Today’s release of the remaining sections of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on prewar intelligence, and especially the statements of some committee members, are generating some headlines that there were no operational links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. I’d just like to quote from an article on the topic published on NRO in 2003::
Iraq made direct payments to the Philippine-based al Qaeda-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group. Hamsiraji Sali, an Abu Sayyaf leader on the U.S. most-wanted terrorist list, stated that his gang received about one million pesos (around $20,000) each year from Iraq, for chemicals to make bombs. The link was substantiated immediately after a bombing in Zamboanga City in October 2002 (in which three people were killed including an American Green Beret), when Abu Sayyaf leaders called up the deputy secretary of the Iraqi embassy in Manila, Husham Hussain. Six days later, the cell phone used to call Hussain was employed as the timer on a bomb set to go off near the Philippine military’s Southern Command headquarters. Fortunately, the bomb failed to detonate, and the phone yielded various contact numbers, including Hussain’s and Sali’s. This evidence, coupled with other intelligence the Philippine government would not release, led to Hussain’s expulsion in February 2003. In March, ten Iraqi nationals, some with direct links to al Qaeda, were rounded up in the Philippines and deported as undesirable aliens. In addition, two more consulate officials were expelled for spying.
These events were widely reported in the Philippine press at the time. They were not mentioned by the Bush Administration. They don’t seem to have made it into the recent Institute for Defense Analysis report on the topic. But they certainly seem to demonstrate substantial, direct links between an al-Qaeda franchise and Saddam’s regime.