The case for removing Saddam Hussein from power just got due to an unlikely source: Wikileaks. Newly-released files about detainees held in Guantanamo Bay identify two individuals who served as liaisons between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
A leaked file says that Jawad Jabber Sadkhan, an Iraqi intelligence officer who moved to Afghanistan in 1998, “admittedly forged official documents and reportedly provided liaison between the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq.” The government of Afghanistan at that time was the Taliban, which employed him as a vicious interrogator for its intelligence service. His driver said he was also close to Osama Bin Laden, who paid him before and after the 9/11 attacks. Another detainee revealed that Sadkhan would travel to Iraq through Iran to retrieve supplies for the Taliban. Sadkhan was not universally popular, as his superior, Abdul-Hadi al-Iraqi, warned Saif al-Adel in November 1998 that he was part of a group of Iraqis “involved in un-Islamic activities.” This accusation did not end the relationship.
According to another detainee named Abbas Habid Rumi al-Naely, Sadkhan was a member of one of Saddam Hussein’s top units tasked with assassinating political opponents. The U.S. government also identified al-Naely as a liaison between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Al-Qaeda. He joined the Taliban in 1994 while living in Baghdad. One U.S. government memo shows he was accused of preparing attacks on the U.S. and British embassies in Pakistan in August 1998 with an Iraqi intelligence officer on the orders of Osama Bin Laden. Later memos did not include the charge.
The disclosures show that the Iraqi regime and Al-Qaeda were willing to maintain a relationship despite their political and theological differences. Critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom are right that no “operational” link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda was discovered, but they are wrong to dismiss the seriousness of the links that were. The Iraqi Perspectives Project, which reviewed over 600,000 captured Iraqi government documents, found that “Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al-Qaeda … or that generally shared al-Qaeda’s stated goals and objectives.” His regime was “willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be a part of al-Qaeda as long as the organization’s near-term goals supported Saddam’s long-term vision.”
The Duelfer Report’s conclusion that Iraq did not possess stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when the invasion began overshadowed its other disturbing contents. It confirmed that Iraqi intelligence trained terrorists from around the Arab world at Salman Pak, a “counter-terrorism” training camp that housed a Boeing airliner to simulate hijackings. Iraqi defectors who were at the site noticed the similarities of the exercises to the 9/11 attacks. According to reporter Stephen Hayes, about 2,000 terrorists were trained every year since 1999 at three camps.
The report also unveiled spectacular acts of terrorism plotted by Saddam’s regime. One detainee revealed that the regime planned to use an unmanned aerial vehicle packed with C4 to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Western Wall. Such vehicles were indeed being secretly produced and test flown. A regional war could have resulted if this plot went through.
Another member of Iraqi intelligence said that Iraqi intelligence “had a plan to produce and weaponize nitrogen mustard in rifle grenades and a plan to bottle sarin and sulfur mustard in perfume sprayer and medicine bottles which they would ship to the United States and Europe.” Notably, in 1998, the U.K. went on high alert after receiving credible intelligence that Iraq was planning to smuggle biological weapons into the country in the manner described by the detainee. He said it ultimately did not happen because of difficulties in acquiring the types of ingredients necessary to carry out the plan.
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