No Iraq-Al Qaeda Links Found

March 11th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: No Iraq-Al Qaeda Links Found

Miami Herald
March 11, 2008 No links were found between Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda terrorist network after a Pentagon-sponsored study looked at more than 600,000 Iraqi documents.
By Warren P. Strobel
WASHINGTON -- An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Hussein's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered his enemies.
The new study of the Iraqi ruler's archives found no documents indicating a ''direct operational link'' between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.
He and others spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because the study isn't due to be shared with Congress and released before Wednesday.
President Bush and his aides used Hussein's alleged relationship with al Qaeda, along with Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, as arguments for invading Iraq after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed in September 2002 that the United States had ''bulletproof'' evidence of cooperation between the radical Islamist terror group and Hussein's secular dictatorship.
Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell cited multiple linkages between Hussein and al Qaeda in a watershed February 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council to build international support for the invasion. Almost every one of the examples Powell cited turned out to be based on bogus or misinterpreted intelligence.
As recently as last July, Bush tried to tie al Qaeda to the ongoing violence in Iraq. ''The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims,'' he said.
The new study, entitled Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents, was essentially completed last year and has been undergoing what one U.S. intelligence official described as a ''painful'' declassification review.
It was produced by a federally funded think tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses, under contract to the Norfolk, Va.-based U.S. Joint Forces Command.
Spokesmen for the Joint Forces Command declined to comment until the report is released. One of the report's authors, Kevin Woods, also declined to comment.
The issue of al Qaeda in Iraq already has played a role in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, mocked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, recently for saying he'd keep some U.S. troops in Iraq if al Qaeda established a base there.
''I have some news. Al Qaeda is in Iraq,'' McCain told supporters. Obama retorted that, ''There was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade.'' (In fact, al Qaeda in Iraq didn't emerge until 2004, a year after the invasion.)
The new study appears destined to be used by both critics and supporters of the Iraq invasion to advance their own familiar arguments.
While the documents reveal no Hussein-al Qaeda links, they do show that Hussein and his underlings were willing to use terrorism against enemies of the regime and had ties to regional and global terrorist groups, the officials said.
However, the U.S. intelligence official played down the prospect of any major new revelations, saying, ``I don't think there's any surprises there.''

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