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More Connections Between Saddam And Al-Qaeda
Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard has long pressed for the release of millions of Iraqi intelligence documents captured by the US when Baghdad fell. He argued for years that the trove of correspondence would shed light on critical disputes about the Iraq war and the actual threat presented from Saddam Hussein and his genocidal regime. Hayes gambled that the IIS hid much more than the American media reported -- and it turns out that Hayes has won his bet.
New documents released show that the Iraqis funded the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the Philippines, a band of bloodthirsty Islamists with strong ties to al-Qaeda:
ON JUNE 6, 2001, the Iraqi ambassador to the Philippines sent an eight-page fax to Baghdad. Ambassador Salah Samarmad's dispatch to the Secondary Policy Directorate of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry concerned an Abu Sayyaf kidnapping a week earlier that had garnered international attention. Twenty civilians--including three Americans--had been taken from Dos Palmas Resort on Palawan Island in the southern Philippines. There had been fighting between the kidnappers and the Filipino military, Samarmad reported. Several hostages had escaped, and others were released. ...
The report notes that the Iraqis were now trying to be seen as helpful and keep a safe distance from Abu Sayyaf. "We have all cooperated in the field of intelligence information with some of our friends to encourage the tourists and the investors in the Philippines." But Samarmad's report seems to confirm that this is a change. "The kidnappers were formerly (from the previous year) receiving money and purchasing combat weapons. From now on we (IIS) are not giving them this opportunity and are not on speaking terms with them."
Samarmad's dispatch appears to be the final installment in a series of internal Iraqi regime memos from March through June 2001. (The U.S. government translated some of these documents in full and summarized others.) The memos contain a lengthy discussion among Iraqi officials--from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Iraqi Intelligence Service--about the wisdom of using a Libyan intelligence front as a way to channel Iraqi support for Abu Sayyaf without the risks of dealing directly with the group.
At the same time that leftists would have us believe that Saddam was safely in a "box" and contained by UN sanctions, he had corrupted the UN's aid program and plundered his own nation for billions of dollars. Obviously, some of this went to Abu Sayyaf until they got a little too notorious and the Iraqis had to pull back. Before that, however, they showed some enthusiasm for not only giving the Islamists money but also smuggling arms into the Philippines for their use.
And these aren't just local Islamists, either, as the Center for Defense Information noted in March 2002:
Abu Sayyaf was founded by Abdurajak Janjalani, an Islamic scholar and mujahedin in the Afghan-Soviet war, after he, like the contemporaries that formed his initial recruiting crop, returned from studies in Saudi Arabia and Libya determined to fulfill the Muslim ideal of an Islamic state. ...
In its inchoate stages and while under Janjalani's leadership, Abu Sayyaf was plugged into the international network of Islamic militants that received the support of Osama bin Laden. Abu Sayyaf-al Qaeda links are strong. Many of its fighters claim to have trained in Afghanistan, including as many as 20 who were in the graduating class of a Mazar-e Sharif camp in 2001; the titular group leader, Janjalani's brother, refined his terrorist skills in Libya. Zamboanga City, a Mindanao Islamic hotbed, was frequented by members of al Qaeda. Yet the best indicator of al Qaeda's influence is the relationship Janjalani forged with Saudi Arabian businessman Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden's brother-in-law. Khalifa's network of Islamic charities and university in Zamboanga were both used to bankroll extremists. His main organization, the International Islamic Relief Organization, has an office in Zamboanga, as does a bin Laden foundation. Abu Sayyaf received training and money funneled through Khalifa's network. It was during this time of close association with Khalifa and the al Qaeda network that Abu Sayyaf began plotting its two biggest endeavors assassination of the Pope during a visit to the Catholic Philippines, and a plan to hijack and blow up 12 U.S. civilian airliners in a single day. After these plans were foiled (by an accidental fire in Ramsey Yousef's apartment), authorities began to see Abu Sayyaf as a major threat to security in the Philippines and as a true threat to international security.
CNN also notes the AS/AQ connection in its section on Asian terrorists. Time reported it in November 2002 in a profile on Abu Sayyaf and its operations. Those connections between Saddam and Islamist terror, specifically al-Qaeda, look a lot more significant with this new information.
The people who argued that waging war on Saddam Hussein constituted a "distraction" from the war on terror will have a lot of backpedaling to do.
ADDENDUM: This also puts a much different light on the sudden decision by Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi to give up his nuclear program and start cooperating with the US and UK on fighting terrorism. The Libyans acted as Saddam's middleman on funneling arms and money to Abu Sayyaf, a fact which Gaddafi must have assumed we would discover as we exploited the IIS documentation -- and especially after we captured Saddam Hussein in his spider hole. Libya would have jumped to the top ranks of terror-enablers and would have provided an even less difficult target than Syria, especially given Abu Sayyaf's attacks on Americans in the Philippines.
When Gaddafi told Italy's Silvio Berlusconi that he didn't want to end up like Saddam, he wasn't just engaging in hyperbole.
ADDENDUM II: Here's a provocative passage from another document, this time outlining Iraqi connections to al-Qaeda that channeled through the Sudan. This summarizes a meeting of Saddam's "Reform and Advice Committee":
A. During the visit of the Sudanese Dr. Ibrahim al-Sanusi to Iraq and his meeting with Mr. Uday Saddam Hussein, on December 13, 1994, in the presence of the respectable, Mr. Director of the Intelligence Service, he [Dr. al-Sanusi] pointed out that the opposing Osama bin Laden, residing in Sudan, is reserved and afraid to be depicted by his enemies as an agent of Iraq. We prepared to meet him in Sudan (The Honorable Presidency was informed of the results of the meeting in our letter 782 on December 17, 1994).
B. An approval to meet with opposer Osama bin Laden by the Intelligence Services was given by the Honorable Presidency in its letter 138, dated January 11, 1995 (attachment 6). He [bin Laden] was met by the previous general director of M4 in Sudan and in the presence of the Sudanese, Ibrahim al-Sanusi, on February 19, 1995. We discussed with him his organization. He requested the broadcast of the speeches of Sheikh Sulayman al-Uda (who has influence within Saudi Arabia and outside due to being a well known religious and influential personality) and to designate a program for them through the broadcast directed inside Iraq, and to perform joint operations against the foreign forces in the land of Hijaz. (The Honorable Presidency was informed of the details of the meeting in our letter 370 on March 4, 1995, attachment 7.)
C. The approval was received from the Leader, Mr. President, may God keep him, to designate a program for them through the directed broadcast. We were left to develop the relationship and the cooperation between the two sides to see what other doors of cooperation and agreement open up. The Sudanese side was informed of the Honorable Presidency's agreement above, through the representative of the Respectable Director of Intelligence Services, our Ambassador in Khartoum.
D. Due to the recent situation of Sudan and being accused of supporting and embracing of terrorism, an agreement with the opposing Saudi Osama bin Laden was reached. The agreement required him to leave Sudan to another area. He left Khartoum in July 1996. The information we have indicates that he is currently in Afghanistan. The relationship with him is ongoing through the Sudanese side. Currently we are working to invigorate this relationship through a new channel in light of his present location.