Iraq's Second-Ranked Terrorist Was A Swede

This image made available in Baghdad, Oct. 15, 2008 by the US army shows Abu Qaswarah. (AP Photo/US Army/ho)
AP Photo/U.S. Army, HO
Al Qaeda in Iraq's second-in-command, killed recently in Mosul, was actually a naturalized Swedish citizen who's been wanted by the U.S. since 2006, a U.S. official told CBS News.

U.S. intelligence knew him as Mohamed Moumou, but in Iraq he went by the alias Abu Qaswarah, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr.

Moumou was identified in December 2006 in a U.S. Treasury release as an individual who was providing financial assistance to al Qaeda and facilitating terrorist activities. Moumou, who was born in Morocco and moved to Sweden as a teenager, was a well-known leader of an extremist group centered around the Brandbergen Mosque in Stockholm, reports Orr.

He had traveled in the past to Afghanistan and Pakistan and had numerous connections to senior al Qaeda leaders, including the now-dead Al Qaeda in Iraq chief Abu Musab al Zarqawi, reports Orr. It's not known when he went to Iraq, but it is know he died there Oct. 5 following a firefight with U.S. forces near Mosul.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has launched a top-level lobbying campaign to persuade skeptical U.S. lawmakers and disapproving Iraqi politicians to support a security agreement governing the continued presence of American troops in Iraq.

Although congressional approval is not legally required, U.S. lawmakers' support is considered crucial for an agreement to go forward. In Iraq, where the deal must pass through several complex layers of approval, the going is considered even tougher.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, are among those reaching out to key members of the House and Senate. Rice also is pressing senior Iraqi leaders to accept the deal.

The agreement includes a timeline for U.S. withdrawal by 2012 and a crucial but unpopular compromise that gives Iraq limited ability to try U.S. contractors or soldiers for major crimes committed off-duty and off-base, officials said Thursday.

The campaigns of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Republican rival John McCain, both on Senate committees that deal with the issue, have been briefed on the draft.

Obama spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, "had productive conversations this afternoon" with Rice. "They look forward to reviewing the text of the draft agreement."

Obama, in a statement he and other senators released during the summer after a trip to Iraq, said they had discussed with Iraqi leaders "the need to give our troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution so long as they are in Iraq."

Rice on Wednesday called senior Iraqi leaders, pressing them to accept the deal that contains elements that many in Baghdad see as a violation of their country's sovereignty, officials said.

"The Iraqis are considering the text, we are talking to the Iraqis," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. He said Rice had spoken to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite and a top member of the Supreme Council.

A statement from Abdul-Mahdi's office said he and Rice discussed "ways to promote the agreement in line with the interests of the Iraqi people and to guarantee all their rights." Abdul-Mahdi also met on Thursday with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, officials said.

U.S. officials said Rice and Crocker told the Iraqis that the agreement is critical for future U.S.-Iraq relations and that it is the final offer the administration is willing to make. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic conversations.

The administration's greatest concern for the deal's future is not Congress but Iraq's fractured internal political system. There is some pessimism in Washington that the agreement will survive the Iraqi approval process.

The administration had hoped to conclude the agreement by the end of July, to leave plenty of time to sell it before the current U.N. mandate for the U.S.-led international force in Iraq expires on Dec. 31. Now it has less than three months to go before that legal cover for U.S. forces disappears.

The U.N. mandate could be extended, but that could be a difficult process, and is a route neither the Iraqis nor the U.S. relish pursuing.

Without either a deal or an extension, the worst-case scenario is that U.S. troops in Iraq would have to be confined to their barracks.

Congress is not in session and it was not clear Thursday how many members had been contacted. The message Bush aides are delivering is that the deal is the best U.S. negotiators were able to get from the Iraqis under current political circumstances there, the officials said.