Readers Richard Avery and Jose Guardia wrote to explain the mystery of why Australian newspapers have reported the Administration’s statement that a senior al Qaeda leader in captivity has told interrogators that Iraq supplied materials for chemical and biological weapons to al Qaeda, but this seemingly important story has not been reported in American or British papers.
The story is no hoax; the claim comes from the “100 days of progress” report that the Administration released on Friday. Here is what the report says on this topic:
“A senior al Qaida terrorist, now detained, who had been responsible for al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan, reports that al Qaida was intent on obtaining WMD assistance from Iraq. According to a credible, high-level al Qaida source, Usama Bin Laden and deceased al Qaida leader Muhammad Atif did not believe that al Qaida labs in Afghanistan were capable of manufacturing chemical and biological weapons, so they turned to Iraq for assistance. Iraq agreed to provide chemical and biological weapons training for two al Qaida associates starting in December 2000.”
This language is obviously careful; it says that Iraq “agreed to provide [WMD] training” to al Qaeda in December 2000, but does not say whether such training ever took place. This is weaker than the Sydney Morning Herald’s description of the report, which says: “A high-ranking al-Qaeda operative in custody disclosed that Iraq supplied the Islamist militant group with material to build chemical and biological weapons, the White House said today.”
Nevertheless, the disclosure should be a major news story, and it is hard to see why it hasn’t even been reported by American newspapers.
The “100 days” report also says: “Senior al Qaida associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi came to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment along with approximately two dozen al Qaida terrorist associates. This group stayed in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq and plotted terrorist attacks around the world….Law enforcement and intelligence operations have disrupted al Qaida associate Abu Musab Zarqawi’s poison plotting in France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Russia. The facilities in Northern Iraq, set up by Zarqawi and Ansar al-Islam were, before the war, an al Qaida poisons/toxins laboratory.”
I’m going from memory here, but I think that both of those statements are also stronger than anything the White House had said publicly prior to Friday. Again, the news that two dozen al Qaeda members plotted terrorist attacks from inside Iraq and that the Ansar al-Islam facility in northern Iraq has been confirmed as an al Qaeda biological warfare laboratory would seem to be of great interest to the newspapers (like the Times and the Post) that tell us daily that there is no evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda.
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