Skip to comments.The Link Between Iraq and Al-Qaeda
Posted on 09/29/2003 12:46:02 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
Senior investigators and analysts in the U.S. government have concluded that Iraq acted as a state sponsor of terrorism against Americans and logistically supported the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States - confirming news reports that until now have emerged only in bits and pieces. A senior government official responsible for investigating terrorism tells Insight that while Saddam Hussein may not have had details of the Sept. 11 attacks in advance, he "gave assistance for whatever al-Qaeda came up with." That assistance, confirmed independently, came in a variety of ways, including financial support spun out through a complex web of financial institutions in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy and elsewhere. Long suspected of having terrorist ties to al-Qaeda, they now have been linked to Iraq as well.
The official says the United States uncovered the key "money-laundering operation" in the months following Sept. 11, 2001, when authorities raided the homes and offices of two Arab bankers, Youssef M. Nada and Ali Himat, principals at Nada Management (formerly al-Taqwa Management). Himat, Nada and the names of both companies are all listed on the U.S. Treasury Department's roll of "Specially Designated Global Terrorists." The lawyer for the two Arab financiers, Pier Felice Barchi, has confirmed to the Swiss press that his clients will be questioned again in coming days. He added that they "have nothing to fear and nothing to hide," although he confirms that authorities seized thousands of pages of documents. Insight's source, who has seen many of those documents, confirms that they detail financial relationships between al-Taqwa and Iraq. The official says the records show al-Taqwa was formed by Nada, Himat, Ahmed Huber and Mohamed Mansour.
Documents obtained by Insight say that al-Taqwa was created in the late 1980s by trusted members of a secretive Islamic extremist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is "dedicated to the overthrow of Western nations and the creation of a worldwide Islamic government."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center reports that Huber is a 74-year-old neo-Nazi who converted to Islam in the 1960s. The Chronicle of Foreign Service, published in Bern, Switzerland, says Huber has praised Adolf Hitler and the Ayatollah Khomeini and has been quoted as saying: "We will bring down the Israel lobby and change foreign policy. We'll do it in America. When it happens you'll understand." Huber also has been quoted as saying, "Muslims and Nazis were involved in the same fight."
According to the senior government official, Nada Management is part of the al-Taqwa group. In November 2001, President George W. Bush officially cited al-Taqwa as part of al-Qaeda's money-laundering activities. The citation included the following: "Al-Taqwa is an association of offshore banks and financial-management firms that have helped al-Qaeda shift money around the world." It is in al-Taqwa and Nada Management that the government investigator says he found the links to Saddam and Iraq. "Al-Taqwa was the recipient of illicit funds from Iraq's 'Oil for Food' program," the official tells Insight, and from there the financial resources went "through al-Taqwa to al-Qaeda." But in the Chronicle story Huber is quoted as denying that Nada Management (al-Taqwa) underwrites al-Qaeda.
Records show that Youssef M. Nada is, with Huber, a board member of Nada Management. An Egyptian expatriate, Nada is said by the government investigator to be central to the Iraq/al-Qaeda connection and "a known associate of Saddam Hussein and Ayman al-Zawahiri," al-Qaeda's second in command. The government investigator tells Insight that Nada met with Saddam and had a "business" relationship with the former Iraqi dictator. Nada's relationship with al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, is reportedly through the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization founded by al-Zawahiri, according to the government investigator. The senior government official tells Insight that Mohammed Atta, long thought by U.S. authorities to have been the ringleader of the Sept. 11 hijackings, had frequent meetings with members of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization to which the senior official says "Saddam provided assistance for years back, and right up until the end of his regime." The official says, "All al-Qaeda members active in Germany and Spain are members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood" and therefore sponsored by Saddam.
Critics of the Bush administration have raised questions about the president's case for the war in Iraq, citing concern about an alleged lack of evidence linking Iraq to the Sept. 11 attacks and other terrorism. Indeed, for reasons of its own, the administration appears to have avoided making its case that way, though it has acknowledged a great deal piecemeal. This includes the capture of a training base for foreign nationals at Salmon Pak, near Baghdad, that included the fuselage of a jumbo jet believed by investigators to be part of training for hijackers.
"There are many things we know about the history of Saddam Hussein's regime and his ties to terrorism, including al-Qaeda, and we have outlined all that previously," an irritated White House spokesman Scott McClellan said recently in response to provocative questions from a reporter. President George W. Bush appears to have left the issue open to interpretation by saying that Iraq has links to al-Qaeda but has stopped short of connecting Baghdad to the Sept. 11 attacks. Typically, without hammering home the point with details, he again said in his Sept. 23 address at the United Nations, "The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction."
Insiders say the failure to assign responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks to Iraq, Afghanistan or any other nation-state is intentional. "The administration does not want the victims of Sept. 11 interfering with its foreign policy," says Peter M. Leitner, director of the Washington Center for Peace and Justice (WCPJ). The WCPJ is coordinating a lawsuit on behalf of the family of John Patrick O'Neill Sr., a former top FBI counterterrorism official who had become director of security for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey shortly before Sept. 11, 2001. O'Neill was killed in the World Trade Center as a result of the attacks.
Leitner tells Insight, "This administration has been absolutely heroic in the war on terror and has done more than any other administration to fight terrorism, but they have been deliberately ambiguous" about Iraq's involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. "The civil suits are a way of transferring power to the American people, to seek justice and to fight terrorism by depriving them of financial resources," Leitner says. The O'Neill lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion in damages from the Republic of Iraq and a host of other defendants ranging from the known members of al-Qaeda to those the lawsuit names as coconspirators in money laundering and as providers of support for terrorist operations, including the shadowy al-Taqwa group and Nada Management.
Leitner says the Bush administration may be concerned that if other victims of the Sept. 11 attacks also filed lawsuits and won civil-damage awards it would reduce Iraqi resources that the administration wants to use to rebuild the country. Leitner and others say this explains Bush's reticence at this time to report the convincing evidence linking Saddam and al-Qaeda that has been collected by U.S. investigators and private organizations seeking damages. "The [Bush] administration is intentionally changing the topic," claims Leitner, and sidestepping the issue that "Iraq has been in a proxy war against the U.S. for years and has used al-Qaeda in that war against the United States."
The lawsuit against Iraq points to numerous organizations and financial institutions the plaintiffs say were "fronts" for Islamic terrorism activities and claims financial linkages to Iraq, Iraqi intelligence and Saddam. The lawsuit, which was filed in August, states: "Following its defeat in the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq's approach to dealing with the United States was to resort to terrorism. To achieve its goals, Iraq associated with various terrorist groups."
Also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit is the Arab TV network al-Jazeera. "Defendant Mohammed Jaseem al-Ali and two other employees of al-Jazeera are identified in documents captured in the April 2003 U.S. military action in Iraq as having received substantial funding from the Iraqi regime in exchange for acting as liaisons between Iraq and al-Qaeda. One document reveals that al-Jazeera passed letters from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein," the complaint alleges. According to the Barcelona-based La Vanaguardia, the FBI is holding Tayssir Alouni, an al-Jazeera reporter suspected of being an al-Qaeda operative. The reports say he has been jailed in Spain based on the belief of the FBI and Spanish police that he was "in charge of al-Qaeda propaganda for Europe and the United States." A spokesman for al-Jazeera, Jihad Ballout, tells Insight he cannot comment because it is part of an ongoing legal matter.
Leitner says he sees the actions he is bringing in the civil courts as weapons with which to fight terrorism and "to pursue the terrorists as vigorously as John O'Neill pursued them when he was alive."
This story might be accurate, but I don't trust such sources.
What is not to trust? This is the same "senior government official" who talked to Novak about Ambassador Wilson's CIA agent wife. It's the same "senior government official" who told the BBC that there are no WMD in Iraq, and the same "senior government official" who told Wes Clark to praise the Administration on Iraq.
All anyone needs to know.
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