The Saddam-Osama Connection: The Terrorist Testimony
My piece on the numerous detainees/defectors now in custody who have said al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime cooperated, at least in some capacity, is now up at FrontPage magazine.
My piece on the numerous detainees/defectors now in custody who have said al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime cooperated, at least in some capacity, is now up at FrontPage magazine.
With the upcoming Senate Intelligence report due shortly, perhaps the question of where and how Ansar al Islam received CBW know-how (which included ricin, botulinum and possibly cyanide) and equipment will finally be answered.
Initial reports from American media outlets mentioned the findings of the Ansar al Islam camps in Northern Iraq included directions on making high grade explosives and Iraqi military grade TNT in addition to the CBW starter kit. As mentioned by both the 9-11 Commission and Senate Intelligence Committee, the group's support from Saddam Hussein's regime included various types of weaponry with the likely intention being the group's targeting the anti-regime Kurds in the region.
Answers to what U.S. special forces and investigators found at the camps (regarding CBW) weren't fully answered in Western media outlets, likely due to the sensitive nature of findings.
In Germany's media, one journalist, said to have excellent contacts within German Intelligence, did reveal some of the findings. Over 3 years ago, Bruno Schirra of the German weekly Hamburg Die Zeit, (who's article was recently made available to Regime of Terror by someone with access to foreign media outlets) revealed that Baghdad's contributions to Ansar al Islam were not limited to conventional weapons.
Schirra reported that hundreds of bottles of acetone, labelled as coming from Baghdad; weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles (both of which also reportedly came from Baghdad); 30 kg of potassium cyanide, stored in hermetically sealed barrels; chemical measuring instruments; lab equipment; gas masks and C4 loaded suicide vests were among the items recovered at the camp. Also recovered was "a handbook, which, on more than 50 pages, contains exact instructions for building chemical bombs and grenades."
Schirra concludes "it is clear that essential parts of the laboratory substances came from Baghdad." Likely referring to the Ansar al Islam laboratory suspected as the source of attempted CBW attacks in the UK and elsewhere.
The idea that Baghdad's contributions to al Qaeda and it's affiliates included unconventional training was stated by Mansoor Ijaz a few weeks before U.S. forces entered Iraq. In his National Review article "Hand in Glove", Ijaz, calling on his experience and knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs, asserted that Iraq has long provided members of al Qaeda (and its affiliates) with manuals and recipes for CBW and other poisons (as well as access to the scientists who know how to use and acquire ingredients).
Since former CIA director George Tenet first told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2003 that intelligence reports indicated that Iraq had provided al Qaeda with training in poisons and gases, multiple fighters, who have been captured on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan, have confirmed this cooperation.
Charles Duelfer also saw evidence of Iraqi involvement in al Qaeda's CBW quest in Afghanistan, saying "There's a lot of (intelligence) collection going on in those caves and mountains... "We're going to hear about more ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, particularly when it comes to al-Qaeda's efforts to get chemical and biological weapons."
Understandably, the intelligence surrounding al Qaeda's CBW programs was once highly sensitive (and quite justifiably in the classified realm), but now, with Afghanistan having been liberated nearly 5 years ago, and Iraq 3 years ago, the need to classify the CIA and FBI reports on the origins of al Qaeda/Ansar al Islam's poison and CBW capabilities would seem to be greatly diminished.
The upcoming Senate Intelligence report, with a mandate including an examination Baghdad's prewar links to terrorists, would seem to be an appropriate time to address these issues.
Of the many post-invasion analysis of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the Duelfer report may be the most complete in addressing the nature and functions of the different arms of the former regime.
Section M14, run by Muhammad Khudayr Sabah Al Dulaymi, is described in the Duelfer report as "responsible for training and conducting special operations missions. It trained Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, Yemeni, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Sudanese operatives in counterterrorism, explosives, marksmanship, and foreign operations at its facilities at Salman Pak. Additionally, M14 oversaw the 'Challenge Project,' a highly secretive project regarding explosives."
Section M14's duties included government sanctioned assassination inside and outside Iraq, with a special "Tiger Group" made up of state sanctioned suicide bombers.
Section M21, the "The Al Ghafiqi Project," "existed to make explosive devices for the IIS to be used in assassination and demolition operations." The explosive training including work in IED's as well as the creation of explosives (including PE4, C4, RDX and TNT) that could be concealed in books, briefcases, belts, vests, thermoses, car seats, floor mats, and facial tissue boxes for assassination purposes.
Signifcant amounts of paperwork on IIS activity and function was among the thousands of documents destroyed in the opening days of the invasion but previous reports of IIS involvement in terrorist activity domestically and abroad are well supported by the findings of the Duelfer Report.
Laurie Mylroie and Ayad Rahim have put together a piece for the American Spectator, based on recently released FMSO documents, which indicates that the former (Iraqi) regime's support for Abu Abbas was stronger than previously believed.
Abbas, a well known wanted terrorist captured by U.S. forces in April 2003, apparently cooperated with Iraq's Intelligence Service (Mukhabarat) in a joint IIS/PLF Baghdad training camp (later overrun by U.S. forces) that provided chemicals and equipment, in addition to funding and training for terrorists in bomb-making, to terrorists tasked with anti-Israel suicide missions.
The Iraqi Perspectives Project is an excellent resource for trying to understand some of the former regime's intentions and capabilities prior to invasion.
The JFCOM report, meant to be an initial review of the war, draws upon interviews with former senior members of the Iraqi regime and (FMSO) documents recovered post-invasion.The authors of the project detail the function of Fedayeen Saddam, an Iraqi militia fiercly loyal to Saddam Hussein, as another extension of the former regime's arm of both in domestic and international terrorism.
The Fedayeen Saddam also took part in the regime's terrorism operations, which they conducted inside Iraq, and at least planned for attacks in major Western cities. In a document dated May 1999, Uday Hussein ordered preparations for "special operations, assassinations, and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas (Kurdistan).
The report reveals the former regime's plans for a wave of state-sponsored terrorism that was well underway (at the time of invasion). Codenamed "Blessed July", the attacks were to take place outside of Iraq.
Documents analyzed by the authors indicated that the group had already successfully completed a number of anti-Shia and anti-Kurd missions. For instance, a recovered letter to Uday Hussein, from a Fedayeen Saddam widow, was a request for pension benefits after her husband carried out a successful suicide operation against Kurdish targets in Northern Iraq.
Fedayeen Saddam was also the recipient of some of the regime's most sophisticated commando/terrorist operation equipment. Silencers, equipment for booby-trapping vehicles,explosive timers and special molds for explosives were provided by the IIS's "Division 27." Specially armed helicopters, UAV's and specially modified fishing boats capable of firing rockets and torpedoes in international water were among the capabilities promised and/or given to Fedayeen Saddam via the Military Industrial Commission.
As early as 1994 Fedayeen Saddam was training "volunteers" from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, the Gulf and Syria. The location and final destination of these "volunteers" is not known to the authors (at the time of publication), yet should be of great concern to regional governments due to the terror skills acquired by these "volunteers."
The report further details the motives and means of the former regime, using violence and terror, to maintain their domination of the country.
Much is being disputed about the contents and conclusions asserted within the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report attempting to compare, in three major sections, prewar Iraq intelligence estimates with postwar Iraq findings regarding ‘Iraq’s WMD Capabilities,’ ‘Iraqi Links to al-Qaeda’ and ‘Regime Intent.’ While it is being currently touted in media reports with the air of a comprehensive and definitive assessment, it is decidedly neither. This is the introduction of a collaborative series of analytical reviews of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report titled, "Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism And How They Compare With Prewar Assessments."
By the report’s own acknowledgement, there has yet to be produced a "'fully researched, coordinated and approved position' on the postwar reporting on the former regime's links to al-Qa'ida" by the Intelligence Community with which to compare to prewar assessments. Furthermore, especially with regard to WMD capabilities and ‘Regime Intent,’ the incredibly thorough Iraqi Perspectives Project postwar study produced by United States Joint Forces Command, Joint Center for Operational Analysis, was not even considered with other postwar assessments.
Rather than cite such reports for its postwar input, the SSIC preferred to quote testimony in several instances from both Saddam Hussein and his Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz (among others). Both are in custody and on trial. As Tom Joscelyn rightly points out, these men--“all of whom have an obvious incentive to lie--are cited or quoted without caveats of any sort.”
Nor, apparently, did the Committee consider the prewar intelligence cited by Stephen Hayes in November, 2003. Hayes exposes in the referenced article many connections, not the least of which were multiple sources corroborating multiple Iraqi meetings with bin-Laden in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Iraqis – including the deputy director of the Iraqi Intelligence Services. Included in an October 2003 memo from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a clarifying note saying, “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.”
This is seemingly dismissed and not included as noteworthy prewar intelligence for consideration, just as the Iraqi Perspectives Project was dismissed from consideration for postwar findings.
While early in the SSIC report it mentions the attempt to create an intelligence "baseline," the conclusions are written in a language that purports them as definitive. In fact, Conclusion 9 on page 112 reads, “While document exploitation continues, additional reviews of documents recovered in Iraq are unlikely to provide information that would contradict the Committee’s findings or conclusions.”
This is an ill advisedly bold statement, and notes Michael Tanji, who has been involved in the Iraqi document exploitation process, "[S]aying that you have a strong grasp on what was and wasn’t going on in Iraq based on an “initial review” is akin to saying that you don’t need to read the bible because you’ve memorized the ten commandments."
This hardly scratches the surface of the report’s inadequate considerations, inconsistencies and, therefore, erroneous conclusions. There are a great many aspects of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report that must be swiftly addressed, in particular the data used and conclusions asserted regarding the connections between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda.
It is imperative that the American public be presented with a more complete picture than the seemingly selective data points utilized by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report.
To this end, ThreatsWatch and Regime of Terror are working together in order to provide an extensive analysis to the general public in a more easily digested format. This analysis will be produced and published as a series of focused examinations of the conclusions tendered by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report as it pertains to the connections between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda terrorists.
Lt. General Michael DeLong discusses intelligence behind U.S. concern over Ansar al-Islam terror/poison camp in Northern Iraq
A recent conversation Lt. General Michael DeLong revealed new information on prewar intelligence on Iraq that has received little, if any, public attention thus far. General DeLong was the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and was directly involved with the pre-invasion preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He offered the observation that Bush administration officials appear to have been reluctant thus far in explaining the prewar intelligence and evidence tying members of Saddam Hussein’s regime to the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al Islam terrorist group.
One of the reasons cited in justifying the Iraq invasion was concern over an Ansar al Islam camp in Northern Iraq and its role chemical weapons production. While the camp was often cited by political leaders, the camp was also of specific concern to U.S. military strategists and leaders. What was particularly worrisome to military planners was the reports of possible links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Ansar al Islam. What was (and continues to be) debatable is how high up Iraqi knowledge of and contact with the camp had been, if at all. According to Gen. DeLong, the United States had credible intelligence reports of Senior Iraqi leaders and Ministry Officials not only being aware of the camp, but meeting with terrorist leaders involved with the camp.
These comments are nearly identical to what Gen. DeLong told PBS Frontline during their interviews for their special “The Dark Side.”
“When are you first aware that Iraq and Saddam Hussein are on somebody's gun sights somewhere and that it may be job two?”
“We also knew we had thoroughly good intelligence that there was an Al Qaeda base on the Iraq-Iran border, that the Al Qaeda were coming through Iran into Iraq. We'll call it a dual-use base; in other words, chemicals that could be used for putting on your crops or chemicals that you could mix together and make a chemical weapon out of. We had on the ground intelligence that they were coming through there, and then some of them were meeting with some of the senior people in the Saddam administration, not with Saddam himself. We knew there was a tie to Saddam, to Iraq. And nothing happens in Iraq without Saddam knowing about it, so we knew that was true.”Were you aware that by the 21st of September, say, Tenet and the CIA had already delivered to the president and to others that there was no Al Qaeda-Saddam connection? (Regimeofterror.com note: Tenet's 2002 testimony to Congress was actually quite supportive of an al Qaeda-Saddam connection)
Yeah, we didn't agree. Now, the only place we saw it was this one compound on the Iraq-Iran border, which was so troubling to us. We almost took them out three months before the Iraq war started. We almost took that thing, but we were so concerned that the chemical cloud from there could devastate the region that we chose to take them by land rather than by smart weapons. ...
DeLong, who briefly mentions the intelligence on the camp in his book "Inside Centcom" (new paperback "A General Speaks Out"), says that the camp on the Iran-Iraq border had been in existence for a "long time" and the intelligence indicated that it was indeed a dual use chemical factory intended for AG (agricultural) and warfare. Some background on what AG warfare might look like has been detailed by Mark Wheelis of the University of California.
DeLong also said that there were enough concerns about the amount of chemicals in the area( bombing could produce a lethal chemical cloud large enough to affect numerous civilians in the region), that ground troops were used to check the place for chemical weapons early in 2003 . By the time the troops got there "most" of the chemicals had been removed and the site was more or less sanitized.
“A General Speaks Out”, by Zenith Publishing, can be ordered through Amazon.com.
Newly elected Pennsylvania Congressman, Democrat Chris Carney, a former Senior Terrorism and Intelligence Advisor at the Pentagon, has recently been quoted in a number of publications discussing his knowledge of and role in prewar Iraq intelligence, particularly on the issue Saddam Hussein’s links to al Qaeda. His views on the subject are a stark contrast to many in his party, particularly Senator Carl Levin, who has long expressed his belief that any link between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda was a manufacture of the Bush administration. Carney's comments and experience on the issue may even put him in the cross-hairs of Sen. Levin's reported investigation into the matter in the coming months. What did Congressman Carney say? What does he know?In a piece for the New Yorker, Jane Mayer spoke with Carney, also a reserve officer in the U.S. Navy, about his work at the Pentagon examining Saddam Hussein’s links to al Qaeda.
Carney said that he came to his conclusion about Saddam’s links to al Qaeda being a 2.5 on a 10 scale while “looking at terrorist links between Al Qaeda and state sponsors of terrorism, including Iraq,” He went on, “Saddam had links to every terrorist group in the region. I still think there were links to Al Qaeda.”
Having links to “every terrorist group in the region” sounds similar to the prognosis made by the U.S. State Department in 2002 about Iraq's involvement in terrorism.In a New York Times piece by James Risen, Mr. Carney is quoted as saying:
“It was a relationship of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer,” he added. “Saddam was a savvy guy, and I think he wanted to make sure that if Al Qaeda someday became a force, that he wanted to keep his options open. I thought that there was a relationship. Whether it was strong enough to go to war, that’s the president’s decision.”While serving his post at the Pentagon Carney's responsiblities included briefing a number of high ranking officials on the subject, his conclusions were not well taken by "some in the government."
In the summer and fall of 2002, Mr. Carney was at the center of the storm, briefing George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, and Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, on the Feith unit’s assessment of any links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. At the time, the unit was creating controversy within the government for arguing that there was significant evidence of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Risen's piece does not illuminate who in the government was opposed to Mr. Carney's observations or why, though it was likely the CIA.
Greg Miller of the L.A. Times quoted Carney on why he thought there were different conclusions amongst those in the intelligence community, including the CIA.
“Carney and another DIA analyst, Christina Shelton, spent months poring over thousands of raw intelligence reports. They quickly concluded that the CIA, which had been skeptical of any serious relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, was getting it wrong. "I found it kind of curious the way they were so equivocal in the analysis," Carney said of the CIA reports. "It was frustrating to me and others with all the caveating that was going on."
But according to the recent Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) investigation Saddam Hussein did not approve of al Qaeda’s ideology and ordered members of his regime not even to meet with al Qaeda.
Does Congressman Carney know of additional (and still classified) intelligence that even the SSCI has yet to see that counters Saddam Hussein's assurances that members of his regime were ordered not to meet with al Qaeda?
Is there a specific meeting, photo, document, detainee or intercepted transmission that Congressman Carney is privy to that links al Qaeda not only to Saddam Hussein's regime but all the way up to Hussein himself in some way?
If additional intelligence is still classified that links Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda (and the intelligence won't compromise ongoing missions) then that intelligence being made available to elected officials and the public is long overdue and should have been turned over the SSCI for their investigation into the issue.
Perhaps it is this still-classified intelligence, yet to see the eyes of members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and many members of the intelligence community, that is the explanation behind those from members of both political parties who continue to challenge the "conventional wisdom" on the subject.
What does Congressman Carney know that his Congressional colleagues don't know about Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and when will this information be allowed to enter the public debate?
Iraq’s former embassy in Greece added to list of Hussein's international terror outposts
A recent story in the Greek news outlet Ekathimerini, pointed out to Regimeofterror.com by Dr. Laurie Mylroie, reported on previously undisclosed evidence implicating Saddam Hussein’s regime in international terrorism aspirations. The report reveals an incident in which a number of items were secretly removed from Iraq's embassy in Greece during the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The items removed fit a pattern of behavior but also raise a number of questions.
Ekathimerini reported that it had been made aware of "a joint operation by Greek and US secret service officers in March 2003 (which) led to the seizure of a large cache of explosives from the basement of the Iraqi Embassy in Athens."
The types of explosives reportedly discovered were particularly noteworthy .
"Sources said a raid on the embassy unearthed explosive materials, car bombs, detonators, several guns and dozens of rounds of ammunition. Much of the material was “ready to use” while some was too old to be of any value, according to sources who said all the material was destroyed within a few weeks of discovery."
The presence of car bombs, explosives and the other materials in this instance would indicate that Hussein's Iraq had used it's Greek embassy just as it had used it's embassy's in the Philippines, Jordan, Prague, and Yemen in recent years, as a hub for terrorism. This is to say nothing of Iraq’s planned international terror attacks in London (as reported on page 53 of the Iraqi Perspectives Project) or the attempted bombing attack by Iraqi operatives in Bahrain during the runup to the invasion of Iraq (Senate Intelligence Report: Phase II).
This discovery follows Iraq’s modus operandi of using their embassies and diplomatic privileges as cover for hiding and moving weapons/explosives/equipment abroad for potential terror attacks.
These were not the first time Iraq had dipped its toe in the waters of international terrorism. In 1998, in what some viewed as a possible buildup to war between the U.S. and Iraq, U.S. News and World Report cited intelligence officials saying over 30 teams of terrorists, each team consisting of 2 to 3 men had been dispatched by Baghdad in 1991 and indicated that similar attacks may take place against U.S. interests again in 1998 in the case of a war with the U.S.. (It should also be noted that those in the intelligence community were said to be split during this time period as to whether or not Iraq had already dispatched similar teams of terrorists at this point.) The men, who were disguised as businessmen, used Iraq's diplomatic pouches to move automatic weapons, explosives and timers to embassies around for planned attacks.
Former deputy director of the State Department's counterterrorism office during the Gulf War, Larry Johnson, told U.S. News and World Report in the same piece that car bombs, assassinations and hostage taking were "likely scenarios."
With the discovery of Greece as a front in Iraq’s pre-invasion international terrorism attempts maybe Americans will even one day be made aware of what the other 6 or 7 countries are which U.S. government officials told the Washington Post's Walter Pincus were targeted anti Western bombings by Iraqi Intelligence.
Abu Hafs Al-Tikriti threatens France on behalf of Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades (النسخه
العربية من قصة عن صلات محتملة بين حسين القاعده هنا
Within days of the French election results being announced a self-described al Qaeda cell in Europe, Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades, warned France of a “bloody jihad attack” in response to their electoral decision. The threat, posted on Islamist websites and translated by MEMRI, was signed by "Abu Hafs Al-Tikriti, The Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades, European Division."
The Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades, who al Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri has claimed responsibility for, has a history of threats and claimed attacks in multiple European countries, including claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks in London in 2005 and Madrid in 2004. The group is named in honor of Mohammed Atef, the former al Qaeda military commander who has been named in intelligence reports cited in George Tenet’s book "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA" as an al Qaeda leader who sought out closer links with Saddam Hussein’s regime, including weapons training.
Those familiar with leaders of the former Iraqi regime of Iraq likely recognize Abu Hafs Al-Tikriti’s surname. Al-Tikriti is said to mean "from Tikrit" and is well known as being Saddam Hussein's hometown. Al-Tikriti is also the name attached to many prominent leaders of Saddam Hussein’s former regime, picked for their loyalty. Al-Tikriti’s were prominent in many of Hussein’s most trusted positions and many of the original members of "Iraq's 55 Most Wanted". Al Tikriti’s filled positions including Hussein's personal secretary, leaders of his trusted Fedayeen Saddam, Mukhabarat (IIS) leadership, Republican Guard leadership as well as WMD specialists and military leaders.
It’s possible the Al-Tikriti linked to the recent threat was not a member of the Hussein regime. It is possible that if he were a member of the former Iraqi regime that he did not become linked to the European al Qaeda affiliate until post-invasion. It’s also possible that Al-Tikriti made up the name to disguise the author’s true identity (as the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli told this site often happens) but the long list of Hussein loyalists who have been caught in cooperation with al Qaeda and the common enemies of both Hussein loyalists and al Qaeda indicates a possibility that Hussein loyalist/al Qaeda cooperation isn’t limited to Iraq, where Iraqi officials have blamed years of postwar violence on Baathist/al Qaeda cooperation.
Update: Professor of Middle East History at Haifa University and author/expert on Iraq/Saddam Hussein, Amitzia Baram, stated that "the guy is not necessarily a member of Saddam's tribe (Albu Nasser) but, more certainly, he is from the town of Tikrit - Saddam's birthplace where other tribes, too, flourish. But he is an ex-Ba'thi very likely" when contacted by this site for comment on the possible background of Abu Hafs Al-Tikriti.
Update II: In a possibly related story two senior leaders of al Qaeda were reported captured in Tikrit, Iraq on June 23.
In a recent Washington Post Op-Ed former DIA analyst Christina Shelton discussed her intelligence work analyzing links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq and countered some of the conventional wisdom on the subject while taking issue with the way her background and work were depicted in former CIA director George Tenet's recent book "At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA."Responding to Tenet's charge that she claimed the debate over Iraq - al Qaeda links was "open-and-shut" and in no need of further analysis Shelton wrote:
I said the covert nature of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda made it difficult to know its full extent; al-Qaeda's security precautions and Iraq's need to cloak its activities with terrorist networks precluded a full appreciation of their relationship.
Cooperation or meetings between the two sides would likely be something which would necessitate extreme secrecy and the information of such meetings/cooperation would likely be compartmentalized on a "need to know" basis if/when such meetings took.
Shelton referred to a 2002 letter from Tenet to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (available here)
that discussed the training, meetings and safehaven that were cited as details of the links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda and indicated that this information (including a decade of high ranking contacts between the two) coupled with the information that was made public in Tenet's book (high ranking al Qaeda/Egyptian Islamic Jihad members moving to Baghdad prior to invasion) make a pretty compelling case for the argument that there was enough cause for concern about Iraq's links to al Qaeda (which Tenet also said in his book).
A more complete understanding of Iraq's relationship with al-Qaeda will emerge when historians can exploit the numerous seized documents free from the politics of the Iraq war.A full analysis of Saddam Hussein's Iraq links to both al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, which Shelton correctly notes won't be fully possible until all of Iraq's documents and all relevant interrogation logs are released, is something this site has argued in favor of previously.
These captures and kills demonstrate the ideological divide between “secular” Baathists and Islamic extremists was not so distant
Many analysts of the insurgency in Iraq are currently debating its makeup and strength, among other things. Regardless of what percentage is currently claiming allegiance to what ideology or group, the past few years of reporting have slowly revealed that at least one deadly aspect of the insurgency in Iraq has been the cooperation of some members of Saddam Hussein's regime (though not all) and Islamic militants, particularly al Qaeda in Iraq.
Below is a list, compiled from a number of media reports over the past few years, of the names and backgrounds of some of those found to have supported or worked for the former Baath Party of Saddam Hussein's Iraq and also al Qaeda. Parts of this list were cited by World Net Daily in a story about postwar links between members of Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda elements in Iraq.
Muhammed Hila Hammad Ubaydi – Ubaydi, aka Abu Ayman, was the former aide to the Chief of Staff of Intelligence during the Saddam Hussein regime for 30 years. Ubaydi later led the Secret Islamic Army in the Northern Babil Province and was said to have had strong ties to the former terror leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. He was captured April 6, 2006 in Southern Baghdad. MNF - Iraq
Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri – Al-Douri (pictured right) is the former vice chairman of Saddam's Baathist Revolutionary Command Council who swore fealty to Zarqawi and reportedly provided funding for al Qaeda and significant element of the Baathist/al Qaeda converts and collaborators. GlobalSecurity.org
Abdel Faith Isa – Isa is a former Iraqi Army officer who was later identified as an al Qaeda emir. He was captured May 6, 2004. Focus-Fen news, Bill Roggio, 5-09-06
Abu Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi - Al-Baghdadi is "believed to be a former officer in Saddam's army, or its elite Republican Guard, who (has) worked closely with al-Zarqawi since the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator in April 2003." Al-Baghdadi was among the candidates nominated as potential Abu Musab al Zarqawi's leadership position in al Qaeda in Iraq. Associated Press
Ahmad Hasan Kaka al-’Ubaydi – Al- Ubaydi was a former Iraqi Intelligence Service officer, and believed to have later become associated with al Qaeda affiliate Ansar Al Islam. CENTCOM
Abu Aseel – Aseel is a “former high ranking Saddam official” who was working with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi since 2002. Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, 6-13, 06
Abu Asim – Asim was a Special Republican Guard officer under Saddam Hussein and is said to have been active within the insurgency since the fall of the former regime, including association with Abu Musab al Zarqawi. MNF - Iraq
Abu Maysira al-Iraqi – Al-Iraqi was reportedly a “Minister of Information” for al Qaeda in Iraq and formerly an expert in Information Technology for Saddam Hussein’s Army. “He was an expert in Information Technology in Saddam's army and was entrusted with the additional task of waging the jihad through the Internet” for Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq.” B. Raman
Abdul-Hadi al-Iraqi - Hadi al-Iraqi (pictured left) is now being held in Guantanamo Bay and was called “a top leader with al-Qaida in Iraq and the Mujahedeen Shura Council and originally comes from Nineveh province. He was a Major in Saddam Hussein's army but left to travel to Iraq to fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1990s” and was later identified as a “liason between Bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership in Afghanistan, and the al Qaeda network formerly headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.” Al-Iraqi has also been cited as one of Osama bin Laden’s top al Qaeda commanders. NEWSWEEK
Unnamed Former Air Force Officer – A man who was killed in a coalition raid in Iraq “was later identified as a retired officer in the Iraqi Air Force serving under the Saddam Hussein regime. The male who initiated the gunfire is a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist for whom the troops were searching, as well as the retired officer’s son. The former officer was killed on April 14, 2006. MNF - Iraq
Abed Dawood Suleiman and son Raed Abed Dawood – Suleiman was a former Iraqi general believed to have become “Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's ‘military adviser.’” Raed was a former Army captain in the Iraqi army and was caught April 15, 2005. News24
Mohammed Khalaf Shkarah al-Hamadani – Al-Hamadani, aka Abu Talha, was a key facilitator and financier for al Qaeda in Iraq. He was reportedly the head of an Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s terror cell. Al-Hamadani was previously a member of Saddam Hussein’s once ruling Baath Party and a warrant officer in the former Iraqi army. Al-Hamadani was captured June 5, 2005. Associated Press
"Al-Hajji" Thamer Mubarak – Mubarak was a former Iraqi military officer turned key aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Mubarak was reportedly involved in the August 2003 al Qaeda attack on UN headquarters in Iraq. Evan Kohlman, Globalterroralert.com
Hasayn Ali Muzabir – Muzabir, a former Iraqi Intelligence (Mukhabarat) officer for Saddam Hussein’s regime, was later identified as al Qaeda's emir of Samarra. Muzabir was killed in Balad, Iraq on June 2, 2006. Department of Defense
Muhammad Hamza Zubaydi - Zubaydi (pictured right) was a "Baath Party official in charge of security in central Iraq and had helped put down an uprising by Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq in 1991." Zubaydi was later found to be an associate of Zarqawi's al Qaeda branch in Iraq. Washington Post
Abdul Hamid Mustafa al-Douri – Al-Douri was a relative of Saddam Hussein’s former aide Izzat al-Douri. As an aide to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and head of the Salaheddin province al Qaeda branch and carbombing network, he was captured in a joint Iraqi police and army operation in a village in northern Tikrit. CNN
Haitham al-Badri - "Before joining al-Qaeda in Iraq, Badri was a warrant officer in the Special Republican Guard under Saddam Hussein. After the invasion, he joined the insurgent group Ansar al-Sunna, where he trained recruits and carried out attacks.” Washington Post
Salas Khabbas – Khabbas is "a former member of the Baath party and (was) closely linked with al-Qaeda.” Khabbas “specialized in attacking convoys and kidnapping." He was captured July 12, 2006 by Polish Intelligence agents. Polskie Radio
Abu Zubair – Zubair was trained in Iraq and was reportedly sent by Saddam Hussein’s government to lead “Supporters of Islam” into northern Iraq to assassinate leading Kurds and to assist in building chemical warfare facilities. Human Rights Watch citing UK government report
Rafid Fatah – Fatah, "also known as Abu Omer al-Kurdi, was also trained by Saddam and worked with (Abu) Zubair against the Kurds. It is not known when he left Iraq, but he too became a leading member of al-Qa'eda . His whereabouts are not known." UK Telegraph
Mohammed Hanoun Hamoud al-Mozani – Al-Mozani is a former Iraqi intelligence officer who was captured by police after bombings in Baghdad and Karbala. It was later revealed that he was paid by al-Qa'eda to carry out attacks on civilians. UK Telegraph
Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi – Al-Saeedi is a former member of Saddam Hussein's Intelligence Services who rose to #2 in al-Qaeda’s Iraq wing. Al-Saeedi reportedly “told interrogators that al-Qaeda in Iraq exchanges logistical support and information with supporters of Saddam Hussein.” Washington Post
Muharib Abdullah Latif al-Juburi – Al-Juburi was a Military Intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and later rose to a leading position for al Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Juburi also served as the “Information Minister” for the Islamic State of Iraq. All Headline News
Abu Mustafa – Mustafa was a Saddam Hussein era military officer (article cited by Ray Robison) who told TIME magazine that he spent his time in jail (post-invasion) "studying Salafi Islam and receiving lessons in jihad from bearded Iraqis and detainees who came from places like Syria and Saudi Arabia" before joining the jihadist fighters in Iraq. TIME
Abu Ali - (article cited by Ray Robison) Ali was “among those who have thrown their support behind the jihad...A ballistic-missile specialist in Saddam's Fedayeen militia, he fought U.S. troops during the invasion and has served as a resistance commander ever since, organizing rocket attacks on the green zone, the headquarters of the U.S. administration in Baghdad. When interviewed by TIME last fall, he spoke of a vain hope that Saddam would return and re-establish a Baathist regime.” TIME
Omar Hadid – Hadid, according to Middle East news outlets cited by Powerlineblog.com, was a former personal body guard of Saddam Hussein and had trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan before fighting against coalition forces in Fallujah and elsewhere. Hadid, according to an al Qaeda biography after his death, also had a relative who was an official for Iraq's Intelligence Services and worked with Hadid on postwar operations. Evan Kohlman, Globalterroralert.com
A former Saddam Hussein officer was appointed as an al Qaeda leader to set up attacks on Iraqi oil sites in early 2007. Tactical Report
A group of former Iraqi Republican Guard officers has reportedly been “giving ground-to-ground missiles, including Scud-B and Hossein missiles” and collaborating with al Qaeda to launch attacks on key targets in Iraq. Tactical Report
Adullah Rahman al-Shamary - Al-Shamary “was an officer in its (Iraq’s) feared Mukhabarat General, an intelligence service run by Saddam’s son, Qusay.” Al-Shamary told Richard Miniter, from a prison cell, that Qusay Hussein “oversaw the Mukhabarat’s relationship with Jund al-Islam, an al Qaeda wing operating in Northern Iraq before the 2003 American invasion” and he was involved in the Jund al-Islam-Mukhabarat relationship. Richard Miniter
Yasser al-Sabawi – Al-Sabawi is Saddam Hussein’s nephew and was reportedly linked to a Saddam Fedayeen cell arrested for being involved in the al Qaeda/al Zarqawi beheading of Nicholas Berg. The video of the beheading was posted on al Qaeda linked website and Berg may have been kidnapped by the al-Sabawi’s cell and then sold to Zarqawi’s group. Associated Press, MSNBC
A former Colonel in Saddam Hussein’s army was said to have later become the leader of al Qaeda’s branch in the Diyala province of Iraq. Melik Kaylan
Haydar al-Shammari – (may be the same person as Adullah Rahman al-Shamary)Al- Shammari is a former Iraqi Intelligence Officer who claimed that his Commander, Abu Wa’il, ordered him to aid al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan to enter Iraq through Jordan and Syria. Al-Shammari then assisted their mission in joining up with Ansar al Islam. Christopher Brown citing Al Sharq Al Awsat
Abu Iman al-Baghdadi – Al-Baghdadi (pictured left) told BBC news that Saddam Hussein’s Intelligence services were assisting al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al Islam with arms to counter the PUK and al-Baghdadi was checking on Abu Wa’il status in assisting the group. BBC
85 fighters were killed, though many escaped, when a joint Baath/al Qaeda camp was confronted by Iraqi forces in March 2005. General Adnan Thabet said the camp was “frequented by members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's branch of Al Qaeda, was built after the US offensive to retake the rebel enclave of Fallujah in November. "They were Zarqawi followers and Baathists from the old military because they knew how to fight. They fought like old soldiers." ABC
The Islamic Army in Iraq – The Islamic Army in Iraq is an insurgent group that includes former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, Muslim Brotherhood members and worked with al Qaeda in the past until a recent spilt in which an IAI spokesperson told al Jazeera that “the Islamic Army in Iraq had decided to disunite from al-Qaeda in Iraq...In the beginning we were dealing with Tawhid and Jihad organisation, which turned into al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Wikipedia
Mohammad's Army – Mohammed’s Army, also known as Jaish-e-Mohammed, is a group that includes pro-Saddam members of the former regime’s Intelligence, Security and Police services. Responsibility for the 2003 attack on the UN building in Iraq was claimed both by members of al Qaeda in Iraq (including Zarqawi) and Mohammed’s Army. The material for the bomb was from the former regime's stock, which members of the former regime would have had superior access to though observers said insurgents could have gained access to it on their own. Abu Omar al-Kurdi, an al Qaeda/Zarqawi associate later admitted responsibility for making the bomb after his capture. Wikipedia, Globalsecurity.org
Over past few months a number of stories related to the former Iraqi regime's links to terrorism have further developed.
Recently, former top aide of Saddam Hussein, Izzat al Douri, was said to have renounced his alliance with al Qaeda. What isn't being asked is how can Al Douri, who once told TIME of cooperating with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, be "breaking" from al Qaeda if Baathists would not be willing to work with al Qaeda to begin with?
In a related story, former Iraqi PM (and former Baath party member) Iyad Allawi's connections to information about members of the former regime may have been reinforced when he was reportedly able to set up a meeting between representatives of Izzat al Douri and U.S. representatives. If Allawi truly has these sorts of contacts inside the ranks of the former regime it would be wise not to discount his knowledge (video and story here) regarding the former regime's links to al Qaeda, including possible meetings with al Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri.
While reviewing the latest tape from Osama bin Laden Tom Joscelyn reminded his readers of the Associated Press's analysis of what bin Laden instructed his followers to do prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq:
Feb. 11, 2003: Bin Laden tells his followers to help Saddam Hussein fight Americans in an audiotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera. U.S. officials say they believe the tape to be authentic
Saddam Hussein's daughter has been targeted for arrest by Iraqi officials for her financial support for terrorist groups operating inside Iraq. Much of her funding is likely to be that of the former regime's.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has an updated, and still partial, look at the reported prewar relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. The report's author, Kenneth Katzman, actually addresses the extensive postwar cooperation between Saddam loyalists and al Qaeda but makes many of the same mistakes when analyzing possible relationships between the two sides by failing to analyze any of the actual documents from the former regime which have been found in Iraq or to look at the interrogation logs of any of the Ba'athists who have been caught working with and for al Qaeda. Specifically, Katzman did not ask how and when Ba'athists put aside those reported "irreconcilable differences" they had with al Qaeda.
The U.S. government's wanted profile for Abdul Rahman Yasin, though the information is longer available, temporarily listed Yasin as having last been seen in the Arabian Peninsula and also as a member of al Qaeda. Though Yasin's links to the 93' World Trade Center attack have been known for some time his listing as a member of al Qaeda by the U.S. government may have been the first time. Postwar intelligence, including recovered documents, indicate that Yasin was harbored and funded by the former regime.
Continued Baathist - al Qaeda cooperation in Iraq
In the Arab Jabour of Iraq an Egyptian, still unnamed, who came to Iraq in the 80's and later became a "former high ranking official of the Ba'ath party during Saddam Hussein's reign" was arrested. Sometime after coming to Iraq he "joined al-Qaeda fighters" and led a VBIED cell which had been targeting coaltion forces.
In a story passed along to this site by Dr. Laurie Mylroie, the leader of a wanted al Qaeda in Iraq cell with links to the former regime was detained on September 3. His cell, in the Old Za'ab Village, is believed to include members of "the former Ba’ath Party, 1920th Revolutionary Brigade, Islamic State of Iraq, New Ba’ath Party and El-Huk Brigade members. Additionally, his group is suspected of orchestrating attacks in Ninewa, Salah ah Din
and At' Tamim provinces...Scouts were able to detain the leader’s deputy, a wanted member of the former Ba’ath Party. In addition, the village is believed to be a safe haven and planning node for synchronization of al Qaeda in Iraq forces."
The leader of al Qaeda in Tikrit (Tikrit being Saddam Hussein's birthplace and former stronghold), Salam Mulla Mustafa Shneidkh was caught in mid-2007 with four of his aids. Wanted members of al Qaeda continue to be captured in Tikrit and and in cooperation with members of the former regime throughout the Sunni Triangle.
In a relatively unnoticed event, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's followers, the Ba'ath party and Ansar al-Sunnah released a joint statement protesting the state of affairs in Iraq sometime after the Sharm al-Shaykh conference a few years back. The letter was written by the Ba'ath party and said the groups would double their attacks on coalition targets.
Baathist - al Qaeda collaboration extends beyond borders of Iraq
A recent Treasury Department designation and an October arrest in Italy appear to indicate that Baathist and al Qaeda members in both Europe and the Middle East have discussed and attempted various forms of suicide attacks on coalition forces which include the use of aircraft in suicide attacks.
As first pointed out at the Counter Terrorism Blog, on December 6 the U.S. Treasury Department announced the designation of 7 individuals for their support of the insurgency in Iraq and/or their support of former regime officials. The designations named Fawzi Mutlaq Al-Rawi (al Rawi pictured at right via Terrorist Scorecard) in the release and cited his leadership of the Iraqi branch of the Syrian Baath Party, material support for al Qaeda, supporting Muhammad Yunis Ahmad's network in Iraq, meeting with the former commander of Saddam Hussein's Army of Muhammad and attending a meeting in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, with other senior AQI representatives "where they discussed financing, unifying AQI forces, (and) conducting airborne improvised explosive device attacks."
Al-Rawi's contacts include both members of the former Iraqi regime and leading members of al Qaeda in Iraq, providing further example that not only will followers of Baathism and al Qaeda cooperate but have done so at top levels of each organization.
In October, another member of a plot involving Baath Party remnants, al Qaeda members and air craft was quietly squelched. According to Adnkronos International, Italian police arrested Saber Fadhi Hussien "a former member of late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's disbanded Baath Party" and allegedly "the head of an al-Qaeda cell" when he was in route to Syria for "planning attacks using suicide bombers, anti-tank weapons and ultra-light helicopters, according to investigators. They said Hussien was intending to travel to Syria and meet a contact for al-Qaeda in Iraq."
Hussien is said to have been in contact with aides of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, prior to his death and had been supplying money for al Qaeda attacks in Iraq "for some time." Italian police "also turned up the names of Hussien's contacts in Iraq, which they said would be relayed to Iraqi police and US authorities." Whether or not that information contributed to the arrest of al-Rawi or the designations by the Treasury Department has not yet been announced and the Treasury Department could not provide further details on this topic when reached for comment due to the sensitivity of the subject.
In a related note, former Iraqi Vice President and "deputy chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council" (who has also reportedly spent time operating from Syria) was recently almost caught near Saddam Hussein's former hometown of Tikrit. Despite eluding capture, and contrary to stories of turning against al Qaeda, al Douri's recovered possessions revealed details on al Qaeda , including a detailed plan of a March attack on Mosul's Badush prison that freed over 100 al Qaeda members.As was mentioned by IWPR's Hiwa Osman over two years ago in the Washington Post Baathist - al Qaeda cooperation was not only one of the players in the Iraq insurgency but
The backbone of the insurgency appears to be an alliance between the die-hard Baathists and the network of terrorists mostly under the command of Abu Musab Zarqawi.Whether or not the collaboration is being led by Zarqawi's successor or someone else, Osman's description of Syria as a base of this cooperation appears to have been noticed by U.S., Iraqi and Italians officials, as evidence by the recent reports. The continued extent of that cooperation and its extent can likely be determined by the arrest of the individuals listed as wanted individuals by Iraq, those listed by the Treasury Department who continue to reside in Syria and those discussed in al Douri's recovered documents though that information will likely remain kept from public eyes until it is fully utilized.
The past few days have seen a whirlwind of news stories and blog posts relating to a new D.O.D. sponsored study on Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism. The report, authored by Kevin M. Woods of the Institute for Defense Analysis, is now available online (link, Volumes I -V here) and has been the subject of debate over its content, release and meaning.
The storm began (as noted in Stephen Hayes must read piece) with a McClatchy news piece titled "Exhaustive review finds no link between Saddam, al Qaida." The leak-based story essentially summarizes a 94 page report down to a single, unrepresentative phrase. For the record it should be noted that once the report was made available to the public it was revealed that its author's actually say on page ES-3 that their report is not exhaustive (contrary to the early news report) stating that the list of Hussein era documents are "not an exhaustive list" beause some were in the possession of other U.S. government agencies.This story was followed by headlines of a similar bent. Steve Schippert's sample of some of the more prominent headlines provides readers with what the story's narrative looked like a few days ago:
ABC: Report Shows No Link Between Saddam and al Qaeda
New York Times: Study Finds No Qaeda-Hussein Tie
CNN: Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda not linked, Pentagon says
Washington Post: Study Discounts Hussein, Al-Qaeda Link
AFP: No link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda: Pentagon study
And within hours the (mainstream media) die had been cast. Saddam was not linked to al Qaeda went the theme.
The initial news reports of the study's findings were so far off base that one of the researchers involved in the report said (via Stephen Hayes) "The document is being misrepresented. I recommend we put [it] out and on a website immediately."
The full report was then posted online, and made available by ABC News, does indeed include a sentence that no "smoking gun" linking Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda was discovered during their research but goes on to give compelling evidence that mustn't meet the authors criteria in the "smoking gun" test. A closer reading of the study (see here, here, here, here, here and here) shows that Saddam Hussein's Iraq cooperated with, financed and supported a number of Islamic terrorist groups, including al Qaeda proxies (at least five according to Thomas Joscelyn) and had a larger capacity for state apparatus terrorism (car bomb training, IED training, jihadist suicide bomber recruitment, etc.) than previously believed by many.
Of the many noteworthy findings in the report is the assertion made in the conclusion that Hussein had retained not only the capacity to launch anti-West terrorist attacks but the will to use those terrorist capabilities, including directly against the United States, which was also a matter of previous debate. The report's conclusion, while noting that a perfect grasp of Hussein's mindset at the exact time of U.S. invasion remained elusive, states that "evidence that was uncovered and analyzed attests to the existence of a terrorist capability and a willingness to use it until the day Saddam was forced to flee Baghdad by Coalition forces."
Instead of newspaper and television headlines such as "Hussein had the capability and intention of striking U.S. with terror attacks" the public is presented with disappointingly shallow stories that even days after the full version of the report is out still promoting the narrow "no links" narrative. The coming days and weeks should be a time when members of the media can and should put aside their previously conceived notions on this serious and important topic and read and then seriously report on this study. The time for that is long overdue.
Despite the most recent attempt by the Democrat-led Senate Intelligence Committee to "report away" Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism, evidence reportedly from inside the former regime continues to reveal efforts by the former regime to cultivate ties with active terrorist groups. The most recent piece of evidence is provided by a Kurdish newspaper translated by MEMRI (story below, picture of document to left) and cited by AJ Strata and Gateway Pundit.
Kurdish Paper: Cooperation Between Saddam Regime, Al-Qaeda
The Kurdish daily Kurdistani Nwe has published a 2002 letter from the Iraqi presidency that it says proves that there was cooperation between the regime of Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.
The letter, which appeared on the paper's front page, was published by the intelligence apparatus of the Iraqi presidency and discussed an intention to meet with Ayman Al-Zawahiri in order to examine a plan drawn up by the Iraqi presidency to carry out a "revenge operation" in Saudi Arabia.
2002 letter from the Iraqi presidencySource: www.knwe.org (http://www.knwe.org/Kurdistani%20Nwe/18-6-2008/Kurdistani%20Nwe.htm), June 20, 2008
It is worth noting that terror attacks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia were conducted in May 2003 and were largely blamed on al Qaeda. It is also worth noting that Saddam Hussein's connections to Ayman al Zawahiri (though there is much more on this topic yet to be written) have been documented in numerous reports including the 9-11 Commission’s report and the recent IDA report. The recent IDA report also exposed Hussein’s terrorists capabilities and motives towards Saudi Arabia (internal documents discussed secret attacks on the Saudi Royal family, attacks on buildings in the country and terror plots coordinated by "Unit 999"). The extent of Hussein’s terror aspirations vs. Saudi Arabia, coupled with his previous financial links to al Qaeda #2’s Ayman al Zawahiri would indicate that this documents authenticity is at least plausible in terms of what else is known about the 2002 situations surrounding both al Qaeda (fury with the Saudis over their cooperation with the U.S.) and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (being threatened with a U.S. led war).
That Saddam Hussein's regime had secret plans for terror attacks on buildings inside Saudi Arabia, had a special intelligence unit for conducting attacks inside Saudi Arabia, was meeting with the groups who shared the desire and capability to launch attacks against Saudi Arabia and eventually conducted such attacks may be merely coincidental to those who apply the standards of the U.S. legal system towards state sponsors of terrorism but the evidence, coupled with Hussein's treacherous past, should have long removed this presumption of innocence and burden of proof.
Meek says that, according to the documents, Saddam denied links to al Qaeda just as he did prior to the invasion and the Baath party recently denied again on their website.
In one of the documented interviews Hussein referred to America as his enemy and in another interview discussed Iraq's relationship with, and level of support for anti-Israel groups linked with Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, who he referred to as "guests."
Meek indicated that more released documents relating to the interview may be posted soon on the New York Daily News website.
Update: In Meek's latest post on another FBI document relaying the George Piro interview of Saddam Hussein, Hussein said that he would have been willing to use WMD's against the U.S. if he had them.
"By God, if I had such weapons, I would have used them in the fight against the U.S.”
FBI photo of Saddam Hussein being fingerprinted after being captured.
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After repeated questioning about links to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein admitted the two sides had had meetings (though he initially denied this as well) but said his regime denied al Qaeda's requests for support over what he claimed were incompatible ideologies.
Below is a summary of one of FBI agent George Piro's question and answer sessions (obtained by George Washington University's "National Security Archive"). In this June 28, 2004 document Hussein also said his country did not support al Qaeda because the U.S. was not his enemy. Hussein's motivation to speak the truth must be critically on this and any other matter he may have considered incriminating. Regarding viewing the U.S. as an enemy Hussein had previously indicated the exact opposite. In another FBI interview, as well as private and public statements Hussein revealed feelings that undermine this denial of viewing the U.S. as an enemy.
An analysis of 600,000 documents from Saddam's ruling Ba'ath Party, released in 2008 by the Institute for Defense Analysis, a Pentagon think tank, found that while there was no "operational relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, the Iraqi state collaborated with other jihadist organizations affiliated with bin Laden's organization.Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post also wrote on the story, comparing Saddam Hussein's statements with the former Bush administration's on Iraq-al Qaeda links.
Piro raised bin Laden in his last conversation with Hussein, on June 28, 2004, but the information he yielded conflicted with the Bush administration's many efforts to link Iraq with the terrorist group. Hussein replied that throughout history there had been conflicts between believers of Islam and political leaders. He said that "he was a believer in God but was not a zealot . . . that religion and government should not mix." Hussein said that he had never met bin Laden and that the two of them "did not have the same belief or vision."
Thomas Joscelyn, at The Weekly Standard, has an interesting take on the FBI's motive and effectiveness in questioning Hussein on his links to terrorism.
To Piro's credit, he cited some of the evidence that contradicted Saddam's denial--but just some. Piro noted that one of Saddam's top intelligence officers, Faruq Hijazi, met with Osama bin Laden in 1994. He could have also pointed out that Hijazi also met with bin Laden shortly after Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. That meeting was reported around the world.
Piro also noted that Abu Hafs al Mauritani traveled to Baghdad twice, and even requested a payment of $10 million. This is especially interesting because al Mauritani is a top al Qaeda theologian. It is yet another piece of evidence demonstrating that al Qaeda's ideology did not preclude it from seeking Saddam's support.
Saddam admitted that Hijazi met with bin Laden in 1994 and that Abu Hafs traveled twice to Baghdad. He reportedly denied paying the $10 million to Abu Hafs.
But are we really to take Saddam's denial at face value? He lied about so much else, including his regime's ties to the PLF, which no one seriously disputes. He also refused to answer questions about acts that took place decades prior. As mentioned, Saddam also had the audacity to pretend that America was not his enemy, and therefore there was no reason to work with al Qaeda.
Basic reason suggests that no one should take Saddam's denials at face value. But this has not stopped the press from splashing his denials on the front page.
There is more evidence that Piro could have questioned Saddam about. For example, he could have asked Saddam about the numerous Iraqi regime documents that illustrate important ties to al Qaeda. Unfortunately, Saddam he did not have to answer any questions about those documents during his interview with the FBI. And the press has not been especially curious about the documents either.The bottom line is that there is no evidence in the documents released thus far that the FBI ever "broke" Saddam, or even got any meaningful intelligence from him. That the FBI and the press repeat Saddam's meaningless denials demonstrates just how poorly understood and researched these matters are.
The entire piece by Joscelyn is worth reading and his final sentence about further understanding being needed by the public and the press is spot on.
It should first be noted that media reports at the time of Hussein's arrest indicate that the FBI was not only one of many agencies to interview Hussein but had at least two other agencies (Army intelligence and CIA) had access to Hussein prior to the FBI. This means that recent documents released by the FBI, while important and relevant, should in no way be considered the totality of Hussein's remarks during his time in U.S. custody.
As noted in one of the FBI documents Saddam Hussein had very little reason to tell the entire truth over issues that would further incriminate him on terrorism or other issues and the FBI was aware of this point. His repeated denials of human rights violations were finally met with video and documentary evidence which reportedly get him to soften his denials.
Hussein's testimony included a number of internal inconsistencies as well as comments that conflicted with other available evidence. For example, Hussein claimed that it was al Qaeda who attempted to initiate a relationship with him when they came to him for money,, yet there is evidence that efforts also came from Hussein's regime to aid al Qaeda. According to the FBI's released documents Hussein was not presented with the evidence from al Qaeda and Ba'ath detainee testimony and documents that led former CIA director George Tenet to be justifiably concerned about Iraq and al Qaeda.
This site's request to the FBI for comment on whether or not Saddam was presented with overwhelming evidence of links to terrorism, as he was overwhelmed with evidence on other issues, was handled by Paul Bresson. Bresson's FBI reply will be posted when it becomes available.
Update: Upon request to the FBI, through FOIA, for copies of all their files on Saddam Hussein this site has acquired a much more detailed report than what was made available in recent media reports. Additional details will be posted as time permits.
- See also Saddam Hussein's FBI interview (part I)
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During a series of email and telephone exchanges Matthew Degn relayed to www.regimeofterror.com his vast array of experiences working with intelligence issues relating to the current and former situation in Iraq. Among his responsibilities during his years in Iraq Degn worked as a civilian interrogator attached to the U.S. Army in Iraq before working as a Senior Policy/Intelligence Adviser to Deputy General Kamal and other top intelligence officials with the Iraq's Ministry of Interior. Degn, currently working on a book about his experiences in Iraq (personal website here), continues to argue against those that feel there was no link between terrorism and Saddam Hussein's regime based on his involvement with hundreds of interrogations in Iraq and his involvement with many of the Iraqi Intelligence officials with the Ministry of Interior. Degn says that much of the public perception about Saddam Hussein's regime and terrorism are incorrect.Degn is currently the Director of the Intelligence Studies Program and a professor at American Military University currently a professor at American Military University whose testimony about events in Iraq has been cited by NPR, ABC News, the Washington Post and elsewhere. According to his American Military University bio Degn (pronounced Dayne) also:
"has extensive experience in the Middle East, serving most recently as a senior intelligence/policy advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in Baghdad." He also "he was the senior civilian advisor in the creation of the Iraqi Counter-terrorism Agency, mentored Iraqi senior government intelligence officials at the Deputy Minister level, and witnessed the inner workings of the Iraqi government at the highest levels." "Professor Degn has also been involved in the screening and interrogation process within Iraq. He served at Abu Ghraib prison and was among the last Americans in the prison facility before its closing. He witnessed the harmful effects the infamous prison scandal had on U.S. foreign policy and the interrogation process. While in different prison facilities he has interviewed members of Al Qaida, Jaysh-al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army), Badr Corps, Iranian, Syrian, and Saudi insurgents, and members of other terrorist entities from Iraq and the surrounding region. Moreover, he has experience as a senior counter-terrorism analyst in Washington D.C. and in the military. Professor Degn is the author of numerous essays and other writings with subjects ranging from foreign policy and violent militias to terrorist methodologies, private security companies in war, and the use of intelligence within the Middle East."
In addition to the hundreds of detainees listed in his American Military University bio Degn participated in the interrogations of members of the Abu Nidal organization and Ba'ath party officials at Camp Cropper, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
Former regime's links to al Qaeda
When asked about recent media reports citing Saddam Hussein's denial to the FBI about links to al Qaeda Degn viewed these reports as part of an ongoing attempt to rewrite history saying these reports stand in stark contrast to what he saw and heard firsthand in Iraq. In fact, Degn said that to many of the detainees links between Saddam Hussein's regime and terrorist groups including al Qaeda was not even a point of contention but freely acknowledged. Many of the high value detainees took it as a given that their captors were aware of Iraq - al Qaeda links. Some even bragged about those links.
I interviewed plenty of Saddam’s associates, as well as numerous members of Al Qaeda while at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in 06 and spoke with many who were quite familiar with the inner workings of the Saddam regime while at the Ministry of Interior (MOI). Did they cooperate or have animosity towards each other? Well, this is a tough question to answer- as it seemed that different individuals had a variety of feelings about the subject. Some detainees alleged that members of AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) were in support of Saddam and began attaching the CF (coalition forces) for money, religious reasons, thrills, etc. On the other hand, there were those I spoke with who were opposed to Saddam and happy to see him removed. Still, the reasons for attacking the CF were much the same.
One thing many fail to understand is that Al Qaeda is not a unified group throughout the Middle East, or even regionally. Many small groups take the title of “Al Qaeda” to bolster their notoriety, to feel they are part of the larger effort against the US forces, or for other reasons.As for how supporters of Saddam felt about AQI- again it would depend on the individual. Many I spoke with claimed they were against the group- probably because that is what they figured I wanted to hear. Some claimed Saddam was against the group because members of AQ were a bit too religious or threatening to his rule. While, other detainees claimed he used various groups as intermediaries to arrange arms and money transfers to the group in order to attack a common enemy- Iran, as well as US interests in the region. Still, there were other hard core detainees, part of Saddam’s core, or members of other groups such as former ANO members (Abu Nidal Organization) as a few alleged, that claimed they would associate with Saddam-ites as well as AQI from time to time as the need would arise.
When pressed for specifics Degn said that Hussein's regime, like many other Middle Eastern groups, used the "Hawala" system to secretly move money to al Qaeda and made it nearly impossible to "prove" in a legal system that the transfers took place. The "Hawala" system uses multiple layers of middle men couriers to transfer money and leaves no paper trail, making tracing such transactions virtually impossible.
Degn said that Iraqi assistance given to al Qaeda also included safehaven. Degn said al Qaeda used that safehaven for at least two training camps in Western Iraq and the Anbar province. Degn argued that Saddam Hussein's government was certainly aware that the provision of safehaven was being used for these camps. (Related: Captured Iraqi terrorist says al Qaeda had camps in Saddam's Iraq)
Degn said he had heard reports that indicated that al Qaeda affiliates had multiple, possibly competing, cells in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's Iraq. One cell was affiliated with Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who had not yet "officially" sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Another al Qaeda cell, linked to Ayman al Zawahiri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad, was reportedly simultaneously operating in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. This detail appears to match up with that of former CIA Director George Tenet's and Major General William Caldwell on the topic. He cited this as an example of the ability of al Qaeda's cells to operate independently, a theme he heard more than once during his interactions. Degn said that from what he saw it was true that many al Qaeda operatives got directives and money from al Qaeda's core closest to Osama bin Laden but many were capable of making independent decisions and relationships.
Degn said that while Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda did have mixed feelings for one another, at best, Hussein praised nearly all of al Qaeda's attacks as well as anti-Western attacks committed by other terror groups. Degn argued that if he didn't have some kind of hand in these attacks that he certainly wanted to as he definitely considered the U.S. an enemy (as well as Iran) and thus supported a number of Sunni groups.
Degn says that at least some of the U.S. intelligence community likely knew of the support for regional anti-Western Sunni groups all along.
Former regime's links to other terrorist groups
Degn said he also saw overwhelming firsthand evidence of links between Saddam Hussein's regime and numerous other regional terrorist/militant groups.
As noted in the Institute for Defense Analysis report, Degn argued that Hussein's regime cooperated with regional terrorist groups who opposed Western interests all the way up to the invasion and became increasingly active in the region just prior to the 2003 U.S. led invasion.
When pressed for specific examples of attacks Degn replied that detainees and sources in Iraq's current government knew that Hussein's Iraq sponsored repeated attacks on Westerners and U.S. forces in Kuwait. One particular attack was on a U.S. naval ship and another killed 3 U.S. marines, who were Degn's friends, during their service in Kuwait.
Degn said that he saw links between both the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) and al Qaeda and the Abu Nidal Organization and the former Iraq regime during detainee interrogations and interviews. Degn said that ANO, according to intelligence reports also had training camps and facilities inside Iraq known to the former regime.
Degn said that Hussein's regime used primarily anti-Western Sunni groups. While many of these groups operated independently, many of them were also loosely affiliated with al Qaeda and at least one Shi'ite group (Hezbollah) was mentioned as a group Hussein's regime may have sponsored for attacks on Western targets in Israel and elsewhere.
Those who feel that the complete story of Saddam Hussein and terrorism has yet to be told will agree with Degn when he asserts that others with firsthand experiences with the topic should speak up. Degn also champions the idea of civilian counterparts working alongside the military to offer a different point or perspective to decision makers in Iraq and elsewhere. He was among those involved with this number of interrogations who has opted to speak now and let others know of his experiences.
Degn's testimony should not viewed as entirely contradictory to that of former CIA officer Charles Faddis (interview here) but supplementary. Faddis's interview came from a different time period and likely involved different detainees (Ansar al Islam affiliates from northern Iraq) and both sets of detainees agreed that the groups held some animosity towards one another.
With the understanding that both Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda had internal disagreements about cooperation and both would use compartmentalization to protect widespread knowledge of sensitive issues, that would comprimise their operations, it is understandable why conflicting reports on Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda continue to persist.
Another reason for conflicting reports that Degn pointed out is both the chain of command in the U.S. government's many agencies and compartmentalization of information ("need to know"). Degn said he saw firsthand how these two factors led to vital wartime information being "watered down" before it mades its way to official reports and investigations.
Degn's recollection of detainee testimony and many discussions within the Iraqi MOI roughly matches the document based work of Kevin Woods in his report The Iraqi Perspectives Project -- Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents on regional terrorism, though Degn thinks the links to al Qaeda were more substantial. Degn's findings, primarily through detainee testimony and assocations within the Iraqi MOI, supports the take on the topic that writers such as Richard Miniter, Andrew McCarthy, Christopher Hitchens, Ray Robison, Jeffrey Goldberg, Ken Timmerman, Christopher Holton, Eli Lake, Rowan Scarborough, Stephen Hayes/Thomas Joscelyn, the Wall Street Journal, Ryan Mauro, Scott Malensek, Scott Peterson, Deroy Murdock and many others whose writing has given heart to those that feel that important evidence on Saddam Hussein and terrorism was largely being ignored and/or overlooked.
As members of the many agencies that were likely involved in the interrogations of Saddam Hussein and others come forward, and additional agencies (following the FBI's lead) continue declassifying and releasing more documents relating to Iraq and terrorism a more comprehensive look at this incredibly complex topic will become available. Those unsatisfied with the current public understanding and perception hope that these revelations come sooner rather than later.
Mark Eichenlaub's piece for Pajamas Media on the CIA's analysis of the Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda question is now up here. Paul Pillar and Bruce Tefft, two veterans of the CIA, were kind enough to provide their takes on the CIA's analysis of this topic.
Mark Eichenlaub's recent piece on Iraqi government allegations of Ba'athist - al Qaeda cooperation is now up at Pajamas Media. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the Syrian government to Iraq's request for Muhammad Yunis Al-Ahmad and Sattam Farhan. The Iraqi government wants the reported former Saddam Hussein loyalists Al-Ahmad and Farhan for supporting terrorist attacks in Iraq. After the Pajamas Media piece was submitted (asking the Iraqi government to provide evidence of the Ba'ath - al Qaeda link) al Qaeda claimed credit for recent Iraq attacks while a cell of reported Saddam Hussein loyalists was detained.
Mark was also on the August 26, 2009 edition of Frank Gaffney's new radio show Secure Freedom Radio to discuss Iraqi allegations of Ba'ath - al Qaeda cooperation on recent and prior attacks.
This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Regime of Terror in the International Terrorism category. They are listed from oldest to newest.
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