An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.
The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.
The new study of the Iraqi regime's archives found no documents indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.
He and others spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because the study isn't due to be shared with Congress and released before Wednesday.
The new study, entitled "Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents", was essentially completed last year and has been undergoing what one U.S. intelligence official described as a "painful" declassification review.
It was produced by a federally-funded think tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses, under contract to the Norfolk, Va.-based U.S. Joint Forces Command.
While the documents reveal no Saddam-al Qaida links, they do show that Saddam and his underlings were willing to use terrorism against enemies of the regime and had ties to regional and global terrorist groups, the officials said.
However, the U.S. intelligence official, who's read the full report, played down the prospect of any major new revelations, saying, "I don't think there's any surprises there."
Saddam, whose regime was relentlessly secular, was wary of Islamic extremist groups such as al Qaida, although like many other Arab leaders, he gave some financial support to Palestinian groups that sponsored terrorism against Israel.
According to the State Department's annual report on global terrorism for 2002 — the last before the Iraq invasion — Saddam supported the militant Islamic group Hamas in Gaza, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a radical, Syrian-based terrorist group.
The new Pentagon study isn't the first to refute earlier administration contentions about Saddam and al Qaida.
A September 2006 report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Saddam was "distrustful of al Qaida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al Qaida to provide material or operational support."
But they attacked us on 9/11! So we had to invade!!
Via This Modern World.