Skip to comments.Bodansky's 1999 Book Details Relationship Between Hussein and Bin Laden
Posted on 07/26/2004 3:20:49 PM PDT by Conservative Coulter Fan
On August 31, 1998, before the crisis reached its peak, Hassan al-Turabi approached Iraqi vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, then visiting Khartoum, and asked if bin Laden could move his headquarters to Iraq. Ramadan immediately responded with a resounding yes, and bin Laden was notified within a few hours. Bin Laden has had some relations with Iraqi intelligence since 1993, when he played a role in the preparation and running of the Islamist operations in Somalia in which Iraqi special forces and Arab Afghans retrained by Iraqi intelligence also took part. In June 1994 bin Laden met Faruq al-Hijazi, then the director of the Iraqi Intelligence Department and at present the chief of the entire Iraqi intelligence apparatus, while he was in Khartoum. Turabi mediated the meeting, hoping they could formulate a joint strategy against the pro-Western regimes of Arabia. But the Iraqis were still apprehensive about bin Ladens Islamist zeal and close contacts to Tehran, and the contacts did not develop into practical cooperation.
Recently Baghdads overall attitude toward militant Islamism has changed. As Iraqs crisis mounted, Baghdad has encouraged the Islamists-a combination of Arab Afghans and Muslim Brotherhood offshoots-because of a series of pragmatic considerations. Saddam Hussein needs their anti-Shiite zeal to counterbalance the Shiite revivalism in the south. Their all-Islamic ideology also limits Kurdish nationalism. In the Sunni Arab parts of Iraq the Islamists have developed a comprehensive social services program to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people that has resulted from the U.N. sanctions, distributing food, medicine, clothes, and money to the growing numbers of Iraqis attending religious lessons in their mosques. These activities are financed by Osama bin Ladens charities. Starting in the mid-1990s with a few mosques at al-Fullujah, about 60 miles west of Baghdad, and Mosul, in Kurdistan, the Islamists-bearded and wearing their special outfits, which are a combination of traditional Arab gowns and camouflage militarylike uniforms-can now be seen all over Iraq, especially in Baghdad but also in such places as al-Azamiyah on the al-Rasafah embankment, al-Fullujah, Mosul, al-Nasiriyah, and al-Ramadi. Because of their proximity to Arabia, some of the Arab Afghans consider their presence in Iraq more important than being in Afghanistan.
The development of the Iranian-Saudi rapprochement back in the spring 1998 caused Turabi to receive his efforts to mediate between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden. Baghdad had been impressed by the anti-American zeal displayed by the Islamists during the U.S.-Iraqi crisis. Turabi was apprehensive about Tehrans promise to Riyadh to stop terrorism and subversion against Arab regimes and began looking for an alternate support system should the need arise to confront the House of al-Saud. As a consequence two of bin Ladens senior military commanders, Muhammad Abu-Islam and Abdallah Qassim, visited Baghdad between April 25 and May 1 for discussions with Iraqi intelligence. The importance of these contacts to Baghdad was shown by their meeting with Qusay Hussein, Saddams son, who is now responsible for intelligence matters and was personally involved in both the Iraqi contribution to the Somalia operation and later the intelligence cooperation with Iran. Both sides were very satisfied with the results of the negotiations.
One of the first concrete outcomes of these contacts was Baghdads agreement to train a new network of Saudi Islamist intelligence operatives and terrorists from among bin Ladens supporters still inside Saudi Arabia. Special clandestine cross-border passages were organized by Iraqi intelligence to enable these Saudis to make it to Iraq without passports or any other document. The first group of Saudi Islamists crossed over in mid-June for a four-week course in the al-Nasiriyah training camp. Most were trained in intelligence-how to collect intelligence on American targets and plan and launch strikes. The other Saudis were organized into a network for smuggling weapons and explosives. Later in the summer a second group of eleven Saudi Islamists received a month of training in the most sophisticated guerilla techniques. By then Iraqi intelligence anticipated a marked expansion in the training of Saudi Islamists, for Iraqi intelligence took over two training camps they had previously used for training the Iranian Mujahideen-ul-Khalq.
Bin Laden moved quickly to solidify the cooperation with Saddam Hussein. In mid-July, Ayman al-Zawahiri traveled to Iraq clandestinely. He met senior Iraqi officials, including Taha Yassin Ramadan, to discuss practical modalities for the establishment of bin Ladens base in Iraq, the expansion of training for his mujahideen, and a joint strategy for an anti-U.S. jihad throughout the Arab world and North Africa. Baghdad could not have been more helpful, conditioning its support on bin Ladens promise not to incite the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood into establishing an Islamic state in Iraq; in other words not to conspire against Saddam Husseins reign. While in Iraq, Zawahiri was also taken to visit a potential site for bin Ladens headquarters near al-Fallujah and terrorist training camps run by Iraqi intelligence. In the name of Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri assumed responsibility for a training camp in the al-Nasiriyah desert established by Iraqi intelligence in about 1997 for terrorists from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. This largely symbolic event indicates Baghdads recognition of bin Laden as the local authority in the struggle against the U.S. presence in and influence on the Arabian Peninsula.
The strategic significance of bin Ladens improving relations with Baghdad, whether he decides to move there or not, lies in Saddam Husseins hatred of the House of al-Saud. If bin Laden decides to strike at the House of al-Saud rather than at American targets in Saudi Arabia, despite the positions taken by Tehran and Islamabad, Baghdad will surely provide him all possible support. At present bin Laden shows no inclination to violate the strategy formulated in Tehran. The mere existence of an Iraqi-sponsored option, however, already alarms Riyadh. Meanwhile Baghdad will be only happy to help bin Laden strike any American objective anywhere in the world, even with weapons of mass destruction. (Source: Yossef Bodansky, "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War On America," Pages 323-325.)
So that's what Saddam was doing in those palaces?
There is a very real problem with Bodansky because he does not footnote his books -- nor does he footnote the studies he prepares for the House Sub-Committee on Terrorism. Personally, I have real questions regarding the veracity of some of his material on Sudan and the Balkans. That may just be me, but he is rarely quoted by serious researchers because some of his material (the twenty suitcase atomic bombs in the hands of Al Qaeda, for example) is really questionable.
Thanks so much for the ping, My2Cents. I've been away since 2:00 and have missed a lot of news.