Pentagon Report Fails to Link Saddam, Al-Qaida
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The Pentagon has released a 2,000-page report on Saddam Hussein's involvement in terrorism. The study is based on the analysis of Iraqi documents captured after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And here's the conclusion: Saddam's regime carried out numerous terrorist operations and provided sanctuary and support to several terrorist groups, but not al-Qaida.
NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.
TOM GJELTEN: Investigators spent four years going through documents from the inner reaches of Saddam Hussein's regime, notes of meetings, intelligence reports, diplomatic cables, transcripts of conversations, plus audio and video recordings of meetings and conferences. The result is a thoroughly documented report on a regime that in many ways exemplified the willingness to use terrorism for political ends.
The Iraqi Intelligence Service under Saddam Hussein trained assassins and bomb makers and sent them on missions at home and abroad. Weapons were stored in Iraqi embassies. One document lists some: a missile launcher at the embassy in Romania, rifles with silencers at the mission in Vienna, plastic explosive chargers and booby-trapped suitcases in India and Thailand.
The documents show that terrorist operations in Saddam's Iraq were sophisticated. One document details the production and testing of a car bomb. A so-called duty delivery form certifies the training of the car bomb operator and even provides a bomb warranty, good for one month from the date of delivery.
The terrorist operations targeted Saddam's enemies, dissidents like Ahmad Chalabi in London. Also, Iraqi Kurds and Iraqi Shiites, some of whom were targeted in Iran.
Bruce Hoffman, a terrorist specialist at Georgetown University, is by no means surprised by what the documents reveal.
Professor BRUCE HOFFMAN (Terrorist specialist, Georgetown University): Saddam Hussein was the type of person that would stoop to, literally, every means possible to stifle both internal and external dissent and was certainly not above making common cause with terrorists when he thought it would suit his agenda.
GJELTEN: The document suggests that the Iraqi regime sought Arab volunteers, but not Iraqis, for suicide bombing missions. It supported international terrorists and their groups.
One Iraqi document says the Palestine Liberation Front, led by Abu Abbas, quote, "carried out commando operations for us against American interests in the 1991 war," unquote.
Another document said the Iraqi regime agreed on a plan with the Islamic jihad group in Egypt, quote, "to carry out commando operations against the Egyptian regime," unquote.
The one group Saddam Hussein apparently did not collaborate with was al-Qaida. The investigators say in the opening pages of their report that they found, quote, "no smoking gun tying Saddam to Osama bin Laden's network." The Bush administration alleged there was such a link in justifying the invasion of Iraq.
But Bruce Hoffman says this study, commissioned by the U.S. military's joint forces command should put to rest the idea that Saddam Hussein was somehow behind the 9/11 attacks.
Professor HOFFMAN: Given the authoritative nature of the source, given the voluminous documentary detail that it's amassed, the conclusion is inescapable and this is a dog that didn't bark.
GJELTEN: Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, the investigators observed, saw terrorism as part of a jihad that would topple apostate governments, unite Muslims and restore the caliphate.
But when the Iraqi regime worked to overthrow the Egyptian government or the Kuwait royal family, the vision was always about the centrality of Saddam, the investigators write, never about the glory of Islam.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.
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