Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had extensive ties to terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, according to an official report published by the Pentagon’s Institute for Defense Analyses and released through the Joint Forces Command.
That report, Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents, came up with some startling revelations in its 59 pages:
• Saddam’s Iraq trained terrorists for use inside and outside Iraq and in 1999 sent 10 terrorist-training graduates to London to carry out attacks throughout Europe. (Page 1)
• Saddam’s Iraq stockpiled munitions (including explosives, missile launchers and silencer-equipped small arms) at its embassies in the Middle East, Asia and parts of Europe. (Pages 3-4)
• In September of 2001, Saddam’s Iraq sought out and compiled a list of 43 suicide-bomb volunteers in a “Martyrdom Project.” (Pages 7-8)
• The report contains language from a captured Iraqi document which references an attempted assassination of Danielle Mitterand, wife of French President Francois Mitterand, by car bomb. (Page 11)
• The report’s authors describe Saddam’s Iraq as a “long-standing supporter of international terrorism” including several organizations designated as international terrorist organizations by the US State Department. (Page 13)
• Among the organizations that captured Iraqi documents indicate were supported by Saddam’s Iraq were: (Pages 13-15).
> Fatah-Revolutionary Council (Abu Nidal Organization). (Author’s note: Abu Nidal was generally considered the world’s most dangerous terrorist in the late 1980s.)
> Palestine Liberation Front (led by Abu al-Abbas). (Author’s note: Abbas was the mastermind of the Achille Lauro hijacking and the murderer of American Leon Klinghoffer.)
> Renewal and Jihad Organization, which the Iraqi documents describe as a “Secret Islamic Palestinian Organization” that “believes in armed jihad against the Americans and Western interests.”
> Islamic Ulama Group, a radical Islamist group in northern Pakistan.
> The Afghani Islamic Party, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. (Author’s note: Hekmatyar is an Afghan mujahideen warlord who is worked with Osama Bin Laden during the 1990s. US intelligence agencies have lost track of Hekmatyar, but believe that he was trying to join Al Qaeda in 2002 when he released a video message calling for armed jihad against the United States. Reports from BBC-TV and CNN claim that Hekmatyar helped Osama Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora in 2002.
> Islamic Jihad Organization (Egyptian Islamic Jihad). This is perhaps the most startling revelation in the report. Egyptian Islamic Jihad was founded and led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, now Al Qaeda’s co-leader. The group is most infamous for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Zawahiri is known to have worked in the Al Qaeda organization since its inception, while he was still leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad in fact. Al Qaeda was started around 1989 and Zawahiri is said to have been a senior member from its earliest days. He was present in Afghanistan with Bin Laden at the time and later he was in Sudan with Bin Laden until being expelled in 1996 and eventually returning to Afghanistan. In 1998, Zawahiri formally merged Egyptian Islamic Jihad with Al Qaeda and has served as co-leader of Al Qaeda ever since. Iraq’s relationship with Egyptian Islamic Jihad was so close that captured documents indicate that Iraq was able to request that the group hold off on operations against the regime in Egypt in 1993.
In other words, Saddam’s Iraq had a longstanding relationship with the co-leader of Al Qaeda.
• Captured documents show that Saddam’s Iraq was training non-Iraqis in Iraqi training camps a decade before Operation Desert Storm, including fighters from the following nations: Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Eritrea, and Morroco. (Pages 15-16)
• A captured memorandum shows that Saddam’s Iraq had an agreement with an Islamist terrorist group to conduct operations against Egypt during the first Gulf War. (Page 16)
• A detailed, captured document from 1993 “illuminated how the outwardly secular Saddam regime found common cause with terrorist groups who drew their inspiration from radical Islam.” (Page 17)
• In January 1993, as the American military’s humanitarian mission was begun in Somalia, Saddam directed that Iraq “form a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil, especially Somalia.” (Page 18) Interestingly, Osama Bin Laden was setting up identical operations at the same time.
• Saddam’s secret intelligence service (IIS) hosted 13 conferences in 2002 for various terrorist groups. (Page 19)
• Captured Iraqi documents say that the IIS issued passports to known members of terrorist groups. (Page 19)
• Saddam’s Iraq had close ties and provided funding to Hamas, the Palestinian jihadist organization. Captured documents indicate that Hamas offered to carry out attacks for Saddam’s Iraq in return for his support. In fact, Hamas representatives informed the Iraqis that the organization had 35 armed cells around the world hidden among refugees, including in France, Sweden and Denmark. (Pages 24-25).
• Saddam’s IIS manufactured bombs in the early 1990s for terrorist Abu Abbas to conduct attacks against American and other interests. Three instances of these bombs failing are evidently the only thing that prevented terrorist attacks against these interests: (Page 30)
“A bomb intended to destroy the American ambassador’s residence in Jakarta, Indonesia failed.”
“Bombs designed to destroy the American Airlines office and Japanese embassy in the Philippines exploded prematurely and damaged only the front of the office, while killing one and wounding another of the terrorists transporting the explosives.”
• Saddam’s Iraq carried out terrorist attacks on members of humanitarian organizations operating in the Kurdish areas of Northern Iraq, including Doctors Without Borders, Handicap International and UN-affiliated organizations. (Pages 31-33)
• The IIS was willing to reach out to jihadist terrorist groups, including those known to be affiliated with Al Qaeda. This includes the “Army of Muhammad” in Bahrain, which had threatened Kuwaiti authorities and had plans to attack American and Western interests. (Pages 35-36)
• The report concludes with the following question: “Is there anything in the captured archives to indicate that Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against the United States?” The Institute for Defense Analyses then provides the answer:
Those who claim that Saddam had no “direct, operational ties” to Al Qaeda are attempting to narrow the definition of “terrorist-sponsoring nation” to an impossible scope. By this definition, a nation, like Saddam’s Iraq, can provide money, arms, safe haven and cooperation to jihadist terrorist groups and not have “direct, operational ties” to terrorists.
This was never the standard by which a nation found itself on the US State Department’s list of terrorist-sponsoring nations and implies that, unless a dictator is found directly ordering a terrorist attack, that dictator cannot be considered as linked to a terrorist group.
The “direct, operational ties” standard was invented after the overthrow of Saddam and is a ridiculous standard that can never be met.
Five years after United States forces overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Pentagon has produced a blockbuster report that has been both misrepresented and ignored. That report shows that Saddam’s Iraq had extensive ties to international terrorist groups, both Islamist and secular, including organizations that were part of Al Qaeda. No ginned up definition invented for domestic political consumption can change the truth.