Thursday, July 21, 2005

More on the Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship

Having given us Stephen Hayes' groundbreaking reporting on the connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda, the Weekly Standard is now running daily updates highlighting various aspects of the relationship:

-On Monday, Stephen Hayes discussed the failure of US intelligence to adequately investigate Baathist Iraq's ties to terrorism:

Among the many reasons journalists today don't seem particularly interested in covering the Iraq-al Qaeda connection, three stand out. First, the mainstream press long ago settled on a storyline to describe the case for the Iraq War: the Bush administration lied, or at least exaggerated, to take us to war. Second, the Bush administration is doing little to encourage journalists to write a corrective. Third, intelligence sources, as the DIA example makes clear, have no interest in setting the story straight.

We know from a variety of reporting--including the Joint Congressional Inquiry, the 9/11 Commission, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee--that the U.S intelligence community had no firsthand credible reporting on the leadership of al Qaeda or the Iraqi regime. One IC analyst explained the intelligence community's view of Iraq and terrorism in an interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee: "I don't think we were really focused on the CT [counterterrorism] side, because we weren't concerned about the IIS [Iraqi Intelligence Service] going out and proactively conducting terrorist attacks."

-On Tuesday, Thomas Joscelyn noted that it was only a few years ago that the existence of ties between Iraq and al Qaeda was the conventional wisdom, and with good reason.

Indeed, as the current war in Iraq approached many forgot or ignored Saddam's response to the four-day war of December 1998. It is a shame because his response to that four-day bombing campaign--the largest since the first Gulf War--was telling. In his quest for revenge he had few options, but one of those was Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.

-Finally, on Wednesday, Dan Darling provided a terrific piece on Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein's number two man and the highest ranking Baathist still at large. Al-Douri was the driving force behind the Baathist regime's Islamization campaign of the 1990's, and is reported to have strong ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

AT FIRST GLANCE, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri does not appear to be the most likely candidate to serve as an ally of militant Islamists. The former vice chairman of the Iraqi Baath Party's Revolutionary Command Council, al-Douri was the only member of Saddam's inner circle not in Baghdad when the city fell, having had the luck or foresight to set up his headquarters in the northern city of Mosul. One of the earliest members of the Iraqi Baath party and one of the three survivors of the 1968 coup that brought the Baathists to power inside Iraq, al-Douri has emerged since the fall of Saddam Hussein as a key leader within the insurgency. As Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz explained in June 2004, the insurgency "was led by Saddam Hussein up until his capture in December. It's been led, in part, by his No. 2 or 3, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, since then."

No one disputes al-Douri's brutality or his reputation for ruthlessness. Following the first Gulf War, al Douri was one of the chief architects of the campaign to suppress the uprising that followed the conflict in the south. In addition, he helped to supervise the al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds during the Iraq-Iran War, including the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish settlements in 1987. Yet evidence has surfaced since the fall of the insurgency that in addition to assuming command of at least some of the remnants of the Iraqi military, security, and intelligence forces as well as the surviving Baath party cadres, al-Douri has also been able to maintain ties with the Islamist elements of the insurgency.


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