|Israel Resource Review
||10th December, 2002
Saddam and Al Qaida
Correspondent, Evening Standard (UK)
Despite their bitter divisions over possible war in Iraq, doves and many
hawks on this side of the Atlantic share a common, often-stated belief: that
there is "no evidence" of a link between Osama bin laden's Al Qaida network
and Saddam Hussein's regime. In London and Washington, the Foreign Office,
MI6, the State Department and the CIA have been spinnng this claim to
reporters for more than a decade, long before the attacks of September 11
Constant repetition of an erroneous position does not, however, make it
true. Having investigated the Iraqi connection for more than a year, I am
convinced it is false. The strongest evidence comes from a surprising
source - the files of those same intelligence agencies who have spent so
long publicly playing this connection down.
According to the conventional wisdom, Saddam is a "secular" dictator, whose
loathing for Islamic fundamentalism is intense, while bin Laden and his
cohorts would like to kill the Iraqi president almost as much George W.
Bush. All reports of a link can be disregarded on this ground alone.
Though they may get scant attention, some of the facts of Saddam's
involvement with Islamic terrorism are not disputed. Hamas, the
fundamentalist Palestinian group, whose gift to the world is the suicide
bomb, has maintained a Baghdad office - funded by Saddam - for many years.
His intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, has a special department, whose
sole function is liaison with Hamas. In return, Hamas has praised Saddam
extravagantly on its website and on paper.
Since his defeat in 1991, Saddam's supposed secularism has looked decidedly
thin. Increasingly, he has relied on Islamist rhetoric, in an attempt to
rally the "Arab street". Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa justified
its call for Muslims to kill American and Jewish civilians on the basis of a
lengthy critique of US hostility towards "secular" Iraq.
It is also undisputed that Iraqi-sponsored assassins tried to kill George
Bush I on a visit to the Gulf in 1993. The same year, Abdul Rahman Yasin
mixed and made the truck bomb which wrought destruction and killed six in
the first New York World Trade Centre attack - then coolly boarded a plane
for Baghdad, where he still resides. There is strong evidence that Ramzi
Yousef, leader of both the 1993 New York bombing and a failed attempt two
years later to down 12 a.m.erican airliners over the Pacific, was an Iraqi
intelligence officer. All this was known in the nineties. Nevertheless, the
"no connection" argument was rapidly becoming orthodoxy.
The 9/11 attacks were, self-evidently, a failure of intelligence: no one saw
them coming. Awareness of this failure, and its possible consequences for
individuals' careers, are the only reasons I can find for the wall of spin
which the spooks have fed to the media almost ever since. Iraq must have
been more intensely spied upon than any other country throughout the 1990s.
If the agencies missed a Saddam-Al Qaida connection, it might reasonably be
argued, then many heads should roll.
My own doubts emerged more than a year ago, when a very senior CIA man told
me that, contrary to the line his own colleagues were assiduously
disseminating, there was evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaida link. He confirmed a
story I had been told by members of the anti-Saddam Iraqi National
Congress - that two of the hijackers, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, had
met Mukhabarat officers in the months before 9/11 in the United Arab
Emirates. This, he said, was part of a pattern of contact between Iraq and
Al Qaida which went back years.
Yet the attempts to refute the link were feverish. The best known example is
the strange case of the meetings in Prague between Mohamed Atta, the 9/11
plot's alleged leader, and Ahmed Khalil Al-Ani, a Mukhabarat sabotage
expert. For at least the third time, the New York Times tried at the end of
October to rebut the claim that the Prague meetings ever happened, reporting
that President Vaclav Havel had phoned the White House to tell Bush that it
was fiction. Barely had the paper hit the streets before Havel's spokesman
stated publicly that the story was a "fabrication". Not only had Havel not
phoned Bush, the Czechs remained convinced that Atta did meet Al-Ani. They
had been surveilling him continuously because his predecessor had been
caught red-handed - in a plot to detonate a terrorist bomb.
As I reveal in the new issue of Vanity Fair, earlier this year the Pentagon
established a special intelligence unit to re-examine evidence of an Iraq-Al
Qaida relationship. After initially fighting the proposal, the CIA agreed to
supply this unit with copies of its own reports going back ten years. I have
spoken to three senior officials who have seen its conclusions, which are
striking. "In the Cold War," says one of them, "often you'd draw firm
conclusions and make policy on the basis of just four or five reports. Here
there are almost 100 separate examples of Iraq-Al Qaida cooperation going
back to 1992." All these reports, says the official, were given the CIA's
highest credibility rating - defined as information from a source which had
proven reliable in the past. At least one concerns bin Laden personally, who
is said to have spent weeks with a top Mukhabarat officer in Afghanistan in
This week, attention remains focused on the UN weapons inspectors, and the
deadline for Iraq's declaration of any weapons of mass destruction. But last
month's Security Council resolution also noted Iraq's failure to abandon
support for international terror, as it had promised at the end of the 1991
Gulf War. If there were the political will - rather a big if, admittedly -
this could constitute a casus belli every bit as legitimate as Iraqi
possession of a nuclear weapon.
Ignoring Iraq's support for terror is a seductive proposition, which fits
pleasingly with democracies' natural reluctance to wage war. But if we are
serious about winning the war on terror, self-delusion is not an option. An
attempt to achieve regime change in Iraq would not be a distraction, but an
integral part of the struggle.
David Rose is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine. His article on
Saddam, Al Qaida and the Iraqi opposition goes on sale today.
This article ran in the Evening Standard
on December 9, 2002
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USAID To Monitor Transfer Of
Funds From Israel To PA
CNS.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief
restrictions here on salaries for PA security personnel who have
been involved in terror action and no restrictions on funds for
incitement activities of PA Education or PA media or PA Ministry
of Religious Affairs]
December 10, 2002
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Agency for International Development will help monitor the transfer of tax revenues from Israel to the Palestinian Authority to make sure they are not misused.
Israel has withheld the transfer of some $600 million in tax revenues owed the Palestinians for the last two years, charging that the funds would be used to fund hostile attacks against Israel and its citizens.
The U.S. has pressed for the transfer of the funds to the PA, arguing that the money was necessary in order for the PA to carry out critical reforms.
During the summer, Israel agreed in principle to transfer the funds to the PA if a mechanism could be found to ensure the monies were not being used to fund terrorists, terror attacks or weapons.
Since then, 270 million shekels (about $59 million) were transferred to the PA in three installments, but further payments were delayed because of suspicion that some of the money was being misused.
On Friday, 130 million shekels (about $28 million) was transferred to the PA after a deal was worked out between the U.S., Israel and the PA whereby USAID would monitor the money to ensure it was not being used to support terrorism.
According to one source familiar with the deal, those funds included revenues for the month of October and did not include any of the previously frozen monies. The payment was the first of several installments expected to be paid on the previous month's revenues. It is not clear when or how the backlog would be transferred.
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv welcomed the agreement to transfer funds on Wednesday "as a critical step towards addressing the serious economic and humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"It signals support for the reform of Palestinian finances already underway, and which we hope can lead to an efficient and transparent Palestinian financial system," the Embassy said.
According to the Embassy, both the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, which deals with Palestinian affairs, were very active in helping Israel and the PA reach the agreement.
"We will continue to work with the Palestinian Ministry of Finance to develop its own systems to track and monitor use of the funds it provides to the Palestinian entities," the Embassy said.
"We note that USAID has agreed to fund experts to assist in the training and auditing program led by the Palestinian Ministry," it said.
One source, who did not want to be named, emphasized that USAID's role would combine training and auditing, indicating that the Palestinians preferred to look at the USAID role as "training" while the Israelis saw it as "auditing."
The source said presumably USAID officials would have access to Palestinian records otherwise there was "no point in doing it." He added that the systems are in place and the U.S. was not "just going to walk away" from the project.
See Earlier Story, US
AID Funding Palestinian Propaganda, Critics Charge (August 27, 2002)
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