Iraqi documents hint at links to al-Qaeda
NEWLY released documents seized in Iraq immediately after the American invasion in 2003 point to the presence of Al-Qaeda members in the country before the war and moves to hide traces of chemical or biological materials from United Nations weapons inspectors.
The documents were posted on the internet as part of a rolling programme by the US government to make public the contents of 48,000 boxes of untranslated papers and tapes relating to the workings of Saddam Husseins regime. Saddam is said to have routinely taped talks with cabinet members and intelligence chiefs.
John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, was ordered by President George W Bush to release the material. Hundreds of thousands of previously unseen documents and hundreds of hours of tapes will be placed on the web in the coming weeks.
The first documents to be released offer tantalising clues to possible Iraqi contacts with Al-Qaeda. An Iraqi intelligence report dated September 15, 2001 four days after the attacks on America says Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban were in contact with Iraq and Al-Qaeda members had visited the country.
It claims America had proof that the Iraqi government and Bin Ladens group had agreed to co-operate to attack targets in America and that the US might strike Iraq and Afghanistan in retaliation.
However, the information comes from an unidentified Afghan informant who states merely that he heard it from an Afghan consul, also unnamed. According to ABC News, which translated the tapes, the claims are sensational but the sourcing is questionable.
Another document from a trustworthy source and dated August 2002 claims people with links to Al-Qaeda were in Iraq. There is a picture a few pages later of the Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But the papers suggest Saddams agents were trying to verify the presence of Al-Qaeda rather than colluding with it.
Documents from 1997 confirm that Saddam was giving UN weapons inspectors the runaround by removing correspondence concerned with prohibited weapons and clearing labs and storages of any traces of chemical or biological materials.
The transcript of one tape recording shows an official named as Comrade Husayn expressing concern to Saddam that outsiders would find out about imported material, including some from America, apparently for chemical weapons.
They have a bigger problem with the chemical programme than the biological programme, he tells Saddam. We have not told them that we used it on Iran, nor have we told them about the size or kind of chemical weapons that we produced and we have not told them the truth about the imported material.
In another taped conversation from the mid-1990s, a man called al-Sahhaf possibly a former information minister says: On the nuclear file, sir, are we saying we disclosed everything? No, we have uncleared problems in the nuclear field.
Apparently confirming that the nuclear programme had been abandoned, he adds: Everything is over, but did they know? No, sir, they did not know, not all the methods, not all the means, not all the scientists and not all the places.
Saddam expelled the UN inspectors from Iraq in 1998.
Bush intervened personally to secure the release of the documents after Bill Tierney, an Arabic-speaking former UN weapons inspector hired by the government to translate
12 hours of Saddams tapes, revealed their contents at a private intelligence conference near Washington last month.
On one tape, recorded in the mid-1990s, the Iraqi dictator is heard to say: Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans . . . and told the British as well . . . that in future there will be terrorism with weapons of mass destruction.
Posted by: Dan Darling 2006-03-19