What Does It Prove? Nothing, Yet

A few days ago, we noted one of the untranslated Project Harmony documents, dated in 2002, that looked interesting, based on this synopsis:

IIS [Iraqi intelligence] report on Kurdish activities, mention of Kurdish reporting on Al Qaida, reference to Al Qaida presence in Salman Pak.

We put out a call for translations, and two readers responded. This one is Charles Perry’s:

First document, on paper with the crest of the Iraqi Republic and an ornamental border and with a stamp reading “Presidency of the Republic, Secretary, Department of Security of the Muhafaza (roughly, county) of Nineveh”:

(Beneath the crest, handwritten: Secret and personal)

Republic of Iraq

Presidency of Iraq, Secretary

Department of General Security

Department of Security of Nineveh

No. 10106/1

Date: 1 Jumada al-Akhira, 1423 (AH), 8/24/2002 AD

Directorship of General Security/ M(uhafaza) of Nineveh

Subject: Intelligence

Trustworthy (source) 1253 has informed me as follows:

1. On 8/21/2002, the undertaking of an American delegation visiting the district of Afshariyya to visit the HQ of the Iraqi Communist Party to (the district of) Shaqlawa. A representative of the Communist Party urged that the Iraqi Government be prepared to conceal elements (‘anasir) of the organization al-Qa’ida in the district of Salman Pak, in addition to elements of the Turkish Workers’ Party and the Mujahidin Khalq Iraniyya, and that they are studying the use of chemical weapons. Iraq will (use them?) in case a military strike is directed toward them.

2. The concern of the Communist Party of Kurdistan (PKK) with informing Norwegian authorities of the existence of an individual on Norwegian soil, known as Malakrikar, of Arbil, responsible for the al-Qa’ida organizations there. When the Norwegian authorities attempted to arrest him he fled to China with his family.

3. On 8/15/2002, a joint meeting of the Iraqi and Kurdish Communist Parties was convened and called for unifying political positions on the international situation and the Iraqi (context?).

Michael Slade translated the document too. Here is how he rendered the most interesting paragraph:

Source/agent 1253 informed us of what follows:

1. On 7/21/2002 an American delegation visited the _______ area headquarters of the Iraqi Communist Party in Shaqlauah. A representative of the Communist Party accused the Iraqi government of hiding elements of the organization of Al-Qaeda in the region of Salman Pak, plus elements of the Turkish Workers Party and the Iranian Mujahideen Khalq and that they were studying the use of chemical weapons and whether Iraq will use them in case of __________________________________.

Note the difference between these translations: did the Iraqi Communists “urge” the Iraqi government to conceal al Qaeda members around Salman Pak, or “accuse” the government of doing so? The latter seems more likely, coming from an opposition group. Further, how much credibility do the Iraqi Communists have? Even if we assume that they believed Saddam’s government was harboring al Qaeda members in or around Salman Pak, how much weight would that carry?

I think there is a fundamental lesson here. Some observers may assume that the Harmony documents will contain bombshell revelations that will, in a paragraph or two, answer our questions about Saddam’s regime. That’s possible, of course; but more likely, it will require months or years of patient effort to work our way through millions of pages of documents, trying to assess the broad patterns that emerge.

This document doesn’t prove that Saddam was hiding al Qaeda members in or around Iraqi military installations in the months leading up to the war, but it certainly suggests a worthwhile avenue of investigation–one of many–as the document review project continues.

Thanks to Charles and Michael. If you’re interested in taking a crack at any of the untranslated documents on the Foreign Military Studies Office site, we’d encourage you to dive in. We’ll be happy to publish any interesting results.

UPDATE: Charles Perry writes:

Michael Slade’s translation of the verb in question is better than mine. I had a hard time reading the handwriting at that point in the memo, but I now see that the verb is indeed ‘arrada. However, I’d probably translate it as “insinuated” rather than “accused.”

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