The Corner

Still More Iraq & al Qaeda

On the points raised by Michael Rubin a little while ago, Tom Joscelyn’s two Weekly Standard articles about Michael Scheuer merit mention.

On MSNBC’s “Hardball” in 2005, asked by Chris Matthews whether we’d ”be better off with Saddam Hussein still running tyrannically that country of Iraq,” Scheuer responded:  “No doubt about it….  There’d be … many fewer dead Americans, and we would have many more resources available to annihilate al Qaeda, which is what we have to do. Without a doubt, in the war against al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein was one of our best allies.” [Emphasis added by Joscelyn.]

Now, as Tom details in this 2004 piece, here’s what Scheuer said in his 2002 book, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes:  “[T]here is information showing that in the 1993-1994 period bin Laden began work with Sudan and Iraq to acquire a CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear] capability for al Qaeda….”

Tom’s piece on the Hardball interview is more expansive on Scheuer’s book (which, natch, Matthews failed to ask Scheuer about).  Here’s the Scheuer of 2002:

Regarding Iraq, bin Laden, as noted was in contact with Baghdad’s intelligence service since at least 1994. He reportedly cooperated with it in the area of chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear (CBRN) weapons and may have trained some fighters in Iraq at camps run by Saddam’s anti-Iran force, the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK). The first group of bin Laden’s fighters is reported to have been sent to the MEK camps in June 1998; MEK cadre also were then providing technical and military training for Taliban forces and running the Taliban’s anti-Iran propaganda.Other laboratory and production facilities available to bin Laden are reported in the Khowst and Jalalabad areas, and in the Khartoum suburb of Kubar. The latter facility is said to be a “new chemical and bacteriological factory” cooperatively built by Sudan, bin Laden, and Iraq, and may be one of several in Sudan. In January 1999, Al-Watan Al-Arabi reported that by late 1998, “Iraq, Sudan, and bin Laden were cooperating and coordinating in the field of chemical weapons.” The reports say that several chemical factories were built in Sudan. They were financed by bin Laden and supervised by Iraqi experts. In pursuing tactical nuclear weapons, bin Laden has focused on the FSU [Former Soviet Union] states and has sought and received help from Iraq. We know for certain that bin Laden was seeking CBRN weapons . . . and that Iraq and Sudan have been cooperating with bin Laden on CBRN weapon acquisition and development. On the last point, Milan’s Corriere della Sera reported that in late 1998 that Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey and former intelligence chief, Faruk Hidjazi, met bin Laden in Kandahar on 21 December 1998. The daily said Hidjazi offered bin Laden sanctuary in Iraq, stressing that Baghdad would not forget bin Laden’s protests against U.S.-U.K. air attacks on Iraq. Whether Hidjazi discussed CBRN issues with bin Laden is unknown, but is [sic] interesting to note that Al-Watan Al-Arabi reported that in October 1998 the Iraqis “suggested to bin Laden to involve [in his search for CBRN weapons] elements from the Russian Mafia who were above suspicion.” It was learned that these trusted elements were Red Army officers who established ties of friendship and trust with officers in the Iraqi army in the past when Iraqi army and intelligence officers used to go to the Soviet Union for training courses and Moscow sent its military specialists to Baghdad.

So, Senator Clinton had a lot of good reason to say what she said in 2002 — which was exactly what the Clinton administration had said for many years and what the Intelligence Community was saying. 

People of good will can certainly disagree about whether the invasion of Iraq was a good idea and about whether Saddam was sufficiently “contained” that we’d have been better off not toppling him.  But for Democrats and the IC to suggest that al Qaeda in Iraq is a post-2003 Frankenstein created by George W. Bush is just reprehensible — it’s the worst kind of politicizing intelligence.

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