPA members, Saddam promised democratic reforms and Kubaisi, purportedly out of his love for Iraq, decided to side with the former Iraqi dictator against the American invasion. In February 2003 the IPA held a conference in Paris where its delegates pledged to fight the "American imperial aggression."
After the war began Kubaisi returned to Iraq, but left his lieutenant, Awni al Kalemji, in Europe to garner support for the IPA. After being arrested by Danish authorities for recruiting Iraqis in Denmark to fight alongside Saddam's fedayeen (a charge that was later dropped), Kalemji sought support from those Europeans who most viscerally opposed the war, especially the militants of the extreme Left who harbored a deep hatred of the U.S. and Israel. At summer's end Kalmeji was invited to the Anti-Imperialist Camp, a three-day conference held in the Italian town of Assisi, where militants from several extremist and terrorist organizations indulged in anti-American and anti-capitalistic rhetoric.
Italian intelligence officials noted that several well-known militants from the extreme Right decided to join the conference, their hatred of America trumping their differences with the Left. The list of official attendees reads like an extremist honor roll: Some are known members of fanatical right-wing organizations that openly support revisionist theses on the Holocaust and blame the world's evils on a "Zionist conspiracy." Their leader is university professor Franco Cardini, who has recently declared that the latest videos featuring Osama bin Laden were fabricated by the CIA to foster anti-Islamic sentiment. Another famous participant was Father Benjamin, a French priest who for years lobbied against the Iraq embargo and organized former Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz's visit to the Vatican in February of 2003, just before the war. Recently, the Iraqi newspaper Al Mada revealed that Father Benjamin was allegedly among the Westerners who had received funds from the Iraqi regime, but the French cleric denied such allegations. UCOII, an Italian Muslim organization whose members have openly supported suicide bombers in Israel, has also supported the initiative.
Also very active in the initiative were Suzanne Scheidt and Miguel Martinez, the curators of the extremist pro-Palestinian website of al Awda, a group that is linked with the Palestinian terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Scheidt, a German Communist, and Martinez, a Mexican right-wing activist who has flirted with both radical Christian and Muslim groups and who admitted to training Argentine fighters in Mexico with the sponsorship of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, are quintessential examples of this new alliance. Al Awda, which advocates the end of the "apartheid state of Israel," has managed to join, under the banner of anti-Americanism and a common hatred for Israel, radicals from various walks of life.
The organizers of the Anti-Imperialist Camp decided to collect money for the IPA, starting with a symbolic donation of ten euros for each participant. Given the success of the initiative, a bank account was created in Italy where donors could contribute through a toll-free number. The promoters of the initiative also created a website that is linked to from the websites of several left-wing organizations throughout Europe. And while the leaders of the initiative operate in Italy, militants in at least two other countries are actively supporting the IPA. In Austria, more than one hundred have donated money to the cause, and some local militants traveled to Baghdad with members of the IPA as human shields before the war. In Germany, students have set up stands in the historic centers of more than one city to collect money for the initiative.
European members of the IPA make no attempt to hide the fact that they are raising money for an organization that is carrying out attacks on Coalition forces, as Moreno Pasquinelli, one of the leaders of the group, made clear in a recent interview with Italian press. Pasquinelli, who was arrested in Italy on April 1 as part of a multinational police operation against the Turkish Marxist terrorist group DHKP-C, said that "it is none of our business to know how they will use (the money). They could print newspapers or buy weapons, for us it's the same."
Reading interviews with Kalemji published on several websites, it looks like the group prefers the weapons. After expressing hope that the Iraqi resistance resemble the "Vietnamese liberation war," Kalemji declared that the IPA has several hundred armed men fighting in Iraq, targeting all Western forces that have joined the American-led coalition and "anybody that cooperates with them." Kalemji is also careful to distinguish between what his group is doing and terrorism, saying that the IPA's actions are legitimate resistance and that the group does not attack civilians. Nevertheless, sources close to the Pentagon revealed on condition of anonymity that American military intelligence is actively looking into the IPA's activities in Iraq.
In December, Kalemji was received as a hero at a highly publicized event organized by the Anti-Imperialist Camp in Rome, and has traveled to other European countries to meet with other supporters and donors. Even though the activities of the IPA clearly fall under the definition of fundraising for a foreign terrorist organization according to German and Italian law, authorities in both countries have not acted. As a result, the IPA was able to organize another event in one of Milan's main squares on February 14. Under the watchful eyes of Italian authorities, new money continues to be collected to defeat the "arrogant American invader."
--Lorenzo Vidino is an analyst at the Investigative Project. Andrea Morigi is a journalist with the Italian newspaper Libero.