"Lehman's caution was prescient. A year later, we still cannot begin to offer a "definitive" picture of the relationships entered into by Saddam Hussein's operatives, but much more has already been learned from documents uncovered after the Iraq war. The evidence we present below, compiled from revelations in recent months, suggests an acute case of denial on the part of those who dismiss the Iraq-al Qaida relationship.
There could hardly be a clearer case--of the ongoing revelations and the ongoing denial--than in the 13 points below, reproduced verbatim from a "Summary of Evidence" prepared by the U.S. government in November 2004. This unclassified document was released by the Pentagon in late March 2005. It details the case for designating an Iraqi member of al Qaida, currently detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an "enemy combatant."
1. From 1987 to 1989, the detainee served as an infantryman in the Iraqi Army and received training on the mortar and rocket propelled grenades.
2. A Taliban recruiter in Baghdad convinced the detainee to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban in 1994.
3. The detainee admitted he was a member of the Taliban.
4. The detainee pledged allegiance to the supreme leader of the Taliban to help them take over all of Afghanistan.
5. The Taliban issued the detainee a Kalishnikov rifle in November 2000.
6. The detainee worked in a Taliban ammo and arms storage arsenal in Mazar-Es-Sharif organizing weapons and ammunition.
7. The detainee willingly associated with al Qaida members.
8. The detainee was a member of al Qaida.
9. An assistant to Usama Bin Ladin paid the detainee on three separate occasions between 1995 and 1997.
10. The detainee stayed at the al Farouq camp in Darwanta, Afghanistan, where he received 1,000 Rupees to continue his travels.
11. From 1997 to 1998, the detainee acted as a trusted agent for Usama Bin Ladin, executing three separate reconnaissance missions for the al Qaida leader in Oman, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
12. In August 1998, the detainee traveled to Pakistan with a member of Iraqi Intelligence for the purpose of blowing up the Pakistan, United States and British embassies with chemical mortars.
13. Detainee was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Khudzar, Pakistan, in July 2002."
""Cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement."
Internal Iraqi Intelligence memo on Iraq-al Qaida cooperation, June 25, 2004, New York Times
THE RELATIONSHIP CONTINUED with high-level meetings throughout 1994 and 1995. The 9/11 Commission staff report that made headlines last year by declaring that such meetings between Iraq and al Qaida "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship" also reported that the Sudanese government arranged for "contacts between Iraq and al Qaida." The staff report continued: "A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded."
That senior Iraqi intelligence officer was Faruq Hijazi, former deputy director of Iraqi Intelligence and longtime regime liaison to al Qaida. According to several Bush administration officials with access to his debriefings, as well as a top secret Pentagon summary of intelligence on Iraq and al Qaida known as the Feith Memo, Hijazi described a face-to-face meeting with bin Laden that took place in 1994. The language in the Feith Memo corresponds closely to that in the 9/11 Commission staff report. "During a May 2003 custodial interview with Faruq Hijazi, he said in a 1994 meeting with bin Laden in the Sudan, bin Laden requested that Iraq assist al Qaida with the procurement of an unspecified number of Chinese-manufactured antiship limpet mines. Bin Laden thought that Iraq should be able to procure the mines through third-country intermediaries for ultimate delivery to al Qaida. Hijazi said he was under orders from Saddam only to listen to bin Laden's requests and then report back to him. Bin Laden also requested the establishment of al Qaida training camps inside Iraq."
An internal Iraqi Intelligence document obtained by the New York Times provides a window into the state of the relationship during the mid-1990s. A team of Pentagon analysts concluded that the document "appears authentic." The memo reports that a Sudanese government official met with Uday Hussein and the director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in 1994 and reported that Bin Laden was willing to meet in Sudan. As a consequence, according to the Iraqi document, bin Laden was "approached by our side" after "presidential approval" for the liaison was given. The former head of Iraqi Intelligence Directorate 4 met with bin Laden on February 19, 1995. The document further states that bin Laden "had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative."
But the absence of a formal relationship hardly precludes cooperation, as the document makes clear. Bin Laden requested that Iraq's state-run television network broadcast anti-Saudi propaganda; the document indicates that the Iraqis agreed to do this. The al Qaida leader also proposed "joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. There is no response provided in the documents. When bin Laden leaves Sudan for Afghanistan in May 1996, the Iraqis seek "other channels through which to handle the relationship, in light of his current location." The IIS memo directs that "cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement.""