Iraq and al Qaeda Connection and Cooperation?

It was reported that Powell stated a tape existed that showed a connection between bin Laden and Iraq.

Quote: “State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the tape corroborated the allegations that Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) made to the U.N. Security Council last week – that al Qaeda and the Iraqis were in contact and cooperating.”

Now, I don’t see the see anything in the excerpts that shows a connection with Iraq, other than bin Laden urging the Iraq people to resist America. If fact bin Laden states, “The fighting should be in the name of God only, not in the name of national ideologies, nor to seek victory for the ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including Iraq.”

Is the administration lying to us? Are they confused by the tape? Or is their view correct?

There is also the Abu Musab Zarqawi

evidence that was discussed here.

Thanks to Florentine_Pogen for his answer, but I still have a hard time believing his guy could be in Baghdad (with other al Qaeda operatives) and Saddam doesn’t know about it.
I know this topic has been discussed before, but it is usually in threads discussing other matters. So I would like to keep this thread to the subject of Iraq and al Qaeda and their possible connection and cooperation only. Please don’t discuss if you think we should go to war.

Well basically you have two men (Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein) for who there is no virtually evidence of a connection. Also you have the fact that they come from almost diametrically opposed political postions and there is a long history of animosity by one (OBL) towards the other (SH).

With all that we do know about the two, we can say a connection is unlikely but possible (Saddam isn’t fussy about his allies and Osama is in a desparate position).

There is a possible connection. That’s all we need to know. We cannot let Saddam get nuclear weapons because there is a possibility that he might make them available to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda would almost surely use them against us.

December…in one sense I tend to agree with you…the argument that Saddam MIGHT turn over some nasties to any terrorist organization (though I doubt he is cozy with al-Qaida) is one of the more compelling arguments for the war. Then again the same arguments may be made about Pakistan, N. Korea and Iran (which may be gearing up a nuclear program). If we are going down this line I think we should just be clear that we are no longer concerned with “due process” and will consider it kosher to attack anyone who we even reasonably suspect may be dealing with terrorist organizations. If we’re gonna go down that track though we need to accept the risks…that we will be perceived as a #1 bully, and that we are doing so out of self-interest, not a sense of justice or fairness. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do that…just that we should be direct about it.

If America’s policy is to launch preemptive war on nations that might “possibly” develop nuclear weapons, the result will be that certain nations will receive this message:

–Better hurry up and develop nuclear weapons as fast as possible, in order to prevent a preemptive war.

North Korea has exposed the fallacy of Bush’s logic, and Bush’s response to N. Korea is “negotiation” whereas his response to Iraq is war.

Can we please refrain from discussion on should we attack Iraq. I would like to keep the the debate to only if their is a copperative connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. Not what we should do about it if there is such a link.

Thank you.

Well, the answer to that is easy…“I dunno”

As to the OP: here is a link to one of the threads in which this most recent tape was discussed, and the thread includes a link to a full translation of the tape itself; as an Arabic-speaking analyst, I can say that I feel the translation is an accurate reflection of the original speech, as broadcast on al-Jazeera TV (I have also previously posted links to the original broadcast in Arabic, if anyone feels so inclined to listen).

In this tape, as in all others purportedly issued by ObL or al-Qaieda, there are no mentioned “links” or support of Saddam Hussein; you can read the transcript for yourself, and determine that there is nothing directly connecting ObL to Iraq, period. The most that anyone can deduce from this particular piece of “evidence” is the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” argument, and even that doesn’t really work if you take the whole speech in context: the excerpts you yourself have provided show that ObL doesn’t really consider Saddam a legitimate Muslim leader. An important point to make here, regarding semantics: the word “ignorant” in Arabic, when used by Islamists (especially of the fundamentalist bent), usually connotates either “non-Muslim” or “poor example of a Muslim.” This is also seen in its common usage to refer to Pre-Islamic history, which is often called the “time of ignorance.” So I think ObL (who is capable of pretty eloquent and educated Arabic) is making a point, to other Arabs, of supporting the Iraqi people, without directly supporting Saddam. To English speakers, the distinction would be pretty well lost in translation; I don’t think any Arab speaker would feel that the current broadcast (or any other ObL has purportedly made) in any way supports Saddam or his regime.

The Zarqawi evidence is also quite thin, and not really much to hang any charge of cooperation on: even the administration hasn’t really belabored the point, besides the already present comments. The fact is al-Qaieda cells are active in many places: there are evidence of cells in several European countries, Africa, and obviously even in the US before 9/11 (and there is little reason to suspect that all are gone from US territory even now). How much easier would it be for mostly Arabic-speaking Muslims to form cells in Arabic-speaking countries? If indeed there is corroborated evidence placing someone like Zarqawi in Baghdad, it is not surprising: he may have gone for medical treatment, and even recuperated there. If so, he would have been closely watched by the SSO, assuming they knew he was there (a pretty safe assumption, BTW). However, even if the US passed news of his whereabouts to the Iraqi government, it would have been difficult for the Iraqis to take direct action: this incident occurred in May 2002, at which point there was scrutiny of Iraq by the US, but no strong decisions had yet been made; the Iraqis have strongly supported the Palestinians, who have in turn given at least partial support for the Iraqis and Saddam; Zarqawi is Palestinian (often called Jordanian, but in fact a Palestinian from one of the Jordanian camps), and direct action against him by Saddam would have been counter-productive regarding both the Palestinians and al-Qaieda. And it is even possible that, by the time the Iraqis saw that Zarqawi was doing more than mending (by allegedly being in contact with Kurd-based al-Qaieda members) or by the time the US had provided specific information on his whereabouts, he was off to Syria or Lebanon, purportedly planning the assassination of Foley in Jordan.

Some suspect that he later returned to the Ansar al-Islam camps in the Kurd-held areas of Northern Iraq; however, this would not be a particularly safe place for him, as most persons involved there know (or at least highly suspect) that the CIA has ties and informants in that area, as does Saddam. Most likely, he has led people to believe that he is in that area, to spread confusion and to get us focused in that direction.

As for direct cooperation between the two entities: highly improbable, though not completely impossible in some limited way. The two have neither love nor trust for each other; indeed, it would be more likely for ObL to foster some kind of thought that the two are in cohoots, in order to bolster the likelihood of our attacking Iraq. A war against Iraq plays into the hands of ObL and al-Qaieda: it foments mistrust of the US, causes discord among the alliances (NATO and the UN), focuses our attention away from possible terrorist activities, and removes a source of annoyance to al-Qaieda that has existed for years (Saddam and his regime). ObL is a religious zealot, who is most likely convinced that he is on a holy path; as such, the destruction of Saddam’s regime, to him, provides an opportunity for the development of a possible religious regime in that area, sooner rather than later. He sees that whatever we may do in an attempt to reconstruct the region will be purely artificial and sure to collapse or disappear once we leave, as we eventually must; just like in Afghanistan, where the Soviets finally withdrew in exasperation. We are foreign to the area, and have little understanding of the region, its cultures, its traditions, its people, or its religion; in ObL’s view, we are like the Crusaders, and he is a spiritual Salah ad-Din (Saladin). His followers’ patience will eventually triumph over all of the evil: Saddam, the Saudi and Kuwaiti royal families, and us.

I think it can be safely stated that there is little other evidence to point to a connection between the two entities, either covert or open-source; if so, the US would be providing as much as possible to the members of the UNSC. There is one journalist that has attempted to make a connection (Safire), though his most recent article (in January of this year) was mostly a re-hash of a weakly supported article he wrote last year; this was discussed in a previous thread on the SDMB/GD a couple of weeks ago.

Hope this is close to what you were asking for in the OP


Greco, thank you for that very well thought out response.

Hey TJ, any time. Good OP, legitimate questions, and hope the response was adequate; could have widened the scope a bit, but I have to go to bed…

greco, perhaps you know of this, I heard it on a tv news report, but I can’t remember much details and I don’t know the veracity. It reported that about a decade ago Saddam and Al Qaeda met but their philosophical differences were too great to form any partnerships. To me, if true, this is disconcerting enough as it shows Saddam is willing to partner with terrorist groups. What happens when a group finds Saddam’s philosophy more to their liking, or doesn’t care?

the CIA admitted, last October (02), that they felt that Iraq was stopping short of aiding terrorist groups or committing terrorist acts, but that, if Hussein thought a war was unavoidable, that he’d be more free in offering help to terrorist organizations.

cite: Letters at 2 a.m. Michael Ventura.

December, I figured you wouldn’t want to act just on possibilities. Possibilities= bullshit. I figured you would want to act on fact. Perhaps I thought too highly of you.

Why? I thought Saddam had total control in Iraq, if he wanted to arrest or kill Zarqawi why couldn’t he?

Balduran, no, this is not something I have heard substantiated anywhere, and does not really make much sense: a decade ago ObL was most likely in Sudan, and hadn’t really formed an anti-Saudi or even anti-US leaning that was publically acknowledged. Al-Qaieda was still a fuzzy object, and less of an actual organization; it wasn’t until 95/96 that an al-Qaieda terrorist organization could really be said to have existed in any real way, though it was developing throughout the early 90’s. And it was even more obvious then, in the early days, that there was an ideological wall between ObL’s beliefs and the “secular” administrations such as Iraq; such a “meeting,” as unlikely as the idea may be, would actually be slightly more probable in the current environment than at any time in the past.

And as far as “what happens if a group…”, well, there are several groups that would happily take Saddam’s aid, and may very well already have: he definitely supported the PLO, and there are accusations that he has supported Hamas and even Hezbollah (though support for the latter is quite tenuous). Iraqi support for the Palestinians in general has gone on for years; it hasn’t made an enormous difference either way (though some will surely claim that his more recent support of the families of suicide bombers have increased the incidence of such attacks). Considering all of the attention Iraq currently receives from various intelligence agencies, I would think most groups would be finding a less overt and more capable sponsor; in addition, these groups tend to gravitate to those that espouse similar ideological beliefs, and such a secular regime is hard to reconcile with any particular ideology. Does this answer your question, at least to some extent?

TJ, sorry, but I guess parts of my post weren’t as clear as I would have liked them to be (it was late…). Here is my original treatment:

It’s not that Saddam couldn’t have taken direct action, but that such action would have been detrimental to him at the time. Let me break down the scenario a little better:

  1. There was some saber-rattling by the US at that time, but nothing like what occurred later in the year (September), so no particular fears by Saddam or his regime that the US was going to focus on Iraq in particular; we were busy with the Afghan action and chasing down al-Qaieda, so there was really no outside pressure for them to do anything if someone like Zarqawi was indeed in Baghdad. So, with no outside pressure, wouldn’t it still be in his interest to remove a senior al-Qaieda operative? Sure, if other factors weren’t also in play, such as:

  2. The Iraqi/Palestinian link is fairly well-established: there has been support for the Palestinians by the Iraqi regime and people for over 30 years. Zarqawi, though tied to al-Qaieda, is not just a Jordanian, but a Palestinian-Jordanian of some repute; unless there were serious activities that could be used to justify some sort of action against such a person, it would be better for Saddam to leave well enough alone. An arrest or assassination while in Baghdad would have sparked some level of irritation among the Palestinians (there are quite a few in Iraq), and he doesn’t need to spread his SSO forces any thinner. As long as his intelligence apparatus was keeping an eye on Zarqawi, and watching his acquaintances throughout his recuperation, they would have had the added benefit of learning just what level of al-Qaieda support existed in Iraq itself; another good reason to leave him under close observation, but to let him have freedom of movement.

  3. Any action against Zarqawi would also cause even more enmity with al-Qaieda actors within Iraq; although there is no particular amity between the two groups as it is, purposefully “poking them in the eye” would be counter-productive. Once again, they would most certainly plan some sort of retaliation, at a time when he can least afford it; and, without any obvious evidence of anti-Iraqi activity by Zarqawi, a strike against him would most certainly also inflame the Kurd Islamists as well. Again, not the most opportune time for him to be stirring up the pot among the Kurds, the Islamist fundamentalists, or any burdgeoning al-Qaieda cells.

Basically, what it boils down to is that it just wasn’t in Saddam’s best interest to take out Zarqawi; at some other point in history, Zarqawi may not have been so safe in Baghdad. However, it is probably safe to assume that, as a Palestinian-Jordanian, Zarqawi had made other trips to Iraq in the past, and most likely had a network of friends, acquaintances, or even family there to support him; as such, he may have felt relative safety in going there for medical attention, especially considering that Baghdad has been more or less closed to the West (the most likely people searching for him) for the past few years. I don’t see where collusion between al-Qaieda and the Hussein regime would have been required for this event to have occurred; there are other, more prosaic, reasons that make more sense in the current climate.

Hope this answered your question -


Greco, just wanted to say thanks for the insightful and informed comments.

Ditto what China Guy said. Thanks for answering my questions. It’s like I’m reading the BBC analysis articles!

I haven’t read through the other threads on SDMB about Iraq and al Qaeda, so its possible this stuff has already been disproved:

In this biography of Saddam, the opening chapter discusses Iraq’s preparations for war with America just prior to September 11th – the implication being that there has been information sharing between Iraq and Bin Laden.

Also, the lawsuit filed by families of some of the victims of 9/11 makes the claim that Iraq knew of the attacks in advance.

greco_loco, thanks you for another thoughful response.

Guys, you have me blushing again… :o Anyhow, glad to help, and thanks for the support.

Starbury, I haven’t seen anything else in the past month regarding the sources you mentioned, but I have to say that there isn’t a whole lot of support for either one. I was in the Gulf on a US military base during the 9/11 attacks; I don’t recall any particular alert concerning the Iraqi military (and we always go into alert when he raises his readiness. Trust me, we know when he does. However, even if he did, that is not all that unusual: in the past 12 years he has put his forces on alert (the highest level) several times, most simply for readiness exercises. As I have not read the book (the title turned me off, as it is a reference to a Nostradamus prophecy that some people believe Saddam fulfills), I cannot really do any further analysis on that particular accusation.

The lawsuit is equally nebulous, as any real proof would have to come from an accused Saddam supporter and government agent; it would virtually impossible to prosecute such a lawsuit, and the only possible reason I can see for its existence is political. Even the article cited was vague and ambiguous (much like a Nostradamus prophecy…hmm?); there just isn’t enough to go on anywhere to either prove or disprove either assertion. If the first were indeed correct, and there was proof (radio intercepts, signal traffic, imagery showing troop movements, etc), it would be easily verifiable; like I said, they have gone on alert many times, we are used to such activity, and it would be easy to recognize it. We could also analyze the type of traffic to find out whether the alert was exercise or combat preparation, and then postulate accordingly; however, although we do this regularly, we have seen nothing that points to such an occurrence during the suspect timeframe, so would have to conclude that such evidence does not exist (or, at least, no evidence seems to exist to show that such activity was nothing more than routine or coincidental). The second assertion, based on the lawsuit, is practically improvable, and will probably stay that way; unless, of course, we invade Iraq and capture papers that state something to support this, at which point there will no longer be an Iraq to take to court…

Best I can do with those…


What is the possibility that some Kurds are involved in al-Qaeda? They could be prime for recruitment, being that they are oppressed by two secular governments heavily subsidized at one time by the West.