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Iraqi Connections to Al Qaeda
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, June 26, 2006

Ray Robison is reporting at FoxNews that declassified Iraqi documents indicate Iraq reached out to international terrorist groups to create alliances...
Newly declassified documents captured by U.S. forces indicate that Saddam Hussein's inner circle not only actively reached out to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and terror-based jihadists in the region, but also hosted discussions with a known Al Qaeda operative about creating jihad training "centers," possibly in Baghdad.
As Bryan Preston points out, "we have learned all of this from a single notebook kept by an IIS agent who was in the loop. What else might we learn by translating and analyzing the millions of other documents captured during the war?"

One should be careful, though, to keep this discovery in context. These translated document cover "events taking place in 1999". As Kevin Drum pointed out long ago, we already knew the broad brush strokes of this. The specifics are interesting and may expand our knowledge a bit, but they are not categorically different than what we previously knew. Here, via Drum, is the nut of the 9/11 Commission Report. [pdf]
Around [March 1997] Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response.

....In March 1998, after Bin Ladin’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin....Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban.

....But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship.
The translated documents may only describe the 1999 meetings previously described in the 9/11 Report, which likely provided the basis for Richard Clarke's statement that "old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad" in the event of a US attack on Afghanistan.

NOTE: I've compiled a complete list of all notable 9/11 Report references to Iraq here.

But while I don't think this is the myth-shattering document that some allege, I also think it illustrates quite well the potential threat from Iraq. When the time and circumstances were right, Saddam was willing to use terrorism as a tool, he was willing to work with Islamist Jihadists, he was willing to provide some degree of State cover to such groups in the meantime, and there was fairly little we could do about it under the pre-war status quo. Bear in mind that, despite the fact that Iraq was considered a high-priority taget by multiple administrations, the CIA still had no "sources on the ground in Iraq providing reporting specifically on terrorism" and the "CIA acknowledged the poor intelligence collection on both the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda leadership." (according to US Intelligence Inquiries/Reports)

Fact is, Iraq was a black hole of intelligence data. What we're learning now reinforces the idea that Iraq was — like quite a lot of Mid-East States — a potential threat; but it does not establish that risk substantially beyond what we already knew. The problem was/is that the Bush administration did, in a variety of ways, claim probabilities far beyond what the actual data indicated — and suppress or ignore evidence to the contrary.
 
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Neo-Con forgeries... Lies...War for oil...Haliburton...Quagmire... Redeploy Now.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
On the whole, Jon, I agree with your assessment of the info — it’s not particularly new or enlightening. But I don’t understand two points you make:
But while I don’t think this is the myth-shattering document that some allege, I also think it illustrates quite well the potential threat from Iraq.
Why isn’t this "myth-shattering"? I can understand if you mean that this is nothing new, but the myth still persists that there were no connections between Iraq and al Quaeda, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t this be yet another nail in the coffin (or do you mean that this is one of the same nails already pounded in)?
The problem was/is that the Bush administration did, in a variety of ways, claim probabilities far beyond what the actual data indicated — and suppress or ignore evidence to the contrary.
The article you point to doesn’t show that the administration "suppressed or ignored" contrary info. Instead it shows they never got it.

Moreover, with respect to the mobile weapons labs, if they were indeed for something innocuous, why haven’t they been found, why did they need to be mobile, and why were they always seen being moved when inspectors were arriving, among other questions?

There are certainly instances where the administration touted much more certainty than was warranted, but "suppress or ignore" seems a bit strong and conspiratorial, IMHO.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://
Congradulations, Jon, for your presentation of this. Truth is, the modern era requires a lot more parsing and sobriety than back in the day. Most people either a) ignore or discount this sort of news entirely, or else b) turn it into a political weapon for all sorts of extremist cases.

Al Queada was interested in talking to Iraq, ey? Hamas and Hezbollah, and friends talk to Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and then some. Before them, the PLO had friends in every Arab government between Morocco and India.

The irregular conflict against Israel tied a lot of MidEast states to terrorist groups in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s. For obvious reasons, this didn’t convey the same level of global offensiveness before 9/11 - no one was thrilled about it, but there was the cold war to think about, and also a fair number Western people sympathized with a fair number of groups using terrorist or quasi-terrorist methods. The IRA had US supporters. The jihadists in Afghanstan were on our side. Right-wing paramilitary groups using terrorist methods in Africa and Latin America were the Reagan Admin’s buddies. Al Fatah went from hijacking planes to speaking at the UN and holding talks with the first Bush administration.

After 9/11, a serious push to make terrorist methods globally illegitimate has begun, but it has a long way to go. But to get to the point: "contacts with terrorist groups" and "ties to terrorist groups" are loose cannons of accusations that can be applied to just about every government you can think of, including our own. It can certainly be said for the governments we are supporting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Russia...

Contact with Al Quieda specifically is another kettle of fish, but in order to have a serious conversation you need to know what was being discussed. The 9/11 commission looked at the evidence and said the contacts do not equal any sort of collaborative/cooperative relationship. If Al-Queida hadn’t pulled off a very huge, paradigm changing attack but had remained a minor nuisance, they would probably still have access to at least a conversation in most Arab governments. And after the attack, they’re radioactive.

The Iraq war doesn’t really affect this paradigm one way or the other, and the fact itself that a MidEast terrorist group talked to a MidEast state is not sufficient grounds to invade said state.


 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
actually, this document shows both sides agreeing to work together in a secret intelligence based relationship, this is much more than the 9/11 commission reported
 
Written By: anon
URL: http://
Ray Robison is reporting at FoxNews that declassified Iraqi documents indicate Iraq reached out to international terrorist groups to create alliances...
Lets classify those babies, then the NYT will publish them on page 1!
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Anti-Semetic rant removed by McQ.
 
Written By: Stamp it out
URL: http://
can you please get rid of the rascist comment about jews, it is really insulting
 
Written By: anon
URL: http://
can you please get rid of the rascist comment about jews, it is really insulting
Amen.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
We actually had an intelligence vacuum on Iraq’s terror links at this time. These documents can possibly shed some light on these still open questions.
This shouldn’t really that big a surprise. The open offer of asylum from Saddam to bin Laden at the time was widely reported by CNN, the AP, NEWSWEEK, etc.
It’s also a time when Saddam’s terror infrastructure was still crippled from Clinton airstrikes and intel agents being booted from countries in the first Gulf war, Abu Nidal and others being weakened. It made sense for Saddam to reach out to al Qaeda during this time because of the near invasion from the Clinton administration as well.
The big question though is what exactly happened in these talks?
 
Written By: Mark Eichenlaub
URL: http://markeichenlaub.blogspot.com/
I read the translation in some detail and I still don’t get the interpretation that Robison is putting on it. Assuming there aren’t other parts that he hasn’t published, it seems to be a description of how you would setup safe houses and run a military intelligence operation in potentially hostile territory.

Furthermore, the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan at that point (1999), definitely including Kandahar. If Saddam was working with them, why would he need to send underground units ? One possibility is to have an underground relationship, but the document doesnt’ seem to indicate meetings with some-one semi official at all. That leaves the possibility that Saddam was trying to meet AQ types in a hidden fashion. Thats possible, but there are several other possible interpretations. If you had asked me what this document stood for, without giving me more details, I would say that it indicated someone was setting up safe houses to spy on the Taliban.


I can understand if you mean that this is nothing new, but the myth still persists that there were no connections between Iraq and al Quaeda, doesn’t it?


Well, no. In the shadowy world of intelligence and counter-intelligence it would be surprising if there were no links. What we’re talking about was significant operational links.


Moreover, with respect to the mobile weapons labs, if they were indeed for something innocuous, why haven’t they been found, why did they need to be mobile, and why were they always seen being moved when inspectors were arriving, among other questions?


Well, what about the simplest explanation of all ? They didnt’ exist, they were a product of Curveball’s imagination.


 
Written By: erg
URL: http://

 
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