The connection

ABC News summarizes five recently released documents from Saddam Hussein’s archive. The documents shed new light on the connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. They confirm that an official representative of Saddam Hussein’s government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995 after approval by Saddam Hussein. Evidence of the meeting is not new; it’s mentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s report. But the documents show that Saddam personally approved the meeting, and what the two sides discussed.

Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested “carrying out joint operations against foreign forces” in Saudi Arabia (such an attack occurred eight months later). According to ABC News, the documents show that the Iraqis were, at a minimum, interested in exploring a potential relationship and prepared to show good faith by broadcasting the speeches of al Ouda, the radical cleric who was also a bin Laden mentor. The documents do not establish that the two parties did in fact enter into an operational relationship. But Iraq’s position was that further “development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties [should] be left according to what’s open [in the future] based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation.”

The meeting between Saddam’s emissary and bin Laden occurred in Sudan. After bin Laden was kicked out of Sudan, Iraq continued to stay in touch through the Sudanese, but worked “on activating this relationship through a new channel in light of his current location,”

There is also an Iraqi intelligence document that reports the statements of an Afghani informant. According to that informant, bin Laden the Taliban were in contact with Iraq and a group of Taliban and bin Laden group members had visited Iraq. ABC News finds that the evidentiary value of this document is limited given its source.

These documents further undermine the claim that ideological differences precluded a relationship between secular Saddam and fundamentalist bin Laden. The documents show that they had a relationship and that Iraq was prepared to cooperate with al Qaeda to the extent that it would be beneficial to do so. Whether or to what extent such coooperation occurred is still not known. But the documents support the view that Saddam, who was almost universally thought to have WMD and clearly had the capability of producing them, might well cooperate with al Qaeda in future attacks on the U.S. or its interests. That’s something we don’t have to worry about anymore.

Via NRO’s Corner.

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