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Thursday, February 06, 2003
More on the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection

Powell's multimedia presentation to the United Nations Security counsel was really impressive in its detail and the extent of information it had from various sources – reports by defectors, recordings from satellite phones, satellite photography, and so on. He gave further evidence for what a lot of people have recognized all along – that Iraq is actively working to thwart the inspections process once again. What I found most interesting though, was the evidence he had regarding the Iraq-Al Qaeda link.

Now there already had been a lot of evidence that Iraq has been involved directly in terrorism, and that it has provided aid and had extensive relationships with various terrorist networks. For example, it's well known that Hussein pays $25,000 to the family of each Palestinian suicide bomber and that one of the leading Palestinian terrorists Abu Nidal was long based in Iraq, until just recently he “committed suicide” by shooting himself twice in the head. It’s also true that Iraqi intelligence agencies have been involved in assassination attempts at former President Bush and the Emir of Kuwait and that a hijacking training camp has existed in Iraq. It’s also true that Iraq – a country with tightly locked borders and a ubiquitous intelligence agency - has sheltered other terrorists including Abdul Rahman Yasin (indicted for the first World Trade Center terrorist attack in 1993 and on the FBI most wanted list) and Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi (a leading Al-Qaeda officer who came to Iraq after fleeing Afghanistan and who got medical treatment in a Baghdad hospital). It’s also very likely to be true that the terrorist network operating in Iraqi Kurdistan Ansar al-Islam, which is aided by Hussein, has been closely affiliated with Al Qaeda. Among many other journalists, Jeff Goldberg of the New Yorker Magazine reported on this extensively when he made a secret trip last year into Iraqi Kurdistan and interviewed members of Ansar al-Islam held in Kurdish prisons. William Safire also wrote an interesting column in the New York Times last week on Ansar al-Islam.

However, Powell’s report was interesting because it provided intelligence on the assassination of an American diplomat Laurence Foley in Jordan last October. Apparently, the aforementioned al-Zarqawi has been operating an Al Qaeda cell in Iraq for the last several months, and this cell was responsible for planning Foley’s assassination, and has been planning other terrorist attacks throughout the world. This information, discussed in a New York Times article yesterday, was based (as ususal) on interrogations of captured Al Qaeda members, but also on a satellite telephone call carelessly made by Zarqawi’s top deputy as he was driving along the Iraqi-Turkey border to congratulate and meet with some of the Al Qaeda members responsible for planning Foley’s murder.

In the aftermath of this release, I wouldn't be surprised if al-Zarqawi mysteriously "commits suicide" by shooting himself twice in the head....