9:01 AM, Mar 14, 2008 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Over at the New York Sun Eli Lake has an excellent write-up on the new military report, which (contrary to what many press outlets are reporting) details Saddam's extensive ties to regional and global terrorist groups, including al Qaeda. I'm sure we will be following up with more commentary in the coming days (and make sure to read Steve Hayes's initial take here), but for now I think it is worth pointing out that the report ties Saddam's regime to at least five different al Qaeda associated groups, including two groups that formed the core of al Qaeda.
The Iraqi Intelligence documents discussed in the report link Saddam's regime to: the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (the "EIJ" is al Qaeda number-two Ayman al Zawahiri's group), the Islamic Group or "IG" (once headed by a key al Qaeda ideologue, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman), the Army of Mohammed (al Qaeda's affiliate in Bahrain), the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (a forerunner to Ansar al-Islam, al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq), and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (a long-time ally of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan), among other terrorist groups. Documents cited by the report, but not discussed at length in the publicly available version (they may be in a redacted portion of the report), also detail Saddam's ties to a sixth al Qaeda affiliate: the Abu Sayyaf group, an al Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines.
Both the EIJ and the IG were early and important core allies for Osama bin Laden as he forged the al Qaeda terror network, which comprises a number of affiliates around the world.
The report also says that Iraqi Intelligence documents demonstrate Saddam's willingness to support the Somali terrorist groups who famously terrorized U.S. forces in the early 1990s. Although the report does not include any direct evidence of Saddam's regime collaborating with Osama bin Laden's terrorists in this regard, the report's authors note that this was one example where the two organizations' interests coincided. No wonder one of Saddam's favorite movies was Black Hawk Down. As the war in Iraq got underway in March 2003, Saddam even reportedly distributed copies of the film to his troops--showing them how he thought the Americans could be defeated through guerilla-style terrorist warfare.
Of course, as Steve pointed out, some will continue to seize on one misleading line in the executive summary to claim that the report dismisses the idea the two were linked in any way. The overwhelming bulk of the report and the actual evidence cited therein, however, tell a different story. There's more to come.