politics, history and the war on terror
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Cooperation - Iraq & al Qaeda 

The 9-11 Commission's final report it is a wealth of information that can be used to put to rest some of the pervasive Legends of the Left concerning the War on Terror. One of the most common myths pertains to the impossibility of cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda.  This myth has been used to discredit the Iraq war and paint it as a distraction from the War on Terrorism.  It can be summed up as follows:
Iraq and al Qaeda would never cooperate, as Iraq is a secular state and al Qaeda is a fundamentalist Islamic terror organization. Iraq and al Qaeda are ideological enemies and would never consider working with each other to fight America.
This theory has never held up to historical scrutiny, as ideological opponents have cooperated in the past to defeat a common enemy. The best example of this is the cooperation between America and Britain, and the Soviet Union during World War II. The ideological opposites of capitalism and communism worked together to destroy their common foe, Nazi Germany. The 9-11 Commission documents the relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq:

(Page 61)
Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq, even though Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, had never had an Islamist agenda save for his opportunistic pose as a defender of the faithful against 'Crusaders' during the Gulf War of 1991. Moreover, Bin Ladin had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan, and sought to attract them into his Islamic army.

To protect his own ties with Iraq, Turabi reportedly brokered an agreement that Bin Ladin would stop supporting activities against Saddam. Bin Ladin apparently honored this pledge, at least for a time, although he continued to aid a group of Islamist extremists operating in part of Iraq (Kurdistan) outside of Baghdad's control. In the late 1990s, these extremist groups suffered major defeats by Kurdish forces. In 2001, with Bin Ladin's help they re-formed into an organization called Ansar al Islam. There are indications that by then the Iraqi regime tolerated and may even have helped Ansar al Islam against the common Kurdish enemy.  

With the Sudanese regime acting as intermediary, Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995. Bin Ladin is said to have asked for space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but there is no evidence that Iraq responded to this request. As described below, the ensuing years saw additional efforts to establish connections.

Answar al Islam is the terrorist organization run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is responsible for the murder of American soldiers and the beheading of an American citizen in Iraq.  Zarqawi is also the leader of the Unity and Jihad Group, which is currently operating in Iraq and has claimed responsibility for attacks on Coalition troops and Iraqi forces and civilians. The relationship between Iraq, Zarqawi and al Qaeda provides a most compelling case for cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda. 

(Page 66)
There is also evidence that around this time Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response. According to one report, Saddam Hussein's efforts at this time to rebuild relations with the Saudis and other Middle Eastern regimes led him to stay clear of Bin Ladin.

In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative. 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. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin's Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December.

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.  According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq.  Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides' hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.

The report shows the numerous attempts to make contact and establish a relationship, but concludes there was no "collaborative operational relationship" or cooperation between Iraq and the planning of 9-11.   While the Bush administration warned of the connections between Iraq and Answar al Islam and other high level contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda, at no time did they claim Iraq and al Qaeda were actively working together or that Iraq had a hand in 9-11.  Pages 334-338 of the report document the Administration's internal debate about Iraq and its links with 9-11, and the conclusion made by the President was that Iraq was not involved.   Iraq was deemed a threat, however due to the ongoing conflict left over from the First Gulf War, its relations with terrorism, its pursuit of WMD and it's ability to destabilize the region. 

It must be remembered that the War on Terrorism is not isolated to al Qaeda alone.  This is a crucial misunderstanding of the Left.  They feel that after the removal of the Taliban from power, we should have rebuilt Afghanistan and proceeded with fighting the war using the tried and not-so-true methods of diplomacy and policing that failed us in the lead up to 9-11.  The war is against terrorist organizations, states that condone or sponsor terrorism, and the underground distribution network of weapons of mass destruction that can supply terrorists with the most deadly of tools.  Iraq was a sworn enemy of the United States, and Saddam was the only world leader to praise the attacks on 9-11. He even commissioned paintings depicting the attacks on the World Trade Center.  Iraq fit the profile of a nation that had to be dealt with, particularly after the attacks on 9-11.  We removed one of the most dangerous dictators of the 20th Century from power and we should bare no remorse for our actions.

Posted by bill roggio @ 12:03 AM