politics, history and the war on terror
Thursday, June 17, 2004
No Connection? 

The 9-11 Commission released a report yesterday which claims that Iraq and al Qaeda did not cooperate on the attacks on America, and seems to go so far to suggest they never cooperated in any way. In an effort to grab headlines and provide another “gotcha” moment, the media immediately touted the report as proof Iraq and al Qaeda never established a working relationship; that no ties existed. Besides the fact that the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda outside of the context of the 9-11 attack is beyond commission’s purview, the claim a relationship never existed is factually inaccurate at best. Here is the relevant paragraph of the 9-11 Commission report:

Bin Ladin also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein’s secular regime. Bin Ladin had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Ladin to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Ladin in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated
against the United States.

Let’s take a look at this sentence:

Bin Ladin had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The “anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan” refers to Answar al-Islam, the terrorist organization run by Abu Musab Zarqawi. But Answar al Islam is not anti-Saddam. It was supported by Saddam and his intelligence services, as this report from the Department of State demonstrates:

The presence of several hundred al-Qaida operatives fighting with the small Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam in the northeastern corner of Iraqi Kurdistan—where the IIS operates—is well documented. Iraq has an agent in the most senior levels of Ansar al-Islam as well. In addition, small numbers of highly placed al-Qaida militants were present in Baghdad and areas of Iraq that Saddam controls. It is inconceivable these groups were in Iraq without the knowledge and acquiescence of Saddam’s regime. In the past year, al-Qaida operatives in northern Iraq concocted suspect chemicals under the direction of senior al-Qaida associate Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and tried to smuggle them into Russia, Western Europe, and the United States for terrorist operations.

The U.S. State Department also designated Answar al Islam as a terrorist organization with direct links to al Qaeda:

Ansar al-Islam, which operates in northeastern Iraq, has close links to and support from al-Qaida. Al-Qaida and Usama Bin Laden participated in the formation and funding of the group, which has provided safehaven to al-Qaida in northeastern Iraq.

Zarqawi’s connections to both al Qaeda and Iraq have been documented at the fourth rail in full (with the full set of links available in the article), but the short of it is that Zarqawi is intimately linked with al Qaeda and was also sponsored by Saddam’s security services. Zarqawi’s footprint of terrorist activities is quite large, including planned and successful attacks in Iraq, Jordan, Europe and the United Sates as well as running terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

One has to wonder what evidence the 9-11 Commission looked at to determine the lack of cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda. Perhaps they missed the indictment for the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings which links Iraq and al Qaeda:

"According to the indictment, bin Laden and al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah with the goal of working together against their common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq," the indictment said.

Or did they miss CIA Directory George Tenet’s letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that indicated intelligence demonstrates links exist:

"We have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda going back a decade. ... We have credible reporting that al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities."

Or how about the Clinton administration’s claims of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda when bombing the Shifa chemical weapons factory in Sudan in conjunction with the attack on al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998:

The United States also claims it had other evidence linking the plant with chemical weapons production. That evidence includes links between officials at the facility in Sudan and an Iraqi official who has been labeled by U.S. intelligence as "the father of Iraq's chemical weapons program." The Iraqi, identified as Emad Al Ani, is said to have had extensive dealings with officials at the plant in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. That and the connection between terrorism sponsor Osama bin Laden and Sudan's "military industrial complex" were enough to convince the United States that the Shifa plant was involved in chemical weapons production, the official said.

I can go on with the evidence of connections between Iraq and al Qaeda, but why? The Clinton administration, the Department of State, the CIA, the Department of Defense, a U.S. Federal Court and others have evidence of cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda, and have acted over the course of the past decade because of this. The media has chosen to further the story that Iraq and al Qaeda could never have cooperated. A main reason sited is the differences are too great, as Saddam was secular and al Qaeda an Islamist. This is flawed logic at best. Did such ideological differences prevent America and Britain from cooperating with the Soviet Union during World War II?

The media is doing the American public a great disservice by promoting the claim that Iraq and al Qaeda never would, could or did cooperate. Zarqari, who is actively leading the al Qaeda attacks on US forces in Iraq today, demonstrates the solid connections between Iraq and al Qaeda and Americans need to put his involvement in context as to why we are fighting in Iraq. The 9-11 Commission's inability to examine this connection in full has done the public a serious disservice and their poorly worded statement has only provided fodder for the opponents of the Iraq war and President Bush's political enemies.

Posted by bill roggio @ 6:27 PM