- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Newly declassified documents captured in Iraq show that Saddam Hussein’s regime had extensive ties with a variety of Islamist and other terrorist groups, in some cases dating back to the early 1990s. Saddam’s Iraqi Intelligence Service (or Mukhabarat) established a working relationship with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, whose leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, later merged the group with al Qaeda, according to a new report by the Institute for Defense Analyses. In addition, the Mukhabarat trained scores of non-Iraqi Arabs to attack Israel. The new report contains copies of captured Iraqi documents that provide what may be the most detailed picture ever of Baghdad’s support for terrorism.

Few stories in recent memory have been as badly misreported by the mainstream media. News outlets — including The Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN and ABC —all issued reports earlier this month declaring that the IDA report showed no link between Saddam and al Qaeda. While the report does say that there was no direct operational link between the two, its most significant new disclosure may be evidence of ties between Zawahri’s EIJ and Saddam’s regime. A 1993 memo from Iraqi intelligence to Saddam says that Iraq had aided the Egyptian group previously and was restarting contacts with the goal of overthrowing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government. Two other Iraqi memos included in the IDA report describe the EIJ’s terrorist bona fides, including its assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and emphasize the importance of training and financing that group. Zawahri, who is believed to be in hiding with Osama bin Laden, is on the FBI’s most-wanted-terrorism list for his role in the Sept. 11 attacks and the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

In fact, the al Qaeda connection only scratches the surface of Saddam’s terrorist ties. As Rowan Scarborough reported in this newspaper on Friday, the IDA report reveals that Saddam provided millions of dollars and arms to Palestinian terror groups and trained Palestinians in Iraqi terror camps. Saddam’s security service maintained representatives in the West Bank and Gaza, who met with Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin and conveyed his military needs to Baghdad. Another terrorist who found refuge in Baghdad was Abu Abbas, a leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, who engineered the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. The documents show that Abbas served as Saddam’s conduit for meetings with Hamas. Coalition forces captured Abbas in 2003 as he attempted to flee to Syria. Abbas died of natural causes while in custody the following year.

The IDA report also includes translations of Iraqi Intelligence Service documents that describe efforts to destabilize other Arab governments, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the regime’s campaign to kill humanitarian aid workers operating in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The study also reveals that on Sept. 17, 2001, Saddam gave orders to his military intelligence directorate to recruit Iraqi officers to conduct “suicide operations” against the United States.

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