WASHINGTON — A Pentagon review of about 600,000 documents captured in the Iraq war attests to Saddam Hussein's willingness to use terrorism to target Americans and work closely with jihadist organizations throughout the Middle East.
The report, released this week by the Institute for Defense Analyses, says it found no "smoking gun" linking Iraq operationally to Al Qaeda. But it does say Saddam collaborated with known Al Qaeda affiliates and a wider constellation of Islamist terror groups.
The report also undercuts the claim made by many on the left and many at the CIA that Saddam, as a national socialist, was incapable of supporting or collaborating with the Islamist al Qaeda. The report concludes that instead Iraq's relationship with Osama bin Laden's organization was similar to the relationship between the rival Colombian cocaine cartels in the 1990s. Both were rivals in some sense for market share, but also allies when it came to expanding the size of the overall market.
The Pentagon study finds, "Recognizing Iraq as a second, or parallel, 'terror cartel' that was simultaneously threatened by and somewhat aligned with its rival helps to explain the evidence emerging from the detritus of Saddam's regime."
A long time skeptic of the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq and a former CIA senior Iraq analyst, Judith Yaphe yesterday said, "I think the report indicates that Saddam was willing to work with almost any group be it nationalist or Islamic,
that was willing to work for his objectives. But in the long term he did not trust many of the Islamist groups, especially those linked to Saudi Arabia or Iran." She added, "He really did want to get anti-American operations going. The fact that they had little success shows in part their incompetence and unwilling surrogates."
A former Bush administration official who was a member of the counter-terrorism evaluation group that analyzed terror networks and links between terrorists and states, David Wurmser, said he felt the report began to vindicate his point of view.
"This is the beginning of the process of exposing Saddam's involvement in Islamic terror. But it is only the beginning. Time and declassification I'm sure will reveal yet more," he said. "Even so, this report is damning to those who doubted Saddam Hussein's involvement with Jihadist terrorist groups. It devastates one of the central myths plaguing our government prior to 9-11, that a Jihadist group would not cooperate with a secular regime and vice versa."
The report concludes that Saddam until the final months of his regime was willing to attack America.
Its conclusion asks "Is there anything in the captured archives to indicate that Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against the United States?" It goes on, "Judging from Saddam's statements before the 1991 Gulf War with the United States, the answer is yes." As for after the Gulf War, the report states, "The rise of Islamist fundamentalism in the region gave Saddam the opportunity to make terrorism, one of the few tools remaining in Saddam's 'coercion' tool box." It goes on, "Evidence that was uncovered and analyzed attests to the existence of a terrorist capability and a willingness to use it until the day Saddam was forced to flee Baghdad by Coalition forces."
The report does note that it is unclear whether Saddam would have authorized terrorism against American targets in the final months of his regime before Operation Iraqi Freedom five years ago. "The answer to the question of Saddam's will in the final months in power remains elusive," it says.
Report Details Saddam's Terrorist Ties - March 14, 2008 - The New York Sun