Thursday, July 01, 2004

New Articles on Iraq and al-Qaeda

Since I last dealt with the issue of the Iraq-al Qaeda connection at length two weeks ago, several new articles of note have been published.

Stephen Hayes, the clear expert on this topic, has written two new pieces for the Weekly Standard. One, from the July 5/12 issue of the Standard, addresses what the Clinton Administration had to say about ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda:

Bill Clinton Was Right

The second article, which is Web-only, discusses comments by Iraq's Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, from a recent interview with Tom Brokaw, on Saddam's links to terrorism:

The Prime Minister Speaks

On June 25, the same New York Times which proclaimed in a June 17 editorial that "there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda", ran an article confirming that such evidence did indeed exist:

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.

Iraqis, Seeking Foes of Saudis, Contacted bin Laden, File Says

Finally, Michael Isikoff published a piece in the July 5 issue of Newsweek that casts doubt on one piece of evidence supporting an Iraq-al Qaeda connection:

A captured Qaeda commander who was a principal source for Bush administration claims that Osama bin Laden collaborated with Saddam Hussein's regime has changed his story, setting back White House efforts to shore up the credibility of its original case for the invasion of Iraq. The apparent recantation of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a onetime member of bin Laden's inner circle, has never been publicly acknowledged. But U.S. intelligence officials tell NEWSWEEK that al-Libi was a crucial source for one of the more dramatic assertions made by President George W. Bush and his top aides: that Iraq had provided training in "poisons and deadly gases" for Al Qaeda.

Iraq and Al Qaeda

Isikoff reports that al-Libi changed his story after "U.S. interrogators went back to al-Libi with new evidence from other detainees that cast doubt on his claims." Isikoff doesn't provide any details as to what al-Libi's new story is. It could be, as Isikoff suggests, that al-Libi simply told our interrogators what they wanted to hear originally. Of course, it could also be that al-Libi told the truth originally, and upon hearing that others were sticking with the cover story decided to do the same. One thing to keep in mind is that Isikoff has been one of the main journalistic conduits for those in the intelligence community who seek to disprove the notion of Iraq-al Qaeda ties, just as Hayes has been for those who strongly support the thesis.

The story has one more interesting item:

Meanwhile, NEWSWEEK has learned, Pentagon officials are culling through captured Iraqi documents they say will provide hard evidence of multiple contacts between Iraqi officials and Qaeda members over a decade. Current plans call for a massive "document dump" before the election. But officials acknowledge ultimate proof may prove elusive. "It all depends on what your definition of a relationship is," said one.

Of course, as the Times article cited above demonstrates, documents showing such a relationship have already surfaced. I, for one, would like to see such an additional "document dump", as I believe it would settle the issue. Isikoff's sources, on the other hand, seem to be downplaying the significance of such evidence.


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