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Iraq & al-Qaeda: Is There a Link?

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Z3PR, Aug 27, 2002.

  1. Z3PR

    Z3PR Banned

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    Iraq & al-Qaeda: Is There a Link?
    The go-to-war camp would love to prove that Saddam Hussein is
    doing business with Osama bin Laden. They talk up suspicions, but no
    one's got proof
    BY ROMESH RATNESAR




    CNN: Iraq: Coalition Airstrike
    Kills 8



    Monday, Aug. 26, 2002
    As the world's two most
    nefarious villains, Osama
    bin Laden and Saddam
    Hussein ought to have
    reasons to work together.
    They share similar
    interests — hatred of Israel, hostility toward the rulers of Saudi Arabia and,
    especially, enmity toward their common nemesis, the U.S. Both are suspected
    of dabbling in chemical and biological agents, and both are judged capable of
    using them. While al-Qaeda is still seeking weapons of mass destruction,
    Western intelligence experts think that Iraq already possesses some — in
    which case hooking up with bin Laden's network might make sense. If
    Saddam wants to employ his arsenal against the U.S. and its allies without
    getting caught, why not contract al-Qaeda to do the job for him?

    That, at least, is the connect-the-dots theory that Bush Administration hawks
    and conservative cheerleaders are advancing in their campaign to persuade the
    President to take his war on terrorism to Baghdad. Assembling evidence of a
    direct line between Iraq and al-Qaeda — or better yet, proving that Saddam
    was complicit in the Sept. 11 plot — would give the war planners something
    they don't have: a compelling do-it-now reason for war.

    With allies retreating to the sidelines, Republican wise men counseling restraint
    and the public growing jittery about the Administration's plans, the hard-liners
    pumped up fresh hints last week that Saddam and bin Laden have struck an
    unholy alliance. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared, "There are
    al-Qaeda in a number of locations in Iraq" receiving shelter from Saddam's
    regime. "It's very hard to imagine the government is not aware of what's taking
    place in the country," he said. Another Defense official told the Washington
    Post that among them, "there are some names you would recognize"--a
    remarkable claim when the only name most Americans recognize is bin
    Laden's. Other Pentagon aides leaked word that the Administration had
    recently considered but decided against sending commandos into
    Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq to knock out a clandestine
    chemical-weapons lab allegedly run by Ansar al-Islam, a tiny fundamentalist
    rebel group whose ranks are reportedly swelling with al-Qaeda fighters fleeing
    Afghanistan.

    For those looking to promote a U.S. invasion
    of Iraq, such assorted morsels of intelligence
    are tantalizing hints of a conspiracy. Many
    Americans already believe the worst about
    Saddam. According to a USA Today poll,
    86% think Baghdad is giving support to
    terrorist groups planning to strike America, and
    more than half think Saddam had a hand in
    9/11. Rumsfeld suggested that the
    Administration is merely waiting to reveal
    ironclad evidence of the link. "It may make
    sense to discuss that publicly," he said, "but not
    today."

    So far, suspicions of a Saddam-bin Laden
    synergy are just that. The same few data points
    are periodically recycled. Most of the
    suggestive clues come from unconfirmed
    charges repeated to journalists and U.S.
    officials by a few defectors in the hands of the
    opposition Iraqi National Congress and
    prisoners held by pro-U.S. Kurdish factions —
    all of whom have a vested interest in feeding
    anti-Saddam propaganda. CIA officials, while
    not ruling anything out, say meaningful ties
    between Saddam and bin Laden are tenuous at best. Members of Congress
    who have been well briefed have seen no smoking gun. Republican Senator
    Chuck Hagel, a Foreign Relations Committee member who has warned
    against a pre-emptive strike, insists, "Saddam is not in league with al-Qaeda.
    Of course he cheers and encourages them. But I have not seen any intelligence
    that would lead me to connect Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda."

    So what makes the hard-liners say, Oh yes, there is? A Pentagon official
    agrees that dozens of al-Qaeda refugees have landed in Iraq, including "some
    new, mid-level people." But, says a senior intelligence official, "Iraq is not
    replacing Afghanistan as the sanctuary for al-Qaeda." Many of the newcomers
    are Kurdish jihadists returning to their native habitat or Afghan Arabs who
    have slipped into the Kurdish north, which is beyond the control of Baghdad,
    under the U.S.-enforced no-fly zone established after the Gulf War.
    Intelligence officials told Time that while Baghdad is aware of their presence,
    there's no clear evidence that Saddam has made substantive contact with
    them. "The al-Qaeda people are not official guests of the Iraqi government,"
    says a senior spook. "There's no indication of that."

    Anti-Saddam hard-liners have lately seized on the extremist Ansar al-Islam as
    the organizational nexus that ties al-Qaeda to Baghdad. The group has existed
    in various forms since the 1990s, when its leader, an Islamic cleric named
    Najmadin Fatah who goes by the nom de guerre Mullah Krekar, took
    inspiration from Afghan mujahedin to launch a rebellion against the two feuding
    secular factions that divvy up Iraqi Kurdistan. Krekar, who carries a
    Norwegian passport, is a veteran of the mujahedin known for his ruthlessness.
    "He is not normal," says a Kurdish intelligence official. "He enjoys killing
    people."


    Last year, the Islamists morphed into their current incarnation as the
    "Supporters of Islam," which almost certainly includes members who trained in
    terrorism at al-Qaeda's Afghan camps. Bin Laden probably recruited men
    from among Ansar disciples. Today Ansar may well include some al-Qaeda
    fighters looking for a new nest. Kurdish officials say the group has swollen to
    around 700, but U.S. intelligence puts the number at a little over 100.

    The telling allegation, made again last week by New York Times columnist
    William Safire, is that Saddam secretly runs Ansar. According to Safire's
    unsourced pronouncement, a Saddam intelligence operative and a senior bin
    Laden agent helped coordinate an assault by Ansar militants to assassinate the
    secular, pro-American Kurdish leadership last year. Both, he claimed, were
    captured when Kurdish forces put down the revolt. Safire also fingered
    Saddam's agents as the men behind Ansar's crude attempts to make poison
    weapons that drew Pentagon attention.

    Yet while Ansar may share Saddam's desire to destroy the Kurdish leadership
    — in April, Ansar unsuccessfully attempted to kill one faction's prime minister
    when Assistant Secretary of State Ryan Crocker was visiting the area — the
    Iraqi dictator does not appear to have direct control over the Kurdish
    militants. Both Saddam and al-Qaeda may find Ansar's activities useful, but
    there's no evidence that the group serves as a link between them.

    The hawks point to another piece of circumstantial evidence. Since last fall the
    U.S. has tried to confirm a Czech intelligence report that in April 2001, 9/11
    hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague. Both
    the CIA and FBI have disputed the report. Their research places Atta in
    Florida two days before the purported meeting, and they could not uncover
    any travel or financial records to prove Atta had made a quick flight to Prague.
    But early this month several Pentagon officials, including Deputy Defense
    Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, met with the FBI's assistant director for
    counterterrorism, Pat D'Amuro, to quiz the FBI again about the Czech report.
    Officials from both agencies who attended the meeting deny that Wolfowitz
    pressured the briefers to confirm that the Prague rendezvous took place. But
    the FBI says the Pentagon team tried, with success, to persuade the bureau to
    concede that reports of the meeting are at least possible.

    Other points of suspicion have come from Iraqi defectors. A former army
    officer now under the protection of the anti-Saddam Iraqi National Congress
    has repeated to numerous U.S. officials and reporters his tale of a camp at
    Salman Pak, just outside Baghdad, run by the Iraqi secret police as a training
    school for potential terrorists from across the Arab world. Among other things,
    he said, the camp uses the fuselage of a Boeing 707 to practice hijackings.
    Early this year Mohamed Mansour Shahab, a mercenary now in Kurdish
    custody who says he worked for Saddam's secret police, told interviewers
    that in 2000 the regime set aside $16 million for nine terrorist operations,
    including a scuttled suicide attack Shahab was supposed to organize against a
    U.S. Navy ship in the Persian Gulf.

    Another defector, from Iraq's intelligence service, told a Vanity Fair reporter
    that Saddam's son Uday oversees a vicious 1,200-man commando force
    called al-Qarea, trained to carry out terrorist attacks against American targets.
    Washington counterterrorism experts are skeptical about whether Iraq really
    boasts such a cadre. A U.S. official who studies Iraq says al-Qarea is
    probably a ragtag collection of men Uday dressed up as militants to impress
    his father.

    Other items the hard-liners like to list seem even longer on speculation. They
    point to a visit bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri supposedly made to
    Saddam in 1992. But Zawahiri was then the head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad
    and had not yet hooked up with al-Qaeda. Nor has the CIA been able to
    verify a Saddam-Zawahiri meeting, especially at a time when Baghdad was
    trying to improve relations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Zawahiri's
    prime target.

    Shahab, the imprisoned mercenary, claimed that in 1999 Iraqi officials paid
    him to smuggle several dozen liquid-filled refrigerator canisters into Afghanistan
    for the Taliban. Did they contain chemical agents or bio germs? Shahab does
    not know, and U.S. intelligence has been unable to confirm the report.
    Officials question whether the idea makes sense. Documents recovered in
    Afghanistan show al-Qaeda had its own blueprints for cooking up chemical
    weapons.

    The hard-liners seem to think that by repeating this kind of unsubstantiated
    speculation, they can force Bush to stick to his vow to take on Saddam —
    even though, as White House aides insisted last week, he still does not have a
    plan for doing so. "Some people are, by design, trying to put him into a corner
    on this," says an official who works on Iraq policy. "They're arguing that if we
    don't attack, Saddam will win yet again because of the harm that will do to
    American credibility."

    It's only prudent for U.S. intelligence to track any hint that Saddam may try to
    enlist a terrorist network in his battle against America. But the hawks are doing
    damage to their own cause by trumpeting unproved allegations of Saddam's
    links to bin Laden that could undermine more substantial reasons for taking
    down a dangerous dictator. The al-Qaeda connection looks too tenuous now
    to justify war with Iraq. If the President is truly concerned about preserving
    American credibility, he needs to do a more persuasive job explaining why
    another war against Iraq is worth the effort.

    Reported by Mark Thompson, Karen Tumulty and Douglas Waller/Washington and Andrew Purvis/Suleimaniya
     
  2. White Knight

    White Knight 1/2 ton status

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    And how long is the entire world, going to be held ransom by assholes like saddam, or any of the so-called terrorists. I say its time to take 'em out, help the Government set up a Replublic based democracy, and if it don't work keep trying until it does.
    Liberal a-holes thought that Hitler wasn't a treat either.
    I for one am so sick and tried of the play nice rectroic I could puke.
    If the World expects the USA to be the police of the World then lets do it, /forums/images/icons/smile.gif DO irag.. /forums/images/icons/wink.gif DO iran.....then do the /forums/images/icons/shocked.gif saudies, and keep doing it until it gets done right.
    I damn sure don't want to see another high rise get blown to hell and back again.
    And if it ever comes to my front door I will answer with deadly force and let GOD sort it out later.
    Take offense to this or not your choice ...but you bleeding hearted liberals got us in this position in the first place, and ya'all can kiss my butt...........still love ya man..... just can't get into the play nice crap.....its one reason our kids today are so screwed up did'nt work with them, and it won't work with the mentality of people who are dicators or socialists/communists

    If ya'll need proof go look at the hole in the ground in New York, or the COUNTLESS U.S. Embassies that have been bombed, public airlines knocked out of the air, how many night clubs/buses/ and now universities that have been bombed.....I for one do not need kicked in the teeth to recognize a adversary. But by all means keep giving in and caving to these terrorists and watch the escalation of terror begin.........
    Wake up..... how many of our men died in WW1,WW2, Korean,Vietnam,Gulf fighting for RIGHTS,Fighting for a Dream of peace. Damn I swear we're doomed to repeat all this over, and over again because of our selective memories. Terrorism cannot be reasoned with, it'll never stop until the USA stops it, NO ONE ELSE!!!!...in the world can do it. The europeans, or Canadians, or the English forget it, they couldn't kick GORES ass.... let alone any bobody else!If ya'll think I'm pissed about this your right, I watched the towers collapse, and promised myself that I would NEVER not get mad about that, I get worked up over this when I see people backing down to a piss-ant dicator/terrorist or group of nations who would rather see this kind of crap contiune than do something about it. I hope that the next incident happens in a nation that has placated these nutz, might teach them something but I doubt it. People don't take offense to my words, just listen to everything, watch everything and make a reasonable choice on how you deal with it.
    But remember in school when you stood toe to toe with the bully, he never picked on you again, it was easier for the bully to go pick on someone who didn't fight back!!!
    And remember that I will forever remain pissed off about what happened on 9-11
     

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