August 23, 2003 | New York Daily News

In Iraq, U.S. has many foes

It's not just the usual suspects behind the rising rash of bombings and terrorist attacks in Iraq.

True, intelligence sources in the U.S., Europe and the Mideast are convinced that the Fedayeen Saddam and the other last miserable dregs of the toppled dictator's loyalists remain deeply involved in the spate of grenade and gun attacks that have taken the lives of so many coalition forces. But they also insist that large-scale suicide bombings like the one that rocked Baghdad's UN headquarters last week bear the hallmark of international terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and even Hamas.

For one thing, while Saddam Hussein's loyalists may hate the U.S.- led occupation forces, they have little gripe with the UN. That is not the case with many of the jihad maniacs who have begun arriving by droves in Iraq. In their skewed view, the UN is a primary target for terror.

Last week's attack on the UN, says Dia'a Rashwan, a Cairo expert on radical Islam, is perfectly “logical within the ideology of Al Qaeda.” Rashwan points out that Osama Bin Laden and his minions often rail against the UN, both for its support of the American-led coalition that toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan and for UN attempts – albeit weak – to restrain Saddam's Iraq.

The anti-UN motivation is even stronger for Ansar Al-Islam, the Al Qaeda-linked terror group that operated in the north of Iraq.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the blood-drenched Palestinian Islamic organizations, and Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based terror army, are three other possible candidates.

“They have the motivation and the know-how,” argues a Washington-based intelligence source. “They hate the UN for what they perceive as its support for Israel – and they hate Jordan for its recognition of Israel and for the help it gave the U.S. during the war on Saddam.”

Indeed, the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad was the first terror bomb target on Aug. 7. After the UN blast, reports of insider suspects ranged from Iraqi security guards at the UN compound to a previously unknown Islamist group, the Armed Vanguards of the Second Mohammed Army, which claimed responsibility. But the very nature of the attacks could easily point to the outsiders.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda and even the Iranian-supported Hezbollah are known for their use of intricate car and suicide bombings. Tuesday's explosion, concludes the FBI's Tom Fuentes, “was no homemade bomb.” Neither was the sabotage bomb that splintered Iraq's oil pipeline to Turkey or the one that shattered Baghdad's water main.

According to Fuentes and other FBI experts on the scene in Baghdad, the truck that blew up and butchered so many UN employees on Tuesday had been loaded with at least 1,000 pounds of military-grade explosives – the kind of Soviet-supplied ordnance that the Iraqi Army possessed in enormous quantities and that may easily have fallen into the hands of terror organizations since the fall of Saddam and even during his regime, when he played host to a bevy of terrorist gangs.

What to do about it? The last thing we should even consider is pulling our forces out of Iraq. Were the U.S. to retreat now, Americans would be seen in the Mideast and the entire world as weaklings and scorned even more than we already are.

The effects would ripple across the region and embolden even more anti- American action.

We have to stay the course – and we have to urge our allies and the UN to back us.

Above all, we have to stop the flow of outside terrorists, from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Turkey. At all costs.