Now that it has been conclusively established in the American press that Saddam Hussein’s government never had anything to do with al Qaeda, the New York Times grudgingly takes note of evidence to the contrary, as reflected in a recently-uncovered Iraqi intelligence document:
Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990’s were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.
The document states that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration.
That’s the Times’ summary, with the suddenly-talismanic “no collaborative relationship” standard used as a firewall to fend off an admission that the Bush administration’s statements about the many ties between Iraq and al Qaeda were accurate.
I haven’t yet found the complete text of the document, but the Times’ own summary shows its significance in light of the current controversy over Iraq/al Qaeda ties:
Mr. bin Laden “also requested joint operations against foreign forces” based in Saudi Arabia….The document is of interest to American officials as a detailed, if limited, snapshot of communications between Iraqi intelligence and Mr. bin Laden, but this view ends with Mr. bin Laden’s departure from Sudan. At that point, Iraqi intelligence officers began “seeking other channels through which to handle the relationship, in light of his current location,” the document states.
The Iraqi document itself states that “cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement.”
The Iraqi document states that Mr. bin Laden’s organization in Sudan was called “The Advice and Reform Commission.” The Iraqis were cued to make their approach to Mr. bin Laden in 1994 after a Sudanese official visited Uday Hussein, the leader’s son, as well as the director of Iraqi intelligence, and indicated that Mr. bin Laden was willing to meet in Sudan.
A former director of operations for Iraqi intelligence Directorate 4 met with Mr. bin Laden on Feb. 19, 1995, the document states.
No comment yet from Al Gore.