Timeline of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda link allegations

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This article is a chronological listing of allegations of meetings between members of al-Qaeda and members of Saddam Hussein's government, as well as other information relevant to conspiracy theories involving Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.


In 2003, American terrorism analyst Evan Kohlman said in an interview:

While there have been a number of promising intelligence leads hinting at possible meetings between al-Qaeda members and elements of the former Baghdad regime, nothing has been yet shown demonstrating that these potential contacts were historically any more significant than the same level of communication maintained between Osama bin Laden and ruling elements in a number of Iraq's Persian Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Qatar, and Kuwait. [1]

In 2006, a report of postwar findings by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that:

Postwar findings have identified only one meeting between representatives of al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein's regime reported in prewar intelligence assessments. Postwar findings have identified two occasions, not reported prior to the war, in which Saddam Hussein rebuffed meeting requests from an al-Qa'ida operative. The Intelligence Community has not found any other evidence of meetings between al'Qa'ida and Iraq. [2]

The same report also concluded that:

Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qaeda to provide material or operational support. [2]

The result of the publication of the Senate report was the belief that the entire connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda was an official deception based on cherry picking specific intelligence data that bolstered the case for war with Iraq regardless of its reliability. One instance of this reaction was reported in a BBC news article, which stated:

Opposition Democrats are accusing the White House of deliberate deception. They say the revelation undermines the basis on which the US went to war in Iraq. [3]

Gulf War




  • During an interview with Peter Bergen, Khaled Batarfi, an old friend of Osama bin Laden, said that bin Laden had already predicted Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and had begun preparations for war against Saddam. According to Batarfi, Bin Laden had said, "We should train our people, our young and increase our army and prepare for the day when eventually we are attacked. This guy [Saddam] can never be trusted." Batarfi himself went on to say about bin Laden: "He doesn't believe [Saddam] is a Muslim. So he never liked him nor trusted him." [5]

2 August

  • Saddam Hussein's army invades Kuwait. In response to the perceived threat to Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden offers to bring an army of jihadist fighters to protect the kingdom against Saddam. The Saudi royal family's decision to seek help from American troops rather than from bin Laden's jihadists is considered a turning point in bin Laden's life. The presence of American troops in the Arabian peninsula after the end of the Gulf War became, for bin Laden, a key piece of evidence that the U.S. was at war with Islam. Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, the former head of the Saudi intelligence agency Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah, noted of bin Laden: "I saw radical changes in his personality as he changed from a calm, peaceful and gentle man interested in helping Muslims into a person who believed that he would be able to amass and command an army to liberate Kuwait. It revealed his arrogance." [6]
  • While bin Laden continued to oppose Saddam's Baathist government, he was also vocal in criticizing the U.N. sanctions against Iraq. [7] Bin Laden's bodyguard recalls that his intentions included not only the liberation of Kuwait but also "rescuing the Iraqi people from the domination of the Ba'th Party ... Sheikh Osama bin Laden was dreaming of this." [6]

Inter-war period


The Iraqi delegation met with Bin Laden, even flattered him, claiming that he was the prophesied Mahdi the savior of Islam. They wanted him to stop backing anti-Saddam insurgents, Bin Laden agreed. But in return he asked for weapons and training camps inside Iraq. That same year, Ayman al-Zawahiri traveled to Bagdad where he met Saddam Hussein in person. But there is no evidence that Iraq ever supplied al-Qaeda with weapons or camps, and soon bin Laden resumed his support of Iraqi dissidents." [8]


In sum, by the mid-'90s, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, the F.B.I., the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York, the C.I.A., the N.S.C., and the State Department had all found no evidence implicating the Iraqi government in the first Trade Center attack. [16]

But the investigation, both the CIA investigation and the FBI investigation, made it very clear in '95 and '96 as they got more information, that the Iraqi government was in no way involved in the attack. And the fact that one of the 12 people involved in the attack was Iraqi hardly seems to me as evidence that the Iraqi government was involved in the attack. The attack was al-Qaida; not Iraq. The Iraqi government because, obviously, of the hostility between us and them, didn't cooperate in turning him over and gave him sanctuary, as it did give sanctuary to other terrorists. But the allegation that has been made that the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was done by the Iraqi government I think is absolutely without foundation. [17]


Most analysts believe, however, that the ideological differences between the Iraqis and the terrorists were insurmountable. It is thought that bin Laden rejected any kind of alliance, preferring to pursue his own policy of global jihad, or holy war. [19]


19 February, Sudan

  • A handwritten note that is a part of the Operation Iraqi Freedom documents collection (released by the U.S. government in 2006) suggests that a representative of Saddam's government met with bin Laden in Sudan on 19 February 1995. According to the note, bin laden suggested "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia.
  • An ABC News article, which reported on the document, notes that eight months after the date of this document, al Qaeda staged an attack in Riyadh. Neither ABC nor any other source has offered information suggesting that Iraq participated in planning these attacks, and the Iraqi government has never been accused of such participation[ citation needed ], and ABC notes that the militants who attacked the facility "later confessed on Saudi TV to having been trained by Osama bin Laden." The ABC article further notes that "the document does not establish that the two parties did in fact enter into an operational relationship," and also that the contacts may have "been approved personally by Saddam Hussein." The ABC article also cautions that "this document is handwritten and has no official seal." [20]
  • CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen commented, "The results of this meeting were ... nothing. Two subsequent attacks against American forces in Saudi Arabia – a car bombing that year and the Khobar Towers attack in 1996 – were carried out, respectively, by locals who said they were influenced by Mr. bin Laden and by the Saudi branch of Hezbollah, a Shiite group aided by Iranian government officials." [21]
  • The New York Times reported that a "joint intelligence task force" concluded that the document "appeared authentic". The document, which asserts that bin Laden "was approached by our side," states that bin Laden previously "had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative," but was willing to meet in Sudan. At the meeting, bin Laden requested that sermons of an anti-Saudi cleric be rebroadcast in Iraq. That request, the document states, was approved by Baghdad. The document also states that Iraqi intelligence officers began "seeking other channels through which to handle the relationship, in light of [bin Laden's departure from Sudan]". The Iraqi document states that "cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement." [22]

September, Sudan

  • Brigadier Salim al-Ahmed, a top explosives expert of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), allegedly met with bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, in September–October 1995. [23] According to the 9/11 Commission Report:

At least one of these reports dates the meeting to 1994, but other evidence indicates the meeting may have occurred in February 1995. [24]

  • A second meeting between the IIS and bin Laden is alleged to have taken place in Sudan, in July 1996. At this meeting, Mani' Abd Rashid al-Tikriti, a director of the IIS, was allegedly present. [23] According to the 9/11 Commission report, however, the veracity of the second meeting is in doubt due to the anachronism of events:

The information is puzzling, since bin Ladin left Sudan for Afghanistan in May 1996, and there is no evidence he ventured back there (or anywhere else) for a visit. In examining the source material, the reports note that the information was received 'third hand,' passed from the foreign government service that 'does not meet directly with the ultimate source of the information, but obtains the information from him through two unidentified intermediaries, one of whom merely delivers the information to the Service.'" The same source also claims al-Ahmed was seen near bin Laden's farm in December 1995. [24]

Starting in 1995, Salman Pak, Iraq

  • Several Iraqi defectors report that hundreds of foreign terrorists were being trained in airplane hijacking techniques "without weapons" using a real airplane (variously reported as a Boeing 707 and a Tupolev Tu-154) as a prop at Salman Pak, an Iraqi military facility just south of Baghdad, between 1995 and 2000. The training program was allegedly run by the Iraqi Intelligence Service, i.e., the Mukhabarat. [25] This allegation has also been reported by the following defectors:
    • Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami (former Iraqi army captain), who provided details of the layout of the camp as early as 1998
    • "Abu Zeinab" al-Ghurairy (former Iraqi sergeant who claimed to be a general), who corroborated Khodada's details in 2000
    • Khidir Hamza, a scientist who worked on Iraq's nuclear program [26]
    • Abdul Rahman al-Shamari, a Mukhabarat agent in U.S. custody
    • "Abu Mohammed", a former colonel in Fedayeen Saddam [27]
  • The credibility of Khodada and Abu Zeinab is often questioned, however, due to their association with the Iraqi National Congress, an organization that has been accused of deliberately supplying false information to the U.S. government in order to build support for administration change. [28] According to Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News

The INC's agenda was to get us into a war. The really damaging stories all came from those guys, not the CIA. They did a really sophisticated job of getting it out there. [29]

One of the defectors, al-Ghurairy, has been described as "a complete fake – a low-ranking former soldier whom Ahmed Chalabi's aides had coached to deceive the media." [30] Another defector who interviewed al-Ghurairy noted, "He is an opportunist, cheap and manipulative. He has poetic interests and has a vivid imagination in making up stories." [31] Inconsistencies in the stories of the defectors led U.S. officials, journalists, and investigators to conclude that the Salman Pak story was inaccurate. One senior U.S. official said that they had found "nothing to substantiate" the claim that al-Qaeda trained at Salman Pak other than the testimony of several INC defectors. [28]

  • Saddam's government had even denied that an airplane existed 25 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. The Iraqi ambassador to the U.N., Mohammed Aldouri, told Frontline in the fall of 2001,

I am lucky that I know the area, this Salman Pak. This is a very beautiful area with gardens, with trees. It is not possible to do such a program there, because there's no place for planes. [32]

  • The chief of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, however, expressed a different opinion about Salman Pak in 2001: "We always just called them the terrorist camps. We reported them at the time, but they've obviously taken on new significance.". [33] He also said that the Iraqis told the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) that the Salman Pak facility was used by police for counter-terrorist training.[ citation needed ] "Of course we automatically took out the word 'counter'," Duelfer explained.[ citation needed ] Furthermore, after the invasion of Iraq, the camp was captured by U.S. Marines "after it was discussed by Egyptian and Sudanese fighters caught elsewhere in Iraq." [34] [35] Brigadier General Vincent Brooks described the capture, saying,

The nature of the work being done by some of those people that we captured, their inferences to the type of training that they received, all of these things give us the impression that there was terrorist training that was conducted at Salman Pak. [34]

  • The investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, however, expresses an opposite stance in noting that

Salman Pak was overrun by American troops on 6 April [2003]. Apparently, neither the camp nor the former biological facility has yielded evidence to substantiate the claims made before the war [that the camp was used for terrorist training]. [36]

A similar view is also held by Douglas MacCollam, a journalist for the Columbia Journalism Review ,

There still remain claims and counterclaims about what was going on at Salman Pak. But the consensus view now is that the camp was what Iraq told UN weapons inspectors it was – a counterterrorism training camp for army commandos. [29]

  • In the Senate Intelligence Committee's 2006 report, the DIA stated that it found "no credible reports that non-Iraqis were trained to conduct or support transnational terrorist operations at Salman Pak after 1991." Explaining the origins for the false allegations, the DIA concluded that Operation Desert Storm had brought attention to the training base at Salman Pak, so

Fabricators and unestablished sources who reported hearsay or third-hand information created a large volume of human intelligence reporting. This type of reporting surged after September 2001. [37]

Circa 1995, Iraq

  • An al-Qaeda operative using the alias Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi allegedly requests help in chemical weapons training from Saddam. The request was supposedly approved and trainers from Unit 999, an Iraqi secret-police organization organized by Uday Hussein, were dispatched to camps in Afghanistan. [38] Two U.S. counter-terrorism officials told Newsweek that they believe the information about al-Iraqi came exclusively from the captured al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who has since recanted, and whose credibility was impugned by both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). [39]
  • A DIA report in February 2002 concluded:

This is the first report from Ibn al-Shaykh in which he claims Iraq assisted al-Qaida's CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear] efforts. However, he lacks specific details on the Iraqis involved, the CBRN materials associated with the assistance, and the location where training occurred. It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest. [40]

  • A CIA report in January 2003 voiced similar concerns, also noting that al-Libi was "not in a position to know" the things he had told interrogators. [39] The CIA recalled all of its intelligence reports that were based on al-Libi's testimony in February 2004.
  • It was revealed in December 2005 that al-Libi lied about this, and other, information regarding Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda in order to avoid harsh treatment by his Egyptian captors, to whom he had been transferred under the controversial American policy of extraordinary rendition. [41]


Mr. Inderfurth said he did not believe the Taliban claim was credible at the time, and that he had no recollection of Taliban officials mentioning Iraqi or Iranian attempts to meet bin Laden in the following 19 meetings he would attend with the de facto Afghan regime for the next four years. [42]


Circa 1998, Baghdad

Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda second-in-command, allegedly meets Taha Yasin Ramadan, Iraqi vice-president. [43]

Circa 1998, Washington D.C.

Daniel Benjamin, head of the U.S. National Security Council's counterterrorism division, heads an exercise aimed at a critical analysis of the CIA's contention that Iraq and al Qaeda would not team up. "This was a red-team effort," he said. "We looked at this as an opportunity to disprove the conventional wisdom, and basically we came to the conclusion that the CIA had this one right." He further stated that

No one disputes that there have been contacts over the years. In that part of the America-hating universe, contacts happen. But that's still a long way from suggesting that they were really working together. [44]

23 February, Afghanistan

Osama bin Laden issues a fatwa urging jihad against all Americans. In his fatwa, bin Laden states

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.

He also states that one of his reasons for the fatwa is the "Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people." Bin Laden mentions aggression against Iraq four times in the fatwa. A more important reason is the perceived American aggression against Muslims, which is mentioned seven times. [45]

March, Baghdad

  • According to Inigo Gilmore of London's Telegraph, the Iraqi Intelligence Service, i.e., the Mukhabarat, arranged for an envoy from bin Laden to travel from Sudan to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi officials. Gilmore's claim is based on three stapled pages that he claims to have found in the Mukhabarat headquarters in early 2003, which he smuggled out of the building while it was guarded by American troops. Gilmore stated that the CIA had already been through the building for intelligence "but they seem to have missed this particular document." [46]
  • According to the handwritten documents, the Al-Qaeda envoy stayed at the al-Mansour Melia, a first class hotel. A letter with this document states that the envoy was a trusted confidant of bin Laden. It also reads

According to the above, we suggest permission to call the Khartoum station [Iraq's intelligence office in Sudan] to facilitate the travel arrangements for the above-mentioned person to Iraq. And that our body carry all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden.

The letter refers to al-Qaeda's leader as an opponent of the Saudi Arabian regime and says that the message to be conveyed to bin Laden through the envoy "would relate to the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him." The meeting was allegedly extended by a week and the document "recommends contacts with bin Laden." [47]

  • Based on these documents the Telegraph stated that these "Iraqi intelligence documents discovered in Baghdad by The Telegraph have provided the first evidence of a direct link between Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terrorist network and Saddam Hussein's regime."
  • According to the Observer, however, these Baghdad talks "are thought to have ended disastrously for the Iraqis, as bin Laden rejected any kind of alliance, preferring to pursue his own policy of global jihad." [48]

August, Khartoum

The direct physical evidence from the scene obtained at that time convinced the U.S. intelligence community that their suspicions were correct about the facility's chemical weapons role and that there was a risk of chemical agents getting into the hands of al-Qaeda. [49]

Officials later acknowledged, however, that

the evidence that prompted President Clinton to order the missile strike on the Shifa plant was not as solid as first portrayed. Indeed, officials later said that there was no proof that the plant had been manufacturing or storing nerve gas, as initially suspected by the Americans, or had been linked to Osama bin Laden, who was a resident of Khartoum in the 1980s. [50]

Now, the analysts renewed their doubts and told Assistant Secretary of State Phyllis Oakley that the C.I.A.'s evidence on which the attack was based was inadequate. Ms. Oakley asked them to double-check; perhaps there was some intelligence they had not yet seen. The answer came back quickly: There was no additional evidence. Ms. Oakley called a meeting of key aides and a consensus emerged: Contrary to what the Administration was saying, the case tying Al Shifa to Mr. bin Laden or to chemical weapons was weak. [51]

  • The Chairman of Al Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries told reporters in 2004, "I had inventories of every chemical and records of every employee's history. There were no such [nerve gas] chemicals being made here." [52] Sudan has since invited the U.S. to conduct chemical tests at the site for evidence to support its claim that the plant might have been a chemical weapons factory. So far, the U.S. has refused the invitation to investigate and also to officially apologize for the attacks, suggesting that some still privately suspect that chemical weapons activity existed there. [50]

August, Pakistan

Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard reported that this month, according to a "Summary of Evidence" released by the Pentagon in March 2005 concerning a detainee held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, that this former infantryman of the Iraqi Army who became an al-Qaeda agent traveled to Pakistan with a member of Iraqi intelligence "for the purpose of blowing up the Pakistan, United States and British Embassies with chemical mortars." [53]

An Associated Press report of the same document, however, includes the caveat

There is no indication the Iraqi's purported terror-related activities were on behalf of Saddam Hussein's government, other than the brief mention of him [the detainee] traveling to Pakistan with a member of the Iraqi intelligence. ... The assertion that the [detainee] was involved in a plot against embassies in Pakistan is not substantiated in the document. [54]

4 November, New York

al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq. [55]

  • After reading the indictment, Richard A. Clarke sent a memo via email to the U.S. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger in which he stated that the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory was "probably a direct result of the Iraq-Al Qaida agreement." [56] By 2001, however, based on several reviews of the evidence prompted by the Bush Administration, Clarke changed his view. To date, no evidence of such an "understanding" or "agreement" has ever materialized. Clarke notes in his book Against All Enemies that many of the contacts cited by supporters of the invasion as proof of Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperation "actually proved that al Qaeda and Iraq had not succeeded in establishing a modus vivendi ." [57]


After President Clinton ordered a four-day bombing campaign of Iraq, known as Operation Desert Fox, the Arabic-language daily newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi speculated in an editorial that

President Saddam Hussein, whose country was subjected to a four-day air strike, will look for support in taking revenge on the United States and Britain by cooperating with Saudi oppositionist Osama bin Laden, whom the United States considers to be the most wanted person in the world. [58]

18 or 21 December, Afghanistan

  • The Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, Farouk Hijazi, allegedly meets with bin Laden in Afghanistan. [59] An article that appeared in the Corriere della Sera , a newspaper published in Milan, was translated by the CIA and read

Saddam Hussayn and Usama bin Ladin have sealed a pact. Faruk Hidjazi, the former Director of the Iraqi Secret Services and now the country's Ambassador to Turkey, held a secret meeting with the extremist leader on 21 December.

The newspaper had quotes from Hijazi, without specifying the source of the quotes. [60]

  • Former CIA counterterrorism official Vincent Cannistraro notes that bin Laden rejected Hijazi's overtures, concluding that he did not want to be "exploited" by Iraq's secular regime. [61]
  • Hijazi, who was arrested in April 2003, denied any such meeting took place. US officials are, however, apparently skeptical of his claim. [62]



Newsweek magazine reported that Saddam Hussein is joining forces with al-Qaeda to launch joint terror strikes against the US and the UK. [63] An Arab intelligence officer, reported to know Saddam personally, told Newsweek: "very soon, you will be witnessing large-scale terrorist activity by the Iraqis." [63] The planned attacks were said to be Saddam's revenge for the "continuing aggression" posed by the no-fly zones that showed the countries were still at war since Operation Desert Fox. [64] The planned attacks never materialized, and at the time officials questioned the validity of the claim.

The same Newsweek article also said

Saddam may think he's too good for such an association [with bin Laden]. Jerold Post, a political psychologist and government consultant who has profiled Saddam, says he thinks of himself as a world leader like Castro or Tito, not a thug. 'I'm skeptical that Saddam would resort to terrorism,' says a well informed administration official. [63]

14 January

ABC News has learned that in December, an Iraqi intelligence chief, named Farouk Hijazi, now Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Three intelligence agencies tell ABC News they cannot be certain what was discussed, but almost certainly, they say, bin Laden has been told he would be welcome in Baghdad. [65]

This story is repeated by CNN on 13 February. The article reports that "Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers." [66]

  • According to the 9/11 Commission report, in February 1999 Richard Clarke was nervous about [flying a U-2 mission over Afghanistan to build a baseline of intelligence] because he continued to fear that Bin Laden might leave for someplace less accessible, such as Baghdad. [67] He wrote to Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick that one reliable source reported that Bin Laden had met Iraqi officials, who may have offered him asylum. Other intelligence sources said that some Taliban leaders, though not Mullah Mohammed Omar, had urged Bin Laden to go to Iraq. If Bin Laden actually moved to Iraq, wrote Clarke, his network would be at Saddam Hussein's service, and it would be 'virtually impossible' to find him. Better to get Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Clarke declared. [67]
  • In 2003, however, former CIA counterterrorism official Vincent Cannistraro told Newsweek during an interview that bin Laden rejected Hijazi's overtures, concluding that he did not want to be "exploited" by Iraq's secular regime. [18] Hijazi, arrested in April 2003, reportedly "cut a deal [with American officials who] are using him to reactivate the old Iraqi intelligence network." [68]
  • A similar opinion was expressed by The Boston Globe , which reported

Indeed, intelligence agencies tracked contacts between Iraqi agents and Al Qaeda agents in the '90s in Sudan and Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to have met with Farouk Hijazi, head of Iraqi intelligence. But current and former intelligence specialists caution that such meetings occur just as often between enemies as friends. Spies frequently make contact with rogue groups to size up their intentions, gauge their strength, or try to infiltrate their ranks, they said. [69]

31 January

A 2005 article in The Weekly Standard claimed that the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported in 1999 that

hundreds of Afghan Arabs are undergoing sabotage training in Southern Iraq and are preparing for armed actions on the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. They have declared as their goal a fight against the interests of the United States in the region. [58]

In the same article, The Weekly Standard claimed that the Kuwaiti government detained some al Qaeda members at the border but notes that the Kuwaiti government did not respond to requests for more information about these alleged detainees.

May, Iraq

  • According to documents summarized by the U.S. Joint Forces Command's Iraqi Perspectives Project, Uday Hussein ordered the Saddam Fedayeen to prepare for "special operations, assassinations, and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas [ Kurdistan ]". The special operation was referred to as 'Blessed July,' which was described by defense analyst Kevin Woods as "a regime-directed wave of 'martyrdom' operations against targets in the West."
  • Woods claims that plans for 'Blessed July' "were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion." He also notes that the Fedayeen was racked by corruption. "In the years preceding the coalition invasion," he says, "Iraq's leaders had become enamored of the belief that the spirit of the Fedayeen's 'Arab warriors' would allow them to overcome the Americans' advantages. In the end, however, the Fedayeen fighters proved totally unprepared for the kind of war they were asked to fight, and they died by the thousands." [70]
  • BBC correspondent Paul Reynolds writes of the 'Blessed July' plans, "What these targets might have been is not stated and the plans, like so many drawn up by the Iraqis, came to nothing, it seems." [71]

July, Iraq

Saddam Hussein allegedly cuts off all contact with al-Qaeda, according to Khalil Ibrahim Abdallah, a former Iraqi intelligence officer in U.S. custody. [18]

September, Baghdad

  • Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda second-in-command, allegedly visits Iraq under a pseudonym to attend the ninth Popular Islamic Congress, according to the Iraqi politician Iyad Allawi. [72] Farouk Hijazi allegedly orchestrated the visit.
  • According to Stephen F. Hayes of The Weekly Standard, Hijazi "has confirmed to U.S. officials that he met Osama bin Laden in Sudan in 1994 [though he] denies meeting with al Qaeda officials in 1998, but U.S. officials don't believe him.". [73]


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • An Iraqi national with connections to the Iraqi embassy, and possibly a Lieutenant Colonel in the Fedayeen Saddam, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir al-Azzawi, supposedly helped arrange a top-level al-Qaeda meeting attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, and by Tawfiq bin Attash, who was responsible for the USS Cole bombing. [74]
  • The CIA has, however, concluded that while Shakir al-Azzawi was indeed an Iraqi with connections to the Iraqi embassy in Malaysia, he is a different person from a Fedayeen officer with a similar name. [75] The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in 2002 that, the "CIA received information that Shakir was not affiliated with al-Qa'ida and had no connections to the IIS [Iraqi Intelligence Service]." [76]

9/11 and lead-up to the Iraq War


25–27 February

Two unidentified Iraqi men are arrested in Germany on suspicion of spying. [77] [78] According to The Weekly Standard, an Arabic newspaper in Paris called Al-Watan al-Arabi reported

The arrests came in the wake of reports that Iraq was reorganizing the external branches of its intelligence service and that it had drawn up a plan to strike at US interests around the world through a network of alliances with extremist fundamentalist parties. [79]

The same article also reported that

The most serious report contained information that Iraq and Osama bin Ladin were working together. German authorities were surprised by the arrest of the two Iraqi agents and the discovery of Iraqi intelligence activities in several German cities. German authorities, acting on CIA recommendations, had been focused on monitoring the activities of Islamic groups linked to bin Ladin. They discovered the two Iraqi agents by chance and uncovered what they considered to be serious indications of cooperation between Iraq and bin Ladin. The matter was considered so important that a special team of CIA and FBI agents was sent to Germany to interrogate the two Iraqi spies. [79]

This report and the interrogation records of the detained Iraqi agents were not discussed in the 9/11 Commission Report, and do not seem to be mentioned in other media sources. It is not known whether the arrests revealed any cooperation between the men and either Iraqi intelligence or al Qaeda.

8 April, Prague, Czech Republic

  • The Czech counterintelligence service claimed that Mohamed Atta al-Sayed, 9/11 hijacker, met with Ahmad Samir al-Ani, the consul at the Iraqi Embassy in Prague, in a cafe in Prague. This claim is generally considered to be false (see Mohamed Atta's alleged Prague connection). According to columnist Robert Novak, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "confirmed published reports that there is no evidence placing the presumed leader of the terrorist attacks in the Czech capital." [80]

According to the January 2003 CIA report Iraqi Support for Terrorism, "the most reliable reporting to date casts doubt on this possibility" that such a meeting occurred. [81]

  • Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet released "the most complete public assessment by the agency on the issue" in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee in July 2004, stating that the CIA was "increasingly skeptical" any such meeting took place. [82]
  • John McLaughlin, who at the time was the deputy director of the CIA, described the extent of the Agency's investigation into the claim

Well, on something like the Atta meeting in Prague, we went over that every which way from Sunday. We looked at it from every conceivable angle. We peeled open the source, examined the chain of acquisition. We looked at photographs. We looked at timetables. We looked at who was where and when. It is wrong to say that we didn't look at it. In fact, we looked at it with extraordinary care and intensity and fidelity. [83]

  • The source for the claim that the meeting did occur was based on a contact that the Czech intelligence had within the Iraqi embassy, [84] who was described in The Boston Globe as "a single informant from Prague's Arab community who saw Atta's picture in the news after the 11 September attacks, and who later told his handlers that he had seen him meeting with Ani. Some officials have called the source unreliable." [85]
  • The claim was officially stated by Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, [86] but The New York Times reported that Czech officials later backed away from the claim, first privately, and then later publicly after The New York Times conducted "extensive interviews with leading Czech figures." [87] When rumors of the Czech officials privately backing away from the claims first appeared in the Western media, according to The Prague Post , Hynek Kmonicek, the Czech envoy to the UN stated "The meeting took place." One senior Czech official who requested anonymity speculated that the media reports dismissing the meeting were the result of a "guided leak." [88]
  • On 15 March 2002 David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post

Even the Czechs, who initially put out the reports about Atta's meeting with al-Ani, have gradually backed away. The Czech interior minister, Stanislav Gross, said in October that the two had met in April 2001. That version was altered slightly by Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman when he told CNN in November, 'Atta contacted some Iraqi agent, not to prepare the terrorist attack on [the twin towers] but to prepare [a] terrorist attack on just the building of Radio Free Europe' in Prague. Then, in December, Czech President Václav Havel retreated further, saying there was only 'a 70 percent' chance Atta met with al-Ani. [89]

  • Havel, however, later "moved to quash the report once and for all" [90] by making the statement publicly to the White House, as reported in The New York Times. According to the report, "Czech officials also say they have no hard evidence that Mr. Ani was involved in terrorist activities, although the government did order his ouster in late April 2001."
  • The New York Times report was described as "a fabrication" by Ladislav Spacek, a spokesman for Czech president Václav Havel. [91] But Spacek also "said Mr. Havel was still certain there was no factual basis behind the report that Mr. Atta met an Iraqi diplomat." [92] The Times story was a potential embarrassment to Czech prime minister Milos Zeman after "extensive interviews with Czech and other Western intelligence officials, politicians and people close to the Czech intelligence community revealed that Mr. Zeman had prematurely disclosed an unverified report." According to an article in The Washington Post more recently, the Czechs backed off of the claim: "After months of further investigation, Czech officials determined last year that they could no longer confirm that a meeting took place, telling the Bush administration that al-Ani might have met with someone other than Atta." [93] [ unreliable source? ] This perception seems confirmed by an associate of al-Ani's who suggested to a reporter that the Czech informant had mistaken another man for Atta. The associate said, "I have sat with the two of them at least twice. The double is an Iraqi who has met with the consul. If someone saw a photo of Atta he might easily mistake the two." [94]
  • The Chicago Tribune on 29 September 2004 also reported that a man from Pakistan named Mohammed Atta (spelling his name with two "m's" rather than one) flew to the Czech Republic in 2000, confusing the intelligence agency, who thought it was the same Mohamed Atta[ citation needed ]. In September 2004, Jiří Ruzek, the former head of the Security Information Service, told the Czech newspaper Mladá fronta DNES , "This information was verified, and it was confirmed that it was a case of the same name. That is all that I recall of it."[ citation needed ] Opposition leaders in the Czech Republic have publicly called this a failure on the part of Czech intelligence, and it is not clear that any Czech officials still stand by the story. [85] In hopes of resolving the issue, Czech officials hoped to be given access to information from the U.S. investigation but that cooperation was not forthcoming. [95]
  • In May 2004, the Czech newspaper Pravo speculated that the source of the information behind the rumored meeting was actually the discredited INC chief Ahmed Chalabi. [96]
  • In addition, a senior administration official told Walter Pincus of The Washington Post that the FBI had concluded that "there was no evidence Atta left or returned to the U.S. at the time he was supposed to be in Prague.[ citation needed ]" FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III outlined the extent of their investigation into the hijackers' whereabouts in a speech in April 2002: "We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts." [97] There are no known travel records showing Atta leaving or entering the US at that time, and everything known about Atta's whereabouts suggests that he was in Florida at that time. Also, the Czech police chief, Jiří Kolář, said, "there were no documents showing that Atta visited Prague at any time" in 2001. [94] Even further doubt was cast on rumors of such a meeting in December 2003 when Al-Ani, who is in U.S. custody, reportedly denied having ever met Atta. [61] [98] According to Newsweek, it was "a denial that officials tend to believe given that they have not unearthed a scintilla of evidence that Atta was even in Prague at the time of the alleged rendezvous." [61]
  • It is also notable that Atta's own religious and political convictions made him violently opposed to the Saddam regime. According to the 9/11 Commission Report

In his interactions with other students, Atta voiced virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American opinions, ranging from condemnations of what he described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City that supposedly controlled the financial world and the media, to polemics against governments of the Arab world. To him, Saddam Hussein was an American stooge set up to give Washington an excuse to intervene in the Middle East. [99]

The 9/11 Commission also addressed the question of an alleged Prague connection and listed many of the reasons above that such a meeting could not have taken place. The report notes that

the FBI has gathered intelligence indicating that Atta was in Virginia Beach on 4 April (as evidenced by a bank surveillance camera photo), and in Coral Springs, Florida on 11 April, where he and Shehhi leased an apartment. On 6, 9, 10, and 11 April, Atta's cellular telephone was used numerous times to call various lodging establishments in Florida from cell sites within Florida. We cannot confirm that he placed those calls. But there are no U.S. records indicating that Atta departed the country during this period." Combining FBI and Czech intelligence investigations, "[n]o evidence has been found that Atta was in the Czech Republic in April 2001.

The Commission still could not "absolutely rule out the possibility" that Atta was in Prague on 9 April traveling under an alias, but it concluded that

There was no reason for such a meeting, especially considering the risk it would pose to the operation. By April 2001, all four pilots had completed most of their training, and the muscle hijackers were about to begin entering the United States. The available evidence does not support the original Czech report of an Atta-Ani meeting. [100]

  • Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a proponent of the theory that Atta had met al-Ani in Prague, acknowledged in an interview on 29 March 2006

We had one report early on from another intelligence service that suggested that the lead hijacker, Mohamed Atta, had met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague, Czechoslovakia. And that reporting waxed and waned where the degree of confidence in it, and so forth, has been pretty well knocked down now at this stage, that that meeting ever took place. [101]

Summer, United Arab Emirates

According to David Rose, a reporter for Vanity Fair , Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, two of the 9/11 hijackers, supposedly met with an unidentified Mukhabarat officer. [102] Rose claims he was told this story by members of the Iraqi National Congress. Their credibility, however, has since been impugned on this matter[ citation needed ].


  • A man known as Abu Wael, who worked with the Ansar al-Islam organization in northern Iraq, allegedly worked with al-Qaeda members from Afghanistan to set up a backup base. According to Abdul Rahman al-Shamari, Abu Wael is an alias for Saadan Mahmoud Abdul Latif al-Aani, allegedly a colonel in Iraq's Mukhabarat. [103] [104]
  • The 9/11 Commission reported

There are indications that by then (2001) the Iraqi regime tolerated and may even have helped Ansar al-Islam against the common Kurdish enemy. [105]

Furthermore, al-Shamari, sitting in a Kurdish prison, has said that Saddam Hussein supported Ansar al Islam because he wanted to "foment unrest in the pro-American Kurdish area of Iraq." [106]

  • Intelligence agencies have, however, disputed such claims of support. According to Con Coughlin in the Telegraph,

While the White House has attempted to link the group directly to Hussein's intelligence agents, both the CIA and MI6 insist that all their intelligence suggests the group operates in [an] area over which Saddam has no control. [107]

  • Spenser Ackerman wrote in November 2003 that

Far from being "harbored" by Saddam, Ansar al Islam operated out of northeastern Iraq, an area under Kurdish control that was being protected from Saddam's incursions by U.S. warplanes. Indeed, some of its members fought against Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war. [108]

  • Additionally, Mullah Krekar, the leader of Ansar al-Islam, calls himself "Saddam's sworn enemy" and "scoffs" at the notion that his friend Abu Wael works with the Mukhabarat. [109] Elsewhere, Abu Wael is described as a "former Iraqi army officer" and it is suggested that, while he may still have been working for Saddam, it was as a spy, gathering intelligence on Ansar al-Islam rather than cooperating with them. [110]
  • Jason Burke notes

Saddam may well have infiltrated the Ansar-ul-Islam with a view to monitoring the developments of the group (indeed it would be odd if he had not) but that appears to be about as far as his involvement with the group, and incidentally with al-Qaeda, goes. [111]

Ackerman likewise notes that the "far more likely explanation" of Abu Wael's contact with Ansar al-Islam, "is that the dictator had placed an agent in the group not to aid them, as Powell implied to the Security Council, but to keep tabs on a potential threat to his own regime." [111] Additionally, while Mullah Krekar has expressed admiration for bin Laden, he has denied any actual links to al-Qaeda, stating, "I have never met with him, nor do I have any contacts [with him]." [112]

  • The Belgian think tank International Crisis Group called the group "nothing more than a minor irritant in local Kurdish politics" and suggested that the alleged ties to bin Laden were the product of propaganda by the secular Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). [113]
  • Ansar al-Islam was officially identified as a terrorist group by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury on 20 February 2003, just one month before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and just weeks after Powell's presentation to the United Nations, [114] and it was not until March 2004 that it was officially added to the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. [115]
  • Ansar al-Islam's "weapons of mass destruction" research was exaggerated, according to journalist and terrorism expert Jason Burke

As one of the first journalists to enter the research facilities at the Darunta camp in eastern Afghanistan in 2001, I was struck by how crude they were. The Ansar al-Islam terrorist group's alleged chemical weapons factory in northern Iraq, which I inspected the day after its capture in 2003, was even more rudimentary. [116]

July, Rome

A general in the Iraqi intelligence, Habib Faris Abdullah al-Mamouri, allegedly meets with Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 hijacker [117] [118] Daniel McGrory, the reporter who claims this information came from Italian intelligence, admits, "There is no proof the men were in direct contact." [119] A June or July meeting in Rome is completely at odds with everything known about Atta's whereabouts in mid-2001[ citation needed ].

21 July, Iraq

  • The state-run Iraqi newspaper Al-Nasiriya allegedly publishes an opinion piece written by Naeem Abd Muhalhal. The piece is said to praise Osama bin Laden and includes the following, which James Woolsey has interpreted (in testimony before Judge Baer) as a "vague" foreshadowing of the 9/11 attacks

bin Laden 'continues to smile and still thinks seriously, with the seriousness of the Bedouin of the desert about the way he will try to bomb the Pentagon after he destroys the White House.' [120]

The opinion piece also claims that

Bin Ladin is insisting very convincingly that he will strike America on the arm that is already hurting [120]

and that the U.S.

will curse the memory of Frank Sinatra every time he hears his songs. [120]

In other words, the World Trade Towers. Here, over a year ahead of time in the open press in Iraq, they are writing that this man is planning not only to bomb the White House, but where they are already hurting, the World Trade Towers.

Senator Hollings read the opinion piece into the U.S. Congressional Record. [121] Judge Baer also interprets this opinion piece as an allusion to the once-bombed World Trade Center.

5 September, Spain

Abu Zubayr, an al-Qaeda cell leader in Morocco, allegedly meets with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was a facilitator for the 9/11 attacks. It is alleged that Abu Zubayr was also an officer in the Iraqi Mukhabarat. [122] Abu Zubayr was arrested in Morocco in 2002, and while news accounts widely noted that he was "one of the most important members of Al Qaeda to be captured," no mainstream source substantiated (or even mentioned) the allegation that the Saudi citizen, abu Zubayr, worked for the Iraqi Mukhabarat. [123]

19 September

Jane's reports that Israel's military intelligence service, Aman, claims that for the past two years Iraqi intelligence officers were shuttling between Baghdad and Afghanistan, meeting with Ayman Al Zawahiri. According to the sources, one of the Iraqi intelligence officers, Salah Suleiman, was captured in October by the Pakistanis near the border with Afghanistan. [124]

21 September, Washington, D.C.

  • Ten days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush receives a classified President's Daily Brief (PDB) indicating that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the 11 September attacks and that there was "scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda."[ citation needed ] The PDB writes off the few contacts that existed between Saddam's government and al-Qaeda as attempts to monitor the group rather than attempts to work with them.[ citation needed ]
  • Murray Waas, of the National Journal , reported the existence of the briefing on 22 November 2005, describing it as saying that

Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources. [125]

This PDB was one of the documents the Bush Administration refused to turn over to the Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq, even on a classified basis, and refuses to discuss other than to acknowledge its existence.[ citation needed ]

23 September

  • The Daily Telegraph reports that Saddam Hussein "put his troops on their highest military alert since the Gulf war" two weeks before the 9/11 attacks. [126] An intelligence official told the Telegraph that "he was clearly expecting a massive attack and it leads you to wonder why," adding that there had been nothing obvious to warrant Saddam's declaration of "Alert G", Iraq's highest state of readiness[ citation needed ]. The article also reported that

Saddam has remained out of the public eye in his network of bunkers since the military alert at the end of August and moved his two wives, Sajida and Samira, away from the presidential palaces in Baghdad to Tikrit, his home town 100 miles (160 km) to the north.

While the article reports that the "US is understood to have found no hard evidence linking Baghdad directly to the kamikaze attacks," it also cites Western intelligence officials as saying that

the Iraqi leader had been providing al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, with funding, logistical back-up and advanced weapons training. His operations reached a 'frantic pace' in the past few months. [126]

  • In another article published on the same day, 23 September 2001, The Telegraph reported that

Iraq is one of the only countries that has not sent a message of sympathy or condolence to the US in the wake of the attacks. The state-run media seems to be gloating over America's catastrophe.

While distancing themselves from those attacks, Iraqi officials say the US got what it deserved.

In an interview, Naji Sabri, the country's foreign minister, enumerated American "crimes against humanity", from Hiroshima to Vietnam and Central America to Palestine, a bloody trail littered with millions of dead going back more than 50 years.

"All Muslim and Arab people," the foreign minister said, "consider the United States the master of terrorism, the terrorist power number one in the world." [127] [128]

  • The Duelfer Report noted Saddam's reaction to the 9/11 attacks, concluding that it was a result of his paranoia

Isolated internally by his paranoia over personal security, and externally by his misreading of international events, Saddam missed a major opportunity to reduce tensions with the United States following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. By failing to condemn the attacks and express sympathy to the American people, Saddam reinforced US suspicions about his connections to Al Qa'ida and certified Iraq's credentials as a rogue state. He told his ministers that after all the hardships the Iraqi people had suffered under sanctions he could not extend official condolences to the United States, the government most responsible for blocking sanctions relief. From a practical standpoint, Saddam probably also believed—mistakenly—that his behavior toward the United States was of little consequence, as sanctions were on the verge of collapse.

The internal debate among Iraqi officials, according to the Duelfer Report, suggested that these officials were wary of Iraq being wrongly associated with al-Qaeda

Some ministers recognized that the United States intended to take direct unilateral action, if it perceived that its national security was endangered, and argued that the best course of action was to 'step forward and have a talk with the Americans.' Also concerned with the assertion of a connection between Iraq and its 'terrorist allies,' they felt they must 'clarify' to the Americans that 'we are not with the terrorists' [129]


In November 2001, a month after the 11 September attacks, Mubarak al-Duri was contacted by the Sudanese intelligence who informed him that the FBI had sent Jack Cloonan and several other agents, to speak with a number of people known to have ties to Bin Laden. Al Duri and another Iraqi colleague agreed to meet with Cloonan in a safe house overseen by the intelligence service. They were asked whether there was any possible connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, and laughed stating that Bin Laden hated the dictator, who he believed was a "Scotch-drinking, woman-chasing apostate." [130]

21 November

The operation raises the possibility that Iraq quietly funneled money to Al Qaeda by deliberately choosing an oil company working with one of the terrorist group's alleged financial backers. [131]


Iraq War

According to a senior Administration official, the C.I.A. itself is split on the question of a Baghdad-Al Qaeda connection: analysts in the agency's Near East-South Asia division discount the notion; the Counterterrorist Center supports it. The senior Administration official told me that Tenet tends to agree with the Counterterrorist Center.

According to several intelligence officials I spoke to, the relationship between bin Laden and Saddam's regime was brokered in the early nineteen-nineties by the then de facto leader of Sudan, the pan-Islamist radical Hassan al-Tourabi. Tourabi, sources say, persuaded the ostensibly secular Saddam to add to the Iraqi flag the words "Allahu Akbar," as a concession to Muslim radicals.

I learned of another possible connection [between Saddam and al-Qaeda] early last year, while I was interviewing Al Qaeda operatives in a Kurdish prison in Sulaimaniya. There, a man whom Kurdish intelligence officials identified as a captured Iraqi agent told me that in 1992 he served as a bodyguard to Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy, when Zawahiri secretly visited Baghdad.

Senator Feingold: Mr. Chairman, I'll just conclude by saying this is the same road that the White House went down in the beginning by trying to patch together a few different anecdotes that may or may not have related to somebody, that may or may not have some connection to a group, that may or may not be connected to al-Qaeda. And the President had to actually admit the other day that there was no such connection.
Ambassador Bremer: But Senator, let me just correct the record on something you said about the President. If I understood what the President said was, he said that there was not a connection between Saddam Hussein and 11 September.
Senator Feingold: Right.
Ambassador Bremer: He did not say that there was no connection between terrorism and Saddam.
Senator Feingold: No, I agree with that.
Ambassador Bremer: I just want to correct the record.
Senator Feingold: What I am indicating is that the American people in polling believed, at the time of the invasion of Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. So what I am suggesting is, the sloppiness in this regard is unfair to the American people. And I think there was a deliberate attempt to make the American people believe that somehow there was this connection.


And the question of relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda is an interesting one. I don't have information post-2001 when I got involved in a trial, and I don't have information post-11 September. I can tell you what led to that inclusion in that sealed indictment in May and then when we superseded, which meant we broadened the charges in the Fall, we dropped that language. We understood there was a very, very intimate relationship between al Qaeda and the Sudan. They worked hand in hand. We understood there was a working relationship with Iran and Hezbollah, and they shared training. We also understood that there had been antipathy between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein because Saddam Hussein was not viewed as being religious. We did understand from people, including al-Fadl—and my recollection is that he would have described this most likely in public at the trial that we had, but I can't tell you that for sure; that was a few years ago—that at a certain point they decided that they wouldn't work against each other and that we believed a fellow in al Qaeda named Mondu Saleem, Abu Harzai the Iraqi, tried to reach a, sort of, understanding where they wouldn't work against each other. Sort of, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And that there were indications that within Sudan when al Qaeda was there—which al Qaeda left in the summer of '96 or spring '96—there were efforts to work on joint—you know, acquiring weapons. Clearly, al Qaeda worked with the Sudan in getting those weapons in the national defense force there and the intelligence service. There were indications that al-Fadl had heard from others that Iran was involved. And they also had heard that Iraq was involved. The clearest account from al-Fadl as a Sudanese was that he had dealt directly with the Sudanese intelligence service, so we had firsthand knowledge of that. We corroborated the relationship with Iran to a lesser extent but to a solid extent. And then we had information from al-Fadl, who we believe was truthful, learning from others that there were also was efforts to try to work with Iraq. That was the basis for what we put in that indictment. Clearly, we put Sudan in the first order at that time as being the partner of al Qaeda. We understood the relationship with Iran but Iraq, we understood, went from a position where they were working against each other to a standing down against each other. And we understood they were going to explore the possibility of working on weapons together. That's my piece of what I know. I don't represent to know everything else, so I can't tell you, well, what we've learned since then. But there was that relationship that went from opposing each other to not opposing each other to possibly working with each other. [198]

Thomas Kean: Were there contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq? Yes. Some of them are shadowy, but there's no question they were there. Lee H. Hamilton: I must say I have trouble understanding the flap over this. The Vice President is saying, I think, that there were connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government. We don't disagree with that. So it seems to me that the sharp differences that the press has drawn, the media has drawn, are not that apparent to me.

Commissioner John Lehman, a Republican, came to the defense of Vice President Dick Cheney, who is the most aggressive in contending that there were strong Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda. Lehman said new intelligence that 'we are now in the process of getting" indicates one of Hussein's Fedayeen fighters, a lieutenant colonel, was a prominent Al Qaeda member.' Cheney has said he probably has intelligence the commission does not have, and 'the vice president was right when he said that,' Lehman said on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' Lehman said the news media were 'outrageously irresponsible' to portray the staff report as contradicting what the administration said. The commission's vice chairman, former representative Lee Hamilton, Democrat of Indiana, said the White House and the commission agree on the central point: There is no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq in the attacks of 11 September 2001, on the United States.

I believe very strongly that Saddam had relations with al-Qaida. And these relations started in Sudan. We know Saddam had relationships with a lot of terrorists and international terrorism. Now, whether he is directly connected to the September – atrocities or not, I can't – vouch for this. But definitely I know he has connections with extremism and terrorists. [203]

Formed in December 2001 out of a conglomeration of Kurdish Islamist groups, [Ansar al-Islam] is closely allied with and receives both ideological and strategic inspiration from al Qaeda. A number of Ansar members trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, and the group provided safe haven to al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups until its operations were disrupted during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) ... In August 2002, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, who has described Ansar as a 'very important' group within the larger framework of bin Laden's World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders stated, '[Ansar] has received limited support from Iraq, and I stress limited.' According to Dr. Gunaratna, Ansar received support from Iraqi agents with the specific intention of infiltrating the anti-PUK group and not to strengthen the Islamist group; Ansar remains an anti-Saddam and an anti-Western group. Some commentators would draw a different conclusion with respect to the nature of Ansar's relationship with Saddam, especially in the period immediately prior to OIF. According various reports, as well as claims made by US and PUK officials prior to OIF, the Iraqi regime helped to smuggle weapons to Ansar from Afghanistan. According to another report, PUK explosives experts believe that the Iraqi military intelligence supplied Ansar with TNT, which was in addition to other weaponry that was supplied to Ansar from areas under Baathist control. Another indication of links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime, which the Bush administration cited, are the activities of Abu Musab Zarqawi, who is believed to have run one of Ansar's terrorist training camps in northern Iraq prior to OIF. [205]

In this document, Dr. Gunaratna noted that Saddam's relationship with Ansar was one of spying and infiltration rather than cooperation:

Qassem Hussein, another Iraqi intelligence officer now in Kurdish custody, has stated that Abu Wael is the true leader within Ansar. However, Rohan Gunaratna believes that Qassem Hussein is likely to be a penetration agent with hidden loyalties to Saddam. As Ansar was anti-PUK and the PUK was supported by the U.S. Saddam was very interested to use Ansar against the PUK. Therefore, Qassem may have been providing Abu Wael with a cover story.

Dr. Gunaratna concluded in his own study of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that "there is no conclusive evidence of Iraqi assistance to Al Qaeda ... The documentation and interviews indicated that Al Qaeda regarded Saddam, a secular leader, as an infidel" and warned in February 2003 that "an invasion of Iraq would give a new lease on life to existing and emerging terrorist groups." [206]

"Iraq is attracting Islamic militants from across the world determined to join the 'holy war' against the US-led occupation," the son of Osama bin Laden's mentor Abdullah Azzam told AFP in an interview. "Hundreds of Muslims from all over Arab and non-Arab countries go to Iraq to help the resistance end the occupation, spurred by the conviction that jihad is a duty against the occupier," said Hudayfa Azzam ... "The Iraqi resistance was the fruit of the American occupation" and buyoed by the "fatwa (religious decree) which considers jihad a duty when a Muslim country is occupied," he said. [208]



I told the Americans a long time before 2 August [1990, the day Iraq invaded Kuwait and the U.S./Iraqi relationship changed dramatically] and told the British as well, I think Hamed was there keeping the meeting minutes with one of them, that in the future there will be terrorism with weapons of mass destruction. What prevents this technology from developing and people from smuggling it? All of this, before the stories of smuggling, before that, in 1989. I told them, 'In the future, what would prevent that we see a booby-trapped car causing a nuclear explosion in Washington or a germ or a chemical one?'

Saddam later adds, "This is coming, this story is coming but not from Iraq." Former U.N. inspector William Tierney, who claims that God directed him to weapons sites in Iraq, [247] says the interpretation put on the tapes by ABC News downplayed Saddam's statements. As ABC News interpreted it, Saddam was saying Iraq itself would not launch a WMD terror attack on the U.S. "I disagree completely, because Saddam also says in other tapes that the war is ongoing," Tierney said on Hannity & Colmes. "And when I was there [in Iraq] as an inspector, what struck me is that these people were still in the fight. There was no change of heart like you had in Germany after World War II. They were still in the fight. It makes perfect sense." [248] Byron York in the National Review Online casts doubt on Tierney's objectivity and credibility, noting that he claims to know about Iraqi WMD thanks to messages from God and to a friend's clairvoyant dreams. York also points out: "Tierney said he believes other tapes, which have not yet been heard, will eventually reveal that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Tierney also said that he believes Iraq orchestrated the 2001 anthrax attacks, with Saddam Hussein using American scientist Steven Hatfill as a 'proxy' to carry out the mission." [247] Reporter Sherrie Gossett wrote that the excerpts of the tapes presented at the Intelligence Summit were "vague, cryptic, nonsensical, insignificant" and notes that "the most-hyped excerpts are also subject to wide-ranging interpretations." [249] A spokeswoman for John Negroponte, the Directorate of National Intelligence, noted that "Intelligence community analysts from the CIA and the DIA reviewed the translations and found that while fascinating from a historical perspective, the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their postwar analysis of Iraq's weapons programs, nor do they change the findings contained in the comprehensive Iraq Survey Group report." [250] ABC News reporter Brian Ross commented that people on both sides of this controversy will use these tapes to support their side.

Well, what was found – and this has been the pretty consistent story all along with regard to intelligence coverage of that topic – is there were various data points that were relevant to that issue, even some encounters or meetings held years ago in Sudan, other kinds of coincidences or two different names appearing in the same place. What it all added up to in the view of the judgment – in the judgment of the intelligence analysts working those particular issues was that you had two entities, one the Saddam regime and the other al-Qaeda, that were kind of feeling each other out, trying to stay aware of what they were doing, what each other was doing, but no indication of anything that could be described as a patron-client relationship or a sponsor-client relationship or an alliance. There were some of these coincidences and contacts, but that's hardly anything out of the ordinary and not something that adds up to state sponsorship.

Pillar later gave an interview to Voice of America, confirming that the Administration distorted intelligence findings to try to claim the opposite:

The main thing that happened there, particularly with reference to this issue of, was there a relationship between the Saddam regime and al-Qaida – was a selective use of bits and pieces of reporting to try to build the case that in this case there was some kind of alliance without really reflecting the analytic judgment of the intelligence community that there was not." [251]

Like Zarqawi, many Arabs fleeing American retaliation in Afghanistan after 9/11 found refuge with Ansar al-Islam. But then came an unexpected development. According to Dr Muhammad al-Masari, a Saudi specialist on Al-Qaeda's ideology, Saddam established contact with the 'Afghan Arabs' as early as 2001, believing he would be targeted by the US once the Taliban was routed. In this version, disputed by other commentators, Saddam funded Al-Qaeda operatives to move into Iraq with the proviso that they would not undermine his regime. Sources close to the Ba'ath regime have told me that Saddam also used to send messengers to buy small plots of land from farmers in Sunni areas. In the middle of the night soldiers would bury arms and money caches for later use by the resistance. According to Masari, Saddam saw that Islam would be key to a cohesive resistance in the event of invasion. Iraqi army commanders were ordered to become practising Muslims and to adopt the language and spirit of the jihadis. On arrival in Iraq, Al-Qaeda operatives were put in touch with these commanders, who later facilitated the distribution of arms and money from Saddam's caches. Most commentators agree that Al-Qaeda was present in Iraq before the US invasion. The question is for how long and to what extent. What is known is that Zarqawi took a direct role in Al-Qaeda's infiltration. In March 2003 – it is not clear whether this was before or after the invasion began – he met Al-Qaeda's military strategist, an Egyptian called Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi, and agreed to assist Al-Qaeda operatives entering Iraq. [252]

That OBL and the Taliban are in contact with Iraq and that a group of Taliban and bin Laden group members visited Iraq. That the U.S. has proof the Iraqi government and 'bin Laden's group' agreed to cooperate to attack targets inside America. That in case the Taliban and bin Laden's group turn out to be involved in 'these destructive operations,' the U.S. may strike Iraq and Afghanistan. That the Afghan consul heard about the issue of Iraq's relationship with 'bin Laden's group' while he was in Iran.

While stating that "the controversial claim that Osama bin Laden was cooperating with Saddam Hussein is an ongoing matter of intense debate ... [and that] the assertions contained in this document clearly support the claim," ABC questioned the sourcing of the document and concluded that "without further corroboration, this document is of limited evidentiary value." [258] The Los Angeles Times notes that "the documents do not appear to offer any new evidence of illicit activity by Hussein, or hint at preparations for the insurgency that followed the invasion." [255]

The notebook also contains a transcript of a meeting between Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Taha Yassin Ramadan, the former vice president of Iraq. At this meeting, Rahman tells the vice president, "I met Mullah Omar the leader of Afghanistan and he welcomed the establishment of Islamic relations with Iraq and we foresee to tell them about our needs and they would like to have contacts with Russia but they feel that the Russians (unclear) with Afghanistan, they go to America (RR: probably means that the Russians side with the US against the Taliban). And they (RR: probably the Taliban) say that now we do not feel that Russia is our enemy and we do not know why they support the Northern Alliance (RR: non-Pashtun Afghani militant groups seeking to topple the Taliban). They (RR: probably the Taliban) want Iraq to intervene with Russia. According to the translation conducted by Ray Robinson's team, Rahman and Ramadan are quoted as saying:

Fazlur Rahman: What is happening in Afghanistan is a violation of the human rights of this country, where Usama bin Laden is one person and the fate of millions cannot be tied to him. (Translator's note: Probably at that time the U.S. is forcing sanctions or pressures on Afghanistan because it is providing sanctuary to bin Laden) Vice President: Can you blockade a country (RR: probably Afghanistan) because of the presence of one man (RR: probably referring to UBL)? This time she (America) got the resolution from the Security Council and it is number 77 (or 771) (RR: probably Security Council Resolution 771 in 1992 concerning Bosnia) relative to Iraq (RR: probably is making a comparison between 771 and a new resolution on Iraq most likely UNSCR 1284 passed Dec 1999 about WMD and humanitarian efforts). And it is the first time that the parliament of a country (U.S. Congress) speaks after a resolution (unclear) and comes out through the Security Council. It is ignorant to send memos and complain to the Security Council because it is a tool in the hands of America the master of oppression and if we do that it does not mean that we are boycotting the diplomatic process. Also the monetary fund (Translator's note: probably the International Monetary Fund) is in the hand of America and she helps according to her interests. My personal stand is with his (RR: probably UBL) call to fight America. [265]

At the end of the meeting, the vice president is quoted as saying "I gave Mr. President an overview about Afghanistan and its issues."


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