Saturday, May 29, 2004

While checking the Drudge Report this morning, I saw a reference to a story concerning a link between Al-Qaida and Iraq. I Figured that this was the same story that I referenced in my last post,but I clicked the link anyway. As it turns out I was wrong. Not only was it a different story, it covered an entirely different angle to the Iraq-AQ connection. The story (featured on the Weekly Standard website), was written by Stephen F. Hayes, author of the The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America.

The article concerns the discovery made by Christopher Carney, a political science professor from Pennsylvania. While doing research at the Pentagon in February of 2004, Carney discovered that Ahmed Hikmat Shakir was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Fedayeen Saddam, Iraq's most feared security service. He recognized the name as being the same as that of an Iraqi that was present at an Al Qaida planning meeting in Malaysia in January of 2000. Many in the intelligence community believe that this meeting was when the 9/11 attacks were planned.

The article provides some compelling evidence that Lieutenant Colonel Shakir is the same Ahmed Hikmat Shakir that attended the AQ meeting in Malaysia in 2000.

The thing I found most interesting about the article was how it demonstrated a change in the "conventional wisdom" about AQ's connection with Iraq prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

From Newsweek on 1/11/99:

Saddam Hussein, who has a long record of supporting terrorism, is trying to rebuild his intelligence network overseas--assets that would allow him to establish a terrorism network. U.S. sources say he is reaching out to Islamic terrorists, including some who may be linked to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile accused of masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa last summer.

From ABC News on 1/15/99:

Intelligence sources say bin Laden's long relationship with the Iraqis began as he helped Sudan's fundamentalist government in their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. . . . ABC News has learned that in December, an Iraqi intelligence chief named Faruq Hijazi, now Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Three intelligence agencies tell ABC News they cannot be certain what was discussed, but almost certainly, they say, bin Laden has been told he would be welcome in Baghdad.

From NPR:

Iraq's contacts with bin Laden go back some years, to at least 1994, when, according to one U.S. government source, Hijazi met him when bin Laden lived in Sudan. According to Cannistraro, Iraq invited bin Laden to live in Baghdad to be nearer to potential targets of terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. . . . Some experts believe bin Laden might be tempted to live in Iraq because of his reported desire to obtain chemical or biological weapons. CIA Director George Tenet referred to that in recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee when he said bin Laden was planning additional attacks on American targets.

According to the indictment of bin Laden following the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa:

Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

Even former terrorism advisor Richard Clarke appears to have changed his tune:

Five months later, the same Richard Clarke who would one day claim that there was "absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever," told the Washington Post that the U.S. government was "sure" that Iraq was behind the production of the chemical weapons precursor at the al Shifa plant. "Clarke said U.S. intelligence does not know how much of the substance was produced at al Shifa or what happened to it," wrote Post reporter Vernon Loeb, in an article published January 23, 1999. "But he said that intelligence exists linking bin Laden to al Shifa's current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts, and the National Islamic Front in Sudan."

I don't expect the news media to be two steps ahead of the CIA, but don't they even read their own archives? They should. Apparently, so should we.

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