What They Omitted
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Recently the Senate Intelligence Committee published the second phase of its investigation into Iraq. The document has an outrageously lengthy name: “Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on Postwar Findings About Iraq’s WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare with Prewar Assessments, Together with Additional Views.” It is a tendentious paper, reflecting Democratic posturing on the eve of the congressional elections. Four Republican senators on the committee complained in their dissent that it was written “with more partisan bias than we have witnessed in a long time in Washington.” That is an apt characterization of the section dealing with Iraq and terrorism.
The committee chose largely to ignore or discount information showing that Saddam Hussein’s regime was actively involved in terrorism from 1991 to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom for some years before Operation Iraqi Freedom began. One telling example is the statement of Centcom spokesman, General Vincent Brooks, on April 6, 2003, as American forces rushed toward Baghdad. General Brooks described an American raid on Salman Pak, a large Iraqi intelligence compound south of the city, stating: “This raid occurred in response to information that had been gained by coalition forces from some foreign fighters we encountered from other countries, not Iraq. And we believe that this camp had been used to train these foreign fighters in terror tactics, …one of a number of examples we’ve found where there is training activity happening inside of Iraq. It reinforces the likelihood of links between his regime and external terrorist organizations, clear links with common interests. Some of these fighters came from Sudan, some from Egypt, and some from other places.” Originally included in the report, General Brooks’ statement was removed by an 8-7 vote, with Republican Senator Hagel siding with the Democrats.
The millions of documents captured in Iraq fare little better in this review. Only a small fraction of the documents have been processed, but one American official familiar with them told this author that they nonetheless reveal such extensive Iraqi dealings with terrorists that they justify the war. Journalist Stephen Hayes reported in the Weekly Standard on January 16, that captured documents and photographs reveal that between 1999 and 2002, Saddam’s regime trained over 8,000 “radical Islamic terrorists” at three camps in Iraq, including Salman Pak.
A Defense Department study, “Iraq Perspectives Project,” was published earlier this year. It cited a captured document, dated October 7, 2000, that stated, “Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting ‘Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, the Gulf, and Syria.'” The study pointedly adds, “It is not clear from available evidence where all these non-Iraqi volunteers who were ‘sacrificing for the cause’ went to ply their newfound skills.” In congressional testimony, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Woods, who headed the study, set the date for Iraq’s terrorist activities even earlier, affirming they were “increasing from 1995 on.”
Yet in its evaluation of the postwar information on Salman Pak, the Senate report begins by citing a June 7, 2006, response from the Defense Intelligence Agency to questions from its staff, in which the DIA claims “it has no credible reports that non-Iraqis were trained to conduct or support transnational terrorist operations at Salman Pak after 1991.” Although the DIA allows that such training occurred during the 1991 war, the DIA maintains that it ceased and the foreign terrorists captured in Iraq were recent arrivals. That they may have been, but, of course, the DIA position ignores the documentary evidence that terrorist training had resumed in Iraq by the late 1990s.
Despite its partisan nature, the report includes useful bits of new information. It verifies the authenticity of a long-secret document from the early 1990s first released by Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, several years ago in 2004. Faruq Hijazi, former deputy director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, whose signature appears on the document, confirmed its authenticity, as did other Intelligence Service officers, the Senate report explains.
The top-secret Intelligence Service memo, dated March 28, 1992, was prepared in response to an order from Saddam two months before. Two Intelligence Service divisions — Foreign Intelligence, M-4, and Counter-Intelligence, M-5 — review their contacts with Kuwaitis and Saudis, naming both “old sources” and “new opportunities.” Osama bin Laden is listed among M-4’s old sources and is briefly described: as a “known Saudi merchant, a Saudi opposition official. The Syrian section has a relationship with him.” Yet bin Laden does not appear to have had special importance for the Intelligence Service then. He is just one individual quickly mentioned in a 20-page memo that deals only with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (almost certainly, similar memos were prepared on other countries considered enemies of Iraq).
The Senate report also confirms the authenticity of an Iraqi intelligence document written five years later, titled “The Saudi Opposition and Achieving Relations with It.” Bin Laden is now of much greater interest to the service. The document, which reviews intelligence service contacts with four Saudi opposition groups, including bin Laden’s, makes clear that Iraq is actively exploring prospects for developing relationships with them. Sudan’s ruling National Islamic Front, one of Iraq’s few allies then, acts as an intermediary with two Saudi figures: bin Laden and another Islamic radical, Mohammed al-Mas’ari, then resident in London.
In December 1994, a Sudanese emissary informs the intelligence chief, Rafi’ Dahham al-Tikriti, that bin Laden would see him in Sudan, despite bin Laden’s apprehensions that his rivals might portray him as an Iraqi agent.This contact is obviously important to Baghdad; the intelligence service chief would not see just anyone, and his deputy, Hijazi, is also present. At the February 19, 1995, meeting, bin Laden asks for assistance on several issues, including “to carry out joint operations against foreign forces” in Saudi Arabia. Baghdad agrees only to broadcast the sermons of a radical Saudi cleric (whose name the committee spells two different ways on successive pages). The document concludes, “The relationship with [bin Laden] continues to be through the Sudanese side, and we are working at the present time to activate this relationship through a new channel in the light of the headquarters of his current whereabouts [in Afghanistan].”
The Senate report, however, accepts the claim of former Iraqi officials, including Hijazi, that it was bin Laden who sought out the Iraqis, and Saddam would have virtually nothing to do with him or with any other Islamic radicals, because he “did not trust” them. The documents cited here would suggest that is simply not true. Indeed, were it not for their extreme partisanship and the upcoming elections, even most Democrats probably would acknowledge this.
Ms. Mylroie is an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein’s War Against America.”