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Who's Playing Word Games?

12:35 PM, Mar 24, 2008 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The evidence is rather unambiguous in this regard. So, we are left with two options: (1) Pillar doesn't know this, or (2) He is spinning this story to serve his own agenda. Either way, Isikoff's blind reliance on Pillar to dismiss this important connection between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda does not inspire confidence. Of course, as Robert Novak has reported, Isikoff has relied heavily on Pillar in the past.

One more thing: The 1993 document Isikoff and Pillar dismiss contains more than just a connection between Saddam and the EIJ. Iraqi intelligence reports that they have had a "direct relationship" with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a longstanding and close ally of bin Laden. It turns out Hekmatyar and his group, the Hezb-e-Islami, had been receiving funds from Iraq since 1989. A subsequent document contains Saddam's order to assign a mission to Hekmatyar's group to "hunt" Americans in Somalia. That's how close the relationship was. And the 1993 document also says that the Iraqi regime and the Sudanese regime, which was then hosting al Qaeda, struck a significant agreement. Iraq agreed:

To make use of the Arab Islamic elements that were fighting in Afghanistan and do not have current operating bases. They are dispersed in Sudan, Somalia and Egypt.

That is, Saddam agreed "to make use of" the so-called Arab Afghans, who made up almost the entirety of al Qaeda's first generation of terrorists (including EIJ members).

A good analyst would want to know what came of this agreement and carefully piece together what is known and unknown in subsequent years. After all, the trail of evidence does not end there.

Paul Pillar is too busy playing word games.