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.
Captain's Quarters has posted the translation of what appears to be an Iraqi Intelligence Services (Mukhabarat) document discussing the use of diplomatic privileges to carry out terrorist attacks.
The 2003 document (CMPC-2003-005745.pdf) mentions (among other terrorist and sabotaging techniques) using a briefcase bomb that can make it through a security check.
Use of diplomatic briefcases as an explosive device that can not be detected by an X ray device
The use of Iraqi embassies and diplomats to carry out attacks has been a tool of the former regime since at least the first Gulf war when many of their diplomats were ejected from their posts in various countries for attempting attacks. Their embassies also played a vital role in the attempted attacks on the Radio Free Europe building in Prague, the preparations for terror attacks in 98 during a near war with the Clinton administration and various attacks during the leadup to the current war.
These suitcase bombs may have been involved in the attempted IIS attacks in Yemen, Jordan and elsewhere during the leadup to the current war or may have been for other yet-to-discovered attempted attacks.
Kadhim is a "member of the regional leadership of the dissolved Baath Party" and was wanted for "financing terrorist operations in Diyala province".
Incidentally, the Diyala province is also where Abu Musab al Zarqawi spent his final days before being killed by U.S. air strikes.
Thomas Joscelyn has pointed out another example of collusion between Saddam Hussein regime and al Qaeda linked fighters. This cooperation took place in the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom and numerous Chechens have been picked up on the battlefield over the past three years.
Joscelyn cites a FrontPage article which notes that among the recovered bodies of the fanatics fighting alongside Saddam Hussein's forces were numerous Chechens.
Dan Darling has brought attention to some details from a recent article in the Algerian publication L'Expression regarding Algerian jihadist activity in pre-invasion Iraq. (This story was also reported by Stephen Hayes in a January 2006 Weekly Standard column titled "Saddam's Terror Training Camps". Revelations from the past six months have given additional support to Hayes' story.)
The article titled "Jihadist Algerians in Iraq: The 'Syrian Networks'" by Faycal Oukac cites Egyptian specialist Dia Rachwane on how and when many Algerian jihadis made their way into the country.
The Arab fighters' entry into Iraq happened before the American invasion, and several hundred fighters were on the ground before the fall of Saddam's regime, such as, for example, the Ansar el-Islam group to which Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi belonged before joining Al-Qa'ida. The fighters with the Arab legions arrived
The training of foreign suicide bombers, by the former regime, is also the topic of an official Iraqi government document (ISGP-2003-00028868) recovered post-invasion. The document, translated by Joseph Shahda, discusses the training of "Estishehadeyeen", which Shahda translated as meaning “Suicide Martyrs.” The memo, according to Shahda, also reveals that the suicide bombers were foreign and not Iraqi because "The Iraqi Feedaeyeens are known as “Feedaeyeen Saddam” so not to confuse between the two groups." The training instructions for the "Estishehadeyeen" include "how to become suicide bombers by using their own bodies, or suicide bombers using cars and motorcycles full of explosive."
It is also worth noting that Algerian jihadis were even among the fighters that reporters witnessed in a Baghdad training camp before the invasion, just as Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants had claimed.
Okac's next words further support the claim that many of the Algerian and other foreign fighters came at the behest of the former regime (and al Qaeda leadership):
The fighters with the Arab legions arrived, some following instructions from the Al-Qa'ida leadership, some on their own initiative......As Ali Moussa Mahmud, the communications officer with the Iraqi embassy, emphasized at the time, 'these young people are only giving evidence of their support for the mother of Arab-Muslim civilization'....Tariq Aziz, one of the Iraqi regime's heavyweights, said that "the suicide attacks are a response to this rain of missiles." More than 5,000 foreign volunteers for the fight against "the American aggression" were already in Iraq. Others continued to arrive. The support from these activists was not symbolic. Whether fighters or providing logistical support, they opposed the American hegemony, thus boosting national and religious feelings.....'This war is an act of aggression against all Muslims,' Naji Sabri, the Iraqi foreign affairs minister, exclaimed. Saddam said a prayer, lifted both hands to ask for Allah's help, and added something to the Iraqi flag, which would be emblazoned with an Allah Akbar, which went around the world, and ended up convincing young jihadists to follow Saddam...
Which members of al Qaeda's leadership were instructing foreign fighters and jihadists to enter Iraq before March 2003 is an interesting question. Possibly Saif al Adel, Zarqawi or new al Qaeda in Iraq chief Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
Translated documents of the former regime, foreign fighters captured on the battlefield alongside Iraqi forces and the testimony of Middle East sources all indicate that Saddam Hussein and a number of his top officials invoked the call for a holy war and called on (and recruited and trained) jihadist fighters from throughout the Arab to fight against the U.S. pre-invasion.
These prewar requests were made and answered by a large number of Algerians (to say nothing of who was recruited from other countries) who coupled with members of his own regime to fight a 3+ year guerilla war against U.S. and coalition troops.
Radio Polonia is reporting reporting that Polish Intelligence agents have captured an Iraqi terrorist wanted for a number of terrorist attacks, including the fatal attack on a Polish public televsion war correspondant and his assistant.
The background of that wanted terrorist, Salas Khabbas, is what is most interesting.
Polish reports suggest that Khabbas, who has "a long record of killings and kidnappings" and is "a former member of the Baath party and closely linked with al-Qaeda, specialized in attacking convoys and kidnapping."
Khabbas may reveal his exact role in the former regime to his captors as well as how and when he became "closely linked" with al-Qaeda. In the meantime, his name has been added to the ever-growing list of former regime officials caught fighting as al Qaeda agents in Iraq.
The case of Sami Latchin, a former Mukhabarat agent for Saddam Hussein arrested in the Chicagoland area for being an alleged Iraqi sleeper agent, continued today as Latchin's agents appealed to a federal judge for access to records of possible NSA wiretaps of Latchin's communications.
In "United States of America v. Sami Khoshab Latchin" federal prosecutors charged Mr. Latchin with lying to U.S. officials about his affiliations with Saddam Hussein's regime.
Saddam Hussein's former right-hand man, and most wanted man in Iraq, Izzat al-Douri, recently relayed a number of messages to TIME magazine through intermediaries. Some of his responses, which TIME contends were verified through trusted sources, shed some light on leading terrorist in Iraq's postwar activities.
Although al-Douri rebuked many of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's tactics he renewed his praise of the deceased al Qaeda leaders "courage, the strength of his faith, and the sacrifices of his fighters" and admitted participating with Zarqawi and sharing his religious views.
Unless al Douri's religious views radically altered post-invasion (unlikely considering al Douri's history of extreme religious views and participation in Iraq's "Return to Faith Campaign"), this admission severely damages the argument that Saddam Hussein's regime was hostile to radical, militant Islam.
al-Douri went on to say that the military plan for the initial stages for the war had been a mistake and that Iraq's military would have been much more effective (at killing Americans and innocent Iraqis) if they had disbanded and used their entire force to fight in a guerilla war, as the remnants of the military had done. al-Douri also said that the military holdovers from the previous regime had been responsible for 95% of the attacks on coalition forces, indicating that the war against the previous regime continues to be the primary obstacle for peace in Iraq.
- Samir Vincent's ongoing court case exemplifies the underreported story of Saddam Hussein's agents who were operating inside the United States in the years prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Vincent's trial involves the Oil for Food scandal and implicates the Iraqi agent in attempting to buy off pro-Iraq (pre-invasion) sentiments within the U.S. government and the United Nations on behalf of Baghdad. The FBI's press release details Vincent's admission of guilt as an unregistred Iraqi agent and is available here.
- Another recently concluded trial is that of Shaaban Hafiz Ahmad Ali Shaaban (pictured right).
Shaaban, who had met with Mukhabarat agents in Iraq in 2002, was convicted for acting as an "unregistered agent for the Saddam Hussein regime" inside the United States. In the years before his capture, Shaaban had:
traveled to Baghdad in late 2002 where he offered to sell names of U.S. intelligence agents and operatives to Iraq for $3 million dollars.
sought to gain Iraqi support to establish an Arabic television station in the United States that would broadcast news and discussions that would be pro-Iraqi.
sought to enter into a "Cooperation Agreement" where he would be paid a fee by Iraq to organize volunteers to act as human shields to protect Iraqi infrastructure during the war.broadcasted messages of support for the Iraqi government on Iraqi media stations that advocated support for Iraq and encouraged others to forcibly resist the United States and others who opposed Iraq.
- The case of accused Iraqi sleeper agent, Sami Latchin, is currently in recess.
- Susan Lindauer, another alleged IIS agent operating in the United States, is currently in a Texas mental hospital. She has been relegated to the facility until she is mentally fit to stand trial. Lindauer is said to have been attempting to influence U.S. policy on Iraq, acting as an Iraqi agent on behalf of Saddam Hussein and possibly collaborating with Iraqi "resistance" post-invasion. More information on Lindauer's case here and here.
- The human rights trial of Saddam Hussein, and top members of his former regime, ceased Thursday until mid-October.
- Iraq's Central Criminal Court also continues to prosecute insurgents and terrorists captured in Iraq, many of whom are members of the former regime.
To the victims of the former regime's violence and terror, it may be of some small comfort to see that the members of Saddam Hussein's regime may finally be seeing justice for their crimes.
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.
TIME magazine recently posted an interview with native Iraqi Abu Mohammed reflecting on a number of things related to Saddam Hussein's death including the effect that Hussein and his Baath regime had on the country of Iraq and Hussein's followers joining up with Abu Musab al Zarqawi after Hussein had been captured. (A confession also made in TIME magazine earlier this year by Hussein's former right-hand man Izzat al Douri.)
Even the remnants of his (Hussein's) old regime, which had morphed into the Sunni insurgency, seemed to lose their fervor for Saddam (after his capture). Some Ba'athist groups kept up the charade that they were fighting to restore the dictator to his palace, but others quickly stopped referring to him at all and instead recast themselves as "the nationalist resistance" or as "mujahedin," or holy warriors. Many threw in their lot with the new ogre on the scene, Al-Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The secular Baath party, long been said to be completely incompatible with extremist groups such as al Qaeda, has repeatedly been pinpointed as al Qaeda's main ally in post-invasion Iraq, even to the point of following al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi after Saddam Hussein had been captured.
It's worth asking when and how these networks and relationships began, though it's a question rarely asked in mainstream media circles.
Hamza went on to confirm his knowledge of the former Baathists extensive hand in the post-invasion violence and terror.
One afternoon last October, I watched the televised Saddam trial in the company of Abu Hamza, a field commander of Jaish al-Islami. Iraq's largest insurgent group, Jaish al-Islami is made up mainly of Ba'athists and soldiers from Saddam's army. Abu Hamza had been an officer in Saddam's elite Republican Guard; in previous meetings, he had spoken reverentially about the dictator, describing him as a man who exuded power and gravitas.
Jaish al-Islami, aka the Islamic Army of Iraq, is linked to al Qaeda in Iraq in the world of anti-coalition forces operating inside Iraq and as the "largest insurgent group" has obviously done quite a bit to prevent Iraq's elected government from stabilizing the country.
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.
Examining Saddam Hussein's last words
(دراسة صدام حسين الكلمات الاخيرة
In the months and weeks before his death Saddam Hussein (Uruknet photo on left) produced a number of communications to the world beyond his cell through speeches, letters and interviews. Some of these communications have been made public and reveal additional insights into the former Iraqi leader's personal beliefs and motives, particularly Hussein's views on jihad and the use of terrorism.
In his July 7, 2006 letter to the American people, Hussein (via Uruknet) referred to the insurgency in Iraq as "heroic Mujahideen, in glorious, virtuous, militant, jihadist Iraq. So God bless the heroic people of Iraq and God bless the jihad and Mujahideen."Hussein signed the letter:
God is great…Glory to God, to our nation, our people and the Mujahideen…Long live Iraq…Long live Palestine…Long live our glorious nation and our peace l oving people. God is greater. Saddam Hussein
President of Iraq and Commander in Chief of Iraq’s Mujahideen Armed Forces
The invocations of Islam and calls for a jihad against his foes were not new for Hussein. The calls for a "jihad" against the U.S. and its allies began at least as early as 1990 during the run up to the first Gulf War when Hussein declared a holy war against the U.S. and Israel, 1993 through his right hand man at Iraq's "Popular Islamic Conference" in Baghdad, in 1998 after U.S. air strikes on Iraq , in 2000 while speaking about the USS Cole bombing and in the months before the March 2003 invasion the calls were repeated. After coalition forces entered Iraq he again invoked the call for jihad at least twice before he was captured.
In a March 2006 interview held on Al-Fayhaa TV (found by "The Bullwinkle Blog" and translated by MEMRI) Hussein claimed responsibility for unspecified terrorist attacks.
I know that people who listen to me might think that Saddam Hussein has become apathetic in prison and stopped supporting terrorism. No. I’m not ashamed to tell you that Iraq, without Saddam Hussein, isn’t worth two bits. Therefore, it will make me happy if Iraq turns into dust.
Though this may have been tough talk from a man facing his own mortality or simply talk of using violence against those from both inside and outside his former ruling Baath Party who had crossed him during his time in prison it contrasts sharply with Hussein's previous denials of links to terrorism and similar comments made by Hussein's former mouthpiece Tariq Aziz.
Further critical analysis of Hussein's speeches (other speeches found here), analysis of the upcoming "tell all" book from Hussein's former lawyer, deciphering of public and private letters, interviews (as well as the eventual declassification of interrogation logs) will undoubtedly provide a means for deeper understanding of Hussein's stated desires and impressions regarding the West, Islam/Islamists, jihad and terrorism. These reports, combined with the previous findings of the Duelfer Report, the Iraqi Perspectives Project and CIA/DIA/FBI reports (which have been partially released through the Senate Intelligence Committee's look at the subject), are necessary for a full and comprehensive view into the world according to Saddam Hussein and thus any definitive pronouncements on Hussein's real motives should be withheld until such an effort can be made.
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.
In April of 2007 the media wing for al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State in Iraq, Al Furqan, released a video documentary about their Kurdistan Units in Northern Iraq. The video (click images to view) includes training and documents an attack on a Kurdish militia vehicle and is titled "Al Awda Ila Al Jibal" or "The Return To The Mountains."
According to the jihadist websites (World News Network) and forums who posted copies of the video the footage was shot somewhere between 2002 and early 2003, when al Qaeda was moving fighters to Iraq under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Because of the totalitarian nature of Saddam Hussein's regime it is difficult to imagine that camps of this nature, involving hundreds of terrorists with more than just small arms weapons, would be allowed to conduct their training on Iraqi soil if they posed a threat to the former regime. Instead, multiple attacks against local Kurdish officials seemed to be the directive of the group and in al Qaeda video terrorists were recorded attacking the Kurdish militia, a bitter enemy of Saddam regime.
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
Amy Proctor has posted a video on her site of a 2005 televised confession by Ramzi Hashem Abed that mentions a number of interesting points including an al Qaeda affiliate's presence in Saddam Hussein-era Iraq as well as post-invasion cooperation between members of Hussein's regime and the al Qaeda linked group whom Abed refers to as "bin Laden's group."
In the video the native Iraqi mentions a camp in Northern Iraq that may be the same one Joseph Shahda wrote about on this site and also indicates that another terror camp was possibly used for Hussein-era training in Fallujah.
Investigator: What organization do you belong to?
Abed: Ansar Al-Islam.
Investigator: What organization is this?
Abed: It is Bin-Laden’s group.
ON BIN LADEN’S AL-QAEDA TRAINING CAMPS IN FALLUJAH UNDER SADDAM:
Abed: Our Ansar Al-Islam military camps were in Halabja.
Investigator: This was in the days of the previous regime?
Investigator: And now?Abed: Now, there is nothing. They were all scattered. The training area was in Falluja.
It is not clear when exactly Abed is saying the training took place in Fallujah but this is the city where Baathist/Wahhabist cooperation took place post invasion and a city in which, according to Ray Robison, Wahhabism may have been not only tolerated but assited by the former regime.
As Thomas Joscelyn correctly noted this man's words should not be accepted uncritically but there is other evidence to support this claim that Joscelyn summarizes:
the 9/11 Commission noted that there were "indications" that Saddam's regime "tolerated and may even have helped" Ansar al Islam - the group Abed admitted belonging to -set up shop in Saddam's Iraq. The Commission decided not to get into the details of what these "indications" were, but clearly the CIA was piecing together these threads of evidence prior to the U.S.-led invasion. The 9/11 Commission also noted that bin Laden "is said to have asked for space to establish training camps" as early as 1994 or 1995. The Commission said "there is no evidence that Iraq responded to this request." But, that isn't true - at least it isn't now true anyway.
Eventually this story will be sorted out as more detainees (al Qaeda, Ansar al Islam and Saddam Hussein officials) interrogation logs are made public and their accounts analyzed and compared with the those documents that have been part of the limited release of material found both in these camps and in official offices of the former regime.
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.
Over the past many months a number of interviews, documents, admissions and other revelations have come to light that continue to undermine the notion that al Qaeda and al Qaeda linked groups were not able to operate inside Iraq during the rule of Saddam Hussein. These findings match up with older reports on the hotly contested that may now deserve re-examination.
A study by The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point of al Qaeda documents deemed the "Sinjar Records" indicates that al Qaeda was, in fact, able to operate inside the country during the rule of the former regime. The center also has previously posted internal al Qaeda documents in which al Qaeda members revealed to one another that "some of them went to Saddam" likely in referrence to al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan to Iraq.
These documents match the testimony of what a former overseer of Iraqi prisons, Don Bordenkircher, claims he was told by numerous prisoners. In an interview with Ryan Mauro, Bordenkircher says that he was told that al Qaeda was not limited to areas beyond Saddam Hussein's control but was present in Mosul and Kirkuk and received assistance from one of Saddam Hussein's sons.
In an interview with FrontPage magazine, Osama al Magid, a former police officer in Saddam Hussein's Iraq from 1992-2003, said that al Qaeda was present and protected in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
FP: How about Al Qaeda in Iraq?In an interview last year conducted by Michael Totten a Sunni Iraqi stated that al Qaeda wasn't out in the open in Saddam Hussein's Iraq but was there in some capacity.
Al-Magid: Al Qaeda and other people who believed the same as Al Qaeda had been in Iraq for many years. When I say “believed” I mean people who hated America and wanted to destroy the U.S. Saddam had this in common with Al Qaeda and this is why he provided them protection.
“We can't compare that to the situation we have now with all these different types of organizations running around all over the country. Before there was nothing like an Al Qaeda organization here. I mean, they were here, but they were secretive, they were not in the field, they were not recognized yet. But now we feel that they are serious, that something big is going on.”Also on this topic Thomas Joscelyn points out that a fairly recent Senate Intelligence Committe report on prewar Bush adminstration statements on the topic backed up allegations that al Qaeda was in Saddam's Iraq and not limited to Kurdistan. Joscelyn found that the report included the following statements:
Statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other al Qaeda-related terrorist members were substantiated by the intelligence assessments. Intelligence assessments noted Zarqawi's presence in Iraq and his ability to travel and operate within the country. The intelligence community generally believed that Iraqi intelligence must have known about, and therefore at least tolerated, Zarqawi's presence in the country.
Joseph Shahda translated and explained a 2008 al Qaeda document, reportedly written by Saif al Adel, who denied links between the group and Saddam Hussein's regime but said the group did have a presence in the Sunni areas of Iraq building cells prior to invasion.
Jeff Stein's interview with former CIA operative Charles Faddis revealed that al Qaeda did have a presence in Iraq prior to invasion though Faddis argues that there was no link to Saddam Hussein's government (more on Farris's thoughts on the topic will be shared in a yet to be published interview with this website).A story posted on al Sumaria's website (link is now down) stated that followers of Saddam Hussein welcomed al Qaeda into Iraq during the invasion and worked together to cause chaos in the country.
It is to be noted that in the wake of the US invasion to Iraq, Sunni Arabs, followers of former President Saddam Hussein welcomed Al Qaeda and allowed for the flow of foreign fighters across the borders to fuel insurgency in Anbar province and establish quasi military structures in Falluja mainly. Al Qaeda and Saddam supporters have imposed their power in these regions and went through fierce battles with the Marines. However, as Al Qaeda’s arbitrary violence has mounted against civilians, Arab tribes formed awakening councils funded by the US aimed against Al Qaeda.
In another Senate report looking into the reported mistreatment of detainees Senior Guantanamo Bay interrogator David Becker told the committee interviewing him that "only 'a couple of nebulous links''' were uncovered between al Qaida and Iraq (An interview with someone in charge of interviewing detainees in Iraq by this website is also in the works.)In a post on his Global Terror Alert website in January 2006 Evan Kohlman analzyed al Qaeda in Iraq's "Distinguished Martyrs" series which included a document discussing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other al Qaeda members and saying that they did not fight alongside members of Saddam Hussein's regime at the start of the Iraq war though the document does not give the reasons for this decision.
Abu Umar al-Masri - A 37-year old senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) leader trained in Yemen and Afghanistan who later joined a group of other elite EIJ operatives in Albania preparing for jihad in nearby Kosovo. When other members of the infamous "Albanian Returnees" group were seized in a joint mission by Albanian security services and the CIA for targeting the U.S. embassy in Tirana, Abu Umar fled Albania for Italy, where he was imprisoned for several years as a suspected terrorist. After a harrowing trip through Germany, Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria, Abu Umar eventually ended up in Iraq just prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein and joined Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Evan Kohlman also posted another document which old CT Blog post cited Abu Ismail al-Muhajir saying:
"As I have explained before, the brothers in Iraq decided to stay out of the war and not to fight alongside Saddam until the war was over and Saddam’s regime was eliminated. They had many reasons for making this decision... Nonetheless, the situation took a turn for the worse after the regime’s collapse... we decided to stay and hide [in Iraq].
The Institute for Defense Analysis investigation of Saddam Hussein era documents showed regime support for EIJ and EIJ has been documented as having had a presence in Saddam's Baghdad.Nikolas K. Gvosdev , a professor at the Naval War College and editor at The National Interest, relayed a guest post from Alexis Debat in a June 2006 at The Washington Realist stating that :
According to Jordanian intelligence sources, these individuals were highly instrumental in setting up Zarqawi's network in Iraq in 2002. Abu Ayyub al Masri, for example, was reported by the US military to have set up Zarqawi's first cell in Baghdad in mid-2002. This Egyptian group, led by al Masri, is reported to have played a critical role in Al Qaeda in Iraq, which cell structure and modus operandi are almost identical to those of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the 1980s.Abu al Masri was also said to have close ties to Ayman al Zawahiri, who reportedly had links to Iraq going back many years. In 2004 TIME magazine reported on al Qaeda documents showing Zarqawi and some of his associates were in Baghdad during Saddam's rule:
He spent the months leading up to the war moving through Iran and northern Iraq, where he attached himself to the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam. A confidential al-Tawhid document obtained by TIME describes a fighter killed in Fallujah last April as having joined al-Zarqawi in Baghdad "just before the fall of the previous regime"—a claim that backs up the Bush Administration's disputed assertions that al-Zarqawi passed through the Iraqi capital while Saddam Hussein was in power. Al-Zarqawi has built his network in Iraq by exploiting the furies unleashed by the fall of Saddam.
The notion that an Iraq-al Qaeda link was based solely, or even primarily, on one or a few mistreated al Qaeda detainees is not a very serious one when al Qaeda documents, Baath documents, detainee admissions and other revelations, both old and new, show that al Qaeda was in areas of Iraq under Saddam Hussein's control and the full extent or reason for this presence has yet to be thoroughly explained to the general public.
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.
(Moderator note: comments for www.regimeofterror.com are now activated at the end of each post)
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.
Aseel Kami, recently reported for Reuters that some officials in the current Iraqi government are making a push for the return of millions of Saddam Hussein-era Iraq documents (previously the subject of Congressional inquiries and public controversy) that were seized by the U.S. government and other non-government entities following the former regime's fall in 2003.Kami wrote:
The files include intelligence papers on Iraqis kept by Saddam Hussein's feared secret police, information on weapons arsenals, detailed plans of massacres of the regime's enemies and even tapes of songs praising Saddam, officials said.Some of these files have been made public while others were made available to the authors of The Iraqi Perspectives Project, Duelfer Report and other investigations into Saddam Hussein's activities.
Others just went missing in the chaos and looting in the early months of the U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam.
"Dictatorships document everything, from the simplest details to the biggest events in their citizens' lives," said Saad Eskander, director of the national library and archives. He added that he thought some were still with the CIA.
One of the non-government entities in possession of the former Iraqi regime's documents is the Hoover Foundation. Officials with knowledge of the Hoover Foundation's cache indicated that the millions of documents they obtained from the Iraq Memory Foundation are a fraction of the approximately 100 million the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies have. Those officials further said that documents are still being organized for a possible move to digital format before a planned move to the internet for historians and researchers to analyze though they urged caution with the release of documents that name former regime officials and their allies as well as their victims.
When asked about reported CIA possession of such documents current and former CIA officials directed requests for information to the Department of Defense and another former intelligence official, who was familiar with the story, told this site that originals were all supposed to be in Iraq or Qatar and that if the Iraqis wanted to expedite process they should contact their in-country DIA representative and prepare a large data store.
When reached for comment on this story Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Almarah Belk said that while her knowledge of the topic was limited she was able to confirm that the process of archiving and digitizing materials was a joint effort by the DOD and intelligence community and was moving forward though some documents may need further exploitation and many were still classified. Belk said that Secretary Robert Gates favored plan was to return all of Iraq's material to their country of origin though she was unaware of a definite timeline for that return. While it was premature to talk about a timeline for return at this point Belk said that in the coming days and weeks there will be a better public understanding on the use of the documents and that the plan was to complete the copying of the data before eventually making copies available to selected scholars and historians in an appropriate manner.
With the former regime's documents so physically and digitally vast, and dispersed to multiple locations, there may remain an undetermined amount of time before the current Iraqi government's efforts are satisfied. Those interested in further and additional analysis of Saddam Hussein's regime and files should continue monitoring DOD efforts to transfer and/or release relevant documents and monitor future analysis by Iraqi and U.S. scholars.
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.