The Blog

Cheney: Iraq Supported Terror, al Qaeda

10:56 AM, Mar 17, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Baghdad, Iraq
Sitting in the U.S. Embassy just blocks from the bombed out headquarters of the former Iraqi Intelligence Service, Vice President Dick Cheney said today that a new Pentagon study issued last week confirms Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein's Iraq supported a broad range of terrorists groups, including al Qaeda. But he dodged a question about why the Bush administration has failed to discuss the report in public, saying that the report was relatively new and that he hadn't had time to talk to the press office about it.

The Pentagon report highlights what Cheney called "extensive links" between Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the former Iraqi regime. A captured Iraqi Intelligence document dated March 18, 1993, lists the EIJ as one of nine terrorist organizations the regime was actively supporting at the time. "We have previously met with the organization's representative and we agreed on a plan to carry out commando operations against the Egyptian regime."

Cheney was pressed by a reporter who noted that the Executive Summary of the Pentagon report claims "no direction connection" between Iraq and al Qaeda. "Seems pretty clear to me that it was," he said, pointing out that Zawahiri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad later merged with al Qaeda.

The Pentagon report has been widely mischaracterized as refuting Bush administration claims that Iraq supported jihadist terror, including al Qaeda. Those reports are incorrect.

"Because Saddam's security organizations and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training these outside groups. This created both the appearance of, and in some ways, a 'de facto' link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of a shared goal but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust."

Elsewhere the report reveals that the Iraqi went so far as to train Islamic radicals throughout the 1990s:

"Two movements, one pan-Arab and the other pan-Islamic, were seeking and developing supporters from the same demographic pool. Captured documents reveal that later IIS activities went beyond just maintaining contact [with Islamist terrorists]…the Iraqi General Military Intelligence Directorate was training Sudanese fighters inside Iraq."