A Trail From Jordan to Zarqawi

By Nora Boustany
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

When Ziad Khalaf al-Kerbouly was captured in Iraq three weeks ago by the Knights of Justice, or Fursan al-Haq , a unit operating under Jordan's General Intelligence Directorate, insurgents played down the arrest and described him as a "small-timer," according to Jordan's ambassador to Washington, Karim Kawar .

But the Iraqi helped piece together the puzzle that led to the spiritual leader in close contact with the head of the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, near Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad.

Kerbouly, who worked as a customs agent and local leader in the Iraqi town of Rutba, near the Jordanian border, was "immediately debriefed when we captured him," Kawar said in an interview Monday.

Kerbouly's disclosures, along with statements by other operatives captured by Jordanian authorities in recent months and data gathered by U.S.-led forces in Iraq, Iraqi police and U.S. intelligence, led to the bombing that killed Zarqawi, who came from the Jordanian town of Zarqa. A woman detained after the Nov. 9 hotel bombings in Amman in which 60 civilians were killed was another source, Kawar added.

"We insist that this is only one chapter that is closed. It is not the end of it," Kawar noted.

In a videotape aired on Jordanian television on May 23, Kerbouly said he shot a citizen in the head and kidnapped two Moroccan diplomats in Iraq last year. The Jordanian news agency Petra and an English-language daily, the Jordan Times, carried details of his testimony, in which he talked about instructions he had received from al-Qaeda military leaders to bring apprehended Jordanians to al-Qaeda hideouts.

Chávez, Ortega and Nicaragua's Vote

Eduardo Montealegre , who is running for president in Nicaragua's November election, said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was in the process of "buying the conscience of Nicaraguan voters" with oil deals and fertilizer donations to the tune of 20 percent of Nicaragua's consumption. Chávez supports Daniel Ortega , the Sandinista candidate and former president, who is slightly behind Montealegre in the polls.

"Chávez will try to buy the conscience of the people with fertilizer, oil and direct money, and the electoral council is asking Venezuela to supervise the elections, sidelining the Organization of American States, which will come as observer," Montealegre told Washington Post columnists Tuesday.

Montealegre, who leads a center-right coalition, went to high school in California and then attended Brown and Harvard universities before becoming a banker and co-founding a bank in Managua. He has served as foreign minister and finance minister in several Nicaraguan administrations.

The Season for Dancing

Spring showers permitting, 'tis the grand season for frills, hats and opera balls.

Last Friday, the spouses of several ambassadors danced up a storm under the light-studded tent at Villa Firenze with Leila Castellaneta , the wife of the host, Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta. She set the tone by twirling her pink feather boa in the air.

With champagne, canapes and a sunset ceremony by the Army Air Corps' Brass Quintet on Saturday, British Ambassador David Manning and Washington well-wishers celebrated the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth .

The annual Ambassadors' Cup polo match in honor of diplomatic chiefs of mission and their families will kick off on Saturday at the new International Polo Field at Great Meadow in The Plains.

"We are looking forward to having the diplomatic corps participate in this annual tradition once again. It is a wonderful opportunity for friendly international exchange in a casual sportsman-like setting," said U.S. Chief of Protocol Donald Ensenat , who will be hosting the event.

The Ambassadors' Cup polo match was first organized in 1972 by the then-chief of protocol, Ambassador Marion Smoak , who was a passionate polo player, and it evolved into an exchange between Britain and the United States for several years.

A Nobel Effort at the IAEA

American Jody Williams , the 1997 Nobel peace laureate, and 2003 recipient Shirin Ebadi of Iran led a delegation from both their countries to Vienna that met with the board of governors and officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency last Thursday to urge a negotiated settlement to the U.S.-Iran controversy.

The delegation included women from organizations working on children's rights, land mines, nuclear power, human rights, women's issues and disarmament. Williams, who is on her way back to Washington, will hold a briefing this morning at the National Press Club with Emira Woods , co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, and Mary Olson , director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service Southeast Office.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company