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16 Nov 03,, 01:22
Case Closed
From the November 24, 2003 issue: The U.S. government's secret memo detailing cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
by Stephen F. Hayes
11/24/2003, Volume 009, Issue 11


OSAMA BIN LADEN and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda--perhaps even for Mohamed Atta--according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

The memo, dated October 27, 2003, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was written in response to a request from the committee as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence claims made by the administration. Intelligence reporting included in the 16-page memo comes from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources. Some of it is new information obtained in custodial interviews with high-level al Qaeda terrorists and Iraqi officials, and some of it is more than a decade old. The picture that emerges is one of a history of collaboration between two of America's most determined and dangerous enemies.

According to the memo--which lays out the intelligence in 50 numbered points--Iraq-al Qaeda contacts began in 1990 and continued through mid-March 2003, days before the Iraq War began. Most of the numbered passages contain straight, fact-based intelligence reporting, which in
some cases includes an evaluation of the credibility of the source. This reporting is often followed by commentary and analysis.

The relationship began shortly before the first Gulf War. According to reporting in the memo, bin Laden sent "emissaries to Jordan in 1990 to meet with Iraqi government officials." At some unspecified point in 1991, according to a CIA analysis, "Iraq sought Sudan's assistance to establish links to al Qaeda." The outreach went in both directions. According to 1993 CIA reporting cited in the memo, "bin Laden wanted to expand his organization's capabilities through ties with Iraq."

The primary go-between throughout these early stages was Sudanese strongman Hassan al-Turabi, a leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated National Islamic Front. Numerous sources have confirmed this. One defector reported that "al-Turabi was instrumental in arranging the Iraqi-al Qaeda relationship. The defector said Iraq sought al Qaeda influence through its connections with Afghanistan, to facilitate the transshipment of proscribed weapons and equipment to Iraq. In return, Iraq provided al Qaeda with training and instructors."

One such confirmation came in a postwar interview with one of Saddam Hussein's henchmen. As the memo details:

4. According to a May 2003 debriefing of a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, Iraqi intelligence established a highly secretive relationship with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and later with al Qaeda. The first meeting in 1992 between the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) and al Qaeda was brokered by al-Turabi. Former IIS deputy director Faruq Hijazi and senior al Qaeda leader [Ayman al] Zawahiri were at the meeting--the first of several between 1992 and 1995 in Sudan. Additional meetings between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda were held in Pakistan. Members of al Qaeda would sometimes visit Baghdad where they would meet the Iraqi intelligence chief in a safe house. The report claimed that Saddam insisted the relationship with al Qaeda be kept secret. After 9-11, the source said Saddam made a personnel change in the IIS for fear the relationship would come under scrutiny from foreign probes.
A decisive moment in the budding relationship came in 1993, when bin Laden faced internal resistance to his cooperation with Saddam.

5. A CIA report from a contact with good access, some of whose reporting has been corroborated, said that certain elements in the "Islamic Army" of bin Laden were against the secular regime of Saddam. Overriding the internal factional strife that was developing, bin Laden came to an "understanding" with Saddam that the Islamic Army would no longer support anti-Saddam activities. According to sensitive reporting released in U.S. court documents during the African Embassy trial, in 1993 bin Laden reached an "understanding" with Saddam under which he (bin Laden) forbade al Qaeda operations to be mounted against the Iraqi leader.
Another facilitator of the relationship during the mid-1990s was Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer al-Iraqi). Abu Hajer, now in a New York prison, was described in court proceedings related to the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as bin Laden's "best friend." According to CIA reporting dating back to the Clinton administration, bin Laden trusted him to serve as a liaison with Saddam's regime and tasked him with procurement of weapons of mass destruction for al Qaeda. FBI reporting in the memo reveals that Abu Hajer "visited Iraq in early 1995" and "had a good relationship with Iraqi intelligence. Sometime before mid-1995 he went on an al Qaeda mission to discuss unspecified cooperation with the Iraqi government."

Some of the reporting about the relationship throughout the mid-1990s comes from a source who had intimate knowledge of bin Laden and his dealings. This source, according to CIA analysis, offered "the most credible information" on cooperation between bin Laden and Iraq.

This source's reports read almost like a diary. Specific dates of when bin Laden flew to various cities are included, as well as names of individuals he met. The source did not offer information on the substantive talks during the meetings. . . . There are not a great many reports in general on the relationship between bin Laden and Iraq because of the secrecy surrounding it. But when this source with close access provided a "window" into bin Laden's activities, bin Laden is seen as heavily involved with Iraq (and Iran).
Reporting from the early 1990s remains somewhat sketchy, though multiple sources place Hassan al-Turabi and Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden's current No. 2, at the center of the relationship. The reporting gets much more specific in the mid-1990s:

8. Reporting from a well placed source disclosed that bin Laden was receiving training on bomb making from the IIS's [Iraqi Intelligence Service] principal technical expert on making sophisticated explosives, Brigadier Salim al-Ahmed. Brigadier Salim was observed at bin Laden's farm in Khartoum in Sept.-Oct. 1995 and again in July 1996, in the company of the Director of Iraqi Intelligence, Mani abd-al-Rashid al-Tikriti.
9 . . . Bin Laden visited Doha, Qatar (17-19 Jan. 1996), staying at the residence of a member of the Qatari ruling family. He discussed the successful movement of explosives into Saudi Arabia, and operations targeted against U.S. and U.K. interests in Dammam, Dharan, and Khobar, using clandestine al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia. Upon his return, bin Laden met with Hijazi and Turabi, among others.

And later more reporting, from the same "well placed" source:

10. The Director of Iraqi Intelligence, Mani abd-al-Rashid al-Tikriti, met privately with bin Laden at his farm in Sudan in July 1996. Tikriti used an Iraqi delegation traveling to Khartoum to discuss bilateral cooperation as his "cover" for his own entry into Sudan to meet with bin Laden and Hassan al-Turabi. The Iraqi intelligence chief and two other IIS officers met at bin Laden's farm and discussed bin Laden's request for IIS technical assistance in: a) making letter and parcel bombs; b) making bombs which could be placed on aircraft and detonated by changes in barometric pressure; and c) making false passport [sic]. Bin Laden specifically requested that [Brigadier Salim al-Ahmed], Iraqi intelligence's premier explosives maker--especially skilled in making car bombs--remain with him in Sudan. The Iraqi intelligence chief instructed Salim to remain in Sudan with bin Laden as long as required.
The analysis of those events follows:

The time of the visit from the IIS director was a few weeks after the Khobar Towers bombing. The bombing came on the third anniversary of a U.S. [Tomahawk missile] strike on IIS HQ (retaliation for the attempted assassination of former President Bush in Kuwait) for which Iraqi officials explicitly threatened retaliation.

IN ADDITION TO THE CONTACTS CLUSTERED in the mid-1990s, intelligence reports detail a flurry of activities in early 1998 and again in December 1998. A "former senior Iraqi intelligence officer" reported that "the Iraqi intelligence service station in Pakistan was Baghdad's point of contact with al Qaeda. He also said bin Laden visited Baghdad in Jan. 1998 and met with Tariq Aziz."

11. According to sensitive reporting, Saddam personally sent Faruq Hijazi, IIS deputy director and later Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, to meet with bin Laden at least twice, first in Sudan and later in Afghanistan in 1999. . . .
14. According to a sensitive reporting [from] a "regular and reliable source," [Ayman al] Zawahiri, a senior al Qaeda operative, visited Baghdad and met with the Iraqi Vice President on 3 February 1998. The goal of the visit was to arrange for coordination between Iraq and bin Laden and establish camps in an-Nasiriyah and Iraqi Kurdistan under the leadership of Abdul Aziz.

That visit came as the Iraqis intensified their defiance of the U.N. inspection regime, known as UNSCOM, created by the cease-fire agreement following the Gulf War. UNSCOM demanded access to Saddam's presidential palaces that he refused to provide. As the tensions mounted, President Bill Clinton went to the Pentagon on February 18, 1998, and prepared the nation for war. He warned of "an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers, and organized international criminals" and said "there is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein."

The day after this speech, according to documents unearthed in April 2003 in the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters by journalists Mitch Potter and Inigo Gilmore, Hussein's intelligence service wrote a memo detailing coming meetings with a bin Laden representative traveling to Baghdad. Each reference to bin Laden had been covered by liquid paper that, when revealed, exposed a plan to increase cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda. According to that memo, the IIS agreed to pay for "all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden." The document set as the goal for the meeting a discussion of "the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him." The al Qaeda representative, the document went on to suggest, might provide "a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden."

Four days later, on February 23, 1998, bin Laden issued his now-famous fatwa on the plight of Iraq, published in the Arabic-language daily, al Quds al-Arabi: "For over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples." Bin Laden urged his followers to act: "The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it."

Although war was temporarily averted by a last-minute deal brokered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, tensions soon rose again. The standoff with Iraq came to a head in December 1998, when President Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox, a 70-hour bombing campaign that began on December 16 and ended three days later, on December 19, 1998.

According to press reports at the time, Faruq Hijazi, deputy director of Iraqi Intelligence, met with bin Laden in Afghanistan on December 21, 1998, to offer bin Laden safe haven in Iraq. CIA reporting in the memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee seems to confirm this meeting and relates two others.

15. A foreign government service reported that an Iraqi delegation, including at least two Iraqi intelligence officers formerly assigned to the Iraqi Embassy in Pakistan, met in late 1998 with bin Laden in Afghanistan.
16. According to CIA reporting, bin Laden and Zawahiri met with two Iraqi intelligence officers in Afghanistan in Dec. 1998.

17. . . . Iraq sent an intelligence officer to Afghanistan to seek closer ties to bin Laden and the Taliban in late 1998. The source reported that the Iraqi regime was trying to broaden its cooperation with al Qaeda. Iraq was looking to recruit Muslim "elements" to sabotage U.S. and U.K. interests. After a senior Iraqi intelligence officer met with Taliban leader [Mullah] Omar, arrangements were made for a series of meetings between the Iraqi intelligence officer and bin Laden in Pakistan. The source noted Faruq Hijazi was in Afghanistan in late 1998.

18. . . . Faruq Hijazi went to Afghanistan in 1999 along with several other Iraqi officials to meet with bin Laden. The source claimed that Hijazi would have met bin Laden only at Saddam's explicit direction.

An analysis that follows No. 18 provides additional context and an explanation of these reports:

Reporting entries #4, #11, #15, #16, #17, and #18, from different sources, corroborate each other and provide confirmation of meetings between al Qaeda operatives and Iraqi intelligence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. None of the reports have information on operational details or the purpose of such meetings. The covert nature of the relationship would indicate strict compartmentation [sic] of operations.
Information about connections between al Qaeda and Iraq was so widespread by early 1999 that it made its way into the mainstream press. A January 11, 1999, Newsweek story ran under this headline: "Saddam + Bin Laden?" The story cited an "Arab intelligence source" with knowledge of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. "According to this source, Saddam expected last month's American and British bombing campaign to go on much longer than it did. The dictator believed that as the attacks continued, indignation would grow in the Muslim world, making his terrorism offensive both harder to trace and more effective. With acts of terror contributing to chaos in the region, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait might feel less inclined to support Washington. Saddam's long-term strategy, according to several sources, is to bully or cajole Muslim countries into breaking the embargo against Iraq, without waiting for the United Nations to lift if formally."

INTELLIGENCE REPORTS about the nature of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda from mid-1999 through 2003 are conflicting. One senior Iraqi intelligence officer in U.S. custody, Khalil Ibrahim Abdallah, "said that the last contact between the IIS and al Qaeda was in July 1999. Bin Laden wanted to meet with Saddam, he said. The guidance sent back from Saddam's office reportedly ordered Iraqi intelligence to refrain from any further contact with bin Laden and al Qaeda. The source opined that Saddam wanted to distance himself from al Qaeda."

The bulk of reporting on the relationship contradicts this claim. One report states that "in late 1999" al Qaeda set up a training camp in northern Iraq that "was operational as of 1999." Other reports suggest that the Iraqi regime contemplated several offers of safe haven to bin Laden throughout 1999.

23. . . . Iraqi officials were carefully considering offering safe haven to bin Laden and his closest collaborators in Nov. 1999. The source indicated the idea was put forward by the presumed head of Iraqi intelligence in Islamabad (Khalid Janaby) who in turn was in frequent contact and had good relations with bin Laden.
Some of the most intriguing intelligence concerns an Iraqi named Ahmed Hikmat Shakir:

24. According to sensitive reporting, a Malaysia-based Iraqi national (Shakir) facilitated the arrival of one of the Sept 11 hijackers for an operational meeting in Kuala Lumpur (Jan 2000). Sensitive reporting indicates Shakir's travel and contacts link him to a worldwide network of terrorists, including al Qaeda. Shakir worked at the Kuala Lumpur airport--a job he claimed to have obtained through an Iraqi embassy employee.
One of the men at that al Qaeda operational meeting in the Kuala Lumpur Hotel was Tawfiz al Atash, a top bin Laden lieutenant later identified as the mastermind of the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole.

25. Investigation into the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 by al Qaeda revealed no specific Iraqi connections but according to the CIA, "fragmentary evidence points to possible Iraqi involvement."
26. During a custodial interview, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi [a senior al Qaeda operative] said he was told by an al Qaeda associate that he was tasked to travel to Iraq (1998) to establish a relationship with Iraqi intelligence to obtain poisons and gases training. After the USS Cole bombing in 2000, two al Qaeda operatives were sent to Iraq for CBW-related [Chemical and Biological Weapons] training beginning in Dec 2000. Iraqi intelligence was "encouraged" after the embassy and USS Cole bombings to provide this training.

The analysis of this report follows.

CIA maintains that Ibn al-Shaykh's timeline is consistent with other sensitive reporting indicating that bin Laden asked Iraq in 1998 for advanced weapons, including CBW and "poisons."
Additional reporting also calls into question the claim that relations between Iraq and al Qaeda cooled after mid-1999:

27. According to sensitive CIA reporting, . . . the Saudi National Guard went on a kingdom-wide state of alert in late Dec 2000 after learning Saddam agreed to assist al Qaeda in attacking U.S./U.K. interests in Saudi Arabia.

And then there is the alleged contact between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. The reporting on those links suggests not one meeting, but as many as four. What's more, the memo reveals potential financing of Atta's activities by Iraqi intelligence.

The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept. 11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in Prague, [Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir] al Ani, on several occasions. During one of these meetings, al Ani ordered the IIS finance officer to issue Atta funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.
And the commentary:

CIA can confirm two Atta visits to Prague--in Dec. 1994 and in June 2000; data surrounding the other two--on 26 Oct 1999 and 9 April 2001--is complicated and sometimes contradictory and CIA and FBI cannot confirm Atta met with the IIS. Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross continues to stand by his information.
It's not just Gross who stands by the information. Five high-ranking members of the Czech government have publicly confirmed meetings between Atta and al Ani. The meeting that has gotten the most press attention--April 9, 2001--is also the most widely disputed. Even some of the most hawkish Bush administration officials are privately skeptical that Atta met al Ani on that occasion. They believe that reports of the alleged meeting, said to have taken place in public, outside the headquarters of the U.S.-financed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, suggest a level of sloppiness that doesn't fit the pattern of previous high-level Iraq-al Qaeda contacts.

Whether or not that specific meeting occurred, the report by Czech counterintelligence that al Ani ordered the Iraqi Intelligence Service officer to provide IIS funds to Atta might help explain the lead hijacker's determination to reach Prague, despite significant obstacles, in the spring of
2000. (Note that the report stops short of confirming that the funds were transferred. It claims only that the IIS officer requested the transfer.) Recall that Atta flew to Prague from Germany on May 30, 2000, but was denied entry because he did not have a valid visa. Rather than simply return to Germany and fly directly to the United States, his ultimate destination, Atta took pains to get to Prague. After he was refused entry the first time, he traveled back to Germany, obtained the proper paperwork, and caught a bus back to Prague. He left for the United States the day after arriving in Prague for the second time.

Several reports indicate that the relationship between Saddam and bin Laden continued, even after the September 11 attacks:

31. An Oct. 2002 . . . report said al Qaeda and Iraq reached a secret agreement whereby Iraq would provide safe haven to al Qaeda members and provide them with money and weapons. The agreement reportedly prompted a large number of al Qaeda members to head to Iraq. The report also said that al Qaeda members involved in a fraudulent passport network for al Qaeda had been directed to procure 90 Iraqi and Syrian passports for al Qaeda personnel.
The analysis that accompanies that report indicates that the report fits the pattern of Iraq-al Qaeda collaboration:

References to procurement of false passports from Iraq and offers of safe haven previously have surfaced in CIA source reporting considered reliable. Intelligence reports to date have maintained that Iraqi support for al Qaeda usually involved providing training, obtaining passports, and offers of refuge. This report adds to that list by including weapons and money. This assistance would make sense in the aftermath of 9-11.
Colin Powell, in his February 5, 2003, presentation to the U.N. Security Council, revealed the activities of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Reporting in the memo expands on Powell's case and might help explain some of the resistance the U.S. military is currently facing in Iraq.

37. Sensitive reporting indicates senior terrorist planner and close al Qaeda associate al Zarqawi has had an operational alliance with Iraqi officials. As of Oct. 2002, al Zarqawi maintained contacts with the IIS to procure weapons and explosives, including surface-to-air missiles from an IIS officer in Baghdad. According to sensitive reporting, al Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S. occupation of the city, suggesting his operational cooperation with the Iraqis may have deepened in recent months. Such cooperation could include IIS provision of a secure operating bases [sic] and steady access to arms and explosives in preparation for a possible U.S. invasion. Al Zarqawi's procurements from the Iraqis also could support al Qaeda operations against the U.S. or its allies elsewhere.
38. According to sensitive reporting, a contact with good access who does not have an established reporting record: An Iraqi intelligence service officer said that as of mid-March the IIS was providing weapons to al Qaeda members located in northern Iraq, including rocket propelled grenade (RPG)-18 launchers. According to IIS information, northern Iraq-based al Qaeda members believed that the U.S. intended to strike al Qaeda targets during an anticipated assault against Ansar al-Islam positions.

The memo further reported pre-war intelligence which "claimed that an Iraqi intelligence official, praising Ansar al-Islam, provided it with $100,000 and agreed to continue to give assistance."

CRITICS OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION have complained that Iraq-al Qaeda connections are a fantasy, trumped up by the warmongers at the White House to fit their preconceived notions about international terror; that links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have been routinely "exaggerated" for political purposes; that hawks "cherry-picked" bits of intelligence and tendentiously presented these to the American public.

Carl Levin, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made those points as recently as November 9, in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." Republicans on the committee, he complained, refuse to look at the administration's "exaggeration of intelligence."

Said Levin: "The question is whether or not they exaggerated intelligence in order to carry out their purpose, which was to make the case for going to war. Did we know, for instance, with certainty that there was any relationship between the Iraqis and the terrorists that were in Afghanistan, bin Laden? The administration said that there's a connection between those terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. Was there a basis for that?"

There was, as shown in the memo to the committee on which Levin serves. And much of the reporting comes from Clinton-era intelligence. Not that you would know this from Al Gore's recent public statements. Indeed, the former vice president claims to be privy to new "evidence" that the administration lied. In an August speech at New York University, Gore claimed: "The evidence now shows clearly that Saddam did not want to work with Osama bin Laden at all, much less give him weapons of mass destruction." Really?

One of the most interesting things to note about the 16-page memo is that it covers only a fraction of the evidence that will eventually be available to document the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. For one thing, both Saddam and bin Laden were desperate to keep their cooperation secret. (Remember, Iraqi intelligence used liquid paper on an internal intelligence document to conceal bin Laden's name.) For another, few people in the U.S. government are expressly looking for such links. There is no Iraq-al Qaeda equivalent of the CIA's 1,400-person Iraq Survey Group currently searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.

Instead, CIA and FBI officials are methodically reviewing Iraqi intelligence files that survived the three-week war last spring. These documents would cover several miles if laid end-to-end. And they are in Arabic. They include not only connections between bin Laden and Saddam, but also revolting details of the regime's long history of brutality. It will be a slow process.

So Feith's memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee is best viewed as sort of a "Cliff's Notes" version of the relationship. It contains the highlights, but it is far from exhaustive.

One example. The memo contains only one paragraph on Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, the Iraqi facilitator who escorted two September 11 hijackers through customs in Kuala Lumpur. U.S. intelligence agencies have extensive reporting on his activities before and after the September 11 hijacking. That they would include only this brief overview suggests the 16-page memo, extensive as it is, just skims the surface of the reporting on Iraq-al Qaeda connections.

Other intelligence reports indicate that Shakir whisked not one but two September 11 hijackers--Khalid al Midhar and Nawaq al Hamzi--through the passport and customs process upon their arrival in Kuala Lumpur on January 5, 2000. Shakir then traveled with the hijackers to the Kuala Lumpur Hotel where they met with Ramzi bin al Shibh, one of the masterminds of the September 11 plot. The meeting lasted three days. Shakir returned to work on January 9 and January 10, and never again.

Shakir got his airport job through a contact at the Iraqi Embassy. (Iraq routinely used its embassies as staging grounds for its intelligence operations; in some cases, more than half of the alleged "diplomats" were intelligence operatives.) The Iraqi embassy, not his employer, controlled Shakir's schedule. He was detained in Qatar on September 17, 2001. Authorities found in his possession contact information for terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and the September 11 hijackings. The CIA had previous reporting that Shakir had received a phone call from the safe house where the 1993 World Trade Center attacks had been plotted.

The Qataris released Shakir shortly after his arrest. On October 21, 2001, he flew to Amman, Jordan, where he was to change planes to a flight to Baghdad. He didn't make that flight. Shakir was detained in Jordan for three months, where the CIA interrogated him. His interrogators concluded that Shakir had received extensive training in counter-interrogation techniques. Not long after he was detained, according to an official familiar with the intelligence, the Iraqi regime began to "pressure" Jordanian intelligence to release him. At the same time, Amnesty International complained that Shakir was being held without charge. The Jordanians released him on January 28, 2002, at which point he is believed to have fled back to Iraq.

Was Shakir an Iraqi agent? Does he provide a connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11? We don't know. We may someday find out.

But there can no longer be any serious argument about whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to plot against Americans.

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.


16 Nov 03,, 15:55
America and the CIA "made" Saddam and Osama. But they were bad kids, so one got spanked and both were forced to hide.
The article should read "The Relationship between the US, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein!"

18 Nov 03,, 01:22
Originally posted by s_qwert63
America and the CIA "made" Saddam and Osama. But they were bad kids, so one got spanked and both were forced to hide.
The article should read "The Relationship between the US, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein!"

Thanks for your usual unintelligible comment. :roll

18 Nov 03,, 04:13
Islamic terrorism got legitimacy in Afghanistan against the Soviets. It may have been necessary from the cold war point of view. CIA played a big role backed by the US Presidency.

The ABC News reporter John Cooley's Unholy War' has a graphic account of the rise of such elements and the collusion between the western govts and the Islamists. Interestingly, Israel also chipped in!

A topsy turvy world, what?

18 Nov 03,, 04:17
In the war against communism, everything else takes a back seat. Even Israel recognized this fact and so helped the Afghans. Just because something is the lesser of 2 evils (or at least the weaker of 2 evils) does not mean it should fall off the list all togethor. Ya, we needed their help against Russia, but they knew it was a one time alliance and so did we, and they have been acting against western interests ever since

29 Jan 04,, 01:04
The Al-Qaeda/Saddam Link
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 28, 2004

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Stephen F. Hayes, the staff writer at The Weekly Standard whose recent article, Case Closed, reported on the U.S. government's secret memo detailing the links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
FP: Welcome to Frontpage Interview Mr. Hayes. It’s a pleasure to have you with us.

Let’s begin with the State of the Union Address last week. The President talked about the War on Terror, Iraq, the importance of fighting our enemy and finishing the job etc., but he did not touch on the Saddam-Al-Qaeda connection -- which you, among others, have done an excellent job documenting. Why do you think the President was silent on this crucial theme?

Hayes: I'm not sure the State of the Union is the proper setting for any kind of a detailed rehash of prewar arguments.

That said, I think the administration has been too silent on these connections for too long. We have learned some interesting things since the end of the war, not least of which is the support of the Iraqi regime for Abdul Rahman Yasin, an Iraqi native who mixed the chemicals for the 1993 World Trade Center building. Coalition forces found a document in Tikrit several months ago that indicates the former Iraqi regime has provided Yasin housing and a monthly stipend for nearly a decade. Dick Cheney has mentioned this on a couple of occasions, but it has otherwise gone unnoticed. Why?

It's a big deal. It doesn't prove Iraqi complicity in the bombing -- we have not yet found any paperwork that suggests the regime was supporting Yasin before the bombing. But it certainly raises interesting questions. The Iraqis have said for years that they either didn't know where Yasin was or, at times, that he had been imprisoned in Iraq. We now know with reasonable certainty that they were lying. In any case, it demonstrates that Iraq was not only harboring, but supporting, a dangerous terrorist who has attacked America.

I hope the administration will abandon its reluctance to share this kind of information with the American public. Yes, anonymous leaks from sceptics at the CIA are inevitable and hard to challenge. The administration has argued for a year now that Iraq was -- and remains -- the central front in the War on Terror. These revelations will help explain why.

FP: So, let’s go over some of the facts. Tell us about the connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam. It’s been confirmed beyond reasonable doubt hasn’t it?

Hayes: Yes. I think it's telling that before the war, many who were sceptical of such a relationship were saying that there was no connection whatsoever. In the face of additional evidence to the contrary, they now seem to allow that there were "contacts" but tell us that such contacts didn't amount to anything. How they know this is never explained.

The Saddam-al Qaeda relationship began in the early 1990s and was brokered by Sudanese strongman Hassan al Turabi. By 1993, Saddam and bin Laden reached an informal non-aggression pact -- you don't mess with me, I won't mess with you. There is some evidence that they cooperated throughout the mid-1990s, perhaps on chemical and biological weapons -- while al Qaeda was based in the Sudan.

The relationship seemed to pick up in the late 1990s, during periods of increased tensions between Iraq and the U.S. Some of the evidence is more circumstantial and suggestive, some of it is direct and incontrovertible. And much of it is still unknown.

I thought the administration might have oversold the importance of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al Qaeda affiliate who went to Baghdad for "medical treatment" after the war in Afghanistan. He had a starring role in Colin Powell's presentation before the UN Security Council this time last year. It looks like I was wrong. He seems to have been a central figure in pre-war Iraq/al Qaeda collaboration and, more troubling, is helping to recruit terrorists and coordinate anti-coalition activities in Iraq now. Investigations in Germany and Italy are turning up new things on Zarqawi almost daily.

FP: As you have discussed in your work, there were actual contacts between 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta and Saddam’s people in Prague. And one of these meetings occurred in April, 2001, just a few months before 9/11. U.S. and Czech intelligence have confirmed these meetings, including the fact that they involved Saddam’s approval for funding Atta. What do you think of the significance of these meetings? How can anyone deny Iraq’s direct involvement in 9/11 if Iraqi intelligence officials were meeting with one of the main 9/11 perpetrators?

Hayes: It’s a fascinating story. Five top Czech officials are on record as confirming the meeting. The Czechs have also reported to the CIA that al Ani authorized a financial transfer to Atta from the Iraqi Intelligence service to Atta. The FBI and the CIA have not been able to confirm these reports to their satisfaction. Dick Cheney once described reports of the meeting as “credible” but “unconfirmed.” I think that’s the best way to leave it at this point. Al Ani, now in US custody, has denied it. I expect we’ll hear more about the alleged meeting and the conclusions about it in the near future.

FP: Many of those in our liberal media discount the possibility of a Saddam-bin Laden connection because they don’t see a possibility of Islamic fanatics colluding with a secular regime. Many officials in the U.S. government have also had this disposition over the years in framing U.S. policy. But isn’t this utter nonsense? Anti-American Middle East secularists consistently co-operate with Islamic religious fanatics against U.S. interests. No? Could you talk a bit about this?

Hayes: Well, the standard view that bin Laden considered Saddam an “infidel” and that Saddam was highly suspicious of bin Laden is, I think, essentially accurate. What bothers me is the great leap that the sceptics take, reasoning from those data. The notion that Saddam and bin Laden would never cooperate because of their divergent goals is, as you say, utter nonsense. History is replete with examples of long-time enemies cooperating against a common foe. The facility with which some CIA analysts and sceptical journalists rule out collaboration reflects a rather profound failure of imagination.

The New York Times reported last week that among the documents in Saddam’s rat-hole was one warning his Baathists to be “wary” of cooperating with jihadists. That’s not terribly surprising. The Times reporter, two paragraphs later, cited the document as further “evidence” that challenges Bush administration claims that Saddam worked with al Qaeda. Huh? The document shows no such thing. Most of those who believe that Saddam and al Qaeda cooperated argue that such a relationship was one of convenience. Evan Bayh, a Democratic senator from Indiana, explained this well in an interview I conducted with him a few weeks back. Saddam wanted to use al Qaeda to conduct terrorist operations on his behalf; al Qaeda wanted to use Iraq for the things that only a state can provide.

FP: What do you think of Saddam’s capture? What is its significance?

Hayes: Saddam's capture was huge -- just ask Howard Dean. I had been struck in the months after Baghdad fell, just how many Iraqis told me that things would not improve until Saddam was captured or killed. It seemed ridiculous. Here you had American Bradleys driving throughout central Baghdad and the Iraqis still believed Saddam could actually stage a comeback. On one trip in late July, a member of the Najaf City Council asked Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz if it was true that the CIA was holding Saddam and waiting to use him as punishment if anti-American activities continued. This was a well-educated Iraqi speaking some four months after the end of major combat.

In the short-term, I think one reason the Shia in Iraq have become increasingly vocal over the past month about the need for direct elections is that they had confirmation that Saddam is gone for good. The Shia were horrendously abused under Saddam, of course, and given our repeated failure to make good on promises to them from 1991, have historically had good reason to be suspicious of American motives.

FP: This question posed by the member of the Najaf City Council about the CIA holding Saddam etc., brings to mind the bizarre Arab conspiracy mindset. I must be honest, in almost every one of my political discussions with my Arab acquaintances/friends, I am always on the receiving end of some kind of long monologue that relates a fantastic tale about Saddam being an American agent, bin Laden now living in Miami, the Israelis “fixing” 9/11 etc. Someone else is always in control. There are these dark sinister American and Jewish forces that are behind every Arab failure, let alone every Arab event. The “interpretations” of Saddam’s capture in the Arab press I think were a good indication of this phenomenon. Could you give a few comments on this conspiracy mentality?

Hayes: I was at a dinner party within a couple of weeks of September 11 where a young Moroccan told me, matter-of-factly, that the Mossad was behind the attacks. The striking thing for me was not the existence of the conspiracy theory, but that it was posited by someone who had lived in the United States for more than a decade. That’s scary and somewhat bewildering.

FP: Yes, it is scary and bewildering. But could you give a little bit of an insight here into the psychological mindset? Is it connected to the fact that the real world is simply too painful for many Middle Eastern Arabs to accept, because it would necessitate too many painful truths about the failures and bankruptcies of their own culture and civilization?

Hayes: Well, that may explain part of it. There is clearly a segment of the Arab world, for lack of a better term, determined to scapegoat Jews, the West, imperialists, America, etc. If you believe the polling in the region – and I’m not sure that I do – that’s a big chunk. And it’s reasonable to expect that those feelings will diminish the more inhabitants of the Middle East can determine their own future and create their own success. That’s not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to happen over the next decade. Winning the “hearts and minds” of the Arab world is a long-term problem that requires a long-term commitment and fundamental, systemic changes in relations between countries in the region and the West.

FP: So where are we headed now in Iraq? In what direction should U.S. involvement in Iraq go?

Hayes: I think we're at an important juncture in Iraq. (Of course, I've been saying that for the past nine months, too.) Ayatollah Sistani, the leader of the Shia in Iraq, is by most accounts a reasonable man. He's certainly not a rabble-rouser, just stirring things up to cause trouble. We have no choice but to listen to his requests. I'm told that he's not being nearly as dogmatic in private as the press reports would have us believe. Yes, he has strong views and wants to make certain that the Shia are adequately represented in the new Iraqi government, but he's not ruled out some kind of compromise on direct elections.

I think we're in Iraq for a while. It's now become something of a cliché, but it's a cliché because it's true: we can't afford to fail in Iraq. The changes we have made throughout the Middle East -- in mindsets, if not yet political structures -- are huge. We can't lose that momentum.

FP: Is democracy possible for Iraq? What can we do best to prevent Islamization of the country or a Khomeini-style take-over?

Hayes: Yes. It’s difficult for me even to entertain the notion that democracy is impossible. As the late Michael Kelly once put it: who would choose to live in a dictatorship? There’s a lot of political space between a Jeffersonian democracy and a dictatorship. I expect that what evolves in Iraq will occupy some of that space.

Your second question is much more difficult. I think even advocates for democracies in the Islamic world struggle to come up with adequate answers. With respect to Iraq, the US has a tremendous potential ally in Ayatollah Sistani. He has quite a following and has indicated repeatedly that he favors some form of democratic government. He qualifies this by insisting that such a government must not conflict with the teachings of Islam – which leaves a lot open to interpretation. But I worry that we could alienate Sistani by refusing to be flexible about how, exactly, elections are to take place in Iraq.

FP: In my recent interview with Dr. Richard Pipes, he stated that he would advise Bush not to bother trying to install a western-style democracy in Iraq and just to concentrate on setting up an effective tribal government. He argues that, “Democracy requires that all institutions standing between the individual citizen and the state be eliminated, but this is not possible in countries with strong tribal traditions.” What do you make of this?

Hayes: I’m not sure I’d agree that democracy requires that all such institutions be eliminated. Many democratic theorists argue that a strong civil society is precisely what sustains democracies. The tribes in Iraq today are the source of tremendous power and loyalty – it’s one of the reasons that Saddam, after neglecting the tribes for so many years, appealed to them for support when he was threatened. Much of the work that U.S. forces are doing in Iraq is conducted with the active cooperation of tribal sheikhs.

FP: Where do we stand right now in the War on Terror?

Hayes: That's a great question, and one that ironically doesn't get enough attention. I was speaking to a member of the national Commissioner investigating the September 11 attacks not long ago, and he told me that we had captured or killed more than 75 percent of the top al Qaeda leadership. That's astonishing. I think most Americans understandably believe that as long as we don't have bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, we're not winning. It's important to get those guys, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the operation they once had at their disposal has been largely wiped out. That's not to say it isn't regenerating itself. It is. But as a measure of success, I like 75 percent.

One other point on that score. Remember all of the antiwar types who told us that we would lose cooperation in the broader War on Terror if we removed Saddam Hussein? They were wrong. And in some cases, mostly among our would-be allies in the region, we have seen a significant increase in cooperation on al Qaeda and its network.

FP: The antiwar types you refer to argued that we would lose our cooperation in the broader War on Terror if we attacked Saddam because that is what they wanted to happen. The Left clearly wanted the U.S. to be defeated in Iraq, just as it wants American defeat in the War on Terror. Do you agree? Why do you think the Left sides with the bin Ladens and Husseins of the world over the U.S. and freedom?

Hayes: I’m uncomfortable with sweeping generalizations about the Left – it’s a pretty diverse crowd. There are certainly some on the fringe who would be happy to see the U.S. defeated in the War on Terror. That has a lot less to do with their desire to bin Laden or Saddam succeed than it does with eagerness to see President Bush fail. It’s an imprecise guide, but I think it’s not unimportant that many Democrats supported the war in Iraq – including some who want to make political points now.

That said, I was astonished by the number of those on the Left who were unmoved by the human rights arguments for removing Saddam. One failure of the Bush Administration’s case for war was its refusal to highlight Saddam’s abuses. I understand that some of our allies – chiefly the British – wanted to focus on WMD. And it could have been rightly pointed out that we didn’t care so much about Saddam’s human rights abuses when he was fighting Iran. Still, I would have relished seeing Dominique de Villepin explain to the world why, in the face of perhaps 1 million Iraqi deaths, France did not support removing Saddam. The mass graves we are finding now were no secret before the war. I interviewed an Iraqi-American in Dearborn, Michigan, who said he knew the precise location of a mass grave and begged me to pass on to the US government directions to it.

At the end of the day, the French and their antiwar counterparts here in American, were determined to oppose us. So I don’t think such human rights arguments would have changed things dramatically. But a fuller airing of Saddam’s history of torture and murder would have helped expose their arguments as fundamentally political.

FP: Yes, the French made no secret about where their loyalties were on Iraq. What’s their problem?

Hayes: The French were determined to oppose us. There’s no getting around that fact. It’s funny, in the days after the unanimous Security Council vote on resolution 1441, Dominique de Villepin gave an interview with French radio that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. In defending the French vote he told the audience two things: 1) that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons that threaten America, and 2) that the language in the resolution threatening “serious consequences” was understood by everyone involved to mean war. Avoiding war, he said, was the responsibility of Saddam Hussein.

The subsequent French posturing was just that – posturing. They knew very well that they had, in effect, already signed off on a war. Everything they did from that point on was designed to position France as the key geopolitical alternative to the United States. It was dishonest in a fundamental way and why, I believe, we were right to deny them the opportunity to bid on Iraqi contracts.

FP: Ok, so tomorrow your phone rings and it is President Bush. He is calling to ask you what concrete steps he should take next in Iraq and the War on Terror. He just wants a few concrete short-term plans. What do you tell him?

Hayes: I tell him to call someone a lot smarter than I am.

FP: Ok, so I guess that question didn’t work. Well. . .let's pretend that Bush doesn't call you then. Let’s just say I call you and ask you what you think the U.S. should do next in Iraq and the War on Terror. In your estimation, in what direction should U.S. policy be headed?

Hayes: It's important that we remain aggressive. It would be nice to imagine that our work is done, as I think half the country does. They're wrong. It's arguably more important to pressure outlaw regimes now than it was shortly after September 11. The terrorists and their state sponsors think of America as soft, as unwilling to sustain casualties, as lacking the will to fight. They're wrong, I hope, the more we can demonstrate that we are serious about removing threats the better we will be.

This does not, of course, mean more wars. Diplomacy can be more effective now, after the use of force, than it would ever have been after eight years of Clinton Administration dithering. Who, in early 2001, believed we would use force to eliminate terrorists and their state sponsors? Who doesn't believe it now?

FP: Thank you, Mr. Hayes, our time is up. I really appreciate you taking the time out to come on Frontpage Interview.

Hayes: My pleasure Jamie.


29 Jan 04,, 02:00
I bet that's still just the tip of the iceburg.

29 Jan 04,, 02:05
Originally posted by Confed999
I bet that's still just the tip of the iceburg.

Yeah I'd say so.