Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 23, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

OSAMA AND SADDAM REDUX....Via Instapundit comes this blast from the past, a Guardian article from February 1999:

Saddam Hussein's regime has opened talks with Osama bin Laden, bringing closer the threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, according to US intelligence sources and Iraqi opposition officials.

The key meeting took place in the Afghan mountains near Kandahar in late December [1998].

....An acting US counter-intelligence official confirmed the report. "Our understanding over what happened matches your account, but there's no one here who is going to comment on it."

Ahmed Allawi, a senior member of the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC), based in London, said he had heard reports of the December meeting which he believed to be accurate. "There is a long history of contacts between Mukhabarat [Iraqi secret service] and Osama bin Laden," he said. Mr Hijazi, formerly director of external operations for Iraqi intelligence, was "the perfect man to send to Afghanistan".

Analysts believe that Mr Hijazi offered Mr bin Laden asylum in Iraq, most likely in return for co-operation in launching attacks on US and Saudi targets. Iraqi agents are believed to have made a similar offer to the Saudi maverick leader in the early 1990s when he was based in Sudan.

This isn't really news, though. The 9/11 commission report that's been the center of attention for the past week mentioned both the Sudan meetings in 1994 and these meetings, which came shortly after Clinton bombed Iraq following the exit of the UN inspectors. And we know that nothing came of them.

As always, the point isn't that Saddam never had any contact with al-Qaeda. He did. But the contacts were brief, sporadic, and apparently never picked up again after this one. The credible evidence indicates that there had been no serious contact between Saddam and al-Qaeda for over four years by the time we invaded Iraq in 2003.

You can decide for yourself whether that's good enough to justify the war, of course. Just stay aware of the facts.

Kevin Drum 12:43 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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