Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Was there a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam? I doubt it

In assessing whether the war in Iraq was justified, some argue that there was a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and therefore there was a 9/11 justification of the war. So far as I have been able to tell, the evidence for that is not very good. But if you think otherwise, feel free to provide some counter-argumentation.



Jim S. said...

As far as I can tell, no one in the Bush administration ever claimed that there was an operational connection between Saddam Hussein and Iraq. I think someone found a clip of Cheney saying that they were pursuing a possible connection in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but the next day he followed up and said there isn't a connection. The Iraq War was not predicated on a connection to al-Qaeda, the Afghanistan War was. The Iraq War was based on the idea that we can't just attack the specific terrorist group that attacked us, we have to go after worldwide terrorism, and the best way to do that is to go after the biggest state sponsor of terrorism, which at the time was Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Whether this was appropriate and whether, if it was appropriate, it was done in an appropriate way is an issue I'm not addressing.

Of course, Saddam Hussein had connections to al-Qaeda that were not operational in nature, like diplomatic connections. He offered Osama bin Laden sanctuary in 1999. You can't offer someone sanctuary if you have no diplomatic connections to them. This shouldn't be too surprising since Saddam had ties to just about every terrorist group in the region (at least those directed against the West, America, or Israel). There was even a presidential order from him to establish contact with any terrorist group that arose to see if he could help them in some way.

However, in 2008 the Pentagon released a report detailing that Saddam Hussein was financially supporting two terrorist organizations that operated under the banner of Al-Qaeda: Egypt's Islamic Jihad (which was headed by Al-Zawahiri, Osama's right-hand man and the current leader of al-Qaeda) and the Army of Muhammad (which, I think, was based in Bahrain). Since these two groups were al-Qaeda subsidiaries, there was at least a financial connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda -- and if you think financial sponsorship is a type of operational connection, as I do (it's funding their operations), then there was an operational connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda after all.

Here's a link to the Pentagon Report:

Jim S. said...

Oof. I just read this and saw the typo in the first sentence. Should read "an operational connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Sorry.