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Still Clueless About Al Qaeda in Iraq

4:01 PM, Jul 11, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The CIA’s British counterparts found the same thing. Former British prime minister Tony Blair discussed the intelligence concerning al Qaeda’s network in Iraq collected by the Brits, prior to the invasion, in his memoir. In A Journey: My Political Life, Blair writes that “there was strong intelligence that al Qaeda were allowed into Iraq by Saddam in mid-2002 (with severe consequences later).” Like Tenet, Blair also discusses Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s presence in Baghdad – not just northern Iraq – prior to the war.

More than one month prior to the Iraq War, Osama bin Laden himself gave jihadists the go-ahead to fight alongside Saddam’s forces. In an audiotape released on February 11, 2003, bin Laden explained: “It is true that Saddam is a thief and an apostate, but the solution is not to be found in moving the government of Iraq from a local thief to a foreign one.”

Bin Laden continued:

There is no harm in such circumstances if the Muslims’ interests coincide with those of the socialists in fighting the Crusaders, despite our firm conviction that they are infidels....There is nothing wrong with a convergence of interests here.

An al Qaeda mouthpiece has confirmed that bin Laden’s terrorist organization relocated to Saddam’s Iraq with regime assistance to fight the “Crusaders.”

There’s much more, of course. For the Post, however, the point is that Panetta appears to have contradicted President Obama’s talking point. It apparently never occurred to the Post’s reporters that perhaps Obama is simply wrong.

After all, even Osama bin Laden once spoke of a “convergence of interests” between his al Qaeda and Saddam’s regime. Those interests converged in the form of the Iraqi insurgency, which American troops have been fighting for the better part of a decade.

Panetta was right to tell U.S. soldiers that the war they’ve been fighting in Iraq is part of the global war against al Qaeda and its affiliates. This is true whether one agrees with the decision to topple Saddam’s regime or not.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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