Saddam had "no operational ties" to AQ: Pentagon

A new study commissioned by the Pentagon has reviewed over 600,000 documents captured in the invasion of Iraq, and the analysis shows no evidence of operational ties between Saddam Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda. It did find operational ties and more between Saddam and other terrorist groups, however, which will likely be lost in an avalanche of I-told-you-sos:

An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam’s regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy Newspapers. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.

The new study of the Iraqi regime’s archives found no documents indicating a “direct operational link” between Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.

The study found, though, that Saddam Hussein turned Iraq into a state sponsor of terrorism, including for groups with “global” scope. Saddam had openly bragged about some of his activities. He made a great show of paying $25,000 to families of Palestinian suicide bombers, for instance, and at one point held a convention for international terrorists in Baghdad.

McClatchy reporter Warren Strobel also includes a strange passage in this report:

As recently as last July, Bush tried to tie al-Qaida to the ongoing violence in Iraq.

“The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims,” the president said.

That has little to do with pre-war intelligence. Not too many people dispute that AQ has an active presence in Iraq in the post-invasion period, mostly because AQ keeps reminding people of it. The argument which the Pentagon report addresses is whether AQ existed in Iraq before we invaded, or whether they entered Iraq as a consequence of the invasion. Clearly, the Pentagon report believes it to be the latter.

As this report makes clear, though, Saddam sponsored terrorist groups outside of Iraq as well as conducted terror inside Iraq with his own security forces. He made himself into a malevolent force in the region, and he represented a threat to American and Western interests in the region. Had we let the sanctions regime collapse — which was what was happening when we invaded — Saddam would have restarted his WMD programs and would have continued in his ambitions to make himself the leader of a unified and hostile Arab state.

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