Bush always suspected Saddam was behind 9/11
by Con Coughlin, London Telegraph, Apr 27, 2003

The revelation that Saddam Hussein's intelligence chiefs were seeking to establish links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda network is the first concrete proof that the dictator was colluding with the world's most ruthless terrorist operation. The documents discovered yesterday by The Telegraph in the former headquarters of the Iraqi intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, will also reopen the debate about whether Saddam was directly involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

The issue of Saddam's involvement has been a long-standing source of contention between London and Washington. In the days immediately following the attacks, President George W Bush confided to colleagues that he believed that Saddam was directly involved in the attacks. "He probably was behind this in the end," he said. In his State of Union speech in January, Mr Bush made the case for confronting Iraq, saying: "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qa'eda." This belief has been the driving force behind Washington's determination to seek "regime change" in Baghdad, particularly after Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, indicated in February that he had received intelligence reports that al-Qa'eda operatives had approached Iraq about co-operating on chemical and biological weapons.

Washington's insistence that Saddam had links with bin Laden was not reciprocated in London, where Tony Blair, acting on the advice he received from British intelligence, was more circumspect about the links. During his appearance before a Commons select committee in January, Mr Blair said that while "there is some intelligence about loose links between al-Qa'eda and various people in Iraq", he was unaware of any evidence linking Saddam to September 11.

Until now, most of the evidence presented by Washington to prove the link between Saddam and al-Qa'eda has been inconclusive. In the weeks immediately after the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration was keen to draw attention to a report issued by the Czech Republic's interior ministry claiming that Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker, had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague earlier that year. The report later turned out to be false. Washington was similarly frustrated earlier this year when it claimed that an al-Qa'eda cell called al-Ansar al-Islam was operating in Iraq. It later transpired that the group was active in a region beyond Saddam's control.

The new documentation uncovered by The Telegraph, however, is the first concrete evidence to emerge to back up claims made by Mr Powell during his presentation to the United Nations Security Council. He said Iraqi intelligence had funded a number of terrorist training camps in Sudan in the 1990s which were used by al-Qa'eda. During his presentation, Mr Powell said that al-Qa'eda had been working with Baghdad since the early 1990s after reaching an understanding that bin Laden would stop targeting Saddam's regime. "Ties were forged by secret, high-level intelligence contacts," he said. "We know members of both organisations have met at least eight times at very senior levels since the early 1990s. In 1996 . . . bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Khartoum, and later met with the director of the Iraqi intelligence service." US officials also claimed that Saddam was particularly impressed by al-Qa'eda's 1998 terrorist attacks against the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and sent Iraqi intelligence officers to help train al-Qa'eda fighters in Afghanistan after bin Laden was forced to move his base there from Sudan.

The documents also give the lie to those who said that al-Qa'eda, the Islamic zealots, would have nothing to do with the brutally secular regime of Saddam. It appears that their shared hatreds - of America, of Saudi Arabia, of the West - outweighed such considerations. "This discovery backs up everything we have heard about Baghdad's dealings with bin Laden," a Western intelligence official said last night. "It shows that Iraqi intelligence was desperate to form an alliance with al-Qa'eda. And if Saddam was working with bin Laden from the mid-1990s, that raises the question of whether he was involved in the 9/11 attacks."

Saddam himself always rigorously denied having any links with al-Qa'eda. During an interview with Tony Benn, the Left-wing former MP, in early January, Saddam said: "We have no relationship with al-Qa'eda." He added: "If we had a relationship with al-Qaeda and we believed in that relationship, we would not be ashamed to admit it."

Ohio trucker in al Qaeda bust (sneaking evil-doers into USA for spring/summer offensive). NY Post, May 27, 2003. Go to 28.Reality Control

Smoking gun stinks of spooks (documents found in Baghdad to justify war). Daily Mirror, Apr 28, 2003

Bush suspected Saddam in 9-11. Telegraph, Apr 27, 2003


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